Even as the Indian Muslim men nurse the wounds inflicted upon them by the well-orchestrated fictional narrative of "love jihad", the BJP government - whose pet peeve is Muslims and Muslims alone - has come up with "marriage jihad".
Well, that's how the hurriedly passed bill on instant triple talaq - officially known as the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill - should be defined.
When I use the word "jihad", I do not attribute it to what some anti-Muslim bigots in media casually attribute it to - a holy war of sorts - like they did when American civil rights activist Linda Sarsour used it in one of her speeches. The word "jihad" does not even remotely mean waging a holy war, it is a term made up of three Arabic root letters "ja-ha-da" which means "to struggle".
And what would be a bigger struggle than marriage?
Finding the one person and then living with the one for eternity is a struggle for many of us. For some, this struggle comes with the lack of compatible options, for others, it manifests through the excessive choice at their disposal. But that's not all. The bigger struggle begins only after finding the one.
The recently passed law on divorce is dreadful and can send Muslim men to jail merely for uttering the word talaq. And provided it’s a cognisable offence, anybody who has a grudge against any Muslim man, can simply make a false complaint and send him to jail. This bill comes with deeper malicious consequences which would keep Muslims away from experiencing the joy and content of marriage itself.
In Quran, men are described as the maintainers of women - physically, emotionally and financially. Men have the responsibility to provide even if the women are earning in the same household. That puts a pressure on today’s Muslim men, especially in the fast-paced world where your existence is not validated enough until you eat in fancy restaurants, go on expensive vacations, wear branded clothes, afford education for your kids in public schools and so forth.
The burden of high expectations on men (of being perpetual emotional and financial providers) takes a heavy toll on their psyche, making many among them disenchanted with the idea and institution of marriage.
Marriage also requires immense conditioning of the brain as one is expected to share his/her entire life with another person regardless of the presence of prior familiarity with the partner through courtship (halal courtship does take place among Muslims). The scepticism around marriage is growing each day among educated Muslim youths and now this triple talaq bill has dawned upon them to make matters worse.
Marriage is an emotional bond
Companionship is innate to human beings. And marriage is an emotional bond wherein two people come together with the intent to share a lifetime of mutual love, companionship, trust, care and family. In Quran, a spouse is described as the "coolness of one’s eyes". Even though the arduous chores of daily life invite more than ample amounts of stress and can be likened to a storm, it’s in the spouse a man finds true peace and tranquillity in. Besides being a source of personal happiness, marriage plays an important role in bringing societal order. Without it, society would be plagued with far more illegitimate relationships, illegitimate children, rampant promiscuity which would lead to utter chaos. But this bill will make Muslim men apprehensive about the bond and the institution of marriage more than ever and is intended to cause commotion in the Muslim community. The loving bond which marriage is, should not be rooted in doubt and fear.
The triple talaq bill sets a bad precedent for current and future generations who would crave to build family with spousal love, but will not be able to do so thinking about its adverse consequences as this bill has set the "default position" of Muslim men as villains and abusers.
Divorce in Islam
Talaq-e-biddat, as the name itself suggests, is an innovation in Islam which has been rendered completely un-Islamic by the Islamic scholars. The Supreme Court, in a recent judgment, has declared instant triple talaq as unconstitutional.
Contrary to Christian and Hindu beliefs, marriage is not regarded as an eternal bond in Islam. It is a civil contract between two individuals where terms and conditions are clearly laid down before signing it.
Mention of divorce has been made in myriad of chapters. There is one chapter in Quran with the name "at-Talaq", dedicated solely to the issue of divorce. This chapter describes the guiding principles and laws apropos divorce extensively. It mentions a civil way by which a man should part with his wife - in common parlance it would be best described as an amicable closure - that happens not in one sitting, but over a period of time.
Bollywood actor and BJP MP Hema Malini, while giving sound bites on the historic "success" of the passing of this arbitrary bill, strongly criticised the Muslim men for oppressing Muslim women for a long time through the regressive practice of instant triple talaq. But she also ended up reminding me of the process that went into her marriage with another well-known actor, Dharmendra.
Hema Malini had to temporarily convert to Islam to bring her marriage with Dharmendra to fruition. She, after having fallen head over heels in love with a married man whose first wife refused to divorce him, was rescued by one "pragmatic" Islamic principle (polygamy) which gives rights and recognition to a partner or partners taken through bigamy or polygamy. Islam is not an idealistic religion. It never claims to be. It does not talk about idealistic scenarios either. It is a practical religion which accepts the prospect of multiple partners in a man’s lifetime, and acknowledges that rifts in a spousal relationship is a reality that can lead to ugly fights. So, there should be an option to come out of the toxicity of such relationships. The provision of civil divorce serves exactly that purpose.
I think while discussing divorce we don’t address the elephant in the room - the stigma. In the run-up the UP Assembly elections last year, a number of panels debated on various TV channels over the issue of instant triple talaq. Multiple think pieces have been written on the arbitrary and regressive nature of it, but no one talked about the kind of stigma which is still attached to divorce in our society across all faiths.
Men prefer abandoning their wives than divorcing them and once the woman is divorced there are very less chances of getting marriage proposals in her lifetime. Muslim matrimonial sites are painted with "bride/groom should be never married before" clause. Almost no man likes to marry a woman who is previously married.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had 11 wives and among them only one was virgin. The rest were either divorced or widowed. Muslim men would go hammer and tongs advocating polygamy principle in Islam, but they do not understand that polygamy in the times when Islam came to Arabia didn’t take place for sexual pleasure, but as a requirement to give protection to divorced and widowed women who were most vulnerable to predatory behaviour of men mainly in times of wars and conflict. Bringing them in the fold of marriage was deemed necessary.
Along with cow vigilantism, "love jihad" and fixation of the right-wing groups over the faith of medieval era Muslim kings, we can comfortably add "marriage jihad" to the list of the conspiratorial strategies of the right-wing government to harrow, hound, demonise and dehumanise Muslim men. But among all the "otherising" tactics, it seems that "marriage jihad" will have the most detrimental effect upon the Mulsim community, as this time Muslims have not merely been attacked physically or financially, but spiritually.
The bill, which was aimed at preventing arbitrary triple talaq in the first place, will now end up preventing marriages among Muslims altogether.