Following on from my previous post bringing to your attention the Shariah Style programme which aired on the BBC last week I shall now comment on the issues which Ajmal raised. I was meant to do this but did not have the time, so here it is now.
Ajmal mentioned in Islam having a prenuptial is encouraged and that the nikkah is a contract between the 2 parties involved. Women may choose to details aspects such as not being in a polygynous marriage, not having to do housework or being responsible for the care of the children and not wanting to work. Ajmal gave the example of his own household whereby his wife voiced her desire not to work and he was fully responsible for being the breadwinner alongside with agreeing on having his parents move in with them as they approach old age.
As we all know although the condition of being the sole and only wife is detailed by some, by others it is considered a heinous deprival of his rights. Recently it was mentioned since polygyny is a privilege and not a right, not being in its favour isn’t a default ruling. Not mentioning being the only wife as part of the contract, somehow seems to lead to the assumption that women being co-wives is the default unless stated otherwise can land women into situations they would not have envisioned.
Most Muslims’ are not aware of being able to insert conditions. And those who are do not do so as it may create the wrong impression in terms of being suspicious of the man, consider him untrustworthy – this I have heard of a few times. And this is also why some people do not wish to ask for large amounts of mahr. Instead hoping he is good natured and sensitive and her being co-operative and caring is relied upon as being the prevailing factor leading to a happy marriage. This is the Pakistani view and is the preferred method without the need of using large monetary values as a deterrent/safety net. (unless anyone disagree’s)
Another setback to setting conditions is that although they are to be agreed upon prior to conducting the marriage there is nothing which serves adhering to conditions laid down. There are no real penalties if conditions are broken as that depends on how important they were in the first place; if important enough then the step in terms of being displeased and taking action would be initiated by the wife – which would lead to reconciliaton and/or mediation. After that being a no success it would be divorce.
The discrepancy in divorce proceedings, the balance being in favour of the males was touched upon. The differences in the procedures for men and women however were not divulged in or discussed indepth. Ajmal did mention in certain countries such as Morocco and Malaysia alongside women having to apply for a divorce in the courts, the same also applies to men, something which I touched upon as being preferential in previous discussions. He stated wanting to see this desirable model being applied in other countries.
Birmingham Central Mosque’s shura council was shown to mete out annullments of marriages after pursuing the case for the women who use its services. The emphasis on justice was mentioned and a collective agreement sought if the other party was unresponsive – as was the case with this one particular lady who was the subject of an anullment being carried out. The BCM has one woman (the only woman in the UK I think?) on it shura council and it was her who Ajmal spoke to regarding women seeking khula. In the aim of presenting a balanced view, the financial repercussions for women seeking divorce was also mentioned. And from this, the distribution of wealth upon the end of a marriage discussed
3. Settling wealth
Taking the example of the McCartney & Mills divorce settlement issues similarities between Shariah and British law were extracted. The amount of money Mills secured from the divorce was supposedly similar to what she would have been awarded with under Shariah. The shenanigans Mills engaged in did not work in her favour and nor would it have reflected well on her character otherwise either.
The example of Madonna and Guy Ritchie focused on incidences whereby Shariah maybe in favour of the party who was financially ahead of the other and therefore awarded some of their earnings. Despite mentioning women’s earnings to be solely theirs, Ritchie having access to Madonna’s wealth as part of alimony would according to Usama Hassan, be the Sharee’ verdict too. Seems a tad contradictory….
Issue of inheritance was clear cut – family members have a stake in inheritance and boys inherit more than girls under the guise of having to provide whereby girls are exempt from such a duty. No ifs and buts on this one .
Suffice to say rather than looking at the complexities of Shariah law, Ajmal focused more on complacency. However owing to the audience which the programme was targetted at (primarily non-Muslims/Muslims under the impression Shariah law was unjust and discriminated against women) Ajmal I personally think, covered enough ground to encourage people to do their own research and see Shariah, in terms of civil matters, as having a lot of grey, ambiguity and at times apparent inconsistency – which of those who have browsed this blog and engaged in previous discussions will be aware of.