Prominent citizens, Anjum Rajabali (Screen Writer), Anwar Hussain (Corporate Executive), Aamir (Communication designer), Feroze Khan (Theatre director), Feroze Mithiborwala (Activist), Hasan Kamaal (Senior journalist, poet, lyricist), Irfan Engineer (Activist), Javed Anand (Activist, journalist), Javed Siddiqi (Screen/dialogue writer, playwright), Kader Qazi (Creative director), Saeed Mirza (Film-maker), and Rahman Abbas (Fiction Writer), have supported the demand for the abolition of triple talaq and nikaah-halala. Text of the statement:
We believe that gender equality and justice are human rights issues which must be as much a matter of concern for men as for women. If anything, it is more so men’s obligation to cry a halt to patriarchy, particularly when it is sought to be perpetuated in the name of God.
We therefore fully support the campaign launched by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) for the abolition, and declaration as illegal, of the current practices of triple talaq (instant divorce) and nikaah-halala in India. We salute BMMA for its initiative in collecting 50,000 signatures from across the country in support of their demand.
While the triple talaq method of instant divorce is today banned in more than 21 Muslim majority countries, including Pakistan, it continues to be justified by the ulema in India as legally valid, even though theologically repugnant.
We categorically reject the false claim of the ulema that what goes in the name of Muslim Personal Law in India is a “God-given” law. As BMMA has rightly pointed out, there is no mention of the inhuman, unjust and anti-women instant talaq practice in the Quran. In fact, the Quran clearly stipulates an obligatory three-month period during which attempts must be made at reconciliation and mediation before severing of the marital bond.
Equally, triple talaq violates the Constitutional principles of gender parity and non-discrimination. Thus this obnoxious practice is both un-Quranic and un-Constitutional.
The ulema who proudly proclaim that Islam is the first religion to have given rights to women are duty bound to ensure justice to women. We bemoan the fact that instead of doing so they continue to justify the Muslim male’s privilege of unilateral and instant divorce, often on a mere whim or fit of anger.
As for nikaah-halala, it is a shameful practice which is extremely degrading for women. Even if a husband utters the dread words ‘talaq, talaq, talaq’ in a fit of anger but regrets the same immediately thereafter, according to the ulema there is only one way for the couple to resume their relationship. Another man must marry the divorced woman, consummate the marriage and then divorce her so that she may remarry her former husband. BMMA has even documented some cases where qazis not only justify and legitimise nikaah-halala, but even offer their own “services” as temporary husbands. What could be more disgraceful than this?
The least we expect from the ulema who have proved themselves unwilling and incapable of ending the shameful, anti-women practices of instant divorce and nikaah-halala is to stop perpetuating patriarchy in the name of religion.
The word ulema is supposed to mean a body of Muslim scholars who are recognized as having specialist knowledge of Islamic sacred law and theology. We demand that the ulema in India to live up to that definition. They must stop making a mockery of their honorific, stop demonising Islam in the process.