When I heard the historical verdict of the honourable Supreme Court yesterday, I could not help but cry with joy and hope and the image of the great reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy sprang to mind. Raja Ram Mohan Roy fought a tough and prolonged battle against the Sati Pratha under which widowed Hindu women were burnt alive with their dead husbands. Before the abolition of Sati, Hindu women used to pray that they died before their husbands because they didn’t want to be burnt alive.
Instant Triple Talaq cannot be compared with the Sati Pratha because, I think, the former is a lesser evil in that it doesn’t pose a direct threat to a woman’s life.
I remember the fateful day, in the month of Ramadan, when my sister called me up and told me that Arman (her husband) had divorced her and ousted her from the house. She was shifted to his Mamu’s house in the neighbourhood. I was shocked. It was my first experience of this draconian law in Muslim society. I went and met her with my younger brother and a Hindu friend. Although my brother wanted to register an FIR against her in-laws, my sister knelt before us and pleaded with us not to. When I asked why she did not want police action against them, what she said was shocking. She said Arman had shown her a vial of poison, which he said he would consume if any complaint was filed against him. In that moment I realised just how large-hearted and generous women are. My sister was suffering a lot, she was divorced and ousted from her house and yet she found in herself the capacity to let them get off so easily. My Hindu friend then said the one line that I can still recall. Jaan to bach gaee na (At least she’s still alive). I agreed and thanked God. Prima facie, it was instant triple talaq that saved my sister’s life. We returned without registering an FIR.
The next day, I consulted an Islamic scholar, a man whom I respect for his wisdom and good deeds. I took him to my sister in-law’s house in Mohiuddin Nagar, Samastpur district, with a social activist. While we tried to resolve the issue and sought reconciliation, Arman and his family were adamant that he had pronounced Instant Triple Talaq and that there was no solution but Halala. The Maulana tried to convince them that there is no room for Instant Triple Talaq and Halala in the holy Quran and that these two customs are individual interpretations. But, nothing worked.
By this time, my sister was convinced that she was cheated and the threat to consume poison was merely Arman’s trick to escape immediate action. So, when we got back, we, registered a complaint at the Mahila Thana but nothing came of it. We also contacted the Mahila Ayog (Women’s Commission), whose president at the time was a Muslim lady. I also contacted the Senior SP of Patna, Manu Maharaj, but all in vain. In fact, I realised later that I did not get justice because Instant Triple Talaq was valid then. I also contacted a famous Mufti at Imarat-e-Shariah, Phulwari Sharif, who was sacked later by the NGO for misappropriating funds meant for community welfare. What he said to me was shocking. He said separation is confirmed even if the wife does not hear the pronouncement. This only proves just how patriarchal this law was.
At this point of time, I can understand why some women were sharing sweets among themselves yesterday after this verdict. It was a powerful weapon for men to oust women and after producing Talaqnaama from a competent Muslim NGO like Imarat-e-Shariah and Edara-Shariah, all his sins were pardoned.
The stigma that a woman carries after instant triple talaq is frightening. She suffers on two fronts. She is deemed characterless and homeless at one stroke.
I was afraid that my sister would be humiliated in a Muslim ghetto and shifted to a new place. My sister, who has been living with us as a refugee for two years, has a four-year-old daughter who calls me Abbu. The affection that I should have bestowed upon my only daughter is shared among my daughter and my niece. In spite of all the efforts, neither am I my sister’s father nor I am my niece’s father. I cannot call my wife lovingly in my sister’s presence. I cannot call my daughter lovingly in my niece’s presence. This has become an agony for an entire family, not just an individual.
Who is responsible?
Every Muslim is responsible for going along with this interpretation of this law in a beautiful religion. Had this row been solved when the Shah Bano case first surfaced, thousands of Muslim women would have been saved. Our Muslim intellectuals claim that the percentage of such cases is negligible but the ground reality is very different. In poverty-ridden and uneducated Muslim localities, Instant Triple Talaq and Halala both are used very often. When I was in an engineering college at Kishanganj, I used to hear about many cases of Halala. Some Maulvis used this tool to satisfy their sexual desire and unholy greed. I have also heard about Mutaah (contract) marriages in Hyderabad and other parts of India. The numbers may not be large but Mutaah (contract) marriages do happen. Rich Muslims especially from Arab nations marry young girls from poverty-stricken families, play with them and divorce them when they need a new virgin.
If you disown this fact, you will do injustice to your own community. Being a victim of this instant triple talaq, I welcome this verdict of the honourable Supreme Court and hope the elite will check our society from further damage. I hope AIMPB will come back to their senses and will try to find out a way for those women who are suffering because of this. I also expect from the government that it will be able to rise above petty politics and initiate beneficial schemes for women in general and for Muslim women in particular.