By Chirag Juneja
“As with all human rights violations, breaking the silence is the first step.”
Talaq al bidah or talaq al badai means the disapproved forms of divorce in Islam. One such form of divorce is ‘Triple talaq’ in which three pronouncements are made during a single tuhr (period between menstruations) either in the same meeting or on different occasions. Reliance is always placed on two sources of Muslim law: first, the Holy Quran and second, Sunnah- teachings and sayings of Muhammed. According to the abstracts in Quran, talaq must be pronounced twice in two months and then the woman must either be retained in honour or released in kindness by pronouncing the third talaq. Whenever there is a marital friction, the Quran advises the husband to talk out the differences with his wife. If misunderstanding persists, the parties are asked to sexually distance themselves from each other in the hope that temporary physical separation may encourage them to unite.
And if the situation sees no change, the husband is instructed to once again discuss with his wife the gravity of the situation and try to bring about reconciliation. Then the husband shall explain to his wife that if they do not resolve their differences soon enough, their dispute will have to be taken beyond the confines of their house which may not be in the interest of both parties. Now, if the dispute still remains unresolved the Quran requires the matter to be placed before two arbiters, one from the family of each spouse, for resolution. Therefore, Quran lays down no such law for oral unilateral instant form of divorce but a mere procedure for reconciliation before divorce.
The problem with this form of divorce is that it is not approved by Muslim Jurists and is therefore considered as an unorthodox form of divorce. According to them, it is repugnant to the spirit of Islam. It is the most disapproved form of divorce, highly condemned and considered sinful, but nevertheless is considered legally effective. There is also a well-known incident where the Prophet was displeased when a man divorced his wife in this manner and asked the man to follow the proper procedure while divorcing her wife.
Triple talaq takes place owing to the patriarchal mindset of the religious orthodoxy who not only allows it to continue but spread misinformation that it is valid in their religion. Some scholars argue that Islamic laws face unnecessary criticism when it comes to violation of human rights. They contend that it is the interpretation of the scriptures and writings that is in violation of these rights and therefore a reform is needed in these interpretations. They suggest that such interpretations were done at a time when a male dominant society was prevalent and therefore the earlier interpretations were in harmony with existing conditions of a society. However, those interpretations are redundant to the norms of a modern society. Therefore, a new interpretation of the scriptures is required for continuation of Muslim personal laws without violating any human rights.
Saira Banu, a Muslim woman, has filed the petition in the Supreme Court, asking it to declare the practices of talaq-e-bidat (instantaneous triple-talaq), nikah halala (bar against remarriage with divorced husband without an intervening marriage with another man), and polygamy under Muslim personal laws as illegal, unconstitutional, and in violation of Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 of the Constitution. A division bench of the Supreme Court has put the case of triple talaq back in the court of the Central government to deal with the vexatious problem ruining the lives of Muslim women.
As many as 22 Muslim countries – including Pakistan and Bangladesh – or their provinces have abolished triple talaq either explicitly or implicitly. A 2015 survey of about 5,000 women across 10 states by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) found that over 90% wanted an end to polygamy and triple talaq. Of the 525 divorced women surveyed, 78% had been given triple talaq; 76 of these women had to consummate a second marriage so that they could go back to their former husbands. The Muslim community of India has itself been clamouring for reform and ban of oppressive practices that have no basis in Islam or the Holy Quran. The Muslim Personal Law Board, however, keeps insisting on the validity of triple talaq in India.
This begs the question – Why should the All India Personal Law Board be allowed to parade these inhuman and illegal practices in the 21st century?