Chief Kadhi: Muslims Propose New Laws

Muslims have proposed drastic constitutional changes to govern the Chief Kadhi's position in Kenya.

Muslim leaders said yesterday that lower and higher Kadhi's courts should be formed.

The present Constitution only recognises the Kadhi's court without any further definitions about the specific cases to be referred there.

"We need subordinate and high Kadhi's courts," said Sheikh Ali Shee, the chairman of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK).

He said the Chief Kadhi should only be called upon to hear exceptional cases from the Kadhi's High Court and that his position in the Judiciary should be at the same level with that of the Chief Justice.

The proposed changes are expected to be presented to the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC).

At the same time, the leaders proposed that stiff requirements for one to be the Chief Kadhi should be set to avoid cases of the Government picking on unqualified individuals.

"A national consultative committee should be set under the new Constitution to set guidelines and vet all those to be picked as Kadhis in the country," Shee said. Speaking to the Press in Mombasa, Shee said the likely candidates should be knowledgeable in common law and have good Islamic education.

Presently, Kadhis do not undergo any tests to give them the mandate to rule over cases in the country. There are Kadhis in all the provincial headquarters in the country. The Chief Kadhi is based in Mombasa.

Shee said the Islamic law in Kenya is in itself defective since it does not address disparities in the different sects. "The proposed National Consultative Council should be given the mandate to bring into harmony all the Islamic sects since some rulings cannot be justified in some sects," he said.

Sects in the country include the Sunni, Shia, Ismalia and the Bohra among others.

Kadhi's courts usually deal with family matters that include marriage, inheritance and ownership of property.

In the past, serving Chief Kadhi, Sheikh Nassor Nahdy, has been told to quit his office allegedly for failing to perform his judicial duties, reports Mary Nzioka.

Various quarters of the Muslim community have expressed their anger at the delays in legal cases by the Chief Kadhi's office.

His office has also not been able to resolve the issue of sighting of the moon which has led to unnecessary confusion during Ramadhan for the last few years.

In the year 2000, the Chief Kadhi said he was ready to retire and claimed that some Muslim organisations in the country have been fighting him for the last 10 years.

In a rejoinder the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem) and the Council of Imams told him to make good his "threat and retire from the post.

Supkem Director-General Abdulhamid Slatch said the Kadhi should have resigned a long time ago in the public interest. He added that the majority of the Muslim faithful had already disowned his leadership.

Slatch also challenged the Kadhi to name those fighting him, saying he should not drag others into his own short-comings.

However, Supkem Coast branch Vice chairman Mr Munir Mazrui, said it was easy for some Muslims to ask Sheikh Nahdy to go but difficult for them to choose his replacement.

"Muslims have to be united first and do away with their differences before thinking about the Chief Kadhi's post," Mazrui said.