The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Split parade blot on marriage milestone

Lucknow, Dec. 25: The executive body of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board today approved the draft model nikaahnama, which discourages triple talaq, in a step forward to its formalisation.

The achievement of the reform 'milestone' of sorts by working out an overdue consensus, however, could not cushion the organisation from news of yet another 'Muslim law board' being formed by an obscure group claiming to represent the Shia sect.

The draft, which will now be placed before the board's general body, has also given marriage an institutional framework by including the recording of details of the bride, groom, their parents, witnesses and mehr; marriage dos and don'ts, and an elaborate dispute settlement mechanism.

'Marriage in Islamic law is not a ritual. It is a sacrosanct contract,' said S.Q.R. Ilyas, executive body member.

The draft nikaahnama (marriage contract) has three parts: introduction, guidelines and declaration.

The first will record the bride and groom's names, addresses, ages and educational qualification; their parents' and witnesses' names, and specification of mehr (dower and not dowry, the board clarified).

The guidelines detail the obligations and responsibilities of the couple. 'By coming together, a man and a woman should be inspired by love and work towards their mutual satisfaction,' said Kashmi Rasool Illyas, a senior member.

The declaration, which covers areas of discord in the community, lays down a moral oath for couples to avoid hasty triple talaq and instead seek the counsel of family elders. If this fails, they are to approach the local Shariat panchayat where the qazi, too, will help out. The final appeal will be made to Darool Khaza, the Shariat court.

Asked why the board does not recommend abolition of triple talaq, spokesman Abdul Rahim Qureshi said it was outside the board's power to do so 'but we are clearly discouraging its use'.

The board, functioning since 1971 as an unregistered, representative body of Muslims in India, has no power of adjudication and would thus campaign for the draft's promotion, members said.

The board also iterated its resolve to start a systematic media campaign on Muslim women's right to their parents' property. It ostensibly avoided any more bold reform decision after discontent over various sects' representation intensified this morning.

Shikoh Azad of the former Awadh royal family, along with Ali Hasan Qummi of the Shia Youth Federation, mooted a parallel board. Another had been launched by the Bareilvi sect's Maulana Taqeer Raza.

An angry Maulana Rabey Nadvi, the board chief, said going by the trend, the country will soon have '72 Muslim personal law boards'. His feelings were assuaged by several noted leaders who said the 'united face of the community' would give fringe elements a befitting answer.

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