Triple Talaq: A Conservative Society or an Egalitarian Society?

Triple Talak has been a burning issue in the past one year. Questions of its fairness to women and whether it is quranic or not is being answered by clergy and the Courts. This blog explores further.

Marriage: A Social Contract

Marriage is not merely a union of two individuals; it is also the reason for unity in society. The major problem regarding the issue is the fact that it is often mistaken for the religion itself. Over the years, the notion of marriage and divorce or Triple Talaq has evolved, changed, and modified in the Islamic community in a very different color – the color of a civil contract. In the realm of this pious social institution, a group of male chauvinists have tainted this special bond and have compelled to reduce its status to mere temporary conjunction for enjoyment – capable of ending easily by the arbitrary formalities. It is rightly proclaimed by the Prophet, “With Allah, the most detestable of all things permitted is divorce.”[1]

Triple Talaq: The Customs Followed

Triple Talaq or Talaq-ul-biddat is one of the traditional or non-judicial ways of divorcing one’s wife. It is often regarded as the worst form of Talaq as a mere pronunciation of the formula of Talaq three times in a single tuhr (purity period) in any form – text message, over the phone, even post on social media, and many more brings an end to the marital relations. Talaq…Talaq…Talaq… and the end of a beautiful bond. The main aspect of criticizing this form of Talaq is its nature of irrevocability. Once the third pronouncement is over, the divorce is affirmed and cannot be revoked during the iddat period. And then, ‘Nikah Halala’ is the only way for the parted spouses to reunite as a couple. Despite the strong Quranic discouragement of this shrewd practice, triple talaq is still very vogue and widely recognized mode of non-judicial divorce among the Sunni Sect of the Islamic community. In contemporary times, the dignity of a woman, irrespective of race, creed, religion, is the paramount concern and the menace of triple talaq seems to be out of order.

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The extremely anarchic practice of divorcing one’s wife prevalent among Sunnis is one of the most controversial aspects of the Muslim religion all over the world. Strongly condemned and criticized, this practice has been banned in many Islamic countries. The intense debate over its link with the religion and its utility in the present era of the 21st century has triggered a movement of reforms to abolish this practice in every Islamic and secular country. As many as 22 Arab and Muslim states including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Sudan, Turkey, Cyprus, Tunisia, Algeria, the Malaysian state of Sarawak, Morocco, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Bangladesh, have prohibited triple talaq. In doing so, they have followed Ibn Taymiyyah’s and Ibn al-Qiyam’s positions on the question of interpretation of Talaq uttered thrice in one go[2]. In Sri Lanka, a very precise and clear law – the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, 1951 has been enacted to deal with the matter of divorce. This law derecognizes the practice of instant divorce by making it mandatory for the husband to give a notice indicating his intention to obtain a divorce to the quasi, who will try to reconcile the differences between the spouses within 30 days after the date on which the notice was received. Further, Section 7 of the Muslim Family Law Ordinance in 1961 expressly bans talaq-ul-biddat in the country of Pakistan.

Legal Provisions

In India, the land of customs, traditions, religions, and relations the matters of marriage and divorce incorporate a lot of emotions and are sensitive in nature. The practice of triple-talaq being an important tenet of Islamic law of divorce, its preservation is one of the main agendas of the Muslim community in the country. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), which was established in 1972 acts as the main advocate of triple talaq in India and continuously fights for its legality. The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, allows Indian Muslims to be governed by the Shariat (Islamic law), based on the Quran and Hadith (utterances of the Prophet), in matters of personal law. In the absence of any codification even within the Quranic framework, however, the Shariat has been subject to interpretations by the Muslim clergy, who have held these practices as sacrosanct[3].

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Justice Delayed: Not Denied

But, the draconian socio-legal and economic impacts of triple talaq on Muslim women of the society are so wide and diverse that it is often condemned for being arbitrary, prejudicial and unnecessary in nature. The poor and pitiable condition of women after the sudden, unexpected and even uninformed abandonment by the husband is currently the main issue in the country which calls for equality among people of different sexes and talks about human rights. The role of Indian Judiciary in dealing with the matter of triple talaq is really appreciable and deserves a special mention when the frivolousness of this practice is the main concern. On December 8, 2016, the Allahabad High Court used strong words against the practice of triple talaq, describing it as “unconstitutional” and a violation of the rights of Muslim women[4]. The recent petition by Shayara Bano is also an important a case the adjudication of which will bring positive results.

However, the never-ending debate over ‘Uniform Civil Code’ makes it difficult for the government to deal with the matter. The basic loophole in dealing with this matter is the tendency of the legislature to give in to the threats articulated by a very small group of Muslim male chauvinists and their constant act of showcasing themselves as the advocates of democracy. But it is firmly believed that the increased awareness among the Muslim community regarding the need for preserving human dignity and the realization of the futility and biases of this practice, will be the only way out to trigger a proper process of prohibiting this practice for all the times to come.

Also read When Ethnic Minorities Divorce in Multicultural Britain: A Survey of Legal Challenges with a Focus on the South Asian Experience

[1] HADIT No. 2018

[2] Ashraf Ajaz, If Pakistan and 21 other countries have abolished triple talaq, why can’t India? SCROLL.IN

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[3] Shalini Nair, Govt, Law Board: Framing the Triple Talaq argument,  THE INDIAN EXPRESS

[4] Tufail Ahmad, Triple Talaq violates Fundamental Right: Supreme Court should rule against it, FIRST POST