Competing Model-Nikahnamas: Muslim Women’s Spaces within the Legal Landscape in Lucknow
Journal of Law and Social Research, Vol. 3, pp. 65-80, 2012
16 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2013
Date Written: November 22, 2012
This paper delineates the heterogeneity and tensions at work in Islamic family law in post-colonial India. Based on empirical data gathered in the city of Lucknow, northern India, it explores the ways in which (i) current debates on the form and nature of women’s rights in Islam challenge and fragment normative discourses on Islamic practice and ideology, and (ii) how in this context clear demarcations between secular and religious practice, and secular and religious legal authority get blurred. At the centre of my analysis is a document, called the nikhanama (marriage contract), which stipulates conjugal duties and rights as well as conditions of divorce and financial support. Heated public debate has surrounded recent attempts by both conservative and reform-oriented Muslim men and women to formulate a gender-just model-nikhanama. This paper challenges simplified modernist accounts that depict secular conceptions of state law as incompatible with religious non-state legal norms. Rather, the paper attempts to further a discussion of interlegality (Santos 2002) by conceptualising the legally plural landscape in Lucknow as a field of entanglements rather than as parallel systems of law and morals.
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