More Muslim marriages end with khhula, the woman’s inalienable right to instant divorce, and not as it’s widely perceived through instant triple talaq, which was set aside by a Supreme Court verdict in 2017, or through talaq-e-hassan, divorce at the man’s initiative. Data available at the Imarat-e-Shariah’s Darul Qaza or Islamic arbitration centres show most cases of divorce are filed through the khhula method, and an increasingly larger number of women are opting to end their marriage through khhula.
Unlike talaq, which is pronounced by the man, in the case of khhula, it’s the woman who initiates divorce, and surrenders her mehr (wealth transferred or promised to the woman at the time of marriage) at the time of such a divorce. Khhula can be effected orally or through a document called the ‘Khhulnama’. It has the effect of an instant divorce. If the mehr had not been given to the woman by the time she opted for khhula, she cannot demand the mehr as the marriage is being called off at her behest.
While cases of talaq-e-biddat are automatically ruled out due to the very nature of the act, there are few cases coming to the Islamic arbitration centres of women complaining against cases of talaq-e-hassan, the pronouncement of three divorces separated by at least a month between each pronouncement, or even mubarat, which is mutual divorce granted to a Muslim couple by the Shariah.
“In the last Islamic year corresponding to 2021-22, we had 572 cases in Imarat Shariah Markaz. Almost all cases were of khhula with only a handful of mubarat cases and none of triple talaq,” Anzar Alam Qasmi, the chief quazi responsible for deciding issues of marriage and divorce at Patna's famed Imarat-e-Shariah, told The Hindu.
Mr. Qasmi speaks only of the Imarat Shariah headquarters. Data from all such centres in Bihar-Jharkhand show a bigger picture. In 2020-21, corresponding roughly to the 1443 Islamic calendar, there were nearly 5,000 cases of khhula at all Darul Qazas. The data show a similar rising trend in Delhi and Mumbai.
“From 2019 to 2021, there were 300 cases of khhula at Darul Qaza on Mira Road. In Mumbai city, there were 900 cases in recent years. There are five Darul Qazas in Mumbai. Every year, 300 cases of khhula are resolved at these centres. The maximum cases, around one hundred, come from the Mumbai city centre,” Azimuddin Sayed, president, Darul Qaza Committee, said.
Muzaffarnagar district’s Madrasa Islamia Arabia, which had never received cases of khhula until 2017, now receives three-four cases of it every month. Similar figures were reported from the Riyazul Uloom recently. The cases are referred to the Deoband for further arbitration.
“Most cases come in instances of marriages through online contact. Most khhula cases are reported in the first two years of marriage. Only rarely do we get cases of khhula after five years of marriage,” Mr. Azimuddin said.
“More than half of the cases end on an amicable note with the parties opting for reconciliation rather than divorce. When a woman first files for khhula, we initially counsel her. If she is still firm on the decision, we speak to her husband. Finally, in lieu of khhula, the woman has to give something to the man. We call it khhula badle maal,” Mr. Qasmi said.
”The Kerala High Court granted Muslim women the right to annul marriage under khhula through extrajudicial means in 2021 and the Darul Qazas have gained in importance since,” he added.
Across the country, Darul Qazas provide timely and cost-effective ways to end unhappy marriages. “Many cases of khhula are resolved within an hour or two. Up to 70% cases are settled with two months. Only a handful take six months or more, when the man does not respond to the notices sent to him,” Mr. Qasmi said.
However, some quazis insist that khhula can be obtained only through the husband’s consent. They feel the husband is not bound to agree to the divorce proposed by his wife. “They stress on the man’s right even in cases of khhula. According to them, khhula cannot be completed if the man does not agree. It defeats the purpose of khhula if a woman cannot find a way out of an abusive marriage. There are Hadith (scriptures) giving woman a clear right to end an unhappy marriage,” said Uzma Nahid, former member of the All India Muslim Personal Board, who parted ways with the body on the issue of women’s rights in the case of nikahnama and divorce.