Controversial Triple Talaq on Trial at India’s Supreme Court

"In India, a Muslim man can almost instantly divorce his wife just by repeating the word ‘talaq’ three times. But now the age-old practise is now being challenged in India's Supreme Court."

AUTHOR / Shuriah Niazi

Shahyra Bano (Photo: Shuriah Niazi)
Shahyra Bano (Photo: Shuriah Niazi)

In India, a Muslim man can almost instantly divorce his wife just by repeating the word ‘talaq’ three times.

Known as “triple talaq” the controversial practise has increased over recent years, with Muslim men annulling their marriages through letters, SMS messages, and even Facebook.

But as Shuriah Niazi reports, the age-old practise is now being challenged in the Supreme Court.

In the Indian state of Assam, one Muslim man, Aiunuddin, recently divorced his wife through talaq becasue she voted against his wishes in the assembly elections.

His wife of 10 years, Dilwara Begum, voted for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), while he wanted her to vote for the Congress Party. 

“I was really amazed by his action. I did not know that he wanted to divorce me,” Dilwara Begum recalls.

“He threatened to divorce me and I asked him how he could divorce me just because I voted for a party against his wishes. Then I told him if he wanted to divorce me he could do it.”

Dilwara Begum is not alone – every year, hundreds of women in India see their marraiges annulled through what is known as triple talaq.

Shayara Bano received the triple talaq from her husband in the form of a letter, while she was recovering from ill health at her parents’ house.

Now the 37-year-old mother of two has decided to take her battle to the Supreme Court.

“My health had deteriorated so I returned to my parents' home and then I received a letter from my husband that he had divorced me. He gave me triple talaq,” explains Shayara Bano.

“I didn't want divorce because I have children and their life would become miserable. So I approached the Supreme Court because it should be illegal.”

At least 22 Muslim countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned triple talaq and Shayara also wants to see it banned in India.

It’s a practise, she says, that is unconstitional and robs women of any decision making power in their marriages.

“The woman should also have a choice. At the time of marriage, both man and woman sign the papers,” said Bano.

“But oral talaq is unilateral and a woman has absolutely no say in the process. There should be a procedure to dissolve the marriage and views of women should also be taken into consideration.”

However, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, or AIMPLB, is against the move and is contesting Shahyara Bano’s case.

In India, divorce and marriage issues for Muslims are dominated by the AIMPLB, the single largest religious body in the country, which includes differnt Islamic scholars.

AIMPLB member Zafrayab Jeelani says triple talaq is lawful and warned against interference in the personal issues of Muslims.

“The issue is related to the personal law of Muslims. The government should not interfere in the issues of Muslims in any way. The Supreme Court has no right to interfere,” stated Jeelani.

The AIMPLB was formed in 1973 to protect and apply what is known as “Muslim Personal Law”, in marriage, divorce, succession and inheritance.

But not everyone agrees that triple talaq should be continued.

Alongside Shayara Bano, the NGO, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, has also been fighting to see the practise outlawed. 

“This practice has to be stopped at once. It is not only inhuman but also un-Islamic. You cannot end marriage in such a way without any valid reasons,” commented Safiya Akhtar, head of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. 

“No one can imagine the trauma of the women and how much they suffer after they are forced to leave their husband's house.”

India’s Supreme Court is now set to make one of the most interesting decisions in its history. 

This March the court agreed to hear Shayara Bano’s petition.

The legality of triple talaq is now in the court’s hands. 

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