Divorce is one very evident issue where the clerics have taken Muslims away from the religion. The husband is WRONGLY given the right to divorce by just stating the word ‘Divorce’. It is viewed incorrectly as a word or a statement when, in fact, it is a PROCESS (Click here to see the divorce process displayed visually).
It’s time to look away from the clergy and fix our sights on the evidence.
So, how is a divorce conducted according to the Quran?
It is clear in Surah Al Baqarah (verses 228 -30):
وَالْمُطَلَّقَـتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنْفُسِهِنَّ ثَلَـثَةَ قُرُوءٍ وَلاَ يَحِلُّ لَهُنَّ أَن يَكْتُمْنَ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ فِى أَرْحَامِهِنَّ إِن كُنَّ يُؤْمِنَّ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الاٌّخِرِ وَبُعُولَتُهُنَّ أَحَقُّ بِرَدِّهِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ إِنْ أَرَادُواْ إِصْلَـحاً وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِى عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌ وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكُيمٌ
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 right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And they (women) have rights (over their husbands) similar (to those of their husbands) over them to what is reasonable, but men have a degree (of responsibility) over them. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.
*This verse tells us:
a). A declaration of divorce is followed by a time period of 3 menstrual cycles with no sexual relationship (called ‘iddah’ – see Surah At Talaaq, verse 1 for more evidence of this command). The wisdom of this is to know if there is pregnancy and a woman must wait for this iddah to be over before she can re-marry. If there is a pregnancy, the husband will have to support her financially for the pregnancy and the child after he/she is born.
b). They can go back to being married, if they wish. In the case of pregnancy, the divorce maybe revoked within the iddah because there won’t be 3 menstrual cycles. Otherwise, they must wait until the iddah is completed (see below for references to verses on this). Either way, the divorce process was initiated so it is counted as one divorce (‘…right to take them back…’)
c). The husband is financially responsible for the wife from the time divorce is declared until the iddah comes to an end (…’a degree of responsibility..’)
NOTE: There is no iddah if the marriage was not consummated (See Al Ahzaab, verse 49).
الطَّلَـقُ مَرَّتَانِ فَإِمْسَاكٌ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ تَسْرِيحٌ بِإِحْسَـنٍ وَلاَ يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَن تَأْخُذُواْ مِمَّآ ءَاتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ شَيْئًا إِلاَّ أَن يَخَافَآ أَلاَّ يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلاَّ يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا فِيمَا افْتَدَتْ بِهِ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ فَلاَ تَعْتَدُوهَا وَمَن يَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الظَّـلِمُونَ
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. 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. 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.
* So, 2 processes of divorce are permitted whereby the couple can decide, at the end of each iddah, to remain in the marriage.
فَإِن طَلَّقَهَا فَلاَ تَحِلُّ لَهُ مِن بَعْدُ حَتَّى تَنْكِحَ زَوْجًا غَيْرَهُ فَإِن طَلَّقَهَا فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَآ أَن يَتَرَاجَعَآ إِن ظَنَّآ أَن يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ
وَتِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ يُبَيِّنُهَا لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ
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 knowledge.
*A third declaration of divorce is irrevocable and means the marriage is over with no possibility of reconciliation. The couple CANNOT GO BACK TOGETHER. The woman now must marry someone else but there is still a waiting period of 3 menstrual cycles during which the husband must financially support her.
In the case of pregnancy, the husband continues to financially support the wife until the birth. If the new marriage of the woman fails, they could re-marry.
Now, going back to the fact that divorce is a PROCESS, not an utterance, the religion dictates witnesses must be involved in the declaration of divorce and for the iddah to begin. The verse which clearly states this is in Surah An Nisaa’a (35);
وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ شِقَاقَ بَيْنِهِمَا فَابْعَثُواْ حَكَماً مِّنْ أَهْلِهِ وَحَكَماً مِّنْ أَهْلِهَآ إِن يُرِيدَآ إِصْلَـحاً يُوَفِّقِ اللَّهُ بَيْنَهُمَآ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيماً خَبِيراً
35. If you fear a split between the two, appoint (two) arbitrators, one from his family and the other from hers; if they both wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation. Indeed Allah is Ever All-Knower, Well-Acquainted with all things.
In other words, when a couple, one or both of them are thinking of divorce, they must involve 2 witnesses/arbitrators, one from each side to be present. These 2 people will be present in discussions regarding divorce so any declaration of divorce and initializing of the iddah will be observed so there can be no arguments or confusion later.
Interestingly, many claim that the husband can change his mind DURING the iddah . Yet the Quran clearly states in several places that the decision must be made and witnessed (by two people, one from each side) AT THE END OF THE IDDAH (except if there is pregnancy). These verses include; At Talaaq – 2, Al Baqarah – 231 and 232.
This is quite a lot to digest especially if you believed the word ‘divorce’ is uttered thrice and the marriage is irrevocably over. So, let’s connect the evidence to real life situations (Click here if you’d prefer to see this visually).
Situation where there is pregnancy:
Ayesha and Khaled are married. Khaled decides he wants a divorce. He calls 2 witnesses (one from each side) and after discussions, declares divorce. He must financially support Ayesha for 3 menstrual cycles. During the iddah, Ayesha realises she is pregnant. There is now a child to consider. Khaled decides he wants to give the marriage another go. There won’t be 3 menstrual cycles because she is pregnant so, they call the witnesses again & he declares his decision to give the marriage another go. Ayesha and Khalid continue as married but there is one count of divorce – on their record, if you like.
Khaled decides he still wants a divorce despite the pregnancy. He must support Ayesha for her new iddah (At Talaaq, verse 4) which is until their baby is born. She will not marry until after the birth and could re-marry Khaled if they so wish or another man.
Situation where divorce process has been initiated once or twice:
Halima and Umar are a married couple when Halima decides she wants a divorce. Two witnesses (one from each side) are called and she declares her decision to divorce Umar. The 3 menstrual cycle iddah (waiting period) begins.
The 3 menstruations show Halima is not pregnant and she does not wish to stay in the marriage. Umar financially supports her until the iddah is over. She then can re-marry Umar (even if years passed by) or another man. But, if she re-marries Umar, there is one count of divorce (or two if this is the second time one of them has initiated divorce) on their marriage.
At the end of the iddah, Halima changes her mind and she calls witnesses to declare her decision. They are still married. But, because the divorce process was initiated, there is now one count (or two, if it is the second time) on the marriage.
Situation where divorce process has been initiated for the third time:
Ahmed and Sara have initiated the divorce process twice in their marriage already so there are two counts of divorce.
Ahmed decides he wants a divorce. He calls two witnesses (one from each side) and after discussion, declares his decision. The iddah begins and at the end of it, regardless of whether Sara is pregnant or not, they must separate. If she is pregnant, the iddah for her before she can re-marry is until she gives birth and Ahmed must support her financially during the pregnancy. If not, the financial support ends when the 3 menstrual cycles are complete. They CANNOT re-marry at this time.
If the new marriage resulted in divorce, Sara could decide to re-marry Ahmed but more on this in my next blog (I’ll also cover ‘Khula’, ‘mahr’ and the abominable practice of ‘halala marriages’).
In conclusion, I’m sure you’ll agree saying the word ‘divorce’ impulsively means nothing. It is a process which involves witnesses, a clear start of the divorce process, a waiting period followed by a declaration of a final decision). This process has been outlined clearly in the religion. It’s now our responsibility to follow it.