Indian Muslims and the bumble-bee

According to all known laws of aerodynamics (science of flying), the body shape of a bumble–bee is such that it is impossible for the poor thing to fly. But the bumble–bee does not know this and continues to fly anyway.

According to the teachings of Islam, marriage is a social contract between two consenting adults for which no moulvi or kaazi is essential. All that is needed are two Muslims respected by the local community, willing to be witnesses to the contract between a man and a woman to marry each other on mutually agreed terms. But because the poor Muslim does not know this (or chooses to be ignorant), he continues to be a slave of the moulvi saheb anyway.

Why blame the poor moulvi saheb alone? The moment he puts his signature on the nikaahnama (wedding document), his role is over. This is because while a Muslim male marries in an ‘Islamic’ way he divorces in a totally ‘secular’ fashion. A post-card, a telegram, now an e–mail, is all that he needs to snap the marital bond without a moment’s notice either to his wife or to any moulvi saheb. 

And once the post-card, telegram or e–mail has been served on the hapless wife, even a well–intentioned moulvi saheb is totally helpless because of his belief that though socially abhorrent, the triple talaaq practice is theologically unobjectionable. Even if he were to subsequently intervene and convince the errant male to rethink, its too late. The only way out for the summarily divorced wife is to find another man who will marry her, consummate the marriage and give her an instant talaaq. Only then can she remarry her first husband.

Make no mistake. The moulvi sahebs and the kazis who adorn the All–India Muslim Personal Law Board are no hermits who need a ‘dialogue’ with this or that group of Muslim women to become aware of the plight of Muslim women. If indeed they are concerned with Islam getting a bad name, they should ask themselves why they so obstinately continue to resist change. One has only to go through the preceding two articles to realise how far the Muslim woman in India is behind her sister even from ‘backward’ Bangladesh. 

Be it Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, or any other Muslim society, one thing is obvious. In each of these countries, the impetus for pro–women reforms has come from other societal or state institutions, while the bulk of the clergy remains opposed to change. How can it be otherwise in case of India?
As in all other organised religions, the Muslim clergy, too, is entirely male-dominated. And its but natural that a male-centred body — be it a ‘Men Only’ club or a religious body — will be male–oriented in thought and in deed. 

No one can deny that when Islam was born, the teachings of the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet were radically pro-women, far in advance of the then prevailing social ethos. But we are not talking here of Islam or its Prophet. We are talking instead of the male–dominated Muslim clergy that through the centuries has subverted the egalitarian thrust of the Quran in the matter of man–woman relations. The MPLB is part of that subversive tradition. 

It is not to be denied that some men of religion, who occupy important positions in the MPLB hierarchy, are genuinely concerned about the pathetic plight of Muslim women in India. But to expect such a body to be an agent for change is to ask for a miracle. To believe that the same clergy that has been the bulwark of patriarchy, orthodoxy, conservatism and worse, elsewheres in the world will through some magical process in India be the harbinger of change.

Archived from Communalism Combat, May 2001 Year 8  No. 69, Cover Story 5



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