A Muslim marriage in northern India has sparked an uproar because the ceremony was officiated by women and has resulted in an angry debate with one of the most influential Islamic seminaries in south Asia calling it an affront to religion. Ordinarily, a Muslim wedding is officiated by a man who is ordinarily a local leader and the signing of the wedding contract is witnessed by four Muslim m ales, two each for the bride and groom. But, the wedding last week of Naish Hasan, the 28 year-old bride and woman activist, and Imran Ali, was probably the first in south Asia in which women played prominent roles in all aspects of the ceremony.
Muslim women activists hailed the marriage as a symbolic first step forward for women of their faith, but it has resulted in a storm of criticism from conservative Islamic institutions, especially from the Dar-ul-Uloom seminary in nothern India. Ahmad Khizar Shah Masud, speaking for the seminary, termed the wedding a “cruel joke on (Islamic) laws.” The Lucknow Idgah Committee said the marriage is invalid under Islamic law. However, Ms. Hadan, brushed off criticism by insisting “I do not care. Islam says there cannot be anyone b etween Allah and his disciple. How come these clergymen are interfering in our matter?”
The bride represents a small group of liberal Muslims who are raising questions about their religion and challenging the authority of conservative leaders. In 2005, a group of Muslim women established the All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board to help them fight for reform. They are fighting to recast their religion as one which can fit into modern life.