Triple Talaq: A Political Football or Call for Reforms among Muslims?

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A respectable Muslim commentator described 'Triple Talaq' as “the instant divorce Muslim men are permitted under Sharia law to sever marital relationships by merely uttering the words 'talaq talaq talaq' or by email, WhatsApp, postal mail or a phone call.”

Mutually agreed separation of couples, even if married, has always been occurring in all cultures and religions. They have never been questioned as there might be legitimate reasons for the marriages to dissolve.

Muslim women protesting.However, how the separation is handled and eventually executed? That's the issue.

Many, including Islamic scholars, say the above definition is an abused version of triple talaq. The Quran, from where the concept of triple talaq (as included in the Sharia law) is claimed to have originated, is regarded as a holy book by more than a billion Muslims around the world. Therefore, it must be treated with respect. However, critics, including the reformist Muslims, have not been discouraged from discussing what’s there in the holy book particularly after the 9/11 in the USA.

The feminists complain the holy Quran elaborately tells women -- not so much to the men -- how they should conduct themselves with their male custodians -- whether husbands or masters owning them then as slaves. It also commands men how to treat women in their possession. There’s hardly mention of men and women under the same roof/household as being co-equals.

On the other hand, there are scholars who say women have been given high regards in the family and the community and therefore the process of eventually divorcing a wife has been conditional and arduous.

According to them, Prophet Muhammad was credited with prescribing the steps in the holy book following which a man could eventually part company with a woman who he was keeping as his wife. It’s quite possible they were based not on literal mention but on interpretations.

According to these steps, a man would FIRST declare his intention to seek divorce from his wife and then wait for a month without having any physical contact with her. At the end of the month, it was to be watched if the wife had had her menstrual course. If she had one, then assuming the lady was free from pregnancy, the husband was supposed to make his SECOND declaration if he really wanted divorce from his wife.

Then again, sufficient time was given to make a determination that the wife hadn't been impregnated by her husband. Attempts at reconciliation and all kinds of mediation were supposed to be tried in the meantime through the family members or an Imam to put the marriage back on track. Enough time was bought to make alternative arrangements for the rehabilitation of the divorced wife and the children -- because, in most cases the couples were extended family members, mostly second cousins.

If and when all efforts at reconciliation had failed and it was confirmed that the lady didn't carry any pregnancy, the man was supposed to declare for the THIRD time that he didn't want to stay in that marriage. Then the process of separation would start. It was again conditional as it was to be executed only after the husband had paid to the wife what was known as MEHAR (an amount in coins or metal agreed upon by the partners at the time of Nikah, the marriage).

More women protesting against Triple Talaq in India.Thus, it may be noticed that the intention to have divorce (Talaq) was declared THRICE by men: In an abused short-circuited form, this practice came to be known as TRIPLE TALAQ. In a male dominated Muslim society -- just as in any other society -- the males had the upper hand. Without following the rigors of a divorce prescribed by their own prophet, they adopted an easy way to repeat talaq thrice to get rid of their wives as and when they wanted.

Whenever the judiciary sought to intervene in India, the Muslims resorted to the argument that the question of marriage and divorce fell under their "personal law" protected by the Indian constitution.

Progressive Muslim men and women have been fighting against this unfair treatment meted out mostly to the vulnerable women in the Muslim community. Politicians of all hue -- mostly along communal lines -- smell political opportunities in this controversy to preserve and promote their vote-banks. Agent provocateurs, media and the vested unethical merchant class do their best to inflame communal passions and provoke violence to make profits.

The reasonable voice of Muslims who really wish to have reforms get drowned in the cacophony of shouts and counter shouts. The hostile Muslim countries like Pakistan and extremists, separatists among the Muslims like the Wahabbis and the Salafists finance and tell the Indian Muslims, their religious or intellectual leaders not to succumb to the pressure of the Hindus.

The controversy has recently exacerbated as the Indian federal government is currently in the hands of the Hindu-first political party, the BJP. It has also registered a stunning victory at a provincial election in U.P., the largest province with a sizable Muslim population. The judiciary is also seized of the matter and has decided to give its ruling over the triple talaq.

The triple talaq will have to be taken up as social-justice and not essentially as a political issue. It will have to be approached with compassion and concern by dedicated, quiet and reconciliatory minds.

The Indian Muslims are the best in the world since they know the value of pluralism, democracy, secularism, freedom of speech, equality, and rule of law. 


Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.

Dr. Prasad administers a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.

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