A Muslim girl’s death by suicide in Ahmedabad allegedly over dowry harassment is uniting clerics of the community against the social evil

Published : March 29, 2021 13:54 IST

A little over a month after Ayesha Banu’s suicide in Ahmedabad following allegations of harassment over dowry, clerics of the community are coming together in an attempt to ensure that this situation does not recur. In a long video that she made before ending her life by jumping into the Sabarmati river, Ayesha Banu complained of constant dowry harassment by her husband Arif Khan and his family members since her marriage in 2018.

Minutes before her death, she was engaged in a 70-minute video conversation with her husband who allegedly asked her to “die and make a video” of it. Arif Khan, a resident of Jalore in Rajasthan, was arrested soon afterwards. Ayesha Banu had filed a police complaint last year against her husband and in-laws and had been living separately from them.

Ayesha Banu’s death shook the conscience of clerics of Ahmedabad, then of Bhopal, followed by Aurangabad, before some clerics from Delhi joined in. The clerics joined hands to boycott any wedding in which dowry was demanded or provided, or a lavish meal was hosted by the father of the bride. They pledged not to solemnise any nikah in which dowry was given or a feast organised by the girl’s father.

In Bhopal, the city’s chief quazi, Syed Mushtaq Ali Naqvi, led other clerics in pledging not to solemnise such nikah ceremonies. He said: “According to the Shariah, no burden should be laid on the father of the bride at the time of wedding. There should be no dowry or any lavish dinner feast for guests. The groom is expected to throw a feast the following day as there is an addition to his family with the arrival of the new bride.”

The move had its repercussions in Aurangabad where civilians went one step further, pledging not to take part in any marriage where wasteful expenditure was entailed, DJs invited to play music, or dowry demanded or offered. They pledged not to have any food at a wedding.

Following their lead, maulanas of three mosques in Old Delhi and one in New Delhi have decided to abstain from performing any nikah in which a baraat (wedding party) accompanies the groom. They argue that the best nikah in Islam is one in which there is minimal expenditure, and a long list of guests amounts to avoidable expenditure. They claim that the word, ‘baraat’ does not exist in Arabic. The imam of New Delhi Jama Masjid, Muhibullah Nadwi, voiced agreement with others on the subject, promising to deliver a Friday sermon on the subject soon.

Meanwhile, members of Messengers of Peace Mission shared the sentiments, promising to bring about a social awakening through a door-to-door campaign. The Mission has, for long, discouraged dowry and encouraged a simple nikah in a masjid without any fanfare. They are of the view that nikah has to be made easier and zina (sex out of wedlock) difficult. They want to ensure that no girls stay single merely because their parents could not afford a hefty dowry or lavish wedding.