Weeks after the Supreme Court banned instant Triple Talaq, by Muslim men; a Muslim woman divorced her husband at a press conference in Lucknow by signing a letter. Shajada Khatoon had to take this step as her husband and the clerics had been ignoring her divorce plea for around 18 months.
The Muslim Personal Law has a provision called Khul or Khula, wherein, a woman can initiate a divorce, by returning the dower (mahr), that she received from her husband. This law, based on the traditional fiqh, allows a woman to initiate divorce through the mutual consent of the husband or by a judicial decree. This process, however, is long and elaborate, unlike triple talaq.
Shajada Khatoon said she decided to divorce her husband through a letter that she signed at a press conference in the UP capital because Khula plea was avoided by her husband and the clerics for 18 months.
“Juber Ali made my life hell just a few days after I got married on November 14, 2005. The torture was so much that I filed a case against him. But that too did not bring relief,” she said.
Her only wish is to free herself from a torturous marriage. After signing the letter, she said, “I wish I’ll be free from today.”
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A school teacher by profession, Khatoon has been living separately for the past year and a half. On September 6th, she sent a letter seeking divorce to her husband, who is a mechanic in a consumer goods store in Lucknow’s Daliganj area.
“That is why I am signing the ‘khula’ in the public and sending him (the husband) the notice. I am free from him now,” she said. Muslim Women League general secretary Naish Hasan, who helped Shajada take “khula”, said the woman was fed up with her husband torturing her and had been living separately for the last 18 months.
“I am living alone without any support or security from anyone. No one has the right to compel me now to live with my husband and if someone has an objection they might move court,” she said.
According to Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli, member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, such a khula is not accepted.
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According to the procedure, the husband is served notices on the request of the wife. A verdict is given if the husband does not turn up after three notices. Explaining his position Mahli said, “If the husband turns up on the first notice and agrees to it, they are allowed to separate and the woman can live with whoever she wishes to. Sometimes husband does not turn up and this takes over a year but in no case, a letter can be a base for khula,”
Advocate Rizwan Ahmad, who was present at the press conference, said no one can compel her to live with that man since she had filed for a divorce.
“Now if someone has a problem they might go to court,” he said.
The rigid opinions of the clerics not only show how gendered our religious practices are but also the hypocritical behavior of the religious authorities. While on one hand there is a simple and uncomplicated triple talaq for men, on the other hand, the khula, wherein a woman can initiate a divorce, is a long and complicated process, which is ignored most of the times.
The fact that a woman needs the permission of her husband (in this case an abusive one) and the clerics to initiate a divorce goes on to prove to what extent women are subjected to male domination. In such a scenario, Khatoon’s actions are the first step towards liberating the caged identities of hundreds of oppressed women.
Cover image source: hindustantimes