Triple talaq verdict: Despite SC ruling, ulema continue to support practice, campaign against Uniform Civil Code

The Supreme Court verdict on instant triple talaq will not make any meaningful change in the daily life of most Indian Muslims as they look up to the ulema as their eternal mentors

Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi Last Updated:August 23, 2017 22:34:50 IST
Triple talaq verdict: Despite SC ruling, ulema continue to support practice, campaign against Uniform Civil Code

Even after the Supreme Court verdict struck down instant triple talaq by 3:2 majority, the male-chauvinistic theological underpinnings of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the ilk seem to rule the roost. A careful look at the responses of the self-imposed custodians of Shariah in India on the Supreme Court judgment clearly reveals it.

Wednesday’s edition of the leading Urdu daily, Inquilab carried a front-page report saying “Muslim outfits saw the Supreme Court instant divorce judgment as yet another setback”. It reported, at length, how the AIMPLB, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH), Darul Uloom Deoband (DUD), Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) and other leading Muslim outfits are gearing up to challenge the Supreme Court’s decision that held instant triple talaq as "unconstitutional" and "un-Islamic".

Though the AIMPLB has interpreted the Supreme Court judgment as "vindication of its stand on the protection of Muslim personal laws", it strongly disagreed with the court’s decision to render instant triple talaq as “unconstitutional”. In a detailed statement published in various Urdu newspapers on Wednesday, the AIMPLB said that the Supreme Court's judgment would have "wide ramifications" as it affects the religious rights of minority groups. The Muslim law board also said that it will deliberate on the Supreme Court verdict at its working committee meeting in Bhopal on 10 September.

In a similar tenor, the statement of JIH, as produced on its official website, reeks of ambivalence on this issue. Responding to the Supreme Court judgment, JIH secretary general Muhammad Salim Engineer said: “We stand with the AIMPLB on this issue. The JIH along with the AIMPLB is going to meet on 10 September in Bhopal. They will be studying the judgment and will be able to comment on it only thereafter”.

JUH, a Deoband-oriented major Muslim outfit in India presently led by Maulana Arshad Madani, has gone one step further. It categorically condemned the Supreme Court’s judgment on instant triple talaq judgment terming it ‘anti-Shariah’.

However, Madani averred that the Supreme Court verdict will not affect the daily life of the practicing Muslim men and women in India. “A true Muslim will abide by the Shariah, not by the court. Now it's left to the desecration of Muslims whether they comprehend and practice the rules of Shariah or turn to the court," he said, as reported in Inquilab.

Tellingly, JUH has begun its preparations to campaigns against the next issue confronting the Indian Muslims — Uniform Civil Code. It has written and disseminated a booklet in Urdu: Uniform Civil Code ke khilaf Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind ki jidd-o-jihad (the struggle of JUH against the UCC). The front-page of the booklet reads: "JUH has clearly stated to the Supreme Court that the religious constitution of the Muslims — the Quran and Hadees — will remain unchanged and unaltered until the doomsday (Qayamat). The rules of Shariah cannot be rewritten on the pretext of the so-called social reforms".

One thing that is patently clear from the Muslim clergy’s confrontational responses and arguments regarding the Supreme Court judgment on triple talaq is that they will not be able to compromise on their theological position on triple talaq, let alone the entire personal laws. Therefore, one should keep in mind that the Supreme Court verdict will not make any meaningful change in the daily life of most Indian Muslims who still look up to the ulema as their eternal mentors.

Talking to this writer, many progressive Muslim scholars like the Muslim law expert professor Tahir Mahmood and A Rahman, an expert on Muslim law and a former Supreme Court lawyer, categorically disapproved of instant triple talaq, terming it as both "un-Quranic" and "unconstitutional". But the inexplicable problem with the common Indian Muslims, they regret, is that they stick to the clergymen (maulvis) in daily life. Taking advantage of this unrestrained and blind adherence, Muslim clergymen will continue to misinform the community’s vast majority including the women.

Only hours after the apex court struck down instant triple talaq as "unconstitutional" and "un-Quranic", the women's wing of AIMPLB termed the Supreme Court verdict as "contradictory", "confusing" and "fractured". The women's wing of AIMPLB, as widely reported in the Urdu press, stated: "While we respect the judgment, we do not appreciate interference in the Muslim Personal Law as right to religious freedom is a Fundamental Right guaranteed under the Constitution....Article 25 is a fundamental right and it cannot be set aside on the ground of judicial morality",
In fact, Muslim women’s arguments such as this reflect the line of thinking promulgated by the male-chauvinist clergy of the AIMPLB. The fundamental argument propounded by the AIMPLB is that “international convention and practices of other countries are of no avail as the practice of triple talaq is protected by Article 25”.

Interestingly, now the women wing of AIMPLB is also buttressing the point that instant triple talaq does not always go against women. "Many a time it is an exit mechanism to relieve women from unsuccessful and troublesome marriages," says Dr Asma Zehra, chief organiser of the women's wing of AIMPLB.

Ironically, Muslims lament that the clergy has created vile customs like triple talaq, nikah halala and nikah mut'ah (temporary marriage) in the Sunni and Shia communities. But at the same time, most of them are not willing to challenge the maulvis' monopoly over these crucial matters of daily social life. Most Muslims in India — both Sunnis and Shias — continue to look up to the maulvis as guardians and custodians of their religion.

Since the gullible Muslim masses adhere to the clerics' views on religious and social matters, the ulema and muftis (experts on Islamic jurisprudence) would do well to rigorously research, rethink and critically review the entire issue. They must take cues from the well-reformed Muslim divorce laws of Islamic nations. This will help them prepare and re-interpret a well-thought-out Muslim divorce law which could be in synergy with both the Quran and the Constitution. Keeping this broader objective in view, AIMPLB should plan genuine research to delve deeper into the subject matter, rather than organise large conferences and campaigns with hollow titles such as Tahafuzz-e-Shariat (protection of the Shariah).

In this context, very few ulema have taken time to introspect on the judgment. All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB), an apex body of Sufi-Sunni Muslims, has resolved to take an initiative. Talking to Firstpost, Syed Mohammad Ashraf Kichchawchchvi, founder-president, AIUMB, has said, "While we hold the Supreme Court’s judgment in high esteem, we cannot succumb to any self-imposed body of Indian Muslims."

Kichchawchchvi maintained that AIUMB stands by Indian Muslims’ personal laws, not the AIMPLB. However, he added, “We would not support any infringement on the basic provisions of the religious freedom accorded to Muslims in the Indian Constitution. For a well-intentioned and spirited reformation in the Indian Muslim society, the government will first have to win the community’s trust with due regard to its faith and religious practices."

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