There is this woman in Darbhanga whose husband spat out talaq at her because she hadn't cooked liver for him in one meal.
Kolhapur's Zubeida Khan was divorced because she couldn't add numbers. Her husband discovered this "flaw" in her after she had produced three children for him.
Muslim marriages are considered contracts between men and women, where men can make this contract with up to four women. But while the husband has the right to unilateral talaq without judicial intervention or registration of divorce; the wife has a right to khulla or divorce only with her husband's consent and after paying compensation. Different schools of Muslim law prescribe how talaq should be pronounced: in the wife's presence, addressed to her, in her absence, thrice in a single sitting, in between menstrual cycles, with or without sexual abstinence, and in degrees of revocability. Once the contract's over, there is an 'idat' period (roughly three months), in which the wife is 'maintained' by her husband and remarriage is restricted. After which, according to the aimplb, divorced man and wife are strangers to each other, with no obligation to maintenance.
Headed by a firebrand leader Hasina Khan, 25 women's organisations network to fight for Muslim women's rights. Their struggle is for banning unilateral triple talaq and polygamy, registration of marriage and divorce, right for Muslim women to divorce without paying compensation, right to maintenance, custody and guardianship along with a progressive, gender-just nikahnama.
All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (aimplb) chairman Qazi Mujahidul Islam Qasimi is aggrieved by the unreasonableness of these demands. He feels only a few women at some seminars are shouting themselves hoarse against Muslim injustices, "the rest don't think like them". The Quran, for instance, he says, provides for triple talaq, which can't be 'banned' by mortals. Avers he: "Divine laws can't be changed, the solution is in changing mindsets. The board will work at Muslims becoming god-fearing Muslims, who are responsible husbands and fathers."
An ambitious task considering Islamisation hasn't been able to remove evils within the Muslim society for the past 700 years, quips jnu sociologist Imitiaz Ahmad. The law board's no more than an ngo without judicial powers, he points out. "Women are granting it more legitimacy than it has by looking to it for solutions. When the chairman said he wouldn't discuss triple talaq with them at last month's meeting, the women should have walked out." But they stuck on. "We won't budge," says Hasina Khan. "Muslim patriarchy shouldn't underestimate us. We're Allah's daughters."
Excerpts from the article 'Allah's Forgotten Daughters' by SOMA WADHWA, publised in OutlookIndia website with the same name on May, 21, 2001.