Dhaka, Bangladesh
When talaq is a threat

When talaq is a threat

By Madhuri Velegar K

When Shahtaj Khanam, ex-deputy mayor of Bangalore, woke up one morning in June 2011, little did she know that she would read the news of her own divorce in the morning papers. As she skimmed over the pages of Urdu newspaper Salar Daily (June 1, 2011 edition), she spotted an advertisement issued by Anwar Pasha, her husband, which stated clearly that he had "given talaq" to Shahtaj, a fact that he claimed had even been attested by the mosque committee of the area. Shahtaj was livid. "I have a 19-yearold daughter, and I thought about what would happen if she were to get married and one day her husband were to give her talaq in this manner. That's why I decided to teach him a lesson," says Shahtaj. A week later, the mosque committee of Mahaboobiya, Parvatinagar, Medahalli, issued a clarification in the Salar Daily (June 9, 2011 edition) stating that no such talaq or khula papers were given with regard to Shahtaj Khanam. It was a hoax, the clarification stated, adding Anwar had taken the signature of a man representing the Muslim committee under false pretext. The missing husband "Two years ago, in May 2010, my husband went missing," narrates Shahtaj. "After years of abuse and mismanagement of family funds, he had run up huge debts and creditors were knocking on our door, so he did a disappearing act. Then, one of his brothers called me and accused me of kidnapping and killing him. So I sought help from the police. I found him hiding in one of his brother's houses, barely 20 minutes away from where we stayed! "He also left a huge debt of Rs.1.1 crore. Later, I also found out that he had married a widow, and was living with her. He had the gall to call and inform me when she gave birth to his child in April this year. He has also given away ancestral property that came to him through his father, to his brother's daughter, when it rightfully belongs to our daughter. That is why I am fighting this case in court. We are currently waiting for a hearing." A convenient interpretation According to Shahtaj, it is this practice of using talaq as a threat against Muslim women as well as to deny them their rights that needs to be addressed. "There are so many men, who after several years of marriage and children, wake up one day and declare talaq on a whim. In many cases, these women have nowhere to go, and do not even have educational qualifications to seek work." Which is why, she says, she is fighting against her husband. Shahtaj has appealed to the Muslim Law Board as well as the Government of India to create an awareness among men on when talaq is applicable. "At least 52 Muslim-ruled countries follow the Ahle Hadees system of talaq," says Shahtaj. "However, a few bad people misuse or misinterpret it to suit their ends. Islam allows talaq in these three situations only-first if your wife is mentally ill, second, if she cannot give you an offspring and third, if you find her in bed with another man." Righting the wrong Two major Islamic seminaries-the Sunni Jamaat and the Masjid-e-Ahle-Hadees-issued fatwas that the talaq was incomplete and have given an option that both Shahtaj and her husband can live together by performing a second nikaah. Under normal circumstances, if the process of talaq is completed, there is no option of second nikaah for the couple until the women marries another man and gets talaq from him. In their reply to Khanam's query, the Masjid-e-Ahle- Hadees says: "It is a personal matter concerning a couple. By publishing it in a newspaper advertisement, he (Anwar) has brought bad name to the family. The correct way of doing it is to pronounce talaq twice. During this time, the wife can continue to stay in her husband's house and it is possible that Allah may bring about love between the couple again as mentioned in the Quran Al Talaqu Marateen. In that case, the talaq may be revoked. If it does not happen, the husband can complete the process of talaq by pronouncing it for a third time." The holy law "As per the Quran, talaq has to be uttered thrice," says Amarjit Kaur, a legal expert from Mumbai. "If the woman is served the talaqnama, one month should pass, and then it must be uttered a second time, yet another month should pass and he should say it the third time. Secondly, Shahtaj's husband is bound to pay maintenance, which is not a paltry amount anymore-there has been a pay enhancement on Rajiv Gandhi's amendment which is reasonable. She can also ask for a share in the property.

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