Divorce in Islam

Islam considers marriage a blessed relationship, and for this reason, it is keen to strengthen this relationship between husband and wife. Allah describes the marriage contract as “a strong and firm covenant”. He (s) says: “And how could you take it while you have gone in unto each other and they have taken from you a solemn covenant?” (4:21)

The words of the Prophet (s) also prove this point. He said: “He is not considered among us, he who turns a woman or a servant girl against her husband or master.” (Saheeh al-Jami as-Saghir)

Although marriage is blessed and sacred in Islam, divorce has been deemed lawful, yet it is as the Prophet (s) described: “The most hated lawful thing to Allah is divorce.” (Haakim)

When marital relations cannot continue, divorce is an alternative, for it prevents evils from spreading in the community, such as a husband’s cheating on his wife and vice versa. It prevents alteration of lineage, disruption of the inheritance, and the spread of evil in society. Divorce is confined within its limits, so that it cannot be abused by those who have little intellect. The scholars have clarified that divorce is subject to the following rulings:

  • Waajib (compulsory). It is compulsory in the following cases:
    • When the two judges (one from the wife’s family and one from the husband’s family) decide that the couple should separate. 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].” (4:35)
    • When the wife does not adhere to the Islamic teachings, or is not chaste. This also applies to the husband, for the wife should seek separation from her husband if he does not adhere to the Islamic teachings or is not chaste.
    • If the husband takes an oath not to have sexual relations with his wife, and he did not approach her for more than four months. Allah says: “For those who swear not to have sexual relations with their wives is a waiting time of four months, but if they return [to normal relations] - then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (4:35)

      Ibn Umar said, “If the period expires, then the husband has either to retain his wife in a good manner or to divorce her as Allah has ordered.” (Bukhari)

  • Makrooh (dispraised). This is the case when the person divorces his wife without any reason. This is what Iblees tries to do, may Allah curse him. The Prophet (s) said: “Iblis (Satan) places his throne upon water. He then sends out detachments (for creating dissension). The nearest to him in rank are those who are most notorious in creating dissension. One of them comes and says, ‘I did such and such (of evil).’ And he says, ‘You have done nothing.’ Then one amongst them comes and says, ‘I did not spare so and so until I sowed the seed of discord between a husband and a wife.’ Satan goes near him and says, ‘You have done well (you deserve the honor).’” A’mash said, “He then embraces him.” (Muslim)
  • Mubaah (legally neutral). It is lawful when the wife is of bad character, although one should be patient with her if he has a child from her
  • Haram (prohibited). If the husband divorces his wife during her menstruation cycle, or when she is pure, after having intercourse with her. Allah says: “O Prophet (s) !When you divorce women, divorce them with a view to the waiting-period appointed for them, and reckon the period [carefully], and fear Allah your Rubb.” (65:1) (Muslim)

    Ibn Umar divorced his wife while she was in her menses, so Umar asked the Messenger (s) about it, and He (s) said: “Order [your son] to take her back and keep her till she is pure [from her menses], and then to wait till she gets her next period and becomes pure once again, whereupon, if he wishes to keep her, he can do so, and if he wishes to divorce her, he can divorce her before having sexual intercourse with her. And that is the Iddah (prescribed waiting period) which Allah has fixed for the women meant to be divorced.” (Bukhari)