Muslim Family Law, Secular Courts and Muslim Women of South Asia A Study in Judicial Activism
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The classical Shari�a law on family relations is based on patriarchal family organization and male privileges, leading to legal and social discrimination against women, which is incompatible with present-day notions of gender equality and social justice. The discrimination is especially pronounced in such vital matters as marriage, divorce, maintenance, guardianship and custody of children and inheritance; and yet, these are the institutions which form the bedrock of security and stability in family life. In view of the sensitiveness of the issue of family law reform, the legislative and executive organs of the state are reluctant to address these discriminations. But the courts cannot refuse to adjudicate, when social justice issues are addressed to them; for, to deny relief is to nullify the judicial process and negate justice. In an admirable display of scholarship and creativity, the South Asian judiciary has shown that, by giving a liberal and pro-active interpretation to the rules of Muslim family law, it is possible to adapt many of them to the needs of a modern society, from within the Islamic legal framework.