The issue of Triple Talaq has recently grasped much attention because various Civil Society Organizations and Women Welfare Institutions have questioned the system of Triple Talaq as oppressive and intolerant towards women, giving a free hand to husbands to divorce their wives as and when desired.
What is Triple Talaq?
The word “Talaq” means divorce. It is an institution of divorce in Islam by which a husband gives divorce to his wife (and not the other way round). It is called Triple Talaq because the divorce is given thrice. Wait, the divorce is given thrice and not once, why? Keep this question in mind, I will come to it later.
How Tripe Talaq is practiced?
The husband has to simply say to his wife “Talaq, Talaq, Talaq” (yes thrice) and the divorce comes into action. And then wife loses all her rights, the marriage is nullified and she becomes a divorcee and so does the man. This is how it is mostly practiced across the Muslims world, especially in the Indian subcontinent. But is it really so? I mean is this really what Islam teaches and what Muslims practice? The answer may surprise you but it is not the way Islam has established this system.
What does Islam say?
All the laws in Islam derive their legitimacy from the Holy Quran and the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad). In order to cross-check what Islam says regarding divorce, we have to look into these two sources. Any other interpretation is meaningless unless it is backed by Quran and Hadith.
In Quran, there is a complete chapter on the issue of divorce, namely Surah Talaq (chapter no. 65). For reading the entire chapter, you may click on the link. According to this chapter and the Hadith, the process of divorce goes like this:
1. If there is a discord between the couple, an arbitrator has to be appointed from the either side so that the couple may reconcile. However if reconciliation is not possible, then they may proceed with the divorce.
2. There are certain conditions in which divorce cannot be given:
• If a woman is in her menses.
• If the couple have had physical relations immediately preceding the divorce.
• If the woman is in her post-natal condition.
3. The husband can then initiate the divorce and has to appoint two witnesses who can witness the divorce.
Question: Why husband can initiate the divorce and not wife under Triple Talaq?
The answer is that in Islam it’s the man who has to take care of the wife and bear the entire financial burden. It’s not obligatory on the wife to bear the financial burden of the family. Also, during marriage, the man has to pay his wife a gift called “Meher” as much as he can afford. The gift is usally a monetary sum or jewelry or any other item. The husband has, per se, no right on this gift after marriage. The wife can spend it as she wills (not in sinful activities of course). Now imagine if some women start marrying and divorcing as per their will in order to get money from their husbands, the man will end up paying huge sums of money.
4. If the man says “Talaq Talaq Talaq” at once, it will be counted as one and not three. Yes you read it right. Saying Talaq thrice does not entail three divorces but one.
5. After that, the man and the woman have to wait for a period of three menstrual cycles (3 months), during which if they wish they can once again turn to each other (without requiring to remarry) and the divorce would be invalid. The wife cannot be compelled to leave the house of her husband during the period of 3 months. Yes, she can stay there. Why? It is because there can be chances that the couple may find the lost love again and over turn their decision to get separate. Quran says “do not harm them in order to oppress them”. Mercy, isn’t it?
6. For the pregnant woman, the period of waiting is until the delivery of the baby. Not only this, Quran says “And if they should be pregnant, then spend on them until they give birth”. Well this is something the blabbering media never told you.
7. What if the child is being breastfed, how would the divorced woman carry on for her own nutrition? Quran says “And if they breastfeed for you, then give them their payment”. Wow, the women right activists never highlighted this point!!!
8. After the completion of 3 menstrual cycles, the woman can leave or the couple can get married again. If they decide to get married, the husband has to pay new Meher and the wife is financially secure again (first time being the first marriage).
9. The same process is repeated if they divorce each other second time: 3 menstrual cycles of waiting, criteria in point number 2 above has to be followed and so on.
10. Now when they get divorced for third time, the woman becomes permanently forbidden for the man. They can never remarry provided the woman by her own will marries some other man, gets divorced from him and then only can she turn back to her first husband. Pheww, complex isn’t it?
Wait, what does it say, marry another man, get divorced and remarry first one? But why?
Marrying with another man should happen naturally. It should not be done for the sole purpose of paving the way to get married to first husband again. This is absolutely prohibited in Islam. This clause has been put because marriage is not a game that whenever you wish you can pause and then resume. It’s one of the purest relations in Islam. Also a woman is not an object that can be kept as per the whims of her husband and manipulated. If the woman finds her second husband better than the first, she can continue with him. If not, she has the option to go back to her first husband.
And now what about the woman, can’t she divorce her husband?
Of course she can. If she finds her rights are not being fulfilled or she is ill-treated, she can nullify the marriage and ask for divorce. This is called “Khula”. But she has to return the Meher as Islam takes care of the rights of men as well.
This was in brief how Triple Talaq works in Islam. It’s not what you have been told by the media, the “activists” or the guardians of human rights. Do you at any point feel that a man saying “Talaq, Talaq, Talaq” finishes everything at one stroke? Divorce in Islam is not a one shot event, but a process where all doors to reconciliation have been kept open. The rights of man and woman have been balanced.
Till hundreds of years back, people considered earth to be flat even after Magellan traversed around the earth and proved it to be round. But he was considered a fool. Later when science advanced and technologies developed, we came to know that earth is round. Not only this, but various other misconceptions previously held have become clear only after humans attained higher levels of consciousness and knowledge. What was right at that time is wrong today.
Similarly, those who say that Triple Talaq oppresses the women have not understood this system completely. Their consciousness is still evolving.
Who is to blame?
The biggest share of blame goes to Muslims themselves. They have themselves not understood the doctrine of Islam properly and have set wrong precedents which has landed them in a situation where this system is being questioned and labelled as obscurantist and oppressive. It has made people leery of Islam.
Also, certain sections of western society, the irresponsible media circus that has played a vicious role in misrepresenting the entire scenario and the political parties who have used this instrument to their advantage for vote bank politics are also to be blamed.
- Quran: Chapter 65.
- Commentary on Quran by Moulana Modudi; Vol 5.
- Fiqul Hadith: Vol 2.