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17 Apr 2017

Deterrents but no ban

Members of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (from left) Maulana Mohammad Wali Rehmani, Zafaryab Jilani and Khalid Raheed Firangi Mahli during the news conference in Lucknow on Sunday. Picture by Naeem Ansari
Piyush Srivastava and Rasheed Kidwai, TT, April 16: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board today sought to put in clerical, societal and familial checks and balances to discourage the instantaneous pronouncement of triple talaq but a section of women regretted its failure to ban the summary divorce outright.
At the end of a two-day general body meeting in Lucknow, the board issued a code of conduct for all Muslims to follow during talaq, stressing staggered divorces and efforts at reconciliation.
It called for a social boycott of those who pronounce the triple talaq at one go and asked clerics to preach against such divorces at every Friday sermon.
A few young divorced Muslim women in Bhopal and Lucknow, who spoke to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity, termed the board's approach "cosmetic" and accused it of "lip service".
"What if the husbands refuse to listen to the clerics?" was the refrain.
The women said the call for a social boycott was mere rhetoric. "Who will implement the boycott? The clergy's call to bycott dowry demands and extravagant weddings, birthdays and mehendi ceremonies have not worked," a woman said.
The women said the board would have shown more sensitivity if it had banned divorces through the post, or through conversations or messages over the phone, WhatsApp or Skype.
In most cases, divorced Muslim women have little legal recourse even in the quasi-legal Sharia courts known as the qaziat, which sympathise with them but offer nothing.
A senior law board member told The Telegraph that the "real problem" was that the triple talaq was often pronounced in "anger".
"In some instances, even the husband's family members are sympathetic to their bahu but are helpless. I'm not sure how today's board directive will help in such situations," he said.
He added that the Shias, Bohras and the Ahle-Hadith had banned the triple talaq.
"It is only the mainstream Sunni Barelvi and Deobandi schools that are struggling to take a call," he said, referring to the law board's stand in the Supreme Court, which will from May 11 hear petitions claiming the instant triple talaq is unconstitutional.
The central government, a respondent in the case, has opposed triple talaq at one go on the ground of gender equality. But the law board has moved a counter-petition saying the courts or the government should not interfere in the community's personal laws.
Last week, law board vice-president Maulana Kalbe Sadiq had enthused reformists and dismayed hardliners by saying he would persuade the community to end the practice of the triple talaq within 18 months. He too had opposed court intervention.
Today, the law board, presided over by Maulana Mohammad Rabey Hasani Nadvi, asked all mosque clerics to read out its code of conduct on the subject of talaq during Friday prayers.
"The Sharia considers marriage a permanent relationship. But sometimes it becomes impossible for husband and wife to live together because of personal differences. It is better for them in such a situation to get separated," board member Zafaryab Jilani read out from the minutes of the meeting at a news conference.
"The Sharia tells us that one of the ways for separation is the triple talaq. But every effort should be made to improve the relationship before issuing a talaq."
According to the code of conduct, husband and wife should themselves try to find a solution to their problems, ignoring each other's weaknesses.
If they fail, they can sever the relationship in a phased manner, but only after the elders of both families sit together and attempt a reconciliation or arbitration.
There should be a gap of one month between each of the three talaqs, with the couple remaining husband and wife till the man pronounces the third talaq, the code says.
Yasir Usmani, a member of the law board's executive committee, said: "We have taken the views of four crore Muslim women on the triple talaq. They have made it clear that nobody should be allowed to interfere in the personal laws of the community."
The board has collected and submitted to the Law Commission more than 4.8 crore signatures from Muslims objecting to its recent move to examine the possibility of a uniform civil code, which will override Sharia law relating to divorce and polygamy.
"Only five per cent Muslims practise the triple talaq. Although the Sharia provides for it under certain conditions, Islamic law also warns against applying it. We have decided to make the people aware of the misuse of the triple talaq," Usmani said.
Ayodhya case
The board today appealed to the Supreme Court to deliver its judgment in the Ayodhya land title suit as soon as possible, saying there was no other way to reach an amicable solution. The apex court recently urged an out-of-court settlement and offered to mediate the talks.
"We have tried many times to resolve the issue through a dialogue. Even a Prime Minister had taken the initiative to solve the problem in the past. But we couldn't reach any conclusion," Usmani said. "We have lost all hope in dialogue and believe that only the Supreme Court can decide the case on merit."
Chandra Shekhar, who was Prime Minister between November 1990 and June 1991, had brought both sides on the discussion table.

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