Rare wife-initiated Muslim divorce causes stir in India


A teacher in the northern Indian city of Lucknow has raised eyebrows amongst the local Muslim community by initiating a divorce from her husband.

The 35 year-old has a launched a khul’ (or khula), a legal process in which a Muslim woman divorces her husband by announcing her intention of returning the mahr to him. This is a mandatory payment made by the husband (or his family) to the wife at the time of marriage, which then becomes her personal property. It is usually – although not entirely accurately – translated as dower.

The divorce process in Islam is weighted towards husbands and the most widely practised form –talaq or ‘repudiation’ – can only be carried out by men.

The Lucknow teacher has been married to her husband for 11 years but the pair separated 18 months ago. She has accused him and his family of violence and abuse. A major bone of contention is reported to have been the fact that they had no children. Despite this, according to The Times of India, he has refused to divorce her via talaq, even after she approached clerics and said she wanted to end the marriage.

The wife signed the khula notice in the presence of the media over the weekend. According to a supportive women’s rights activist, this constituted the formal start of the iddat (or iddah), a three month waiting period required by Islam following divorce before a woman is allowed to marry again. This is intended to ensure that she is not pregnant.

The teacher has reportedly told her husband that she will consider herself free of the marriage at the end of that period – but local clerics have quibbled, saying they do not believe the divorce will be valid given that the husband has still not consented to divorce.

A local imam said she had been unwilling to wait for the husband’s reply to letters they had sent him.

“…we sent a notice to her husband. She did not wait for his reply. Minimum three notices must reach the husband after which the cleric pronounces the marriage annulled. But this is after attempts of reconciliation. What was the need for a press conference and public announcement?”

Photo of Charbagh Railway Station in Lucknow by via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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1 comment

Paul - September 13, 2017 at 12:13am

The need for the press is clear. Sending message to other women that it can be done if you do it the right way. By doing it publicly its less likely that an imam can bully her and coerse her into changing her mind behind closed doors. Or maybe giving her a sound beating. More likely simply ignoring the request.
Wonder if our shiney new DV crusade has reached the muslim community yet.
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