Muslim Marriage Law in India: Dissolution of Marriage by a Woman Under the Act of 1939

M G Singh By M G Singh, 6th Feb 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>News>Off Beat

In India personal Muslim law including marriage and divorce is covered by the Shariat. However the British with the help of Muslim scholars enacted the Dissolution of Muslim marriages act 1939, with a view to codify and help Muslim women in getting their rights in a male dominated Muslim society. The act gives a number of reasons when a Muslim woman can ask for dissolution of her marriage

Muslim Personal Law on Marriage Dissolution in India

From the 9th century onward the Muslims became increasingly the masters of the sub-continent. They enforced the Jizzia and the Sharia. This state of affairs continued till the 18th century, when Muslim power was overthrown by the British. The British brought in a modern judicial system, but did not touch personal law.

Muslim law recognizes several modes of divorce. These can be summarized as follows Divorce by husband- This can take the form of

a) Divorce by Husband-Talaq, ila and Zihar

b) Divorce by wife- Talaq-i-tafweez, lian

c) By mutual consent- Khula and Mubarat.

Divorce by wife is the subject of the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939. This act was introduced in the legislature by Qazi Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi on 17th April 1936. The law after discussion was passed and became law on 17th March 1939. The purpose was to regulate divorce by wife as per the Sharia. In addition the viceroy was of the opinion that divorce by Muslim women needed to be codified to prevent exploitation and victimization by a male dominated society.

Section 2 of the act lays down the conditions when a wife can ask for a divorce. These are

a) When a husband is sentenced to imprisonment for a jail term of 7 years or more. The wife’s right of Judicial separation and divorce commences from the date the sentence is confirmed by the highest court.

b) When a husband has failed to perform his marital duties for a period of more than 3 years. This refers to conjugal duties which have great importance in Islamic law.

c) When it is proved that the husband was impotent at the time of marriage and continues to be so. The onus of proving this is on the wife, however the court is bound to give one year to the husband to get his ailment cured in case he applies for the same.

d) When a husband become insane and continues to be insane for a period of 2 years or more. A wife will also be entitled for dissolution of her marriage in case the husband contracts leprosy or any virulent venereal disease. The act provides that the provisions of this section will only apply in case the VD is incurable.

e) When a Muslim girl is married off by her father or guardian before she had attained the age of 15 years. Provided that she applies for dissolution of her marriage under the act before she attains 18 years of age and the marriage is not consummated.

f) When a husband treat his wife with cruelty. The act further delineates cruelty as

i) Association with women of ill repute

ii) Attempts to force his wife to lead an immoral life.

iii) Habitually assaults and beats her

iv) Obstructs her observance of religious practices

v) If he has more than one wife and does not treat equitably in accordance with injunction of the Koran, which enjoins a man to treat all his wives equitably.

The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages act 1939 is an important piece of legislation. It is not an ideal law, but does give some comfort to Muslim women.


Dissolution Muslim Marriage, Marriage In Islam, Muslim Marriage, Personal Law Muslims, Sharia

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author avatar M G Singh
A man who spent his early years in Air Force. An avid writer with over 6000 articles and 60 short stories published.Two novels on the anvil for publication.

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author avatar Mariah
6th Feb 2014 (#)

Justified reasons for a woman initiate divorce proceedings.
Interesting page Madan..thank you

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author avatar M G Singh
6th Feb 2014 (#)

Thank you Mariah for reading and commenting

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author avatar Savio Dawson
6th Feb 2014 (#)

Wow this is what I call woman empowerment!

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author avatar Savio Dawson
6th Feb 2014 (#)

Wow this is what I call women empowerment!

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
6th Feb 2014 (#)

interesting ...thank you Madan...

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author avatar Kingwell
21st Feb 2014 (#)

Interesting! The 1939 act is certainly not perfect but is helpful to women. Well written.

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author avatar M G Singh
23rd Feb 2014 (#)

Thanks Kingwell

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