Triple talaq issue may not be hogging limelight for obvious reasons. When the majority of Indians are standing in serpentine queues outside their bank branches and ATMs to withdraw a little bit of cash to buy essentials, such issues are expected to be better left at the margins.
But the issue is expected to hog limelight again once the demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes is resolved through infusion of enough cash in the market. There are signs that this whole process may take around six months or slightly more. So while bread, milk, school tuition fee of kids and even salt keep the people busy and their quest to get hold of enough cash continues to be elusive, the issue can remain slightly forgotten by people and the media too.
Despite the issue being relegated to the margins, it has still not been completely forgotten and will certainly become another rallying point for pseudo-supporters of Muslim women who shed crocodile tears for them.
BJP’s top hand for Muslim outreach program who has got a place in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ministry, MJ Akbar, has again brought the issue into the discourse. In a detailed interview with a leading newspaper the renowned author and former journalist said, “The spirit of the holy Quran is clearly on the side of gender emancipation…The 65th sura of the holy Quran discusses marriage and divorce. The prophet describes divorce as the thing that is lawful but disliked by God, one that is legal but the last option, not the first. Even when the divorce is legalised there are injunctions that one must take time — give due consideration, have consultations and the time period is set — three months at least”.
He goes on to add “According to the spirit of Quran, if a couple fears separation, you appoint an arbitrator from his family and from her family in order to save the marriage, and if they reconcile, Allah will help them get together. There is sustenance for a divorced wife. If a divorced woman wants to stay in the same home, she is entitled to (do so) but you cannot force her to stay against her will. That is the kind of emancipation that the holy Quran allowed at a time when women in the world had no rights. Gender rights are the beginning of Islam”.
There is no denying that there is need for reform in Muslim personal law in the country, the initiative needs to come from within and not forced from outside. This will not be accepted by Muslims, and instead of improving the fate of the Muslim women, it will have adverse and negative impact on them.
Under All India Muslim Personal Law Board, different Muslim religious organizations have come together to take a united stand against the government’s move in this regard. The Muslim Personal Law Board has even tried to bring a large number of Muslim women to support its stance. It is also prompting Muslim women to sign a petition that it has started sending to law commission of India demanding that Indian Muslim women are against any interference in existing Muslim personal law in the country.
Reports suggest that Muslim Personal Law Board and other religious organizations have already collected as many as ten million forms submitted by both men and women from the community. Meanwhile Barelvi and Deobandi sects seem to have buried their differences and have presented a united face against the ‘assault’ on Muslim Personal Law in the country.
They are claiming that the triple talaq issue has been raked up to vitiate communal atmosphere before Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Women India Movement, a social organisation of Muslim women has said that Muslim women will not allow the BJP government to interfere in the Muslim personal law.
The WIM’s president Yasmin Farooqui while talking about it said, "The Central government is politicising the practice of triple talaq to gain advantage and polarise Hindu votes in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, which will not be accepted," National President of the organisation Yasmin Farooqui told reporters here. Farooqui claimed that the move to bring uniform civil code was a "conspiracy" of the Union government to "enforce" Uniform Civil Code for Muslims, which is a violation of right to freedom given by the Constitution. "The Muslim women are ready for any sacrifice under the leadership of All India Muslim Personal Law Board if the government does not stop this interference," she said.
The issue of women’s welfare, that should have been best left for the community to decide, has been turned into an emotive issue by BJP and union government’s interference. Muslim women are not going to support the government move under any circumstances and large Muslim women rallies in Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka and other places are enough proof that they solidly support the cleric.
Instead of direct interference by government, there was need to allow the community to take the initiative and make necessary changes in this regard. Muslims are waking up to the issue and even clerics are talking against practice of triple talaq.
Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, a leading religious organization of Indian Muslims, in a huge program in Ajmer has said that triple talaq in a single sitting is completely un-Islamic. While making a historic announcement during the religious congregation, Mahmood Madani, the general secretary of the Jamiat said that triple talaq in single sitting is completely un-Islamic practice and that it should be done away completely. The occasion was also important due to the fact that Barelvi and Deobandi presented a united face in the Ajmer conference.
Maulana Abdul Hameed Numani, a well-known religious scholar in an article in Daily Inquilab says, “It must be kept in mind that the divorce is meant to end the marriage that has become too torturous and unbearable for man and woman or for one party in a marriage and a single talaq can be sufficient to end it. The single talaq keeps the door of return for the man and woman if they are able to reconcile their differences... In such cases the man and woman can decide to return and will not need a fresh nikah. On the other hand, triple talaq in a single sitting makes it almost impossible for the husband and wife to unite again”.
The latest announcement by Mahmood Madani, whose organization has huge influence over thousands of madrasas across the country, is an indication that Muslims organizations too are waking up to the importance of the issue. It is hoped that Madani’s assertion will have huge influence over not just those madrasas that come under his organization’s influence, but also those madrasas that come under the influence of his new found Barelvi friends.
How religious leaders are failing India
Triple Talaq divides Indian Muslims
Are Azam Khan and Asaduddin Owaisi coming together in UP?
How Muslim political parties are helping the BJP win elections
Syed Ubaidur Rahman is a New Delhi based writer and commentator. He has written several books on Muslims and Islam in India including Understanding Muslim Leadership in India.