Uncovering Triple Talaq

By Prabhakar Timble
30 May 2017 05:59 IST

All that is known by general public of divorce in respect of the Muslim community is that a Muslim marriage stands dissolved if the man utters the word “talaq” three times. It is on this presupposition that the Muslim community is reduced to a butt of ridicule, though the reality could be quite different. The conjecture about the divorce rate being dreadfully high amongst Muslims due to the infamous ‘triple talaq’ privilege is not corroborated by any statistics. There is also no data to support that the Muslim women have been divorced through the triple talaq mode. The current petition before the five- member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court challenging the validity of triple talaq has provided a platform to the media to thrash the Muslims as worshippers of archaic and outdated customs. The social and TV media seems to relish the juicy opportunity to dump the Muslim community as disrespectful to constitutional principles of equality and fairness. The hype created leads one to conclude that this is the priority and only problem facing Muslims and Muslim women.

 Let me at the outset record that the petition before the Supreme Court is not filed by the victims of triple talaq. It is a response to the direction of the Chief Justice that a public interest petition (PIL) be separately registered and put up before the appropriate Bench concerning the rights of Muslim women against arbitrary divorce. The direction was issued whilst disposing a matter concerning the rights of Hindu daughters under the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2015. (Prakash v/s Phulavati, 2015)

Quran versus Hanafi jurisprudence

 It was during the pre-Islamic times that there was no check on the arbitrary or capricious use of divorce by a husband. The Holy Quran discourages divorce and suggests reconciliation. Divorce is held as the ‘worst of all permitted things’ and to be resorted to only if unavoidable. Quran makes four attempts at reconciliation mandatory prior to divorce. It is only after this that the husband can utter the first divorce (talaq) providing a three-month waiting period (iddah) and if the dispute is not resolved, the final talaq. There is no basis for instant talaq (Talaq-e-bida) in Quran. It is therefore submitted that if it is a question of faith, religion and 1400 years old custom as argued by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), triple talaq has no force of Quran and hence it is illegal and ineffective.

 The AIMPLB is advocating the Hanafi viewpoint which speaks of four forms of talaq: (1) wife’s desire to separate which the husband agrees to fulfil (khula), (2) concurrent desire of both spouses (mubaraat), (3) unilateral action of the wife (tafwiz) and (4) unilateral action of the husband (triple talaq). These extra-judicial and non-statutory modes of divorce are not born from the primary religious book Quran. The judicial divorce is governed by the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939.

Talaq politics

 The targeted intentions of the BJP government may be questioned but the track it has chosen is modern. It could also be a clandestine strategy to expose the minority community as out-of-date with constitutional objectives. The BJP brigade is also using all the power at its command to deride secularism and scorn secularists as a part of its pet agenda. Needless to say that secular thought does not approve gender discrimination and exploitation. Still, the BJP-RSS combine misuses the opportunity to further its skewed political agenda and the majoritarian forces make the most of the situation. These same forces maintain stoic silence on archaic Hindu customs such as child marriages and rebuke Hindu reformers as anti-Hindu and anti-national. They can see the nationalism of freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Savarkar but are blind to the legend as a social reformer when he says “A close scrutiny of the Vedas as well as the Muslim Quran, the Christian Bible and the Jewish Old Testament and the Book of Moses makes it clear that the so-called divinely written or sent religious scriptures are man-made”. They disown Savarkar’s pledge “I shall apply the test of present day science to all the wisdom and ignorance present in these scriptures”.

 Though the triple talaq controversy is projecting the Muslim community in poor light, it has to be equally asserted that no history of Indian music--- vocal and instrumental, painting, sculpture, poetry and architecture can commence without spectacular and indelible contribution of Muslims. This is further true of theatre, films and cuisine. The print of Muslims is seen in every endeavor of performing art and design. Yet, the modern day image sought to be created is that it's a community of uncultured hooligans, terrorists and unwanted nationals.

Beyond talaq

Minorities have suffered the brunt of intra fundamentalist and regressive forces due to the sparse progressive leadership within the community. These forces have attempted to keep the faithful under their thumb raising bogey of religion, rituals and identity. The multiplied threat perceptions to social identity on account of right-wing forces holding political power and making ugly cum ‘hindutva’ demands   have increased the handicaps of the already thin progressive forces.  The fundamentalist and regressive elements are galloping as they project themselves as saviors of the community. That way, the majority community is better placed and fortunate due to education, employment, opportunities of self-growth and progressive social leadership. Today, this leadership is also under vicious attack by forces which claim to be nationalist and torch-bearers of majority pride.

Talaq is not a gigantic issue to be brought centre stage and used for giving vent to the prejudices and biases of majority community against Muslims. It cannot also be the top most priority issue for empowerment and emancipation of Muslims. The critical issues to be addressed are educational backwardness, economic impoverishment and democratic participation of the Muslim community in representative bodies and public administration. 

Blogger's Profile

Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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