The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday observed that there is no prohibition under the Islamic law or the law of the land for a recently converted Muslim woman to reside with her non-Muslim parents.
The SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Abdul Maalik Gaddi declared this while issuing its judgment on a petition regarding the controversy surrounding the alleged kidnapping and forced conversion and marriage of a woman.
The bench said Pakistan’s constitution categorically states that no person will be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with the law, and so they also have the freedom to profess their religion.
Petitioner Ali Raza Solangi said Mehak Kumari married him of her own free will, adding that she had converted to Islam before their marriage in Jacobabad. He requested the court that she be returned to him because she is sui juris (of age) and on the basis of her statement before a magistrate in which she denied being abducted or forced to convert.
However, Mehak’s family claimed that the woman was kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and married off to Solangi this January, so they asked that Mehak, who was renamed Aleezah after her conversion, be returned to them.
The court said that after the perusal of the record, the question that needs to be pondered is if the mother Kanta Kumari, Hindu by religion, is entitled to the custody of her daughter Mehak Kumari, alias Nanki Kumari, Muslim name Aleezah, irrespective of the fact that she has embraced Islam. The court called in Aleezah, who had been staying at a shelter home for the past six months, to record her statement. She said she had married Solangi after embracing Islam, adding that their Nikah was performed at Dargah Amrot Sharif on January 17.
The woman said she had lived with her husband for only three days after their marriage, adding that she did not want to live at the shelter home any more and wanted to go back with her mother because Solangi had ruined her life. The bench said that after the perusal of Aleezah’s statement, it could be deduced that she had married Solangi after embracing Islam without any inducement, while she had also stated that she was of age. The court said that the woman’s age was mentioned as 18 years on the marriage certificate, which was not denied by any party, while the medical report claimed her age to be 15 or 16 years, meaning she had reached the age of puberty.
Solangi’s counsel claimed that since Aleezah had converted to Islam, she could not be handed over to her mother because she was Hindu, and that the life of his client’s wife would be put in danger in doing so.
The court turned down the counsel’s contention because there is no prohibition under the Islamic law or the law of the land for a Muslim woman to reside with her parents who are non-Muslim.
The bench said that articles 4, 9 and 20 of the constitution provide that no person will be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with the law, and so they also have the freedom to profess their religion, meaning no one can be forced to live their life against their wishes.
The court said that Aleezah had admitted that she had married Solangi after converting to Islam, but now she wanted to go with her mother. The bench said that under the changed circumstances, the court has no option but to hand Aleezah over to her mother, subject to her furnishing a bond in the sum of Rs500,000 to the Nazir for her safety and future appearance, as and when required.
The court directed the incharge of the shelter home to hand over the custody of Aleezah to her mother after the furnishing of the said bond. Regarding the matter if Aleezah was induced or threatened to convert and get married or if she had married Solangi of her own free will, the bench said that it could only be decided by the competent court having jurisdiction, adding that both parties are at liberty to approach the proper forum for the redressal of their grievances, if any.
The court said that certain disputed questions of fact have also been brought up by the parties, but these disputed questions of fact cannot be resolved under the constitutional jurisdiction of the court.
The bench advised them that the disputed questions could be resolved by the competent forum after the aggrieved party files for proceedings, if needed. The court disposed of the petitions with direction to the Sindh police chief and the Jacobabad SSP to provide legal protection to the parties concerned, if required.