The Jammu and Kashmir high court has held that a Muslim man's power to divorce his wife is not "unrestricted or unqualified".
Justice Hasnain Masoodi in his 23-page judgment extensively went into details of the Shariah law and Quranic injunctions to hold that a "husband cannot have unrestricted or unqualified power to pronounce the Talaaq."
The court delved into the fundamental sources of Shariah law to understand the concept of marriage in Islam, the rights of the parties to the marriage contract and the mode and manner in which the contract is dissolved.
"Though Islam visualises a situation where a marriage may run into rough weather for reasons beyond the control of the parties to the marriage contract, and provides for a mechanism to end or dissolve the relationship in such case, yet the device of divorce is to be used as the last option when the marital relations have irretrievably broken down," the court said.
It maintained that in Islam divorce or Talaaq by the husband may take three forms including Talaaq-e-Ahsan which is single pronouncement of divorce made during a Tuhr (period between menstruations) followed by abstinence from physical relationship for the period of Iddat (waiting period).
The second form is Talaaq-e-Hasan which is three pronouncements of divorce made during successive Tuhrs, without any physical relationship during any of the three Tuhrs.
The third is Talaaq-e-Bidhi which is three pronouncements of divorce made during a single Tuhr either in one sentence or in three sentences or in any other form like in writing, indicating intention of the husband to irrevocably dissolve the marriage.
Justice Masoodi said that Talaaq-e-Bidhi is the most despised and discouraged form and Talaaq-e-Ahsan is the most approved form of divorce.
He said, "Talaaq-e-Ahsan is the only form of divorce that finds approval of Koran."
"This is the approved form of divorce, as it leaves room for reconciliation," the judge said quoting several verses from Quran on the subject.
The judgment also stressed upon the equal status of husband and wife and referred to at least three terms used in Quran at different places to drive home point of equal status of partners in a marriage.
"Islam does not give preference to either of the parties to a marriage. The message in Chapter 30, Verse 21 is not gender specific. It does not address a Muslim man or Muslim woman. It does not say that Almighty Allah created for a man, woman as his spouse or vice-versa. It, on the other hand, addresses both men and women saying that He created spouses and it is a sign of His mercy. This clearly indicates that a man and woman are equal partners in a marriage," the judge observed.
He noted that Quran uses the expression Zawj for both husband and wife. "It means either of the pair. Wherever Quran makes a mention of ideal partners in a marriage, it refers to them as Zawj and not husband or wife. This again makes it clear that husband and wife in Islam are equal partners and have equal status," he said.