Nikah Halala: A Controversial Practice in India
In India, personal laws pertaining to divorce and marriage are anchored in religion. One such law, known as “nikah halala”, is currently a contentious issue in India, with the government pushing to abolish it. This article will explore the history and context of nikah halala, as well as the arguments for and against its continuation.
What is Nikah Halala?
- Nikah halala is a term that finds its roots in “halal”, which translates to something that is permissible and therefore “lawful”. In the context of marriage, it means that a divorced woman can become “halal” (lawful) for her husband again after nikah halala is complete.
- Islam dictates that a Muslim man has the liberty to divorce and remarry the same woman twice. However, if he decides to dissolve the marriage for the third time, he can only remarry the same woman if she first marries another man, consummates the marriage, and only if the man dies or willingly asks for divorce, can the woman go back to her first husband and remarry him.
- Indian Muslim jurist Moulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi explained the concept clearly in Bahishti Zewar (a comprehensive handbook of Islamic beliefs and practices) that, “A person pronounces a revocable (raji) talaq. He then reconciles and resumes cohabitation.
- Two or four years later, under provocation he once again pronounces a revocable talaq. On recovering from provocation, he again resumes cohabitation. Now two talaqs are over. Hereafter, whenever he pronounces a talaq, it will be counted as the third talaq, which will dissolve the marriage forthwith, and should a remarriage be desired by the parties necessitate halala (inter-mediatory marriage).”
- This law, followed by a small part of the Muslim community, is called Nikah Halala.
Arguments for Abolishing Nikah Halala
- The Indian government is pushing for the abolition of nikah halala, arguing that it is a violation of Muslim women’s rights. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stated that such laws deny Muslim women their fundamental rights and “cannot be allowed to ruin the lives of Muslim women”.
- Additionally, some argue that the practice of nikah halala is often used to exploit and abuse women. In cases where the husband wants to take his wife back, he may force her to marry another man and divorce him in order to make her “halal” again. This can leave the woman in a vulnerable and traumatic position.
Arguments Against Abolishing Nikah Halala
- Many Islamic authorities and religious leaders believe that the government’s drive to abolish nikah halala in India is a political ploy. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has said that the government’s efforts to abolish the practice are an infringement on the community’s religious rights.
- Additionally, some argue that nikah halala serves an important purpose in preventing men from using divorce as a tool for abuse. The rule of irrevocability of the third pronouncement of divorce was established by the Prophet himself to put an end to the “barbarous pre-Islamic practice” of ill-treating one’s wife by divorcing and remarrying her multiple times.
Nikah halala is a contentious issue in India, with the government pushing for its abolition. While some argue that the practice is a violation of Muslim women’s rights and can be used to exploit and abuse women, others argue that it serves an important purpose in preventing men from using divorce as a tool for abuse. The debate surrounding nikah halala highlights the complex intersection of religion, culture, and law in India. Ultimately, it is important to consider the perspectives and experiences of those directly affected by the practice, as well as to balance the protection of religious rights with the protection of individual rights and the promotion of gender equality.
Written by IAS POINT