Reading Quran through Kathak

Reading Quran through Kathak

Islam and the position that it accords to women have been a subject of much discussion and debate. Different schools of thought have come up with different interpretations of the Quran and it is not uncommon for even a Muslim woman to be unsure about her rights in major personal events.

So it was hardly a surprise when Delhi’s educated and intellectual elite turned out in full force for dancer Rani Khanam’s show ‘Black and white’ recently. Designed for NGO Kri Foundation’s 10th anniversary celebration, it deftly combined the knowledge of women’s rights in Quran with Kathak. A brave example of art meeting activism, it won a standing ovation from the audience at Stein auditorium, India Habitat Centre.

Kri Foundation’s chairperson Arshiya Sethi expressed on the occasion, “Women’s rights is one of the most important issues our NGO has been working on for years now. The entitlements of a Muslim woman is an especially contentious subject thanks to its religious and political implications. However, it is extremely important that we revisit our holy texts and reacquaint ourselves with the original religious instructions. And what better time to do it than Ramzan – the month of introspection.”

Chief guest Dr Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, also contextualised the work well in a special address, “It is highly unfortunate that Islam is today looked upon as the most gender-biased religion of all. This is when Islam actually gave women a position of respect in a medieval Arabic world where they were buried alive on birth. Men took as many women as they wanted and the prophet in fact limited this number to four. Quran has given women equal rights in both marriage and divorce. Today’s sms talaq, telephone talaq and email talaq are a big sham in the name of Islam.”

The production indeed reflected a lot of research in terms of the topics picked up, music and dance choreography. Talented writer Ameeta Parsuram ‘Meeta’ provided a poetic script and various thoughtful ghazals were merged into the narrative.

The controversial subject of Khula (when a woman initiates divorce) was their first target. Rani portrayed the angst of a woman cheated and ignored by her husband perfectly through abhinay. She simmers with disappointment and grief till she decides to take matters in her hands and starts the process of khula. Ameeta’s poetry Jo maine kaha dil se nikli, jo tumne kaha duniyadari provoked thought and scorn.

Then came Iddat – the time period for which a woman has to wait for remarriage after divorce or her husband’s death. Here the Quran’s instructions for a woman to not meet any man and not even step out of the house for such time came in for critical appreciation. Rani depicted how such an order, even if suitable for that time’s Arabic society, is detrimental for today’s woman. If she does not step out of her house, how does she raise her children in the event of her husband’s death?

Lastly, the production examined talaq (divorce). Here they highlighted that quran mandates the lapse of at least a month before the pronouncement of each talaq – an edict ignored by both teachers and practitioners in the religion. Prophet Mohammad is also believed to have said: “On this earth, of all sanctioned behaviours, the one liked least by Allah is talaq.”

Rani Khanam spoke to Metrolife, “Taking up a subject like rights of Muslim women was like touching a live wire. We were afraid of ruffling a few sentiments but are now glad that this production is receiving appreciation. It is the right of every woman to know her true position in her religion and no force must stop her from doing that. We are happy that we are aiding this process and will now take Black and White to as many small towns and villages as possible.”

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