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Published in the 1-15 December 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Clerics divided over email, phone divorces

New Delhi: Rahat Iqbal, who is based in the US, divorced his wife, Rubab who lives in Bareilly, UP through an email last October. After marriage she lived only one month with Iqbal. He left for the US with the assurance that he would call her within 20 days. She waited for six years only to receive the e-mail-divorce .

Such incidents have created a row in the Muslim community over the validity of digital divorces. Ulama differ on the issue. Maulana Akhtar Raza Khan of Bareilly, whom Rubab had contacted for a fatwa, said the divorce should be hand-written and the wife should recognise the handwriting. Maulana Khalid Rashid of Lucknow’s Firangi Mahal said that since the email did not contain any signature, the husband needed to authenticate it. Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad is of the view that email divorces are "absolutely illegal" and it is prevalent only among Sunnis.

There are many other instances of divorces by email and phone recently. Mumbai’s Shabana Rizwan Sayyed, 29, was divorced by her husband Rizwan Ghulamnabi on telephone. Her husband divorced her when she complained against torture by her in-laws. Some time back, a woman was divorced in Delhi by her husband through an email. Earlier, writer Sadia Dehlvi obtained divorce from her Pakistan-based husband Reza Pervez through an email in April 2002. But her divorce was mutually acceptable (she sought divorce to remarry).

Concerned with such increasing divorces (triple talaq) through telephone and email, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has proposed a new draft nikahnama to make the divorce procedure more stringent. The draft nikahnama proposes that divorce and any other dispute that arises between married couples should be referred to arbitrators or Darul-Qaza (Islamic Shaiah Court) for a decision and not left to the sole discretion of husbands. The draft will be placed before the next meeting of the 41-member national executive of the board.

The arbitrators will be chosen from bride and bridgegrooms’ family with their consent. The decision of the arbitrators would be binding on the couple. However, they will have the option of going to Darul Qaza at any stage. The draft also proposes to pay Mehar in gold and silver. 

Malaysia, which was facing a massive problem of triple talaq through SMS and e-mail has banned such divorces.

Maulana MS Noori, representing the Barelvi sect, is opposed to the ban on triple talaq. He said that "a ban on triple talaq would be interference in Shariat laws. Divorce is irreversible. The board has no right to change what is written in Shariat." 

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