All India Muslim Personal Law Board leaders will meet in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, on December 25 to debate on the model nikahnama to safeguard the rights of Muslim women.
The board's Nikahnama Committee, headed by Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rehmani, who is based in Hyderabad, has prepared the nikahnama, an AIMPLB member said.
The nikahnama is a document having codes of conduct to be followed by couples.
The groom, his bride, the qazi who solemnises the marriage (nikah) and two witnesses will have to sign the document at the time of the marriage.
During the December 25 meeting, experts will put forward their suggestions and a final draft will be prepared.
It will then be passed in the general body meeting of the AIMPLB, which has not been scheduled yet.
Once passed, the final draft will be publicised across the country.
The board, however, cannot force it on anyone.
As most of the Islamic schools of thought are part of the AIMPLB, Muslims are expected to accept it.
The model nikahnama has a section on the eligibility of marrying couples. It gives details of who can marry whom. It emphasises on blood relatives who can marry each other. It is, however, silent on the minimum age of marriage.
It has a section on meher -- a certain amount of money that the bridegroom pays to the bride.
Though the bridegroom is supposed to give meher on the first night of marriage, it rarely happens. The trend is that the wife forgives the meher.
To avoid this, the model nikahnama proposes to fix the amount, based on the socio-economic status of both sides.
The meher will be divided in two parts. The husband will have to give a certain amount immediately after the marriage and the rest in the long term.
The nikahnama is silent on the dowry system widely practised among Muslims. Dowry is anti-Islamic, Islamic scholars say.
The nikahnama has two sections giving details of the couple's responsibility towards each other.
According to the nikahnama, a husband is supposed to take full care of his wife's health, food, clothes and education of children. He should not discriminate against his wife. He should allow his wife to visit her parents and relatives. He should also not leave her at her parents' house without her consent.
Similarly, the wife should take care of her husband's dignity. She should not go anywhere without her husband's permission. She should take care of the children.
There are several other codes like these.
There will also be an ikraranama (acceptance letter), to be signed at the time of the nikah. It has codes like declaration of being a Muslim and pledge to follow Shariat (Islamic law and jurisprudence).
The documents will have details like name, age, profession, address, qualifications, etc of the couple, the qazi and the witnesses.
The most important feature -- divorce -- is missing. The nikahnama only says that the couple will try to avoid divorce as much as possible.
Muslim activists and women's groups have long been demanding reform of the divorce law. As of now a husband can get divorce by saying 'talaq' three consecutive times.
Some Islamic scholars object to it and recommend that divorce should be given in a period of three months. Many Muslim countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan have more stringent laws of divorce than India. Unlike others, Indian laws do not have scope of any reconciliation.
Also, women do not have right to divorce. Instead, they need to take permission from the local cleric in a process called Khula.