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Islamic Divorce

Murad Ali Baig

The old Arab tribal traditions continued substantially unchanged in the Quran and a man had to pay a bride price to the family of his future wife for depriving them of a valuable working member. Marriage in Islam was a very sacred rite and women were given unprecedented importance by Muhammad. Their dowries, given by the groom in a contract before a Mullah, were their property alone and they had a right to it even in the event of a divorce. Muhammad laid great emphasis on the fair treatment of women, children and of family values frequently emphasizing kindness and love.

DIVORCE was not difficult but Muhammad prescribed severe limitations to control its abuse and protect women from exploitation. A pregnant woman could not be divorced and a man had to provide maintenance to a divorced wife unless she had been unfaithful. According to the Quran and Hadis (written 200 years later) the pronouncement of Talaq (notice of divorce) had to be uttered three times with intervals of three periods corresponding to three menstrual cycles to allow time for mediation or reconciliation.

Another safeguard was that in the NIKKAH, or marriage contract, the groom had to provide a substantial settlement (MEHR) that provided lifetime security for the bride. Today many boys in Islamic countries cannot get married as they can’t afford the `bride price’. Few know that women also had the right to initiate divorce called KHULA under which she could retain all the Mehr, jewellery and gifts given in marriage.

The Omayyad Khalifs however found these rules too restrictive for their indulgences and their clerics conveniently allowed Muslims to believe that the pronouncement of a triple TALAQ had been allowed by the Prophet thus greatly lowering the status of women. In recent times some nondescript Mullahs even permit instant Talaq to be pronounced over the telephone. Later on some clerics further corrupted the Islamic marriage practices and even allowed MUTA marriages, valid for just one day, to enable men to fornicate at will while sanctimoniously claiming to be good Muslims.

Arab women, like most women in ancient societies, used to modestly hide their faces when in the presence of strangers but there was no religious requirement in the Quran for them to be completely veiled. The Quran says in Sura 24:30 – 3…
“Enjoin believing women to turn their eyes from temptation and preserve their chastity… to cover their adornments and draw their veils over their bosoms and not reveal their finery except to their husbands…close relations… and slave girls.”

For fourteen centuries all Quranic commentaries had been the exclusive domain of Muslim men with the result that many changing commentaries over the centuries weakened the position that Muhammad had prescribed for Muslim women.

In the Hadis it had however been noted that the women in Muhammad’s household used to cover or veil their faces whenever they passed the crowds of strangers who had gathered to listen to Mohammad at his house in Madina. Over the years some of the chauvinistic clerics of chose to use this example to force all women to wear a veil, Hijab or to be clad from head to toe in an ugly tent like Burkah.

It needs to also be noted that the story of the prophet Muhammad, and thus the traditions of of early Islam, was recorded by the earliest biographers Ibn Ishaq (d 768 CE), Ibn Hisham (d 833), al- Baladhuri (d 892) and al- Tabari (d 922). These records were therefore written 136 to 290 years or roughly six to twelve generations after the death of his companions of Mecca and his helpers (Ansars) of Madina. As in all religions many other commentators and clerics were to add their own contributions to create the myths about Muhammad and his words that were not in full conformity with the earliest historical sources. The authenticity of Muhammad’s utterances is therefore very dubious.

Frontier
Mar 18, 2017


Murad Ali Baig may be contacted at baig.murad@gmail.com

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