India’s Supreme Court on Friday came to the rescue of a Muslim woman trying to reunite with her husband after he mumbled the word for divorce three times while drunk. Nazma Biwi’s predicament started after her husband, Sher Mohammad, uttered the word “talaq” three times in 2004. Now, Muslim clerics have barred the woman from living with her now-repentant husband, saying she must first consummate a marriage with another man and then get another divorce. Only then can she remarry Sher Mohammad, the clerics say, citing Muslim rule on restoring broken marriages.
But India’s highest court disagreed and ordered the state government of Orissa to provide security to her. “No one can force them to live separately. This is a secular country and all communities, Hindus or Muslims, should behave in civilized manner,” a three-judge bench said.
Biwi said she has been ostracized since her 32-year-old husband in a drunken stupor uttered the word for divorce but tried to retract his statement when sober the next day.
According to Muslim personal law, a man need only repeat the word “talaq” three times to effect a divorce. But the case has ignited a debate among scholars about a husband’s intent.
The 26-year-old housewife said her troubles started after she spoke about it to friends. Soon afterwards, local clerics issued an edict forcing the couple to separate in their home town of Bhadrak in the eastern state of Orissa.
Last month, a Muslim couple in the adjoining state of West Bengal were ordered to separate after the husband muttered “talaq” three times in his sleep.
Aftab Ansari and wife Sohela, married 11 years and with three children, however registered their marriage in an Indian law court to avoid separation, though clerics rejected their marital union.