Why did Muslim Personal Law Board dissolve its women’s wing 7 years after formation?

File photo

The women’s wing convenor was asked to delete all the social media accounts that the wing holds. Members have called the decision arbitrary and unilateral.

Sana Ejaz | TwoCircles.net

Support TwoCircles

NEW DELHI — Seven years after its formation, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) dissolved its women’s wing on October 11 with many members calling the decision arbitrary and unilateral. 

AIMPLB launched its women’s wing in 2015 on the advice of Maulana Wali Rahmani, then general secretary of the board. It was created to expand social reform activities among Muslim women. The role of the women’s wing was to provide basic education, vocational training self-employment and legal aid to women in the light of Islam. The women’s wing played an important role during the triple talaq issue; the wing had focused counselling workshops for social development in Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the wing worked to solve women-related queries through its helpline number. 

In a conversation with TwoCircles.net, executive member Kasim Rasool Ilyas said “it is a temporary suspension.”

“We are finalizing rules and regulations for the women’s wing and it will be revived soon. All our committees have their terms of reference, but the women’s wing doesn’t have any terms of reference. Something happened that goes against the parameters of the board. Hence, the decision was taken that we will frame the rules and revive it again.”

On October 11, AIMPLB General Secretary Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani wrote a letter to Dr Asma Zehra, Convenor of the Women’s Wing informing her about the suspension and asking her to delete all the social media accounts that belonged to the wing. Rahmani also restricted holding any programs under the wing’s banner. 

The board has not clarified the exact cause and as per some members “no proper justification was given by the board members for such action.” 

On October 24, Dr Asma Zehra released a statement on the dissolution of the women’s wing. “We feel we have been treated unfairly. In a meeting on October 23 in Delhi, they held me responsible for all the damage and I was told to give a statement in order to fix the matter. I haven’t done anything that goes against the rules, and none of our team members did anything wrong. We have followed the guidelines set up by the board right from the beginning,” she said. 

It is said that it all began with the hijab controversy in Karnataka. The board and the woman’s wing had different views on the issue. The board viewed the hijab controversy as a way to gather political gains ahead of the Uttar Pradesh polls, which the women’s wing differed with.

Dr Shaista Amber, founder, and president of the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB) told TwoCircles.net that “with this decision the rights of our women were taken away.” 

“Do women not have understanding or women don’t have talent, or do they not trust women? In this way, gender equality is over. When women can’t even speak, when they can’t open their mouths, then where is freedom? The talent of the women has been humiliated,” Amber said. 

“When women wing members point out any issue and give our suggestions, they (the board) think we are going against the norms of the board,” she added. 

Commenting on the issue, Dr Neelam Ghazala, a women-rights activist and a member of AIMPLB’s women’s wing said, “Whatever happened is the result of lack of mutual understanding and enmity between two people whose names I will not reveal.” 

Ghazala said, “the board has given a vague reason for suspension of the women’s wing.” 

“They didn’t provide us with a list of complaints,” she said, and added, “They have said that the women’s wing was going out of the parameters of the board and Dr Asma Zehra was breaking the rules.”

Ghazala maintained that if the board was of the opinion that Dr Asma was breaking the rules, the board should have stopped her and action should have been taken only if she hadn’t listened. “But the decision to suspend the women’s wing did not follow this process. We were told directly that the wing has been suspended and the board will arrange a meeting and give the members of the wing a chance to speak.”

Women rights activist Kaneez Fatima said that the decision to suspend the women’s wing impacts the representation of women. 

“A single woman was handling the whole women’s wing and no one else was allowed to move forward. There were some internal issues also and I think that’s why the step was taken,” Fatima said. 

Fatima said the board will represent women in other committees, and if women representation was not done in other committees “we will move forward and raise the question.”


Sana Ejaz is an independent journalist from Bihar. She tweets at @SanaEjaz_