Triple- Talaq has managed to capture the time and imagination of the Indian audience, thanks to media houses and News hour debates. While eminent personalities express their thoughtful opinion in 9 0’clock debates and lawyers on each side vehemently defend their stances in the apex court, it seems extremely ridiculous and awkward to many practicing Muslims, that their Muslim brethren are defending a practice against which the Quran has unequivocally raised its voice.
The Quran which was revealed in the 7th century AD to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was not only a spiritual text. It was a political weapon for social upheaval. It categorically voiced against many socially unjust practices that had become the norm in Arabia as in other parts of the world. And one among them was the practice of instantaneous divorce.
It had become the standard in many parts of the world for men to arrogantly dissolve their marriage, without the approval of their wives or the consultation of others in the family. Most of these instantaneous divorces which became the monopoly of men, gave a life of misery for women who were immediately thrown out of the family, starved of any rights or maintenance.
The Quran radically reformed this practice by laying down explicit rules and regulations regarding divorce, which ensured that women were not always at the receiving end. It formalized and institutionalized the practice of divorce to ensure that marital relation neither becomes considered a relation so frivolous nor transcends into the supreme hegemony of men.
Yes, the Talaq is said three times. But the only difference is that there is a gap of 3 months between each of the Talaqs, designated for mutual compromise and reconciliation.
The laws of Quran advocate that attempts for restoration of marital relations through arbitration, if necessary involving family members is a must for any divorce. A three month waiting period, called Iddah is meant for restoring normalcy in relations. This period begins soon after the pronouncement of the first Talaq and is mandatory for any process of divorce to be considered valid.
Surah 65:1 says,” Prophet, when you [Muslims] divorce women, divorce them for [the commencement of] their waiting period and keep count of the waiting period, and fear Allah, your Lord.”
Surah 2:228 says, “And divorced women shall wait (as regards their marriage) for three menstrual periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allâh has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allâh and the Last Day”
Thus, through Iddah, the Quran establishes that dialogue and mutual compromise requires time and commitment of both parties and is the best method to solve problems in marital relations.
If both parties are willing, the Talaq can be withdrawn during the period of Iddah. If they feel that they cannot reconcile, they can go for the second Talaq. The second Talaq also follows the same procedure of Iddah during which the couple can try to reunite. If they still feel that the relation is not working, even after sincere arbitration and consultation, they can opt for the third Talaq which is finalized, irrevocable and meant to be done in a respectful manner.
Surah 65:2 says,” And when they have [nearly] fulfilled their term, either retain them according to acceptable terms or part with them according to acceptable terms.”
Thus, the Quran makes it clear that instantaneous divorce by mentioning Talaq thrice in one sitting can have no acceptability and validity in a progressive society. Thus whether the number of Talaqs said in one sitting is three or thirty, the divorce will have no validity unless the period of Iddah is observed and attempts to harmonize relations are made during this period.
Divorce had by then become an extremely sharp weapon for physical, mental, emotional and economic harassment of women. The Quran explicitly lays down norms to ensure that women do not suffer setbacks during the process of divorce. It gives an equal footing for women in relation to their rights over their partner and their family.
Surah 2:228 says,” And they (women) have rights (over their husbands as regards living expenses) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as regards obedience and respect) to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them.”
This degree of responsibility awarded to men, doesn’t provide them the authority to subjugate and dominate their wives. Rather it makes them responsible for their upkeep and welfare. Several verses of the Quran give clear instructions to men not to harm, harass or oppress women during divorce.
Surah 65:1 says, “. Do not turn them out of their [husbands'] houses, nor should they [themselves] leave [during that period] unless they are committing a clear immorality. And those are the limits [set by] Allah. And whoever transgresses the limits of Allah has certainly wronged himself.”
Surah 2:231 says,” And so, when you divorce women and they reach the end of their waiting term, then either retain them in a fair manner or let them go in a fair manner. And do not retain them to their hurt or by way of transgression; whosoever will do that will indeed wrong himself. “
The Quran also makes it unambiguous that the husband may not demand anything from his wife during the process of divorce or after it unless and until the wife is willing to give it without coercion.
Surah 2:229 says,” (While dissolving the marriage tie) it is unlawful for you to take back anything of what you have given to your wives unless both fear that they may not be able to keep within the bounds set by Allah. Then, if they fear that they might not be able to keep within the bounds set by Allah, there is no blame upon them for what the wife might give away of her property to become released from the marriage tie. These are the bounds set by Allah; do not transgress them. Those of you who transgress the bounds set by Allah are indeed the wrong-doers.”
It is 2:229 which also validates divorce that is initiated by women which is known as Khula in which case the women gives away her mehr (Bridal gifts given by the groom) or a part of it, in order to get separated from her husband. Thus in a land where divorce had become the unabated monopoly of men, the Quran revolutionized the concept by giving an equal right to women in the matter, thus reiterating values of equality.
It had also become customary in Arabia for men to arbitrarily pronounce and revoke divorce any number of times, thereby increasing the hardship of women who could neither live happily with them nor enter into a fresh marriage contract. This is why the Quran has restricted the number of times the divorce is pronounced to three and the third time it is said, the divorce becomes irrevocable.
Surah 2:230 says,” Then, if he divorces her (for the third time, after having pronounced the divorce twice), she shall not be lawful to him unless she first takes another man for a husband, and he divorces her.253”
It is drawing upon 2:230 that certain sects within Islam arrange the practice called Nikkah Halala in which the after the third divorce the woman is made to enter into a fresh marriage and obtain divorce from that marriage so as to revoke the relations with her former husband. However, this would merely be an act of sheer corruption and adultery that violates the fundamental principles that the Quran lays down. 2:230 was merely intended to ensure that the former husband does not prevent the wife from entering into a new marriage contract and not to create practices like Nikkah Halala which work against the morality of the society by degrading the status and dignity of women.
Thus, when the Quran lays down such explicit and unambiguous laws regarding divorce, which stresse the importance of arbitration and compromise and which ensure gender parity in the process, what is the validity of Triple Talaq that is mentioned nowhere in the Quran and works against the very principles that the Quran tries to establish? When the Quran says that a period for reconciliation of relations through arbitration is a must for divorce, does the Triple Talaq which dismisses marital relations in a matter of seconds even stand a chance as being Islamic?
It is disheartening to see eminent advocates putting forward flimsy arguments in the Supreme Court that compare Triple Talaq to the belief that Ayodhya is Ram Janmabhoomi, thereby trying to justify the practice. Though both are issues that involve religious ideals, Triple Talaq is more than just a religious belief. It is a social evil, one against which the Quran itself has fought, one which reminds of an uncivilized and brutal Arabia that Islam reformed.
The issue of Triple Talaq unlike what the Attorney General said in the Supreme Court, is not a battle between Muslim men and Muslim women. It is a battle between what is really Islamic and what is thought to be Islamic. A battle between the truth and the false. A battle between the right and the wrong. A battle to overthrow the innumerable prejudices and false beliefs about Islam that have been actively perpetrated by Muslims themselves. A battle to establish an egalitarian, democratic and peaceful society that true Islam aimed to create.
PS: The original post was published on 10 th June 2017 , many weeks before the Supreme court verdict on the Triple Talaq