Reform needed

By ruling that a triple talaq uttered by a man over mobile phone is valid even if the wife was unable to hear it, the Dar-ul Uloom Deoband has laid bare yet again its regressive streak. This is the second time in a month that the powerful Sunni seminary has issued absurd fatwas on divorce. A month ago, a youth reportedly uttered triple talaq in jest while chatting to his wife over internet. He approached the seminary to find out whether his talaq was valid. The latter said it was. More recently, another man said he uttered the triple talaq to his wife over mobile. In this case too, the seminary held that the talaq was valid, although the wife said she did not hear it, neither were there witnesses to his utterance. The motives of the two men in turning to the seminary are not clear. It is possible that they wanted the divorce and took the issue to the seminary. However, more condemnable is the response of the Deoband. Its clerics said the wife was now ‘haraam’ and that the husband had lost the right to remarry her without ‘halalaah’ ie she would have to marry someone else, divorce him and then observe the mandatory waiting period.

Progressive Muslims have been calling for doing away with triple talaq as it is un-Islamic, unjust and biased heavily in favour of men. They have pointed out that it has been repeatedly misused by men. It injects a fresh dose of arbitrariness and injustice in a law that is hugely illogical and anti-women to start with.

Several Muslim countries have proscribed or watered down the use of triple talaq. What is holding back India? India is right in making reforms in personal law a matter for the concerned community to decide on. However, in the case of Muslims this decision has been in the hands of the community’s most reactionary sections. The rights of Muslim women in marriage and divorce are not safe in the hands of regressive ulema and the reactionary All-India Muslim Personal Law Board. There are millions of Muslim women and men who want personal laws that are more in touch with today’s world, laws that are based on principles of equality. The government must listen to their voices too.

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