The Politics of Darul Qaza

The announcement of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) to establish Darul Qaza, in every district of the country for the reconciliation/amicable adjudication of civil matters of the Community has provided fuel to the Sangh Pariwar for polarization in its favour. The lack of political wisdom in announcing it when Lok Sabha elections are nearing, has given yet another issue to BJP to divert attention, whose government has failed to keep its election promises and is faced with general discontent. The timing of the announcement is significant because earlier, just weeks before the UP assembly elections, the Board, in its press conference at the Press Club of Delhi, had announced a countrywide agitation beginning from Lucknow.


A sizable section of Muslims have been accusing the Board for providing fuel to the Sangh Parivar on such occasions. After the court’s verdict in the matter of triple Talaq, the Board organized agitations by women in various cities and towns, culminating in a big rally at Patna under the leadership of its General Secretary. There were allegations that it was being done to show their strength to the government which has made the Muslim vote ineffective and does not listen to the voices of such outfits. Within days of the rally at Patna, one of the main organizers was made MLC by the JDU, which is running a coalition government with BJP in Bihar. This immensely damaged the credibility of the leaders attached to the Board. 

In this background, while discussing the issue of Darul Qaza, or any matter related to Muslim Personal Law, certain basic facts need to be kept in view:

(1)     Except for Waqf, other areas of the personal law have not been codified. The main purpose of the establishment of All India Muslim Personal Law Board in the eighties was codification of Muslim Personal Law. The Board has failed to do that because of the dominance of a particular school of thought which did not agree to accommodate other schools in the codification. The recent example is that of non-Quranic practice of instant triple Talaq which is not acceptable among Wahhabis, Shias etc. Now what would be the basis of adjudication or reconciliation in the absence of codified law? The court has declared it invalid but the dominant group of the Board still considers it a valid form of divorce. One of the purposes of the present move is also to make the court verdict ineffective in the Community. By this, in their wisdom, they want to save the Shariat.

(2)     Similar is the question of polygamy. On the complaint of a woman, the general attitude of the Darul Qaza is to ask the woman to “adjust”, to keep the family intact. Neither they are trained to adjudicate nor do they understand the meaning of ‘right to life and dignity’, enshrined in the Constitution. They do not appreciate the modern concept of “equality”. Resultantly, in one of the “model Nikah-Namas” circulated by one of their co-thinker outfits, the very first clause had stipulated that after Nikah, if the man desires sex, woman cannot refuse, as if a woman is a Rasogullah or Chamcham which a man can enjoy after Nikah and the woman’s desire has no value. I wrote back to them followed by discussions on the WhatsApp forum of All India Muslim Majlis e Mushawarat (AIMMM). Those supporting this provision failed to explain the basics. What kind of reconciliation can be expected from such people? Those engaged in this exercise are the same set of people who never spoke even on the violation of women’s Quranic rights in property and domestic matters.

(3)     They have also maintained a studied silence on circumcision of women allegedly performed in a sect against which women of that sect have been protesting. After all Nikah of those who indulge in the  un-Islamic practice of dowry are also performed by these Maulvis, without any hesitation or showing any disgust against such practices. They never object to the extravagance in marriages, the brunt of which is always borne by the bride. They perform Nikah, take their Nazrana money, have a good dinner and return happily. Reconciliation requires an innate sense of justice.

(4)     Like slavery, polygamy and triple Talaq are also just permissible, and not obligatory. At the time of the Prophet, the entire economic structure was based on slavery. Therefore, it was not possible to ban slavery. However, before his death the Prophet desired the Muslims for two things: continue to set the slaves free and respect the rights of women. This emphasizes the direction in which he desired Muslims to move further. With time, when slavery was banned, the practice was stopped in the Muslim world too. Can anyone now dare to keep slaves on the ground that in Islam it is permissible? Similar reforms have been made in family laws in Muslim dominated countries. In India, after losing the legal battle in the case of instant triple Talaq, the Board is insisting on polygamy. What kind of justice, in the name of reconciliation, women can expect from them?

(5)     There are other factors also. Since 1970’s, opening of madrasas has become a profit making enterprise and have mushroomed which posed the problem of employment. Some 50-60 years ago, large number of mosques did not employ any Imam. Those gathered, would request the eldest person to lead the prayer. Slowly, it became necessary to have an Imam in every mosque. The common practice of saying Azan in the ears of a new-born by any of the family member also became the domain of the Imam of the nearby mosque. Despite all this how many products of the madrasas could be employed in Masjids as imams? Therefore, they started opening new madrasas. However, there is a limit to opening new madrasas too. Now to enrol children, they travel long distances to backward states. The police and child rights groups have started objecting to this practice. There have been numerous reports in the press about police detaining them at the railway stations. The vigilantism cannot be ruled out, but taking a child of 6-7 years from Jharkhand or Bihar to Karnataka or Kerala cannot be defended. There is a common observation in the Community about the mistreatment of children in such cases. In this situation, new opening is possible in establishing Darul Qaza in every district, which may be followed by similar bodies in sub-divisions. This will also tighten their grip in the Community, which they are losing very fast due to various factors.

(6)     37 Darul Qazas are already working in the country, many of them under the administration of State Waqf Boards. They do not want them to function under Waqf boards which are statutory bodies. Despite the existence of Darul Qaza in certain places how many cases are finally settled to women’s satisfaction? If Muslims had faith in this institution, large number of Muslim women would not have approached the courts of law.

(7)     Much before the governments’ move, when cases of child marriage with aged Arabs had appeared, I had personally pleaded for making arrangements for registration of marriage in the (then) 29 Waqf Boards of the states. Except for the state where it is in existence, it was vehemently opposed. They want to keep Darul Qaza also under their control where the Muftis, whose level of knowledge is known to those who know them, can be appointed, opening new employment opportunities. Most of them do not know elementary arithmetic and are therefore unable to properly calculate annual Zakat or the share in the property under Sharia law.

All those having faith in the Constitutional provision of gender justice need to consider the above points without getting misled by the fallacy being created by the Board that Darul Qaza will be meant only for reconciliation, saving time and money which otherwise will be spent if the matter goes to court. Large number of cases decided by them is already in the courts. This has made it more cumbersome to first approach them, and then dissatisfied with their unprofessional dealing finally go to the court.

Dr Qaiser Shamim is a former secretary of the Central Waqf Council, New Delhi and former Administrator of the Punjab Waqf Board, then a common Board of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh

First Published on New Age Islam



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