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

Triple talaq

The issue of triple talaq, i.e., talaq pronounced three times in one sitting, has once again engaged the attention of the Indian public during the last few days, and, most regretfully, this time again without coming to a conclusion.

From all that has been thought and said on the subject for years in the print media upon the authority of the most learned Mussalmans who understand what they have been talking about, it is clearly established that, according to the letter as well as the spirit of the holy Quran, giving of triple talaq is an act of sin, that is, liable to be visited by penalty( to be imposed by God). The holy Prophet (pbuh) of Islam also deeply abhorred triple talaq and, in a way, aggressively advised his followers to desist from such an act.

Notwithstanding this position, the AIMPLB, who have, for mysterious reasons, arrogated to themselves the authority to pronounce on matters religious and spiritual in relation to the hapless Mussalmans of India, showed no inclination yet again to ‘ratify’ the holy Quran and the Hadees. I have deliberately used the word ‘ratify’in the present context. The entire Muslim ummah (community) agrees that the holy Quran and the Hadees are the only sources of Islamic Sharia (religious law) and that, in the absence of any disagreement as to the meaning and the interpretation of the provisions made and available in these two authoritative sources, one bearing the authority of God and the other that of the holy Prophet (pbuh), none can question the Sharia. By not agreeing unanimously and equivocally to denounce triple talaq in the above mentioned circumstances which place the entire matter beyond any manner of doubt, the AIMPLB has attempted to give to itself the power and the authority to decide on the correctness and the truthfulness of the Quranic injunctions and the teachings of the holy Prophet(pbuh). I dare say that, by doing so, the AIMPLB has committed a wholly unislamic act, and it is high time the unfortunate Mussalmans of India rejected this organization.

What is more worrisome is that a few members of the AIMPLB who favoured a ruling against triple talaq were found wanting in expressing their views openly, and have, in the event, chosen to hang on to the Board presumably under the impression that the unique ‘honour’ of being a member of the Board far outweighs the ignominy and sin implicit in defying the will of God and the words of the holy Prophet (pbuh).

Furthermore, in India, we have invariably followed the culture of doing a right thing only after the others have given us a lead. It is distressing to find that when it came to pronouncing on the issue of triple talaq, the ‘learned’ Mussalmans decided to ignore, without reason, the practice followed and the laws enacted in some of the leading Islamic countries which have the effect of dispensing with the concept of triple talaq. The idea seems to be to prove that , after all, our ‘learned’ men ‘know’ more and ‘qualitywise’ are better Mussalmans.

In the tragic circumstances in which the mussalmans of India have thus been placed, I have a suggestion to make, and I am making it after a proper consideration of the various aspects of the matter. In a situation like the present, in which the mussalmans themselves agree (on the basis of the provisions of the holy Quran and the Hadees) on a definite course of action, but the mulla community is reluctant to pronounce, even though convinced about the correctness of the course of action, the Supreme Court of India should not hesitate in laying down the law, once and for all. The Mussalmans and the ‘maulvis’ are not likely to have any problem in agreeing to this suggestion. I say this because the Muslims of India have all along placed full confidence in the apex court. 

What is more, in the context of the instant case of triple talaq, for all the reasons that I have brought out above, the plight of the poor maulvis is very sad- the stance taken by them being entirely untenable and unsustainable, and therefore, for all we know, they may well be looking for a face-saving device. The apex Court’s intervention and, consequently, a ruling against triple talaq will, in my view, provide the much needed device. I am confident that if the apex court were to rule as above, the Government of the day, will not repeat the mistake it committed in 1986 by enacting the infamous Muslim Women (Protection from Divorce) Law which, incidentally, instead of solving the problems of the divorced Muslim women, created avoidable hurdles in her way and complicated her future. The Dissolution of Muslim Women’s Marriage Act, 1939 is a case in point. The poor maulvi, though still largely irreconciled to the concept of Muslim women’s right, under a number of situations specified in the Act, to divorce the husband in the same way in which a Muslim husband can divorce his wife, has ultimately decided to live with the law of 1939. It is my belief that, once the apex court has ruled against triple talaq, our maulvi will opt to live with it even though, to begin with, he might like to have recourse to noise making at a decibel level loud enough to be heard by his community of believers.
Tashi Rizvi Zaidi
IAS (Retd), former secretary to GoI
Lucknow -

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