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Mutunga, Imams on collision course over women kadhis

By | October 1st 2011

By Athman Amran and Linah Benyawa

Muslim leaders have differed with Chief Justice Willy Mutunga’s suggestion that women should also be appointed as kadhis.

While Chief Kadhi Sheikh Ahmad Muhdhar supports the move, some Muslim leaders cautioned the CJ against making pronouncements on matters concerning Islam without consulting Muslim scholars.

Sheikh Muhdhar said women can become kadhis as long as they are qualified.

"There is no law in Islam that prevents a woman from becoming a kadhi. The law is silent on this question," Muhdhar said Friday.

Muhdhar said the work of a kadhi is just to follow the Islamic law in discharging her duties although he added that there are some ‘small technicalities’, which he argued can be dealt with.

The work of a kadhi, he said, concerns matters of personal status like marriage, divorce and inheritance, which a woman can handle.

"The Islamic law does not allow men and women to interact freely but a woman kadhi would not be alone. If she cannot conduct a marriage in a mosque, where men and woman have separate areas, she can conduct it in her office," the chief kadhi said.

He said Kenya would not be the first country to have women kadhis and he gave examples of Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Kuwait, Turkey and Palestine among other Muslim countries. But the National Muslim Leaders Forum (Namlef) and the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem) told Dr Mutunga to desist treating the Kadhis courts like secular courts by suggesting the introduction of women kadhis.

"This is a religious institution and not a secular one," Namlef chairperson Sheikh Abdillahi Abdi said.

Supkem Director General Abdilatif Shaaban told the CJ to tread carefully when dealing with Islamic religious matters. "The CJ has to be careful. He has to consult local Muslim leaders and see how they would react to the suggestion," Shaaban said. He said there are some duties, like conducting marriages in mosques, where only men are involved. He, however, said there are women kadhis in a number of other Islamic countries.

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