November 05, 2006
A model nikahnama, or Muslim marriage contract, has been prepared by the largest representative body of Shia Muslims in India, placing more emphasis on the well-being of women.
'The model nikahnama, which has been drafted afresh without deviating from the basic tenets of the Shariat, will be released at the forthcoming annual convention of the board at Mumbai on Nov 26,' All India Muslim Shia Law Board president Maulana Mohammad Athar told a press conference here Sunday.
The board said the model nikahnama had been ratified by two key authorities – religious as well as judicial.
'We have just received a formal approval from the Iran-based Ayatollah Sistani, the world's most highly revered and widely recognised Shia religious head,' he said.
In a major deviation from the traditional nikahnama, the new one lays much more emphasis on the well-being of women.
'Now the groom has to make a declaration assuring his good behaviour (towards his wife) and the overall well-being of the woman,' said the Maulana.
'The bridegroom has to assure that he will neither harass the woman after marriage nor subject her to any kind of ill-treatment, failing which she would be free to seek legal separation (talaq) from him,' he stressed.
A clause has been added to check the increasing number of cases of false claims made by bridegrooms about their status or income while seeking matrimonial alliances.
'I am personally aware of cases where bridegrooms managed to dupe girls by claiming to be doctors or engineers when in reality they had not even cleared the high school. But a new provision in the model nikahnama will entitle them to seek immediate talaq in such a case,' the Maulana pointed out.
In addition to the declaration to be made on the nikahnama itself, the Shia panel proposes to also seek a separate undertaking from the bridegroom.
'The bridegroom will have to sign a guarantee that if he chooses to divorce his wife, he would continue to provide monthly maintenance to her until she was able to have her own source of livelihood,' said the Shia panel chief.
'While such an undertaking is not required according to the Islamic tenets, it is being made mandatory on humanitarian grounds,' he said.
The board's Mumbai meet will also discuss the very low representation of Shia Muslims in governance at all levels and problems faced by common Muslims as they are looked at suspiciously for increasing terrorist activities in the country.
'We have drawn the attention of both the president and the prime minister to the poor share of Shias in governance, we have not yet received any positive response from them,' the Maulana said.
'We would also like to urge the government to do something about changing the mindset of those officials who suspect Muslims in general as some kind of terrorists or their supporters.'