In Islam, ‘halala’ is a term that finds its roots in ‘halal’ that translates to something that is permissible, and therefore ‘lawful’. In context of marriage, it means that a divorced woman can become ‘halal’ (lawful) for her husband again after nikah halala is completed.
The concept of nikah halala
Islam dictates that a Muslim man has the liberty to divorce and re-marry the same woman twice.
A man can legally divorce his wife by simply pronouncing talaq (the Arabic word for divorce) three times. He can proclaim talaq three times. After the first and second talaq, the husband can still re-marry her, but after the pronouncement of the third talaq, the woman becomes ‘haram’ (unlawful and therefore, prohibited) for the husband and he can't re-marry her.
However, if the husband and wife want to re-marry for the third time, it can be done only on one condition: the woman has to marry another man and have sex with him (nikah halala)
Only, if the second husband divorces her after sexual intercourse or dies, the woman, after completing the Iddat period, can re-marry the first husband. In case the second husband dies or divorces her before sexual intercourse, then it will be of no account and she can't marry the first husband in such condition.
Iddat period (four lunar months and ten days) is the period a woman must observe after the death of her husband or after a divorce, during which she may not marry another man. Its purpose is to remove any doubt as to the paternity of a child born after the divorce or death of the prior husband.
The nikah halala business
A number of religious scholars and men in India made a living of nikah halala and are asking to be paid for a one-night stand with divorced Muslim women who are using Islamic law to save their marriages and the women are charged anywhere between Rs 20,000 ($270) and Rs 1.5 lakh ($2,020).
An Indian undercover team has blown the lid off this tradition that has remained largely unnoticed. And found many Islamic scholars putting themselves up for sale.
At a restaurant in Ghaziabad, the team first met Mohammed Nadeem, an Imam at Madina Masjid in Moradabad's Lal Bagh neighborhood.
The cleric was already married. But he was negotiating his role play as a husband for a night with the reporters posing as relatives of a fictitious divorced Muslim woman.
'Will your wife object to it?' a reporter asked. 'No, no. She won't have any objection,' Imam Nadeem replied.
'Have you spoken with her?' the reporter prodded. 'No, I haven't spoken with her. I haven't told her. What's the need to tell her?' Nadeem asked.
The Moradabad Imam admitted he had officiated several nikah halala marriages. This time, he proposed a package deal for the entire service, including sex.
'It's Rs 1 lakh,' ($1,350) he said. Imam Nadeem guaranteed issuing divorce after spending a night with the bride for her to become eligible to go back to her first husband in accordance with Sharia law.
The business of one-night grooms is widespread, the India Today investigation observed.
At Delhi's Jamia Nagar, the team met Zubair Qasmi, a qualified maulana married with two wives. He nominated himself for a nikah halala in exchange for money. 'I spend many nights out. It's much easier to manage this with two (wives).
Maulana, literally "our lord/master" is a title, mostly in Central Asia and in the Indian subcontinent, preceding the name of respected Muslim religious leaders, in particular graduates of religious institutions, e.g. a madrassa or a darul uloom, or scholars who have studied under other Islamic scholars.
'One would think I am with the second. And the second would think I am with the other. It's not at all difficult with two (wives),' he bragged. Zubair Qasmi based his fee on mehr, money or a gift a Muslim groom pledges to his bride during Islamic marriages.
'Don't worry about anything. I'll make every arrangement. If Rs 30,000 ($405) is set as mehr, it will be either Rs 40,000 ($540) or Rs 50,000 ($675) in return for participation in nikah halala. No problem in it,' Qasmi said.
The rot runs deep.
Next, India Today's investigative journalists visited Mohammad Mustaquim of Delhi's Darul Uloom Mahmoodia Madrasa. Educated in Islamic studies, he was keen to do what he had done several times before - sleeping with divorced women to consummate nikah halala.
'There was a woman in the room. I went there and had sex. Before leaving at 2-3 am, I divorced her,' he confessed. Mohammad Mustaquim performed nikah halala even without formal marriage.
'So you have taken part in three nikah halala. You actually married on one occasion, right? The other two nikha halala were without marriage, the reporter asked.
'Without marriage,' he admitted. 'After sleeping with her, I left at 1 am.' Mustaquim's fee for this service included donation for his madrasa. 'You'll have to pay Rs 20,000 ($270) for the madrasa. I am ready to do it for whatever amount. I have done it several times before,' he said.
In some cases, potential deals were found to be brokered by clerics themselves. At Bulandshahr's Til Gaon, imam Zahir-ul-lah of Mewatian Masjid introduced the undercover reporters with a prospective groom for nikah halala.
Arif, the groom-to-be, was quick to boast about his masculinity despite his old age. 'My program is all set, today, tomorrow or the day after. I am always fit 24x7, mashallah!' he said. The price: Rs 25,000 ($335) for a night.
In western UP's Hapur district, the team next met Mohammed Zahid, who runs a madrasa at Sikheda village. He marketed his services for nikah halala as a professional.
'We have the men. It will be done through them. If you don't trust them, I am always available for it,' he said.
'How much money in total would you like us to organize for you?' asked the reporter. 'Between Rs 1 lakh ($1,350) and Rs 1.5 lakh ($2,020),' he answered. 'Not above Rs 1.5 lakh and not less than Rs 1 lakh.'