Calls to boycott marriages where jehez (dowry) is exchanged are getting shriller in the wake of the recent suicide of Ayesha Banu in Ahmedabad over dowry harassment. Ever since the young woman ended her life by jumping into the Sabarmati river, a great churning is going on in the Muslim community.

The video of Ayesha's bubbly face which hid her internal turmoil has gone viral, forcing the community to sit up and take notice. Religious scholars as also concerned citizens are aghast at her sad story. Ayesha fate should not befall another woman is what everyone wants.

Will the unfortunate incident become a turning point? That only time will tell. But one thing is certain - the suicide has jerked the Muslim community out of its slumber. Reports from different parts of the country show that efforts are on by community elders at different levels to ensure that people renounce dowry which is forbidden in Islam.

In Agra local Muslims have taken a vow not to give or take dowry. In Hyderabad a number of meetings have taken place and concrete plans are on how to tackle the seemingly intractable issue of dowry.

Like in the rest of the country, the Islahe Muashra programme is on in Telangana for many years to reform the community. Among other things the programme seeks to simplify marriages by rooting out the evil of jehez. The suicide of Ayesha has only redoubled these efforts.

Last Friday many mosques in Hyderabad saw the Khateebs devoting the entire Juma sermon on this very topic. In no uncertain terms they stated that demanding dowry from the bride is un-Islamic and so is taking one's own life.

Scholars like Husamuddin Jafar Pasha want committees to be set at locality level comprising influential and pious persons to check the dowry menace and the resultant suicide of women. He wants Qazis and ulemas not to perform 'nikah' where dowry is demanded and to boycott such marriages. This is the only way to stop the social malaise, he feels. Tahreek Muslim Shabban, a social service organisation, held a conference the other day where people from different walks of life discussed the issue of dowry from different aspects.

Mohammed Mohinuddin of Sada-e-Haq Sharai Council feels Sharai Panchayats are the only solution for marital discord. He wants families to approach them instead of rushing to courts where cases drag on for years. A solution for marital discord is available in Sura Nisa verse No. 59, 60, 61 and 65 of the Quran.

Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution also empowers minorities to resolve matters relating to Personal Law in the light of religious injunctions, says Mohinuddin who is struggling to secure justice to victims of dowry harassment.

Ayesha's case is only the tip of the iceberg. Scores of such cases happen every day and most of them go unreported. "There are at least 500 cases in my area where young women are waiting to get khula from their harassing husbands'', says Amjadullah Khan of Majlise Bachao Tahreek (MBT).

Khula is a procedure where the wife initiates dissolution of marriage to come out of an incompatible partnership. In most cases women are left in the lurch by their husbands who go away to foreign countries soon after marriage and get married there again. Their wives back home are neither divorced nor properly taken care of. "The erring men do not sign on the khula papers to release their wives. This is a big issue many women are facing in Hyderabad", says Mr. Khan.

Most marital disputes could be resolved through negotiations. But filing of cases by women in family courts queers the pitch. The matter gets complicated when the husband and in-laws are arrested. Elders from both sides should sit together and hammer out a solution rather than taking legal recourse, says the MBT leader.

Even as the debate rages on, the city witnessed a strange case of a marriage getting cancelled at the eleventh hour on Tuesday - all because of the dowry. The bride's family went through anxious moments when there was no sign of the groom till late in the night at a function hall in the old city. Having waited for several hours the family approached the police and lodged a complaint.

Whatever the situation is suicide is certainly not the solution, say ulemas. "When you can't get along, seek dissolution of the marriage and not take your life", Majlis MP, Asaduddin Owaisi made an impassioned plea to women.

Have the courage to live. Anyone can die.

J.S. Ifthekhar

J.S. Ifthekhar is a senior journalist with nearly four decades of experience. Ifthekhar cut his teeth in journalism at the Indian Express before he moved to The Hindu. He was also associated with the Siasat Daily, Telangana Today, Deccan Chronicle, Onlooker magazine, Newstrack, Detective Digest and a few news agencies. He has written on different subjects and aspects of Hyderabadi life. However, his passion remains literature in general and Urdu poetry in particular. He is equally concerned with culture, heritage, civic affairs and problems confronting the man in the street. As a journalist he has taken up cudgels on behalf of the underprivileged and many of his stories in The Hindu saw the government promptly taking corrective measures. Ifthekhar has authored two books - Hyderabad - The Nawabi City on The Move and Haj - The Spirit Behind it. He has also translated two books from Urdu to English. His third book - Urdu Poets and Writers , Gems of Deccan  - is just released. Loves to write and writes to live. Can't imagine doing anything else.

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