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The Crescent Society

M.R.A. Baig

By Tahir Mahmood
Vikas, New Delhi, 1977, Price Not Stated

Edited by T.N. Madan
Vikas, New Delhi, 1976, 50.00

Edited by Imtiaz Ahmad
Manohar Books,New Delhi, 1976, 75.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 5 September-October 1977

Clearly, abstract research must con­tinue irrespective of how little of it is applied in practice. The Muslim way of life, not necessarily Islamic as at least two of the above publications amply prove, has also been subjected to consi­derable theological interpretation and sociological research, but the findings have probably been the least applied in practice. The reasons for this can be identified, and though outside the scope of this review, become evident, even if indirectly, in many of the essays collected by Madan and Imtiaz Ahmad. Tahir Mahmood, who for his young age has produced a remarkable number of books and articles, displays his usual erudition and clarity of thought in his latest work on Muslim Personal Law. But in spite of all his interpretation of theological issues his survey of what must surely be all relevant legal documents, and his marshalling of all arguments and statements by pro-changers and no-­changers, in favour or against of any changes in Muslim Personal Law, his work brings the reader sadly to what is known as ‘back to square one’. It is, therefore, frustrating to read in his very first chapter the following: While assuming powers and functions of a judicial administration, the British faced, naturally, the question as to which law, in different kinds of cases be applied by the hierarchy of their courts. The legal system ... followed by the courts which had preceded them was based mainly on Hindu and Islamic religions ...      To the British rulers the system appeared complicated and anachroni­stic. This they set out to change. The religion-based criminal laws of India were reformed piecemeal, even­tually culminating in the enactment of the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, both of a secular nature and divorced from religion .. Likewise, the British could also have given to the country a civil code. They did not ..   Why not? For this we have to thank the Indian Mutiny. The British, after analysing its causes and identifying its revivalist basis, brought to a halt the early reforming zeal which had impelled them to prohibit suttee, child marriage and other religion-sanctioned practices. From then till they left, their political and administrative policy was to keep their hands off any practice, however anachronistic, which had religious autho­rity. Sad to relate, at least from the point of view of those who advocate social change and reform, the Government of India, ...

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