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ماہنامہ دختران اسلام > مارچ 2017 ء > Interviewee: Dr. Ghazala Hassan Qadri
ماہنامہ دختران اسلام : مارچ 2017 ء
> ماہنامہ دختران اسلام > مارچ 2017 ء > Interviewee: Dr. Ghazala Hassan Qadri

Interviewee: Dr. Ghazala Hassan Qadri

Interviewer: Sana Waheed

Assalam-o-Alaikum Madam! Thank you for your precious time for this interview.

1. How are you?

Alhumdulilah I am very well thank you.

2. What made you choose to do a PhD?

From a very young age my parents instilled the importance of education to my siblings and myself and it was ingrained within us from a very young age that knowledge can be an empowering tool with the correct intentions. Reading is also a great passion of mine so this naturally led me to always try and excel in my studies. However being under the patronage of Shaykh-ul-Islam has taught me many things. Shaykh-ul-Islam's thirst for knowledge knows no bounds and his continuous research into the most inner depths of every aspect of life is truly amazing. One of the primary aims of Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI), particularly through its Women League forum is to work towards the empowerment of women within all sectors of society - both nationally within Pakistan and internationally world wide. To provide a moderate vision of Islam within which women are independent and autonomous individuals with rights and responsibilities and to follow the true Prophetic path laid down by the Holy Prophet (saw) who fought against patriarchy and the disempowerment of women -and indeed provided a wonderful charter of rights to women both within the public sector and personal Muslim law itself. Shaykh-ul-Islam - through his immense knowledge and intellectual contribution in the form of his hundreds of books and thousands of lectures has not only been a beacon of light to Muslim women by resurrecting and reminding us of our highly esteemed status within Islam but has practically given us a unique voice and a platform from which to promote and enhance the position and status of women within Pakistan and world wide. The MQI organizational network exists today in over 90 countries - and in almost all of these countries Minhaj-ul-Quran International has established Minhaj-ul-Quran women leagues and sisters youth leagues, Minhaj Sisters and Student wings. As such this PhD is merely a very humble reflection of the great work that the Minhaj women's and sisters youth leagues are conducting worldwide.

3. Why have you chosen to study a PhD at the University of Birmingham?

Being a mother and having numerous responsibilities at home I was unable to commit to a rigid PhD course that required me to attend fulltime university or be on campus regularly. So I was lucky that the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham opened up a new course that allowed candidates with previous research experience, to enroll in a PhD course that would be supervised through online courses and supervision. I was only required be on campus a few weeks every year to attend some intensive workshops, and all other aspects of my course requirements were fulfilled online. Moreover the University of Birmingham has a good reputation in the UK for research, which made the choice much easier to make.

4. What influenced your choice of this research topic?

Islam is often equated with the subjugation of women and the curtailing of their rights and freedoms, particularly within the marital sphere. Unfortunately this position is not only reflected within western literature but is also practiced by some scholars in the Muslim world too. Patriarchal cultural norms and pre-existing social mores have affected certain interpretations of the Quran and Sunnah to the detriment of women. Moreover Muslim women are also often portrayed as a hegemonic entity, who are downtrodden and passive victims of religion and culture combined. The khula', I felt, represented a broad spectrum from which to address these issues. A female initiated divorce right, on paper appears to be quite empowering, particularly since it challenges male notions of exclusivity within divorce rights. However is this a type of 'empowerment' that women even want or yearn for - and if not why not? These are the types of issues that my thesis explores - not only focusing on women who opt for a khul' but those who do not and how they navigate marital problems.

5. Tell me about your previous honors and degrees?

I graduated from the University of Southampton with a LLB Honors degree, after which I attended Law School in London and attained my postgraduate diploma in law that allowed me to begin practice as a trainee solicitor. Thereafter I trained as a solicitor and completed all my professional requirements and examinations in this field, with a particular emphasis in family law. Later I obtained my Master in Laws (LLM) focusing on International Law.

6. What have you planned to do now after completion of your PhD?

After a short sabbatical my next long term aim is to publish some of my chapters in some journals and ultimately prepare my thesis in the form of a book. However in the short term I intend to give more time to my children and family and compensate them for being so busy in the last few years as well as continue with my work with Minhaj-ul-Quran.

7. What difficulties you encountered during this project? Tell us about the challenges you have overcome during this project.

There were very many challenges to overcome as a PhD student over the years. Finding the time to commit to my studies and balancing my responsibilities in the home proved to be quite a daunting task. However the help and support of Shaykh-ul-Islam in always encouraging me to continue my academic endeavors, along with the support of my husband and children was crucial in overcoming this. Without their help and assistance none of this was possible. With regards to the research work, finding female participants to interview and discuss controversial subjects such as divorce was essential to my work. I had an ethical duty to protect the participants and ensure that there were no adverse consequences of discussing their personal marital issues with me. I was also very fortunate to have the help of yourself and other members of Minhaj-ul-Quran Women's league who provided many valuable contacts in the field. Also, hearing the stories of many women, particularly those who had gone to court to obtain a khula was very distressing sometimes. Listening to their tales of violent abuse within some of their marriages and the hurdles they had to overcome to come to court, often provided a sense of helplessness that I was merely a passive observer and could not assist them in any way. At the same time, many women were very courageous and despite many problems struggled hard to keep their marriages together, and provided a unique insight into the resilience of

8. What would you like the impact of this project to be?

By the grace of Allah Almighty and the wasila of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), I hope that anyone who reads my research appreciates that it is a fallacy to consider Islam and women's rights are inimical to each other. Indeed we need to refer back to the original great fuqaha of the Hanafi school before making pronouncements about the incompatibility of Islam and women empowerment. With the advent of the internet and 'readily available knowledge', I feel fewer and fewer people are taking the time out to actually engage in textual work and are more willing to rely on misconceptions rather than make the effort to find out for themselves the reality. I hope this research illustrates and then encourages other students to engage with original sources as much as possible and equip themselves with the tools to do so.

9. You mentioned in your research that you visited different courts of Pakistan during the PhD years. Share your experience with us

During my research work I spent many months visiting the District Courts of Lahore, which hold family court hearings. During this time I interviewed many women who were either going through the process of obtaining a khul' or had already obtained one and were going through the process of ancillary relief. During the interviews and observations of court proceedings, it was very sad to see so many women going through marital breakdowns and forced to resolve their conflicts in open court and to the public. The Pakistani court system does not facilitate litigants in any matter, and for women in particular it was an arduous and harrowing experience. Coming to court and facing an estranged husband and his family or vice versa - indeed the public spectacle of airing grievances and seeking financial support or child custody without privacy and a modicum of decorum was difficult to watch.

10. What do you see as the most important issue/problem in this field (Khul) today?

The biggest problem in the field of khul' is the court system. Firstly any district court can be designated a family court for the purposes of hearing family law cases. This can mean that a criminal case is being heard next to a khul' case. In many instances men charged or even convicted of terrible crimes are in close proximity to vulnerable women and children, who are often ridiculed or leered at. There are also numerous court delays with cases adjourned for trivial reasons increasing costs and emotional turmoil for litigants. There is also a paucity of information available for the female litigants about their cases and how they will proceed. Many of them are not well informed by their lawyers creating an atmosphere of distrust and frustration. Perhaps one of the biggest problems for khul' litigants is the lack of financial relief they find post-divorce. There is no provision for post-divorce maintenance for women and child support payments are not fully enforced by the judges. Women also find it extremely difficult to retrieve their dowry (jahez) from the former matrimonial home, causing further financial detriment.

11. What are your findings regarding the mahr and khul'?

A common misconception regarding the khul' is that if a women requests a khul' from her husband it is assumed she must necessarily compensate him by returning any mahr given to her by him. However according to the Hanafi fuqaha the return of the mahr is not compulsory - but rather depends who is at fault in the marriage. If for instance a wife is not responsible for the marital breakdown and her husband is to blame, then she is not required to return the mahr. However if the wife is to blame for the marital breakdown or she acknowledges that her husband is not at fault then she must return her mahr if a husband requests it. In the case of dispute the matter is to be referred to the judge. What is important to note is that the return of the mahr is not an automatic pre-requisite of the khul' that most presume - rather it depends on a case to case scenario.

12. Do you think every women in Pakistan deserves to be aware on this issue of Khul? How should we provide awareness to them? How specifically can we encourage maximum number of women to participate?

I think it is important for both men and women to be informed about their rights in marriage and divorce. That each of them should understand their reciprocal rights responsibilities as husbands and wives, and how best to make a marriage work. And of course in the case of a marital breakdown both parties should be aware of the best and amicable way to achieve a dissolution of marriage, one that creates the least pain and anguish for all parties involved. Indeed for any couple about to get married or even if they are married - I would strongly suggest they listen to Shaykh-ul-Islam's lectures on the rights and responsibilities of men and women in marriage. These are invaluable lectures on how to have a harmonious married life and create a balance between conflicting demands of spouses, parents and extended families.

13. Your message for women of the world?

Re-discover the great women of Islamic history and follow in their footsteps. They should be our role models and inspiration on how to live our lives. We should look to Sayyida Khadija (r.a) and learn from her multi-dimentional personality - an astute businesswoman, a loyal wife, an adviser and confidante, a wonderful mother and passionate believer. We should follow the example of Sayyida Fatima-tuz-Zahra (r.a) - a beautiful person in both spirit and soul; of noble and esteemed birth but imbued with humility and great dignity; a spiritual ethereal being radiating light and compassion. We should admire and then follow Sayyida Ayesah (r.a) and marvel at her intelligence and keen wit; her leadership and strength of character; her thirst for knowledge and honesty in all matters and her piety and steadfastness in the Deen. If any woman wants to succeed in this life and in the hereafter they should look to the great women of Islam for their motivation.

Thanks you for Time

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