For the final leg of my project, I researched the triple talaq. Divorce is considered the most reprehensible action allowed in Islam, and is condemned by the Prophet (according to multiple hadith reports). Either husband or wife can initiate divorce, though the specific procedures are different for each. Husbands use talaq, wives use khula’, mutual consent is Mubarat, and in court it is referred to as Faskh (Baxamusa 19). Talaq is extra-judicial and can be initiated by the husband alone without the consent of his wife. Therefore, the husband has the absolute power to divorce. The talaq, or dismissal from marriage, may be pronounced in the form of ahsan, Hasan or Bid’ah. I have been focusing on the Talaq-a-Bid’ah form of divorce, or the ‘triple talaq,’ for it has been and continues to be a controversial and troublesome process in India today.
The talaq procedure is extra-judicial and a husband may enact talaq unilaterally without the consent of his wife. The Qur’an prescribes the husband’s ability as limited to one pronouncement of talaq at a time, as long as his wife is not menstruating, followed by the Iddat period of about 3 months. During this time, couples are encouraged to seek reconciliation. The husband may revoke his decision during the Iddat period and he will remain married; if there is no reconciliation, the divorce is complete. The husband is also not allowed to throw his wife out of the house and must continue to provide for her during the Iddat period. A husband is allowed to evoke talaq only three times total. After the third talaq, divorce is irrevocable (Baxamusa 21).
Okay, so that’s what the Qur’an says about husbands divorcing their wives (wives are also allowed to initiate divorce, but only judicially and under much stricter circumstances). Things become much more sticky when the Sunna is taken into account. Talaq-a-Bid’ah is approved by the Sunna and goes against the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet, but was legitimized by the Caliph Umar during his regime. The bid’ah procedure permits a husband to pronounce the talaq three times in one sitting, without the consent or knowledge of his wife. This eliminates the Iddat period and the protection that comes with it, forcing a once revocable divorce to become an irrevocable one. Critic Ramala Baxamusa deems this procedure to be the most “anti-women form of talaq,” although it is the most “accepted and widely used under the Muslim law” (Baxamusa 21).
So, the article by Baxamusa, “Need for Change in Muslim Personal Law for Divorce in India,” from which I gathered most of my information above was published in 1995: the year I was born. What has become of the triple talaq during my lifetime? Well, a quick search online produced myriad articles about the triple talaq divorce and its overwhelmingly popular usage in India. The most striking article I read was entitled “Divorce by Text Challenged by Sisters in Islam,” and recounted the protests surrounding a court decision that evoked Sharia law to allow divorce through text message. The article highlights the paradox the text message ruling creates between fundamentalist Islamists’ plight to maintain the significance of marriage and liberals’ call for a more modern interpretation of the Qur’an – although most of them are not looking for this type of advancement into the technological era. The triple talaq obviously continues to be a topic of interest in India, which is one of the few countries in which this divorce procedure is still practice.
Although I have more articles to read and arguments to uncover, I’m wrapping up this segment of my research as the summer comes to an end. I definitely will not be abandoning it though, only expanding and delving deeper into Muslim women in India and their divorce rights throughout the upcoming year.
Baxamusa, Ramala. “Need for Change in the Muslim Personal Law Relating to Divorce in India.” Problems of Muslim Women in India. Ed. Asghar Ali Engineer. Bombay: Sangam Books Limited, 1995. Print.