By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
8 September 2015
The following are a few of the verses that describe the relationship between a married couple and between men and women in general.
(7:189) It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah their Lord, (saying): "If Thou givest us a goodly child, we vow we shall (ever) be grateful."
(30:21) And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.
(4:1) O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; - reverence Allah, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (That bore you): for Allah ever watches over you.
The relationship is one of love, mercy, trust, tranquillity, and mutual support. O mankind! Reverence the wombs that bore you says it all. This is not about reverencing only your mothers but reverencing all mothers and potential mothers or any female for the fact that she bears children and is capable of motherhood.
Sexual Relations between Man and Wife
The following verse if followed in practice as it is meant to be followed, primes the man for appropriate sexual behaviour:
(2:223) "Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah. And know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give (these) good tidings to those who believe".
The preceding verse (2:222) is about avoiding sex when the wife is having her periods. What this verse says is that outside the prohibition for sex during the period the wife is having her menses; sex is permissible anytime and in any position (not just the 'missionary position').The state of mind in which to approach the wife for sex is governed by the rest of the verse which says "do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah. And know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter)"
We know from psychological studies the power of priming. A person who does an act of kindness before sex is primed for behaving kindly towards his wife. Also the admonishment to fear Allah and to know with certainty that they are to meet Allah eliminates every chance of cruelty or coercion. The verse doubly ensures that the sexual act will be with kindness and generosity and without cruelty or coercion. Also the requirement of fulfilling conditions before sex, elevates the act itself to the status of a precious gift from the Almighty which requires thanks to be shown by performing some good act even before enjoying the gift.
Procedure for Resolving Marital Conflict
(4:34) Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband´s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them, refuse to share their beds, beat them; but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all).
The verse covers the process for resolving serious domestic conflict. The next verse talks about arbitration by close relatives from both sides if the measures in 4:34 fail to produce the desired results and assures that Allah will cause their reconciliation should both desire peace.
(4:35) if ye fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation: For Allah hath full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things.
This verse is discussed in greater detail in my article:
Qur’anic Wisdom: Marriage and Treatment of Women
For Those Who Seek Divorce, Is There A Need To Justify It?
No reason is required to be given for divorce. The man or the woman does not have to fling dirt on their spouse to create a “valid reason” for seeking divorce. They do not require anyone’s permission or approval and therefore are in no need to justify the act. In practice however, a woman needs the help of the judicial process to seek a divorce since the contract of marriage is cemented with the payment of Mehar or marriage gift besides numerous gifts that a wife receives from her husband in the course of their relationship. The husband can ask for these back as a condition for agreeing to the divorce initiated by his wife. In case the man initiates the proceedings, the Quran clearly rules that the husband cannot take back anything that he gave to his wife.
The Quran discourages divorce if it is based on a subjective dislike for the other person. It also favours reconciliation to divorce:
4:19 says “If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.”
(4:128) If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband´s part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; even though men´s souls are swayed by greed. But if ye do good and practise self-restraint, Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.
What the Quran does not favour is keeping the woman against her wish and practicing cruelty on her in any form.
The Divorce Process in the Quran
A man/woman may choose to end the relationship for any reason. Once they have so decided, they have to follow the process as described in the Quran. The process for divorce by the man starts with an intention to divorce that is made known to Allah and is in the form of an oath.
لِّلَّذِينَ يُؤْلُونَ مِن نِّسَآئِهِمْ تَرَبُّصُ أَرْبَعَةِ أَشْهُرٍ فَإِنْ فَآؤُوا فَإِنَّ اللّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
وَإِنْ عَزَمُواْ الطَّلاَقَ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
2:226 Lilladhīna (For those who) Yu'ulūna (take an oath to abstain) Min (from) Nisā'ihim (their wives) Tarabbuşu (a waiting period) 'Arba`ati ' (of four) Ash/hurin (months) ۖ Fa'in (then if) Fā'ū (they return) Fa'inna (then indeed) Allāha Ghafūrun Raĥīmun (Allah is oft Forgiving and most Merciful)
2:227 Wa 'In (And indeed) `Azamū (if they resolve) Aţ-Ţalāqa (on divorce) Fa'inna (then indeed) Allāha Samī`un `Alīmun (Allah is all Hearing and all Knowing)
(2:226) For those who take an oath for abstention from their wives, a waiting for four months is ordained; if then they return, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
Is saying “Talaq” to the wife necessary? No, it isn’t. The wife may remain unaware of the man’s intention to divorce and his oath to abstain from sex until completion of the Iddat period followed by physical separation or complete divorce. The mere taking of oath is deemed as divorce even though the woman may be unaware of it. This is followed by abstention from the wife for a four month period that covers his wife’s three menstrual cycles. During this period of abstention, the man may regret his decision and choose to reunite and he is free to do so. What about his oath? The fact that he could not keep his oath means that the oath was taken in a state of mind that was not stable and firm. It was a thoughtless oath. And Allah says:
(2:225) Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts; and He is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing.
Also in verse 2:226 cited above, Allah says that “if then they return, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful” meaning that if the man goes unto his wife and cohabits, Allah will forgive him for the thoughtlessness in his oath and he is free to reunite with his wife and the divorce is off and he is relieved of his unintended oath. If the man did not make it known to his wife about “his oath” which amounted to “divorce” and has reunited, the woman as well as the man has been spared much agony and pain and the reunion is much easier.
In a four month period of abstention which is unusually long, the wife will make attempts to break the ice and especially as she is unaware of the man’s “oath amounting to divorce”, in which case there is no hurt or pride or resentment that is involved. A woman making such an attempt knows how to break her man’s resolve and will succeed more often than not. If they cohabit, the divorce is off and the woman has remained unaware of it. If the man is successfully able to hold back, his wife is then sure to ask whether he intends divorce. This is when he will for the first time end up hurting his wife and making the process formal by saying yes. He is therefore likely to do so after careful and serious consideration. Maybe, his resolve will break down when faced with this situation and he may decide to reunite.
The oath for abstention from wife at the beginning of the Iddat period is the first divorce.
(227) But if their intention is firm for divorce, Allah heareth and knoweth all things.
At the end of the four month Iddat period is when the man needs to make a formal announcement to his wife that he is divorcing her if he has not done so earlier.
(228) Divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. Nor is it lawful for them to hide what Allah Hath created in their wombs, if they have faith in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.
In case she is carrying a child in her womb, she must make this known to the husband and the Iddat period is then extended upto the delivery of the child. If the man wishes for reconciliation during this period, then although the wife’s wish to remain in wedlock is important, the husband’s wish for reconciliation shall be allowed to prevail and he can revoke the divorce. Please make a note that only in case the woman is pregnant that the man has a better right to revoke the divorce. Else, it can be revoked only by mutual consent.
The wife need be aware of only one of the two divorces. If she is not pregnant, then she is free to leave her husband at the end of the period of Iddat, or after a divorce following abstention for four months without further ado, and even reunite with a former husband in a fresh marriage.
The divorce once made known to the woman can be revoked only by mutual consent unless the woman is pregnant. A divorced wife cannot be compelled to remain in the relationship after she completes the period of Iddat.
(2:232) when ye divorce women, and they fulfil the term of their (´Iddat), do not prevent them from marrying their (former) husbands, if they mutually agree on equitable terms. This instruction is for all amongst you, who believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is (the course Making for) most virtue and purity amongst you and Allah knows, and ye know not.
(229) A divorce is only permissible twice: after that, the parties should either hold Together on equitable terms, or separate with kindness…..
(231) When ye divorce women, and they fulfil the term of their (´Iddat), either take them back on equitable terms or set them free on equitable terms; but do not take them back to injure them, (or) to take undue advantage; if any one does that; He wrongs his own soul. Do not treat Allah´s Signs as a jest, but solemnly rehearse Allah´s favours on you, and the fact that He sent down to you the Book and Wisdom, for your instruction. And fear Allah, and know that Allah is well acquainted with all things.
As per verse 229 and 231 cited above, the couple is free to reunite if they mutually agree to do so before they have physically parted ways as a divorced couple. The physical parting of ways is an important part of the divorce and the divorce is revocable until such time. The actual packing of bags and leaving is when the couple face their ultimate “moment of truth” when they will know for sure whether their earlier oaths and resolves were thoughtless or not. There are many who will break down at this stage and choose to reconcile rather than go through the process. Until such time, the couple may show all the resolve and firmness of mind but when faced with the ultimate moment of truth, they may realize that their earlier oaths were thoughtless. They are free to reunite with Allah’s blessings and forgiveness for their earlier thoughtlessness.
If and when they separate physically as a divorced couple after completion of the period of Iddat, the divorce then becomes irrevocable and they cannot reunite unless the condition in verse 2:230 below is satisfied:
(230) So if a husband divorces his wife (irrevocably), He cannot, after that, re-marry her until after she has married another husband and He has divorced her. In that case there is no blame on either of them if they re-unite; provided they feel that they can keep the limits ordained by Allah. Such are the limits ordained by Allah, which He makes plain to those who understand.
As can be seen, only one pronouncement of Talaq is necessary. The divorce takes place with the oath to Allah which marks the beginning of the period of Iddat. However, if this turns out to be a thoughtless oath, Allah forgives man for it. The four month period of abstention, the second divorce or the formal announcement of the divorce at the end of this period and the final physical parting of ways is a process to test as to how thoughtful or thoughtless was the oath/resolve and intention to divorce. They are free to reunite with mutual consent until the divorce becomes irrevocable with the final physical parting. The wife is free to leave her husband once he has pronounced divorce to her after completing the Iddat period and only if she is pregnant, does the husband get a right to unilaterally revoke the divorce during the extended Iddat period.
Treatment of the Divorced Woman:
The following is the treatment ordained in the Quran in verses 65:1 to 6
1. Keep them in your house during the Iddat period and let them live in the same style as you live. (Please note that the couple is considered divorced during the Iddat period although the divorce is revocable at this stage and the woman may be unaware of it)
2. Do not cause them any annoyance.
3. After they complete the period of Iddat, divorced women are free to leave and even reunite with a former husband in a fresh marriage. Do not prevent them from doing so.
4. Before the physical parting of ways, the couple is free to reunite with mutual consent. The physical separation as a divorced couple completes the divorce process after which the divorce is irrevocable.
5. Do not take back any part of the dower even if the dower was very large and generous. Do not treat them harshly to make them part with the dower (4:19,20)
6. Take witnesses from her side while settling her claims
7. If they are carrying a child then the Iddat period is up to delivery of the child. (If the woman is carrying a child, then the husband has a right to revoke the divorce should he desire reconciliation)
8. Support them if they suckle the child after delivery according to what is just and reasonable and based on mutual consultations and agreement.
The divorce is a solemn process and begins with an oath to Allah and not by screaming out “Talaq” at the wife. A wife is not the property of man or owned by him but the gift of Allah and his Mercy and held in trust to Him. Man is accountable to Allah for the way he treats the trust of Allah and therefore the process of divorce begins by addressing Allah. The decision is therefore to be taken without anger or rancour and after careful consideration.
Where Does The Triple Talaq Process Stand?
We have seen that as far as the woman is concerned, only one pronouncement by the husband is enough and she is free to walk out of the relationship after completing her iddat period unless she is pregnant, in which case the husband can revoke the decision unilaterally during the extended Iddat period. The decision can also be revoked only by mutual consent any time before they physically part company as husband and wife. The two divorces mentioned in the Quran are the oath for abstention which begins the period Iddat and the one at the end of the Iddat period. Of these two, only one divorce needs to be pronounced either at the beginning of the Iddat period or after. At the end of the Iddat period, they either part company as husband and wife which then makes the divorce irrevocable or mutually agree to reunite. The number of times Talaq is pronounced is immaterial.
If a divorce is revoked, that ends the process and it will not count for anything in the future. A fresh divorce process initiated any time in the future will again start with the first divorce which can simply be an oath for abstention followed by the Iddat period and the second divorce after which they either part company or mutually decide to reunite. This can repeat any number of times as long as the wife is a willing party to the revocation before they part company as husband and wife at the end of the Iddat period. Once they part company at the end of the Iddat period, the divorce is complete and irrevocable.
The triple Talaq process in the man-made Shariat law is sheer mockery of the Quran. The process described in the Quran empowers the woman to end the relationship even after a single pronouncement of Talaq. The process also allows both to mutually agree to revoke the divorce before they actually part company as husband and wife at the end of the Iddat period irrespective of the number of times Talaq was pronounced. The triple Talaq process is based on a misunderstanding of the meaning of verse (2:229) “A divorce is only permissible twice…….” which is taken to mean the number of times Talaq is pronounced. As we have seen, pronouncing the word once is enough and even a million times insufficient, if they mutually decide to revoke the divorce before they have parted company as husband and wife.
The Quranic Shariat maintains a balance of power as closely as possible. When it is the man who initiates the divorce process, he loses control over it thereafter and no revocation is possible without the consent of the woman - the only exception being if the woman is pregnant. In the man-made Shariat, it is the man who calls all the shots. He can revoke at will after two pronouncements of Talaq and while the divorce becomes irrevocable on the third pronouncement, he is often in a position to make his wife to go through a “Halala” process in order to reunite with her. The Quran does not prescribe a “Halala” process and the very word “Halala” and the sense in which it is used blasphemes the Quran. The Quran merely allows a woman to marry a former husband after her divorce with another man and this provision is not to enable a man who has divorced his wife to reclaim her nor is it necessary for that purpose since the divorce process is four month long and the couple can reunite anytime with mutual consent before they have physically parted ways as husband and wife irrespective of the number of times Talaq was pronounced. Only one pronouncement is necessary and superfluous pronouncements is just that – superfluous!
Treatment of Divorced Women
The relevant verse from the Quran is:
(2:241) for divorced women Maintenance (should be provided) on a reasonable (scale) This is a duty on the righteous.
The above verse is open ended. What is maintenance on a reasonable scale is decided by the society in which one lives and by what is customary in that society and is not meant to be based on traditions of the seventh century Arab society. If it were so, the verse would not have been so open-ended.
The Shah Bano case was decided by the SC based on this verse alone. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 which was ostensibly meant to reverse the SC verdict achieved little as is clear from later judgments such as Shamima Farooqui versus Shahid Khan case, and the fact that a bench of the SC upheld the judgment in the Shah Bano case. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986 proved to be in fructuous because it was based on the premise that the SC had meddled with the Shariat law and the SC showed that it had not meddled with the Shariat law in the Quran but had in fact based its verdict on the clear wording of the Quran in verse 2:241.
What the Muslims lost because of the ill-advised agitation against the SC judgment in the Shah Bano case is history. Without it, Babri Masjid would have remained a local issue; there would have been no Mumbai riots, serial bombing, Godhra, the Gujarat riots and the numerous other incidents and the communal polarization and radicalization that we witness today. I am not sure whether the Ulema even realize how much the Muslims have lost without achieving anything in their agitation in the Shah Bano case. They behaved like a bunch of ignoramuses who do not even know their own Quran and had to be told by the SC the meaning of verse 2:241. And yet they continue to be resistant to change and to reason!
The Way Forward
The way forward is obvious. The SC judgment in the Shah Bano case has demonstrated that the understanding of the Ulema as to what constitutes the Shariat is open to being contested in a court of law. What constitutes the Shariat is that marriage is a social contract in which the parties agree to unite in a marital relationship under certain explicitly stated conditions in the presence of witnesses. The Shariat does not even require the presence of a Qazi or registering of the marriage with the Waqf Board. A person is not required to produce a marriage certificate for any purpose. A mere declaration of the name of spouse for purposes of employment even for a government job is enough. No marriage certificate is required as proof for a passport either in which the name of spouse declared is mentioned as the name of the spouse. Only for a change in name consequent to marriage requires a marriage certificate but if the woman chooses not to change her name which is the case for most Muslims, and is in accordance with the Shariat, and then a marriage certificate is never put to any use.
What this means is that if a Nikahnama prepared by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan is used, it is as good as any other Nikahnama in the eyes of the law. Or if a customized agreement duly stamped is used, that would serve the purpose as well.
As far as the divorce process is concerned, a Muslim is free to follow his own understanding of the Shariat, but after due diligence and without having reason to believe that he/she may be in error. He/she does not need anyone’s help to tell them when a divorce has become irrevocable or what the correct process is. They need the help of the courts or the Qazi only when they disagree. All that the Muslims need is proper education so that they can decide for themselves and not allow the Quazis and Muftis to decide for them what is right. The Muslim society as a whole is responsible for its travails and not any particular section of their society. Change will come about when individuals become knowledgeable and learn to take responsibility for their own lives.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.
The following verse 230 then says that
such divorced couple (irrevocably divorced in the manner described in verse 230
229) become legally unlawful to each other unless ....
This is my attempt to address your unease by discussing Ibn
Kathir’s Tafsir on the relevant verses. My
comments begin with “My comment” and are in red, italicized and enclosed within
parenthesis. Some of the formatting gets undone such as the color code and
italics in which case you can still make out which part is my comment and which
is the Tafsir of Ibn Kathir since they begin with My Comment and are enclosed
(2:226) Those who take an oath not to have sexual relations
with their wives) meaning, swear not to have sexual relations with the wife
must wait for four months,) meaning, the husband waits for four months from the
time of the vow and then ends the Ila' (if the vow was for four or more months)
and is required to either return to his wife or divorce her. This is why Allah
said next: then if they return,) meaning, to a normal relationship, having
sexual intercourse with the wife verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most
Merciful.) with any shortcomings that occurred in the rights of the wife
because of the vow of Ila'. This is the Tafsir of Ibn `Abbas, Masruq,
Ash-Sha`bi, Sa`id bin Jubayr and Ibn Jarir.
The forgiveness is for the lack of intention in the oath since the man has
chosen to reunite and not go through with the divorce)
(227) Allah said: (And if they decide upon divorce,)
indicating that divorce does not occur by merely passing the four month mark
(during the Ila'). Malik reported from Nafi` that `Abdullah bin `Umar said,
"If the man swears to Ila' from his wife, then divorce does not occur
automatically even after the four months have passed. When he stops at the four
months mark, he should either divorce or return.'' Al-Bukhari also reported
this Hadith. Ibn Jarir reported that Suhayl bin Abu Salih said that his father
said, "I asked twelve Companions about the man who does Ila' with his
wife. They all stated that he does not have to do anything until the four
months have passed and then has to either retain or divorce her.'' Ad-Daraqutni
also reported this from Suhayl.
The Quran counts the oath as the first divorce. Read verse 228 which talks
about the iddat of divorced women. The
confirmation of the divorce at the end of iddat as the second divorce)
It is also reported from `Umar, `Uthman, `Ali, Abu
Ad-Darda', `A'ishah, Ibn `Umar and Ibn `Abbas. This is also the opinion of
Sa`id bin Musayyib, `Umar bin `Abdul-`Aziz, Mujahid, Tawus, Muhammad bin Ka`b
(228. And divorced women shall wait (as regards their
marriage) for three menstrual periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal
what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the Last
Day. And their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period,
if they wish for reconciliation. And they (women) have rights (over their
husbands as regards living expenses) similar (to those of their husbands) over
them (as regards obedience and respect) to what is reasonable, but men have a degree
(of responsibility) over them. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.)
(From Yusuf Ali’s translation “And their husbands have
the better right to take them back in that period, if they wish for
reconciliation. And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them,
according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them.
And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.”
The verse is talking about a specific right of the
husband with reference to the divorce process. It is not talking about the
general rights and duties of husband and wife nor is this an occasion to
discuss that. What is the woman’s specific right similar to the rights against
them? It can only be the right to spurn the offer of reconciliation over which
“their husbands have the better right to take them back” in the specific
situation where the woman is discovered to be pregnant during the iddat period. Ibn
Kathir trivializes the discussion on the rights of a divorced woman by
mentioning the general rights of a married woman which are out of place here in
a discussion about divorced women.)
The ‘Iddah (Waiting Period) of the Divorced Woman
This Ayah contains a command from Allah that the divorced
woman, whose marriage was consummated and who still has menstruation periods,
should wait for three (menstrual) periods (Quru') after the divorce and then
remarry if she wishes
(...and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has
created in their wombs,) meaning, of pregnancy or menstruation periods. This is
the Tafsir of Ibn `Abbas, Ibn `Umar, Mujahid, Ash-Sha`bi, Al-Hakam bin
`Utaybah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Ad-Dahhak and others.
Allah then said:
(...if they believe in Allah and the Last Day.)
This Ayah warns women against hiding the truth (if they were
pregnant or on their menses), indicating that they are the authority in such
matters as they alone know such facts about themselves. Since verifying such
matters is difficult, Allah left this decision with them. Yet, women were
warned not to hide the truth in case they wish to end the `Iddah sooner, or
later, according to their desires. Women were thus commanded to say the truth
(if they were pregnant or on their menses), no more and no less.
(And their husbands have the better right to take them back
in that period, if they wish for reconciliation.)
Hence, the husband who divorces his wife can take her back,
providing she is still in her `Iddah (time spent before a divorced woman or a
widow can remarry) and that his aim, by taking her back, is righteous and for
the purpose of bringing things back to normal. However, this ruling applies
where the husband is eligible to take his divorced wife back. We should mention
that (when this Ayah 2:228 was revealed), the ruling that made the divorce
thrice and specified when the husband is ineligible to take his divorced wife
back, had not been revealed yet. Previously, the man used to divorce his wife
and then take her back even if he had divorced her a hundred separate times.
Thereafter, Allah revealed the following Ayah (2:229) that made the divorce
only thrice. So there was now a reversible divorce and an irreversible final
(And they (women) have rights (over their husbands as
regards living expenses) similar (to those of their husbands) over them (as
regards obedience and respect) to what is reasonable,)
This Ayah indicates that the wife has certain rights on her
husband, just as he has certain rights on her, and each is obliged to give the
other spouse his due rights. Muslim reported that Jabir said that Allah's
(Fear Allah regarding your women, for you have taken them by
Allah's covenant and were allowed to enjoy with them sexually by Allah's Words.
You have the right on them that they do not allow anyone you dislike to sit on
your mat. If they do that, then discipline them leniently. They have the right
to be spent on and to be bought clothes in what is reasonable.)
Bahz bin Hakim said that Mu`awiyah bin Haydah Al-Qushayri
related that his grandfather said, "O Messenger of Allah! What is the
right the wife of one of us has'' The Prophet said:
(To feed her when you eat, buy her clothes when you buy for
yourself and to refrain from striking her on the face, cursing her or staying
away from her except in the house.)
Waki` related that Ibn `Abbas said, "I like to take
care of my appearance for my wife just as I like for her to take care of her
appearance for me. This is because Allah says:
(And they (women) have rights similar (to those of their
husbands) over them to what is reasonable.)'' This statement is reported by Ibn
Jarir and Ibn Abu Hatim.
(but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them.)
This Ayah indicates that men are in a more advantageous
position than women physically as well as in their mannerism, status, obedience
(of women to them), spending, taking care of the affairs and in general, in
this life and in the Hereafter. Allah said (in another Ayah):
(Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because
Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to
support them) from their means.) (4:34)
(And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise) means, He is Mighty in
His punishment of those who disobey and defy His commands. He is Wise in what
He commands, destines and legislates.
(My comment: The discussion
above on mutual rights of husband and wife is meaningless when discussing
divorce which is dissolving this relationship. The rights of a divorced woman
during her period of iddat and after are specifically covered in the verses
65:1 to 6 besides verses 2:229, 231, 232 and 241 and listed in my article. Ibn
Kathir fails to discuss the all important similar right of a woman to that of
the man’s right to revoke the divorce which takes precedence in case she is
discovered to be pregnant during her iddat. What is that similar right if not
the right to spurn the offer of reconciliation? What if she is not pregnant?
Does the woman then have a similar right to spurn the offer of reconciliation?)
(229. The divorce is twice, after that either you retain her
on reasonable terms or release her with kindness. And it is not lawful for you
(men) to take back (from your wives) any of what you gave them (the Mahr,
bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage), except
when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by
Allah (e.g., to deal with each other on a fair basis). Then if you fear that
they would not be able to keep the limits ordained by Allah, then there is no
sin on either of them if she gives back (the Mahr or a part of it). These are
the limits ordained by Allah, so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses
the limits ordained by Allah, then such are the wrongdoers.)
(230. And if he has divorced her (the third time), then she
is not lawful unto him thereafter until she has married another husband. Then,
if the other husband divorces her, it is no sin on both of them that they
reunite, provided they feel that they can keep the limits ordained by Allah.
These are the limits of Allah, which He makes plain for the people who have
(My comment: Yusuf Ali’s
translation of verse 230 is “So if a
husband divorces his wife (irrevocably)… which
only means that if after the iddat period which is stage 2 of the
divorce process and discussed in verse 229, the man has decided to let go his
wife, and she has left him making the divorce irrevocable, then she is not
lawful to him anymore unless ….There is no third time. The third time is
artificially planted in verse 230.)
Divorce is thrice
This honorable Ayah abrogated the previous practice in the
beginning of Islam, when the man had the right to take back his divorced wife
even if he had divorced her a hundred times, as long as she was still in her
`Iddah (waiting period). This situation was harmful for the wife, and this is
why Allah made the divorce thrice, where the husband is allowed to take back
his wife after the first and the second divorce (as long as she is still in her
`Iddah). The divorce becomes irrevocable after the third divorce, as Allah
(The divorce is twice, after that, either you retain her on
reasonable terms or release her with kindness.)
If you have released her after the iddat period, the divorce has become
In his Sunan, Abu Dawud reported in Chapter: "Taking
the Wife back after the third (Divorce) is an abrogated practice," that
Ibn `Abbas commented on the Ayah:
(And divorced women shall wait (as regards their marriage)
for three menstrual periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what
Allah has created in their wombs,) (2:228) The man used to have the right to
take back his wife even if he had divorced her thrice. Allah abrogated this and
(The divorce is twice.)
Even according to Ibn Kathir’s tafseer, the divorce process begins with an oath
for abstention and the couple are considered as divorced during the iddat
period. End of the iddat is the time to confirm the divorce or to revoke it. On
confirmation, the woman is to be released in kindness which completes the
process and the divorce become irrevocable on her release.)
This Hadith was also collected by An-Nasa'i. Ibn Abu Hatim
reported that `Urwah said that a man said to his wife, "I will neither
divorce you nor take you back.'' She said, "How'' He said, "I will
divorce you and when your term of `Iddah nears its end, I will take you back.''
She went to Allah's Messenger and told him what happened, and Allah revealed:
Ibn Jarir (At-Tabari) also reported this Hadith in his
(...after that, either you retain her on reasonable terms or
release her with kindness.) meaning, `If you divorce her once or twice, you
have the choice to take her back, as long as she is still in her `Iddah,
intending to be kind to her and to mend differences. Otherwise, await the end
of her term of `Iddah, when the divorce becomes final, and let her go her own
way in peace, without committing any harm or injustice against her.' `Ali bin
Abu Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said, "When the man divorces his wife
twice, let him fear Allah, regarding the third time. He should either keep her
with him and treat her with kindness, or let her go her own way with kindness,
without infringing upon any of her rights.''
(My comment: As per Ibn
Kathir’s tafseer also, the divorce process can begin with an oath for
abstention followed by the iddat period after which the man decides to take
back his wife or let her go. If he decides to let her go by saying that he has
divorced her then he has spoken the word only once since the process started
merely with an oath. However, the Quran treats the couple as divorced after the
oath itself and counts it as two divorces. After the iddat period or before it
ends, they can reunite (with mutual consent according to me and unilaterally
according to Ibn Kathir because nowhere in his long discourse on the rights of
a woman does he speak about a woman’s right to spurn the offer of
reconciliation). After the iddat period is completed at which stage the Quran
counts it as two divorces, the choice is only between revoking the divorce and
retaining the woman or releasing her in kindness making the divorce
irrevocable. The act of releasing is not counted as a third divorce. If this
was counted as a third divorce, then the act of releasing can be delayed as
long as the man wishes but he is told that there is no further stage or a third
divorce and he must forthwith either revoke the divorce or release the woman.
The cycle ends here. Now if they decide to reunite, and the count of number of
divorces is to be carried forward, then it means that should the man decide to
divorce any time in future, and take the oath to abstain, the relationship is
severed then and there since this is the third divorce. However the iddat has
to be observed which requires staying in the former husband’s home for the
period while he has become na mahram! What if the woman is found to be pregnant
during the period of iddat? The divorce stays since it is irrevocable. Has the
concern which was there for the unborn child in the first cycle giving man a
unilateral right to revoke the divorce evaporated? Since they are forced to
live together although na mahram, what if they have sex? Will it be considered
illegal and will they be punished for adultery? Considering a couple who
continue to live together for whatever reason as irrevocably divorced is
ridiculous. It is for this reason that I have said that a divorce becomes
irrevocable only on physical separation as a divorced couple and the Quran
supports this concept in verse 229. And
who lives in perpetual suspense with only one chance to divorce remaining? It
is the woman and not the man. Why is the woman being subjected to mental
torture from a sense of insecurity? Is this law divine or man-made?
According to my reading of the Quran the count is limited
to a cycle alone. Should a reconciled couple decide to divorce again, the cycle
has to repeat. There cannot be a shortcut and iddat period bypassed. And they
have the chance to reconcile in each cycle. The concern about multiple
repeating cycles is addressed by granting the woman rights similar to men or
the right to spurn the offer of reconciliation and end the relationship at any
‘divorce’, whether the first or the fifth.)
Siraj Sb, Another article that deviates
from common notions and views of scholars and yet firmly grounded on logical
The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh)
From the Qu’ran (Part 6): The People of the Book and Jiziya
Is the Quran a Book of Contradictions?
While one can get away with half baked interpretations on most topics, this is not possible when dealing with the questions on inheritance. To every question there can be only one correct answer based on logic and Math alone. The group of verses that call for drawing logical inferences to address these questions are the three verses on inheritance 4:11, 12 and 176.
Please read my article:
Inheritance Related Calculations Based On the Quran
Also, ask the Editor for the utility that I have developed to calculate inheritance or write to me firstname.lastname@example.org. The utility will help you to understand the article much better.
Siraj Sb, Thanks for asking a very
good question. Oftentimes, the way to correctly understand the meaning of the
Quran on any subject is to start with an “Initial Hypotheses” and test it
against each relevant verse on the subject. If the IH contradicts any of the relevant
verses, refine the IH until there are no more contradictions. You can then be
reasonably certain that you have arrived at the correct meaning. An important
point to keep in mind is that your aim should be to get at the meaning and not
to interpret. Those who are fond of interpreting can interpret anything. The
Quran is meant to be understood and not interpreted. As far as interpretation
is concerned, you can have as many interpretations as there are people
interpreting while there can be only one meaning intended by Allah. What that
one meaning is made clear by Allah in ways that are amazing. There is always
only one meaning that makes the entire subject clear without the slightest
doubt or contradiction. As Allah says in the Quran, it is a Book that makes
things clear and without crookedness.
Let us test what Shehzad
Saleem Sb says with verse: 2:229
(2:229) A divorce is only
permissible twice: after that, the parties should either hold Together on
equitable terms, or separate with kindness….
Contradiction: Saleem Sb
talks about a third divorce whereas the Quran talks about only two. There is no
other verse that talks about the permissible number of divorces. Saleem Sb is
interpreting the verse 2:229 to mean that revoking a divorce is permissible only
twice and on the third occasion it becomes irrevocable. If verse 2:229 is taken
to mean that the subject is revocation which is permitted twice, then why does
the verse talk about separating? The subject of the verse is therefore divorce
and not revocation of divorce. If the subject is divorce and if the choice
after the second divorce is either separation or holding together on equitable
terms, then once a decision is taken to hold together, this decision holds good
until death do them apart since there is
no scope for a third divorce. Clearly Shehzad Sb has missed the meaning and has
only “interpreted” the verse.
The correct meaning because
it is the only meaning that makes sense without the slightest contradiction:
Verses 2:226 to 232
describe a single cycle of the divorce process
(226) For those who take an
oath for abstention from their wives, a waiting for four months is ordained; if
then they return, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
Verse 226 covers Divorce 1
or stage 1 of the cycle. At this stage no decision can be taken regarding
separation since a mandatory iddat period has to be observed. They can reunite
however and therefore the verse speaks only of “if then they return” which
means if then they unite.
(227) But if their
intention is firm for divorce, Allah heareth and knoweth all things.
Verse 227 is divorce 2 or
stage 2 of the cycle when the iddat period is completed without the couple
(2:229) A divorce is only
permissible twice: after that, the parties should either hold Together on equitable
terms, or separate with kindness….
This is the stage at
divorce 2 that a decision needs to be taken whether to separate or hold
together. Since there is no third divorce, a wife cannot be held in suspense
any longer. The divorce must either be revoked or the two should separate.
If they separate, there is
no further cycle, else the cycle could repeat at a future date. There is no
limit on the number of times this cycle could repeat but as already discussed,
revocation is possible only with mutual consent each time.
Naseer Saheb, Please refer to "The
Qur'anic Concept of Divorce" Author: Shehzad Saleem based on Javed
Ahmad Ghamidi's interpretation. This is part of an article by the Editor. This is
what he says:
“If a husband has decided to
divorce his wife, he should utter the divorce sentence just once.
However, the husband may revoke his decision during the Iddat period. If after
annulment of this divorce, due to some reason, the untoward situation arises a
second time that the husband intends to divorce his wife, the Qur'an says that
the husband can exercise his right of divorce for the second time as well. He
should pronounce just one talaaq sentence to repudiate his wife. Again, the
post-divorce period shall be observed in the manner just described. Once again,
if the husband wishes, he has the chance to revise his decision during this
period, in which case the divorce shall be considered null and void. If,
unfortunately, for the third time, the situation arises that divorce becomes
inevitable, the Qur'an says that a husband can exercise his right for the third
time as well and pronounce the divorce sentence. However,
this time the wife she shall be permanently separated from him. After divorcing
his wife for the third time, he cannot re-marry her now, unless and until, the
wife marries some other person.”
Your version differs from his
version in a very significant way. What do you have to say?
Siraj Sb, We know what the meaning
of the two divorces is in the Quran. The first is what marks the beginning of
the period of iddat and the second is at the end of the iddat period after
which either the couple should part ways or reunite. The third possibility is
to keep the woman in suspense especially if she is not keen to leave. Her
status is then undefined and worse than that of a housemaid. It is this that
the Quran is against in verse 229 where it says:
(229) A divorce is only
permissible twice: after that, the parties should either hold Together on
equitable terms, or separate with kindness......
What the verse means to
communicate is that after the iddat period is completed, there is no third
alternative - either they should separate with kindness or reunite. If there
was a concept of a third, fourth ... nth divorce, then they could go
on living together until the nth divorce. The Quran is making it
clear that there is nothing beyond the iddat period except to part ways or reunite.
even after pronouncing divorce at the end of the iddat period which is the
second divorce, the couple can still unite according to verse 229, but this
decision must be taken before the couple part which then makes the divorce
irrevocable. There is no third divorce according to the Quran and therefore no reason
for the couple to continue to live together at the end of the iddat period
except when they choose to revoke the divorce and reunite.
A divorced woman whose
family members are unsupportive and who has nowhere to go will tend to hang on
to the relationship as long as possible in the hope that her husband may change
his mind. This creates an environment for exploitation of the woman. Verse 229
disallows any uncertainty regarding her status once she completes her period of
iddat and thus protects her from possible exploitation.
have correctly understood verse 229 to mean that the divorce at the end of the
period of iddat can still be revoked but incorrectly understood it to mean that
a third divorce is required to make it irrevocable. There is no concept of a
third divorce at all. What revokes it is a decision to reunite and what makes
it irrevocable is a decision to part ways and to actually part ways.
cannot be the second divorce until the end of the iddat period and the first
divorce can be in the form of an oath and unknown to the wife. There is no
concept of pronouncing Talaq thrice either in one sitting or three sittings in
the Quran. Pronouncing it once is enough and superfluous pronouncements are
I hope I am clear. Scholars who oppose triple
talaq in one sitting are also not very clear about the meaning of verse 229 and
they incorrectly assume that after the second divorce, if they choose to reunite,
then in future, a single utterance of the word “Talaq” is enough to severe the relationship
because “A divorce is only permissible twice….”. That is not the meaning and
intention of verse 229 according to me. Verse 229 only means that after the
second divorce, the couple must adopt one of the two courses – renite or part.
If they choose to reunite and at some time in the future decide to divorce,
they will have to go through the process afresh which should be fairly obvious.
How can they just divorce and part ways without observing the iddat period? So
in any case that would make it four divorces! It should therefore be clear that
the count does not carry forward to a future process and is limited to a given
Naseer Saheb, After
you have said it, it is easy to see that what you say is what is there in the
Qur'an and yet no one has said anything even close to it before! So, I wonder whether you have missed something
that the others haven't?
Please elaborate more on why uttering Talaq thrice does not make the divorce irrevocable according to the Quran.
The highlight of your article is telling people that change is in their own hands and they are free to follow their own understanding when Muslims in general believe that no change is possible without a fatwa from the clerics or the AIMPLB agreeing to the change. It is a strange feeling to discover that we have been free to change all the time and were chained to the Ulema only by our ignorance.