Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

Jamadi Thani / Rajab 1425 H July 2004
Volume 17-07 No : 211
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Opinion


Is Triple Talaq a Boon or a Bane?

Is Triple Talaq a Boon or a Bane?

Let us say no to triple Talaq.
Let us stop blaming each other and let us all be responsible and take action to transform our families and societies!

By Asghar Ai Engineer

Recently, several cases of on- the- spot triple divorce have been reported in the press. In Bihar, just because the wife of a person did not vote for the candidate of his choice in the Lok Sabha elections, he pronounced triple divorce and threw out his wife. Again, just a few days ago, a husband came drunk in Bhadrak, Orissa on 3rd June 2004, and had a tiff with his wife and pronounced talaq thrice, but in the morning he realised his mistake and wanted to take back his wife, but leaders of the Muslim community separated them insisting that it is an irrevocable divorce and they cannot live together as husband and wife. Besides this, many cases just go unreported.

There are now reports from Kerala that members of the orthodox Sunni organisations have threatened to agitate if women are allowed to pray on Friday in the mosque. In the girls college in Manjeri, students have been praying on Friday in the mosque in the college premises. But the Samastha Kerala Sunni Students Federation (SKSSF) has launched a public agitation against women being allowed to pray on Friday in the mosque.

What such acts of triple divorce or agitations against women praying on Friday in the mosque convey to the world? Do women have secondary status in Islam? Is the a sin to pray to Allah in mosque on Friday? Does Islam banish women from praying inside the mosque? For these orthodox Muslims, customs and traditions are more important than the Quranic injunctions.

They do not know that Islam was the first religion in the world to empower women and give them equal legal status. The Quran clearly pronounces equality of sexes- see verses 2:228 and 33:35. The women are making fast strides in different fields of life. The extent of education and consciousness of their rights is far more widespread today than ever before. Even in the Saudi society, the women are no more prepared to accept their traditional role. In the first week of June 2004, 70 Saudi Arabian scholars and intellectuals participated in the Third National dialogue forum in Madinah to address the rights of women- in particular, prompt and full delivery of justice to women.

The overall theme of this three -day forum was women’s rights and duties and their relation to education. Many women scholars read out papers in this forum to discuss ways to eliminate religious extremism in the Saudi Kingdom. In Madinah, the organisers hope to create an environment conducive for Saudi intellectuals and scholars to discuss the position of women in Saudi society and to find out the best ways to develop their status in line with Islamic teachings.

This clearly shows there is great deal of Zeal among women even in the Saudi society. Women cannot be treated in the old ways any more. In India, also Muslim women have become more conscious about their Islamic rights and are demanding changes in the Personal Law in keeping with the Qur’anic teachings. As pointed out, the Islamic laws in relation to women are most modern in their approach but Muslim societies have preferred traditional interpretations by Imams in pre-modern feudal society to the clearly worded Qur’anic injunctions.

Talaq is a highly sensitive issue as it can break years of marital relations between husband and wife. Thus the Holy Qur’an is also very cautious in matters of divorce. Firstly, it has adopted the most modern approach to this sensitive issue. It requires arbitration before any breach of relations. The Qur’an says, “And if you fear a breach between the two, appoint an arbiter from his people and an arbiter from her people. If they both desire agreement, Allah will effect harmony between them.” (4:35).

Thus through arbitration, the breach should be prevented and attempt should be made to bring them together again as Allah desires harmony. Despite such clear Quranic injunction we approve of triple divorce in one sitting and destroy marital life in one breath. It is the greatest injustice, specially with women. Again justice (‘adl) is so central to Quranic teaching. And to throw one’s wife out by pronouncing three words of talaq is the most unjust act. There are three four key words in Qur’an – ‘adl, ihsan, rahmah and hikmah (i.e. justice, benevolence, compassion and wisdom) and triple talaq is against all these key words. Neither it is justice, nor it is benevolence (ihsan), nor is it compassion (rahmah) nor is it an act of wisdom (hikmah).

All Muslims are also not unanimous on this form of divorce. Ahle-Hadith, Hanbalis and Shi’ahs reject this form of talaq. Even Hanafi Muslim countries like Jordan have reformed this practice and enforced the Qur’anic injunction of arbitration. Arbitration can and does save many marriages. The Qur’an does not permit triple divorce at all. Three talaqs have to be spaced over a period of three months so that the husband and wife get enough time for reconciliation through intervention of relatives and friends. Moreover talaq can be given only when wife is in a state of tuhur i.e. purity after menstruation. If talaq is pronounced during the period of menstruation, it will not be valid. The Prophet (Pbbuh) has ordered the wife to be taken back if the talaq is pronounced during menstrual period. Triple divorce disregards all this completely.

Some Muslim women have devised a standard nikahnama (marriage contract) strictly within the Shari’ah framework and given it to the Muslim Personal Law Board a couple of years ago, so that Muslim women do not face such situations. Since marriage in Islam is a contract, such nikahnama is perfectly valid and was approved by a great alim like Maulana Ashraf Thanavi. But the Personal Law Board is hesitating to implement it. If implemented, it can give lot of relief to Muslim women. This is very modest piece of reform (in fact it is really not any reform or change but only a modicum of relief to suffering women) but the Board is hesitating in implementing even this.

All ‘ulama agree that pronouncing triple talaq in one sitting is bid‘ah (innovation) and that bid‘ah is sin and yet this sinful practice is enforced in the name of divine law. In fact tripe divorce indeed is a great sin as it is so unjust and oppressive for women. Every possible attempt should be made to eradicate this sinful practice from our society. The ‘ulama who are guardians of Islamic law should play a leading role in this matter.

Personal Law Board should at least launch an awareness movement educating Muslim men about desisting from this sinful form of divorce and resort to the Qur’anic form of divorce as clearly spelt out. The Muslim men are Islamically illiterate and do not even know that triple divorce is a sinful form of divorce and the holy Prophet (Pbuh) has strongly disapproved of this form of divorce. The Islamic Fiqh Academy, India, should deliberate on this issue in the next seminar and abolish this form of divorce.

Maulana Ashraf Thanvi and others had taken a bold step in 1939 and drafted the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, which gave great relief to the suffering women. Can we draft a comprehensive law codifying the Muslim Personal Law on the lines of the 1939 Act? It will give great and much needed relief to Muslim women.

However, there is no such sign of codifying the Muslim Personal Law and suffering of Muslim women continues. If Maulana Ashraf Thanvi and others could take such a bold step way back in 1939, why can’t we in the 21st century take such step? This will be not only in keeping with the true spirit of Islam, but will also go a long way in improving the image of Islam in India.

The Islamic law is most progressive and in fact should become a model law for all others if we understand and implement it in its true spirit. Maulavi Mumtaz Ali Khan, Maulavi Chiragh Ali, Justice Ameer Ali and others pleaded for reforms in the late 19th and early 20th century, but nothing has happened so far.

Now it is for us, to take a bold step and reform, before the Muslim women themselves launch a movement for reform and change. Women in all Muslim countries have struggled for change and succeeded. Even women in the most conservative Saudi society have begun to assert themselves. Let us all commit and stand to save the destruction of our families. Let us say no to triple Talaq. Let us stop blaming each other and let us all be responsible and take action to transform our families and societies so that love, peace, happiness and harmony abundantly flows in our lives.

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