In a statement, 227 Muslim men have issued a call to ban the practices and said that they support the women challenging them.
Muslim women’s rights collectives have long been campaigning against the practices of instant triple talaq, polygamy and nikaah–halala in India. Two Supreme Court cases by Shayara Bano and Aafreen Rahman against triple talaq (Bano’s petition also challenges polygamy and halala) have renewed calls to reform Muslim personal law in the country. Representatives of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) recently called for Muslim men to actively organise for gender just reform and against practices like triple talaq.
On June 8, hundreds of Muslim men responded to that call. In a statement issued to the press, 227 signatories from all over India (and a few based outside the country) said:
“We, the undersigned, 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) and other Muslim organisations and individuals for the abolition, and declaration as illegal, of triple talaq (instant divorce) and nikaah-halala as being practiced in India. We salute BMMA for its initiative in collecting 50,000 signatures from across the country in support of their demand, as also the Muslim women victims of instant divorce who are seeking justice from the Supreme Court of India.”
Bano’s petition is being opposed in the Supreme Court by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), which claims that Muslim personal law is ‘divine’ and thus cannot be changed. The board has ignored arguments that several other Islamic countries have already banned these practices. In their statement, the signatories seem to directly respond to these stances taken by the board, reiterating Muslim women’s rights activists’ argument that instant triple talaq does not have Quranic sanction:
“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.”
The BMMA found in a survey last year that 92% Muslim women want triple talaq to be banned. The collective also sent a petition on this matter to the National Commission for Women, which was signed by 50,000 people.
Women representatives of the AIMPLB recently challenged the BMMA’s survey and petition, dismissing them and other activists as “opportunistic, publicity-seeking feminists who have no expertise on Islamic law”. The board has claimed that they are “being used as tools by anti-Muslim forces” who want to impose the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India, although activists from the BMMA and others have taken a public stance against the UCC, saying that it would impinge upon religion freedom in India.
The statement by the men is a challenge to the board’s dismissal of calls for reform:
“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 recognised as having specialist knowledge of Islamic sacred law and theology. We demand that the ulema in India live up to that definition. They must stop making a mockery of their honorific and demonising Islam in the process.”
The statement has been signed by a number of prominent personalities, including Resul Pookutty, Saeed Mirza, Javed Siddiqi, Hasan Kamaal, Anjum Rajabali, Shafaat Khan, Talat Jaani and Feroz Abbas Khan.