Islam does not sanction triple divorce in one sitting
When I was a child I heard about a man divorcing his wife by pronouncing three talaqs in anger in one sitting. Later he regretted and wanted to take his wife back, but there was no wayout as saying “talaq, talaq, talaq” was said to have finalized his divorce irrevocably.
Soon his anxiety came to an end when he approached an Islamic scholar of Ahle-Hadith sect who informed him that triple talaq in one go, and that, too, in an agitated state of mind, was invalid. He was happy to be with his wife again.
As a child, with no knowledge of religion and experience of life, I asked myself as to how could mere utterance of a word thrice in one breadth could terminate a marriage. How could recklessness of a person dissolve the union of two humans so instantly, a union for which they took years of planning?
It was inconceivable to my mind then, and irrational to my realistic outlook now.
What the Qur’an says about talaq
The word Talaq comes from an Arabic root which means “freeing or undoing the knot.” Pronouncing talaq before one’s wife either suspends or terminates the marriage.
The Qur’anic message about it is explicit. It leans more toward safeguarding marriage than dissolving it abruptly.
The chapter “Women” in the Qur’an calls attention to the need for arbitration before husband and wife decide to part ways. It commands: “And if you fear a breach between the two, appoint an arbiter from his people and an arbiter from her people. If they both desire agreement, Allah will effect harmony between them.” (4:35)
In the event of triple talaq in one go, where does the chance of arbitration stand as stated in the Qur’an?
The Qur’an sets certain norms to execute divorce as there are ways to sanctify marriage: “Those who intend to divorce their wives shall wait four months (cooling off); if they change their minds and reconcile, then God is Forgiver, Merciful. If they go through with the divorce, then God is Hearer, Knower.” (2:226-227)
It continues: “”And the divorced women must wait for three menstrual courses... and their husbands are fully entitled to take them back (as their wives) during this waiting period, if they desire reconciliation.” (2:228)
It further decrees: “Divorce may be pronounced twice; then the wife may either be kept back in fairness or allowed to separate in fairness. Then, if the husband divorces his wife (for the third time), she shall not remain lawful for him after this divorce, unless she marries another husband...” (2:229-230)
The Islamic scripture demands time and patience in executing divorce in the good hope of keeping the union knowing the fact that a couple living together are bound to have differences.
There is a complete chapter devoted to divorce in the Qur’an entitled At-Talaq meaning divorce.
It explains thus: “O Prophet, when you divorce women, divorce them for their prescribed waiting periods, and count the waiting period accurately, and fear Allah, your Lord. And do not turn them out of their houses (during the waiting period), not should they themselves leave them, except in case they commit an open indecency…You do not know: Allah may after this bring about a situation (of reconciliation). Then when they have reached the end of their (waiting) periods either retain them (in wedlock) in a fair manner or part with them in a fair manner, and call to witness two just witnesses from among yourselves, and (O witnesses) bear witness equitably for the sake of Allah.” (65:1-2)
The Qur’an is full of examples of exercising restraint in divorce. There is not a single verse that validates the notion of triple talaq in one sitting.
Dismissal of one-time triple talaq by the Prophet
According to a report, Abdullah bin Abbas, a companion of the Prophet, said that triple talaq in one sitting was considered as one in the period of the Prophet, the period of the first caliph Abu Bakr, and during the early years of the second caliph Umar (Sahih Muslim, 1482).
Once a companion of the Prophet, Rukanah bin Yazid, divorced his wife thrice in one sitting. He then regretted what he had done and approached the Prophet. The Prophet asked him how he had divorce his wife. Rukanah answered that he had done so by pronouncing the word talaq thrice. The Prophet asked him if he had pronounced it in a single sitting, to which he replied in the affirmative. The Prophet then said that it had the effect of one divorce and that he could take his wife back.
Source of triple talaq in India among Muslims
Muslims, if not all of them, in India follow the system of triple talaq in one sitting from the practice of Umar, the second Caliph.
During the time he ruled, Umar thought it appropriate to enforce triple talaq in one sitting as men had made talaq a joke by taking back their wives even after pronouncing talaq several times. As a result of men’s recklessness, wives suffered, often getting stuck in a vicious circle and not being able to gain their freedom.
However, the intention of the second Caliph was the welfare of society in that particular socio-historical context.
Muslims must not play victim
Instead of blaming the government and the Supreme Court, Muslims must seize the opportunity to abolish this un-Islamic practice of triple talaq. They must know that there is nothing divine about triple talaq in one sitting. In fact, the Qur’an does not permit it at all. Moreover, it ruins the future of many women.
Many Muslim-majority countries have reformed their laws and consider three talaq in one sitting to be just one. Indian Muslims must bring reform without pretending to be victims.
By abolishing triple talaq in one sitting, the Supreme Court of India will merely enforce the Qur’anic injunctions with regard to divorce.
The author teaches in the College of Education, Islamic University of Al-Asmariya, Zliten, Libya. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org