Amidst the growing debate on triple talaq and female genital mutilation, a Muslim women's rights organisation started a one-of-a-kind course to train women to be qazis, or judges, a role traditionally reserved for men.
By April 2017, 15 of them had graduated to become qazis. The hope is that there will be more every year. And armed with Qur'anic knowledge, they will tackle the customs that are perceived as being detrimental to women.
45-year-old Jahanara is one of the qazis, who is using her religious knowledge to help Muslims fight back against male domination. Ten years ago, Jahanara left her abusive husband. Since then, her husband has not allowed to meet her four children and did not give her any alimony.
When the qazis in Jaipur didn't help her and asked her to accept her destiny, she knew she had to fight back.
She trained to become one of India's first women Islamic judges.
"Now that I'm a qazi, now that I have knowledge, now that I have the arguments, I finally feel free. And I want other Muslim women to feel free too," Jahanara told The Guardian in an interview.
Like Jahanara, other female qazis feel a similar sense of freedom.
"The Qur'an gives us equal rights. It gives us the right to life, education, property, the right to free choice," says another woman, who has recently become a qazi.
These women feel that because Muslim women don't know about their rights, men often misuse it. They are told that is what the Qur'an says. But that's not the case. It's the patriarchal society that compels them to accept it when their husbands leave them or treat them in an inhumane way.
Jahanara and Afroz Begum— have faced opposition in February 2016 from conservative clerics who deemed the existence of female qazis as un-Islamic.
Zakia Soman, the co-founder of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), the organisation that trained these women to qazis in Mumbai had earlier told Reuters in an interview that they started the course because qazis have all been men. "Their judgment has never been questioned, even if many are unfair to women," she said.
These women qazis are largely community workers and activists from states including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Bihar.
You can read the Guardian story here.
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