We should look at the MMB and what is happening in South Africa in the context of the bigger picture. Many Ulama are unaware of what is happening behind the scenes. Hereby follows facts on the individuals, organisations, dynamics and implications involved.

1) Who are amongst the founders of the original MPL? (Muslim Personal Law Board)

Shamiema Shaikh. She was also involved from 1994, with the founding and establishment of the Muslim Personal Law Board of South Africa. On the December 22, 1997, Shaikh completed her final public engagement. She delivered a paper, “Women & Islam – The Gender Struggle in South Africa.”

2) Shaikh’s Janaazah Salaah performed by a female!

One of the four funeral prayers performed for her was led by a female friend – with women and men following – as per Shaikh’s request.

3) Shaikh spearheaded the Muslim Personal Law!

She spearheaded the MYM’s “Campaign for a Just Muslim Personal Law”, the “Access to Mosques” campaign and various others.

4) Eid Salaah: Men and Women side by side!

Naeem Jeenah, who was married to Shamiema Shaikh, is another ardent promoter of the MPL. We quote from the Progressiveislam.org/naeem_jeenah

The mosque that I go to in Johannesburg for Eid organises the salah in open field, with men and women side-by-side (in gendered blocks 🙂 and the imam standing on the left side of the block of men so that he is almost in the middle between the men and women. Oh, and there’s no lace or any other kind of partition separating the sexes.”  We quote also from naeemjeenah.shams.za.

5) A Muslim woman performed Nikaah and a Jew was impressed!

The big deal about the fact that a woman officiated at our Islamic wedding ceremony was that virtually no one thought it was a big deal. This impressed a Jewish friend…

The wedding also continued a recent trend within South Africa’s Muslim community: brides who prefer to represent themselves at their wedding ceremonies rather than having senior male relatives represent them, as has been the custom among Muslims for centuries”.

6) Three of the four witnesses to the marriage were women.

And, bucking another tradition on the gender front, three of the four witnesses to the marriage were women.”

He is also a gay rights activist and was instrumental in getting wadud to lead jumah in S.A. which was the first time she led jumuah.”

Chronology of the MPL in S.A. and some points:

1) The MPL Board was launched in August 1994 with eight founding members: the Call of Islam, the Muslim Youth Movement and six clergy organizations – the Muslim Judicial Council, Jamiatul Ulama Natal, Jamiatul Ulama Transvaal, Islamic Council of South Africa (ICSA), Sunni Ulama Council and Sunni Jamiatul Ulama. The clergy groups united into a coalition called the United Ulama Council of South Africa. By April 1995, less than a year later, the Board was unilaterally shut down by the five clergy organizations (excluding ICSA) that constituted the United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA)

2) The closure of the Board followed a period of intense organizing and mobilizing by the MYM Gender Desk and the Call of Islam. The MYM Gender Desk mobilized women that were not members of the Board to attend the meeting as observers, adding, it seemed, to the discomfort of some of the ‘ulamā. These women walked out of the meeting in frustration at the refusal by the Board’s president, Shaikh Nazeem Muhammad, to allow them to speak and at his ‘presidential decree’ that it was compulsory for all women to wear headscarves to the meeting. The progressives, in the form of the MYM and the Call of Islam, argued that a new MPL must be based on the principle of gender equality and must be consistent with the Interim South African Constitution which said, inter alia:

No person shall be unfairly discriminated against, directly or indirectly, and, without derogating from the generality of this provision, on one or more of the following grounds in particular: race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation , age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture or language.

3) After the collapse of the MPL Board, Islamic feminists – especially within the MYM Gender Desk – continued with their ‘Campaign for a Just Muslim Personal Law’ as part of their broader ‘Gender Jihād’. That continuation saw the Desk shift its focus as it began attempts to influence the Muslim experience of family law through the courts.

4) In 1997, the South African Law Commission, upon request from the government, called for nominations of people to be on a Project Team on Muslim marriages. The task of the Project team would be to draw up proposals for legislation that would be submitted to parliament for adoption. Most of the ‘ulamā organizations nominated people from within their ranks, e.g. Maulana Abbas Ali Jeenah (president of the Jamiatul Ulama Transvaal) and Mohamed Shuaib Omar (of the Jamiatul Ulama Natal).

5) The issue was given new impetus with the 1999 announcement. The project team consisted of Project leader, Justice Muhammad Navsa and other members of the Law Commission, three nominees of the United Ulama Council, a senior advocate, two members of parliament and an academic. Only three of these were women – academic Najma Moosa, MP Farida Mahomed and Law Commission member Z. Seedat.

Islamic feminists – who celebrated the fact that such a constitution had been adopted after a long and hard struggle – rejoiced at the fact that any MPL legislation will have to be subject to it.


1)      There is a split among the Ulama. While some have taken sides with the Feminists (knowingly/unknowingly), others have opposed them.

2)      UUCSA has no entitlement to speak on behalf of the whole Muslim community of South Africa. This is an impression which UUCSA has always been at pains to create. The Voice of the Cape (VOCFM) is seen in many quarters as the mouthpiece of the MJC. VOCFM is run by Munadia Karaan and her influence and writ over the station can be clearly gauged by the past many weeks when she was very sick and the website was almost defunct. Here are some articles from her site,

The Ulema in the north must face reality. They must make place for women in the mosques. They are facing a losing battle if they insist on keeping women out of mosques. If their Indo-Pak Deobandi based tradition was 100% right and in keeping with that of the Prophet SAW, then why are women in the Indo-Pak region among the most deprived in the world? There must obviously be something wrong in their reading,” she charged.

This dogma is predominant amongst the Gauteng ulema’s Deobandi school of thought, which stems from India and Pakistan. The Deobandi movement has rejected Westernization, calling for Muslims to revert back to the original pristine teachings of the Prophet (pbuh).”

…In his fatwa, Hussein explicitly stated that most women would transgress the laws of modesty at Eid salaah – that women should not expose their faces, wear new clothing or perfume. However, frustrated women believe this is bad generalization, as disallowing all women from Eidgah was sexist.” http://vocfm.co.za/blogs/munadia/

3)      Two of Uucsa’s “leading theological bodies in the country” hail from the city of Port Elizabeth. They do not have any following worth mentioning in Port Elizabeth itself. How did they become “leading theological bodies in the country?”

4)      Similarly Uucsa’s claim that “eight leading Mufti’s in the country support them” is misleading. The public has not been informed who the eight Mufti’s are and what their individual input has been in the MMB.  None of these Mufti’s have addressed the public in order to explain their views.

5)      Uucsa’s latest claim of Radio “Islam” that a few amendments have been made WITHOUT specifying what these amendments are is indeed lamentable. It is clear that they wish to make the amendments public AFTER the deadline on 31 May 2011 so that Muslims cannot object and protest to the Government if their amendments are insufficient and not in conformity to the Shariah.

6)      It is incumbent upon the public to demand that Uucsa make its amendments known now.


1)      It is abundantly clear from the above that the feminist and modernists movements have largely taken control of the MMB. Though the overwhelming Muslim public follow and turn to the Ulama for Deeni guidance, there were more women and modernist on the Project Committee than Ulama.

2)      We can safely state that hardly anyone turns to members of parliament and women for Deeni Masaa’il. Nikaas are performed by Ulama, Janaazah Salaahs are performed by Ulama, Ramadaan and Eid sightings of the moon are confirmed by Ulama, in everyday activities throughout the 1000’s of  Masaajid in South Africa the Ulama play a major role. Yet there were only two Ulama members on the Project Committee of eight who drafted the MMB.

3)      The ultimate aim of these feminists and modernist is to implement the western concept of gender equality which is contained in the MMB. The MMB has already compromised the Shariah. As has been pointed out, the modernists and feminist take pride in having their Nikaahs and Janaazah salaahs performed by females.

4)      Anyone who speaks out the truth and opposes the distortions of Islam by these modernists is demonized Israeli style on Radio stations and in public. An example is the VOC who in an article “MMB: defining moment” posted on the 2011/03/05 claimed that the Jamiatul Ulama Gauteng was preparing to wage Jihaad against the Government, whether any changes were made to the MMB or not!

5)      We sincerely appeal to the Ulama not to be muzzled and to explain the above facts to the Musallees so that they may not be kept in ignorance.