POLITICS

Is The Islamic ‘Triple Talaq’ Really That Different From How Modern Couples Split?

Triple talaq and the suave liberal break-up.

31/05/2017 4:09 PM IST | Updated 31/05/2017 4:09 PM IST
Ahmad Masood / Reuters

When you decide to find release from each other, as modern man and wife, you must first suffer. Like conjoined twins who wish for freedom. And like them one of you will fare worse. You may have heard of the wisdom, 'Marriage is a lot of work'? It appears that only women ever say that, but it does not mean men are off the hook — they too will endure the 'work'. Marital struggle is a team effort. The couple marinates in a mild toxin for years before seeking flight.

Whatever form it takes, it appears that the hardship of separation is sacred. It is through this misery that the society, oddly, is reassured that marriage is important, and that women have equal rights. Suffering is the uniform civil code of the sophisticated divorce. So, is that what the complaint against the instantaneous Islamic triple talaq is really, stripped of all the nonsense? That it is too easy? That a Muslim man, instead of undergoing three stages of divorce over a period of time, has the option of executing the three stages all at once? And that the 'triple talaq' can be issued long-distance, in the form of a WhatsApp message even?

Whatever form it takes, it appears that the hardship of separation is sacred

No, the humanitarians say. It is not about ease as much as how easy it is for a man to discard a woman. But that is not true, the clerics point out. A woman has equal rights to issue triple talaq. Muslim men file for divorce on frivolous grounds, some people allege. For instance, as a recent newspaper article reports, a man divorced his wife for switching off the fan when he was asleep in the room. But then, courts hear numerous divorce pleas from non-Muslims couples who wish to separate because of a partner's diet or accent or snoring. Many of these reasons, in reality, may not be as frivolous as they seem. Also, the clerics say, there is considerable psychological pressure on the members of the community not to avail of this facility. When it comes to wishing complex suffering on couples that want to separate, the world is secular.

Many of the people, if not all, who are angered by triple talaq and are exhibiting heartwarming love for the welfare of Muslim women are Hindu nationalists, who had also demonstrated considerable love for Ugandan women when Arvind Kejriwal's government was bothering them. Also, many Muslim women who support triple talaq, claiming it is a part of their heritage, are urbane women who are unlikely to face such a form of divorce. But, despite the political nature of the noise, it is hard to ignore the fact that a majority of Indians find this form of divorce disgusting because of its simplicity.

When it comes to wishing complex suffering on couples that want to separate, the world is secular

But then how is the break-up of a modern urbane non-marital relationship, which is not very different from a marriage, conducted today? Men and women spend years together, share a bond that is probably deeper than most marriages, and separate without disturbing the Indian State. There are fond goodbyes and bitter accusations, of course. Some of them do end from great distances, with no reasons given. They do end on WhatsApp, too. "Sorry, Sorry, Sorry"? Maybe not, but probably, "It's not working out". Certainly, "Let's be friends." It appears that many modern relationships do end with some form of instantaneous 'triple talaq'.

Some may argue that the Islamic triple talaq empowers a man to discard a young impoverished woman, a social underdog, while in a facile modern break-up the woman may not be at such a disadvantage. This is based on a presumption that long non-marital relationships are the preserve of the upper classes alone? That would be naïve. Today, it is prevalent across social classes in India. It is probable that every year hundreds of thousands of young women are discarded with greater ease than in the ritual of triple talaq, where the man has to at least pay compensation and face the frowns of his society.

How is the break-up of a modern urbane non-marital relationship, which is not very different from a marriage, conducted today?

The Indian State and society are ill-equipped to handle contemporary cultural forces that are sweeping across the social layers. They make spurious claims to modernity and sophistication by challenging an Islamic custom. Instead, India should be asking more complex questions. What is the true definition of marriage today? What is injustice in a modern relationship? Are there crimes in the affairs of men and women that are beyond the ambit of law? Should lovers, too, be allowed to approach the courts?

India must accept that the sacred hardship of divorce is not a measure of modernity, or the rights of women. In fact, what several of my friends, who are women, have craved for is a quick painless divorce from the court. How they would have wished to Whatsapp their men, "Talaq, talaq, talaq".

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