is in her mid-30s. A sociology postgraduate and mother of two, she is just one
of the many victims of the tyranny of triple Talaq. Her story, as reported in
the media, is gut-wrenching. Saira Banu endured a bad marriage, an abusive
husband, forced abortions and physical and mental agony for over 10 years.
Then, last year, her husband sent a letter to her parents' home where she was
staying for almost a year. Inscribed on that piece of paper were three words:
"Talaq, Talaq, Talaq".
Saira Banu has decided to fight. But instead
of approaching a court and asked that it order her husband to pay maintenance,
she has opened up a much larger front. Saira Banu has boldly challenged the
validity of her husband's action of whimsically kicking her out, using the
triple Talaq formula. She has petitioned the Supreme Court to declare triple Talaq,
polygamy and Halala (the custom that mandates that if a woman wants to go back
to her husband following divorce, she must first consummate her marriage with
another man) illegal.
women have on a number of occasions asked the top court to grant them
maintenance in wake of an instant divorce, including Shah Banu in the late
1980s, whose case became historic, but this is for the first time a Muslim has
raised the wider issue of rights of Muslim women being trampled on in the name
of Islamic practices.
India Muslim Personal Board, that I often describe as Jurassic Park for its
insistence on clinging to some of the most outdated and medieval customs, has
acted predictably, urging the central government not to share its opinion, as
requested by the Supreme Court.
government must intervene. It should make it clear that either the Muslim
Personal Law Board fall in line with modern secular law when it comes to the
rights of women, or it should just perish. The board can't be let to carry on
with its patriarchal and whimsical ways in the name of securing the Sharia or
case, the interpretation and implementation of the practices such as triple Talaq
go against the Sharia itself. The Islamic way of divorce is an elaborate
procedure, which includes a mandatory period of arbitration. The utterance of Talaq,
Talaq, Talaq thrice at a go is plain un-Islamic. Period. So the Muslim Personal
board defends an un-Islamic practice in the name of Sharia. Their bluff must be
clerics who recognise the practice of triple Talaq point to the practice being
sanctioned during the reign of the second Caliph Omar. True that Caliph Omar
sanctioned triple Talaq, but what these self-serving mullahs do is adopt the
letter of the law, and junk its spirit. Caliph Omar pronounced triple Talaq as
final in a few cases where women wanted to walk out of bad marriages
desperately and their husbands were delaying the divorce by misusing the
long-drawn procedure prescribed in the law. So it was for the sake of women
that Caliph Omar gave legal sanctity to instant talaq in the 7th century. But
what the later mullahs have done is to twist it to suit their own anti-women
and patriarchal ends.
illustration to further explain how mullahs have twisted and turned Islamic
laws and robbed them of their just spirit is the rape law. This is not followed
in India, thankfully, as it's only the laws related to family issues and
inheritance that are allowed as Muslim Personal Laws, but it is a good example
of how a fine law is hijacked to give it a completely anti-women meaning. The
rape law that is applied in some parts of the world, including in parts of
Pakistan in the name of Sharia, puts the onus on the woman to produce four
witnesses who substantiate her rape allegation against the accused. In the
event the woman fails to do so, the man walks free, and the woman is punished
for adultery. It's a common practice. No woman can ever produce four
eyewitnesses to the rape, and no rapist will ever get punished.
did this come from? There is a famous episode in Islamic history involving one
of the Prophet's wives, Aisha. It is known as "The Affair of the
Necklace". As the story goes, while returning from a trade trip, Aisha
lost her precious necklace of pearls. As she searched for it in the desert
bushes, her caravan moved ahead and she was left behind. She was escorted back
to the city by a stranger who helped her in her hour of need. But rumour mills
and misogyny were as strong in the seventh century as they are today. People
started whispering about the Prophet’s wife travelling with a stranger all
alone in the desert. To shut down these rumours and character assassination
attempts, the Prophet ruled that whoever raises an allegation on Aisha must
produce four eyewitnesses to the misconduct or face punishment.
mullahs to twist a pro-women ruling into a whip to be cracked on the women
themselves. So, today, we have a perverted version of the above-mentioned law
in the name of Sharia. This example is just to illustrate how dangerous it is
to just stick to the letter and not the spirit and context of any act of the
Prophet or the early Caliphs.
The laws in
Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, the Philippines, Sudan, Syria, the UAE
and Yemen have totally derecognised the concepts of triple Talaq and Halala.
Why should the All India Personal Law Board be allowed to parade these inhuman
and illegal practices in the 21st century?
survey of about 5,000 women across 10 states by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila
Andolan (BMMA) found that over 90% wanted an end to polygamy and triple Talaq.
Of the 525 divorced women surveyed, 78% had been given triple Talaq; 76 of
these women had to consummate a second marriage so that they could go back to
their former husbands.
Banu's case is a great opportunity to usher in a much-needed reform. The
government and the Supreme Court must weigh in on the side of the Muslim women.
The Muslims Personal Law Board must be shown it place. Saira Banu must not meet
the fate of Shah Banu.
Mohd Asim is Senior News Editor, NDTV 24x7