When my theory teacher Gargi Sen (Founder of Magic Lantern Production House) first told me that Islam had arrived in India but it could not permeate (or break through) the age-old patriarchal mindset of a strong hierarchal society, it made sense to me but I had no allusions to align with it. Today I have it in abundance. From questions to Qazi, Halaal to Halala and from Haram to Namak Haram, the rhetoric of labels and judgments run across the country with expletives - expletives doubly more explosive than what humanity had when far less civilized.
When the moral values rot the damage is collateral. We can never have a trendy capitalist society ravished in buck frenzy biosphere where everybody wants to be rich and famous (especially overnight) - an earnest social structure that moves finely on the axis of balance and sanity. Tolerance has its own compromised manifestations when not only short term T-20s usurp the longer manifestations of the game but also the general climate of the cosmos exudes lesser levels of patience. The news parlours must equally resonate round the clock. Boring, gloomy news must break every passing moment for the TRPs to shoot by hook or by crook. Quality must make way for sensation. Sense must pave way for non-sense.
Hence soon all debates on television channels would convert into wrestling programs with duelers coming from all walks of life –maulvis, pundits, advocates, politicians, actors and real life drama quacks. Islam like pretty much every religion can never afford to be dogmatic and didactic. Since religions aspire to drench hearts with faith and to immerse faith completely into it: they can never be thrust(ed) on another person. If somebody is made to chant your favorite god forcibly or thrown out of the folds of a specific religion unilaterally; it further blurs the difference between theology and tyranny. “The seat of piety is only the heart” - as beautifully stated by the Prophet of Islam; and the heart is that which involuntarily beats.
From Adam to Aadmi, this human should never go insane; because if religion makes you xenophobic and terroristic, you better be irreligious.
My journey to the real Islam (which was peaceful and courteous) was possible because I stuck to the example of the Prophet of Islam, who even forgave those people who brutally persecuted members of his own family – whereas he granted them amnesty on the day when he emerged victorious and shone in the valley of Makkah. He smiled to people who scorned him on a daily basis. And, he was the softest and the most patient towards women and it is categorically summarized in one of his famous sayings where he said:
“The best of you are the ones who are best in behavior with their wives” (Tirmizi)
In the same breath of empathy I can see that women are always at the receiving end, at least in the sub-continent. The wishful desire to conquer her (and to domesticate) finds justifications through spurious, concocted and garbled legislations from across philosophies and religions.
When I hear about triple talaq, polygamy and halala, I wonder how effortlessly men masquerade as saviors of religion and distort the face of a beautiful religion for their own vested interests. Common man is happy to be ignorant and ‘exploiters of knowledge’ happy to best capitalize on that absence of “ilm/gyaan”. Sometimes that clout wields ignominious super human powers to even ostracize a fellow human being for not being easily enslaved.
Coming back to fatwas and fantasies and the reality of Halala; the fact is that the prevalent practice is nothing but a heresy in itself. According to the correct opinion (and what exists in the whole of the Muslim world sans the subcontinent) the real case is that:
'If a man divorces his wife and the wife (who is now a stranger to him in relationship) leaves him and goes back to stay with her parents; this man cannot marry her again. Later if that woman herself wishes to marry someone else of her choice, she can marry (with a intention like the intention of any other normal Islamic marriage that this marriage is forever) and both these wife/ husband should never intend to do this as a temporary marriage (because in Islam there is no temporary marriage). After this second marriage of the woman if (by rare chance), this second marriage of this woman (naturally) breaks or doesn’t work either or she takes Khula (separation) - then in that case, she is free to return to her first husband and remarry him, if she likes. In this entire chanced reunion, the first husband must not have any role to play even remotely. If any of these actions was pre-mediated then it will make the whole exercise a farce and none of these latter two marriages will count as valid'. This is the correct process.
Now the malpractice which few people are doing in parts of the country is something absolutely different and grotesque. When a man divorces a woman (and through an instantaneousTriple Talaq mostly – which is itself not valid), he laments the next morning and tries to salvage this marriage by asking the wife to secretively marry someone he knows (and trusts!!) and whom he has already persuaded for a marriage-cum-divorce promise. Thus the hapless woman is forced to change husbands to placate her ever anguished primary (and primitive!) man. Her man thus reclaims her (he redeems his sins I suppose!!!) through an activity which he thinks is Islamic although it is an exercise abhorred, detested and cursed in Islam and it attacks the very basis Islam came for. The Prophet (S.A.W) - who seldom went angry during his lifetime -angrily cursed the men doing such actions and involved in these acts.
What is more astonishing is that despite several ‘Hadiths’ out rightly prohibiting this act, a huge number of men (and scholars alike) still try to deny the Islamic orders and stick to their whims and thus provide ample opportunities to hate mongers to slap them in their face.
Rights of women are something Islam is swarming up with, but an absolutely inverted and perverted (somewhat subverted too) image of this beautiful religion has been ‘designed’ and showcased regularly by three agents of eternal doom: Half-read scholars, half-communal hatred groups and fully-irresponsible media.
And this image of Islam as being something - tyrannical, terroristic, anti-feministic and a masculine stringent doctrine - has been deliberately and delicately served with a pinch (and punch) of spice on the breakfast tables of prime-time news anchors. And in the war of words, clash of cultures, brawls of broiling debates shouting on top of their shrill merciless voices- the sweet low voices of soft sane intellectuals and the weak voices of women victimized-have been either smothered and silenced or purely petrified.
( Views are personal)
*The author teaches journalism at Delhi University.
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