The Female Sharia Judges of India

women-qazis

Source: The Daily Beast

By Emily Feldman

Can women-run Islamic courts bring gender justice to India’s Muslims? One group that is training India’s first class of female ‘qazis,’ or Islamic judges, thinks it can.

From her home in the Indian city of Bhopal, Safia Akhtar listens in on her neighbors’ most intimate dramas.

As often as three times a week, women pass through her door to complain of deceitful husbands, evil in-laws, abandonment, and abuse. Akhtar, a grandmother, hears from both sides of each dispute before dispensing justice, according to the teachings of the Quran.

She is a female Sharia judge.

There are few in India, but that is changing as a movement of Muslim women, fed up with misogynist practices in their communities, take matters of Islamic justice into their hands.

Zakia Soman, a prominent activist, is among the women leading the charge. Her organization, the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, or BMMA, has been fighting for Muslim women’s rights for nearly a decade and is now training what it says is India’s first class of female “qazis”— Islamic judges who oversee marriage, divorce, and other personal matters in Muslim communities. Akhtar is part of the inaugural class of 30 women.

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