CONCEPT PAPER ON
Awareness Campaign on Muslim Personal Law
In today’s India the Islamic family law (called Muslim personal law) is facing an acute challenge. On the one hand, there are external threats to it from some misguided quarters and on the other hand, a large segment of Muslim society itself suffers from ignorance about Islamic laws. Courts of the land often pass judgments contrary to Islamic Shari’ah and they then become legal precedents. Legislative bodies also interfere in Muslim personal law. For such attempts, Article 44 in the Directive Principles of Indian Constitution is often cited; which has urged the Indian state to move towards a uniform civil code for all citizens of the country. Muslims can defeat such attempts against Islamic law provided they themselves sincerely follow it. For instance, they should resolve their disputes through Shari’ah courts and counselling centres rather than turn to the usual courts which are likely to act contrary to Shari’ah. With their sincere commitment to divine law, Muslim society can achieve internal peace and tranquillity and also become a source of inspiration for the larger Indian society.
Unfortunately, today the Muslim collective conscience has become very weak and hence many Muslims are blatantly violating the instructions of Allah and His Prophet (pbuh). One instance is ill treatment of women by many Muslim males and denial of their rights. When, in the event of a dispute, Muslims approach the usual courts of law (instead of the Shari’ah courts), they end up wasting a lot of time and money and make a mockery of Shari’ah, in the process. The wrong action of Muslims provides a pretext for mischief-mongers to malign the Islamic law itself. All these ills of the present Muslim society demand the attention of reform seekers. They must work to counter ignorance in the society and violation of Shari’ah. They must try to eliminate evils like dowry demand, ‘tilak’ custom and wastage of wealth. Internal weaknesses of Muslims have harmed the cause of Shari’ah much more than external attacks; they also have provided ammunition for anti-Islamic propaganda.
One must note that courts, media and legislative bodies are seldom aware of real teachings of Islam; rather they are usually misled by the faulty conduct of Muslims themselves, which presents a distorted image of the Islamic law. Today Indian society is being told by an ignorant media that Islam does not recognise the dignity of women. It accords them no worthwhile status. They are always at the risk of arbitrary divorce. They can’t claim any maintenance and are financially helpless. Males dominate over them while the Indian Constitution treats men and women at par. By contrast, in Islam, Muslim women get lesser share in inheritance. Moreover, a man may marry a second wife at his whim; leaving the first wife in a dilemma.
As a matter of fact, all the above allegations against Islam and its laws are baseless and false. When presented in its pristine and comprehensive form, Islamic law is seen to be the best guarantee of justice and equity. However, the true image of Islamic law may be presented to the Indian audience only when Muslims themselves know the Islamic law and follow it in letter and spirit. Basically Islam demands from Muslims to practise and establish the divine way of life. Not only in family matters but in all aspects of life, they should abide by Islamic values and teachings, in order to deserve Allah’s grace. Their faith demands that they refrain from every action forbidden by Allah and unconditionally obey Allah and His Messenger. It is their prime duty to convey the divine message to the whole of mankind and acquaint them with truth. The Muslim enlightened opinion should therefore take note of Muslim society’s deviations from Islam and seek to correct them. The turmoil created by prevalence of un-Islamic practices and customs needs to be eliminated. Establishment of religion requires attention of Muslims to these two central tasks; wide dissemination of Islamic message in the whole of Indian society and internal reform of the Muslim society itself.
Essence of Muslim Personal Law
The divine law has been conveyed by Allah to human beings through its revelation (the Qur’ān) and the practical example of the Prophet. This law is comprehensive and one of its important components is the family law. In India, this body of laws is now called Muslim Personal Law. Under the British rule on Muslims’ demand, the 1937 Shari’ah Application Act was enacted. According to it, disputes about family matters between parties, both of which are Muslims, would be decided according to Shari’ah, irrespective of local custom or practice. Family matters include marriage, divorce, dissolution of marriage, inheritance and the like. After independence from British rule, the Indian Constitution continued to recognise the legal status of Shari’ah because it counted freedom of religion and conscience among fundamental rights given in Chapter 3. Freedom of religion obviously implies the freedom to follow Muslim Personal Law, because the latter is derived from the Qur’ān and Sunnah themselves. No individual or group has the authority to amend the divine law. Indeed Muslims are required by their faith to be aware of divine instructions about family matters. Besides personal commitment, Muslims are also required to resist any attempt from any quarter to change the Muslim personal law or dilute or abolish it. Muslims must assert their natural right to follow the religion of their choice.
Need for Public Campaign
Right since independence, Muslims of India have clearly stated that they reject the idea of uniform civil code. They have opposed all attempts by courts or legislative bodies to interfere in Muslim personal law. But Muslims have not been equally vigilant on the internal front. Adequate efforts have not been made by them to educate the Muslim masses about Islamic teachings and to undertake reform of the Muslim society, in order to eliminate the violation of Shari’ah.
It must be recognised that the primary reason for violation of Shari’ah is largescale ignorance of Muslim masses and lack of sincere commitment to Islamic norms. A large segment of Muslim society does not even know the basics of Islam. Many Muslims do not know the rules and instructions which would guide them in matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance and the like. Hence, there is an imperative need to educate, uplift and morally reform the Muslim society, as a whole.
Besides moral and ethical growth, the relevant details of Islamic family law should be part of public knowledge in Muslim society. Those who violate the law should face social resistance. All disputes in family matters should be referred to Shari’ah courts.
Equipping Muslims with authentic knowledge about Islam and their moral upliftment are the primary steps. The larger Indian society should then be addressed by Muslims. The principles, objectives and values of Islamic Shari’ah and its legal rulings should be explained to all in a language which may be understood by our countrymen. They should realise that Islamic law promotes ethical growth, justice, equity, well-being and balance. It has the potential to create healthy family which is basic prerequisite for survival of society. The Muslim law protects the honour and dignity of women; it restores their human rights and ensures sensible liberty for them. It is expected that when the Indian public opinion is properly educated about the beauty of Islamic law, it will not be deceived by the ill-conceived notion of uniform civil code.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind appeals to all sincere persons to participate in its comprehensive campaign for reforming the Muslim society and for educating the people of our country at large.