Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum

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Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, commonly referred to as the Shah Bano case, was a controversial maintenance lawsuit in India, in which the supreme court delivered a judgment favoring maintenance given to an aggrieved divorced Muslim woman. Then the Congress government, panicky in an election year, gave into the pressure of Muslim orthodoxy and enacted a law with its most controversial aspect being the right to maintenance for the period of iddat after the divorce, and shifting the onus of maintaining her to her relatives or the Waqf Board. It was seen as discriminatory as it denied right to basic maintenance available to non-Muslim women under secular law.

Quotes[edit]

  • We think it cruel that though she was in her seventies, that though she was indigent, that though she had been married to her husband for forty-five years and had borne him five children, the ulema insisted that Shah Bano was not entitled to any maintenance at all once her prosperous lawyer of a husband threw her out by uttering one word—’talaq’. But it is the Prophet who declared in case after case that the divorced woman is entitled to no maintenance.
    • Shourie, Arun (2012). The world of fatwas, or, The Shariah in action. Noida, Uttar Pradesh: HarperCollins Publishers India[citation needed]
  • But it would be a job done only in half if the ulema stopped at ‘defending’ the shariah. For as we have seen their power rests not only on the shariah, but on the shariah remaining ambiguous and uncodified. The sequel to their victory on the Shah Bano campaign illustrates how resourcefully the ulema guard this source of their power as well. Tahir Mahmood who was much involved in the negotiations over the bill to overturn the Shah Bano verdict, later reported: During the campaign for this Act leaders of the Muslim community had agreed to get prepared by experts a comprehensive draft-code of Muslim law for the country, to be submitted to Parliament for enactment. A committee of theologians and legal practitioners was appointed in 1987 for this purpose by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. Until now the committee having its headquarters at Phulwari Sharief near Patna in Bihar could, however, do nothing more than producing a few booklets in Urdu detailing the principles of Hanafi law—ignoring the fact that what they have come out with is far from being a draft-Code and that in a country where followers of at least four different schools of Muslim law (Hanafi, Shafi’i, Ja’fari and Isma’ili) live, Hanafi law can never be accepted as the only legal code for the entire community. Theirs has been an exercise in futility—while in the absence of any Code worth the name, the courts and other interpreters and appliers of the law continue to rely on unauthentic, sometimes faulty, textbooks and recorded precedents...
    • Tahir Mahmood quoted in **Shourie, Arun (2012). The world of fatwas, or, The Shariah in action. Noida, Uttar Pradesh: HarperCollins Publishers India[citation needed]
  • The result? Even the most inhumane accretions to what was already the heavily skewed world view of the Prophet’s time cannot be touched, simply because a society accustomed to inequity and the domination of males ensured that such humane possibilities as there might have been in some pronouncements of the Quran or the Prophet were not enforced in the past. And every attempt to enforce them— by the Supreme Court in the Shah Bano case in regard to maintenance, by Justice Tilhari in the matter of the ‘Triple Divorce’—is denounced as an assault on Islam.
    • Shourie, Arun (2012). The world of fatwas, or, The Shariah in action. Noida, Uttar Pradesh: HarperCollins Publishers India[citation needed]
  • The classic example given is the Shah Bano case of 1985: repudiated by her husband, the Muslim woman Shah Bano went to court to force him to pay alimony, which Islamic law forbids; the Supreme Court upheld her claim on the basis of equality before the law (Hindu women would have the right to alimony in her case), but under Muslim pressure, Rajiv Gandhi's Congress Government voted a law overruling the verdict and reaffirming the Islamic rules on divorce, at least for Muslims.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism[citation needed]
  • To create a negative image, to manufacture stereotypes and biases against the minorities, a large network of trained people, owing allegiance to Hindu nationalism have spread far and wide, deep into the vitals of society. [...] The provocation and justification for the aggression at level of ideas was provided by Shah Bano blunder by a section of Muslim leadership. After this there was no looking back and all the medieval history was used to demonise the Muslims of today. The additions to the list of stereotypes were fast and furious. Love "jihad", ghar wapasi and cow protection mobs came in, and each served to undermine the Muslim identity and marginalise the community, while the graph of violence saw a parallel rise. The outcome was ghettoisation or seclusion of the minorities, among whom insecurity grew and threw its members further into the arms of maulanas with their rigid pronouncements about Islam. These maulanas and their teachings is what a section of the media uses to characterise the whole community. The moderate Muslims, the ones trying to articulate humane values, have been pushed to the margin.

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