Muslims want own law for divorce, succession

The Chairperson Uganda Muslim Lawyers, Hakim Lubega, Kawempe North Division MP Latif Ssebagala, Ssemambo, Ssewaya and second deputy Mufti Ali Waiswa during a meeting aimed at steering the operationalisation of Qadhi court. This was at BMK House, Kampala on Wednesday. Photo by Ramadhan Abbey

Muslims are rooting for their own law, which can guide the way they handle issues of marriage, divorce, succession, and guardianship as per their religious dictate.

During a lobby meeting on the status of Qhadi courts in Uganda, held at the BMK House in Kampala, yesterday, Muslim officials noted that the current draft bills on marriage and succession have provisions that are contrary to their Sharia law and the Qu’ran.

The meeting was organized by the Muslim Centre for Justice and Law. It attracted officials from the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, Legal Aid Service Providers Network, Parliamentary law reform commission and the justice ministry.

City lawyer and law don at Kampala International University, Muhamud Sewaya, said the Muslim Sharia Law spells out how divorce, marriage, succession, and guardianship should be handled and that the current laws are acting in contradiction with it.

He wants article 129 (b) of the Constitution to be operationalized and the Administration of Muslim Personal Law Bill (AMPLB) be enacted into law, to enable them to manage their own matters on divorce, family, guardianship, marriage, and succession. Article 129 (b) provides for subordinate courts, including the Qadhi courts, to handle marriage, divorce, and succession, according to the Sharia Law.

AMPLB 2008 seeks to establish Qadhi courts in Uganda and provide for Muslim family laws and address some of the inadequacies of the procedure and content found in the marriage and divorce of the Mohammedans Act.

However, it was removed from the legislative process in 2010. Sewaya said the delayed operationalization of the Qadhi court has seen Muslim issues being handled under the general application laws, contrary to the Qu’ran teachings. He said the draft bills on marriage and succession contain provisions which are in conflict with Islamic principles on marriage and succession, especially where a Muslim dies intestate.

He noted that the Islamic inheritance law has a comprehensive system for the rightful beneficiaries and the portions for each beneficiary in case one dies before writing a will. “At the moment, there is a conflict between Islamic inheritance and the Succession Act. It does not have specific provisions for Muslim succession.

This has given rise to serious problems and unjust consequences,” he said. Sewaya also said the current succession (amendment) Bill attempts to pre-empt the Islamic law in a derogatory fashion and, once passed into law, it will violate matters concerning intestate, marriage, divorce and inheritance, which are streamlined in the Sharia law.

“We cannot accept such a law. We do not mind if it is good for the others, but let them exclude us (Muslims) from it,” he said. He stated that the draftsmen of the bill have ignored the recommendations made by the Uganda Law Reform Commission in its July 2012 report, to have the Act amended, to stipulate the special position of Islam as an exception within the overall legal and administrative framework on succession.

He observed that even when deciding Islamic matters in civil courts, expert opinions have never been sought from Muslims and that that has caused conflicts and misunderstandings within the Muslim communities.

On the Children Act 2016, he observed that some concepts on custody contradict the Sharia Law. Sheikhat Radhiyyah Namakula, the UMSC secretary for women and youth affairs, said Muslims should be excluded from the draft bills because they have a system of inheritance provided for under the Islamic law.

Hood Katuramu, the chairperson of the Muslim MPs caucus, called for prior preparations on the AMPLB before it can be reintroduced for Parliament. He said it should be done through streamlining how the Qadhi courts are to operate and the people who will run them.

In response, Sheikh Abdallah Ssemambo, the first deputy Mufti, said all the necessary requisites for the establishment of the courts are in place, including trained lawyers on Sharia law. He urged Muslims to form a united front and advocate a personal law that will help address their family problems.