LUCKNOW: A group of over 200 Muslim women got out of their kitchens last Sunday afternoon in a silent determination to fight for justice in their marital rights. From across Lucknow and outside too, they came together in a cramped hall to move towards justice, en force.
Face partially hidden by a tightly wound dupatta, Afzal Bano seems too docile to be revolutionary, much like the other women. The group looks near identical, especially in their body language — defiant yet unsure — that the bright salwar suits and chador can barely mask. Afzal calls on the women to fight for justice. “Hame Musalman khawateen ke liye insaf chahhiye (we want justice for Muslim women),” she declares boldly, looking for assurance towards Shaista Ambar, president of All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board.
Ambar, who broke away from All India Personal Law Board to form her splinter women’s group is a known iconoclast. After launching a feminist nikahnama two years ago, which makes registration of Muslim marriage compulsory, her followers expect her to take on the contentious issue of triple talaq, halala and dowry next.
In the past five years, Ambar and her followers have helped women like Rabia T (name changed). Rabia is thankful to Ambar for having saved her from “submitting to the indignity of Halala”, the tradition which demands that if a repentant husband wants to remarry his divorced wife, she will have to be another man’s wife first before a final comeback. Tina M, whose doctor husband pronounced talaq over a telephone, tackled the indignity via the forum.
Triple Talaq pronounced in a fit of rage, under influence of liquor etc without observing the ‘iddat’ or counselling is against Islam, Ambar tells the group and everyone nods in unison.
Tell this to the maulvis, says Samna R. Deserted wife of an air force pilot, Samna, from Chandigarh, has been contesting a maintenance claim in Lucknow court. Her husband bought talaq from a local maulvi and refuses to pay maintenance. But, she is determined to fight on, she tells others. Reshma, Nafeesa, Fatima, Sayeeda, Naznin, the number of young wives betrayed and dumped is swelling by the minute.
Syeda, whose husband bought a fake talaqnama for Rs 500, went to a senior cleric to lodge a complaint. But his response was ‘Allah saza dega unko’ (God will punish him). The middle-aged Syeda doesn’t want to wait. “I want justice while living,” she fumes, adding, “Let him cough up my meher money, so my son can set up a tea stall.”
These women are attempting to move towards a “progressive interpretation of Shariat as against the chauvinist approach of Maulvi to be enshrined in the Constitution,” says Ambar. The message is clear, in bold red on their banner, ‘Anchal hamara hai, Parcham Bhi Hamara Hoga’ that roughly translates to ‘The veil our banner, we will fly the flag (of justice).’