It was supposed to be a day of spreading awareness and starting discussions on triple talaq across thousands of mosques in India to prevent misuse of the controversial Islamic divorce practice.
Instead, the publicity campaign ran out of steam on its opening day with hardly any mention of triple talaq before Friday prayers across cities.
Clerics pinned the blame on the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) that had announced the initiative, saying it didn’t print and circulate a two-page booklet containing the code of conduct for Muslims on marriage and divorce.
The body had distributed the document with much fanfare during its executive committee meeting in Lucknow on April 16.
With the exception of one of Lucknow’s 1,000-odd mosques, the controversial issue that has divided the country found no mention in any sermon. Even the revered Nadwa mosque, which can hold 5,000 worshippers and was packed on Friday, saw little discussion.
“I usually make it a point to attend Friday prayers at this mosque. But I heard nothing about any code of conduct from the Imam,” said Rehan Khan, owner of a furniture shop in Kaiserbagh locality.
Triple talaq – under which a Muslim man can divorce his wife by uttering the word “talaq” (divorce) thrice – has been thrust under the national spotlight after a number of women approached the Supreme Court to ban the ritual.
The government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have come out strongly against the practice and called it anti-women. The AIMPLB has called for internal reform and discussions to stop misuse of the law.
In Delhi’s iconic Jama Masjid, devotees said triple talaq found no mention during Friday prayers led by Shahi Imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari.
“The Khutbas (seroms) are delivered in Arabic. Most of the people who offer prayers behind the Imam do not understand the language. I could not hear any mention of talaq in the khutba,” said Mohd Zeeshan. The courtyard of the mosque can accommodate at least 20,000. While Shahi Imam was not available for a comment, his spokesperson Ammanullah Bukhari said there was no such mention in the sermons before prayers.
The board said the booklet couldn’t be printed in time because of errors in text. “We have vetted the format only yesterday (Thursday). We are getting calls from our various state bodies and cities for the booklet,” said board secretary Zafaryab Jilani.
He added that the document would be printed in a number of local languages and also distributed in the upcoming AIMPLB session at Bengaluru on April 29.
In the absence of the booklet, the discussion evoked little enthusiasm. In Jaipur, devotees who came to offer prayers at the Jama Masjid in Johari Bazaar were unaware of any AIMPLB directive. In his 25-minute sermon, the Imam only talked about the advantages of drinking cold water in the summer, according to a devotee, who attended the prayers.
“We are yet to receive the booklets,” said Maulana Shafique Qasmi, the imam of Nakhoda masjid in Kolkata. The same was the response from another mosque in Rajabazar locality. “But I have got the directives on WhatsApp, and have circulated them among some people,” said Maulana Shafique Qasmi .
In Patna, however, some clerics gave a brief talk on Muslim personal law. “We are going to start an awareness campus among the Muslims about Muslim personal law, what are the provisions related to marriage, talaq (divorce), rights of children,” said Ahmed Ali Akhtar, convenor of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Bihar.
(With inputs from Anupam Srivastava in Lucknow, Avijit Ghosal in Kolkata, Vijay Swaroop in Patna and Salik Ahmed in Jaipur)