The issue of triple talaq has occupied the public consciousness for long—in the past three years, particularly, it has become entangled in the necessity and urgency of reform within the Muslim community. By most measures, the existence of this debate itself is saddening—we are trapped in resolving a medieval question in the twenty-first century, one that even the otherwise retrograde Islamic Republic of Pakistan has dispensed with it. While the judgment that was pronounced on 22 August is celebrated and debated in equal parts, it is important to remember the historical and political context of how triple talaq came to assume this relevance, and its relationship to Muslim appeasement by political parties over the years.
The nineteenth century saw the beginning of reforms in what is present day India, when the British colonial rulers, with their own ideas of morality and governance, began questioning the existing practices. Then, the early Indian reformers emerged—among others, these included Ram Mohan Roy, who is most widely recognised for his efforts to abolish sati; Syed Ahmad Khan, a prominent critic of the Islamic orthodoxy; and Govind Ranade, who campaigned for the rights of widows and against child marriage.
These reformists faced huge reaction from the conservative sections of their respective communities, including death threats and fatwas of excommunication. Despite such opposition, some of these reformers were successful—the British government was able to bring in legislations that banned many Hindu oppressive and outdated social practices, such as sati and child marriage