Divorce in Islam

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Divorce in Islam can take a variety of forms, some initiated by the husband and some initiated by the wife. The main traditional legal categories are talaq (repudiation), khulʿ (mutually agreed divorce), judicial divorce and oaths. The theory and practice of divorce in the Islamic world have varied according to time and place.


  • "The thing which is lawful but disliked by God is divorce."
    • teaching of Muhammad on the general subject of Divorce as expressed in the Traditions: - quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • "The woman who asks her husband to divorce her without a cause, the smell of Paradise is forbidden her."
    • teaching of Muhammad on the general subject of Divorce as expressed in the Traditions: - quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • "There are three things which, whether done in joke or in earnest, shall be considered serious and effectual, namely, marriage, divorce, and taking a wife back."
    • teaching of Muhammad on the general subject of Divorce as expressed in the Traditions: - quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • "Every divorce is lawful except a madman's."
    • teaching of Muhammad on the general subject of Divorce as expressed in the Traditions: - quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • "Cursed be the second husband who makes the wife (divorce) lawful for her first husband, and cursed be the first husband for whom she is made lawful." - (Mishkat, xiii, c xv.)
    • teaching of Muhammad on the general subject of Divorce as expressed in the Traditions: - quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • Whenever attention is drawn to the absolute and inhuman power that the Shariah gives to the husband to throw his wife out, to terrorize her into submission, the apologists say, ‘That is just a smear. Allah and the Prophet have declared repeatedly that of all things, talaq is the worst.’ They have indeed. ... That is all very well. But, having recounted such declarations, the apologists never explain how that which is the most detestable thing has been made so easy for the husband! For, while in theory talaq is said to be so abominable to Allah, in practice the position is entirely the opposite. The jurists repeat the counsel that divorce is something from which one should abstain. But this is just counsel. As to the power, they are unanimous: it is a power which lies with the husband, and it is untrammelled. Should the husband choose to exercise it, no one, and no consideration can save the wife. The counsel itself has the caveat invariably built into it, a caveat large enough to drive an elephant through it: you should not give talaq, the jurists say adding, except when there is need for it! In the typical instance, we read in Durr-ul-Mukhtar, one of the great works of Sunni jurisprudence, ‘And giving of divorce is permissible, according to all (the jurists) because the verses (of the Quran) are unconditional (in this respect). And it has been said by Kamal, that the most correct view is that one should abstain from it, except when there is need for it, for example, in cases of suspicion (about the character of the wife) and old age (of the wife)...’ and so on, each clause permitting that which the previous one had counselled against. In theory talaq may be abominable but in practice the husband has the power—the absolute, unconditional power, a power for exercising which he is not accountable to anyone on earth—to throw the wife out by just uttering the word ‘talaq’... The fatwas enforce these rules with the utmost rigour. They enforce two rules in addition: the rule that, faced with such a pronouncement, the wife has no recourse at all, there is no one, no authority which can intervene to save her as wife; and the rule that once she is thrown out she is entitled to no maintenance at all, save the minimum sustenance during three menstruations, that is she is entitled to nothing at all after three months are over.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • The rationale for throwing the wife out even in these circumstances is telling. It is set out in the Hidayah: The divorce of one acting upon compulsion, from threats, is effective, according to our doctors—Shafi’i maintains that it is not effective, because a person who is compelled has no option, and no formal act of law is worthy of regard unless it be purely optional: contrary to the case of a jester, who, in mentioning divorce, acts from option, which is the cause of its validity. Our doctors, on the other hand, allege that the person here mentioned pronounces divorce under circumstances of complete competency, (maturity of age and sanity of intellect), the result of which is that the divorce takes effect equally with that of a person uncompelled, for with him necessity (namely, the necessity of separation from a wife who may be odious or disagreeable to him) is the reason of its efficiency; and the same reason applies to the divorce of a compelled person, as he is also under necessity of divorce, in order that he may be released from the apprehension of that with which he was threatened by the compeller. The foundation of this is that the man alluded to has the choice of two evils; one, the thing with which he is threatened or compelled; and the other, divorce upon compulsion; and viewing both, he makes choice of that which appears to him the easiest, namely, divorce; and this proves that he has an option, though he be not desirous that its effect should be established, or, in other words, that divorce should take place upon it; nor does this circumstance forbid the efficiency of his sentence; as in the case of a jester; that is to say, if a man pronounce a divorce in jest, it takes effect although he be not desirous that it should; and so likewise the divorce of one who is compelled.
    • The Hidayah quoted in Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • The point is put in perspective on the very next page. If there is some doubt about a woman, the Fatawa-i-Rizvia rules, or if she is a sinner, or if she does not observe namaz, or if she has become old, then talaq given without detestation is proper and valid. In fact, in certain cases it is desirable to do so, says the Fatawa-i-Rizvia. The ulema hold, it declares, that if she does not observe namaz, then, even if he is unable to pay the dower, even then the husband should give the talaq. In certain circumstances it is proper to do so, the fatwa reiterates. For instance, if the mother and father order one to give talaq and if not doing so will upset them or if they will be put to hardship, then to give talaq is wajib, it is proper, even if she, the wife, is not in the wrong at all. Yes, in the Hadis it is said that talaq given without need or justification is detestable or prohibited, notes the fatwa. But if the husband gives it, it shall certainly be effective. His sinning and doing that which is detestable does not stop it from taking effect, it says. For instance, it is haram to give talaq during menstruation, it is disobedience of the hukum of Allah. But if it is given, it shall certainly take effect, the fatwa declares.
    • Fatawa-i-Rizvia quoted in Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • In glaring contrast to the gloss which modern apologists try to put on the matter, Islamic jurists have faithfully followed the view of women embedded in the Quran and Hadis. They have enforced the true position: that the husband has absolute power in the matter of divorce; that he need assign no reason for throwing his wife out; that he owes the wife no maintenance beyond providing her the barest minimum in the three months following his pronouncement of talaq; and that the wife has no corresponding power. The apologists make much of the fact that in certain circumstances under Islamic law the wife can divorce herself—this, they say, is a unique facility which Islamic law alone gives to the wife. But they glide over two facts about the matter: the wife acquires this power only if the husband delegates it to her; and, the moment the wife exercises this power, that is the moment she dissolves the marriage by divorcing herself she loses even the meagre rights she would otherwise have had upon the dissolution of the marriage. Far from being a facility for the wife, the practice becomes a facility for the husband: by driving the wife to divorce herself, the husband is not only able to rid himself of her, he is able to rid himself of anything that might otherwise have been her due. The total inequality of the relationship is brought home by the hundreds of pages which the law books and the volumes of fatwas devote to what is called ‘Conditional Divorce’. In this form the husband makes the divorce contingent upon some act or event: the moment that act or event transpires, the wife is out.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • To begin with, the rulings of the jurists show that the husband has the total, absolute, unbridled power to tell his wife, ‘Unless you do “X”,’ or, in the alternate, ‘Unless you refrain from doing “Y”,’ ‘you are divorced’. A mere listing of the ‘X’ and ‘Y’ which the Islamic jurists have held to cause, unless complied with, full and final divorce, a mere listing of these takes one’s breath away. It shows that under the much-vaunted Islamic law of marriage and divorce, at a mere statement of the husband the wife must either reduce herself to totally submitting to the whim and fancy of the husband or stand divorced. She has absolutely no option in the matter. Indeed, once he has stated his whim or condition, the husband has no option either: he cannot ex post facto take pity or give in to the entreaties of the wife and let her stay unless she fulfils the condition he had laid down—unless she fulfils it, that is, as completely, and as fervently, and as promptly as he had specified.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • But, to proceed. In the rulings of which the foregoing are representative the wife can survive by submitting herself completely to the whims and fancies, the commands and worse of the husband. The rulings thus entail subjugation, complete subjugation, but only subjugation. At least there is something the wife can do—namely, submit herself completely to the husband’s whims and wishes—to keep herself from being thrown out on the street. The next set of rulings entail much more—they reduce the woman to a condition of terror. For the husband may by his mere statement—a statement he may make in anger, a statement he may make just to emphasize a point, and of course a statement he may make when he in fact wants to plunge the wife into terror—the husband can make the continuance of the marriage contingent on events over which the wife has no control whatsoever. In the face of the hundreds of rulings to this effect which Islam’s canonical law books contain, to maintain, as the apologists do, ‘No religion has given a higher place to women than Islam’, is not just ludicrous, it is chicanery. Three reasons alone explain how such assertions continue to be made, and continue to be repeated in our newspapers: first, hardly anyone among us looks up, or even knows about these rulings—although they are the very stuff of the fundamental books of Islamic jurisprudence; second, echoing, and adopting as one’s own the assertions of Islam’s champions is the way to be secular in India; and third, there is the power of terror—to recall that these rulings are what constitute the truth about the position of Muslim women is to open oneself to the terrorism of Islam’s champions. While reading the rulings, one should assess whether this kind of jurisprudence leaves any room for the kinds of reform that some would like to bring about by relying on ‘the principles of Islamic jurisprudence’ themselves.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • The question whether in the particular circumstance the wife shall stand divorced or not is ever so often put alongside the question whether in the analogous circumstance a slave would be freed or not: if in those circumstances, according to some previously settled ‘principle of Islamic jurisprudence’, the slave would be freed, the wife stands divorced; if in those circumstances the slave is to continue in bondage, the wife continues as wife.... That perceptual equivalence—between the wife and the slave—marks the Durr-ul-Mukhtar too. There is not a trace of concern for what shall pass on the wife. The concern is with the power of the husband, the concern is that he should not fall short of having his oath prevail.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • One can safely presume that Muslim women would want to be liberated from the extreme insecurity it foments as much as non-Muslim women would if the latters’ husbands had been given the same power. The Muslim husband can scotch any thought his wife may have of expressing support for reform by declaring, ‘If you ever question the Triple talaq rule, you will be thrice divorced.’ He can go further and have her demonstrate in favour of her continuing to live in bondage. He can say, ‘Unless you join the demonstration against the Triple talaq judgment (or the Shah Bano judgment, or whatever) on Wednesday, three talaqs on you’—and unless she joins the demonstration she is out without maintenance, without rights, without any authority from which she may seek succour. And our editorialists will marvel at the miracle: so devoted are the women to the shariah, the editors will write, that they are out shouting that they would rather continue in servitude than allow anyone to touch it!
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • The net result of the much-vaunted shariah is obvious: the woman lives in the sort of dread which a non-Muslim woman cannot even imagine, to say nothing of non-Muslim males. The husband can make her continuance subject to the most humiliating and painful conditions. He can take on other wives at will, without so much as a nominal ‘By your leave’. He can pronounce a revocable talaq at a whim, and ‘resume’ her at will. That the power to resume the wife on whom he has pronounced the talaq once or twice within the iddat period is as absolute as the power to throw her out, that in fact it is but an aspect of the power to throw her out is affirmed repeatedly by the ulema. The wife’s consent is not needed at all, they declare.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)


  • Surah ii 226: -"They who intend to abstain from their wives shall wait four months; but if they go back from their purpose, then verily God is Gracious, Merciful." ... "And if they resolve on a divorce, then verily God is He who Heareth, Knoweth."
    • quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.
  • Surah lxv 1:-"O Prophet! When ye divorce women, divorce them at their special times. And reckon those times exactly, and fear God your God. Put them not forth from their houses, nor allow them to depart, unless they have committed a proven adultery. This is the precept of God, assuredly imperilleth his own self. Thou knowest not whether, after this, God may not cause something new to occur which may bring you together again.
    • quoted from T.P. Hughes: Dictionary of Islam.

About Quran 65[edit]

  • O Prophet, when you divorce women, divorce them when they have reached their period. Count the period, and fear God your Lord. Do not expel them from their houses, nor let them go forth, except when they commit a flagrant indecency. Those are God's bounds; whosoever trespasses the bounds of God has done wrong to himself. Thou knowest not, perchance after that God will bring something new to pass.
    • Quran 65:1
  • Such of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the prescribed period, if ye have any doubts, is three months, and for those who have no courses (it is the same): for those who carry (life within their wombs), their period is until they deliver their burdens: and for those who fear Allah, He will make their path easy.
    • Quran 65:4
  • The `Iddah of Those in Menopause and Those Who do not have Menses Allah the Exalted clarifies the waiting period of the woman in menopause. And that is the one whose menstruation has stopped due to her older age. Her `Iddah is three months instead of the three monthly cycles for those who menstruate, which is based upon the Ayah in (Surat) Al-Baqarah. [see 2:228] The same for the young, who have not reached the years of menstruation. Their `Iddah is three months like those in menopause. This is the meaning of His saying. ...
    • Tafsir Ibn Kathir The `Iddah of Those in Menopause and Those Who do not have Menses (Qur'an 65:4)
  • Here, one should bear in mind the fact that according to the explanations given in the Quran the question of the waiting period arises in respect of the women with whom marriage may have been consummated, for there is no waiting-period in case divorce is pronounced before the consummation of marriage. (Al-Ahzab: 49). Therefore, making mention of the waiting-period for the girls who have not yet menstruated, clearly proves that it is not only permissible to give away the girl in marriage at this age but it is also permissible for the husband to consummate marriage with her. Now, obviously no Muslim has the right to forbid a thing which the Quran has held as permissible.
    • Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Tafhim al-Qur'an Commentary on Qur'an Chapter 65:4
  • Surah al-Talaaq 65:4: If a woman does not menstruate, either because she is very young or old and past menopause, then her ‘iddah is three months, because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the ‘Iddah (prescribed period), if you have doubt (about their periods), is three months; and for those who have no courses (i.e. they are still immature) their ‘Iddah (prescribed period) is three months likewise.
    • Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Uthaymeen, Majmoo’at As’ilah tahumm al-Usrah al-Muslimah, p. 61-63
  • And [as for] those of your women who (read allā'ī or allā'i in both instances) no longer expect to menstruate, if you have any doubts, about their waiting period, their prescribed [waiting] period shall be three months, and [also for] those who have not yet menstruated, because of their young age, their period shall [also] be three months - both cases apply to other than those whose spouses have died; for these [latter] their period is prescribed in the verse: they shall wait by themselves for four months and ten [days] [Q. 2:234]. And those who are pregnant, their term, the conclusion of their prescribed [waiting] period if divorced or if their spouses be dead, shall be when they deliver. And whoever fears God, He will make matters ease for him, in this world and in the Hereafter.
    • Tafsir al-Jalalayn , Qur'an 65:4
  • (And for such of your women as despair of menstruation) because of old age, (if ye doubt) about their waiting period, (their period (of waiting) shall be three months) upon which another man asked: “O Messenger of Allah! "What about the waiting period of those who do not have menstruation because they are too young?” (along with those who have it not) because of young age, their waiting period is three months." Another man asked: “what is the waiting period for those women who are pregnant?” (And for those with child) i.e. those who are pregnant, (their period) their waiting period (shall be till they bring forth their burden) their child. (And whosoever keepeth his duty to Allah) and whoever fears Allah regarding what he commands him, (He maketh his course easy for him) He makes his matter easy; and it is also said this means: He will help him to worship Him well.
    • Tafsir Ibn Abbas , Qur'an 65:4
  • (And for such of your women as despair of menstruation…) [65:4]. Said Muqatil: “When the verse (Women who are divorced shall wait, keeping themselves apart…), Kallad ibn al-Nu‘man ibn Qays al-Ansari said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, what is the waiting period of the woman who does not menstruate and the woman who has not menstruated yet? And what is the waiting period of the pregnant woman?’ And so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse”. Abu Ishaq al-Muqri’ informed us> Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hamdun> Makki ibn ‘Abdan> Abu’l-Azhar> Asbat ibn Muhammad> Mutarrif> Abu ‘Uthman ‘Amr ibn Salim who said: “When the waiting period for divorced and widowed women was mentioned in Surah al-Baqarah, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, some women of Medina are saying: there are other women who have not been mentioned!’ He asked him: ‘And who are they?’ He said: Those who are too young [such that they have not started menstruating yet], those who are too old [whose menstruation has stopped] and those who are pregnant’. And so this verse (And for such of your women as despair of menstruation…) was revealed”.
  • Al-Wahidi, Asbab al-nuzul Qur'an 65:4
  • The interpretation of the verse "And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the 'Iddah (prescribed period), if you have doubt (about their periods), is three months; and for those who have no courses (i.e. they are still immature) their 'Iddah (prescribed period) is three months likewise". He said: The same applies to the 'idaah for girls who do not menstruate because they are too young, if their husbands divorce them after consummating the marriage with them.
    • Tafsir Al-Tabari, 14/142
  • Mujahid said that "if you have any doubt" (65:4) means if you do not know whether she menstruates or not. Those who do not longer menstruate and those who have not yet menstruated, their 'idda is three months.
  • Sahih Al-Bukhari, Chapter 68: Book of Tafsir CCCLXXXIV: The Tafsir of Surat at-Talaq
  • Giving one’s young children in marriage (is permissible) by virtue of the Statement of Allah: ‘And for those who have courses’ (i.e. they are still immature) (Sura 65:4) And the ‘Iddat [waiting period for a woman before lawful sexual intercourse] for the girl before puberty is three months (in the above Verse).
    • Bukhari (Chapter 39) Bukhari's chapter introduction for chapter 39, Book an-Nikkah. It appears immediately before the first and only hadith of Chapter 39, Sahih Bukhari 7:62:64 and can be seen in the Dar-us-Salam print edition, volume 7.

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