Updated: July 26, 2017 9:23:14 am
Triple talaq has become the media’s favourite subject. On the one hand, it is projected as the most important issue faced by Muslim women, and on the other, we have bodies such as the Muslim Personal Law Board refusing to acknowledge its existence in the country. Together, these issues pave the way for many assumptions, amidst public confusion about whose problem it really is: Is it the society’s or the politician’s?
I would like to see it through the eyes of women affected by it. Not all Muslim women in India are affected by triple talaq. But triple talaq continues to be an issue where misogyny is deep-rooted, is practised in areas where fundamentalist organisations are strong and where women are not educated.
It would not be an exaggeration if I hold the Muslim Personal Law Board as wholly responsible for this issue. The Board neither acknowledges the existence of triple talaq nor feels the compelling need to revisit its position on this injustice. Click here to read in Tamil.
When the issue reached the courts, the Board magnanimously acknowledged its existence. A community’s refusal to accept its weaknesses also becomes the fundamental reason for its downfall. The Muslim Personal Law Board was very critical of women and organisations fighting against triple talaq. Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Mukul Rohatgi had to talk about it for the Board to change its stance.
We are not gullible to believe that Modi and Shah are responsible leaders just because they speak about triple talaq. It is laughable that they raise the issue as if other problems faced by women in the country have been resolved. For instance, the recommendations of the Sachar Committee, which demands that the focus should be on several livelihood issues of Muslims, have not been addressed. But for the government of the day, triple talaq is the burning issue!
Islam has given talaq to men and khula to women. A man can either issue talaq over a period of time or issue triple talaq giving it a gap of three months. A woman can issue khula and get divorced from her husband by approaching her family or a religious head. Triple talaq is uttering the word talaq thrice and divorcing the wife. With the advent of technology, triple talaq can be issued as a WhatsApp message or a phone call.
Though the Quran states that there needs to be a time gap between the three talaqs, in practice it is not so. While responding to the courts on this case, the Centre did not just stop with saying that triple talaq was not legal, it also talked about the Uniform Civil Code.
By creating a situation where it could meddle with Islamic laws, the government seeks to create tension among the Muslims, resulting in an aversion in the community for reforming the law. There are also Muslim organisations which want to use these issues as an investment for their growth.
Even as the debate rages, a 45-year-old man divorces a 22-year-old woman at Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh by issuing triple talaq, 10 days after their marriage. Fifty-two panchayats run by Muslim elders hold discussions to decide that the groom shall be fined Rs 2 lakh, which will be handed over to the bride as compensation. By doing so, they give legitimacy to triple talaq, which is against what is enshrined in Quran.
The Quran says that when said at one go, triple talaq will be considered as having been uttered only once. By that argument, the bride was never divorced. The divorce, which went against the basic tenets of Islamic law, was ratified by awarding a compensation of Rs 2 lakh.
The issue came to court only because there was no three-month gap between two talaqs. But the root cause for the problem is the organisations which justify this lack of interval and which see the interference of the government and courts as an intrusion. These organisations are aware that women are oppressed by this system, they are aware that the triple talaq system does not exist in any other Islamic country.
Who has the responsibility of setting this right? The women are aware that it is next to impossible to get justice. They approach the courts only after they realise they have been refused justice by both family and society. In their relentless pursuit of justice, courts become their last resort.
Ijtihad is a process in Islam that allows independent reasoning in accordance with changing situations. Shariat is not a rigid, uni-dimensional process. It is capable of adapting itself to suit the times.
Muslim organisations should stop fuelling sentiments over this sensitive issue. To take on the women or the democratic organisations which have approached the courts for a remedy is unfair.
If the BJP uses religion to further its politics, the Muslim organisations also seek to assert their authority through religion. It is time for the Muslim organisations to realise that they have moved away from the victims. The realisation should have dawned on them even during the Shah Bano case.
Rajathi Salma alias Rokkiah Begum, 49, is an author and social worker. Her best-known work is the novel Irandam Yamangalin Kathai (The Hours Past Midnight). Translated from Tamil by Kavitha Muralidharan
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