The big elephant in the room in the issue of unilateral conversion is its grievous outcome of breaking families apart – and it comes down to whether it is justified or not.
Is the denying of the rights of the non-Muslim parent justified? Is the confusion experienced by the children justified? Is this method of expanding the ummah justified?
As a Muslim, using Islam, which stands for justice and compassion, causing any form of hurt or abuse is unacceptable and conversion by force is unacceptable (Quran 2:256).
For this reason, I resent the suggestion of using Islam as a reason to tear families apart and to deny any member of the family their rights, when numerous other hadith tell us that we should maintain relations with family members (Tarikh Dimashq 56/317, reported by Ibn Mas’ud).
While it is not the intent of this article to delve into the intricacies of a divorce, we cannot deny that it has a tendency of becoming a messy process, especially where it comes to the welfare and wellbeing of the children.
Unfortunately, in complicated custody battles, the religion card has come into play whereby a parent embraces Islam and the children are unilaterally converted with the consent from one parent and without the consent of the other.
Unilateral conversion legally disqualifies the non-Muslim parent from gaining custody of the children and effectively severs the ties and rights that the non-Muslim parent have with regards to the children.
Surah Muhammad verses 22 and 23 describe people who enable corruption on earth and sever ties of family relationship as cursed by Allah who have made them deaf and blind (47:22-23).
In a narration reported by Aisha, the messenger of Allah, reads: “The bond of family is suspended from a throne and it says: Whoever upholds me, Allah will uphold them. Whoever severs me, Allah will sever them” (Sahih al-Bukhari 5643, Sahih Muslim 2555).
Jubayr ibn Mut’im reported that the Prophet once told him that the one who severs family ties will not enter Paradise (Sahih al-Bukhari 5638, Sahih Muslim 2556).
In a related narration, Sa’id ibn Zayd reported that the womb is derived from the most merciful and whoever severs its family ties, Allah will forbid him from entering paradise (Musnad Ahmad 1586).
While a divorce sees the separation of the parents, Islam should not be the reason a family is torn apart. Islam tells us that not only must we prevent the severing of family ties, but we should also make an effort to maintain them.
Al-Bukhari reported that Ibn Umar once said: Whoever fears their Lord and maintains family ties, their lives will be prolonged, their wealth will be enriched, and their family will love them (al-Adab al-Mufrad 59).
The lack of a sense of urgency in finding and recovering M Indira Gandhi’s daughter, as well as the realisation that there are groups that are possibly conspiring to keep her hidden, is therefore worrying as it has torn the family apart in one of the most painful ways possible.
In a narration reported by Abu Ayyub, the Prophet had said that whoever separates a mother from her child, Allah will separate him from his loved ones on the Day of Resurrection (Sunan al-Tirmidhi 1566).
While many argue that Indira is a non-Muslim, we must remember a narration by Amr ibn al-As who reported that the Prophet himself had maintained bonds of kindship and upheld family ties with non-Muslim family members (Sahih al-Bukhari 5644, Sahih Muslim 215).
In fact, the Prophet had warned to beware of the prayers of the oppressed, even if they are unbelievers, for there is no barrier between it and Allah (Musnad Ahmad 12140, reported by Anas ibn Malik).
It is therefore urgent that the plight of Indira for the return of her daughter, whom she has been separated from for over a decade, be looked into.
Policymakers must strive for amicable and honourable solutions where it comes to conversion of children, in order to ensure that it does not result in the denial of rights, hurt and oppression of any of the parties involved.
The very idea that some parties are using this as an opportunity to garner support rallied around religious sentiments in order to maintain political power is despicable, and made exponentially worse when done at the expense of a child’s best interests.