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 ways in which we define words is crucial, and the importance of definitions has played a part in my research so far in the relationship between minority rights and women’s rights. Is religion a belief system, separate from our daily routine, or a driving force behind every decision we make? Is a community limited to its size, or driven by its power and sense of identity? And are civil rights limited to a singular type of identity, irrespective of the overlap between such labels as ‘minorities’ and ‘women’? The differences in these definitions stem from those who are given the power to define: the Indian government, the Muslim religious leaders, Indian women, Muslim women, divorced Muslim women, etc., and the ways in which minority rights and women’s rights are implemented in law.
So, I started my research many weeks ago but seem to be very late on the blog-posting bandwagon. Even though I started collecting books and reading many weeks ago, I was reluctant to put my thoughts into words because I was unsure about the true direction of my project. The research started out strong; I checked out numerous books from the library, each tackling a specific aspect of my initial topic (Muslim women in India and their property rights). At least fifteen books adorned my dining room table: there were books on Islam, Islam in India, the Women’s Movement in India, Muslim women’s property rights, Muslim women in India, and so on. Intrigued as I was in studying the struggle many Muslim women face in claiming and receiving property inheritance, I kept coming across heated and fascinating arguments about divorced Muslim women and their daily trials in India – moral, familial and judicial. Although I was about halfway through my planned time amount for my research, I changed my topic. I quickly found the arguments, court cases, law and moral discussions surrounding divorce rights to be much more captivating. There is also a greater quantity of literature pertaining to this subject, which is definitely a perk.
This Summer I will research Muslim personal law in India, specifically property rights, and its effect on gender equality for Muslim women in India. Personal law covers such areas as marriage, divorce, property rights and other family relations and, in India, is governed by religious laws. Although supported by classical Islamic law, women’s property rights are rarely enforced due to the institutionalization of interpretations of Islamic teachings. As a main objective for my study, I plan to investigate the disparity between classic Islamic teachings on women’s property rights and modern implementation through Islamic law. By reading and researching various textual and visual sources, I will study the theme of the difference between the representation of Muslim women in traditional Islamic teachings, the Qur’an, and interpretations of these teachings over time. The difference between the classical sermons and interpretations is most noticeable and documentable in the institutionalization of Islamic teachings. I plan to build on this idea, investigating this imbalance in property rights for women. From this research I will gain a heightened understanding of the relationship between religion, culture, gender norms and law, and hope to approach the rest of my academic career with a critical, yet unbiased mindset.