The matter of ‘Triple Talaq’ reached the Supreme Court through a plea filed by Saira Bano, who challenged the three rules related to Nikah (wedding). These rules are: Talaq-e-Biddah, Nikah-e-Halala and a man’s right to have four wives. Responding to the Supreme Court notice on the matter, the Centre had rejoined the issue of validity of triple talaq, nikah-e-halala and polygamy needs to be considered in the light of principles of gender justice and the overriding principle of non-discrimination, dignity and equality. This was one of the election promises by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Muslim women.
Earlier this week, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) urged the Supreme Court not to hear the matter of triple talaq as it comes under the personal laws. However, the recent incidence of Shagufta Shah of Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh has forced the judiciary to intervene on in the matter on priority basis.
Shagufta Shah, in her third month of pregnancy has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi fearing that her husband will abandon her children and her if she gives birth to another girl. The woman is at the end of her first trimester. In her message to the Prime Minister, she urges him to bring an end to ‘Triple Talaq’ – an Islamic tradition, where a man just has to utter the word ‘talaq’, or divorce thrice in order to leave his wife. Shagufta, who already has two daughters, fears for the well-being of her children. She claims that her in-laws have been pressuring her to abort the foetus. They ‘fear’ she might give birth to another girl. She also alleges that her husband has verbally divorced her and thrown her out of the house. Shamshad, her husband and his brothers Naushad, Zafar Ali and Iliyas have been booked for attempting to prevent a child from being born alive, under section 315 of the Indian Penal Code. Shagufta, could manage to reach PM and CM but there are many Muslim women like her, who are going through the hell called ‘Triple Talaq’ having no social stand. Many lives are ruined in such cruel practices.
In Islam, everything is followed as per Sunnah (Deeds of the prophet). Hence, most Muslim women bodies opposing ‘triple talaq’ want the Muslim bodies’ to adopt ‘Talaq-e-Sunnah’ (Divorce as per the Prophet’s sayings and Quranic dictation) and discard ‘Talaq-e-Biddah’ (Divorce as per a later formed mode of divorce which propagates instant divorce). According to Sharia law, a woman has no say in the matter of ‘triple talaq’. The decision is entirely that of her husband, who doesn’t even have to pay any maintenance or alimony. The tradition also gives this right only to a man. A woman can’t do the same to her husband. Nikah is essentially a contract laid down in a ‘Nikahnama’ drawn between the husband and the wife. This contract can have conditions and has a compulsory ‘consideration’ (Meher) to be paid at the time of the marriage. This consideration is paid by the man to the wife, and can be at time waived off by the woman as per her own will. So, the basic difference between a Hindu Marriage and a Muslim Marriage is that for Hindus, marriage is a divine sacrament whereas for Muslims, it is contract drawn between the husband and the wife.
The Quran advises the husband to settle the differences through a mutual conversation as the first step. This step is known as the Fa’izu Hunna. If the differences continue between the husband and the wife, the parties should refrain from any conjugal acts till they settle their dispute. This step of physical separation known as the Wahjuru Hunna is prescribed so that the couple re-unites. However, even if this second step fails, it is recommended that the husband must attempt to talk to the wife, make peace with her and talk about the seriousness of the circumstances. This third step is known as the Wazribu Hunna. However, Quran advises that even if the third step fails, the fourth step of ‘arbitration’ must be followed. In this step, members from each of the spouses’ family are present and the parties try to make amends in the strained relationship. It is only after these four steps have failed that a husband pronounces the first talaq. Quran prescribes that if a woman has attained the age of menopause then the period of iddah is three months, whereas if a woman is pregnant, then the period of Iddah would be till the child is born or the termination of pregnancy. If the differences still persists then the third talaq is pronounced, after which the relations between the husband and the wife are disconnected.
The practice of ‘Nikah-e-Halala’, is much more awful and cruel than the talaq. Many Muslim women have condemned this practice as barbaric and it assumes more importance, in case the talaq is given as Talaq-e-Biddah. Women have often described it as a barbaric practice and there are demands to abolish this practice. Muslim women have come out on the side of rights and justice. They want this biased system of verbal triple talaq and practices like “Nikah-e-Halala” to stop.
A soft revolution is underway in India, led by a group of Muslim women who believe that the peaceful, rational and equal Islamic ideology has been usurped by dogmatic and misogynist views of a few who see women as the weaker sex. This coming together of victims, scholars and activists seems to be the beginning of a new feminist movement in the Islamic world. These women are seeking reinterpretations of the hadiths and traditions based on Prophet Muhammad’s life. Fortunately, this time even government promises them the justice. Let’s hope for a change and freedom from these cruel religious customs.
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