‘We need to carry the ulema with us’
To begin with, there is complete unanimity among all Muslims that triple talaq is not in accordance with Koranic injunctions or the teachings of the Prophet.
Secondly, forget other schools of Islamic jurisprudence, even among the followers of the Hanafi school, the triple talaq practice is today unlawful in Hanafi predominant countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq (the Sunni minority in Iraq are followers of the Hanafi school).
India is perhaps the only country in the world today where triple talaq is lawful for Muslims. Can it be anyone’s case that Muslims throughout the world, except Indian Hanafis, are guilty of un-Islamic practice?
When we started talking about the need for an end to the wrongful practice of talaq-e-salasa (triple talaq) about ten years ago, there was little appreciation among the ulema about both the nature and the magnitude of the problem.
I was frequently asked: Is triple talaq the only or even the major problem that Indian Muslims are faced with? Besides, the incidence of triple talaq is negligible in percentage terms. Why, then, was this blown up into such a major issue?
My answer always would be: One, it may not be the only problem, but it certainly is part of the problem the community faces. And I, being a woman, consider the resolution of this problem as part of my priorities. Secondly, even assuming that the triple talaq practice is not so prevalent, what is haram is haram, what is gunaah is gunaah. So how can it be overlooked?
I am happy to see a sea change in the attitude of even the ulema in India today. I would go to the extent of calling it a revolutionary change in attitudes. It is not just that a person like me is invited to address large gatherings of the ulema from different parts of the country where I am given a very patient and sincere hearing. It is what many of the ulema have themselves started saying in public meetings that is more significant.
Personally speaking I feel it is very important to take the ulema with us because there is no denying the fact that for most Muslims what an alim or a kazi says matters a great deal. I can best illustrate my point with a real life experience. In Gujarat, Muslim women were being denied their share in the parental property on the pretext that the property was tied up in the form of assets like shops, inventory of goods, etc. Several years ago I was present at a meeting in Ahmedabad where the late Maulana Mujahid-ul-Islam (former president, All India Muslim Personal Law Board) told the gathering of Muslims that this was unacceptable, that the share that was being denied to Muslim women was haram and those responsible for this would be answerable to Allah on the Day of Judgement. This one rebuke from the maulana made a huge impact and families where women were being denied their share have since then started receiving it.
That is why I believe it is so important to interact and engage with the ulema. That is why I have been trying to get the All India Muslim Personal Law Board to, as a body, endorse the model nikahnama we had proposed several years ago. At a recent gathering of prominent ulema from different parts of the country, they asked me to send them the nikahnama we had drafted. They have promised that they will start campaigning for it and push for its implementation in their respective areas without waiting for the Board’s formal endorsement. This, for us, is a big leap forward.
It is not just the question of ending the wrongful practice of triple talaq. There are also issues such as that of mehr, the Muslim woman’s right to divorce under certain circumstances, maintenance, etc., which need to be reviewed in the context of modern day realities. This is the job of the fiqh schools and we need to engage with them too.
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