Muslim in India are governerd by their own personal law and this provision is not absolute. Some of the legislative enactments direct civil court to apply Muslim law to Muslims and Hindu law to Hindus. Apart from this Article 225 of the Indian Constitution provides that the High Courts will administer the same law as it existed at the commencement of the Constitution.
Extent of application :
The rules of Muhammadan Law falls under three divisions namely :
i- Those which have been explicitly directed by the legislature to be applied to the Muhammadans, such as rules of succession and inheritance.
ii- Those which are applied to Muhammadan as a matter of Justice, equity and good conscience.
iii- Those which are not applied at all, though the parties are Muhammadan such as the Muhammadan Criminal Law, and the Muhammadan law of evidence.
The only parts of the Muhammadan law applied by the courts in India to Muhammadans are those mentioned in (I & II). In other respect, the general law of India will be applied.
I. Matters where Muslim law is applicable
There are certain matter of Muslims where only Muslim law will be applicable and other enactments will not be applied. In the following cases Muslims will be governed by their personal law: marriage, dower(mehr), divorce, family matters, adoption, minority, guardianship, succession, inheritance, female’s property, wills, legacy, gifts, joint family, partition, and any other religious usage or destitution.
II. Matters where the provisions of Muslim law will be applied as the matter of justice, equity and good conscience
There are certain matters where the provisions of Muslim Law will not be applied as a matter of justice, equity and good conscience. But the rules that have been expressly directed by the legislature to be applied to Muslims, must be applied though they may not in the opinion of court confirm justice, equity, and good conscience.
III. Matters where personal law is applicable to Muslims
Muslim law is applicable to Muslim only in the first two categories. In the matter of law of crimes and law of evidence, Muslims are not governed by their personal law.
Interpretation of Muslim law
I. Interpretation of Quran:
When the question arises as to how a text of Quran is to be interpreted, it is the duty of the court to see as to how a text of the Quran is to be interpreted. It is the duty of court to see how the text under consideration has to be interpreted by the Muslim jurists of recognised merit and authority. And the exposition of the jurists who are regarded as authoritative should be followed.
Aga Muhammad Zafar Khan v. Koolsum Bibi 1897, there lordship of privy council held that where a passage of Quran has been interpreted in a particular manner both in the work of Sunni law as well as in the work of Shia law, it is not open to a court to interpret the passage of Quran in a different manner.
II Interpretation of Hadith:
As regard Hadith, it can be said that in case of the difference of opinion among the Muslim Jurists, the point in dispute cannot be decided by the court itself but reliance should be placed on the opinion of recognised jurists, who alone could have undertaken the task of shifting the tradition, and in case of divergence, on their comparative superiority.
III Interpretation of Hanafi law:
The great Imam, Abu Hanifa and his two disciples, Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad, are the chief authorities of the Hanafi system of Jurisprudence. There is no difficulty if they all agree, but in case of their conflicting views, the matter of interpretation becomes very intricate and the questions of their comparative authority would arise.
Syed Khalid Rashid, Muslim Law (Eastern Book Company, Lucknow, 6th Edition, 2020).
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