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The Word That Destroys Lives

Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are identified in the footnotes below.


By Samya Amir



Talaq, talaq, talaq, - does this word ring a bell? Maybe not to you, but this is the word that thousands identify, detest and love at the same time. The statement ‘use your words wisely’ comes out in the truest sense when we speak about talaq, which is an Islamic word for divorce, denoting a dissolution of marriage when a Muslim man can sever all marital ties with his wife. Under the Muslim law or the Sharia, Triple Talaq means liberty from the relationship of marriage, eventually or immediately, where the man, by simply uttering the word ‘talaq’ three times, ends his marriage. This instant divorce is called Triple Talaq, also known as ‘talaq-e-biddat’[1]. What seems most arbitrary is the fact that this divorce can be given via text, skype, letter, WhatsApp, or skype.


Talaq-e-biddat is banned in 22 countries, including Muslim countries such as that of Pakistan and Bangladesh. The origin of triple talaq was during the period of Hazrath Abu Bakr, where it was accepted as a norm[2]. However, the Quran must be differentiated from the Hadith. Although the two are vital sources for Islamic legislation, the Quran is considered at a higher pedestal and it explicitly mentions in Surah Al Baqarah, chapter 2, verse 228, that when giving a divorce, it is necessary to wait for three months before it is binding on both parties, this talaq is known as talaq-e-Hasan. Here, the man says the word talaq every month (tuhr) and it becomes binding only in the third month. The irony lies in the fact that the Holy Quran has no mention of instantaneous talaq, the only reason why it still exists is because it is so readily accepted by the ummah, especially by Indian Muslims. When speaking of Triple Talaq, some cases worth mentioning are that of Shah Bano, Shayara Bano, Atiya Sabri and the Danial Latifi case.


The Triple Talaq Bill in India, also known as Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, was passed by the Indian Parliament as a law on July 30, 2019, to make instant Triple Talaq a criminal offence. Emphasis should be placed on the fact that something which clearly belongs to the civil realm is now considered a criminal offence. The Rajya Sabha (upper house) passed the Bill, with 99 votes in its favour and 84 against it. The Triple Talaq law makes the instant triple talaq a criminal offence and provides for a jail term of three years for a Muslim man who commits the crime. The law also makes Triple Talaq a cognisable and non-bailable offence. Introduced in the Lok Sabha (lower house) by Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad on June 21, 2019, the Bill replaced an Ordinance promulgated on February 21, 2019[3].


According to Clause 3 in Chapter 2 of the Bill, it is said that punishment for triple talaq would be imprisonment which may last up to 3 years with the person also facing a risk of being fined. One of the reasons why this bill is seen as so contentious is because Muslims form a minority in India. Post-independence in 1947, there remained tension between the two major religions i.e., Hindus and Muslims. While some Muslims fled to Pakistan claiming it to be their homeland, some stayed back in secular India, considering it their own home. Some Indian Muslims feel that this law is archaic in nature and a step towards demeaning their religion. While doing away with talaq-e-biddat like the other countries seems like the right thing to do, what cannot and must not be overlooked is the sheer criminal aspect of it which has now been introduced.


Repeating earlier criticism of the Bill and how it glosses over the actual process of providing justice to Muslim women, the activists argue that imprisoning a husband leaves the complainant at the mercy of her matrimonial family. Such a family, they say, could turn hostile towards the wife for complaining against the husband and putting him behind bars. The bill neither addresses nor concerns itself with the financial security of the woman and her children, say the signatories, who also point out how the Bill becomes the first instance in free India where criminal provisions have been brought into matters of marriage and divorce which are avowedly civil. One statement read, ‘You cannot pretend to save Muslim women while seeking to bring the Muslim community to its knees’[4].


The basic question that comes to one’s mind is this: does the triple talaq bill do anything right for women? Or has this case also been politicised only for the entertainment and votes for the politicians? Does it always come down to powerplay? Even when we talk about thousands of lives that could be destroyed?



 

Sources [1] The Business Standard Writer, ‘What is Triple Talaq Law’ Business Standard (India) <https://www.business-standard.com/about/what-is-triple-talaq-law> accessed 30 November 2020 [2] Sahih Muslim Volume 2, Book of Divorce, Hadith Number 3491. [3] (n 1) [4] The Wire Staff, ‘’Complete Charade’: Activists, Civil Society Groups Condemn Triple Talaq Bill’ The Wire (India, 31 July 2019) <https://m.thewire.in/article/communalism/triple-talaq-bill-muslim-women> accessed 30 November 2020


Bibliography

  1. The Business Standard Writer, ‘What is Triple Talaq Law’ Business Standard (India) <https://www.business-standard.com/about/what-is-triple-talaq-law> accessed 30 November 2020

  2. Sahih Muslim Volume 2, Book of Divorce, Hadith Number 3491.

  3. The Wire Staff, ‘’Complete Charade’: Activists, Civil Society Groups Condemn Triple Talaq Bill’ The Wire (India, 31 July 2019) <https://m.thewire.in/article/communalism/triple-talaq-bill-muslim-women> accessed 30 November 2020

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