Muslim body in India seeks end to dowries, lavish weddings

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board issues 11-point guideline, asking the community to hold simple weddings following suicide by woman over dowry.

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The new guidelines prohibit wedding processions, fireworks, dancing and lavish feasts [File: Amit Dave/Reuters]

A prominent Muslim organisation in India has released new guidelines, asking the community to shun dowries and extravagant marriages after a woman recently died by suicide due to “dowry harassment”.

In an 11-point guideline issued last week, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) asked the Muslims to take an “oath” to refrain from demanding dowry and keep the marriage ceremony simple without “needless rituals, customs and extravagant activities”.

The AIMPLB is widely regarded as the representative of Indian Muslims, who constitute more than 14 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population.

The body’s guidelines, contained in a document released for Muslims to sign and follow, were released by AIMPLB chairman Maulana Rabe Hasan Nadvi.

The move comes after a Muslim woman in the western Indian state of Gujarat died by suicide last month by drowning herself in a river, alleging physical abuse over dowry by her husband and in-laws.

Her suicide set off a countrywide debate over social evils associated with marriage among Muslims and other communities.

The AIMPLB said it has launched a 10-day drive to educate members of the community across the country and to raise awareness against such evils.

During the campaign, Muslim scholars and leaders will place emphasis on solemnising marriages according to Islamic customs and minimise spending during weddings.

The new guidelines prohibit wedding processions, fireworks, dancing and lavish feasts, calling them un-Islamic. It only allows “Dawat-e-Walima”, a feast served by the groom’s family after wedding rituals are completed.

The Muslim body said invitations for such feasts should also be extended to poor and needy members of the community.

Maulana Umrain Mahfooz Rahmani, AIMPLB secretary, said it is not right to say that measures to end social evils like dowries are being taken suddenly.

“The Muslim Personal Law Board has been working for years to bring about good changes in society and motivates Muslims to end bad practices and customs. As far as marriage is concerned, work has been done on it for years so that the evil practices that have become associated with it could be curbed,” he told the Anadolu Agency.

Rahmani said Muslim marriages in India are rarely solemnised in mosques. But now a good change is taking place and a large number of marriages are being performed in mosques and many un-Islamic rituals have ended, he added.

Despite the changes, he said, the “painful aspect” is that many poor women still stay unmarried as their families are unable to spend a lot of money.

“There are many others who are suffering even after marriage as the dowry demand continues and the girl’s husband and his family keep pressuring her to bring more dowries,” he said.

“Many girls commit suicide as they are unable to bear the physical and mental harassment. To end all these things, a new guideline has been made and it is being worked on all over the country.”

Rahmani said AIMPLB members are across the country. “Among them are well-known Muslims from a cross-section of Indian Muslim society such as religious leaders, lawyers, politicians, scholars and other professionals. They have been asked to work on this in their respective areas,” he said.

“During the last three Fridays, discussions and arguments took place in the mosques after the Friday prayers and the harms of the dowry system and mega wedding ceremonies were explained to the people. People visiting the mosques for offering namaz [prayers] are being told to avoid dowries and extravagance.”

Zafaryab Jilani, a prominent AIMPLB member, emphasised the Islamic idea that marriage is a contract.

“Our effort is to make nikah [marriage] easy and simple for the people,” he said.

“We want them to avoid spending money unnecessarily in marriages so that they can present a good example before society.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies