British Court has been asked to decide if a devoted Shia Muslim wife is entitled to a divorce from a devoted Shia Muslim husband on the basis that he married another woman in a temporary second marriage.
Aghdas Zare, daughter of Hagi Hassan Zare, one of the wealthiest land owners in Tehran, petitioned to the British Court that as she is now a British citizen, it is totally unreasonable for her to be part of a polygamous marriage.
Houshang Jafari-Najafabadi, a man of Persian nobility, lodged a defence to the petition that British Court cannot dissolve a traditional Iranian Sharia marriage on the Biblical principles of monogamy. He claimed that his wife should prove her allegations in the open Court and that she set out to abuse the British Court system in order to obtain half of her husband’s assets contrary to the principles of separate matrimonial property regime of Iran.
Tabloid press, having only listened to the Applicant’s evidence as the case is now adjourned part heard, twisted the story to create a controversy that an Iranian man is forcing his wife to stay married to him despite him ‘keeping a secret pregnant mistress 20 years younger than the wife’.
The real essence of the case before the Court is the shameless attempt by Aghdas Zare to use British legal system to achieve a civil divorce and division of her husband’s assets while remaining to be a lawful Shia Muslim wife to him as the British Court has absolutely no jurisdiction to effectively actually dissolve a Muslim marriage, conducted under the law of Iran and Q’uran itself.
Article 972 of the Iranian Civil Code makes it very clear that effect cannot be given in Iran to judgements issued by a foreign court unless issued in accordance with Iranian laws. During the first day of the trial, the judge has indicated that little weight would be given to either the Iranian Civil Code or to Sharia law as the married couple have resided in the UK for over 15 years.
British legal system prides itself with compliance to the European Convention on Human Rights and especially the right of every citizen to practice his or her religion. Halal food is now being offered for school dinners and religious clothing allowed in the work place. But when it comes to the most private and significant matters of family life, the British Court has not yet been challenged on the issue of such a significant clash of religious beliefs. The consequence is that a devoted Muslim man is being forced not only to have his case trialled by a conflicting set of principles but also to find himself completely married at the end of such an embarrassing process.
According to the Q’uran, a man can conduct up to 4 permanent marriages simultaneously and as many temporary ones as he can afford. Prophet Mohammad allowed polygamy as a solution rather than an excuse for fornication. At the times of war, women outnumbered men and this would lead to sinful sexual activities and children born to no fathers.
Temporary marriage may not be a desirable situation in Iran, where polygamy is legal. It is not seen as desirable due to the provision of Article 1133 of the Iranian Civil code, man’s absolute right to terminate the marriage. The wife retains her ‘mehr’ if the man initiates divorce. Marital property is not divided as it is not communal.
Polygamy is illegal in UK. A national of Iran therefore, is at risk of all his assets to be divided, ‘mehr’ not to be considered by the Courts and the wife essentially ‘have her cake and eat it’. Even on an application for divorce by the husband, his assets would be divided 50/50 regardless of the original marriage contract.
Temporary marriage is the only legal solution for a devoted Muslim man, who does not wish to put his family through divorce and there are just reasons for it. According to the British law, such a temporary marriage would constitute no more than a cohabitation agreement and would not create a criminal offence of bigamy. However, under the principles of Q’uran, this would allow a devoted Muslim man to live in harmony with his faith and any children of such a relationship would be legally recognised in the Muslim community.
Temporary marriage outside the jurisdiction of Iran should be granted a special status of acceptance as it is the only legal route for a devoted Muslim man to comply with his religious commitment to Q’uaran
Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing trend among British Muslim women, who married in Iran or other Muslim countries, according to Sharia Law, to go to the British Courts and to claim that because they are now in the jurisdiction of UK or are dual nationals, they could not be made to follow some of the principles of Sharia Law. Interestingly, the majority of civil divorce applications to the British Courts are made by women, where they can have equal property division despite ‘mehr’ and their absolute right to dispose of their property and finances without any interference from the husband and the husbands absolute obligation to maintain the wife without any right for him to claim maintenance from the wife in a time of sickness or financial difficulty.
This is the essence of the defended divorce battle between Aghdas Zare and Houshang Jafari.
In 2007, in front of her parents in law, Aghdas Zare agreed with her husband that he would take on a temporary wife. At that point, the couple’s children had finished university and moved on to their careers. The ‘raising of the children’ aspect of the marriage had come to an end, leaving the parties estranged from each other. Divorce was briefly considered but dismissed as an option. In 2007, the parties’ daughter, Yasaman, one of the witnesses in the above proceedings in support of the divorce to be granted, was looking for a suitable candidate for a traditional Islamic arranged marriage. Her parents’ divorce would render her ‘undesirable’ for any wealthy family- in- law. The parties agreed that Houshang would follow the Islamic principles and would find a suitable Muslim woman to offer him companionship on the basis that she would become ‘mahram’ to him. This required a ‘mehr’ to be agreed and ‘sigha’ ceremony to be conducted.
The parties followed their agreement for over 4 years. Aghdas Zare remained in the family home and was fully provided for by her husband. No communication ever took place between the two wives, however both wives were in contact with the husbands extended family. At no time this relationship was a secret as every member of the extended family met the new woman in due course. Houshang’s sister, Parvana Jafari, visited the Dower House and spent time with her brother and the young children. At the same time, she continued her life-long friendship with Aghdas. There was no unhappiness in the family over this arrangement, with all female side of the Jafari extended family being committed and devoted Muslims.
Suddenly, without any warning, Aghdas Zare files for divorce in the British Court, together with two section 37 applications for No Notice Freezing orders against all her husband’s assets and companies. Shortly before this application, Yasar Jafari, the parties older son arrives to UK with his new wife Melika Kazimi and moves in to his father’s house, changes the locks and begins to open all private and confidential mail addressed to his father or his companies. Melika Kazimi supports her husband in his actions against his father. She occupies the property which does not belong to her or her husband and refuses to move out.
According to Article 6 of the Iranian Civil Code, Iranian Nationals remain subject to the laws of Iran in respect to the matters of their personal status, even if they have gained a second nationality and are resident abroad.
The question therefore is, what is Aghdas Zare trying to achieve in the British divorce court? She claims she wants divorce but has made no attempt to obtain a Sharia divorce either in the UK or Iran. She has gone to a lot of trouble obtaining copies of her marriage certificate via various Powers of Attorney, granted to her father and brother, all of which she denied having ever provided. She claims she has absolutely no money or assets and has signed on to the state benefits to fund her court action.
More interestingly, why did she not file for divorce for a period of 4 years, until her oldest son arrived to UK, having got married in secret from his father, and started to brainwash his mother to begin divorce proceedings to get hold of his father’s assets?
The beauty about Islam is that it does not impose on the soul more than it can bear. It offers a practical solution to when a divorce will cause moral and emotional harm.
This is why I, Lady Katrina Jafari, support Houshang Jafari in this defended divorce action in the British Court. I was not named in the divorce petition. I offered my statement to the Court by my own free will.
Our Prophet declared equality between man and woman. Q’uran does not make a woman inferior to the man. On the contrary, the woman is the ‘soul of the heart of the man and the man is the heart of the woman’s soul. They each have different duties and they are not equal in content. Man is the financial provider and woman is the comfort to him through his life.
I feel that a civil divorce of a Sharia Marriage distorts the equality intended by the Q’uran by allowing the woman an unfair opportunity to have a judgement made outside the context of the Islamic principles.
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