Sunday 4 December 2011

Halala, another name for rape

I came across a shocking article on how Muslim women are exploited by men in India. For the first time I came across the word Halala and I had to google and see what it means. But what shocked me the most is, how can a man make his divorced wife to sleep with somebody else, so that he can remarry her. It is not just Halala, but known as Nikah Halala in Islam.

Here is what I found on Wikipedia: Shia and much Sunni jurisprudence of Sharia disallows a couple remarrying after having been through three divorces. 

Some Sunni schools view a triple talaq, when the husband saying "I divorce you" three times in a row, as equivalent to three single talaq. Other Sunnis and Shia treat that as a single divorce, arguing that the Islamic prophet Muhammad did so and Umar having no authority to change that (Muslim 3491, 3492).
Couples cannot remarry until the ex-wives marry another man, to ensure that divorce is not taken lightly. She cannot go back to this husband who has divorced her three times, unless she marries another person who out of his own free will divorces her. This rule is given by the Shari'ah to reduce the occurrence of three divorces and to protect the honor of the woman. Nikah halala cannot be done as a condition or intention to make her lawful to her ex-husband.

Shia use Nikah Mut'ah. After iddah is observed, the original couple may remarry. Nikah Halala is used mainly in countries that recognize the triple talaq.

The Qur’an expounds: “So if a husband divorces his wife (for a third time), he cannot, after that remarry her until after she has married another husband and he has divorced her. In that case, there is no blame on either of them if they re-unite, provided they can keep the limits ordained by Allah. Such are the limits ordained by Allah which He makes plain to those who know”. (2:230).

A man is entitled to take his wife back twice after two respective Talaqs and for a third time also before the expiry of her Iddat after he gives her a Talaq for the third time. But after that the separation is irrevocable. She is then free to be married to any other person of her choice. If then in the normal course of life a dispute between them develops leading to first Talaq by the second husband, she is again free to be married to any person of her choice including the second husband (by whom she has got the first divorce) and also including the first husband as well. The relevant point here is that a Halala cannot be planned in advance, as a Nikah between her and the second husband with an understanding of a divorce afterwards will not be valid. If she does so, it will be an illegitimate relationship with the second husband and with the first husband also with whom she comes to live after a pre-planned Halala. Muhammad has cursed both such men who perform Halala and for whom Halala is performed. The second Caliph Hazrat Umar ruled during his reign that he will punish with stoning to death those who perform a pre-planned Halala. Imam Sufian Sauri says: “If someone marries a woman to make her Halala (for her ex-husband) and then wants to keep her as wife, he is not permitted to do so unless he solemnises a Nikah afresh, as the previous Nikah was unlawful.” (Trimizi)

Watch the video where a victim has gone a step ahead and filed a complaint against her husband.

Even though a report on women countering triple talaq and halala, way back in March 2011 in Lucknow, had caught my attention, it was not for Halala, but for triple talaq. Here’s the news report published on The Times of India. But now again, The Times of India came up with a special article on the victims in its Crest Edition, and I couldn’t just keep quiet from posting about the issue. 

Another name for rape
Holding a placard that says 'Halala is nothing but the vilest of rapes', the frail and waif-like Rubaiya Ahmad shudders as she recalls the darkest night in 35 years of her life - when she allowed another man into her bed.

"I felt totally numb and dead inside. But that was the only option left to reclaim my two sons," she says. "Moreover, the maulvi sahib had warned me that no one would participate in my funeral procession and my family would be ostracised if I flouted the Shariat's command."

Jalal, Rubiya's "husband" for one night, was not particularly bothered about her turmoil. He was there for a purpose - to help his close friend salvage his marriage. A night after the nikah and the mandatory consummation, he divorced Rubaiya without a fuss.

It has been seven years since Rubaiya got back with her first husband, but the horror of halala has stayed on. "I feel as if the man I married died the day someone else defiled my body," she declares with vehemence. Her only concern now is to ensure somehow that her sons never get to know about the humiliation their mother faced, for "it would shatter them, or worse, they may blame me for the episode".

Last week's meeting held by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) proved to be a catharsis of sorts for two dozen-odd victims of mental violence - namely halala and triple talaq. "Many who went through this could not gather enough courage to come out and face the world," says BMMA president Naish Hasan.

Last week, Naish created ripples in conservative Lucknow by dashing off a letter to the octogenarian president of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. Pressing for inclusion of women's issues on the agenda in its next executive meeting, it pointedly demanded a ban on halala and triple talaq, apart from recommending a codification of the Shariat to escape misinterpretation. "The response from AIMPLB, was as anticipated - nil," says Naish.

In her letter, Naish mentioned seven victims who were subjected to halala an excruciating two to eight times. One of them is Zainab Rubaiya whose husband literally turned her into a prostitute "He would pronounce 'Talaq talaq talaq' when drunk, when annoyed, when fired from his job, when clubbed by the beat constable or when I stopped his mother from hitting me with a ladle," she says. "Any occasion was good enough to boot me out."

Zainab recollects that after every halala, her husband would weep, standing alongside their children. "I bore halala seven times. It's a terrible feeling to walk down the road, knowing that everyone in the mohalla keeps a count of your moles and curves," she says, teary-eyed. For women like Munni, whose brother-inlaw volunteered for halala, the situation is even more humiliating. "Imagine facing him every day and pretending to be normal," she says.

Contrary to the popular belief that halala is confined to the rural belt, Naish claims that she has listed 11 such cases in the last two months in Lucknow alone. "However, women in the city are turning rebellious," she says. "Some of them have walked out of the marriage after halala was ordered - in fact, one woman begs in the Imambara as she believes that begging is more respectable than getting raped every sixth months."

The number of halalas is on the rise, confirms Kamal Khan, a Lucknow-based journalist. Interestingly, halala is also fraught with risks for the men now - there are instances where the second husband has violated the terms of a fixed halala and refused to part with the woman, often because she was prettier than his own wife. "So caution is the key word now," claims Kamal, who is making a documentary on the practice and has even recorded details of a halala service run by maulvis in Ghazipur and Faizabad. "The cleric in Akbarpur has inherited a lucrative business from his father. He conducts the marriage and divorce ceremonies. The business is growing," he says.

According to Khan, halala-fixing is nowhere mentioned in Islam. The provision is made for "ittifaqan talaq" by the second husband - meaning the woman can remarry the first husband if the second husband genuinely divorces her and the move is not carried out under a well-calculated strategy. The way it is followed today, the practice is totally against the spirit of Islam," he says. 

Zainab has a suggestion that she is too timid to air publicly. "If a man divorces his wife and then wants her back, let him be flogged, skinned or even sodomised," she says. Why should the poor woman be made to suffer instead? What kind of justice is this? Even animals don't mate on order. "

What is Halala?
"After pronouncing talaq, the wife becomes haram for the husband. If he wants to remarry the same woman, the rules are set - once the mandatory iddat period of three months and 13 days gets over, the woman has to get married to someone else. This marriage has to be consummated. After the second husband divorces the woman, the first husband is free to marry her once again after three months and 13 days. However, halala-fixing is strictly prohibited in Islam." -Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangimahali

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