By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
17 April 2017
It is official now. The meeting of the AIMPLB which concluded today rejected any change in matters of the current practice of Muslim divorce. In other words, it upheld the validity of instant triple Talaq as being correct and justified way of giving divorce. The only concession that the AIMPLB is willing to give Muslim women is that those Muslim men who will be found not giving divorce without reasons given in the Shariat would be liable for social boycott. Arguing that they had a right to ‘implement’ Muslim personal law as it exists, the Board lambasted the government for interfering in the Muslim shariat.
There was some interest in the position of the Board after its Shia member; Kalbe Sadiq hinted day before yesterday that the Board might be willing to phase out the abhorrent practice of triple Talaq within a year and a half. Those expecting a positive outcome from today’s meeting must therefore be shocked that the AIMPLB has rescinded on its promise. But a closer analysis would reveal that the Board was never in any confusion regarding the validity of instant triple Talaq. Right from the very beginning, it has maintained categorically that although the practice is not looked upon positively, but instant triple Talaq is as valid as the Talaq given in three separate sittings. After all, the Board had conducted signature campaigns where one of the points was that Muslims do not have any problem with the existing Muslim personal law. The signatories also said that they had full faith in the leadership of AIMPLB. Thus right from the very beginning, there has never been any rethinking on the part of this Board on instant triple Talaq. It is now for everyone to see that the Board is nothing but an old boys club who are determined to give Islam a bad name through their needless defence of antediluvian practices within Indian Muslim society.
The position of the AIMPLB would only raise more questions than it answers. What does it mean by saying that it has the right to implement Muslim personal law? Clearly they don’t have the capacity to do this and only the courts and allied departments of the state can do that. Secondly, it cannot hide behind an erroneous reading of the constitution. It is true that personal law of Muslims are protected by the constitution. But it is also true that the same constitution talks about fundamental rights and rights of equal opportunity for women. Personal laws cannot become the reason for backwardness of Muslim women just because a handful of Muslim men think that Sharia is divine which in fact it is not. Moreover, the law has to change over time and especially change when women groups have documented cases of discrimination due to the continuance of such a law. A community which does not change with the times is only condemned to be consigned to the flames of history. But to expect the AIMPLB to listen to these Muslim women and wake up to change is perhaps too much. It is time that these Muslim women tell the whole world that they do not recognise the institution called the AIMPLB.
The second intriguing suggestion by the AIMPLB also suffers from the same problem. How is it that they will be able to enforce social boycott of those Muslim men who divorce their wives without giving valid reasons within the Sharia. Do they have the capacity to enforce such a social boycott? And why have such a medieval practice like social boycott? Why not just do away with the discriminatory provision within the law itself. This can only lead us to believe that the AIMPLB is not serious when it is talking about social boycott. It just wants the attention on it to die down and then things can go back on its old ways. Reading between the lines, the AIMPLB is telling us that instant triple Talaq will continue despite all the opposition from Muslim women and despite the fact that it has generated such a negative opinion about Islam and Muslims in India. It is also saying that there is no problem with instant triple Talaq when it is done in accordance with the Sharia. There should be some critical introspection within the community if all the grounds even within the Sharia are compatible with the notions of gender justice. But then we should wait to take a justified view when the AIMPLB issues its code of conduct for Muslim men and women which it has promised. But then again, no one knows when that code will be formulated.
Going by its history, the AIMPLB cannot be expected to be critical of its own past. Muslim women and men who are fighting for the abolition of instant triple Talaq can only look to the courts and other secular agencies for listening to them. The Board has no shame: it will keep exposing itself and continue to make Muslims into a laughing stock due to its outmoded outlook.
Arshad Alam is a social and political commentator and a NewAgeIslam.com columnist
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