“I will not marry again,” says Mymoona, 37, whose husband Akhtar Hussain Bhat went missing in February 1999. She was just 23-years-old when he went missing. Her lone son recently passed his 10th standard examinations and she is happy she has a reason to celebrate. “I cannot marry now as I have to focus on providing good education for my son,” says Mymoona, who lives in a single-room in Khanyar area in old city.
She was referring to the recent fatwa (edict), by certain religious scholars in Srinagar, allowing half widows (whose husbands have gone missing and there are no whereabouts of them), to remarry after four years.
The Islamic ulemas (scholars) from different schools of thought, representing various institutions and organisations, had on December 26 in Srinagar issued an edict that any half widow who intends to remarry can do so after four years of the disappearance of her husband. As per the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act 1939, a married Muslim woman is entitled to obtain a decree for the dissolution of her marriage if the whereabouts of the husband are not known for a period of four years.
Maulana Mufti Mohammad Yaqoob referred to some books of different school of thoughts and said a waiting period of four years have been agreed by every school of thought. “Disappeared people have to be declared as dead after a waiting period of four years,” he said while referring to books written by scholars of different school of thoughts.
According to a human rights groups working in the state, there are about 1500 half-widows in here.
Parveena Ahanger, chairperson of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) said she welcomes the edict. “However, it has taken the clerics and scholars about 23 years to come to a consensus on this serious issue,” she said. According to her, these women have devoted their whole lives to the search of their husbands and taking care of their children. However, some 8-9 half-widows had married before the verdict, she added.
She asked clerics and Islamic scholars to give an edict on providing property rights to the half-widows. “These half-widows are not being given property rights by their in-laws and at such a time, it becomes more important that Islamic clerics and scholars issue a fatwa in this regard”.
A 45-year-old half-widow, who works in a beauty parlour and has three wards, said her priority is not marriage but her children. “I work in a private establishment and earn Rs. 3000-4500 per month. I want to provide good education to my children so that they can have a better tomorrow,” she said.
Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) coordinator Khuram Pervez also welcomed the fatwa on re-marriage of half-widows.
“Although it is late, the clerics have woken up and issued a fatwa on this serious issue. This will give the much-needed breather to those half-widows, who have married and are being scandalised. The stigma will no longer remain,” he said.
Asked whether he has talked to half-widows after the recent edict, Khurram said he talked to many of them but none has expressed the willingness to marry again. “They want to focus on the search of their husbands and care for their children”.
He, however, said nobody should coerce the half-widows either into marrying or otherwise. “It (marry or not to marry) should be their decision and nobody should interfere in it. They (half-widows) should take the decision independently without any coercion from any quarter of the society, “ he says.