The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgement, struck down the practice of triple talaq on 22 August.
Triple talaq or instant talaq, refers to the practice wherein a Muslim man unilaterally divorces his wife by merely uttering the word “talaq” three times. This type of divorce has been carried out via phone calls, newspaper adverts, e-mails and even WhatsApp messages.
Not many know that when it comes to ending a marriage, triple talaq is not the only option for Muslims.
There at least two other forms of divorce, which continue to be valid. And they’re not exactly easy to understand. Here, we try to break down the complex divorce structure under the Muslim law.
What is Talaq?
First things first, it should be noted that 'talaq' is not an all-encompassing term for divorce. It is a particular form of divorce, which can only be initiated by the husband.
The two other categories are ‘Khula’ – which is divorce initiated by the wife – and ‘Mubaraat’ – divorce which has the consent of both spouses.
What Are The Different Forms of Talaq?
Under talaq, there are three ways in which a marriage can be ended – 'Talaq-e-ahsan', 'Talaq-e-hasan' and 'talaq-e-biddat'.
Instant or triple talaq, which comes under the category of ‘talaq-e-biddat’, is what the Supreme Court struck down on 22 August. The other two have been cited in the Supreme Court judgment as more “reasonable” practices.
The rationale that has been offered for doing away with 'Talaq-e-biddat' is that neither the Quran nor the Hadith recognises this practice. Whereas, the other two forms – 'talaq-e-ahsan' and 'talaq-e-hasan' – have the mandate of both the authoritative voices in Islam.
How do The 3 Forms of Talaq Differ From One Another?
'Talaq-e-ahsan', seen as the "most reasonable/proper form of divorce", involves a single pronouncement of divorce by the man which is then followed by 'iddat' – a period of abstinence which lasts for 90 days, or three menstrual cycles or three lunar months.
What is significant to note here is that the divorce becomes revocable if the couple decides to live together when the period of iddat is underway.
The divorce becomes irrevocable only if the couple refuse to cohabit, and when the period of abstinence lapses.
On the other hand, 'Talaq-e-hasan' is considered to be a slightly less “desirable” form of divorce.
The difference between ‘Talaq-e-hasan’ and ‘Talaq-e-ahsan’ is that instead of a single pronouncement, there are three pronouncements over a period of three successive months.
Here too, the divorce can be revoked if the couple decide to live together within a month after the first pronouncement of divorce.
The divorce can also be revoked after the second pronouncement (if it has not been revoked in the first month, that is).
But if the husband announces divorce for the third time, then it becomes irrevocable.
'Talaq-e-biddat', stands out because of its instantaneous and absolute irrevocability.
Once pronounced by the husband in the form of “I divorce you" or "talaq, talaq, talaq" (triple talaq), the divorce becomes instantaneously effective, and cannot be revoked.
However, owing to its absolute nature, ‘talaq-e-biddat’ has not been widely practiced among Muslims.
According to the petitioners in the triple talaq case, 'talaq-e-biddat' is abided by "only by a few Sunni schools", and especially those belonging to the Hanafi sect.
(With inputs from the Supreme Court judgment)
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