15 November 2016
Qazis who are opposing the abolition of triple talaq are against the spirit of Islam, minister of state for external affairs MJ Akbar tells Economic Times in an interview. Excerpts:
Q: Does Quran sanction triple talaq?
The spirit of the holy Quran is clearly on the side of gender emancipation…
The 65th sura of the holy Quran discusses marriage and divorce. The prophet describes divorce as the thing that is lawful but disliked by God, one that is legal but the last option, not the first.
Even when the divorce is legalised there are injunctions that one must take time — give due consideration, have consultations and the time period is set — three months at least.
This business of dial-a-divorce is against the spirit of Islam itself. According to the spirit of Quran, if a couple fears separation, you appoint an arbitrator from his family and from her family in order to save the marriage, and if they reconcile, Allah will help them get together.
There is sustenance for a divorced wife. If a divorced woman wants to stay in the same home, she is entitled to (do so) but you cannot force her to stay against her will. That is the kind of emancipation that the holy Quran allowed at a time when women in the world had no rights. Gender rights are the beginning of Islam.
Q: Many Muslims have objected to the BJP talking about triple talaq, calling it unwarranted interference…
Whoever brings up the issue, I want to ask them why it is being confused with politics. The PM didn’t initiate the case in court. The case reached a certain point in its process when he is the prime minister. It is a coincidence, but at that moment he has taken a stand on principle and he has said it is matter of gender rights and why should my sisters in Islam be denied of basic human rights, which, by the way, are available to them in other Muslim countries.
Q: More than three decades on, how do you view the Shah Bano judgement of 1985?
The Shah Bano case was a distortion of Islamic principles. At all times men are enjoined to treat wives with kindness. Even when you part with them, part with kindness and you have to ensure their sustenance. Shah Bano was probably going to get less than Rs 200 (per month).
The strength of Islamic jurisprudence lies in strong concepts, and one of them is the concept of ‘ijtihad’. It means evolution, using reason and principle in jurisprudence.
As an example: For many kinds of theft, the Quranic punishment is cutting off of hands. But in no Muslim country today is anyone convicted of theft has his hands cut off. Does that mean all these Muslim countries have abandoned the Quran? No, they have used ijtihad in order that if the crime of theft can be prevented or stopped by other forms of punishment, then you move on.
Q: Did the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government at the time do the right thing by overturning the court verdict through an Act of Parliament?
Congress might have had its own reasons for doing what it did then. There could have been public pressure. But that is water under the bridge.
Q: Former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has said that it was you who persuaded Rajiv Gandhi to override Shah Bano ruling…
The stand that I took then, I didn’t do anything in hiding. I didn’t do anything under the shade of private advice that many have gone on doing, whispering here and there. I was editor at that time. I was not in government when this was taking place.
Therefore, my position was fully and continuously written in the Telegraph, previously in Sunday and so on. And eventually, when I contested elections, I fought against Shahabuddin in Kishanganj. And Shahabuddin was the person who led a campaign against reforms in the Shah Bano case.
Q: Are Muslim religious bodies opposing the abolition of triple talaq justified in saying that the issue needs more research and consultation?
I am asking the qazis opposing triple talaq to go research the holy Quran. Look for the future in your holy book. Those Muslim clerics who become obstacles to women’s emancipation are against the spirit of the Quran. How can anyone go by triple talaq which is instant, when it is clearly mentioned in the holy book that one must have consultations?