The recent verdict on Qula (divorce initiated by Muslim wife) by the honourable High Court of Kerala has apparently not been discussed widely and positively by the Muslim community. As a society obligated to do justice and perpetuate it, Muslims are bound to come forward to ensure justice to women who comprise half of the community.
Only a serene and secure home can create a peaceful society. As such, the Muslim community should commit themselves to enforce and materializing Islamic family laws in their households. It is not taken for granted that ideal and absolute peace will prevail in every household and none can rule out minor skirmishes between the couples. Islam considers this reality as evident in the Holy Quran's chapter named Talaq. If circumstances prove that there is no light is at the end of the tunnel, Islam allows women to divorce men, just as men have the option. To put it in simple terms, both men and women have equal rights to divorce. This is to ensure justice and well being to both.
The divine metaphor of marriage is dress overlapping the couples. The metaphor implies that a couple is like a dress and if it is if torn, unfit, the option is open to change it.
In Islamic concept, the cost of living is entirely borne by the male partner and may not be repaid by the wife in case of divorce, as the financial onus is entrusted on the male in Islam; however, the wife has to return mahr, and just that, to the husband. This ensures her choice of leaving the marital bond.
Prophet Muhammad and his rightly guided assistants have utilized this option of Qula. History has attested to this law of nullifying the marriage requested by the wife of Thabit bin Qays. The Prophet asked her to return the date farm and asked Thabitt to accept it, liquidating the marriage.
History has many more incidents of this kind during the reigns of Umar and Uthman. These testify that the rights of women were not lying dormant in the law books, but practised in daily life. But it is unfortunate that women lost it somehow and somewhere in the course of history. As a result, the male partner resorts to talaq, but the community is not even aware of the option of divorce that can be exercised by women. Many a time, it is the women who sacrifice a lot to keep family life running smoothly and for the sake of children.
Many were the impediments to practise Qula allowed to women by Islam. However, some who were lucky to utilise the benefit of the option had to slog it out in court proceedings. Hence the significance of the recent Kerala High Court which empowers women to seek divorce without approaching courts. It is also to be remembered that though she can obtain a divorce on her own, she can't marry at her sole will. That requires in Islam a guardian of the woman to entrust her life to a husband, and the protection of the wife is the responsibility of the marrying male.
Some Muslim scholars are sceptical of the law permitting women to seek divorce without going to court, pointing out that it will lead to the misuse and collapse of the family structure. But fear about the misuse of the law is not at all an excuse not to implement the law. So what is the solution between the two situations? It is up to to the community leadership to examine the issue from the Shariah perspective.
The Mahal system of the Muslim community is largely well-organized and active in Kerala. And people honour the religious leaders to a reasonable extent. Marriages are held under the auspices of the Mahal. If the Mahal leadership is prepared to implement the Qula in line with the Shariah, i.e. as per dictates in the Quran and Tradition of the Prophet, delay caused by court proceedings and misuse of law can be avoided to a great extent. At the same time, Mahal leaderships should also make the Mahal members literate about parenting, healthy family life and mental health. And to supplement this, children should be reared to respect others right from childhood. It is my wish and prayer that Mahal leadership will respond creatively to the occasion.