The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) released a statement on September 2 in defense of oral unilateral divorce (triple talaq) that “personal laws cannot be re-written in the name of social reforms.” Along with other misogynistic things, the AIMPLB said that Muslim men would murder their wives “to get rid” of them if triple talaq gets banned. While this argument has been dismissed as an irrational one by many, it’s important to note that it is, at the same time, frighteningly problematic on several scores.
What is Triple Talaq?
Triple Talaq is a method of divorce wherein a Muslim man says to his wife, “I give you divorce”, or simply “talaq” (divorce) three times in one sitting, and the marriage is dissolved instantly. It is treated as an irrevocable divorce, and once it happens, the couple can remarry only after the fulfillment of Halala: a practice in which a divorced woman marries another Muslim man and gets divorce from him after a certain period before remarrying her ex-husband. Triple Talaq is often called ‘Talaq-ul-Biddat’ which paradoxically suggests that it is sinful but legal.
A number of Muslim scholars around the world have declared the practice of triple talaq unislamic, primarily because it is not mentioned in Qur’an. These scholars, instead, state that Qur’an commands a married couple to wait for a period of three months for undergoing lawful separation. The husband is required to give divorce to his wife in her tuhr, or menses-free time. He must think over it at length and preferably withdraw the talaq during the iddat, or waiting period, which is of three months. These three months involve interventions by relatives and clerics who try to bring about reconciliation between the couple. If, at the end of three months waiting period, the couple still wants to separate, the husband pronounces final talaq and the marriage is dissolved. However, the divorced couple can remarry in future if they so wish without having to go through the process of Halala. Halala is required only when the same couple have been divorced thrice and want to remarry a fourth time.
There is a popular story that triple talaq was granted only once by Khalifa Omar in a special case on the insistence of a woman whose husband was physically and mentally abusing her. He had allowed it for once to help a woman in distress. Ironically, today this method is used by men to achieve their own ends, often leading to the oppression of women.
The cases of triple talaq given over phone, text messages, Facebook, Skype and email have become increasingly frequent. Men are not held accountable since it is legal, and women who are not financially independent are left utterly helpless and emotionally broken. Since these ‘abandoned women’ do not receive maintenance or alimony, they are often left alone, fending for themselves and their children. Men, in most cases, do not take any responsibility of the children, especially of daughters, after announcing triple talaq. Too many Muslim women live in constant fear of displeasing their husbands lest they pronounce those three dreadful words out of anger and make their lives fall apart. This is why the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Aandolan (BMMA), an autonomous, rights-based mass organization led by Muslim women, is fighting against this regressive practice along with others prescribed by the Sharia law.
In November, 2015, BMMA published a report– No More Talaq, Talaq, Talaq: Muslim Women Call for a Ban on an UnIslamic Practice. This report written by Dr. Noorjehan Safia Niaz and Zakia Soman carries case studies of over 117 Muslim women from different states of India who have been victims of triple talaq. Prof. Tahir Mahmood has penned the foreword to this report where he writes: “It reads like a horror story and reveals what havoc a gross misuse of the noble Islamic law on divorce as a whole is playing in the society“. The report contains heart-rending stories and testimonies of women whose lives have been torn apart owing to triple talaq.
Why is AIMPLB’s statement so problematic?
The patriarchal, self-proclaimed clerics of Islam have distorted the meaning of Quranic verses and Ahadith to preach that a husband can simply pronounce ‘talaq‘ three times in a row in order “to get rid of his wife“. On top of that, they put forth the most absurd and horrible of arguments to defend this unfair practice. The argument that triple talaq protects women from getting murdered is problematic on so many different levels that one cannot help but feel uneasy.
Firstly, because it justifies the unjustifiable. It tries to justify a gender discriminatory, oppressive practice that lets a husband throw his wife out of the house at his whim. Say ‘talaq‘ to your wife three times, and you are instantly free from all bonds and responsibilities. The woman, of course, has no say in this matter. Her fate is decided by her husband, and those three cursed words that the society abhors.
Secondly, it sounds like a threat. It’s as if AIMPLB is saying that the Supreme Court dare not put a ban on this practice if it doesn’t want to see women getting murdered. “It’s better to divorce a woman than kill her.” What exactly were they thinking when they said this? It is not just a senseless argument, but an immoral one too. What it implies is that a Muslim woman has basically only two choices: be thrown out of the house when your husband is tired of you, or get murdered by him. Therefore, choosing lesser of the two evils is the wise thing to do.
Thirdly, saying that husbands should be allowed to divorce their wives at their convenience so that these women don’t get killed is like saying that women should wear modest clothes and not step out of the house late at night so that they don’t get raped. Classic misogyny and victim blaming culture!
Fourth, it ultimately assumes and suggests that all Muslim men are inherently violent, impatient, aggressive, and potential murderers, not capable of following the standard judicial legal processes despite living in a democratic country. “…legal compulsions of time-consuming separation proceedings and expenses may deter him from taking the legal course. In such instances, he will resort to illegal, criminal ways of murdering or burning her alive.”
Don’t men of other religions or communities fulfill these ‘time-consuming separation proceedings’ when they want divorce? Do they all simply murder their wives to save time and money?
Such a despicably violent and absurd statement deserves condemnation not only from feminists and the petitioners of ban on triple talaq, but from everyone whether they do or do not support this cause.
Featured Image Credit: Islam Today