In A First, Mumbai Couple Opts For Woman Qazi To Solemnise Their Wedding

Image Credits: Maya and Shamaun

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Recently, the news of a Bengali bride refusing to conform to an outdated wedding ritual grabbed headlines. It evidently shows how the present generation is taking a step forward to consecrate their bond in a progressive manner, rather than resorting to age-old irrational customs. A Mumbai couple recently opted for a woman Qazi to solemnise their nikah. Though not the first instance of a woman solemnising a Muslim marriage, this is probably the first time a couple has exclusively sought a woman to bind them in holy matrimony.

Very few know about women Qazis

On January 5, Maya Rachel McManus and Shamaun Ahmed’s nikah was solemnised by Qazi Hakima Khatoon from Kolkata, reported The News Minute. While talking about why they decided to have a woman Qazi, Maya revealed that many are not aware that Islam allows a woman to solemnise a marriage, because the norm is unpopular in society. Maya, a communications professional, got to know about this a few years ago from an article. She and her fiance’ Shamaun had decided outright that they want a woman Qazi for their marriage.

Only 16 trained women Qazis in India

The couple realised the disheartening scenario while searching for a woman Qazi. For more than eight months, they failed to find any woman prepared for the job. Finally, they managed to find out that the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) had trained a few women as Qazis, with knowledge in Quranic and constitutional rights, under their Darul Uloom-e-Niswan programme. The number of certified women Qazis all over India stands at merely 16 at present, and Hakima Khatoom was one of the first ones to conduct a wedding.

When Maya and Shamaun approached BMMA to assign a Qazi for their marriage, like all others, the association asked them the reason. The couple’s reply was a simple “Why not?” Maya, who hails from a half-Bengali and half-British family shared that her decision was graciously welcomed by her family members.

Brides don’t mind, grooms do

Qazi Hakima, who conducted the ceremony, was overwhelmed to be offered the opportunity. Writing for The News Minute, BMMA member and woman’s rights activist Mariya Salim expressed, “Qazi Hakima and her like need to be supported so that more couples come forward to get their nikahs solemnised by them.”

The concept of women Qazis is not entirely new to India, as way back in 2008, Muslim activist Naish Hasan approached scholar Syeda Ahmed to solemnise her wedding. The decision stirred a lot of controversies from the patriarchal idealists of the community. In 2016, All India Muslim Women’s Personal Law Board appointed two women for the first time as Qazis, but they were never invited to conduct weddings.

Talking to Hindustan Times, Bandra-based woman Qazi Zubeda Khatoon revealed, “Brides don’t mind, but grooms are apprehensive.” Maya and Shamaun have truly set an exceptional example which will inspire more couples to come forward and break the unsaid and unfair stereotype against women Qazis.

Efforts For Good applauds the progressive step taken by the couple and hopes more women Qazis like Hakima Khatoon come to the limelight.

Also Read: This Goa Couple Appeals For Eye Donation In Their Wedding Card, Gets 55 Pledges

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MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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