Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind passed a resolution in an all-India meeting held in Deoband on 28-29 May 2022 expressing deep concern over the attempts to ‘deprive constitutional rights’ to Muslims and enforce a uniform civil code. The resolution is troubling for many reasons, including the threatening language used in it. There were many provocative speeches too. But, for the present, let us focus only on what was passed as the official resolution to avoid turning a national issue into a political debate.
First, I quote below the resolution as it is so there is no claim of selective copy paste. Highlights are mine:
“Matters covered under the Muslim personal law such as marriage, divorce, khula, inheritance, etc, are not framed by any society, individual or group, etc. Nor are they parts of culture and customs, etc. But they are essential parts of Islam like prayers, fasting and Hajj, etc., derived from the Holy Qur'an and hadiths. Therefore, any change in the rules or regulations sanctioned by Islam or preventing anyone from following them is against the basic principles of Islam and sheer interference in the provision guaranteed in Article 25 of the Constitution of India.
But the present government intends to abolish Muslim personal law by enacting a uniform civil code sidestepping the true spirit of the country's Constitution.
This session of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind warns the Government of India that Muslims of the country cannot accept any change in Muslim Personal Law. That is why when the Constitution of India came into force then under the fundamental rights, it was guaranteed in an unequivocal term that every citizen of the country has the fundamental right to practice and propagate a religion of his/her choice. Therefore, we demand that a clear ordinance be issued regarding the protection of Muslim personal law keeping in view the basic provisions of the Constitution of India.
If the government of India makes an attempt to enforce a uniform civil code, the Muslims of India and other sections of society will not tolerate this great injustice and will be compelled to take all possible steps within the constitutional framework.
On this occasion, we draw the attention of Indian Muslims to the fact that the door of undue interference in the Shariat only opens up when Muslims deny to abide by Shariat injunctions. If Muslims adhere to the Shariat in their practical life, then no power on this earth can prevent them from doing so. Therefore, all Muslims should firmly practice Shariat injunctions and not succumb to the pessimism and the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind appeals to Indian Muslims to remain steadfast in following Islamic law and not get disappointed and subdued.
Now let us analyse each paragraph to understand the mindset and how they try to deviate the debate with half-truths and fear mongering to keep the flock under their control and play upon their fears and emotions.
- Matters covered under the Muslim personal law such as marriage, divorce, khula, inheritance, etc, are not framed by any society, individual or group, etc. But they are essential parts of Islam …derived from the Holy Qur'an and hadiths.
Contrary to their claim, except Holy Quran which is accepted by the Muslims as the sacred inviolable ‘revealed’ message from Allah to the Prophet, neither Hadiths nor Shariah (Shariat) are holy revelations. They were compiled and written much later after the death of the Prophet and revised and rewritten many a times. There are multiple versions of Hadith. Now Saudi Arabia, the custodian of Sunni Islam has called for re-examining the Hadiths. Similarly, Shariah has been modified in different Islamic countries many a times. (Source: The Missing Introspection —A Critique of Current Muslim approaches, The way Forward, Sultan Shahin) Thus, claim of Shariah and Hadiths being sacred and inviolable doesn’t stand the test of history.
- But the present government intends to abolish Muslim personal law by enacting a uniform civil code sidestepping the true spirit of the country's constitution. What is the true spirit of the Constitution? Are Directive Principles not part of the constitution?
Doesn’t UCC form the part of these Directive Principles that are unanimously accepted by the Constituent Assembly? Where was the spirit of the Constitution when the Shah Bano case was overturned with a constitutional amendment? If it is supreme then why these same groups oppose CAA which had nothing against the Muslim personal laws or against the Indian Muslim community itself?
If Parliament is supreme and has amended the Constitution more than 100 times, are amendments against this ‘spirit’ of the Constitution?
- This session of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind warns the Government of India that Muslims of the country cannot accept any change in Muslim Personal Law… Therefore, we demand that a clear ordinance be issued regarding the protection of Muslim personal law keeping in view the basic provisions of the Constitution of India.
I have serious issues with ‘warning’. How can a citizen group warn a government and by that logic the elected institution of Parliament? This shows utter contempt for democratic norms. There was nothing ‘unequivocal’ about Muslim personal law in any constitutional proceedings. Right to practice and propagate religion doesn’t include laws which are not essential as noted above. If it were so, forget Western democracies, Islamic countries too would not have outlawed many of the avowed personal laws including provisions of talaq, etc.
Again ‘demand’ is highly objectionable. When they are sure of the Constitution, why do they ‘demand’? If and when the Government of India and Parliament discuss UCC as laid out in the Constitution and pass a law, they can go to courts against the said laws, as they did in case of Triple Talaq and CAA.
- If the Government of India makes an attempt to enforce a uniform civil code, the Muslims of India and other sections of society will not tolerate this great injustice…
How is a UCC an injustice to Muslims? For all we know, it may be unjust to Hindus. The Hindu Code Bill was supposedly a step towards UCC but leaders, afraid of losing their certificate being ‘secular’, forced it down the throats of Hindu community, without even once seeking its opinion or the opinions of Hindu scholars.
‘Will not tolerate’ language from the alleged top leaders at the national level is not a language of democracy. This is a dog whistle to the amenable flock to decide the fate of this country on the streets. Democracy runs on discussions and mutual acceptance of different points of view. All this when the content of the proposed UCC is not even known.
- If Muslims adhere to the Shariat in their practical life, then no power on this earth can prevent them from doing so…. Therefore all Muslims should firmly practice Shariat injunctions … Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind appeals to not get disappointed and subdued.
This is an attempt to force non-confirming Muslims to return to the hard version of Shariah. If one were to compare Shariah of different Muslim societies, it may turn out that the Shariah advocated by the Indian maulvis is harsher than most of the Islamic countries. The word ‘not to be subdued’ is again a message that Shariah is above the Constitution and to defy the state and democracy.
In the 20th century, over 20 countries adopted Egypt's decree of divorce, including Syria, Jordan and Iraq. Other countries like Malaysia, Brunei, UAE, Indonesia and Qatar have also rejected the concept of triple talaq.
Funnily, polygamy is valid only for Muslims in Pakistan, and so also in India. Why this discrimination against non-Muslims in an Islamic country and in a pronounced secular country?
Now, let me address a few points that arise out of this resolution. Those Muslims who felt that they should be living a life under Shariah voted for division of this nation and one-third land was handed over to them to live life as they wished. Those who did not leave were very clear that they would be living in a Hindu-dominated, democratic, non-theocratic country with equal rights to all communities but no privileges. The right to veto any political decision expired the day they chose to bathe the nation in blood to create Pakistan. Their veto won’t work. To be frank, Pakistan and Bangladesh are still open to them. They can’t have their cake and eat it too.
The Uniform Civil Code is already working fine in Goa. No Muslim has had any problem with it. And they are a sizeable number in Goa. It doesn’t interfere with their ‘essential religious practice to worship’. What part of personal law can be equated to civil laws, not practising of a religion.
What are the practices listed above in the resolution going to hurt the community? Right of easy divorce for men, but very difficult for women? Custom of ‘halala’ that is being misused and exploited by the local clergy and corrupt immoral families blatantly, as many news outlets tell us openly? Equal inheritance rights like other Indian women? How does not allowing adoption make a society or Islam better? Suppose UCC disallows multiple wives, how does it affect practice of their religion? It was a wartime necessity of a tribal society, but how does it benefit now, except a few? If Shariah has been modified in different Islamic countries, why is Indian Muslim clergy hidebound? Hindus too practised polygamy but they surrendered the right for the common good.
I keep talking about Islamic societies because they wish to be more Islamic than Islamic countries despite choosing a secular country, not a Shariah-compliant country (Pakistan) born out of their own wish.
UCC has not been framed yet. On what ground is it being challenged? Why shouldn’t a nation not discuss various ways to uplift the society, find ways to make every citizen’s life better? UCC is not a Muslim issue. It is also an issue that affects Christians in case of divorce and adoption and other communities too.
Why don’t religious leaders demand separate criminal laws, as per Shariah? Muslim clergy fears losing its hold over captive flock if their stranglehold with Shariah ends. That’s the crux. We cannot allow such organisations, who display anti-democratic mindset and wish the society to live as per 7th century norms set in a tribal desert society to set our national agenda. A society that remains static and refuses to evolve and reform becomes a relic of the past and loses dynamism. No one can clip the wings of a society that wishes to rise. We cannot allow such forces to drag the nation down.
The writer is a well-known author and columnist. He has written seven books on RSS and done his PhD on RSS. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.