A letter, with three letters written on it, by a Muslim woman from an obscure place like Uniara in Tonk district, has evoked a new debate, particularly in the Muslim community, about the rights of women in the Shariat. The woman, who had written this letter to her husband for 20 years, is poor, not much literate and a traditional burqa-clad mother of six children.
Hasina, 35, was not happy with his married life as she was being continuously harassed, for one or the other reason, by her husband Mohammad Sharif. She, many times, insisted to her husband to take talaq as she no more wanted to live with him. But Sharif refused to oblige her. The couple has been living separately for the past some time and has filed numerous cases against each other. Fed up and frustrated with her married life, Hasina wrote talaq thrice on a piece of paper and sent it to her husband by post. She thought that under the Shariat, the Muslim personal law, she has the right to dissolve the marriage by pronouncing word talaq thrice, like any Muslim man, who enjoys this right. But to her dismay, Sharif refused to accept this as talaq by saying that under the Shariat, only man has the right to take talaq by pronouncing the word thrice. Poor Hasina was more shocked when the local Muslim clergy took the side of her husband by saying that under the Shariat, she could not pronounce talaq to her husband. Soon senior Muslim clerics took up the issue. Manjur Alam, member of the Muslim Personal Law Board, was the first to join the issue. He maintained that under the Shariat women enjoy the rights at par with men, but at the same time, he said, for getting divorce from their husbands, women have to take a different course.
According to Asrarul Haq, Kazi of Jaipur, if any woman wants separation from her husband, she has to follow the procedure under khula. If she is not happy with her husband and wants to take divorce, she had to approach to kazi. If the kazi finds that she has the case, he would grant the divorce. But there are lot of disparities in rights in getting talaq and khula. Under the Shariat man has just to pronounce talaq and has no need to get the approval of a kazi. Under Shariat such persons have to return the mehar and also to give a maintenance allowance to his divorcee wife and the children.
In case of khula, the woman forfeits the right to ask for the return of mehar and also she is not entitled to any kind of maintenance allowance. Shri Haq admits this disparity between man and woman in the Shariat, but says there is hardly any difference between talaq and khula and it is a matter of procedure. Hasina has the right to live separate from her husband, but she has to go through the procedure of khula.
There is another disparity. A man gets the talaq without citing any reason. But a woman could apply for khula only when her husband is impotent, mentally unsound and is not earning enough to maintain his wife and the family. Now Hasina is running from pillar to post to present her case by saying that Muslim women should also be given the right of talaq at par with man.