By A. Faizur Rahman
It is said that “a folly oft-repeated loses its absurdity and takes the shape of reason.” This seems to be the case with the misogynist fatwas of the Darul Uloom Deoband which, despite their incremental risibility, pass off peacefully without evoking an indignant response from Muslims. It is not surprising, therefore, that the recent fatwa legitimising divorce in jest was not greeted with the criticism it deserved although it victimised an innocent woman whose Qatari husband not only committed the indiscretion of typing the dreaded word “talaq” thrice during an Internet chat but was also foolish enough to seek a fatwa on the consequences of his naiveness.
The Deoband muftis promptly obliged him by terminating the marriage on the grounds that the marital relationship gets severed once “talaq” is uttered thrice, even over a mobile phone (as per a fresh fatwa) and when the wife is unable to hear it due to “network” problems! It may be recalled that last year Deoband issued a similar fatwa validating triple talaq given by a drunken man.
Undoubtedly, these rulings are a gross violation of Islam and it is time the Quranic procedure of divorce is highlighted.
Four steps before the first talaq (Quran, 4: 34-35): As a first step, when there is marital discord, the Quran advises the husband to gently talk it out (fa’izuhunna) with his wife. If differences persist, the parties are asked to sexually distance themselves (wahjuruhunna) from each other in the hope that temporary physical separation may encourage them to unite. And even if this fails to break the deadlock, the husband is instructed, as a third step, to once again explain (wazribuhunna) to his wife the seriousness of the situation and try to bring about a reconciliation.
For instance, in pursuance of wazribuhunna, the husband may point out to his wife that if they do not resolve their differences soon enough, their dispute could go beyond the confines of their house and become a subject of gossip, which may not be in the interest of both parties. This would be true, because, if the dispute still remains unresolved, as a fourth step, the Quran requires the matter to be placed before two arbiters, one from the family of each spouse, for resolution.
Three talaqs: It is only after the failure of the aforementioned four attempts at reconciliation that the Quran allows the first talaq to be pronounced, followed by a waiting period called the iddat. Not more than two divorces can be pronounced within this period, the duration of which is three monthly courses [2:228-229]. For women who have passed the age of menstruation the period of iddat is three months, and in the case of pregnant women it is till the termination of pregnancy [65:4].
And if the parties are unable to unite during the period of iddat as envisaged by verse 2:228, the final irrevocable talaq can be pronounced, but only after the expiry of the iddat [2:231]. Once the final talaq has been invoked the marital bond is severed and the parties cease to be of any relation to each other. However, even after the period of iddat has lapsed, the Quran offers the contending parties a chance to reunite, provided the final talaq has not been pronounced [2:232]. In other words, after the expiry of iddat, as per verses 2:231 and 232, the parties are given the options of remarriage or permanent separation — the separation being the third and final irrevocable talaq to be pronounced in the presence of two witnesses [65:2].
However, to emphasise the sanctity of marriage and the enormity of breaking it for frivolous reasons, the Quran warns that once the parties choose to separate after the expiry of the iddat, they cannot entertain hopes of marrying again unless the wife takes another husband and the second husband divorces her [2:230]. It is understood here that a divorce may result only if the new husband has serious differences with his wife, and in the rare event of such differences cropping up, he is required to follow the procedure of divorce as discussed earlier. The extreme unlikelihood of this happening serves as a severe deterrent against arbitrary divorce.
Unfortunately, this Quranic injunction has been circumvented by sectarian seminaries to overcome the impracticality of triple talaq law of the medievalist Hanafi school. To help the victims of this law a pliable person is set up to marry the triple-divorced wife, consummate the marriage overnight and divorce her the next day so that the original husband can remarry her in accordance with 2:230. This outrageousness which an innocent woman is subjected to is known as halaala.
The abhorrent practice continues only because Muslim women are reluctant to show dissent and have allowed themselves to be indoctrinated into prioritising comparatively smaller problems such as the ban on the burqa. If the present-day shariah is to be reformed and brought into conformity with the original teachings of the Quran and the Prophet, Muslims must come out and intellectually challenge patriarchal interpretations of Islam.
The writer is the Secretary General of Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought among Muslims, Chennai. He can be contacted on email@example.com
Source: Indian Express