Islam has two sects – Shia and Sunni. These sects emerged owing to differences in opinions following the death of Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD as to who would lead Islam, which was then a new and a rapidly growing faith. Some section within the Muslim faith wanted Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law (Muhammad’s descendant), Ali, to be the rightful successor (known as the “caliph”). While another section believed that the leader should be chosen by consensus. The end result was the election of Abu Bakr as the successor, causing differences and rift between the people. Thus the sect comprising followers of Ali came to be known as Shia while the other one loyal to Abu Bakr was called Sunni. Two successive assassinations after Abu Bakr’s election ensued and Ali eventually did became the caliph only to be assassinated at the Battle of Karbala.
Talaq is an Arabic word meaning divorce. The custom of triple talaq is followed by Sunnis and it states that a husband can divorce his wife by enunciating the word “talaq” thrice.
Shias, although belonging to the same religion of Islam, oppose this custom citing its total absence in the Holy book of Quran. Just like any other custom, triple talaq apparently evolved in the Sunni society and culture with time. It finds a mention in the Sharia, the religious law which governs the members of the Islamic faith and this forms the basis for support to this practice. However, many countries including the Muslim-majority ones have laws which render “triple talaq” a not-so-effective law, paving a legal route to register for a divorce.
What can be a more happier moment than waking up to see your phone flooded with Whatsapp and Facebook notifications? But what if you could be divorced by a mere Whatsapp message or over a Facebook post?
Triple Talaq in India
India still needs to fight a tough battle to end triple talaq for its Muslim population. It is a custom which renders women powerless and voiceless, as they face rejection and isolation from their community, for no one really wants to talk about it openly because of fear of strict opposition from the hard-lined community members. Reports of women receiving talaq over Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp have been surfacing in social media and some news channels. As amusing as it may sound, the women has to live under a constant fear of receiving an instant divorce. Recent instances of Muslim women groups, particularly All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board, coming out to protest against this practice has to be seen as welcome sign by all those who are against gender-based discrimination, from people from all walks of life.
Sadly, in our country it is difficult to find full political support because of the quantum of vote bank involved with triple talaq as it amounts to politics of appeasement of religious communities. Favouring triple talaq equals support to hard-lined clerics and scholars who can influence the Muslim population. I believe that non-Muslims in India can be the biggest helping hand in the fight to ban triple talaq as they have nothing to fear. By supporting this cause in the name of human rights, they can voice their opinion to scrap this traditional law which snatches away dignity of women. They can protest loud and give voice to tens of millions of Muslim women in India. This rising voice against triple talaq should not be seen as an unwanted interference in the functioning of a particular community but as a movement to bring reform to its centuries-old and obsolete laws. A mass movement on social media can give a big push to this movement to ban triple talaq.
Since triple talaq finds its basis in the Sharia, Sunnis and Shias should collectively analyse and debate on Sharia laws. Definitely a solution and a common ground can be reached if they are serious about the future Muslim generations. Just as it is true for Hinduism, those clerics and scholars who are strongly opposed to progressive reforms have deep-rooted insecurities for their positions and roles if they witness these reforms in their lifetime. I wonder what will these clerics do if their daughters and sisters are divorced by triple talaq, would they still support it in letter and spirit?
A “surgical strike” to end triple talaq would not the serve the entire purpose of putting an end to the practices of demeaning women in Islam. But an initiation has begun which is a good sign. What more evil mental conditioning can you see than the defendant, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) saying that triple talaq prevents the wives from being murdered or burnt by their husbands. I don’t understand what act or mistake by a Muslim woman would force her husband to burn her. This speaks of the patriarchal setup and male-dominated thinking that is rooted in our society (mind you that many similar customs exist in Hinduism which need urgent reforms). Nothing new. Opposing the legal route as a substitute to triple talaq, the AIMPLB opines that the Judiciary is too slow in these matters. Triple talaq is definitely not in line with today’s modern thinking – where is gender equality here? To counter the defendants of triple talaq – why not give triple talaq to women to divorce their husbands?
Whatsoever be the logic behind the birth and continued practice of triple talaq, since it is not mentioned in the Holy Quran and since Islam espouses justice, kindness, compassion and wisdom, a healthy debate should definitely shape the opinions in a progressive (and not regressive) direction. As Victor Hugo said, “Nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come”. This idea must meet its logical end.