25 سبتمبر, 2018 - 16 Muharram 1440

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Unfortunately, many among us stray from the words of God; where God calls us to mercy, our lower selves call us to a lack of compassion. God reminds the believer that upon the divorce the male should not make things difficult for the woman, whether financially or emotionally. Men should not place the women into positions where they are unaware of how to find a solution that is befitting the dignified position God has bestowed upon women. God says, “confer among yourselves in the acceptable way,” highlighting that though you may disagree in certain issues, it is the job of both spouses to work together in a good manner, this is increasingly the case if children are involved which is the example given by God in this particular ayah. The benefit, health, spiritual well-being of the child is prioritized, this is not to say as some do that divorce should never be an option when children are involved, that can never be the case. There are relationships in which divorce is a path of mercy and love, or cases when there is a betrayal of trust such as the constant lies and even infidelity of the heart, limbs and even adultery, relationships like this are toxic. Relationships where both spouses are constantly looking over the back of the other in an effort to find their faults, to see what sins the other might be acting upon, is not healthy. In addition, if the spouses have sought counsel, not just from a spiritual advisor such as an Imam but also from a licensed counselor, then it may be that the only step after is divorce. That divorce should not be looked down upon by others, it should be accepted and the spouses should split with mercy and with love, as it was mercy and love that brought them together.

It should be known, and it should be clear that marriage is a divine act, it is a beautiful bonding of two people according to the way of life granted to us by God. However, if and when the time comes that the spouses need to leave the relationship then there should be no impediments and both spouses should be just in how they walk away. Though this article focuses almost entirely upon the male’s right to have a divorce, it is also within the Islamic tradition that women too have the right to divorce their husbands but this legal ruling needs to be spoken about at length without the discussion of the man’s right. Lastly, two very important points need to be mentioned in regards to men. The first is that throughout the Surah, God reminds the believer to be just, to spend of that which is according to one’s ability, and to not be stingy with accommodations and with financial expenditures. God reminds the man to understand that sustenance is from God, that He will always open a door for those who fear Him.

God reminds us that He will never burden a person with more than they can handle and that they should depend on Him and Him alone. Secondly, God also reminds the believer of another important note, do not forget how the people before us were punished and for what they were punished for. He says, “And how many a city was insolent toward the command of its Lord and His messengers, so We took it to severe account and punished it with a terrible punishment” (Quran 65:7). These people before us, they were arrogant. Despite having their messenger and despite the warnings given to them, they chose to be arrogant and to turn away from that which God called them towards, from the justice, from the truth, and so they were punished with a great punishment. God ends this surah about divorce with a warning to the believer: be just, be upstanding, do not transgress the limits of God, else you be punished like those before you.

Divorce is permissible for us as people of Islam; however, it should be done properly and according to Islam. Divorce should not be abused, the rights of both man and woman should be observed and in a world where marital relationships are dwindling day by day, one should pay the utmost attention to the importance of these divinely gifted relations. They should do whatever they can to preserve them, and if the time comes when they should split, then let it be according to the rules of God and His messenger.

An overview of divorce in Islam

Marriage is a vital cornerstone within the Islamic tradition in that without strong marriages our communities become weak and unable to stand. There are Prophetic traditions which state that marriage is half of religion. Due to this emphasis on marriage, we tend to speak about it at length, we ruminate over its benefits, its high status in Islam and other Abrahamic religions, and we also passionately discuss the roles of genders and how best each can work to preserve marriage. However, in doing so we tend to neglect to speak on what occurs when marriages do not work. When divorce is discussed, it is most often spoken about negatively, as if to say that the act is an impermissible one, though we know that the religion of Islam made it permissible. This article hopes to give a brief overview of divorce, its inner realities, examples and reasons from both the life of the Prophet(s) and contemporarily, guidance from the words of God with some personal commentary.

God speaks on the subject of divorce multiple times in the Quran. In some religions such as Catholicism, divorce was a sin and not to be practiced. In Judaism, one finds that the concept of divorce is shunned and, unlike in Islam, there is no textual reference giving women their own form of divorce as is found in the Quran (though the details of this will not be discussed in this article). So why would God speak on this subject? One need look no further than the following ayah, “The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion” (Quran 2:185). The Quran is a guidance for all people, at all times and in all circumstances; as such, it would be impossible for God to not discuss divorce which is an inevitable aspect of our marital lives. So why is it that among the Muslim community divorce carries such negative implications? The following Prophetic traditions will allow us to better understand why;

Jabir reported that God's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
Iblis places his throne upon water; he then sends detachments (for creating dissension); the nearer to him in rank are those who are most notorious in creating dissension. One of them comes and says: "I did such-and-such." 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." Then Satan goes near him and says: "You have done well." A'mash said: “He then embraces him.”

It was narrated from 'Abdullah bin 'Umar that the Messenger of God's said:
"The most hated of permissible things to God's is divorce."

When the vast majority of believers look at these two Prophetic narrations they may now and again arrive at an incorrect understanding that divorce is not only disliked in the religion but that those who practice it are allowing Satan to do as he wishes. What people neglect to understand is that sometimes divorce is a mercy from God. Islam does whatever it can to keep marriages together, to make them a source of love and affection, and a means of attaining the pleasure of God. However, sometimes there are marriages which are toxic, where abuse is the norm and where divorce is advised. It is foolish for bystanders, family, friends and the like to look at this divorce with disdain. Just as a marriage can be obligatory for some and recommended for others, so too can divorce. In a world where adultery has become normalized, where pornography is easily accessible and where the hearts of both men and women are weak and the limbs even weaker, there can be extreme cases of emotional and spiritual abuse. There are cases of men and women alike speaking to their significant other with absolutely no respect, with words unbefitting of a servant of God, sometimes even with physical abuse that leaves not only physical scars but emotional ones. Relationships like this should not go on, they should not happen to begin with but when they do, divorce should not be looked at as a sin, but instead an opening and an outlet. People privy to the divorce should think well of those involved (because even the abuser is one who needs to be guided to what will change their state) and guide them to marriage counseling or a spiritual guide, and if they persist on the divorce then no doubt there is a reason for their choice.

One may ask if there are any examples of divorce in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). There is in fact an example documented by Imam Qurtubi in his book Ahkam al Quran (Rulings of the Quran), in which he gives exegesis on the Surah entitled, At Talaq. He states that the Prophet Muhammad divorced his wife Hafsah due to him confiding in her and she then disclosed that information to Aisha (may God be pleased with them both). Our purpose here is not to discuss the finer details of the secret but rather to focus on the fact that a divorce did in fact occur. Due to the divorce, Hafsah went to join her parents in their home and at that time the verses of God were revealed, “Do not turn them out of their [husbands'] houses, nor should they [themselves] leave [during that period] unless they are committing a clear immorality. And those are the limits [set by] God,” (Quran 65:1).

Why is this important? It shows us that divorce is not something foreign from the Islamic tradition and from the prophetic example. It also shows us that one of the main reasons for divorce has and will always be a betrayal of trust. So how should divorce be done once a man has proclaimed divorce to his wife, how is she to be treated?

God mentions in the Quran that the woman should not be forced out nor should she leave the home. Some contemporary readings may cause people to believe that God is being unjust and causing people to stay in a relationship that is not good for them. However when one delves into the exegesis they will find quite the opposite. For one, God requires that during this time the husband is still financially responsible for her, cares for her needs and provides a roof over her head. More than all of that, is what Imam Qurtubi says about “You know not; perhaps God will bring about after that a [different] matter,” (Quran 65:1). In the exegesis of this ayah, Qurtubi states that this “matter” that God speaks about refers to the power of God to change the heart of the husband from one filled with anger and disdain to one filled with contentment and love.