• HAKAM: ANOTHER WAY OUT FOR MUSLIM WOMEN TO GET A DIVORCE

    HAKAM: ANOTHER WAY OUT FOR MUSLIM WOMEN TO GET A DIVORCE

    HAKAM INTRODUCTION: Talaq is a right which is only conferred upon a husband to divorce his wife. Nevertheless, this right is not absolute and is in fact a restricted one as it is only permitted to be pronounced twice. As Allah says in the Qur’an,

    A divorce is only permissible twice; after that, the parties should either hold together on equitable terms or separate with kindness” (Al-Baqarah: 229).

    However, a wife is granted the privilege to seek divorce by way of khulu’ (redemption), ta’liq, and fasakh. These rights require sanctions from the Court as stated in the Islamic Family Law in Malaysia by Najibah Mohd Zin, et al. (2016). The brief definitions of the above three types of divorce by a wife are laid down below:

    • Khulu’: A divorce pronounced by the husband by way of redemption after the amount of the payment of tebus talaq (the wife compensates for her release) is made {See s 49 of the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territory) Act 1984 (hereinafter referred to as IFLA 1984) and Surah Al-Baqarah: 229}. 
    • Ta’liq: A divorce due to breach of any stipulation by the husband which is pronounced during the marriage solemnisation, as required by statutes. The breach could be the basis for the wife to lodge a complaint in the Syari’ah Court and it is for the Court to grant the divorce if the breach is satisfactorily proven {See page 175 of the Islamic Family Law in Malaysia by Najibah Mohd Zin, et al. (2016)}.
    • Fasakh: A dissolution of marriage through a Court order due to certain acceptable grounds which are recognised under the Islamic law {See page 193 of the Islamic Family Law in Malaysia by Najibah Mohd Zin, et al. (2016) and s 52 of the IFLA 1984}. 

    Most Muslim women in Malaysia are only aware of these three types of divorce that they could seek in Court. Little did they know the existence of divorce by means of hakam which is less time-consuming and could be a way out for marriages that are hanging on by a thread. 

     

    THE DEFINITION OF HAKAM

    Linguistically speaking, tahkim connotes “conferring power to impose punishment upon someone”, as cited in an article entitled; “Hakam dalam Mahkamah Syariah: Analisis Pelaksanaannya di sisi Prinsip Syariah di Malaysia” written by Hammad Mohamad Dahalan and Mohamad Azhan Yahya. Whereas, the Article provides the technical definition of hakam as “a process where the disputing parties appoint a person each as a hakam (arbitrator) to solve the issue of contention arising between them, in accordance with hukum syara’”. 

    The concept of hakam is not something foreign nor is it a new invention, as it is not only judicially recognised in the context of the Malaysian Islamic Family Law but in fact, it has been encouraged by the Qur’an to be practiced in solving disputes between two parties. The verse related to this is enshrined in Surah An-Nisaa’, verse 35. Allah says:

    And if you fear dissension between the two, send an arbitrator from his people and an arbitrator from her people. If they both desire reconciliation, Allah will cause it between them. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Acquainted [with all things]

    Reflecting on the above verse, the uniqueness of appointing hakam as an alternative dispute resolution can be seen, whereby the disputing parties are given the right to appoint the arbitrators of their choice. The qualifications required for a hakam before he is appointed would be explained later as we discuss this matter further.

    Through a divorce by way of tahkim, a wife who desires to get a divorce is able to get what she wishes for by following the procedures, as spelled out under Section 48 of the IFLA 1984. 

     

    PROCEDURES OF HAKAM

    A divorce by way of hakam commences the moment a wife files a claim of divorce under Section 47 of the IFLA 1984. Under Section 47(2) of the Act, upon receiving an application for divorce, the Court will issue a summons upon the other party (in this case would be the husband) including a copy of the application and the statutory declaration made by the wife. The summons requires the husband to appear before the Court, in order to inquire whether the husband consents to the divorce or otherwise. 

    If the husband refuses to consent to the divorce, the Court will as soon as possible appoint a conciliatory committee (jawatankuasa pendamai – JKP). The persons appointed under the conciliatory committee, consist of a Religious Officer as Chairman and two other persons, one for the husband and the other for the wife as stated under Section 47(5) of the Act.

    Section 47(14) of the Act states that “where the committee submits to the Court a certificate that it is unable to effect reconciliation and to persuade the parties to resume the conjugal relationship, the Court shall advise the husband to pronounce one talaq before the Court”. Nevertheless, if the husband does not wish to be present in Court to pronounce the talaq or if the husband refuses to pronounce the said talaq, the Court will then refer the case to the attention of hakam and thereby, Section 48 of the Act will apply.

    The State of Selangor has taken the first leap in gazetting the Hakam (State of Selangor) Rules 2014 (hereinafter referred to as the Hakam Rules 2014), which provides detailed guidelines on the implementation of hakam in the Malaysian Syariah Court practice. Rule 3(3) of the Hakam Rules 2014 provides that the Court is required to ensure that syiqaq (constant quarrels between husband and wife which affect the marital harmony – Rule 2 of the Hakam Rules 2014) exists between the husband and wife before the parties are brought before the hakam. This shows that the provision on the appointment of hakam cannot be simply invoked as to avoid from the occurrence of arbitrary or even unnecessary divorce. 

    As stated in a book entitled “Managing Marital Disputes in Malaysia: Islamic Mediators and Conflict Resolution in the Syariah Courtswritten by Sven Cederoth Cederroth and Sharifa Zaleha Syed Hassan, normally a marriage situation is said to be in a state of syiqaq when the husband refuses to let go off the wife (divorce) or when the wife is unable to seek for divorce by means of ta’liq or fasakh due to unavailable grounds. Other instances of syiqaq are listed under Rule 4 of the Hakam Rules 2014. 

     

    THE APPOINTMENT OF HAKAM

    Referring to Rule 4 of the Hakam Rules 2014, hakam can only be appointed from among the close relatives (saudara karib) of the husband and wife who fulfils the qualifications as listed out under sub-rule 8(1) and (2). As interpreted under Rule 4(2) of the Hakam Rules 2014, “close relatives” are referring to “any man who is related by consanguinity, affinity or fosterage and having knowledge on the circumstances of the case”. 

    The qualifications of a hakam as listed out under sub-rule 8(1) are: 

    (a) Professing the religion of Islam;

    (b) Male;

    (c) Possessing a sound mind and reached the age of maturity (mukalaf);

    (d) Just and trustworthy (amanah); and

    (e) Acquiring basic knowledge on family affairs and Hukum Syara’

    Meanwhile, based on Rule 11 of the Hakam Rules 2014, this complies with the directions given by the Court as well as Hukum Syara’ in conducting the Majlis Tahkim (proceeding). Nevertheless, the hakam who is conferred with full authority from the Principal (the husband/wife), has wider power which is to:

    (i) pronounce one talaq or khulu’ before the Court (hakam for the husband)

    (ii) accept the pronouncement of khulu’ before the Court (hakam for the wife) 

    Thus, from here we could see that through hakam, a wife’s wish to dissolve a marriage (even when her husband refuses to consent) can be realised as a hakam with full power is conferred with the authority to pronounce the talaq or khulu’ in order to release the wife from the marriage.

     

    DETERMINATION ON THE TYPES OF DIVORCE

    In order to determine which type of divorce would be pronounced, under Rule 12 of the Hakam Rules 2014, the hakam needs to identify which party causes the syiqaq. Referring to Rule 12(2), if the syiqaq 

    (a) appears to be caused by the husband or both husband and wife, both Hakam shall propose divorce by talak;

    (b) appears to be caused by the wife, both Hakam shall propose divorce by khuluk and the rate of ‘iwadh shall be determined by Hakam;

    (c) cannot be determined in terms of its cause and the husband claims divorce, both Hakam shall propose divorce by talak; or

    (d) cannot be determined in terms of its cause and the wife claims divorce, both Hakam shall propose divorce by khuluk and the rate of ‘iwadh shall be determined by Hakam.

    Whereas, based on Rule 15, either the divorce is made by way of talaq or it is made by way of khulu’, a divorce by way of tahkim has the effect of talaq ba’in. This means, a new ‘aqad is needed if the parties wish to reconcile after the talaq or khulu’ is made. 

     

    CONCLUSION

    In conclusion, the option that is available for a wife who wishes to dissolve her marriage but whose husband refuses to consent is to resort to hakam. This type of divorce acts as a tool to end the “torture that a wife “is compelled” to go through, for having to sail the voyage of marriage which has irretrievably broken down and has lost the essences of mawaddah, sakeenah wa rahmah. In addition, a divorce by way of hakam is also time-efficient as Rule 16(1) of the Hakam Rules 2014 states that (subject to sub-rule (2)) the duration of the proceeding shall not exceed thirty days from the date of the appointment and declaration issued by the Court. Moreover, the application for a divorce by appointing hakam is also budget-friendly as the parties who are planning to apply for hakam are only required to pay the filing cost which is affordable.

    By raising awareness on hakam (especially to Muslim women), they will know that there exists another right of divorce that Muslim women can resort to, apart from khulu’, fasakh and ta’liq. When other means are to no avail, this type of divorce is hoped to be a saviour for Muslim women who are left “gantung tak bertali” by their inhumane and egoistic husbands. Divorce by way of tahkim can be a form of warning to all husbands out there, that the right to pronounce talaq upon their wives is not absolute. Last but not least, this post aims to urge all of the Muslim women out there, to increase their level of legal literacy as many are still clueless about this right that is statutorily conferred to them, which in turn would detriment their very own lives and interests. Furthermore, All Muslim women and men alike should know their obligations as well as their rights as husbands and wives, in order to ensure that they will discharge their duties responsibly and will not allow others to infringe their rights, naively and ignorantly.  Wallahu a’lam.

    Article published for Peguam Syarie Faiz Adnan.

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