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“Talaq, Talaq, Talaq”: The Tragic Stories of Three Muslim Women

Victims of triple talaq are left wondering if the verdict is applicable in retrospect.

Updated
India
8 min read
Victims of instant talaq divorces are left wondering if the verdict is applicable in retrospect.
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Although India is celebrating the ‘historic’ judgement on triple talaq, the unconstitutional practice of instant divorces among Muslims, victims of such divorces are left wondering if the verdict is applicable in retrospect.

The judgement makes it clear that no woman will be faced with oral divorces for the next six months until a law is drafted, however, women, who have already been divorced in such a manner, are clueless if the judgement will bring any respite to them – provide maintenance amounts for their abandoned children, and punish their offending husbands.

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Madina Anwar Sayyed, 27

Madina Anwar Sayyed was divorced by her husband via a phone call.
Madina Anwar Sayyed was divorced by her husband via a phone call.
(Photo Courtesy: Puja Changoiwala)
“The judgement needs to be applicable in retrospect. Else, all our struggles, which brought about this verdict, will be futile,” said Madina Anwar Sayyed, a 27-year-old, who was divorced over a phone call.

Madina, a junior artist in the film industry, married Sayyed Anwar Nasir Hussain, 28 in 2008 against the wishes of both their families. The couple lived alone, and had two boys, who are now eight and seven. However, five years after their marriage, in 2013, Anwar’s family established contact with him, and Madina says that that was the end of peace in her home. Anwar started acting strange, she alleges, would whistle at other women in her presence, humiliate her, and would even beat her up – all so that she would grow tired, and leave him. When Madina still stuck around, Anwar got his family to assault her, and the woman was beaten up in her home at the hands of seven of Anwar’s family members.

When the family was beating me, Anwar’s mother said, ‘My son will now say talaq, talaq, talaq, and he will be free from you.’ I knew that if I didn’t listen to the words, the divorce couldn’t be officiated. So I ran out of the house. I fell off the stairs leading to the ground floor, but Anwar chased after me. When we reached the common area of the chawl, he pulled me by my hair, and started beating me again. Everyone in the chawl watched him as he assaulted me. Sometime later, the chawl residents got a letter signed from both of us saying that we would stay peacefully together.
Madina told The Quint
Madina Anwar Sayyed hopes the Supreme Court judgement will bring her justice.
Madina Anwar Sayyed hopes the Supreme Court judgement will bring her justice.
(Photo Courtesy: Puja Changoiwala)

Madina says that the couple stayed together for a month after that, however, soon after, Anwar consumed Vicks pills, and told Madina that he was choking. Madina rushed him to a government hospital; however, his family arrived and asked him to be moved to a private hospital. Madina argued that she couldn’t afford a private hospital, and Anwar’s family then took the man away with them. Madina didn’t know where he was moved to, and all her attempts to establish contact with him failed.

“He just wouldn’t answer my calls, and then one morning when he did, he picked up the phone, and said, ‘Talaq, talaq, talaq.’ My world crashed at that instant. I disconnected the phone after hearing the word twice, but I knew it was the end of our marriage. I couldn’t go back to my parents. They had always been against him. So I started staying alone with my two boys in a rented accommodation, supporting our lives with my meagre salary of a few thousands. Because I approached the court, Anwar now pays me a monthly allowance of Rs 3000,” she said.

Madina stated that it doesn’t matter to her whether Anwar is punished for abandoning her without a warning, without any remorse. All she cares about is her children, and their future. “I’m past the heartache of desertion. I don’t care if Anwar marries another woman or if he is sent to jail. I just hope this Supreme Court judgement makes him pay a decent amount for my children’s upbringing, makes him shoulder his responsibilities. My boys shouldn’t be robbed of a bright future.”

Zeenat Saad Shaikh, 40

Zeenat Saad Shaikh got divorced via a letter.
Zeenat Saad Shaikh got divorced via a letter.
(Photo Courtesy: Puja Changoiwala)

Zeenat got married to her husband, businessman Saad Ibrahim Shaikh, 44 when she was just twenty years old. Within a month of their wedding, her alcoholic husband had started beating her. Zeenat took it in silence. She was taught that husbands were gods, and that it was the woman’s duty to abide by his ways. The couple had two daughters, now 21 and 18 years old, however, the beating never ceased. But in December last year, things got out of hand.

The police came to our house after someone complained of the assault. My husband fled, and soon after, I received a Whatsapp message with the talaqnama. Saad had prepared it through a maulavi in our area. When I went to the maulavi, he told me that a man had the right to divorce his wife at any instant, that a divorce could be officiated even if the man said the word ‘talaq’ thrice before a maulavi in the absence of his wife. I told him that I refuse to accept the divorce, and left. A few days later, I received a post in my husband’s name. The envelope was that of the electricity board. I opened it assuming that it was an electricity bill, but inside, there was a paper with ‘talaq, talaq, talaq’ written on it.
Zeenat told The Quint

Zeenat says that after the ‘divorce,’ she continued to live in the house with her two daughters, while her husband moved in with his mother. The girls, on several occasions, tried to coax their father into returning home, however, he did not listen. Zeenat, who was convinced that she had to stand up for her rights and set an example for her daughters, approached an NGO, and on their advice, filed a court case, calling for invalidation of the divorce.

Zeenat is sceptical if the Supreme Court’s judgement will be of help to her.
Zeenat is sceptical if the Supreme Court’s judgement will be of help to her.
(Photo Courtesy: Puja Changoiwala)

“During the twenty years of our marriage, I had attempted suicide on several occasions, but somehow, every time, the attempt would get foiled. May be it was for this day, when I’m ready to fight, and when the country’s apex court has validated my fight. I don’t want him anymore, but I want his name. I won’t live with him, but I want to stay married to him. It is for my daughters,” said Zeenat.

She said that she welcomes the Supreme Court’s judgement, however, is extremely sceptical if it’ll be of any help to her. “There are hundreds of women like me, who have been abandoned in such a manner, left alone to fend for their kids, live a life of isolation and judgemental eyes from the society. The verdict will prevent women from getting victimised in the future, but what about us? Will we have to continue with our battles?” she questioned.

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Nazia Khayyum, 27

(Name changed to protect identity)

When Nazia married her husband, 32-year-old Mudassir Baig one and a half years ago, she did it without the knowledge of her parents. The couple decided that after a year of their wedding, when they had settled financially, they would move into Baig’s Madhya Pradesh residence, and inform her family. However, as the year passed, Baig started ignoring Nazia’s requests to live together. What started off as attempts to divert the topic whenever Nazia raised it, spiralled into a divorce.

Nazia, who is based in Mumbai, says that early this year, she visited Baig in Madhya Pradesh to settle their arguments, and left her medical reports with him. On the pretext of couriering those reports to her, in April this year, Baig sent her a paper with ‘talaq, talaq, talaq’ written on it. When she called him after receiving the courier, Baig answered the phone to ensure she had received the ‘talaqnama,’ had read the words, and that their divorce was officiated.
A veiled Muslim woman walks down a street. 
A veiled Muslim woman walks down a street. 
(Photo: Reuters)

“My world came crumbling down that day,” Nazia told The Quint, “I couldn’t think straight. I kept calling him – call after call, hundreds of them, but he didn’t answer. I was so lost that I started looking up numbers of political parties on the internet, and called them to seek help, but to no avail. Meanwhile, my husband was just wasn’t willing to take me back. He wouldn’t even tell me why he had left me. And although depressed, I couldn’t confide in anyone, not even my family. No one knew I was married. They still don’t.”

Nazia then approached a lawyer, who advised her to file a suit against the man, stating that the divorce was invalid. She did file the suit; however, wanting to reconcile things with Baig, she went to his home once again. She insisted that they weren’t divorced, that even as per Muslim laws, the divorce wasn’t valid. However, Baig wouldn’t listen. He dragged her to the police station in the area, and the cops intervened, saying that until the court declared that the couple was divorced, Baig would have to keep her in his home as his wife.

“I stayed in his house for a couple of days, but things only got worse. He wouldn’t talk to me, would return home at odd hours, and then one day, he beat me up. I called the police, and they put him in the lock up. The next day, he begged me to get him out of there, and I did. I returned to Mumbai soon after,” said Nazia.

She added that even after returning to the city, she was hopeful that Baig would have a change of heart, and would take her back. She couldn’t believe that the man, who had been so concerned about her all along, had suddenly become so unresponsive to her tears. She had hoped that he would realise his mistake, but she now feels that that will never happen.

I don’t want to go back to him. You can’t force a man to keep a wife. What if he starts behaving badly with me, beats me up again? I don’t know if this Supreme Court judgement will end my struggle, but I want it to help me bring my husband to justice. I don’t want any man to have the right to boast that he married a woman, used her as much as he wanted to, left her when he was done by writing three words, and got away with it.

(The writer is a journalist, and author of the true crime book, ‘The Front Page Murders: Inside the Serial Killings that Shocked India.’)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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