On Divorce

The main object of marriage is that, by entering into it, people led a clean and virtuous life, and just as they were someone’s children, they, too, produced children, and the children were a source of joy to them and a means to the attainment of Paradise in Futurity. For the realization of these ends, it is essential that relations between man and wife are pleasant and based on love and understanding. This, in a nutshell, is the substance of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) relating to the conduct and behaviour between husband and wife. Yet, sometimes, circumstances arise in which it becomes extremely hard to live together. The Prophet’s advice, even then, is that they should try to the utmost to bear with each other, and resolve their differences, through mutual concession and compromise. Divorce or Talaq, too, has, however, been permitted as a last resort. It evidently would have been most unjust if the breaking up of a marriage was not allowed in any case, and however miserable the life of a couple became, they were legally compelled to remain joined in wedlock till death. While detailed guidance has, hence, been furnished by Islam on the subject of divorce, the first thing to remember, as a matter of principle, is that such a development is highly displeasing to God, and, therefore, it should be avoided as far as possible. Neither the husband nor the wife should act in a hurry. The step is to be taken only when no choice is left, in the same way as, for example, the amputation of a limb is agreed to when no other course is open. The method prescribed for divorce is that the husband should give only one Raj’ee Talaq (i.e., a ‘reversible’ divorce; a divorce that can be taken back within the period of ‘Iddat) at a time when the wife is in a state of cleanliness, i.e., she is not in her periods so that it remained open to the husband to retrace his steps and take back the divorce within the period of ‘Iddat (i.e., the period of waiting for a widowed or divorced woman before the expiry of which she cannot re-marry. For a divorced woman, ‘Iddatextends up to the time that three cyclic periods of menstruation are completed, and if the woman be pregnant, until she is delivered of the child). The pronouncing of three Talaqs simultaneously is extremely sinful, but to do so at three different times, too, has been viewed with strong disfavour, and the punishment laid down on it, here in this world, is that the husband will not be allowed to re-marry his divorced wife until she is married to another man and full conjugal relations have been established between them, and, after it, she has either become a widow owing to the death of her second husband or been divorced by him as well. It is on]y then that he can marry her again on the completion of ‘Iddat. This severe restriction, in fact, is the penalty imposed on the husband for pronouncing three Talaqs.

(1) It is related by Abdullah bin Omar that the Apostle of God said: “Among the lawful and legitimate things, most disagreeable to God is divorce.”

Abu Dawood


Enter commentary for the hadith here….

(2) It is related by Mu’ad bin Jabal that the Apostle of God said: “Oh Mu’ad, God has not created anything on the face of the earth which may be more pleasing to Him than the setting free of captives and slave-girls, and He has not created anything on the face of the earth which may be more displeasing to Him than divorce.”

– Daar Qutni


Enter commentary for the hadith here….

(3) It is related by Soban that the Apostle of God said: “The sweet smell of Paradise is forbidden to the woman who demands divorce from her husband except on account of severe hardship.”

– Musnad-i-Ahmad, Tirmizi, Abu Dawood, Ibn-i-Maja and Daarmi


The admonition, evidently, does not apply to the woman for whom it may have become really intolerable to live with her husband, but if she seeks divorce without the things having gone that bad, it will be highly sinful on her part.

(4) Narrates Mahmood bin Labeed: “(Once), as the Apostle of God came to know about a person that he had divorced his wife thrice, at the same time, he rose up in great anger and said: ‘Will the Book of God be trifled with even when I am present in your midst? (To divorce thrice, at the same time, is to make a mockery of the Qur’an in which the law and method of divorce are distinctly laid down. Will the Book of God be reduced to a plaything in my lifetime)?’ (As the Apostle of God spoke these words in extreme anger), a Companion stood up and said: ‘O Apostle of God! May I better not kill the man who has acted like that.’”

– Nisai


It shows that the giving of three divorces simultaneously is a most serious transgression of the law of God. The giving of three divorces, at the same time, has been condemned as playing with the Book of God, probably, on the basis of the following verses: “A divorce is only permissible twice, and, then (a woman) must be retained in honour or released in kindness …And if a person divorces his wife irrevocably, i.e., the third time, he cannot, after that, remarry her until after she has married another husband and he has divorced her.” (Qur’an II: 229-30). From these verses, it is evident that if a man wanted to divorce his wife more than once, he should not do so at the same time, but at different times, with suitable intervals

(5) It is related by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “There are three things to speak seriously and with deliberation with relation to which is a reality, and to speak light-heartedly and in jest with relation to which, too, is a reality. (The three things are): marriage, divorce and restitution, i.e., receiving by a husband of his wife after divorce.”

– Tirmizi and Abu Dawood


Its purport is that if a man marries a woman or divorces her or receives back the divorced wife in joke, it will be real in the eye of the Shariat and deemed to have, actually, taken place. Marriage, divorce or restitution, by their nature, are such serious and solemn acts that no fun or frivolity can be permitted in respect of them.

(6) It is related by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “Each divorce is valid except by a man who is not in his senses.”

– Tirmizi


Sometimes, a man goes out of his mind, owing to a shock or illness, and does things he would not do if he was in his senses. Should such a man divorce his wife, in that condition, the divorce will not have a legal force in the same way as the divorce by a lunatic is held, legally, to be of no effect. In another Tradition, it is stated that there are three persons who will not be held responsible for what they say or do, and no law of the Shari’at shall be applicable to them: i) he who is in a state of slumber; ii) a minor child; and iii) one who is out of his mind. It denotes that if a man divorces his wife while talking in his sleep, it will not be effective, and similar is the case with the divorce given by a minor child or a man with a deranged mind.

(7) Ayesha relates, saying that she heard the Apostle of God say: “A divorce and setting free of a slave under duress are void and have no effect (in law).”

Abu Dawood and Ibn-i-Maja


It shows that if a man is made to divorce his wife or set free his slave under constraint or coercion, it will not be valid. This is the viewpoint of a majority of legist doctors, but Imam Abu Hanifa holds that a divorce given under duress will be effective in the same way as a divorce given in jest, and the authorities of the Hanafi School give quite a different interpretation of the above Tradition. It should, however, be noted that Imam Abu Hanifa is not alone in his judgement, but precursors like Saeed bin el-Mussaiyyab, Ibrahim Nakha’ee and Sufiyan Suri, also, are reported to have drawn the same conclusion.

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