A Pew survey on religions in India published in early July revealed that in the matter of family laws – marriage, age of marriage, alimony, maintenance, divorce, inheritance, child custody – three out of four Indian Muslims prefer access to Sharia courts over constitutional courts. What does this mean in practical terms?
Over 85% of Indian Muslims are Sunnis and a large majority of them follow the Hanafi school of Islamic law (Sharia). In the matter of family laws, according to the mullahs of the Hanafi school, Sharia says this — a husband has the unilateral right to divorce his wife instantly by uttering the magic mantra ‘talaq, talaq, talaq’ (triple talaq) any time he likes, no questions asked. Though triple talaq is now a criminal offence the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) still considers the practice as valid in Islam. And, if a husband changes his mind for whatever reason and wishes to resume the marital relationship he can; provided his wife marries another man, has sex with him (a one night stand will do), following which the momentary husband divorces her and she can return to her former husband. This obnoxious practice known as ‘halala’ treats women as nothing but a sex toy. What’s more, a man is permitted to have four wives. According to the same maulanas, a woman is best confined to the four walls of a home, not seen in public except when draped in a head-to-toe burqa.