The hidden agenda behind the debate over Triple Talaq

October 4, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Delhi, October 04, 2016: The issue of Triple Talaq or instant divorce has engaged the Muslim mind for several years. It refuses to die and the discussion is marked by rancour and animated debates on account of which the main issues get clouded and no clear thinking has been able to emerge.

The current debate centres on the practice of Triple Talaq. The Muslim clergy has refused to be drawn into discussion insisting that the issue has already been sealed by the Qur’anic edicts and it is meaningless to reinvent the wheel once again. They feel that any new attempts at a fresh discourse are ill intentioned and have a misguided agenda.

What irks Muslims is that voices that are so strident on matters of Triple Talaq turn absolutely mute and shrill when it comes to chronic problems which are responsible for growing ignorance in the community. Discrimination against Muslims in India is very rampant. As a group, Muslims have fallen badly in recent decades in education, employment and economic status, with persistent discrimination a key reason. Muslims are more likely to live in villages without schools or medical facilities and less likely to qualify for bank loans. Let these activists ponder before their actions turn further progress on economic reform into a sideshow, with secondary issues occupying center stage.

It is true that in societies trapped in poverty, illiteracy and ignorance, women continue to receive abominable and oppressive treatment. But then, this is true of all societies. Muslims cannot be singled out for such a flawed social order. In several cases, the plight of Muslim women is a direct consequence of a repressive and highly discriminatory State. We don’t have to personally visit places to see the face of the demeaning levels of poverty and destitution women suffer in so many countries.

To be honest the Triple Talaq is almost a non issue and activists are trying to make it a centerpiece of Muslim gender issues and turning a mole hill into a mountain. There are more pressing issue confronting Muslim woman, most of whom live in abysmal conditions of poverty and destitution. It is this appealing condition that needs an urgent focus. Newspapers and media are blaring day in and day out the plight of these women. But his does not in any way detract from the gravity of the issue of Talaq that has now become a rage in feminist circles.

All too often, Muslim women are used as pawns to justify Western imperialism, colonialism, and militarism. Rape, sexual harassment, and violence against women are not isolated to a particular faith, but instead, exist in every country, religion, and community that is patriarchal.

The problem is not Islam; the problem is patriarchy. The stereotype of the helpless Muslim woman, oppressed by her faith and her nation, is used by secular liberals and conservatives alike for their hidden agenda. All too often, Muslim women are used as pawns to justify. Yes, Islam may have patriarchal elements, but so does every religion and culture. It is written into the fabric of how we interact and how we organize ourselves. To criticize Islam as a uniquely violent or particularly patriarchal religion is a racist characterisation based on a narrow set of assumptions about who Muslims are and what faith they practice.

The community resents that Muslim family laws are sacrosanct and even courts can’t examine their validity. Legal experts say the practice is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court has been pushing for uniformity in laws. In 1985, the top court ruled ordered a man to pay alimony to his elderly wife, after verbally divorcing and abandoning her. The Indian government in office at the time, however, managed to overturn the verdict retroactively by passing a law to protect Muslim divorce law. Many suspect the government was under pressure from Muslim leaders to stay out of their business or lose their electoral support. The main argument of those who opposed the judgment of the top court was that it made a sweeping generalisation of the plight of Muslim women and strongly advocated the Uniform Civil Code without elaborating its meritocracy. They believed it was part of a larger agenda of diluting Muslim religious practices. .

It may come as a shock to numerous Muslims and others that the Qur’an does not prescribe this form of divorce at all. It is not just Indian Muslim women who are suffering. In some countries in the Middle East and Malaysia, mobile devices have been used to end marriages by simply texting Talaq, Talaq, Talaq. And before the advent of mobile devices, there were instances when telephone calls, snail mail and even telegrams were used to communicate divorce.

The truth is that the concept of instant Triple Talaq is alien to Islam as it goes against the very spirit of the procedure of divorce laid down in the Qur’an. Even the Prophet (PBUH) when he was informed about a man who gave three divorces at a time was so enraged that he said, “Are you playing with the Book of Allah who is Great and Glorious while I am still amongst you?” The acclaimed Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiya rejected the traditionalist view on the “triple divorce” – Muslim institutions must understand that Qur’anic ontology revolves around the principles of justice, fairness and equity, and therefore, any law that contravenes or abridges the rights arising out of these standards of ethics automatically becomes unacceptable.

In fact, the Qur’an has specifically laid down a formula of a three-tiered calibrated divorce, keeping in mind human frailties. The first two stages give an opportunity to the estranged couple to reconsider their decision and, if possible, reconcile and resume their married relationship.

But it is only the third and last step, if traversed that would make the Talaq irrevocable. Therefore, the most important injunction in the Qur’an, in this regard, is that after each pronouncement of Talaq there has to be compulsorily a period of waiting or iddat that provides a timeout to reflect on the alternatives to a divorce.

It is noteworthy that neither the utterance of Talaq thrice in one sentence nor a single pronouncement to indicate an intention of irrevocably dissolving the marriage had the approval of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The triple Talaq in one sitting is called Talaq-ul-Biddat — a heretical Talaq. The Triple Talaq, which Muslims are made to believe is based on divine revelation, is nothing but a man-made legal evasion created by a pliant Muslim clergy during the second century of the Muhammadan era.

There are two hadith (narrations of sayings of the Prophet) in (Divorce -Kitab Al Talaq – of Sunan Abu Dawud)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: Abdu Yazid, the father of Rukanah and his brothers, divorced Umm Rukanah and married a woman of the tribe of Muzaynah. She went to the Prophet (PBUH) and said: He is of no use to me except that he is as useful to me as a hair; and she took a hair from her head. So separate me from him. The Prophet (PBUH) became furious. He called on Rukanah and his brothers. He then said to those who were sitting beside him. Do you see so-and-so who resembles Abdu Yazid in respect of so-and-so; and so-and-so who resembles him in respect of so-and-so? They replied: Yes. The Prophet (PBUH) said to Abdu Yazid: Divorce her. Then he did so. He said: Take your wife, the mother of Rukanah and his brothers, back in marriage. He said: I have divorced her by three pronouncements, Apostle of Allah. He said: I know: take her back. He then recited the verse: “O Prophet, when you divorce women, divorce them at their appointed periods.” (‘Divorce (Kitab Al-Talaq)’ of Sunan Abu-Dawud: 2191)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: Tawus said: Abus Sahba’ said to Ibn Abbas:” Do you know that a divorce by three pronouncements was made a single one during the time of the Prophet (pbuh), and of AbuBakr and in the early days of the caliphate of Umar? “‘He replied: Yes’. (‘Divorce -Kitab Al-Talaq-of Sunan Abu-Dawud: 2194)

It is necessary for the Muslim community to look inward and reexamine the whole issue in the light of the scriptural injunctions. It need not be overemphasised that Islam assigns a very dignified status to women, but sadly they continue to remain undervalued. The key to reformation is: empowerment. Muslim women’s empowerment, like many things, cannot be imposed on a country or a culture from the outside. Men and women within these conservative communities must first find their own reasons and their own justifications to allow women a fuller role in society. Increasingly, they are finding those reasons within Islam. Like men, women deserve to be free. In today’s increasingly global world, the stakes are higher than ever—for everyone. Societies that invest in and empower women are on a virtuous cycle. They become richer, more stable, better governed, and less prone to fanaticism. Countries that limit women’s educational and employment opportunities and their political voice get stuck in a downward spiral.

They are poorer, more fragile, have higher levels of corruption, and are more prone to extremism. Islam

Empowering women should be as much a man’s responsibility, as it is a woman’s aspiration. Interestingly, some of the most influential Islamic feminist thinkers are men.

It is only a matter of time until the day comes when they [women] test their chains and break free. As Rumi says in the Mathnawi, “This woman, who is your beloved, is in fact a ray of His light. She is not a mere creature. She is like a creator”.

– tcn

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