India’s Muslim women fight to end triple talaq law that yields instant divorce


Divorce may be pronounced twice; then, either retain them in a becoming manner or send them away with kindness. And it is not lawful for you that you take anything of what you have given them (your wives) unless both fear that they cannot observe the limits prescribed by Allah. (Al Quran 2:230)

Source: The Guardian

By Amrit Dhillon in Jaipur

In India, Muslim women’s lives are being ruined because men can end marriages simply by saying ‘talaq’ three times – even on social media

Every time Nishat Hussain gets into a fight with religious leaders about women’s rights under Islam, she hits the same wall. They say the rules governing women are sanctioned by scripture and therefore cannot be altered. She says they are sanctioned by custom and most certainly can be.

Hussain finds this divide most frustrating when she is defending divorced women who come to her office near the overcrowded ironmonger’s bazaar in Jaipur. These women have experienced triple talaq, under which a Muslim man can repeat the word “talaq” three times and his wife stands divorced. No questions, no reasons. All objections overruled.

On an overcast but muggy day, with the endless honking and hum of the pink city’s insanely congested roads in the background, Rani Khan, 25, sits in Hussain’s office with her daughter, Zeinab, four, on her lap.

For years, she claims, her unemployed husband demanded that she get money from her parents to finance his drinking. “He used to threaten to kill Zeinab if I refused,” claimed Khan.

“Then one day, he shouted talaq three times and forced me out of the house.” She now lives with her father, who is paralysed, her mother, six sisters and Zeinab, making a living from fabric painting.

When desperate women like Khan rush to local clerics for justice, they are told that instant divorce is permitted under Islamic law. Their next port of call is the office of the Muslim women’s rights group the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (Indian Muslim women’s welfare movement or BMMA). Hussain heads the Jaipur office and is well known locally for her work with poor, vulnerable women and efforts to reform aspects of Islam.

Since it was set up in 2007, the BMMA has been campaigning for a ban on triple talaq, calling it a travesty of divorce as envisaged in the Qur’an, where the word has to be pronounced on three separate occasions spread over three months and must be accompanied by efforts at reconciliation.

Try telling that to men like Nooran Nisa’s husband, who divorced her four months after their marriage. “All Muslim women are haunted by this word,” Nisa said. “During fights, I used to argue back but if it got too heated, I stopped because I was frightened my husband might say talaq.”

During fights I used to argue back but if it got too heated, I stopped because I was scared my husband might say ‘talaq’
Nooran Nisa

Nisa, 35, was never to hear those words, but after kicking her out of the house, her husband sent her a letter with talaq written in it three times, she claims.

When her husband threw Jahan Ara, 40, out of the house a year ago, after 15 years of marriage, he kept their three children. He has not yet divorced her. “I’ve inherited some property so that’s why he hasn’t divorced me. He’s got his eyes on it,” she claimed at the BMMA offices.

In India, which has a Muslim minority, Muslim men have sent triple talaq by text, email, Facebook, Skype and WhatsApp. The reasons vary from not liking the wife’s dyed hair to her cooking.

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