Sharia courts don’t clash with Indian legal system: Muslim leaders

New Delhi : Sharia or Islamic courts don’t constitute a parallel judicial system but in fact help Indian courts by tackling a huge number of disputes among Muslims, leading Muslim leaders say.

Muslim scholars also told IANS across the country that contrary to the impression created by the media, the community was well aware that Islamic courts don’t carry any legal sanction.

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In a major ruling, the apex court ruled Monday that fatwas or Islamic edicts have “no place in independent India” and these must not be used to punish the innocent.

“These courts are in fact aiding and helping the judiciary” as they seek to dispense justice to a large number of Muslims who would otherwise flood the normal courts, Shaher Qazi Maulana Irfan Mian Farangi Mahali told IANS in Lucknow.

Added Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad: “The number of Sharia courts should in fact be increased and they should also get legal sanctity. Yes, fatwas should be issued only after hearing both parties.”

Abid Rasool Khan, chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Minorities Commission, said the Supreme Court ruling had no implications for Muslim personal law.

“The Supreme Court has only reiterated what we ourselves have been saying that Darul Qazat or Sharia courts have no legal sanctity if their verdicts are contested by one of the two parties.

“If both parties agree, the law will have no objection and the same will be accepted like arbitration or other methods.”

Acting in response to a public interest litigation, the Supreme Court restrained Sharia courts from unilaterally issuing directives that affect the rights of Muslims, India’s largest minority.

Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi, director Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Centre in Mumbai, told IANS that Sharia courts were “a community system of delivering social justice.

“There is no legal sanctity to it and the aggrieved parties can go to the court of the land for justice. The person who filed the PIL misunderstood the entire thing.”

Zafaryab Jilani, another member of the Muslim Personal Law Board, said here: “Sharia law is not a parallel judicial system. The decision given in such courts is just a opinion. It is not binding on people.

“This is just a way to resolve disputes. We aren’t doing anything against the Indian law or the constitution.”

According to Maulana Mufti Mukarram, the Naib Imam of the 17th century Fatehpuri Mosque in Delhi, the wording of the Supreme Court ruling seemed to provoke the Muslim community.

“The Sharia courts give verdicts only within the parameters of Muslim personal law. These relate mainly to divorce cases and property divisions. So where is the clash with Indian law?

“By saying that Sharia rulings are not binding and that Muslims can do what they want despite the rulings is a needless interference,” the Mufti told IANS.

In Patna, Maulana Anisur Rahman Qasmi, the Nazim of Imarat Shariah, said the Supreme Court was not against Sharia courts. “The apex court’s verdict will not hamper the functioning of Sharia courts.”

Mohammed Hussamuddin Sani Aqil, an eminent cleric in Hyderabad, argued that Sharia courts should indeed get legal sanctity.

“This will lessen the burden on courts of law as thousands of cases are pending for years. Since Muslim marriages are performed as per Sharia, if they have to be dissolved it has to be through Sharia only…

“Sharia courts thus help regular courts in their work. Sharia courts decide cases only if both the parties approach them. It is for the parties to follow the orders.”

Indian Union Muslim League leader E.T. Mohammed Basheer, a MP from Kerala, claimed there were no Sharia courts in India.

“Fatwas are basically issued by religious leaders with emphasis on the Quran. These may or may not be accepted and this is not binding as per the law.”

(With inputs from Rupesh Dutta, Sanu George, Sheikh Qayoom, Imran Khan, Mohit Dubey, Mohammed Shafeeq and Quaid Najmi.)