ISLAMABAD: The 197th meeting of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) remained focused on women’s issues as the item that topped the agenda was divorce, specifically, the right of women to obtain a divorce as enshrined in the law.
Addressing a press conference, CII Chairman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani also said that any woman over the age of 40 could become a judge or a qazi, but only if she observes purdah (veil).
When asked to explain the age-limit, the CII chairman said, “This is a mature age, when women no longer remain attractive or marriageable.”
Women under 40 cannot become judge
The council also rejected certain clauses of the Muslim Marriage Law, 1939, which allows women to seek divorce through the courts on the grounds that her husband remarried without her consent. He said that any Muslim man could marry up to four wives and this was no ground to seek a divorce.
However, the council also discussed the issue of divorce according to the viewpoint of the various schools of thought and announced that the practice of pronouncing “talaaq”, or the intention to the divorce, three consecutive times should be deemed an offence.
Even though it was admitted before the media that such pronouncements by the husband are acceptable as per the Hanafi school of thought, Maulana Sheerani still said that such persons should be punished.
“We have even suggested to the government that stamp paper vendors who register such divorces should also be punished,” he said, adding that, “We have not suggested any punishment in this regard and have left it to the courts.”
Contrary to the cleric’s pronouncement, however, Hanafi scholars have opposed the CII’s suggestion. Mufti Muhammad Naeem of the Jamia Binoria in Karachi told Dawn plainly that, “Declaring one’s intention to divorce three consecutive times should not be considered a crime.”
Opinion on the matter is divided among others sects as well.
“Religious opinion on the issue is very close among both Shias and the Ahle Hadith – only one ‘talaaq’ will count, even if the man repeats it 300 times. But at that time, he should not be under any influence, annoyed or depressed,” Allama Amin Shaheedi, another member of the CII told Dawn.
“At the time, the wife should not be expecting a child or be on her period,” he clarified.
Even though the CII chairman declined to comment when asked why the council had taken up the issue, another member of the council, Tahir Ashrafi, told Dawn that the matter had been taken up in order to discourage divorces by making people afraid of seeking one.
“I have noticed that divorce rates are going up in recent years, it was the need of the hour for the council to make them difficult.”
He said that he had submitted a code of conduct to discourage extremism to the council, which would be discussed in future meetings.
Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2015