Conditioning divorce on disobeying ...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Conditioning divorce on disobeying a husband's instructions


Having tried hard to discipline his wife without much success, a man writes down what he wants her to do. He gives her the paper after he has written clearly at the bottom, "Disobeying these instructions would be tantamount to divorce." She nevertheless disobeys his instructions and he immediately stops having sex with her. Is she actually divorced? Do they need to remarry if they wish to resume their marital relationship?


Islam views marriage and divorce very seriously. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that there are three matters which must be taken seriously, whether they are said in earnest or jest. These are: marriage, divorce and freeing of a slave. If we reflect for a moment on this wisdom of talking about freeing slaves, we understand how much Islam takes into consideration the feelings of those who are in a position which makes them vulnerable to abuse by other people. Let us imagine for a moment a slave whose master tells him that he would set him free after three days or when he has completed a particular assignment, etc… Then three days later, or on the completion of the assignment, the master tells him that he was only joking and that he did not expect him to take his words seriously. The slave would be overwhelmed with grief and could easily harbor ill feelings toward his master. Now that slavery has been abolished, thanks to God, such cruelty does not take place.

As we all know, Islam allows divorce because it is needed as a solution for certain social problems. However, a husband who wishes to divorce his wife must abide by the rules prescribed by God and which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) explained and elaborated for the divorce to be proper and valid. For example, a husband must ascertain that the time is appropriate for him to divorce his wife. It is forbidden for a man to divorce his wife when she is in her period or after they have had sexual intercourse during a period of cleanliness from menstruation. It is also forbidden to make a threefold divorce on the same occasion. But hardly any divorcing husband pauses to consider whether the time is right for him to divorce. The majority of people tend to think that unless they pronounce the statement of divorce three times, the divorce is not valid. They thus hasten to utter something which God has forbidden. They earn His displeasure and land themselves in trouble. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was told that a man divorced his wife with three simultaneous divorce statements, he became very angry and told his Companions: "Is God’s book to be taken lightly when I am still alive among you?" [recorded by An-Nisa`ie]. Abdullah Ibn Abbas reported that Rukana Ibn Abd Yazeed divorced his wife three times simultaneously but was later sorry for having done so. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked him: " ‘How did you divorce her?’ He answered, ‘I divorced her thrice.’ The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked, ‘Simultaneously?’ When the man answered in the affirmative, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘This is a single divorce. You may remarry her if you wish.’ “

The Islamic system does not allow conditional divorces. Thus, if someone tells his wife that she will be divorced in three months’ time, at the end of the year, or when he arrives at his office, etc…, she remains his wife at the end of the period he has specified or upon his arrival at his office. This kind of divorce is unacceptable. Many prominent scholars are of the view that a conditional divorce is not valid. The family law of Egypt, which has been based on Islamic law, does not recognize such a divorce.

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