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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Darul Uloom Deoband turns into a Fatwa Factory: Triple Talaq and Women's rights in Islam

Due to Darul Uloom Deoband's historic role and its Ulama's recent social initiatives, one could have ignored a couple of controversial fatwas but the latest fatwa has once again proved that there is something seriously wrong with the seminary, especially the Darul Ifta or the 'Fatwa wing'.

It is no longer an aberration when the Darul Uloom opines that even if a person has uttered the word 'talaq' thrice and his wife couldn't hear it, the divorce takes place.

In fact, the query was about whether the marriage is annulled when a person has said 'talaq' thrice over phone when the wife has heard and it happened in the presence of a witness.

But in the reply, the seminary went ahead and answered something which had not been asked. The mufti said that it is not required whether the wife has heard it or not, or whether there is a witness around. The talaq is valid. Even when the wife has not heard [she is not aware].

I am sorry but this fatwa is unjust, it is clearly against women, it is irresponsible and against the spirit of religion. 'Talaq is valid even if the wife hasn't heard the word thrice, the talaq is valid', is the Times of India report. And though fatwa is a mere opinion that is not binding, it sends a message particularly when it comes from such an institution.

While on one hand, Ulema in many countries accept that 'three talaqs' in one go ought to be considered as one, the Indian Ulama continue to behave irresponsibly. It ruins countless marriages and puts a sense of fear among women.

Fatwa: Darul Ifta's reply to Query number 27275
 Several major Muslim countries have banned the 'triple talaq'. The pronouncements have to be at regular intervals, so as to give the couple a chance of reconciliation. As marriage is a contract, talaq is an option but Islam discourages it, and it is considered a repulsive act though acceptable when it becomes impossible for a couple to live together happily.

Recently, there was a Deoband fatwa in reply to a query from a man who had jokingly typed the word talaq thrice during an internet chat session with his wife and in this case also Darul Ifta had said that the divorce had taken place.

Whether a man is drunk or the wife has not heard it, it is all the immaterial and the Ulama not just pronounce talaq, they in fact seem almost eager to pronounce talaq on every question relating to marital dispute between husband and wife.

Is it a joke? Sorry it's too serious to be a joke. It affects lives, hurts clans and it also serious dents the image of Muslims. When there is no dearth of Ulema, who claim that 'putting out the word talaq in one sitting' is raj'i talaq which is not permanent and woman can return to her husband, the Ulama remain admant.

On one hand, the Deoband Ulema had chartered an entire train and taken it to Hyderabad to deliver the historic fatwa against terrorism, held anti-Terror conferences across the country and now they regularly issue diktats that Muslims must not slaughter cows in India, as it hurts our Hindu brethren. These things have earned them goodwill.

They go the extra mile to ensure that there is political correctness in their approach and statements. However, when it comes to internal issues of the community, particularly, the state of women, they remain rigid. There is no thought given to what leading Sunni scholars have said about the practice of 'triple talaq' and its misuse.

Ideally there should not be any institutionalised clergy in Muslims. However, there is one and perhaps it is needed to an extent. But with its narrow interpretation of Islamic principles, the leading institution has shown itself in poor light.

News in Urdu daily Siasat, Hyderabad published on November 16.

The practice of seeking answer to every issue on website and obtaining online fatwas has created lot of controversies earlier also. In the past, mischief-makers have also misused it by asking frivolous queries and also sought answers on delicate issues, twisting them latter to tarnish the image of the seminary. But now Deoband itself seems scoring self goals with the unique fatwas.

Not just Shias, Sunni majority countries from Indonesia in the far East to Turkey and even Pakistan, have held 'triple talaq' as unlawful. What prevents the Ulama to join heads and think over it? Social movement and proactive role of Muslim community is a must in achieving this objective.

Either it's Deoband or any other institution, it is not above criticism. Ulema must introspect. It is timely that they should go away with their illogical and irrational interpretations. Not just them, the prestige of the community is also at stake.