By Moin Qazi, New Age Islam
Talaq, talaq, talaq — the three dreaded words — if uttered by a husband in quick succession could, in less than a blink of an eye, unilaterally bring to an end the marital life of a Muslim woman. However, in what may come as a shock to numerous Muslims and others, the Qur’an does not prescribe this form of divorce at all.
In fact, the Qur’an has specifically laid down a formula of a three-tiered calibrated divorce, keeping in mind human frailties. The first two stages give an opportunity to the estranged couple to reconsider their decision and, if possible, reconcile and resume their married relationship.
But it is only the third and last step, if traversed that would make the talaq irrevocable. Therefore, the most important injunction in the Qur’an, in this regard, is that after each pronouncement of talaq there has to be compulsorily a period of waiting or iddat that provides a timeout to reflect on the alternatives to a divorce.
And, neither the uttering of talaq, talaq, talaq in one sentence nor a single pronouncement to indicate an intention of irrevocably dissolving the marriage had the approval of Prophet Muhammad.
There are two hadith (narrations of sayings of the Prophet) in 'Divorce (Kitab Al Talaq)' of Sunan Abu Dawud.
Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: Abdu Yazid, the father of Rukanah and his brothers, divorced Umm Rukanah and married a woman of the tribe of Muzaynah. She went to the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and said: He is of no use to me except that he is as useful to me as a hair; and she took a hair from her head. So separate me from him. The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) became furious. He called on Rukanah and his brothers. He then said to those who were sitting beside him. Do you see so-and-so who resembles Abdu Yazid in respect of so-and-so; and so-and-so who resembles him in respect of so-and-so? They replied: Yes. The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said to Abdu Yazid: Divorce her. Then he did so. He said: Take your wife, the mother of Rukanah and his brothers, back in marriage. He said: I have divorced her by three pronouncements, Apostle of Allah. He said: I know: take her back. He then recited the verse: "O Prophet, when you divorce women, divorce them at their appointed periods." (2191)
Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: Tawus said: Abus Sahba' said to Ibn Abbas:” Do you know that a divorce by three pronouncements was made a single one during the time of the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him), and of AbuBakr and in the early days of the caliphate of Umar? “ “He replied: Yes”.( 2194)
Hence, the triple talaq in one sitting is called talaq-ul-biddat — a heretical talaq. The triple talaq, which Muslims are made to believe is based on divine revelation, is nothing but a man-made legal evasion created by a pliant Muslim clergy during the second century of the Muhammadan era.
It is really tragic that a dubious organization parading itself as a champion of women’s rights has engineered a malicious campaign to project the Indian Muslim community in bad light .triple talaq is a non issue and it is being used as a ploy by vested interests to cover their inadequacy to some of the pressing problems of the Muslim women who have been denied access to most of the state promoted socio economic programmes for the uplift of the poor . Feminists across the country are talking about the “rights” and “wrongs” for women in a furious social media war, instead of joining forces to try to address the real issues that women and girls face . In offering support to Muslim women, all feminists need to be strategic and prioritise the harm those women actually suffer. Feminists from the majority community would do well to reconsider the disproportionate weight they are giving to non issues...
We don’t have to personally visit places to see the face of the demeaning levels of poverty and destitution women suffer. Newspapers and media are blaring day in and day out the plight of these women who in many cases suffer worst indignities at the hands of exploiters and marauders .Thousands of women have been displaced and espo9sed to worse sexual turpitudes in riot after riot. Sadly this ghastly and tragedies fail to stir the nation’s ‘conscience .And suddenly a small survey, whose credibility has still to be verified suddenly screams from the top pages of newspapers.. . We can have no better description than the one pained by the legendary poet Allama Iqbal in his stirring verse:
The pangs of motherhood have torn her heart,
Dark, tragic rings have underscored her eyes
;If from her bosom the community
Receive one Muslim zealous for the Faith,
God’s faithful servant, all the pains she bore
Have fortified our being, and our dawn
Muslims are open to clarification of some of the Quranic verses which appear to have an apparent bias against women on account of variant reading but which in truth are safeguards for peaceful family life..There is one verse in Qur’an which has given rise to debates on the position of women in the Islamic schema. But most of the misconceptions have veered around the semantics of interpretation and have not tried to analyze the verse in the light of the philosophy of the Qur’ān which is an organically related text and has a textual unity. The Qur’an forbids citation of a verse from the Qur’an—or part of a verse—to derive a ruling without looking at everything that the Qur’an and hadith teach. In other words, there are strict subjective and objective prerequisites for fatwas, and one cannot ‘cherry-pick’ Qur’anic verses for legal arguments without considering the entire Qur’an and hadith. The Qur’an contains five sentences, which human rights activists say create a cultural climate that excuses violence against women and Islamic scholars say encourages respectful behavior, not abuse:
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women. Because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, (1) Admonish them, (2) refuse to share their beds, (3) beat them; but if they return to obedience seek not against them means of annoyance: For Allah is Most High, Great. (4) If you fear a break between them, appoint two arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers; If they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation”(Q 4:34-35).
This phrae ,”beat them”(waḍribūhunna) has presented a challenge to many in terms of explanations. For others it has afforded an opportunity to describe Islam as a misogynistic religion that sanctions wife-abuse by referring to either a literal translation of the word without considering the context or by referring to the translations of Muslim scholars who translate it is a ‘to hit’, but the fact that these scholars also refer to the ‘hitting’ as symbolic, is also ignored. Hence the explanation put forward is usually a ‘half-truth’ or an intentional misrepresentation of Qur’anic injunctions towards women Classical scholars such as At-Tabari and Ar-Razi both viewed 4:34 as a staged way to reduce marital conflicts in a culture where violence against women was rampant. At-Tabari went on to note that waḍribuhunna means striking without hurting. But Ar-Razi did not even allow that in his exegesis. He quoted Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as stating that men who hit their wives are not among the better men.
Treating women with the inherent dignity that she was created with, ensuring that their rights are preserved and advocating that they are given equitable opportunities to succeed is necessary to uphold the Qur’anic vision, “O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding justice,” (Q4:135). The way forward requires leveling the playing field, by changing hearts and minds, if possible, or by instituting affirmative actions, when antiquated cultural norms prove too intransigent
Next, verse 4:34 employs the process of anger management, reformation and reconciliation. This process may only be employed after a wife has initially and deliberately undermined or attempted to destroy the family, as indicated by the words, "as for those on whose part you fear disobedience." But "disobedience" does not mean any random disagreement a wife may have with her husband. Arabic lexicon provides the correct understanding as that of a wife who has deserted her husband altogether or has unjustly attempted to destroy the family. Once a wife deliberately engages in this form of behavior, then the Qur’an describes a process to peacefully reconcile the dispute.
The first step, anger management, obliges the husband to merely admonish his wife of his concern, essentially encouraging the parties to admit that a problem exists. This forces a man to strictly control himself in hopes that his wife will also incline to reconciliation. Should this fail, the second step is separating beds for up to four months. This act further diminishes the chances of domestic violence, as a man physically separates himself from the emotionally charged situation for an extended period of time. If the wife engaged in an action to which the husband over reacted, then his extended time apart will help him realize the foolishness of his own behavior. Likewise, if the wife indeed engaged in an improper act, then her husband's separation will encourage her to realize the unreasonableness of her behavior. Either way, this step avoids violence altogether while actively promoting reconciliation.
Employed effectively, these two steps help reconcile the vast majority of domestic disputes. Should the first two steps fail, however, the Qur’an allows -- never commands -- men to consider the third step, translated as "to chastise them." But to understand "chastise" as sanctioning violence ignores the lengthy process employed in the first two steps to eliminate violence, the proper meaning and scope of "chastise," and the precedent of peaceful reconciliation Prophet Muhammad himself established.
t is only after the failure of the four reconciliation attempts that the Qur’an allows the first talaq to be pronounced, followed by a waiting period called iddah (2:228-232 and 65:1-4). Not more than two divorces can be pronounced within this period, the duration of which is three menstrual cycles (2:228-229). For women who have attained menopause or suffer from amenorrhoea, iddah is three months, and in the case of pregnant women it is till the termination of pregnancy (65:4).
If the parties are unable to unite during iddah, the final irrevocable talaq can be pronounced, but only after the expiry of iddah (2:231). Once the final talaq is invoked, the marital bond stands severed and the spouses cease to be of any relation to each other. However, even after the lapse of iddah, the Qur’an offers the disputants a chance to reunite, provided the final talaq has not been pronounced. It says, “When you divorce women and they complete their term [iddah], do not prevent them from marrying their [former] husbands if they mutually agree on equitable terms” (2:232). In other words, after the expiry of iddah, as per 2:231, 232, the parties are given the options of re-contracting the marriage on fresh terms, or seek permanent separation — the separation being the third and the final irrevocable talaq to be pronounced in the presence of two witnesses (65:2) within a reasonable period of time.
It is astonishing that despite the clarity of the Qur’an on the issue of divorce, the Muslim patriarchy has stubbornly refused to adopt the Qur’anic procedure. Because of this, courts in India are forced to uphold the validity of triple talaq on the principle of stare decisis, declaring the practice to be “good in law though bad in theology.” The precedent cited is the Privy Council judgment in the case of Aga Mohammad Jaffer vs Koolsom Beebee [(1897) 25 Cal. 9, 18, 24, IA. 196, 204], wherein it was held that it would be wrong for the courts to put their own construction on the Qur’an in opposition to the express ruling of commentators of “such antiquity and high authority.”
(Moin Qazi is a well known banker, author and journalist .He holds doctorates in Economics and English .He received an Honorary D Litt at the World Congress of Poets at Istanbul in 1991.He is the author of several books on Islam including bestselling biographies of Prophet Muhammad and Caliph Umar. He writes regularly for several international publications and was Visiting Fellow at the University of Manchester .He is also a recipient of UNESCO World Politics Essay Gold Medal and Rotary International’s Vocational Excellence Award. He is based in Nagpur .