How we’ve been getting the concept of ‘Triple Talaq’ wrong all along
There are so many layers to Triple Talaq and the concept is certainly not as shallow as it seems. Making changes in the divorce system will require amendments in every facet of the Muslim Personal Law, obliterating the essence of secularism India is known for
Today is a historic day for Indian Politics as well as the Judiciary. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill, 2017- a bill that got the whole nation worked up throughout India has been passed by the Lok Sabha and the Parliament has now criminalised ‘Triple Talaq’.
I’m not going to cite the Shah Bano’s case or any insights about Uniform Civil Code as both are not in our immediate control. I’m simply going to explain what the religion says about the concept and the right way to practice it.
Let’s start with why the concept is looked down upon. The media and the people, including majority of the Muslim multitude in India are all under the false notion that if the couple cannot reconcile after the talaq has been pronounced unless the divorced woman first married another man and consummates that marriage. This practice is called Nikah Halala.
Another reason why the concept of ‘Triple Talaq’ is frowned upon is that it allows a man to break down a marriage whimsically and capriciously giving him the upper hand in making decisions for the family.
Now, let’s dive deeper into the topic. As Muslim family affairs in India are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Sharia) Application Act, 1937 (often called the "Muslim Personal Law"). The Sharia law is primarily based on fundamental Islamic scriptures, the Holy Quran and the Hadith, independent of jurists. In order to understand a religion well, we must first thoroughly acquaint ourselves with its holy texts for they are the most reliable source of pure and unbiased information.
It’s sad that Islam has three types of divorce procedures. These procedures were applied during the times of Prophet Muhammed and his successors. The most authentic form of divorce is Talaq-e-Sunnah, which is thought to be in accordance with Muhammad's teachings as described in the Quran and the Hadiths.
The subject of divorce is addressed in four different surahs (chapters) of the Quran, including the general principle articulated in 2:231 which says “If you divorce women, and they reach their appointed term, hold them back in amity or let them go in amity. Do not hold them back out of malice, to be vindictive. Who so does this does himself injustice.”
During a circumstantial disagreement between a husband and a wife, the couple should initially try and sort it out themselves. Talaq carries a grave chunk of weight in Islam and is not to be dealt lightly with. If the problem between them cannot be resolved amongst themselves, The Quran says in Chapter 4 V. 35 “Appoint an arbiter from both the sides, i.e., the husband and the wife and have a gathering to balance out the issues between the couple. When marital harmony cannot be attained, the Quran allows and even advises the spouses to bring the marriage to an end (2:231), although this decision is not to be taken lightly, and the community is called upon to intervene by appointing arbiters from the two families to attempt a reconciliation (4:35)."
The Quran establishes two further means to avoid hasty divorces. It prescribes two waiting periods of three months (three menstrual cycles) before the divorce is final in order to give the husband time to reconsider his decision and also to determine the parentage of the conceived child in that interim period.
There are also provisions for reconciling of the couple after they have parted. They can get back together with a fresh Niqah again and if they again wish to separate, can get a divorce following the above procedures. One might think of this phenomena as an act of idiocy and unfairness as the man gets to keep his wife in a state of "limbo" by continually repudiating them and taking them back at will. But The Quran limited the number of repudiations to three, after which the man cannot take his wife back without an intervening marriage to another man.
Now, coming to the prime facet of the practice of the concept. The divorce is applicable only under these criteria
- The pronunciation of the divorce must be witnessed by two men, or one man and two women
- A husband cannot divorce his wife in a fit of rage
- A husband cannot divorce his wife while she is on her period
- Divorce cannot happen via any form of non-verbal, telephonic conversation, or virtual communication.
All these conditions are clearly drawn out in favour of the women so there’s no question of gender-inequality featuring in the Talaq scenario as women get an equal right to uphold their defense while their moral rights are also taken into consideration. This rules out why the entire Triple Talaq conundrum and I wonder why it is so on trending today. Women are tired of their husbands giving them Talaqs online via WhatsApp or Skype and they’re ready with their grievances and calling it their ‘right’ where they have the least idea about what their sacred scriptures have to say about the divorce procedures. Men are also following suit, misinterpreting the law and using it to their own advantage.
I believe that every religion must evolve with changing time. The other two Talaq concepts ‘Talaq-e-Biddah' and ‘Talaq-e-Hasan’ are undoubtedly regressive and hence banned in many Islamic states. And now we are on our way to the same too. But how many of us try to be responsible husbands and wives? How many of us practice the original, unaltered law and not sway in the direction that media and state politics directs us? Only if Muslims knew their scriptures and legal rights well, Triple Talaq would not have been such a big deal what it is today.
I state here that the pronunciation of ‘Triple Talaq’ is not only unconstitutional but also ‘unsanctionable’ from an Islamic point of view. But, we’re almost forgetting here that The Sharia Law does not cover the divorce process alone. The Muslim Personal Law also touches other significant areas of life like marriage, inheritance, charities etc. And hence, banning the Sharia Law altogether would result in a disturbance in all these departments including in the law besides divorce. Given this background of the matter, it is difficult to have it undergo changes since it raises the question, to what extent should the State (which is supposed to be secular) interfere with the personal affairs of the civilians.
Islam is a not a religion, it’s a way of life; so scientifically advanced that it had laid down the Big Bang Theory, the spherical nature of the Earth and also the intricacies of human embryology in its holy text, the Quran, that were brought on Earth centuries before science could discover them. Why would such a religion be any backward in terms of feminism? Why would it let women suffer unjust treatment Especially when The Quran has an entire chapter dedicated to the female form Surah Al Nisa (The Woman).
We ought to rethink and reanalyse our own mindsets about the religion and its preachings. It’s time to open up our minds and clear our heads, for what is awaiting after the bill gets passed from the upper house of Parliament, which it will soon, legal procedures for the entire Muslim community in India is are all going to get ugly. And I dread the day when we won’t be able to call this beautiful country, a ‘secular’ one.
Afiya Qureshi works with Mumbai Live as a content writer. With a thoughtful and head-strong attitude, Afiya believes in raising her voice when religious and human sentiments are tampered, without a thorough understanding of the subject. With this article, she aims to make people aware of what the Muslim law means to the community and how many amongst us, in the country have given their so-called valuable feedback regarding the amendment, without the fundamental knowledge of this long-lasting law.
Note: The views expressed here are personal and that of the author. The article is not intended to hurt or insult the sentiments of any community, religion, or people.