One of the countrys first group of women trained as kazis, Jahanara, is using her religious knowledge to help Muslims fight back against male domination
Do you want to take her back alive? Or do you want her corpse? Thats what Jahanaras husband asked her mother as he beat his wife 10 years ago. That night, Jahanara gave up on her brutal marriage and left her home and four children.
Since then, her husband has refused to let her see the children, though they live in the same city, Jaipur. He has paid no alimony. He has refused to give her the 15 grammes of gold promised as part of the mandatory payment that Muslim men must make to their wives if the marriage ends. Her share in the marital home has also been denied her.
Seeking justice, 45-year-old Jahanara (who goes by only one name), went to see her local kazi or Islamic judge, who adjudicates in marriage, polygamy, divorce, triple talaq (instant divorce) and custody. The job of the kazi, usually a man, is to dispense justice according to Quranic principles. The post is generally passed down from father to son and is steeped in tradition.
However, like so many women before her, Jahanara came away disappointed and bitter. He refused to help me get my rights, she says. I refused to believe that my situation was just. I went around Jaipur asking ulemas [scholars] if the injustice done to me was permitted by the Quran. I asked them: Is this my status as a woman in the Quran? Is this the justice the Quran gives me? They all told me: Yes. This is your position. Endure it.
She decided to fight back. Today, Jahanara is one of the first female kazis in India.