De­mys­ti­fy­ing ta­laq

A con­sci­en­tious ex­pla­na­tion of of in­stan­ta­neous ta­laq. the puz­zling is­sue

FrontLine - - BOOKS IN REVIEW - BY SHAFEY KID­WAI

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O Mus­lims who look up each prac­tice of the Prophet Mo­ham­mad with rev­er­ent awe, yield to an act never per­formed by him? The an­swer is a def­i­nite “yes” as the prophet never di­vorced. Does Is­lam dis­cuss women be­yond the terms of mother, sis­ter, com­pan­ion, ob­ject of en­ter­tain­ment and a cen­tre of at­trac­tion and fi­delity by re­ject­ing the Semitic be­lief that de­scribed woman as an in­fe­rior empty-headed mo­ron? Does the mat­ri­mo­nial code of Is­lam put a pre­mium on fair treat­ment of wife? These two ques­tions again fetch a “yes”.

Do triple ta­laq, ha­lala and muta con­sti­tute the fate of Mus­lim women who are left un­shel­tered and un­cared for? Does Is­lam pro­vide Mus­lim men with a lethal weapon—di­vorce by way of pro­nounc­ing the dreaded word “ta­laq”? Here, “no” is the right an­swer. Is the right to di­vorce avail­able to women in Is­lam? “Yes”. These per­ti­nent and in­ci­sive ques­tions and the an­swers hardly fig­ure in the in­tense, ca­cophonous and polem­i­cal de­bate on ta­laq, but they are bril­liantly ar­tic­u­lated by Ziya Us Salam, a lit­er­ary critic, a votary of in­ter­faith di­a­logue and an em­i­nent jour­nal­ist, in his re­cently pub­lished book Till Ta­laq Do Us Part.

The book, di­vided into 16 la­conic chap­ters, be­trays a strong sense of aca­demic rigour. It goes be­yond per­cep­tive sift­ing and in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Qu­ranic verses or deal­ing ex­plic­itly with ta­laq and the prac­tice and say­ings of the Prophet. Fur­ther, fre­quent ref­er­ences to the im­por­tant texts of Is­lamic jurispru­dence pro­vide in­sights into ta­laq—a so­ciore­li­gious prac­tice that has left dem­a­gogues and the me­dia in con­fu­sion. Ziya’s slim vol­ume bril­liantly pro­duces an un­os­tenta- tious nar­ra­tive on in­stant di­vorce, or triple ta­laq.

Not­with­stand­ing the Prophet’s in­ten­tion to el­e­vate the sta­tus of mother­hood and wife­hood and launch an in­tense move­ment against gen­der in­equal­ity, en­slave­ment and ex­ploita­tion, Is­lam con­tin­ues to be pil­lo­ried for val­i­dat­ing di­vorce and polygamy. Dis­agree­ing with the ba­sic ar­gu­ment vig­or­ously pur­sued by the pro­tag­o­nists of ta­laq that for­bid­ding di­vorce brings a type of con­cu­bi­nage, the au­thor uses an ar­ray of doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence to re­in­force the sa­cred na­ture of mar­riage stip­u­lated by Is­lam and as­serts:

“Is­lam al­lows a man to di­vorce his wife, but there is a process for it. It is not like two minute noo­dles or switch­ing off the ig­ni­tion of your car. It al­lows a woman, too, to dis­solve her mar­riage. It gives both men and women the right to step out of wed­lock through mu­tual con­sent” (page XXIV).

Is­lam does al­low di­vorce; it is a right through which one can con­quer the sense of guilt. It is widely be­lieved that con­ju­gal rights are def­i­nitely tilted to­wards men as women have vir­tu­ally no say in the part­ing of ways al­though their con­sent is es­sen­tial for mar­riage.

DE­BATE ON KHULA

Ziya has set in mo­tion a de­bate, amaz­ingly shorn of in­sti­tu­tional re­li­gios­ity, on a woman’s right to di­vorce, called khula, and it has the po­ten­tial to trig­ger a new awak­en­ing about Is­lam’s com­mit­ment to gen­der jus­tice. Con­trary to pop­u­lar per­cep­tion, women, too, are pro­vided with an in­alien­able right to di­vorce— “khula”, which one hardly hears of. A lot of fog has been al­lowed to gather around a woman’s right to dis­solve her mar­riage. The au­thor tries to wipe out the mi­asma of con­fu­sion, and says:

“Un­der khula, a woman has a right sim­i­lar to that of a man to dis­solve the mar­riage. What’s more im­por­tant is that she has to spec­ify no grounds for ef­fect­ing the di­vorce. She has to fur­nish no proof of ha­rass­ment or ill-treat­ment. Some­thing as sim­ple as a dis­like for hus­band’s looks

Till Ta­laq Do us Part Un­der­stand­ing Triple Talq, Ta­laq and Khula By Ziya Us Salam Pen­guin­ran­dom­house, 2018 Pages: 218 Price: Rs.399

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