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Muslim Women in India: A struggle for Dignified Existence


Muslim Women in India: A struggle for Dignified Existence



Muslims occupy an important position in Indian society. They are the principal minority of this country. According to 2011 census, Muslims constituted 13.4% of India's total population with majority in Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir. Women empowerment is a contemporary issue for developing countries like India. It is assumed that the development of Muslim society has sustained a setback due to various factors of which the 'Invisible' role and 'Marginal' social position of women in dynamics of Muslim society is very important. The rates of women empowerment are in a vulnerable condition within the largest Muslim minority. Lack of social opportunities for Muslim women is a crucial issue needing urgent action. This paper attempts to present theoretical analysis of position of women in Islam as advocated by Quran and Hadith and condition of Muslim women in India in comparison to other countries like Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. It explores into the socio-economic profile of Muslim women in India in the light of personal law and studies the constitutional validity of personal law. It concludes that minorities in the minority i.e. Muslim women are still forced to live a secluded and submissive life. According to the Sachar Committee report Muslim women are among the poorest, educationally disenfranchised, economically vulnerable, politically marginalized group in the country. However, the Supreme Court of India has declared the applicability of secular law over Muslims in Shah Bano's case but still personal law is continuing itself violating constitutional injunctions of equality and freedom from discrimination. Both state and fundamentalists of Islam are needed to wake up and put robust efforts to bring Muslim women in mainstream by implementing the various laws and schemes framed for them in a proper way.

Key Words: Muslim Personal Law, Muslim Women, Uniform Civil Code.



In a male dominated society, women have to face numerous of problems specific to their religious group and specific to their sex. All religions have accorded women inferior status. The Prophet of Islam was very favorably inclined to bring about improvement in women’s status, even give her equality, if possible. Not a single day goes spare of news about Muslim women rights violation. Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the United Nations human rights commissioner states about the murder of an Iraqi lawyer, who was promoting women's rights in Iraq by Islamic State Fighters.[1]It is trending right now in the society about the Triple Talaq and polygamy among the Muslims in the society. It has been deeply rooted in the medieval Muslim regime in the foundation of Islam. Islam preaches the multiculturalism which is now totally contrasted to the current prevailing scenario of the society.


In this Article, there is a study of the condition of the Muslim Women in India and its comparison with the other countries also and also it will be studied that how they are struggling in the society for their Dignified Existence in the society. There were some disputes which were totally against or they were discriminatory to the Muslim Women which can be related to the personal matters of Maintenance, Divorce, Inheritance, etc. We all understand that nothing can be more precious than the national integrity, so why to destroy the unity of any personal laws.


Correspondingly, by alluding to various stanzas from Holy Quran, numerous Muslim researchers contend that the idea of intrinsic nobility of man is one of the fundamental lessons of Islam, while there are other people who preclude the characteristic poise from claiming man by alluding to different stanzas of Holy Quran, accepting that the pride is a supernatural status that must be gotten through true conviction, great deeds, and devotion. This discussion among Muslim researchers has been showed with clear ramifications in the Islamic human rights instruments. It shows that the idea of characteristic pride of man can't clear and undeniable idea in the Islamic writing on human rights, and accordingly it should be explained upon by scholastic and philosophical works.


Muslim Women: A Comparative Analysis

·        Egypt

The status of Muslim Women in Egypt is not much differing than the status of Muslim Women in India. Egyptian Constitution does not allow any Non-Muslim law to interfere with the existing law contrary to the Sharia. Religions law merely cannot be a reason for curtailment of women's rights but its selective interpretation.[2]


In India, personal laws enjoy the independent state. It can’t be said that Allah weighs men and women unequal but practical interpretation of Muslim law is responsible for prevailing discrimination. Women in ancient Egypt kept themselves in pardah, contact with men who were not kin was not permitted to the Muslim women and also they were expected to bear the male child. In the modern times, pardahsystem become stricter at the age of puberty increased in schools.[3]


In Egypt, Puberty has been set as an age of marriage i.e. 14 years. A Muslim has an exclusive right to give extra judicial divorce unilaterally in Egypt. In India Talaq-ul-biddat was a matter of great concern. Muslim women’s right to maintenance is suspended. According to Sharia, husband has only financial obligation to provide the deferred dower to the wife till the Iddat lasts.


·         Lebanon

In the Muslim families of Lebanon, Father holds the supreme position of the family. However, Lebanon is considered to be literal among all the Muslim countries in the Middle East but still in rural regions, women are restricted to the family and children.[4] In Lebanon, the voice of women is not so much than the men, and there is some inequality between both, men and women. But in India, scene is somewhat different, as it has been evolved as one the colonies of the Britain with a distinct political system and also there are lots of efforts have been made to impart equal participation of men and women in Parliament.

Status of Muslim Lebanese women is somewhere quite similar to those of India. Marriage is a civil contract in Lebanon. A few important provisions related to Nikah are as under[5]:

1)       Wife is entitled to have alimony if marriage was not consummated for one year due to husband’s fault.

2)      Marriage can be terminated if either women or men were found insane.

3)      A Muslim women can’t marry a Non-Muslim men.



·        Afghanistan

As we have seen that there are so many hindrances in the Muslim countries for the equality among the men and the women so that they are to be treated equally. Afghanistan is one out of them which showcases one of the most inferior positions of Muslim women among all. In Afghanistan, girls are married at a very young age of 13-16 years or in certain cases between 10-12 years. They lack the right to choose the life partners, which is a task entrusted to the parents/guardians only. Here, husband has the absolute right to break the marriage. Deprivation of rights and claims of children, polygamy, etc. are the areas where women are not living dignified and also not living the equal status as men in the society and also, women are ignored of their right to have compulsory elementary education in the country.

A few points which clarify the legal status of women in Afghanistan are as under[6]:

1)      An Afghan can marry more than one woman.

2)      Women are prohibited to marry Non-Muslim men, though in case of men, it is permitted

3)      Pre-marital sex is prohibited.



Muslim women in India


Muslim Personal law:

·        Dower, Divorce and Maintenance:

Muslim marriage is a civil contract and dower acts as consideration in it. It is considered as “The token of respect to the wife”. “Dower or Mahr is a sum of money or other property which the wife is entitled to receive from the husband in consideration of the marriage.”[7] It is considered as an obligation upon the husband to the wife and in this, the husband is considered as a creditor and wife is considered as a debtor.

In the case of Abdul Qadir v. Salima[8], court discussed the liability of husband to pay dower and nature of the dower. It was held that dower is bride’s price for cohabitation and right of cohabitation does not accrue to him till he has paid the dower. In Muslim law, dower has been classified as i) Deferred dower (Mu’wajjal) and ii) Prompt dower (Ma’ajjal). But issue arises that why women should be treated specially in the name of economic security. Since, a Muslim bride remains constantly under a fear of being given Talaq, that’s why Mahr retained its importance in the Muslim Personal law.


·        Muta Marriage

Marriage in Islam is a strong bond, it’s not merely a contract but it denotes a devotional element in it. Quran defines Nikahessential for attainment of social goal of human race. Muta is an ancient Arabian ritual. It has been defined as “Enjoyment, Pleasure and Delight.”[9] Muta has been understood less like an institution but more to take physical advantage of women. Muta can’t take place of sacred bond of marriage which involves inheritance.People in civilized society are expected to think of welfare of both men and women than to continue Muta which focuses on pleasure by exempting persons of their responsibilities in a relationship.


Socio-economic profile of Muslim women in India:

·        Population

As per notification generated by central government in 1993, Muslims constitutes 13% of the total population. Sachar committee used data of census 2001 to study population of Muslims. According to it there are 138 million Muslims out of total 1029 million people. Out of 593 districts, 9 districts possess 75% of Muslim population. Sex ratio among Muslims is higher than any other religions community. It is 982/1000 as compared to 927/1000 among Hindus, as per census 2001. It is estimated that Muslims shall come out be 18-19% by the end of 21st century.[10]


·        Education

In 2005,  former PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh constituted Sachar Committee to prepare report on the social, economical and educational status of Muslims in India, in which there were some findings of Sachar committee that Muslim girls have the highest number of dropouts, Educational attainment status of Muslims is approximately similar to SCs/STs. Also, as per the report, Muslim women are the most backward in education.[11]


·         Health

Inescapability of elements like station, religion, district, language and so on has remained liable for number of mishaps. Sick wellbeing and destitution among Muslims is an model. Sachar advisory group based on different overviews and evaluations announced poor inoculation among Muslims. Inaccessibility of consumable water, sanitation what's more, living conditions are different variables adding to the unexpected frailty conditions. Populace increment, joblessness, movement and mushrooming of slum areas in cities are some of the important reasons behind poor health. 16% of villages without medical facilities located in Muslim populated areas. Women's reproductive health is of prime concern. Right to health is an inalienable right of all human beings and it must be realized well.


·         Employment and Work Participation

As indicated by Sachar board of trustees discoveries, Muslim ladies have the most reduced work support. 60% of them are independently employed and confined in workmanship and weaving work.The vast majority of them are utilized in optional and tertiary areas. In assembling areas and ventures, Muslim ladies are associated with work on small pay and under poor legally binding conditions. Training is the best approach to free the Muslim ladies from poor working conditions; likewise State ought to be focused on acknowledge Article - 43 of the constitution for guaranteeing improved work conditions





Shah Bano’s Case: Maintenance verdict

Disclosure of discriminatory provisions of Muslim law for divorced women was not new, but it was an older one. However, will power of Shah Bano to fight for justice is applaud-able. J. Chandrachud decided the case in the favor of Shah Bano.[12]

Verdict was castigated for being anti-Muslim. India is still fighting to establish secularism. Shah Bano's case was a strong march in this transition stage to boost the secular sentiment. She was a 60-year-old divorced women who went to court for claiming maintenance from her former husband. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of her. Justice Chandrachud explained his judgment by stating that 'Mahr' is an amount of money paid to the wife at the time of marriage as a mark of respect towards her and not at the time of divorce.[13]


Change of Muslim Law and Article-25 of Indian Constitution

 Secularism doesn't mean, non-strict state yet strict resilience and regard for all religions similarly. Article-25 of Indian constitution states - "Every person and not only the citizens of India possess freedom of conscience" what's more, option to uninhibitedly purport rehearse and spread religion, subject to open request, wellbeing and morality. Individuals of differing religions have opportunity to declare, spread and practice any religion they have confidence on inside limitations. Be that as it may, right now, of religion doesn't mean vindication of privileges of a specific sexual orientation for example Muslim lady. Marriage, separate, progression and so forth matters are as yet constrained by close to home laws in our nation. Change of individual laws ought not be found in opposition to Article-25. Later is about opportunity to venerate the master of decision and not about mainstream matters like marriage, separate, legacy etc.


India is world's biggest majority rule government and developing quick in each area of improvement. One can't think to drag the individual laws on the rear of mainstream laws for one century from now. Individual laws are contrary with the key rights what's more, mandate standards. Legal reasonableness and altruistic judgment in Shah Bano needed to endure in view of hard chomped choice of focal government for an explanation of races around then. Strict code managing wedding issues doesn't fit in present day circumstance.


The Triple Talaq Verdict

In a recent landmark judgment of  Shayra Bano v. Union of India and Ors.[14], the Supreme Court held the Muslim practice of Talaq-ul-Biddat as “Void and Unconstitutional”. J. Keher stated that any form of divorce practice which is inconsistent with the tenets of Quran is unacceptable.[15]This decision has given a huge level of confidence in the Muslim women which leads to their empowerment.


After the completion of this Article, here comes the conclusion that the conditions of the Muslim women in India was not so good in the earlier times and also they were not treated equally as Muslim men and they were kept deprived in the society, but now they are emerging as empowered women in the society, as the judiciary has given certain judgments which empowers the Muslim women in the society, also earlier Muslim women were not more educated at the earlier time but now they are fighting for themselves and struggling in the society for their dignified existence. In this Article, there is also a comparison of the condition of Muslim women in India with the other Islamic countries like Egypt, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Also there is a study on the Social and economical condition of the Muslim women in India, which also plays a greater role in the life of a Muslim women. Right now, discovered that the natural poise of man, which has been as often as possible referenced in International Bill of Human Rights and in the human rights talk, is the same idea that was explained upon in strict lessons and it is through these lessons that idea of regular rights has entered the human rights instruments. There is no differentiation among devotees and non-adherents as respects to characteristic nobility of man. Be that as it may, it has been obviously contended in the Holy Quran that there exists another sort of pride, which is something that must be procured and something that outcomes in proximity of man to God All-powerful. In contrast to the inborn nobility, the gained poise can't same in all people. It shifts from individual to individual and having an earnest conviction and adherence to great deeds are vital for the advancement of human possibilities and development of the obtained pride. Be that as it may, consideration of a moral term in a human rights instrument doesn't just fill any need, yet additionally makes it dubious and indistinct, since the procured pride doesn't fall inside the degree human rights instruments and they ought to be examined in the zones of morals and religion.


[1] World Report, 2018(28thannual review of human rights)

[2] Religion as a barrier in women’s empowerment, The Hindu.

[3] Women’s movement: A stop at Egypt’s socialist era, Live Mint




[7]A book of  Muslim law, A. Ahmad.

[8]AIR 1886 All 149

[9] Concept of Marriage on Muslims, Muta Marriage

[10] Ministry of Women and Child Development, An Analytical Study of Education of Muslim Women and Girls in India 



[12] Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum and Ors 1985

[13] Id.


[15] Id.


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