Amid a pile of bright unstitched clothes, customers’ deadlines and a range of sewing paraphernalia, women workers at “Tehzeeb Creations”—a women’s boutique within a kilometre from the Darul Uloom Deoband—take a break to discuss how influential was the issue of triple talaq in the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections and whether it played any part in the victory of BJP candidate Brijesh Singh. He won with a margin of over 30,000 votes ferom Deoband, a feat that has surprised many people.

While there has been speculation that the triple talaq issue played an effective role in convincing young Muslim women across UP to vote for the BJP, women workers at “Tehzeeb Creations” don’t have a “uniform opinion” on what exactly is the controversy around tripe talaq that dominated media reports before elections.  Baby, a 23-year-old Muslim woman said, “The controversy was about whether a man who has pronounced talaq to his wife should be allowed to marry her again without observing the period of iddat.”

Sufia, another worker, said, “I read about it on WhatsApp and the issue was that some people wanted to give Muslim women the right to divorce their husbands. But it was denied because in Islam only a man is allowed to break off the marriage.”

Amna, a tailor at the boutique, said, “The debate was about whether men should be allowed to divorce their wives if they say the word ‘talaq’ thrice within a month or in a single sitting.”

The 10-12 women participating in the informal discussion didn’t have a “uniform understanding” of what the controversy around triple talaq was. Only four of them voted in the Assembly elections this year and all of them had given their votes to the Samajwadi Party. All of them wore hijabs and they work at the boutique to provide additional financial support to their families. Some of them were pursuing their graduation from a local college and attended classes early in the morning before coming to the boutique.

After the crux of the controversy was made clear to them, Baby said, “If Islam allows men to divorce their wives in a single sitting, how can we, human beings, question the legitimacy of the sacred text? We are firm believers of our faith.”

Asked how many of them are familiar with divorce cases that took place among their acquaintances, three-four women answered in the affirmative, saying that they know of at least one divorce case each. In all the instances, men had pronounced talaqs to their wives in a single sitting. None of the women present had ever known any woman asking for “khula” (a woman’s right in Islam that allows her to demand separation from her husband).

Nida, a married 26-year-old woman, said, “How can a woman choose to divorce her husband? How can she survive in this world if she is a divorcee?”

Amna, after asking several questions about the triple talaq controversy, said, “If we can regulate the practice of triple talaq in a single sitting through a law which is within the Shariah framework, we should support regulation because it does feel unfair that an intoxicated man under the influence of alcohol said talaq thrice to his wife and the marriage was considered null and void. On the other hand, we cannot forget that Islam takes a strong stand against consumption of alcohol as a sin and talaq is counted among those activities that, even though permitted, is strongly disliked by Allah. Men should understand the weight of their choices.”

Aisha Siddiqui, who founded Deoband’s first English medium school 26 years ago, said, “I don’t understand why a woman would want to live with a man who thinks he can divorce her and abandon her over most ridiculous reasons. A woman has every right to ask for Khula in Islam; if she feels she is not being treated right, she can walk out anytime she wants. Without a doubt, she will face a tsunami of challenges, but fighting for our rights is better than staying silent. The other important point to note is that there are four schools of thought in Islam. They have different interpretations of how talaq should be pronounced. Whichever school of thought you follow, you must adhere to it till the end. You can’t go on a cherry-picking-spree choosing to follow certain practices of a sect, while denying others.”

On whether triple talaq was a poll issue in elections this year, Aisha said, “I can’t speak for the whole state, but in Deoband, women are hardly aware about these issues. A major reason is that divorces are rare and an average man and woman don’t really know enough of Quran to understand the correct procedure to break a marriage.  Women in Deoband hardly participate in political discourse. Most of them don’t even care about casting their votes. Those women who have political positions have their husbands running the show.”


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