NEW DELHI - Voicing complaints about male-dominated Shari`ah courts, a leading activist women group has established new Qur'an courts for Indian Muslim women, offering legal aid and speedy justice to disadvantaged, poor women.
We shall try to ensure that the women get justice, Saifia Akhtar of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Sangathan (Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan BMMA), told OnIslam.net.
These courts will administer free, fair and speedy justice in the matter of marital and family discord based on Qur'anic principles. Justice eludes aggrieved women as the Qazis and Muftis (Islamic clerics) often give verdict against them.
Therefore we felt the need to set up women's court to address the concerns of Muslim women suffering from marginalization.
Receiving grievances from Muslim women from different parts of the country regarding unilateral divorce and total refusal by husbands to given any maintenance or support, the BMMA decided to step in and offer a helping hand.
Therefore, BMMA established the new Shari`ah courts for women in three Indian states to offer a speedy justice for women.
According to BMMA, these courts are for women who are extremely poor and who cannot afford the court fees and who do not get justice from Shari`ah courts run by men.
The decisions of the women's' court will be based on the rights of women enshrined in the Qur'an and will try to curb practices such as triple talaq (divorce), polygamy and non-payment of maintenance.
The need to address such complaints has been felt by thousands of women in different parts of the country.
Bhopal's Tabassum (not her real name) was one of the women who find help in the new courts.
Being given unilateral divorce by her husband, she approached Qaziat (Qaziat gives approval for the dissolution of Muslim marriages)who upheld the divorce.
Tabassum had no option except to accept the verdict. But now Tabassum plans to take this issue to women's Shari`ah court.
I hope my point of view will be appreciated in the women's court and I'll get justice, she told OnIslam.net.
Falling victims to a discriminatory law based on misinformation about Shar`iah and Qur'anic tenets, Muslim women believe that women are equally well-equipped to administer justice and legal aid.
Shari`ah laws are universal, applicable on both women and men in equal measure, Islamic Scholar Rasheed Kidwai told Onislam.net.
Interpretation of sharia laws by muftis and qazis need to be strictly as per sharia instead of any patriarchal or matriarchal tilt.
Patriarchal/matriarchal tendency is against spirit of justice. In Islam, women are entitled to be muftis/qazis so their presence is welcoming along with advocacy for gender sensitivity is welcoming, he added.
The new courts will include a national bench comprising eminent scholars and activists who will give opinion on complex matters of Muslim Personal Law to safeguard the interests of women and children.
At present Muslim women courts have been established in three states.
In the second phase, similar courts will be set up in all states to enable all Muslim women to get justice.
Despite Muslim women welcome, voiced opposing the new application stated to appear.
It is totally wrong. Women are getting justice in Muslim Qaziat, Bhopal's Qari Azmat said.
What was the need to set up parallel courts? I feel this decision will create a rift between men and women.
In India, divorce and marriage issues are dominated by All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), the single largest religious body consisting of scholars of different schools of thought.
The AIMPLB was formed in 1973 to protect and apply Muslim Personal Law in marriage, divorce, succession and inheritance.
In 2005, Shiites and women seceded to form their own separate Boards, the All India Shiite Personal Law Board & the All India Muslim Women's Personal Law Board.
Over the past year, Indian scholars have issued a group of laws to protect the rights of Muslim women.
In February 2012, a group of Muslim scholars and activists announced plans for a draft of personal law that would ban triple talaq (divorce) and restrict polygamy among Indian Muslims.
In March, hundreds of Muslim scholars granted women the right to dissolve marriage in case of serious breach of agreement between the couple during an international Islamic jurisprudence seminar organized by Islamic Fiqh Academy (India).