A day in the life of a Sharia Council Scholar (Part 2)

Part 2: Divorces

Bismillah

I wrote my first blog about my work at the Islamic Sharia Council (ISC) a few days ago and Alhamdulillah it was well received. Sadly, the state of Muslims today is that anyone promoting traditional Islam needs must be pulled down and garrotted as quickly as possible. One woman immediately responded by posting a seven-year old ‘secret investigation’ by BBC’s Panorama on Facebook. Carrying this much bile for seven years must really hurt! The programme was commissioned by two well-known Christian-Zionists and Islamophobes, and a full response is available on the ISC website so I will not be repeating myself. But I find it so shameful that some Muslims blindly believed the programme rather than reaching out for the truth. The Quran explicitly orders Muslims to listen to both sides of the story before making an opinion, but this is usually not the practice.

The ISC has very loud and foul-mouthed critics from within the Muslim community, especially women’s support services. These organisations generally hate Islam, its institutions, its rules, and its historical texts. In the name of reform and women’s equality, they wish to burn all our Fiqh and Tafsir texts, and replace them with their own perverted version of Islam. The Quran forbids women from marrying outside their faith, but they ignore this rule. The Quran has rules of Iddah after divorce and widowhood, but they reject these as outdated. The Quran has rules on Mahr and Guardianship in marriage, but they mock these concepts. The Quran has rules on modesty and hijab, but they flout these publicly. They do not pray nor fast, and nor do they encourage others to do so. And those of us who love Islam and have the temerity to defend it, then become meat for these vultures who seek to destroy Islam from within.

Clients often come to our office demanding a quickie divorce. Their spouse is a nasty, evil person and they feel entitled to a divorce pronto. But that is not how it works. The ISC has very clear procedures for divorce, taking advice from the sacred texts. The Quran insists on mediation, cooling-off periods, written statements and evidence. And most importantly, the Quran insists that both sides of the story MUST be heard. We read the story of Prophet Yusuf and Zuleikha, who cried crocodile tears that she had been raped. But we know she was a liar. Because of the emotional bias towards her in society, Yusuf spent many years in prison, despite his clear innocence. And the story of Prophet Dawud tells of two men who asked him for a judgment; Dawud listened to the first man, who was clearly poor, and gave judgment in his favour immediately. The two men turned back to angels and Dawud realised his mistake; by not listening to the second man who was rich, he had let emotions rule over justice.

Neela (not her real name) came to our office and demanded a divorce certificate immediately. Her husband had an aggressive personality, was emotionally abusive and had given her a verbal Talaq. She was not interested in any long procedures for divorce and she was certainly not willing to pay anything. I explained that I had a mandatory duty to talk to her husband and confirm the talaq had taken place. She became angry but I refused to budge. When I spoke to her husband, he admitted giving one talaq but also gave the date of reconciliation. To be honest, if one party really wants divorce, they will get it. That is the truth of the matter. Islam does not force anyone to stay in an unhappy marriage. But both sides need to have their say, to have their grievances heard and to receive mediation before the divorce happens. The death of a marriage is an incredibly painful experience and both sides need to unburden themselves, process what is happening, and ultimately grieve for the death of a relationship. I explained to Neela that we would offer mediation and if this was not successful, her divorce would indeed be processed. Issues such as Mahr also needed to be discussed so the process would take some time. Neela and her friends responded by abusing me on Facebook, sending vile messages about me and my family.

Jen (not her real name) also wanted a quick divorce from her third husband. She was barely into her thirties and had three children from three husbands. We followed procedure and held meetings with both parties. During the conversation, Jen commented that if we did not give a divorce certificate quickly, she would simply wait for three months and the marriage would be over. This was such a bizarre statement that I had to probe further. It emerged that Jen believed a marriage is over if the couple do not live together for three months. No pronouncement of divorce, talaq, intention or certificate were necessary. It emerged further that her first two marriages had ended simply because she had moved away from her husbands. No formal or informal divorce had taken place, so under Islamic law, she was still married to her first husband. Her third husband sat in shock and bewilderment, his head in his hands, as the truth dawned on him.

Article is a new series of blogs by senior editor of ImamsOnline, Ustadah Khola Hasan.

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