By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
22 April 2017
( Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009)
This article is prompted by the ongoing debate on the Issue of instant triple Talaq that renders the Qur’anic tenets on marriage and divorce null and void.
From two of the recently posted articles referenced below, it is gathered that AIMPLB has put an affidavit to the Supreme Court of India stating that “if triple Talaq mode of divorce was declared illegal, it would amount to disregarding Allah's directions and rewriting of the Holy Quran  and if triple Talaq is abolished, “some Muslims may resort to illegal, criminal ways of murdering or burning her (estranged wife) alive to avoid the time consuming and costly way of processing a divorce through legal channels. . If this indeed is true, I will able to defend the caption and suggestion of this article in the divine court. I am not concerned about what the members of AIMPLB or any other Muslim, ignorant of Qur’anic message, may think about this article because, as a Muslim, I am required to be a witness to truth (Qur’anic message) to humanity as the Prophet was a witness to truth to his audience (2:143).
Until the advent of Islam, women in all major civilization lived virtually at the mercy of men and suffered deep and oppressive misogyny. Beginning with the Arabs, they regarded the birth of a girl so shameful that they buried it alive (16:58/59, 43:17, 81:8). They could abandon their wives without giving them the freedom of divorce by simply saying “you are to me like my mother’s back’(58:2). When they left home on any mission, they often left no provision for their wives and expected them to co-habit with other men who would look after their needs. Barring exceptions, women had no legal rights and no way to separate from a cruel or unworthy husband. Above all, a married woman was expected to treat her husband like her Lord, whose biddings she must follow like the command of God.
The condition of women in the rival civilizations of the era was no better. The Zoroastrians (Persians) kept their women in confinement, guarded by eunuchs. The Greek followed their example and kept their women in gynaecium, often under lock and key. The Hindus burnt their widows alive on funeral pyres of their dead husband’s bodies - a practice continued until recent centuries. The Chinese bound their women’s feet in iron shoes as a cultural norm, obviously, to restrict their movement. The Christian Church placed women under eternal domination of men. (The Bible, Genesis 3.16). Roman male citizens could kill their women by law, if they found them committing adultery.
Islam changes all this. It abolishes female infanticide, and offers a plethora of concessions to women and places some restriction on men, as summarily pieced together below:
It puts no gender based restriction on a growing up girl. As she reaches a marriageable age (4:6), it allows her to choose her own spouse (2:221).It commands a man to give an agreed dower (saduqat) to his bride but permits her to voluntarily remit a part of it (4:4). It obligates a man to pay half the amount of the dower if it was already agreed, or a reasonable dower (if the amount was not agreed) in the event of his refusal to proceed with the marriage (2:236/237). It exhorts him to be considerate and humane in his conjugal relations by adding a spiritual dimension to marital sexuality (2:223) and dismisses any notion of marital rape by its general prohibition of not taxing anyone beyond his/ her capacity (2:233, 65:7). It entrusts a man with care, support and maintenance of his wife (4:34), permits a woman in wedlock to have an independent income and to share it with others (4:32).It abolishes the custom of a man’s abandoning his wife by simply taking an oath without releasing her (2:226).It lays down clear protocol of arbitration to reconcile estranged relations in wedlock (4:35) and sets out a three month time-frame or waiting period for a divorce (2:228/229) to become irrevocable. It commands a man to accommodate his wife under notice of divorce during the waiting period in the manner he lived and according to his circumstances (65:7), and mandates a reasonable alimony for the divorced woman (2:241). It permits a divorced woman to marry a person of her choice after the waiting period (2:230). It forbids her last husband from remarrying her, conceivably to allow her to enter into a fresh marriage, unhindered by any claim from his side (2:230), though it allows her remarriage with her previous husband if her new husband divorced her – regardless of the consummation of her fresh marriage (2:230). It also allows a woman in wedlock to terminate her marriage unilaterally after paying a reasonable compensation (2:229). It allows a widow to entertain marriage proposal from genuine suitors after a 4 month and ten days mourning period (2:234/235), and entitles her to live and avail all her necessary provisions in the household of her deceased husband for up to one year (2:240), and to inherit from him – one eighth of what he left if there were children and one-fourth if there was no off-spring (4:12). It also removes all taboos against a menstruating woman (2:222), sanctifies love and mercy between the spouses(30:21) and appoints men and women in wedlock as friends and protectors of one another (9:71),though acknowledging the relativity of God’s bounties on either sex (4:34). It censures men for their tendency to sexually exploit women (4:24), and restricts the prevalent unlimited polygamy to maximum four wives – subject to equal treatment of the wives (4:3). It, however, warns men that they cannot treat several wives equitably, however they may wish (4:129), and if they so fear they must take only one wife (4:3). Accordingly, its holistic message and inheritance tenets point to monogamy as its approved social norm. Far from vesting a man with a higher level of authority as popularly believed, it entrusts him with a higher degree of responsibility and obliges him to take back his wife under notice of divorce if found pregnant (2:228), and upon her refusal to reconcile, makes him responsible to bear the expenses of his child born to her divorced wife, including the cost of wet nursing if she solicits, for a period of two years (2:233).
It empowers a man to temporarily abandon his wife and even symbolically beat her – such as by gesture, if he suspects adulterous behaviour (4:34). However, it relented on the punishment for adultery from stoning to death to public flogging(24:3)and asked people to leave the partners of adultery alone (not to hold them in contempt) after they received the punishment, repented and reformed themselves (4:16). But it puts a strong defensive clause in favour of accused women: the accuser must bring four first-hand witnesses to establish the charge of adultery (4:15), failing which he will be liable to receive punishment (24:4). It also averts punishment from a woman accused of adultery by her husband who cannot produce any witness other than himself (which is the normal case), if she takes a solemn oath five times that she was innocent and her husband was a liar (24:9). Last but not the least, the Qur’an does not privilege the male gender in creation chronology or hierarchy and projects man and woman as co-equals – descending together from an integrated self (6:98, 16:72, 30:21, 49:13, 53:44), and furnishes no ground to accord a more privileged status to a man than a woman and venerates women after God for their procreative role (4:1):
“O Humankind! Heed your Lord who created you from a single self (nafs) and created from it its spouse (zauja), and scattered from the two countless men and women. Reverence God through whom you seek (your mutual rights) and (reverence) the wombs (arham). Indeed God is ever watchful over you” (4:1).
The Qur’an’s empowering tenets for women, among its other reforms, were obviously too far ahead of the era of its revelation – ultra-feminist in historical relativism. Not only its immediate Arab audience, but also people of other faiths who entered Islam must have been aghast at the Qur’an’s titanic concessions to women, and interpreted Qur’anic gender-centred verses in a manner that curtailed the rights of women and conformed to the prevalent misogyny. A Qur’anic verse, 2:237, that uses the word ‘touching’ (tamassu),figuratively for sexual intercourse was interpreted to regard the whole body of a freeborn woman – except her hand and face as her “awrah” (sexual part). This, along with a similarly literalist interpretation of the verse 24:31 was institutionalized into full veiling for women. A short passage appearing in two Suras(23:5/6, 70:29/30) that pre-dated the marriage laws by at least a decade was celebrated as a license for sex-slavery that the Qur’an sought to eradicate in a phased manner (2:177, 4:25, 4:92, 5:89, 9:60, 24:32, 24:33, 58:3, 90:13-16). Similarly restriction was imposed on their movement outside the house by requiring them to be accompanied by a male guardian (a close relative with whom marriage was prohibited). Some jurists attempted to bring the most sadistic pre-Islamic custom of stoning to death for adultery, while, by law this very day a married woman who is raped can be accused of adultery if she fails to produce four male witnesses - a virtual impossibility as no man would sexually assault a woman in presence of witnesses. Triple divorce is yet another deeply oppressive misogynistic custom that is retained in Indian Muslim Personal Law since the British era, and deprives Muslim women of all their matrimonial rights as encapsulated in the Qur’an and pieced together above.
This Brings Us To The Caption Of The Article.
Until a few decades ago, women grew up in joint or extended families that formed their ancestral home. When they got married, they left their homes and lived in their husband’s household, but sub-consciously regarded their ancestral home as their permanent base. So, in the event of an instant divorce they could always come back to their base and get full support from their extended family. But today, the joint family system has collapsed. Most Muslim women, particularly from lower middle income class and below (may be 50% of Indian Muslim families) come from small families comprising parents and one or more siblings – all living in a relatively small 2-3 room rented flat. If a married woman from this income class is instantly divorced, she faces enormously greater hardship than her counterpart two or three generations ago. She may have no place to go and at best be an unwelcome guest in the house of any of her next of kin or relative. She will have no money with her in most cases as married Muslim women of lower middle class and below are normally housewives. So for practically every necessity of life, she has to depend on others. And the ‘others’ can help her only for a very limited time. Besides, as a divorced woman, she also bears stigma and is vulnerable to lustful desires of the musclemen in her locality. Any attempt to capture the agony and trauma of such a women is beyond the capacity of this writer. The only parallel that comes to his mind is that of a woman whose home is blown up before her eyes, with her husband and children and all belongings and dreams inside at an instant notice – for an instantly divorced woman loses not only her husband but also her children and all her belongings and dreams. In other words, an instantly divorced woman of lower middle income group suffers no less agony and trauma than the victim of a terror attack. Thus instant triple Talaq can be paralleled with Gender Terrorism and those who insist on retaining it in the Indian Muslim Personal Law, fraudulently and shamelessly tracing it to the Qur’an must be oppressively misogynist or Gender Terrorist. Hence, the AIMPLB may be regarded as a Gender Terrorist outfit and may be sued for attempting to institutionalize gross human (women’s) rights violations under cover of religion.
The advocates of instant triple Talaq may still argue that the Qur’an was addressed to a specific audience of an ancient era and its rulings do not necessarily apply today. The Qur’an that claims to be a book of wisdom and guidance does not leave gaps to allow the ignorant to dismiss it as irrelevant for any era. It accordingly, asks humanity to seek its best meaning (39:18, 39:55), and probe its verses (38:29, 47:24) using intellect (‘aql) and declares:“Indeed the worst kind of all living creatures in God’s sight are the deaf and dumb, who do not use reason” (8:22).
In one word, universal Justice is the bedrock of Islamic message and gender justice is a subset of universal justice and the taproot of human (women’s) rights and those religiously educated Muslims, such as the learned members of the AIMPLB, who are adamantly persistent in negating it under cover of Islam are traitors of Islam, in addition to being Gender Terrorist as the caption claims. And I, Muhammad Yunus, hereby declare that I will stand a witness to their tyranny upon poor Muslim women and treason against the Qur’anic message in the divine court unless they voluntarily revoke the provision of triple divorce, and Halala that goes with it before I depart to my Final Destination.
Just for record, this article follows up on my last two articles dated Jan. 2012 , and Sept. 2015 , and is inspired by the indefatigable effort of Sultan Shahin Sahib, the Founding Editor of New Age Islam and members of his team in writing article after article to help remove the provision of triple Talaq from Indian Muslim Personal Law.
"Barring few minor exceptions, the crux of all the quoted verses pieced together to frame the article are consistent with the interpretations of Yusuf Ali and Muhammad Assad - albeit without any effect on the arguments supporting the claim of the caption, and the.article is fully backed by my duly approved and authenticated exegetic work, Essential Message of the Qur'an .
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
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