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Debate rages on wife tug-of-war

Sept. 21: A debate has begun among Islamic scholars reflecting the dilemma in the community over a panchayat's decision to return Gudiya, who is carrying her second husband's child, to Kargil PoW Mohammad Arif.

Gudiya was married to Taufiq a few years after Arif, a sapper, was captured in Pakistan and declared an 'absconder' in India.

The scholars said Arif was within his rights to ask for his wife back as the Shariat envisages a mandatory nine-year period of absence before a marriage is annulled.

'The girl's side should have approached a Shariat court for a fatwa instead of getting her married to Taufiq,' said Naeem-ur-Rahman Siddiqui, a Lucknow-based Nadwa scholar close to Maulana Rabey Nadvi, chairman of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Naeem, also secretary of the Islamic Society of India, said Taufiq would have to bear all the expenses of the baby. If it is a girl, Islamic laws give the mother custody till she attains puberty. A boy has to stay with her till he is seven.

Bhopal-based Qazi Razzarak said the episode underlined the need for a countrywide network of Shariat courts. He said such a proposal was pending with the law board.

Naeem offered a possible solution. 'Given the fact that Gudiya is carrying Taufiq's baby, Arif can pronounce talaq and the two can reunite.' But he seems unlikely to do so.

Under Islamic laws, Gudiya could seek separation under the khula provisions. But the prospect is bleak because though the move is initiated by the woman, it needs the husband's consent to succeed.

A few women intellectuals in the community feel Gudiya has to stand up. 'Muslim laws give greater voice to the woman. It is the woman who has to ultimately decide who she wants to stay with,' said Seema Alavi, member of the Jamia Millia Islamia history department.

Congress MP Mohsina Kidwai agreed. 'Islam does give her voice. Shariat gives her the right to make a choice.'

Taufiq's demand

The emotive battle took a turn today with Taufiq and his family demanding another panchayat to decide the fate of the unborn child. Taufiq said his wife was very important to him and whatever decision is taken should be made keeping her and the child's interest in mind. 'One should not play with her life,' he said.

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