Reports of the government readying itself to argue in the Supreme Court that triple talaq—the disputed practice of instant divorce among Muslims that allows a man to divorce his wife by uttering the word talaq three times in succession in a single sitting—are likely to stir the hornet’s nest. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB)—formed in 1973 to oversee the continued applicability of Muslim personal law, especially the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act—has defended triple talaq in the Supreme Court, arguing it falls under the remit of Muslim personal law. But, the government, if it indeed goes through with it, will have done well to take the route that many Islamic nations have taken, interpreting Islamic personal law in the interest of gender justice and banning triple talaq.
The triple talaq practice in India is especially unfair to women, given Muslim personal law in India doesn’t provide for maintenance (nafah),except for, ironically, the period of iddat (or the canonical period of waiting between each utterance of talaq). A divorced Muslim then has to depend on relatives, or seek maintenance from the State Waqf Board. Although the Muslim Women Act 1986, that disallowed nafah after iddat, is worded to let women seek maintenance under the secular provisions of the law, this provision is hardly ever implemented. India is one of the few countries that allow triple talaq—21 Islamic nations, including neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh, have done away with the practice. In fact, though various schools of thought within Islam treat triple talaq as a Sharia-sanctioned practice, there are others that declare it talaq-i-bid’ah (or divorce of sinful innovation). There are yet others that deny it any validity saying an utterance of triple talaq will only be treated as just the first utterance, and thus not the irrevocable end of a marriage. The Sri Lankan law for Muslims, that doesn’t hold instant divorce and upholds iddat and the concomitantreconciliation attempts as per the Islamic canon, has been, as a column in Scroll points out, held as the most ideal legislation on triple talaq by Director of Shariah Academy, International Islamic University, Islamabad. It is time India took a leaf from its neighbours’ books.