India: Breaking tradition, a woman performs nikah (marriage)

Times of India
"A Shia woman solemnizing marriage of a Sunni couple. If that was not enough, the nikah that made Lucknow sit up in disbelief, was to have only women as witnesses."
Twenty-nine could be a trifle young to make history, but then Naish Hasan, an economics post-graduate and a woman rights activist managed to do it within half-an-hour on Monday night by opting for an "all- women" nikah even as maulvis scoffed and scowled in the background.
"Someone has to make a beginning and break the shackles of male dominance in Islam. I have volunteered," Naish told TOI. "I consider myself fortunate for there are not many who can practise what they preach," she added. "This is a message I want to send across to young girls and a protest I want to lodge against subjugation of women."

Her conditions were no less unusual. "I have told Imran I will not dress up as a traditional bride. There will be no vidai; there will be no barat and no dowry will be given," she said. The nikahnama she proudly displayed, categorically mentioned that the husband will not have the right to pronounce triple talaq at a sitting and the wife will also have a right to pronounce talaq if she so desired. "My humble attempt to demolish the patriarchal mind set," she smiled.

"Don't expect any frills. It will be a simple ceremony," she had forewarned. So the only concession Naish made for the occasion was donning an embroidered maroon sari. Surrounded by co-workers from Tahrir and Indian Muslim Women Movement, she looked a little edgy when Sayda Hamid, member, Planning Commission and her role model who was to double up as a maulvi for the D-day got a little delayed. Groom Imran, a PhD from Aligarh Muslim University, looked a little lost yet contented. And some of the guests were betting if Naish would cover her head or not at the ceremony.

Hamid began by reading out Qoranic verses about equality among mates and sanctity of the union. All murmuring stopped and in the pin-drop silence she asked the man and the wife to be if they accepted a 'meher' set for Rs 51,000? They both loudly declared their acceptance as cameras rolled and flashbulbs popped. The only deviation was adding a male witnesses to all women club. This was necessitated with the clerics pronouncement that the nikah would be null and void if not witnessed by a man.

As per her conditions, Naish will not leave her city and keep working. Having a woman officiating at the nikah is "impractical and therefore not advisable", said Maulana Khalid Rahsid, a cleric from Firangi Mahal of Lucknow.

14 August 2008

Source: Times of India