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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 March 2006, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Muslim rejects 'sleeping divorce'
An Indian Muslim says he will not be separated from his wife, despite uttering the words necessary for divorce while he was asleep.

Akhtar, from West Bengal state, told the BBC a ruling by village elders that the couple were divorced was unfair.

Uttering the word "talaq" (I divorce you) three times allows a Muslim man to divorce his wife with immediate effect.

But Akhtar says it has no force because he did not mean it, and he and his wife both say they want to stay together.

We have become a laughing stock... I can't stay without my husband
Akhtar's wife, Sobena

The BBC's Amitabha Bhattasali in Calcutta says several Muslim authorities in India have spoken out against the elders' ruling, arguing that the "triple talaq" pronouncement must be intentional to be recognised.

India's minority Muslim population has its own personal laws on issues such as marriage, divorce and inheritance.

'Victimised'

Clerics in the village of Dalgaon Basti near Falakata in northern West Bengal found out about Akhtar's unfortunate pronouncement after his wife, Sobena, told friends.

It's unfair that I'll have to leave my wife for what I said in my sleep and we are being socially boycotted
Akhtar

News of the case arose when the couple sought advice from the local counselling centre.

Akhtar says he came home on the night in question last December and took sleeping tablets following a row with his wife.

"I uttered the 'talaq' while I was asleep. I didn't mean it," Akhtar, a worker at a local brick field, told the BBC.

"It's unfair that I'll have to leave my wife for what I said in my sleep and we are being socially boycotted by the villagers because we haven't accepted the verdict of the clerics."

Sobena says: "Enough is enough. We have become a laughing stock. Come what may, I can't stay without my husband."

Akhtar's father, Ebadat, agrees the clerics "have taken a wrong decision".

"I am victimised as I am still in touch with Akhtar. Nobody is coming to my grocery shop."

The clerics, though, are refusing to budge.

Village community leader Abbas Ansari says they have been told of the apparent mix-up.

"But they have passed a verdict that Akhtar and Sobena can't stay together till they remarry each other."

The couple registered their marriage under the special marriages act to get round the divorce ruling last week - it remains to be seen whether that will be enough.


SEE ALSO:
India 'to register all marriages'
14 Feb 06 |  South Asia
Whither social progress in India?
31 Aug 05 |  South Asia
India court urges dowry clampdown
04 May 05 |  South Asia
India Muslim divorce code set out
02 May 05 |  South Asia
Muslim women fight instant divorce
04 Aug 04 |  South Asia
Malaysia permits text message divorce
27 Jul 03 |  Asia-Pacific


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