By Zainab Ahmed
Title: Till Talaq Do Us Part; Author: Ziya us Salam; Publisher : Penguin Books; Pages: 240; Price: Rs 399
Triple Talaq. This term has time and often garnered public attention due to several cases that later dragged this practice to the court. But it came into significant notice when Supreme Court of India declared the practice of Triple Talaq unconstitutional by 3:2 majority almost a year ago. However, this verdict also became the eye of prime time debates and discussions and boiled down to the most essential question: Does Islam treat women unfairly or poorly in the context of marriage, basic rights of marriage and most importantly, divorce?
Ziya us Salam, a social commentator and an associate editor at the fortnightly Frontline, addresses this question in the most informative and explanatory manner in his book Till Talaq Do Us Part. The first chapter with a self-explanatory title ‘like garments unto each other’ starts with the quote from Quran which assures that there is a mate for everybody.
“And among His signs is this that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” (Surah Rum, chapter 30, verse 21)
The book also reflects on the idea that marriage in Islam is not necessarily a bond forever. It is a contract, signed in accordance with the will of two parties that can be annulled whenever needed by both the parties.
While most of the academia books on the theme address the non-Muslims defending Islam and practices within it, this one here by Ziya is like a breath of fresh air. He does not defend Islam or its practices but kills the notions about Muslim masculinity that has been formed by the Islamophobic Hindutva brigade. And above all, he, unlike the other books, addresses the Muslim community.
Not has he only burst the myths around marriage and Talaq and has made a case for gender justice in Islam, but has also taken his readers through the entire timeline of the practice, reversing back to the Shyara Bano case. His journalistic experience has also helped him draw a detailed trajectory of the current developments in the political lifespan of this controversy.
His oversimplified explanation of the most controversial terms as Polygamy, Talaq, Khula, Halala, and the rights of women in Islam within and outside marriage by quoting from sources as Quran and hadith and different theological school of thoughts makes this book stand out among many on the same topic.
Apart from the explanations on these topics, Ziya also makes some very important remarks about this landmark judgment. He writes, quite unabashedly that too, that the SC judgment will hardly have any impact in the lives of the Muslim women at the ground level.
He clearly mentioned the case of Jharkhand’s Fatima Suraiya, Jodhpur’s Afsana, and Rajkot’s Rubina Lakhani, who were divorced by their respective husbands through instant triple Talaq within days and months of the historical verdict. And the reason remains the same that was before SC set aside the practice: ignorance, illiteracy and above all, patriarchy.
“The reasons are to be found as much in our patriarchal society as in people’s complete ignorance of the Quran. Most common Muslim families in small-town India depend upon the local imam to interpret Quran for them, or even advise them on any issues pertaining to religion…Unfortunately, the local imams are often not well versed with the Quran…They read the Quran, even commit it to memory, without understanding it. Worst, most of these imams are not reliably conversant with Hadith either,” the book states.
Ziya has not only highlighted the challenges that Muslim women in India face through Talaq but has also noted that the other challenges they face in their day to day life. For instance, despite Prophet making provisions for their prayer, women are excluded from most of the mosques in India, thus making the praying place a male domain.
“Women, if they do enter, are considered aliens, another species, who have perchance entered the wrong place,” he writes.
While talking about Khula and Halala, Ziya has also mentioned that it’s crucial for both men and women, especially women, to know their rights, thus emphasizing on the need of education and subtly pointing out the ignorance that most of the women in India are living in, and this ignorance leads to their exploitation.
He concludes the book by saying that the most important task lies in the hands of the Muslim community who can save themselves from such immoral practices only if they’re educated and aware of their rights and have not just read and memorized the Quran but have also understood it.
As is mentioned in Surah Muhammad, verse 24, “Then they do not reflect upon the Quran, or are there locks upon (their) hearts?”
As the Muslims face new challenges in ‘New India’ and are slowly learning to fight using their rights, they also need to face the issues that have been haunting the community since ages. These issues should be discussed in the internal sphere of the community not to defend Islam but to address the wrong practices being carried out in the name of Islam.
And it’s the duty of every Muslim intellectual, activists, lawyers, writers and journalists to come forward and contribute to these discussions. Ziya us Salam’s book Till Talaq Do Us Part is one such contribution which has informed the Muslims and has given them a solid ground to participate and take this discussion forward, till we find a solution to it.