When I was a child I heard a man divorce his wife by pronouncing three angry talaqs in one sitting. He regretted it later and wanted his wife back, but there was no way out once the three talaqs had been uttered. He was very sad.
His anxiety came to an end when he approached an Islamic scholar of the Ahle-Hadith sect who informed him that a triple talaq in one go in that state of mind was quite invalid. He was happy to be with his wife again.
As a child, with no knowledge of religion and little experience in life, I asked myself how the mere utterance of three words in one breath could terminate a marriage within a second. How could the recklessness of one person dissolve the union of two people so instantly?
It was inconceivable to my childish brain then and irrational to my realistic outlook now.
What the Quran says about talaq
The word talaq derives from Arabic and means ‘freeing or undoing the knot.’ In Islamic terminology, it refers to a divorce.
The Quranic message is very explicit about divorce. It leans more toward safeguarding marriage than dissolving it abruptly.
The chapter on women in the Quran draws attention to the need for arbitration before husband and wife decide to part ways. It commands:
And if you fear a breach between the two, appoint an arbiter from his people and an arbiter from her people. If they both desire agreement, Allah will effect harmony between them. (4:35)
In the event that triple talaq is pronounced in one go, where does the chance of arbitration, as stated in the Quran, stand?
The Quran sets certain norms to execute divorce, just as there are norms to sanctify marriage:
Those who intend to divorce their wives shall wait four months; if they change their minds and reconcile, then God is forgiver, merciful. If they go through with the divorce, then God is hearer, knower. (2:226-227)
It continues to say:
And the divorced women must wait for three menstrual courses… and their husbands are fully entitled to take them back (as their wives) during this waiting period, if they desire reconciliation. (2:228)
Elsewhere, it further decrees:
Divorce may be pronounced twice; then the wife may either be kept back in fairness or be allowed to separate in fairness. Then, if the husband divorces his wife (for the third time), she shall not remain lawful for him after this divorce, unless she marries another husband… (2:229-230)
The Islamic scripture demands time and patience in executing a divorce in the hope of making the union possible knowing that the couple is bound to have differences.
There is a complete chapter devoted to divorce in the Quran entitled ‘At-Talaq’, which explains:
O Prophet, when you divorce women, divorce them for their prescribed waiting-periods, and count the waiting-period accurately, and fear Allah, you Lord. And do not turn them out of their houses [during the waiting-period], nor should they themselves leave them, except in case they commit an open indecency…You do not know: Allah may after this bring about a situation [of reconciliation]. Then when they have reached the end of their [waiting] periods either retain them [in wedlock] in a fair manner or part with them in a fair manner, and call to witness two just witnesses from among yourselves, and [O witnesses] bear witness equitably for the sake of Allah. (65:1-2)
The divine book of Islam is filled with examples of exercising restraint in divorce. There is not a single verse that validates the notion of triple talaq in one sitting.
Dismissal of one-time triple talaq by the Prophet
According to a report, Abdullah bin Abbas, a companion of the Prophet said that triple talaq in one sitting was considered as only one talaq during the Prophet’s time, the period of the first caliph Abu Bakr and during the early years of the second caliph Umar (Sahih Muslim, 1482).
Once Rukanah bin Yazid, a companion of the Prophet, had divorced his wife thrice in one sitting. Regretting what he had done, he approached the Prophet, who asked him how he had divorced his wife. Yazid answered that he had done so by pronouncing the word talaq thrice. The Prophet asked him if he had pronounced it in a single sitting, to which he replied in the affirmative. The Prophet then said that it had the effect of one divorce and that he could take his wife back.
Source of triple talaq in India among Muslims
Some Indian Muslims, if not all, follow the system of triple talaq in one sitting based on the practice from the time of Umar, the second caliph.
Umar thought it appropriate to enforce triple talaq in one sitting as men had made talaq a joke by taking back their wives even after uttering the word ‘talaq’ several times. As a result of men’s recklessness, wives suffered, often getting stuck in a vicious circle, unable to gain their freedom.
However, the intention by the second caliph was aimed to ensure the welfare of society in that particular socio-historical context.
Muslims must not play as victims
Instead of blaming the government and the Supreme Court, Muslims must seize the opportunity to abolish this un-Islamic practice of triple talaq. They must know that there is nothing divine about triple talaq in one sitting. In fact, the Qur’an does not permit it at all. Moreover, it ruins the future of many women without a cause.
Many Muslim-majority countries have reformed their laws and consider three talaqs in one sitting to be just one. Indian Muslims must pause to bring reforms without pretending to be victims.
By abolishing triple talaq, the Supreme Court of India will merely enforce Quranic injunctions with regard to divorce as enshrined in the holy book of Islam. When Muslims cannot ensure for women the rights given to them in Islam, a secular country is likely to do so.