India Finally Bans Islamic Law That Let Men Instantly Divorce Their Wives

Saul Bowman
August 27, 2017

Muslim men in India previously were allowed to legally divorce their wives instantly by speaking or even writing or typing the Arabic word for "divorce", which is "talaq", three times.

Triple talaq "is not integral to religious practice and violates constitutional morality", a panel of Supreme Court judges said.

Two major Muslim bodies - The All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board and the All India Shia Personal Law Board also welcomed the verdict, terming it a victory of Islam and Muslim women in the country.

They said it was "manifestly arbitrary" to allow a man to "break down (a) marriage whimsically and capriciously". Last December, the Allahabad High Court had ruled that the right of Muslim women, or anyone for that matter, could not be infringed upon even if it is dictated by personal law. Chief Justice Khehar and Justice Naseer, in their separate judgment, are of the view that the practice of talaq-e-biddat, however unjust, can not be set aside on the violation of constitutional morality through a judicial order.

"What is required is to work for equal rights for women within each religious community and to get reforms undertaken in this direction".

Asserting that if it is bad in theology, it can not be accepted in law, the bench observed, "What is morally wrong can not be legally right".

The case generated intense interest in India as other women came forward with stories of how their husbands had dissolved their marriages via text message or, in one case, by placing a newspaper ad. He said that Islam can not have any room to dictate to any person and the Quran says that killing an innocent person was like killing the entire humanity. But it can unequivocally be said that they must have breathed a sigh of relief with the practice having been held contrary to the Indian Constitution. As many as 22 Muslim countries - including Pakistan and Bangladesh - or their provinces have abolished triple talaq either explicitly or implicitly. He appealed to political parties and lawmakers to set aside their individual gains and give "thoughtful consideration" to frame a suitable law.

Other plaintiffs later joined the case, including a woman whose husband divorced her in a letter sent by express mail. "The SC not only rejected but didn't take any cognisance of arguments of A-G to expand it to uniform civil code".

Dr Ilias Ali, eminent surgeon who has been fighting a long battle to popularize family planning concept among Muslims in different parts of the Northeast, told The Sentinel that cases of instant triple talaq was very less among indigenous Muslims primarily due to spread of education and socio-cultural environment prevalent among them. Biddat is considered "sinful" but permissible in Islamic law.

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