SYEDA HAMEED | 12 APRIL, 2017
ALIGARH: It happened in Aligarh at a function at Madarsa Chacha Nehru a few days back on April 8. Begum Salma Ansari (wife of Vice President of India Hamid Ansari) has nurtured this school for decades. Thousands of very poor children have got a chance to get real education instead of learning lessons by rote. But this article that I am writing is not about the school or its founder, it is about something that happened on the sidelines of this event.
A reporter asked Begum Ansari for a comment on Triple Talaq. People in her position are usually over cautious fearful of their position being compromised. But what she said was the simplest and deepest comment I have heard on the subject. She asked the women to understand the Quranic injunction by reading the Word for themselves, without allowing intervention by any one who professes to know better. Only then will they see how close Islam is to women of the Ummah. She added that their ignorance often stems from not knowing the language of the Quran, and reading it as a matter of faith. Pronouncement of instant triple talaq without a month between each talaq without proper attempt to reconcile mutual differences, she said, was meaningless. This was the sum of her comment which was taken up by newsrooms and became the subject of TV tamashas the next evening.
In 2000 I wrote the first report on the status of Muslim women in India in my capacity as Member NCW. It was called Voice of the Voiceless. After combing the country listening to Muslim Women who came to depose at Public Hearings, I made a few recommendations to government, to Ulema and Civil Society which were predicated on my understanding of the word of the Quran, especially the scores of passages which have to do exclusively with women.
All passages of the Quran which shine a light on Siratul Mustaqeem (Straight Path) have to do with women and men, both. But as I said, there are many which are there only for empowering women. The Prophet’s practice was to reserve a time at the Masjid e Nabawi for women where they could come to hold discussions with him on matters pertaining to Islam and Quran. Through my above recall of what happened 17 years ago, I am endorsing every word Begum Ansari spoke.
In this respect we have the ‘mother’ of all endorsements from none other than Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Being his biographer, I have gained much of my understanding from his magnum opus Tarjumanul Quran. Throughout this translation and explication he insists on shining ones own light on the Quranic text. He calls it Siraj e Munir; why do you seek others’ lamp when you have your own Siraj e Munir, he asks?
In his Preface he writes that once he had completed his Tarjuman he asked a young boy and an adult learner to read the text and explain it. That was his litmus test. The first word of second Surah is Iqra, which means ‘Read’. That is all Begum Ansari asked the audience to do.
As I write these lines news has filtered that a member of the Muslim Personal Law Board has said that in 18 months the practice of Triple Talaq will be scrapped by the Board so the government need not interfere now. This eminently sensible comment has been attributed to Maulana Kalbe Sadiq. Der Aayad Durust Aayad (what come late comes well); after 17 years of the recommendation by NCW the Board has spoken up. Internal reform is the only way we can show the world what Islam stands for, thereby demonstrating the irrelevance of external interference.
So Kudos to Begum Ansari for being true to herself and for speaking up for millions of us who want to bring Islam closer to ourselves. And speaking for me who rejects all those who view with a patriarchal lens my faith which speaks to me the language of gender.
(Syeda Hameed is a writer and founder of Muslim Womens Forum)