By: KALBE ALI
ISLAMABAD: The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) on Thursday noted the need to give the wives of missing or disappeared individuals the option to remarry and directed its research cell to determine a solution that would be practical and in accordance with the tenets of Islam.
The last session of the council to be chaired by Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani before his retirement next month also witnessed serious discussion over the draft of their women protection bill and a draft child rights bill.
Both bills are being formulated by the CII and will be forwarded to the Ministry of Law and Justice.
Council members on Thursday thoroughly discussed clauses related to women’s right to remarry in the draft bill and, anticipating the seriousness of the issue, Maulana Sheerani specially invited Allama Arif Wahidi – a Shia cleric – as an observer to give his opinion regarding the wives of disappeared or missing persons.
Allama Wahidi was asked to attend as Allama Iftikhar Naqvi, the Shia representative on the CII, was not in the country.
The lone woman on the council, Dr Samia Raheel Qazi, called the wives of missing persons “half widows” and said that they faced severe psychological stress due to a lack of information regarding the whereabouts and condition of their spouses.
“This is a growing issue faced by Muslim women all over the world – in India-held Kashmir and even in Pakistan, the number of such women is quite high,” she said, adding: “I have received several letters where the poor woman herself or her parents have asked for an Islamic solution.”
Saying that there were serious issues in this regard, she narrated the case of a woman whose husband went missing without any information for several years, but as soon as she remarried, assuming her first husband to be dead – he returned.
“The basic query then is: whose wife is she?” Dr Qazi asked.
After through deliberations, it was noted that in this case, the woman could still be the legitimate wife of the first husband while having the option to choose to remain with her second husband.
Members also referred to a decision by ‘Imam Malik’, who held that if a husband was missing without any information, the appropriate waiting period for the wife was four years.
When asked to suggest a solution according to Shia ideology, Allama Arif Wahidi said there was no direct solution to this issue and that decisions were taken on a case-by-case basis.
“However, the four-year period is taken as the minimum benchmark and after several rounds of deliberation, it is the clerics who decide whether a woman can remarry or she has to wait longer,” he said.
Talking to media after the council meeting, the CII chairman said this was a serious issue, since there were several cases of missing persons across the country that had been picked up by the agencies and presuming them dead would be premature.
“This issue has been taken up in many countries too; the [waiting period] is two to three years in Egypt and Syria, while four years is the waiting period in India. But we have not made any decision yet,” Maulana Sheerani said. He said the council had noted several steps that should be taken before such a woman is allowed to remarry.
“First of all, it should be presumed that he is dead and she should observe iddat (the waiting period after the death of a spouse or a divorce) for the customary four months and ten days,” he said, adding: “It would be better if the woman remarried in court, so that the judiciary has knowledge of the case, which may be necessary for her own safety in future.”
Maulana Sheerani also highlighted that in their draft of the child rights bill, the CII frowned upon involving children in wars and conflict.
When mediapersons asked him about such acts committed by Islamist militants, the CII chairman recalled that it was the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) to teach children skills such as archery, horse-riding and swimming. But while such basic training was considered part of their upbringing, taking children to war or forcing them to fight was “unIslamic”.