Sunday, 12 November 2006
Shariah Adalats in Hyderabad: Muslim women clerics deliver justice
November 12, 2006
By Syed Akbar
A young burka clad woman with a babe in her arms stands silently before a panel of Muftis. Though she appears to be calm, her anxiety is writ large on her face. The woman from Fateh Darwaza in the old city of Hyderabad awaits a verdict from the Muftis that may make or mar her marital life.
After a breathed silence, the panel of Muftis, which include three women, delivers the verdict in her favour. Her complaint was that her husband, a "lazy person", stays most of the time at home and does not go to work. They have a little daughter and she finds it hard even to purchase milk for her.
The woman is one of the scores of complainants seeking justice from the Shariah Adalat, the first of its kind private civil court in the country, functioning on the principles of Muslim Personal Law. The Shariah Adalat, located in one of the narrow lanes of Moghalpura in the walled city of Hyderabad, issues notices to the woman's husband and asks him to appear before it. The Muftis, constituting the bench, curtly tell the man that it is his duty and obligation (farz) to take care of the family. A recital of a few verses from the Quran and the threat of Allah's grave punishment (Azab) in the Akhirat (on Day of Resurrection) work well with the man.
The Shariah Adalat, a parallel Islamic civil court, is turning out to be quite popular in the principal minority community, what with Muslims from different parts of the State taking its help to resolve cases connected with the personal law.
The Adalat is the first Islamic civil court in the country to be presided over among others by women Muftis. Three women Muftis along with their two male counterparts settle about half a dozen cases every Saturday, when the Shariah Adalat meets for its weekly session. It works between 4.00 pm and 8.00 pm on Saturdays.
Set up recently with an objective to prevent Muslims from engaging in prolonged legal battles in civil courts, the Shariah Adalat has been receiving complaints even from outside Hyderabad. Of the 200 cases the Adalat has settled so far, about 20 cases are from the districts. They are mostly related to marital discord, divorce, property disputes, maintenance, inheritance and women rights.
The nascent Adalat, has come across many interesting but simple cases, which if referred to civil courts would take many years for settlement.
"We are adopting the regular procedure followed in civil courts. We accept both oral and written complaints. Our office then send letters to both the petitioners and the respondents asking them to be present on the hearing day. The Muftis will hear both the parties and give their verdict in the light of Islamic jurisprudence," says Mufti Muhammad Mastan Ali Quadri, one of the five Muftis on the bench.
In one of its hearings, the Shariah Adalat decreed that it is the duty of children to take care of their parents. The case was that a man from Paloncha in Khammam district has two sons, who have deserted him. Unable to fend himself, the poor man approached the Shariah Adalat which after referring to the Quran and the Hadith (traditions of the Prophet) held that the sons had sinned by not looking after their father. The sons agreed and the father is taken back to their house.
In about 90 per cent of the cases both the parties agree to the verdict delivered by the Shariah Adalat while 10 per cent refuse to budge and prefer to settle the scores in a general civil court. Mufti Muhammad Hasnuddin and Muftiya Nazima Azeez are head muftis of men and women Darul Ifta (department of decrees) respectively. Other members on the bench are Muftiya Rizwana Zareen and Muftiya Sayeeda Fatima
A woman, whose husband did not agree to the idea of abandoning joint family and living separately, lodged a complaint with the police that he had been harassing her for more dowry. The police registered a case and were about to arrest him when he sought the help of the Shariah Adalat. The woman and her parents were asked to appear before the Adalat which after a series of counselling succeeded in bringing rapprochement. The woman withdrew the complaint.
In another interesting case, a man from Chittoor town pronounced single talaq in a fit of rage and deserted his wife and two grown-up daughters. The woman knocked the doors of the Adalat. The Muftis told the husband that since he had pronounced talaq only once, the marriage is valid and he can live with his wife. The parties agreed to the verdict.
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