The Unbudging Revert: A story of Faith vs family and nation

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Hadiya’s story is a classic example of women’s rights suffering a severe blow under the shadow of patriarchy and a biased judicial system.

In today’s time when many don’t have the courage to hold down their fort when the wind
blows in the other direction, Hadiya is an extraordinary example of a strong courageous woman who wouldn’t budge from her place even with her parents and the country’s apex court against her. Hadiya’s story is a classic example of women’s rights suffering a severe blow under the shadow of patriarchy and a biased judicial system.

Hadiya, born as Akhila Ashokan, in a conservative family of Kottayam district of Kerala, went to Salem to pursue BHMS. There, she came in contact with Islam through two
of her Muslim friend flatmates with whom she discussed Islamic teachings. She converted to Islam soon after. Her parents had an idea about her inclinations towards Islam when she refused to participate in the family rituals. They finally got to know about her conversion when she went to college wearing a hijab. They immediately ordered her to come back home but instead she moved in with a Muslim girlfriend. KM Ashokan, Akhila’s father filed a complaint against her friend’s father for kidnapping her.

Her father filed a petition in the Kerala High Court stating that she had been taken against her will and had been forced to convert.

 Akhila was living with Zainaba, president of the National Women’s Front. During that time, she changed her name to Hadiya. Her father filed a petition in the Kerala High Court stating that she had been taken against her will and had been forced to convert. Hadiya appeared in court on January 19, accompanied by Zainaba. She testified that she had willingly converted to Islam and was staying with Zainaba out of sheer will. Hearing her testimony, the court allowed her to go back with Zainaba but that did not stop her father. He filed a second petition in the High Court asserting that Hadiya was being taken outside India. Hadiya denied all the allegations but she was ordered to live in a women hostel in kochi. On the next hearing, she was allowed to go back to the college to complete her studies and the court asked the father to return all her certificates.

The court annulled Hadiya’s marriage and ordered her to return to her parents. She was put on house arrest and was not allowed to talk to anyone.

Through a Muslim matrimonial site she met Shafin Jahan (27) employed in Muscat. Since Hadiya was old enough, 24 years old, she took the decision to marry Shafin. Hadiya next appeared in the court with her husband. The court annulled Hadiya’s marriage to Shafin and ordered her to return to her parents house. She was put on house arrest and was not even allowed to talk to her husband during this time. Her husband, Shafin did not back out and approached the Supreme Court.

To think that a woman, in the country whose constitution guarantees secularism and right to choose her faith and partner would suddenly dole out contrary verdicts points at the prejudices prevailing even in the 21st century.

Hadiya’s story trending in the nation under the tag of “love jihad” brings to mind the narratives of all the crusaders who were exiled, ostracised and tortured into leaving their religion. The story is not just of a nation against a revert but of a revert who wouldn’t budge from her faith despite the hardships imposed. It comes as a sharp stinging lesson in the face of those already born in the religion but couldn’t even bother to practice it faithfully or take it for granted.

Written by : Azra Jabin

Edited by : Zarafshan Shiraz