The MINAB held the first consultation meeting about Shariah Councils in the UK at London Muslim Centre, London on 13 May 2013.
The meeting was well attended and it was chaired by Maulana Mohammad Shahid Raza OBE. Representatives of all four MINAB founding members were present as were representatives of many other local and national Muslim organisations. The meeting was also attended by many scholars and women.
In his opening address the Chair of the meeting made it clear that MINAB is an inclusive, non sectarian and community led body, any work it does in the area of Shariah Councils will also be inclusive and community led. He said that there is a difference in standards in the existing Councils and MINAB will be looking to draft standards with a view to publish a code of conduct following public consultation.
The Chair requested Judge Khurshid Drabu CBE, the leading architect of MINAB, to explain his views on the work that he would recommend the MINAB to do.
Judge Drabu said that the challenge we face as a community in respect of the workings of the Shariah Councils is a challenge worth converting into an opportunity for making improvements wherever needed. He accepted that the Panorama programme was part of the broader agenda linked to Islamophobia but cautioned against us developing a victim mentality. He said it was important in this context to use correct terminology. The Shariah Councils should not be called Shariah Courts because they are not courts. They function by consent of parties and have no enforcement powers. Media often portray Muslims running a parallel legal system and we all have a duty to dispel this myth.
He emphasised the great value that the Councils give to our communities. He pointed out that their work is essential since Islam as religion governs the private as well as public life of Muslims. In that regard most, if not all Muslims, lay greater store on Nikah marriage than marriage conducted under civil laws in the UK. Muslims predominantly believe that living together or parting from each other must have the sanction of Allah and that sanction comes from the Nikah for marriage and divorce through Islamic process. He said that MINAB would shortly launch a campaign to encourage mosques to become centres for registration of marriages.
Judge Drabu said that the aim of MINAB’s work on Shariah Councils is to make them better and fit for purpose. The objective is to empower the Councils to work in a uniform and co-ordinated manner to deliver justice in marital breakdowns and family matters. The process for resolution of disputes must be fair and transparent and which is respectful of the dignity of those who are the users of Shariah Councils.
He made it clear that the MINAB work on supporting and improving the Shariah Councils will have nothing to do with the laws that are dispensed in dealing with disputes that are brought to them voluntarily by parties. He said that like MINAB the work on Shariah Councils would be confined to their governance and procedures and would not spill into interpretation and application of Shariah, which is diverse in different sects and fiqhs. That difference must be accepted and respected. MINAB would only look at how Shariah judgments are made and delivered. To this end, said Judge Drabu, MINAB will need to consult with all stakeholders to devise acceptable solutions.
Judge Drabu said that the Director General of the Central Islamic Centre was also due to attend the meeting but he had just received a text to say that he had been held up because of an emergency business. He said that Dr Ahmed Dubyan had been working on the issue and that MINAB would collaborate with him and seek his guidance.
The Chair said that he welcomed Dr Dubyans’ interest and support. He then took questions and ensured that all present expressed their views. The comments received were positive and helpful. He asked attendees if they wanted the proposed work on Shariah Councils to be done by MINAB and the unanimous response was in the affirmative. Many participants felt that the problem required urgent attention and multi facetted action. Sisters present said that it was very important to give due weight to the views of females in the exercise to improve matters and that they should also be allowed to play a full part in developing strategy and solutions. The Chair assured the meeting that MINAB is committed to work with all and said that he fully understood and accepted the strength of feeling on this issue from sisters.
The Chair thanked all present for their attendance. He asked the participants to request Judge Drabu to start work in this delicate but important area. The suggestion received unanimous support and Judge Drabu said that he felt honoured and humbled. He said that he would start working in consultation with a small group of people and will produce a first draft of the proposed work plan for the next meeting which it was hoped would take place in June.
The participants thanked Maulana Imam Mohammad Shahid Raza OBE for his leadership and for his excellent work at the Shariah Council headed by him.
The much awaited programme on a serious subject turned out to be most disappointing. It was a poorly disguised attempt at investigative journalism. The so-called investigation that it carried out was confined to one Shariah Council and even that was edited and presented in the most one sided and unbalanced manner. Only the negativities relating to that Council were highlighted. None of the positive work done in the many decades of its existence was even alluded to.It was clearly a predetermined agenda that drove the programme. The agenda appeared to be to create fear and misapprehension amongst viewers that Muslims are running and following a parallel legal system. Nothing could be further from the truth. Shariah Councils are not courts and have no legal basis for their existence. They have no powers of enforcement of their conclusions or recommendations. They operate by agreement of parties and an unhappy party can withdraw from the process at any time. His or her rights under the law of the UK are not compromised in any way. So what, may we ask, is the basis for the allegation or assertion that Shariah Councils are a legal system that is running parallel to the UK law on family matters, property disputes and children’s rights etc. Such suggestions are peddled in the hope that if you tell lies enough times, it may be believed as the truth. But that will not happen, as the overwhelming majority of our society is composed of reasonable, tolerant and fair minded people.
Maulana Shahid Raza Imam of Leicester Central Mosque Conduit Street, Leicester LE2 0JN will deliver a sermon highlighting climate week on Friday 8th March 2013 starting at 1.15pm.
A message of peace, on the occasion of International Day of Peace, on behalf of Southampton Medina Mosque Trust Ltd.
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The Chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, Maulana Sarfraz Madni has said that “MINAB welcomes the opportunity created by the Panorama programme to put the record straight on Shariah Councils."
In this context we should like to emphasise that Shariah Councils are voluntary bodies which function by agreement of parties to a dispute. No person, male or female, can be forced to appear before a Shariah Council nor do the Shariah Councils have any legal powers of enforcing their conclusions or their suggested remedies. A party who feels aggrieved or dissatisfied with decision or conclusion of a Shariah Council is free to seek remedy from Civil Courts.
It is our view that Shariah Councils perform an essential and effective role for the Muslim communities in the United Kingdom. The assumption that such Councils are “forced” upon Muslim women has no evidentiary foundation. On the contrary there is overwhelming evidence of women being the main users of the Shariah Councils by their own will.
Shariah Councils have been in existence for many decades in the UK but their standards in delivering equitable conclusions in cases brought before them can vary. Most of such Councils carry out their functions of applying the Shariah personal law in matrimonial disputes with good sense and reason. The varying degree of standards of the Shariah Councils is not due to the Shariah law that they seek to implement but due to culture based contamination of the Shariah Law as well as poor personnel in some of these Councils.
The MINAB recognises that the current system of Shariah Councils requires reform in the following ways:
- The Councils should operate under a community led and community driven system of self regulation.
- Only those Councils that agree to adhere to the self regulatory scheme upon which there would be due process of consultation, would be given a “licence” to operate by the self regulatory body.
- Members of the national self regulatory body should consist of elected representatives and scholars nominated by national Muslim organisations with assured participation of women. The national self regulatory body should be independent and should have no role in matters of theology. It should only operate to improve good governance of the Councils and devise means to make their processes transparent and fair, bearing in mind all the relevant laws under the English Law.
- That those who sit in “judgment” in Shariah Councils should receive induction and on-going approved and adequate training in judge craft and that each Shariah council panel should include at least one female.
- That all decisions of certified Shariah Councils should be in writing setting out reasons and copies of such decisions should be logged centrally with due regard for privacy and Data Protection Act.
In order to improve their institutions, MINAB as a community led national organisation knows that the Muslim communities are willing to engage in partnership with other faith based communities as well as the civil society and political establishment.We would hope that once the agreed system of self regulation comes into being, of which we have just described a skeleton hereinabove, the political parties would give positive consideration to:
- Make appropriate changes in the relevant legislation to give equal status to the conclusions/ recommendations of Shariah Councils in individual cases with that of the Beth Dins.
- Support measures to harmonise and synchronise the relevant legal processes in the civil family courts with those of Shariah Councils.
MINAB is willing to lead on public consultation on reforms of the Shariah Councils along the above lines. The MINAB would consult with national Muslim organisations, scholars of repute from all denominations of Islam, representatives of Shariah Councils and such government departments as are appropriate. Reforms that have the backing of stakeholders are bound to improve community cohesion and integration. Reforms will provide much needed fair and equal system of justice - the corner stone of British society.”
- The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) is the national representative body of all UK Muslim denominations. It was set up to promote good governance in Mosques and Imam Training Institutions through a process of self regulation.
- MINAB is a unique body of different Muslim denominations working together with a membership of some 600 plus Mosques and Training Institution. Our role is critical in bringing all groups and denominations together to help create a better, safer and harmonious society for all.
- We are a charity registered under the laws of England and Wales.
- MINAB is a community led independent body, non-sectarian in its outlook, representing the diversity of Islam with no role in matters of theology and is broad based with an accountable system of representation.
- MINAB recognises the importance of all communities working to foster community cohesion and to speak out against all forms of extremism.
The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) is dedicated to increasing the awareness of issues affecting our planet. The environmental crisis that humanity is facing requires the attention and action of all communities in the UK. The Muslim community has an important role to play in this respect. The challenge that we face is enormous.
MINAB calls on all Mosques and Imams to mark the occasion of Climate Week to renew our ambition to combat climate change. The MINAB welcomes the many positive steps already being taken in communities across UK to mark Climate week particularly from the faith sector.
Maulana Sarfraz Madani, Chair of MINAB said, "Islam teaches us to behave as though we are visitors and vice regents in this world with a duty to protect and nurture the environment. We have a responsibility to not waste what it provides us nor abuse it, and we will be held accountable by our Lord on the day of judgment as to how we treated it. Climate Week is an opportunity for us all to use our Mosques to remind our regular attendees and others about the importance of reducing our waste, re-using items as much as possible and to re-cycle. It is part of our Islamic practice; and we have to take it seriously. As such I encourage everyone to actively participate in Climate Week and do all they can in spreading its message."
The MINAB has prepared a document for Mosques and Imams to use and distribute please click here to download.
Advice for Imams and Mosque Leaders on dealing with the recent abusive film and incidents of hatred against Muslims and Islam generally
It is unfortunate that the world's attention - this past week - has been directed to the insulting and disgraceful film - titled: “Innocence of Muslims”.
This film is full of abusive material and is a vile attempt to ridicule the Prophet (peace and prayers be upon him), as well as the Qur'an and Islam. It has been widely condemned and has led to strong and in some instances, sadly to violent protests.
The MINAB strongly deplores and condemns the film. The MINAB urges that our response to the deliberately provocative act should be peaceful and intelligent. We must not rise to the bait but take heed from the conduct of our noble Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The International Day of Peace, which is marked each year on 21 September, falls on a Friday this year.
The MINAB and other Muslim and faith based organisations are coordinating the participation of Mosques in marking the Day of Peace.
The MINAB would like to encourage Mosques to participate by dedicating the Friday sermon (Jummah Khutba) on peace.
Please click on flyer for a full view.
Also, you can email us a short video message about peace. The video should be no longer than 2 minutes, which will be included as part of the International Day of Peace publicity.
POINTERS FOR MOSQUES
As part of the International Day of Peace, this year to take place on a Friday on 21 September, we are encouraging mosques and Islamic centres to lead the wider community in marking the day by organising activities and utilising the Friday sermon. Mosques and Islamic Centres throughout the world will be marking the day, to promote peace and stress the importance and values of peace today.