Bhopal, April 29: The triple talaq is set to be given a quiet burial at the All India Muslim Personal Law board meeting here tomorrow, heralding the most important social reform in the community.
After a decade-long struggle, the board will adopt the model nikaahnama (marriage contract) and, once it comes into force, instant talaq will become history. The nikaahnama has a mandatory clause that in the case of marital discord a couple has to approach the qazi or the local family court.
Board general secretary Maulana Syed Nizamuddin told a women's group: 'We have achieved the impossible. Henceforth, nobody will be able to break an alliance unilaterally as it would require the qazi's sanction.'
Nizamuddin said the other merits of the nikaahnama included the qazi's intervention in working out a divorce settlement. 'He (qazi) would ensure that the meher (bridal price), maintenance and gifts such as jewellery, etc., are paid before annulling the marriage.'
Women's groups, however, remain sceptical. There are strong reasons for pessimism because, given gender inequality and low socio-economic indicators, sweeping social reform is difficult.
In order to be effective, the model nikaahnama has to gain acceptance among dozens of Muslim sects and sub-sects.
The NGOs also do not share Nizamuddin's optimism about qazis playing an impartial role. Activist Nusrat Bano Ruhi said: 'There have been instances of qazis favouring the male order for a consideration.'
Privately, some board officials agreed but expressed helplessness. 'The whole system is based on fear of God. If that is not there, no amount of law-making would help,' a board member said.
Still, he pointed out that hammering out a consensus on the nikaahnama on the board that is the most widely accepted representative of India's 18-crore Muslim population was no mean achievement.
The model contract has been in the works for over a decade. In 2000, the board was ready to clear it but had to back off in the face of opposition from a powerful, conservative section of clergy.
A whisper campaign was unleashed suggesting that the model was the brainchild of the central government, then headed by the BJP.
The board has now overcome the resistance.
It has also decided to challenge a number of court verdicts that it says interferes with Muslim personal law.
Today, the board extended a hand of friendship to three parallel organisations offering to co-opt them. Board secretary Abdul Raheem Qureshi said the breakaway Shia faction has conveyed to them that it did not wish to challenge the board and focus on social welfare, leaving out personal law.
Nizamuddin said similar talks were on with boards claiming to represent the Barelvi sect and women.
'We have told them that for unity among Muslims in India, we are prepared to consider their demand for representation on the board.'