The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has toned down its hard line defence of triple talaq in the wake of the Modi government’s determination to go ahead with outlawing it and the apparent pressure from within the Muslim community. At its latest meeting in Lucknow, it said instant triple talaq is ‘wrong’ but qualified this by saying as a concession to hardliners that it is still a valid way to end a marriage.
It went on to say that Muslims who ‘misuse’ instant triple talaq (instant divorce) would face a ‘social boycott’ from the community. Conscious of the silent desire of Muslim women to see an end to instant triple talaq which puts them through hardship besides demeaning them, the Board issued an eight-point code of conduct on divorces and marital disputes as it sought to counter the perception that Sharia-based Muslim personal law is prejudiced against women.
Strangely, however, while reiterating that triple talaq was valid, it said conveying it by a mobile phone message too was valid. In a statement issued after the meeting at the Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama Islamic seminary, the president said the Sharia has given equal rights to men and women and it is the responsibility of the community to provide those rights to women.
What was left unsaid was that it was not for women to interpret, or so it would seem. He added that the talaq had been kept to save the women from danger, adding that if a few people misuse it what is required is not a change in the law but the reforming of such people. There indeed is a groundswell developing for change and it would be prudent if the Muslim clergy sees that the time has come for change.
The Supreme Court has set May 11-19 as the timeline to conclude hearings on the legality of triple talaq, investing the matter with a sense of urgency. The court may take a view in the light of principles of rights and gender equality. But the need for the court to take a call would be unfortunate, and it would be best for the community to present a convincing resolution of the matter before that. Even as the larger question of a Uniform Civil Code hangs fire, the Muslim leadership would serve the community well by promoting social reform; at least to the extent it meets Sharia.