London, Aug.8 : Muslim women are to be guaranteed equal rights in marriage under a new wedding contract negotiated by leading Islamic organisations and clerics in Britain.
The Telegraph quoted Dr. Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Director of the Muslim Institute and author of the contract, as saying that this is the biggest change in Sharia law in Britain in the last 100 years.
Currently Muslims in Britain have an Islamic ceremony called a nikah (a non register office marriage) which, although it is guaranteed under Sharia law, is not legally binding and does not provide a woman with written proof of the marriage and of the terms and conditions agreed between the spouses.
"It will challenge various sharia councils who don't believe in gender equality but the world has changed and Islamic law has to be renegotiated," Siddiqui said.
The new Muslim marriage contract does not require a 'marriage guardian' (wali) for the bride, and also makes delegation of the right of divorce to the wife (talaq-i-tafweeed) automatic.
This right does not affect the husband's right of talaq but enables the wife to initiate divorce and retain all her financial rights agreed in the marriage contract. These provisions reflect a recognition of changes in the Muslim world, including women's greater public roles, educational achievements and financial autonomy.
Drawn up by the Muslim Institute, the contract has taken four years to negotiate and create. Leading Muslim organisations including the Imams and Mosques Council (UK), Muslim Council of Britain, The Muslim Law (Shariah) Council UK, Utrujj Foundation, and The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain support it.