The campaign against unilateral Talaq

Author – Ronaq Zahoor

In 1982, the film “Nikah” was released in India. It was a story of a muslim woman whose marriage is dissolved when her husband says “Talaq, Talaq, Talaq.” Talaq literally means divorce. This film focused on the way in which divorce takes place in a Muslim marriage. Today, nearly 30 years later a Muslim women’s advocacy group, the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andholan (BMMA) has started campaigning against unilateral and oral Talaq. This practice has been banned in most of the muslim nations, according to a handbook published by the Indian National Commission for Women (NCW). Unilateral triple Talaq is a common practice among muslims in India. The campaign by BMMA began after a Muslim woman in India, Afshan Bano, was served a Talaq by her husband who was working outside India.

Talaq is the termination of marriage in Islam. Different Islamic schools of thought hold different views on the issue of talaq. Some support oral and triple talaq and are of the view that there is no need of a witness. Shaista Amber, president of the All India Muslim Women Personal law board, argues, “In the holy Quran, it has been stated that Nikah and Talaaq is to be done among witnesses.” Amber says, “The right to take Khula (Islamic right of a Muslim woman to live separately from her husband) is also a legal right given to Muslim women but most of them are unaware of this. Khula can be taken by a woman if her husband mistreats her, fails to provide basic amenities, is mentally sick, has done another Nikah without her permission or has been missing for many years.”

In the name of the Islamic Shariah (law), All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AILBMP) is resisting efforts made by the BMMA to end the practice of unilateral triple Talaq. The AILBMP is the largest and single Islamic body in India that decides on marriage and divorce issues.

The body was formed in1973 to protect and apply Muslim Personal Law in marriage, divorce, succession and inheritance, but they have largely ignored women’s problems. Most Muslim women subject to abject poverty don’t even get formal education to learn about their basic rights.

Bollywood has also played a role to create misconceptions about divorce in Islam. For example the film “Nikah”, as mentioned already, reinforced the belief that triple Talaq brings an end to Nikah and women has no right to take any decision about her marital life. India is a country where bollywood is like a religion. People easily believe and practice what is shown on screen.

The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andholan has been fighting for the rights of Muslim women in India since long and now they have come forward to clear these misconceptions about marriage and divorce. They have been conducting seminars and meetings in this regard. They have even distributed pamphlets to create awareness among Muslim masses. All they  expect is that this will make their movement to end unilateral triple Talaq stronger. Although, the AILBMP scholars defend that unilateral triple Talaq is a part of the Shariah, there exists a huge gap between Quranic ideals and what they actually preach. The victory of BMMA may bring a ray of hope.


Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan

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