Meaning: Talaq-e-bidat and nikah halala

In the current public debate over triple talaq and Uniform Civil Code, these two terms from Muslim personal law have made repeated appearances. What do Talaq-e-bidat and nikah halala mean?

Written by Shalini Nair | Published:October 27, 2016 2:22 am
triple talaq debate, Uniform Civil Code, Muslim personal law, Talaq-e-bidat, nikah halala meaning, supreme court, supreme court on triple talaq, PK Modinikah halala muslim, india news Shayara Bano, who has moved the Supreme Court questioning the legality of triple talaq, with her wedding album at her parents’ home in Kashipur in April 2016.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asked for the issue of triple talaq not to be politicised for the sake of votes, telling a rally in Bundelkhand: “Is it fair for a man to say talaq thrice over the phone and a Muslim woman’s life to be ruined?”

Instantaneous talaq — or talaq-e-bidat — now faces a challenge before the Supreme Court. It is important to understand, however, that this is different from the practice of talaq uttered thrice by the man, over a period of three months.

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Unlike Hinduism and Christianity where marriage has been traditionally viewed as a sacrament, under Muslim law, marriage is a civil contract based on consent as spelt out in the utterance of qabul. The ideal form of dissolution of this contract, based on the Prophet’s tradition, is considered to be talaq-ul-sunnat pronounced in ahsan form. Under this form, once the husband pronounces talaq, there has to be a three-month iddat period to factor in three menstrual cycles of the woman. This time is meant for reconciliation and arbitration. During this period, if any kind cohabitation occurs, the talaq is considered to have been revoked.

However, over the years talaq-e-bidat, a practice acknowledged to be bad in theology even by the clergy, has been upheld by the same clergy as valid and good in law.

Talaq-e-bidat has allowed men to pronounce talaq thrice in one sitting, sometimes scrawled in a written talaqnama, or even by phone or text message. Thereafter, even if the man himself perceives his decision to have been hasty in hindsight, the divorce remains irrevocable. The only way he can then go back to living with his wife is through a nikah halala. This requires her to go through the entire process all over again — remarry, consummate the second marriage, get divorced, observe the iddat period and then come back to him.

The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939, has codified a Muslim woman’s right to seek divorce (khula) which she can do by approaching the courts. However, when it comes to all other personal law matters including talaq, the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, states that the Shariat will govern Indian Muslims without specifying what exactly it is. Merely doing away with talaq-e-bidat may not entirely ensure absolute gender parity in matters of divorce since, unlike the woman, the man will still reserve the right to talaq without having to take the legal route.

For now, the overwhelming demand of women from the community is for doing away with talaq-e-bidat. “It’s one step at a time; we cannot expect a drastic momentum. Talaq-e-bidat is the most barbaric of practices. Once it is outlawed, gradually reform in all aspects of Muslim personal law can happen. This is the reason why we have been demanding a comprehensive, codified Muslim personal law,” said Zakia Soman, co-founder of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, a mass organisation of Muslim women in India.

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  1. A
    Abhinav Gour
    Nov 1, 2016 at 8:16 am
    1. J
      Oct 28, 2016 at 9:48 pm
      To correct one barbaric practice and taking away the rights of a woman and then saying for BJP there is an election issue is like saying let's never give back equal rights to Muslim women since there is always an election somewhere. Come on guys. This multicultural society fell apart when you Muslims divided iNdia. So now you are not part of it. Pack your bags and move to your homeland. Let others who sta together decide their destiny. Islam never says you can allow triple talaq then why does the law allows it? Or can a woman also use the same triple talaq and dump you?
      1. A
        Oct 27, 2016 at 4:34 am
        Both husband and the wife has the right to Talaq as their wish .Men and Women are equal having equal status on this issue as per Islamic view. Better article but it confusing readers regarding right of both individual in this case. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Islam never says that one can divorce by telling Triple talaq continuously. Instead there are some restrictions, Law’s to be followed which is tough to couple. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Misusing of Talaq cause misery in societies women life as its going to directly beat their life. So Government and the utmost Supreme Court can have some restrictions to control the Triple talaq. lt;br/gt;On civil code is not practicable in multi ethnical, religious, cast, creed and indeed India is a country “Unity in diversity”. Once civil code will never solve any issues as we all happy with the existing system in our society until it adversely affecting our country growth. lt;br/gt;Elections it is an issue, especially in Utter Pradesh. Parties to gain leads, votes, so some fear to be injected to the society.
        1. A
          Nov 1, 2016 at 6:08 am
          The author's comment: "The only way he can then go back to living with his wife is through a nikah halala. This requires her to go through the entire process all over again — remarry, consummate the second marriage, get divorced, observe the iddat period and then come back to him." is incorrect. Nikah cannot be solemnised with the planning or intention of divorce. Any arrangement or fixing of the situation for "halala" is un-Islamic.
          1. C
            C V
            Oct 27, 2016 at 3:17 am
            What happens if during the iddat the couple cohabits and the lady conceives? Can the husband go ahead and pronounce second talaq?
            1. M
              Oct 28, 2016 at 4:00 pm
              I accept this is an election issue for BJP but pronouncing three Talaaq in one sitting is unlawful.
              1. M
                Oct 28, 2016 at 3:58 pm
                If Muslim marriage is an agreement then how husband can revoke it unilaterally by using three Talaaq in one sitting. I believe this is unlawful.
                1. N
                  Oct 28, 2016 at 4:02 pm
                  One nation, One Law. its very simple and there is no need to complicate the marriage law. Men or Women who seeks divorce has to go through same process like every citizen of India. Marriages can be conducted according to the tradition and religion rituals, But Divorce need to go through court of law. Women or Men, both should be justified. That's my opinion!
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