Divorce and Remarriage in Early Islam
By James M. Arlandson, PhD
Danish translation: Skilsmisse og ægteskabelig genforening i tidlig islam
Source: Live as Free People, December 12, 2015
Published on myIslam.dk: December 29, 2018

It is easy for a man to divorce his wife in Islam. All he needs to do is repeat something three times. And then the divorce is final, binding, and legal. No sharia judge would overturn it.

This series of articles about Islamic sharia law is intended for educators, legislators, city council members, judges, lawyers, government bureaucrats, journalists, think tank fellows, TV and radio talk show hosts, and anyone else who initiates the national dialogue and shape the flow of the conversation. They are the decision- and policymakers.

They have listened to the critics of sharia and conclude that the critics overstate their case. Islam is a world religion, after all, so it deserves respect. The critics are just “Islamophobes.” And with that label applied, the intellectual elites shrug off the critics and go about their daily business.

But the elites also have heard reports about some “different” practices in sharia. What if the critics are partially right? So the elites may have a private, gnawing feeling that maybe something is wrong with sharia, as it relates to and interacts with the modern world.

One example is divorce and remarriage.

The Quran, the traditions, and classical Islamic law permit the husband to divorce his wife outside a court of law, by saying three times in a row in quick succession or over a period of time, “You are divorced.” Then the divorce is legally valid, and the court can only affirm it, not overturn it, if certain conditions were met.

It may be rare that a divorced couple would like to reconcile and remarry each other, but this does happen. The Quran has a marriage law for the divorced couple in this situation, after they have worked out their differences. It says that a divorced couple may remarry each other if and only if the wife marries a second man, they have sexual intercourse with each other, and he divorces her. Then and only then may she remarry her first husband.

Here is the Table of Contents, with links:


Divorce and Remarriage of Original Couple
Impotence of the Second Husband
Mass Divorce?
Temporary Marriage
Women’s Right to Divorce?

Divorce and Remarriage of Original Couple
Failure to Consummate Second Marriage
Custody of Children
Wife’s Authority to Divorce
Women’s Right to Divorce?
Wife’s Compensation
Temporary Marriage

Traditional Views
Reformist Views





Quran 2:229-230 says:

"229 Divorce can happen twice, and [each time] wives either be kept on in an acceptable manner or released in a good way. It is not lawful for you to take back anything that you have given [your wives], except where both fear that they cannot maintain [the marriage within] the bounds set by God: if you [arbiters] suspect that the couple may not be able to do this, then there will be no blame on either of them if the woman opts to give something for her release. These are the bounds set by God: do not overstep them. It is those who overstep God’s bounds who are doing wrong. 230 If a husband re-divorces his wife after the second divorce, she will not be lawful for him until she has taken another husband; if that one divorces her, there will be no blame if she and the first husband return to one another, provided they feel that they can keep within the bounds set by God. These are God’s bounds, which He makes clear for those who understand." (Quran 2:229-230) [1]

The import of v. 229 is that one man and one woman are married. The husband says, “You are divorced” twice (“Divorce can happen twice”). At this point the couple can stay together “in an acceptable manner.” But how is she “released in an acceptable way,” in addition to amicably?

The Quran is not as clear as it first appears. Commentators, following the hadith, say that they are divorced absolutely and finally without revocation if the husband says, “You are divorced” for the third time, a pronouncement that is not explicit in v. 229, but only implicit. Nonetheless, he needs to be careful after he has pronounced the words twice. If he says it again, the third time, the divorce is effected and valid.

In v. 230 the husband “re-divorces” his wife, that is, for the third time. The prefix “re” is added because of v. 229, which says the husband has already “divorced” his wife “twice.” Also, v. 230 says “the second divorce.” Again, the third divorce pronouncement is only implied in the Quran and is not clearly stated. But the logic of the two verses leads commentators and legal scholars to conclude that the divorce is final, absolute, and irrevocable after the third pronouncement.

Jurists make the distinction between three divorce pronouncements spoken over time, in coordination with a woman’s month cycle, and three pronouncements spoken in rapid succession, at one time. The latter is still valid, but it violates the “spirit” of sharia. [2]

In any case, v. 230 says that the couple who is divorced finally and absolutely and irrevocably is not permitted to remarry each other, unless the wife marries second man, and then he divorces her.

The hadith will clarify that the second man and his new wife must consummate the marriage – or have sex – and then divorce her. Classical legal scholars tell us that the second marriage cannot be arranged by convenience or a set plan. The second marriage must be natural, not forced or manipulative.

Finally, the clause “the woman opts to give something for her release” in v. 229 means that the wife can buy her way out of the marriage, a process known as the khula divorce. Using this verse, the hadith and classical law allow women to initiate a divorce if she can afford it. This implies that only a wealthy woman was capable of buying her way out, returning anything her husband gave her.


The hadith or traditions or narrations are the reports about Muhammad and his companions that did not make it into the Quran. They carry a lot of weight in Sunni Islam. Please see the article titled, “What Is Sharia?” in the series, for more information.

Divorce and Remarriage of Original Couple

This hadith, narrated by Aisha, Muhammad’s favorite girl-bride, says that the wife and first husband are unlawful to each other after they divorce until she has sex with her second husband, and then he divorces her.

"Narrated Aishah: A man divorced his wife thrice (by expressing his decision to divorce her thrice), then she married another man who also divorced her. The Prophet was asked if she could legally marry the first husband (or not). The Prophet… replied, 'No, she cannot marry the first husband unless the second husband enjoys the sexual relation (consummate his marriage) with her, just as the first husband had done.'" [3]

In the next hadith Ibn Umar was Umar’s (the future second caliph’s) son and is considered a reliable hadith transmitter. He recalls what his prophet said about three divorce pronouncements and remarriage of the original couple who had divorced, but now wish to reconcile.

"Nafi said: When ibn Umar was asked about a person who had given three divorces, he said, 'Would that you gave one or two divorces, for the Prophet ordered me to do so. If you give three divorces then she cannot be lawful for you until she has married another husband (and is divorced by him).'" [4]

Impotence of the Second Husband

The next hadith adds a twist. A husband divorces his wife. She marries a second man who is impotent and cannot have sexual relations with her. He divorces her. Is she allowed to go back to the first husband?

"Narrated Aishah: A man divorced his wife and she married another man who proved to be impotent and divorced her. She could not get her satisfaction from him, and after a while he divorced her. Then she came to the Prophet and said, 'O Allah’s Messenger! My first husband divorced me and then I married another man who entered upon me to consummate his marriage but he proved to be impotent and did not approach me except once during which he benefited nothing from me. Can I re-marry my first husband in this case?' Allah’s Messenger said, 'It is unlawful to marry your first husband till the other husband consummates his marriage with you.'" [5]

Mass Divorce?

When Muhammad was undergoing household strife between his wives, he told them he was thinking about divorcing the lot of them (Quran 33:28). It was their choice. Would they be happy then? Does giving them the option that he divorce them or they remain with him imply a divorce pronouncement?

"Narrated Aishah: Allah’s Messenger gave us [wives] the option (to remain with him or to be divorced), and we selected Allah and His Messenger. So, giving us that option was not regarded as divorce." [6]

The wives opted to remain with him.

Temporary Marriage

For a short time, before the Battle of Khaybar, a Jewish town north of Medina, which Muhammad conquered in A.D. 628, a soldier out on campaign was allowed to contract a temporary marriage (a muta), which should last three days. Then he could divorce her after he was done with her and did not like her. If he did like her, they could remain married. Then this permission to marry temporarily was canceled after Khaybar.

"Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah and Salama bin Al-Akwa: While we were in an army, Allah’s Apostle came to us and said, 'You have been allowed to do the Mut’a (marriage), so do it.' Salama bin Al-Akwa said: Allah’s Apostle’s said, 'If a man and a woman agree (to marry temporarily), their marriage should last for three nights, and if they like to continue, they can do so; and if they want to separate, they can do so.' I do not know whether that was only for us or for all the people in general. Abu Abdullah (Al-Bukhari) said: Ali made it clear that the Prophet said, 'The Mut’a marriage has been cancelled (made unlawful).'" [7]

Sunni Muslims, as a general rule, no longer practice temporary marriage.

Women’s Right to Divorce?

Quran 2:229 says a wife may opt to buy herself out or redeem herself from her marriage. The translator and editor of Muslim’s hadith collection writes:

"The right of woman in demanding the dissolution of marriage is known as Khula (meaning, literally, the putting off or taking off a thing). It is a kind of facility provided to the wife in securing Talaq [divorce] from her husband by returning a part or full amount of the bridal gift." [8]

The hadith in Bukhari’s collection says:

"Narrated Ibn Abbas: The wife of Thabit bin Qais came to the Prophet and said, 'O Allah’s Apostle! I do not blame Thabit for defects in his character or his religion, but I, being a Muslim, dislike behave[ing] in un-Islamic manner (if I remain with him).' On that Allah’s Apostle said (to her), 'Will you give back the garden which your husband has given you (as Mahr)?' She said, 'Yes.' Then the Prophet said to Thabit, 'O Thabit! Accept your garden, and divorce her once.'" [9]

A parallel hadith says:

"Narrated Ibn Abbas: The wife of Thabit bin Qais bin Shammas came to the Prophet and said, 'O Allah’s Apostle! I do not blame Thabit for any defects in his character or his religion, but I am afraid that I (being a Muslim) may become unthankful for Allah’s Blessings.' On that, Allah’s Apostle said (to her), 'Will you return his garden to him?' She said, 'Yes.' So she returned his garden to him and the Prophet told him to divorce her." [10]

The first hadith uses the word “once.” So is this divorce irrevocable or not? For an explanation of the irrevocability (or not) of the khula divorce, see the section Modern Islam, and Traditional Interpretations. Islamic law is very complicated, as it blurs religious and civil law.


The Muslim jurists searched the Quran and traditions (hadith) to find examples and laws that they could implement in their own context. Please see the article in the series, titled, “What Is Sharia?” for more detail.

Divorce and Remarriage of Original Couple

The jurists of this bygone era read the Quran and hadith carefully and concluded that a woman who is divorced irrevocably after a threefold divorce pronouncement cannot remarry her first husband until she marries a second man, they have sex, and he divorces her.

Ibn Rushd (d. 1198), known in the West as Averroës, wrote a study of all the schools of law and reports that there is a consensus about this, though one jurist said she does not have to have sex with her second husband before he divorces her.

"All the jurists agreed about the woman divorced irrevocably with a triple repudiation that she is not permitted to her first husband, unless she has intercourse (with a second husband through a lawful marriage), because of the tradition of Rifa‘a ibn Samawal that he divorced his wife Tamrma daughter of Wahb during the period of the Messenger of Allah… through a triple repudiation and she married Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Zubayr, who abandoned her and was not able to have intercourse with her and separated from her. After this, the first husband Rifa‘a wanted to marry her, and mentioned this to the Messenger of Allah… who prohibited him from marrying her, saying, 'She is not permissible for you, unless she tastes the sweetness of another.' Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib deviated from this and said that it is permitted to her to return to her first husband by merely entering into a contract of marriage (without intercourse) ..." [11]

Shafi’i legal scholar Ahmad Ibn Naqib al-Misri’s (d. 1368) law book, Reliance of the Traveler: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, says:

"The Prophet … cursed the man who marries a woman after her divorce solely to permit her first husband to remarry her and cursed the first husband." [12]

Since the consensus is so strong, we do not need to quote the other schools of law on this threefold divorce pronouncement and sequence of steps leading towards remarriage between the original couple. Instead, we mention variations on this issue.

Failure to Consummate Second Marriage

In the next hadith and ruling, a husband divorces his wife, and she marries a second man, but he does not consummate the marriage and divorces her. Can the original couple get back together? Imam Muhammad (d. 795), a student and colleague of Abu Hanifah, first cites the hadith in Malik and then issues his opinion.

"Malik informed us: 'Al-Miswar ibn Rifaah al-Qurazi informed us from az-Zubayr ibn Abd ar-Rahman ibn az-Zabir that Rifaah ibn Simwal divorced his wife Tamimah bint Wahb during the epoch of the Messenger of Allah and then Abd ar-Rahman ibn az-Zabir married her but turned away from her in aversion and was unable to have intercourse with her, and so he divorced her and had not had sexual intercourse with her. Rifaah wanted to marry her, and he was her previous husband who had divorced her, and so he mentioned that to the Messenger of Allah but he forbade him to marry her and said, 'She is not permissible to you until she tastes the sweetness [of intercourse].'
Muhammad said: 'We adhere to this, and it is the verdict of Abu Hanifah and our fuqaha [people knowledgeable in fiqh or jurisprudence] in general, because the latter husband did not have sexual intercourse with her so she is not permitted to return to the former until the latter has intercourse with her.'" [13]

Custody of the Children

After the divorce is settled, the most important question is the custody of the children. Ibn Rushd again provides a summary of the various opinions.

"The majority maintain that custody… belongs to the mother if she is divorced by the husband and the child is still in a tender age, because of the words of the Prophet… 'He who causes a separation between a mother and her child, Allah will cause a separation between him and his loved ones on the day of judgment,' and in so far as enslaved and captive women cannot be separated from their child, the case of the free-woman becomes stronger. They disagreed when the child has reached the age of discrimination. One group, and among them is al-Shafi’i, said that he is to be given an option (to remain with his mother or to go to the father). They argued on the basis of a tradition that is relevant to this, while the others held on to the general principle, as this tradition was not proved authentic according to them. The majority maintain that her marriage to someone other than the (child’s) father terminates custody, because of the report that the Messenger of Allah… said, 'You have a prior right to him as long as you do not marry.' Those for whom this tradition was not authentic pursued the general principle. There is no basis for it, that can be relied upon, about the transfer of custody from the mother to someone other than the father." [14]

Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri (d. 1368) summarizes rulings in the Shafi’i school of law. As to the custody of the children, he and later commentators write:

"A woman has no right to custody (A: of her child from a previous marriage) when she remarries (O: because married life will occupy her with fulfilling the rights of her husband and prevent her from tending the child. It makes no difference in such cases if the (A: new) husband agrees or not (N: since the child’s custody in such a case automatically devolves to the next most eligible on the list)… unless the person she marries is someone (A: on the list) who is entitled to the child’s custody anyway (O: as opposed to someone unrelated to the child, since such a person, even if willing, does not deserve custody because he lacks the tenderness for the child that a relative would have)." [15]

Wife’s Authority to Divorce

Malik (d. 795), a founder of a school of law, records a tradition about a husband who gave his wife authority of divorce, and she ended up divorcing him. Is that valid? Yes, says Ibn Umar.

"Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that a man came to Abdullah ibn Umar, and said, 'Abu Abd ar-Rahman! I placed the command of my wife in her hand, and she divorced herself, what do you think?' Abdullah ibn Umar said, 'I think that it is as she said.' The man said, 'Don't do it, Abu Abd ar-Rahman!' Ibn Umar said, 'You did it, it has nothing to do with me.'" [16]

The husband is the one who granted his wife the authority to initiate a divorce.

Women’s Right to Divorce?

The wife can buy her way out of her marriage, if the husband agrees with the deal. This kind of divorce is known as a khula. Ibn Rushd summarizes the discussion among the jurists.

"Most of the fuqaha [people knowledgeable in fiqh or jurisprudence] uphold its permissibility [for a wife to ransom herself from a marriage]. Its sources are to be found in the Book and sunna [example of Muhammad]. In the Book it is the words of the Exalted, '[I]t is no sin for any of them if the woman ransom herself' [Quran 2:229]. The sunna [example of Muhammad] is the tradition of Ibn Abbas 'that the wife of Thabit ibn Qays came up to the Prophet… and said, "O Messenger of Allah, I do not find anything wrong with him from the religious and moral points of view, but I detest disbelief after entering the fold of Islam." The Messenger of Allah… said, "Will you return to him his orchard (that he had given to you)." She said, "Yes." The Messenger of Allah said to (Thabit), "Accept the orchard and divorce her through a single repudiation."' It is recorded, in these words, by al-Bukhart, Abu Dawud, al-Nasa, and is a tradition agreed upon for its soundness." [17]

Ibn Rushd quotes Quran 2:229 and the hadith cited above. This shows that classical (and modern) law are deeply rooted in the Quran and traditions (hadith).

Further, Ibn Ruishd goes on to say khula divorce can be done under certain conditions, like the amount used to buy her “redemption”; and the mutual consent of the parties, which restricts a woman’s right, though some schools of law deviate on that.

On the amount the wife gives back, Ibn Rushd summaries what the other jurists have ruled:

"About the amount with which it is permitted to her to secure redemption, Malik, al-Shafi’i and a group of jurists said that it is permitted to a woman to secure redemption with more than what has come to her from the husband, by way of dower, when she is the cause of discord, or with an equivalent amount, or less. Other jurists held that he [the husband] does not have a right to take more than what he has given her (as dower), according to the apparent meaning of Thabit’s tradition. So those who compared this compensation to that in all other transactions held that the amount is dependent upon mutual consent, but those who went by the literal meaning of the tradition did not permit excess, and it was as if they considered it to be the acquisition of wealth without lawful justification." [18]

Ibn Rushd then says about mutual consent:

"Regarding the conditions in which redemption is permissible, the majority held that it is permitted with the mutual consent of the parties, unless consent to pay him is obtained by fear of injury to her. The basis for this [is] the words of the Exalted, 'O ye who believe! It is not lawful for you forcibly to inherit the women (of your deceased kinsmen), nor (that) ye should constrain them that ye may take away a part of that which ye have given them, unless they be guilty of flagrant lewdness,' [Quran 4:19] and His words, 'And if ye fear that they may not be able to keep the limits of Allah, in that case it is no sin for either of them if the woman ransom herself. These are the limits (imposed by) Allah'" [Quran 2:229]. [19]

So the husband must consent. Therefore the wife does not have unilateral power, as the husband does when he initiates a divorce.

Wife’s Compensation

Malik records opinions that the wife gets compensation after a divorce.

"Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that Abd ar-Rahman ibn Awf divorced his wife, and gave her compensation in the form of a slave-girl. Yahya related to me from Malik from Nafi that Abdullah ibn Umar said, 'Every divorced woman has compensation except for the one who is divorced and is allocated a bride-price and has not been touched. She has half of what was allocated to her.' Yahya related to me from Malik that Ibn Shihab said, 'Every divorced woman has compensation.' Malik said, 'I have also heard the same as that from al-Qasim ibn Muhammad.' Malik said, 'There is no fixed limit among us as to how small or large the compensation is.'" [20]


In the next hadith Malik says that based on Quran 4:35, two arbiters should be appointed, hopefully to get the couple to reconcile. But if not, then the divorce must be peaceful.

"Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that Ali ibn Abi Talib said about the two arbiters about whom Allah, the Exalted, says, 'If you fear a breach between the two, then appoint an arbiter from his people and an arbiter from her people. If they desire to set things aright, Allah will make peace between them, surely Allah is Knowing, Aware,' [Quran 4:35] that both separation and joining were overseen by the two of them. Malik said, 'That is the best of what I have heard from the people of knowledge. Whatever the two arbiters say concerning separation or joining is taken into consideration.'" [21]

One purpose, among others, of this series of articles is to mention the negative parts of Islam, because they potentially harm society. But the last two opinions in Malik are positive: compensation after a divorce, and arbitration before one.

In this ruling Misri says the husband gets to control whether his wife can leave the house.

"If the husband says, 'If you leave the house without my permission, you are divorced,' then gives her permission to go out, and she does but then goes out a second time without permission, she is not divorced. If he says, 'Anytime you go out without my permission you are divorced,' then if she leaves at anytime without permission, she is divorced." [22]

Temporary Marriage

Islam allowed for temporary marriages (muta), but then most Muslim scholars canceled the practice.

In the next passage by Ibn Rushd, he discusses the custom, but he is not clear when it was cancelled and by whom. But most of the companions (close followers of Muhammad) and jurists uphold its prohibition, though some Islamic sects practice it today.

"In the marriage of mut’a, though the reports from the Messenger of Allah… about its prohibition have reached the level of tawatur [continuous narration or by a large number so falsehood is ruled out] they have differed about the time of the occurrence of the prohibition. In some narrations it is stated that he prohibited it on the day of Khaybar, in some it is the day of the conquest of Mecca [early 630], in some the day of Tabuk [military campaign in late 630], in some the day of the Farewell Pilgrimage [early 632], in some it is during the umrat al-qada, [Muhammad’s pilgrimage with delayed performance in 629] and in some it is the day of Awtas [a battle in 630]. Most of the companions and all the jurists upheld its prohibition. Its permission by Ibn Abbas [Muhammad’s cousin] became well known, and he was followed in his opinion by his disciples in Mecca and in Yemen. They related that Ibn Abbas used to argue for it on the basis of the words of the Exalted, 'And those of whom ye seek content (by marrying them), give unto them their portions as a duty. And there is no sin for you in what ye do by mutual agreement after the duty (hath been done). Lo! Allah is ever Knower, Wise' [Quran 4:24]. In one variant reading from him there is an addition of the words 'till a stipulated period.' It is related from him that he said, 'Mut’a is nothing but a mercy from Allah, the Mighty, Glorious, through which he had mercy upon the umma [community] of Muhammad… If Umar [second caliph, r. 634-644] had not prohibited it, no one would have had the urge to commit zina [illicit sex], except the doomed.' All this that is related from Ibn Abbas is related by Ibn Jurayj and Amr ibn Dinar. From Ata is the report that he said, 'I heard Jabir ibn Abd Allah saying, "We contracted mut’a in the period of the Messenger of Allah… in that of Abu Bakr [first caliph, r. 632-634], and in the first half of the period of the caliphate of Umar,"' but Umar forbade the people from undertaking it.
Regarding the disagreement about a marriage in which a proposal was made during the proposal of another, it has preceded that there are three opinions on it. One opinion requiring rescission, another not imposing rescission, and the third making a distinction on the basis of the degree of maturity of the first proposal, which is Malik’s opinion." [23]


A reformist calls for the reform of Islam, while a traditionalist believes Islam, revealed in the Quran and presented in the authentic hadith, is fine the way it is and defends it. Usually, religious leaders are selected in this section, but sometimes a Muslim who is in the public eye is included too.

Traditional Views

This series is mainly about the West and Islam’s influence there, but we can learn how Islamic law functions in various places. The worldwide web brings the whole world closer.

Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966) was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt. He wrote a traditional commentary on the Quran, which is still read with respect by various Islamic groups. He says Islam improved on the divorce custom of the surrounding culture before Islam arrived on the scene:

"The background to this ruling is that in pre-Islamic Arabia no limitation was set on the number of times divorce could take place. Men would marry, divorce and remarry the same woman, virtually at will. When a man from Madinah [Medina] had fallen out with his wife and grew to dislike her intensely, he vowed that he would neither keep her nor let her go; he would divorce her and then take her back just before her waiting period had elapsed. The woman complained to the Prophet Muhammad, to whom this verse [2:229] was then revealed… In pre-Islamic society, women faced a great deal of oppression and abuse. Female infanticide was widespread in Arabia, and those who survived would suffer cruelty and degradation throughout their lives. Women were bought and sold like animals; mares and she-camels were sometimes considered more precious! They would suffer when they were married; and they received grossly unfair treatment when divorced. Divorced women were not allowed to remarry without their former husband’s permission, nor were they allowed by their families to return to their husbands if they wished to be reconciled. Generally, women were looked down upon in Arabia, as indeed in other societies." [24]

The problem with Qutb’s assessment of pre-Islamic culture is that he depends on Islamic sources. The independent sources about this culture and customs are very sparse indeed. Like many Muslim scholars, Qutb seems to assume that when the Quran rules in one direction, like restricting the remarriage of the original couple only after she marries a second man and they have sex, then the pre-Islamic culture went the opposite direction – divorce and remarriage “virtually at will.” Maybe, maybe not.

Recall, however, that Aisha said in the context of domestic violence that “I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!” [25] (see the article on domestic violence in this series). This indicates that Muslim women (“believing women”) were getting hit more frequently than non-Muslim women. Therefore it is far from clear in some instances that Islam improved on the life and customs of non-Muslim women after they accepted Islam or on Arab culture generally.

After describing the threefold divorce proceedings, Qutb asks which alternative solution would be better.

"What would be the alternative solution? Should the man be forced to live with a woman in a marriage he has little or no respect for? Should he be told that his repeated divorcing of his wife is not enforceable and that his wife is his responsibility, whether he likes it or not? This, in fact, would be far more humiliating for the wife, and degrading to the marriage itself, neither of which Islam would condone." [26]

Neither a man nor a woman should be required to live in humiliation or the threat of a repeated divorce. However, we will propose a much smoother and easier process for divorce and possible reconciliation, in the summary section. But for now the Islamic way allows the man to pronounce a legally binding divorce outside of the court of law, putting way too much power in his hands. Modern societies have indeed developed better solutions.

Sayyid A’La Abul Maududi (d. 1979) was a traditional Indo-Pakistani commentator on the Quran, so we should let him explain the context of this remarriage law in 2:229-230. A final and absolute divorce is built on a three-stage process, coordinated with a woman’s monthly cycle. He reports that a man may pronounce a divorce against his wife only after her menses, not during it:

"In order to check hasty action and leave the door open for reconciliation at many stages, the right method of pronouncing divorce as taught by the Qur’an and the Traditions is that if and when it becomes inevitable, it should be pronounced only when she is not in her menses and even if a dispute arises during the monthly period, it is not right to pronounce divorce during that condition, but he should wait for her to cleanse herself and then may pronounce a single divorce [but not the third and final one], if he so likes." [27]

Then Maududi says that the divorce pronouncement is repeated two more times. On the third one, the divorce is final and absolute.

"Then he should wait for the next monthly course and pronounce the second divorce [but not the third and final one], if he so wishes after she is cleansed. Then he should wait for the next monthly course to pronounce the third and final divorce after she is cleansed." [28]

Despite this three-month process, Islamic law also allows a husband three divorce pronouncements in quick succession, without waiting three months. Also, the right to divorce is nearly exclusively on the side of the husband. In current Islamic law, a woman has a very hard time divorcing her husband against his will, while a husband can easily divorce his wife against her will. She will not be asked.

But in regards to this three-month procedure, it must be admitted that this procedure has two advantages, on the surface. First, this process offers hope for reconciliation. It allows a “cooling off” period. Indeed, Maududi goes on to say that the husband should wait and reconsider the matter because he has the right to take his wife back after the second pronouncement. Second, Maududi informs us that in pre-Islamic Arabia a man could make as many divorce pronouncements as he pleased, which was unfair to the wife, so Muhammad limited this to three. When the man does this for the third time, he “forfeits the right to take her back, nor can the couple remarry [each other].” [29] However, the Quran does not go far enough in protecting women and in honoring marriage, as seen in Maududi’s explanation: “nor can the couple remarry [each other].” [30]

And as noted in our criticism of Qutb, neither does Maududi cite an independent source on the alleged miserable plight of pre-Islamic women.

Further, we should see how this clear law in the Quran on threefold divorce and remarriage is applied to an even more modern world than the one Qutb and Maududi lived in. At Islam Q & A, run by Saudi sheikh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid, a divorce spoken over the phone counts as a divorce – final and irrevocable.

The wife asks:

"My husband divorced me a month ago over the phone and he said it three times. Is it permissible to go back to him?"

The sheikh replies:

"Divorce (talaaq) over the phone is a valid divorce and counts as such. So long as the husband uttered the word of divorce (talaaq), divorce has taken place.
There is a difference of opinion among the scholars with regard to the threefold divorce; the majority are of the view that it counts as three divorces.
A number of scholars are of the view that the threefold divorce counts as one divorce. This is the view favored by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) and it was regarded as more correct by Shaykh al-Sa‘di and Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on them both).
They quoted as evidence the report narrated by Muslim (1472) from Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: At the time of the Messenger of Allaah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), Abu Bakr and the first two years of ‘Umar’s caliphate, a threefold divorce was counted as one. Then ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab said: People have become hasty in a matter in which they should take their time. I am thinking of holding them to it. So he made it binding upon them." [31]

Next, from the same Saudi sheikh comes an answer to a man who regrets divorcing his wife.

The husband writes:

"I got married against my will under pressure by my parents. After a year I have given divorce to my wife through (1) a letter, writing divorce three times along with cheque for Mehar [dower]. (2) After couple of months sent her a stamp paper for local council office, which included divorce sentence again three times. Since the day it all happened I am feeling bad about what I have done and want to contact my x-wife again. Please tell me is there any possibility I could contact her again rightfully, as per sharia. She is still single and living with her parents."

The sheikh replies:

"If you divorced your wife irrevocably and recorded that in the sharee‘ah court, then your ex-wife is not permissible for you until she has been married to another man in a genuine marriage, not a tahleel marriage (one that is aimed at making it permissible for her to go back to her first husband); then if he (the second husband) dies or divorces her, she will become permissible for you." [32]

At first glance these two answers seem extreme, particularly since they come from a Saudi; however, they follow the logic of the Quran. Why wouldn’t a threefold phone divorce count as an absolute and final divorce? Many scholars conclude that a threefold text message also counts as absolute and final divorce. All the husband has to do is print out the messages, and it is in writing. But at least the Saudi sheikh records the differing opinions.

And in the second answer we learn that a husband may not take back his wife after a threefold divorce unless she marry someone else, they have sex, and then he divorces her. And this second marriage cannot be a “fake” one, either. It is sad that this husband in the Q & A was permitted to utter a legally binding divorce so easily, but then regrets it. He should be able to reconcile immediately with her, if they both so choose, without her marrying someone else and having sex with him and then his divorcing her. But he is not able to reconcile unhindered, for that is the clear teaching of the Quran, and the sheikh is following it to the letter.

The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) is made up of religious scholars, most of whom have their doctorates in Islamic law or other Islamic subjects; they have the credentials to write fatwas (religious rulings or opinions). They use they write-in Question and Answer format.

One enquirer asks:

"If marital discord between the spouses reaches the point of no return, how they can divorce? What are the procedures of divorce if the marriage contract was issued from a certain Arab country? What must the wife do when divorce takes place?"

The AMJA scholar gives a brief summary of Islamic divorce proceedings:

"The husband is responsible for the marriage contract, and he has the right to divorce when it is needed.  Divorce is immediate or future annulment of the marriage contract by using a particular utterance, providing it takes place in accordance with Islam injunctions, that is, the husband divorces his wife during a tuhr (the wife does not have her menses, and no sexual intercourse occurs during this period). Then, he keeps her in the matrimonial home until the prescribed period of idda [waiting period of divorcee or widow to ensure no pregnancy] ends, and he has the right to revoke the divorce during this period. If the prescribed period of idda ends, and the husband does not revoke his divorce, then she is no longer his wife, and she is unlawful for him, except after a new contract, and a new mahr [dowry given by husband to wife at marriage], and this is called a minor irrevocable divorce.  After that, he can proceed with the divorce procedures, so that he and the ex-wife will officially be able to re-marry [to others], when Allah wills." [33]

The next scenario gives us another glimpse into more Islamic divorce proceedings. The questioner asks:

"What is the verdict of the religion about this divorce case?  The first divorce happened in front of a marriage official, but the second didn’t, however, she went back to him.  As for the third one, we asked the House of Fatwa, so she went back to him after paying 60 pounds.  At another angry moment, he told her, 'You are divorced, you are divorced, you are divorced, thrice!'  Now he lives with us in the same house, but we are separated.  What is the verdict of the religion about this divorce, and the fact that they reside in the same house.  This is very urgent; please answer as soon as possible.  Thank you."

Then the scholar replies:

"The principle rule concerning the issue of divorce is the saying of Allaah, the Majestic, the Glorious, 'The divorce is twice, after that, either you retain her on reasonable terms or release her with kindness.' If he divorces her a third time, then she is no longer permitted (to marry him) thereafter until she marries another man. However, the valid divorce, which can be taken into consideration, has conditions, of them: That he divorces her at a time of purity in which he has not had any intercourse with her; that the extent of his anger at the time of divorce doesn’t reach to the extent of confounding anger, meaning, during a state of mind in which both the door of intention and the door of knowledge have been closed on him, so he is no longer aware of what he is saying and has no intentions for it.  However, long-distance communication [by means of my fatwa at AMJA] is not suitable for applying these conditions in real life. Therefore, I think you should return to the House of Fatwa again, or to whomever you trust from the people of knowledge in general, and relate to them the story, and then go by his fatwa, after having relayed the events in a detailed and honest manner." [34]

Thus, the scholar follows the Islamic rule on the divorced couple remarrying each other again. She must first marry another man and have him divorce her, before she can get back together with her first (ex) husband. What is interesting also is the scholar’s definition of anger: it is irrational anger.

The next case illustrates three divorce pronouncements in rapid succession, at one time. He did not speak in anger.

The wife writes:

"My husband divorced me three times. He said ‘You are divorced’, then ‘You are divorced of intimacy, and so you don’t come back, You are divorced three times, divorced, divorced, divorced.’ He was calm minded and not enraged and said this with all coldness and clarity and was not grievous. He said ‘Don’t touch me’ and divorced me without any reason, simply due to a misunderstanding between us he divorces me thrice intentionally. All this happened in one day at 1:30 at night… What is the ruling on this? Is it one divorce or does it count as three and there is no take-back? I hope in a reply about this and quickly, may Allaah preserve you shaykh, it’s an emergency situation."

The scholar answers:

"It should be verified and confirmed from the husband his intention. If he meant to confirm the first divorce, then it is one divorce. If he meant to deliver new divorces with each time he uttered ‘divorce’ – as it appears to be – then they are separate divorces, and there is no might nor power except by Allaah. Based on that, he would not be permissible for you until you marry a husband other than him." [35]

In this next case, a husband says in the heat of anger “you are divorced” only once.

"My wife and I got into a heated argument where I got angry, and at the heat of the moment I said to her 'you are divorced' in Arabic… which I later regretted saying. That was the first time that has ever happened. What do I need to do to keep her as my wife legally the Islamic way?"

The AMJA scholar replies:

"First, it must be noted that usually when a man pronounces divorce it is when he is angered with his wife. Although it is not wise to make such a statement during anger that is usually when it is done. It would be best to think over the matter calmly and then make a rational decision as to what is best. Thus, a divorce stated while angry is considered a divorce. The only exception to this is if a man were in such a rage that he did not know what he was saying and he unintentionally pronounced the words of divorce in that state. But that must be considered an exceptional case as most men know what they are saying when they say it even if they should regret saying it later.
In your question, you stated that this was the first time that this happened. In such a case, the woman enters her waiting period as soon as the divorce is pronounced. The length of the waiting period is three menses. If you are still within that time period, you may bring your wife back as wife at any time by stating that you are bringing her back and, preferably, having two witnesses for that.
If however you have divorced your wife and the waiting period has come to an end, she is no longer your wife. The only way you may get back together now – since it was only your first divorce – is by having a new marriage contract, complete with a new dower and so forth." [36]

In another case, a woman applied for a civil divorce, and she wonders if this counts as an Islamic divorce; this shows the conflict between Western law and Islamic law.

"Hello, I was recently divorced in Oct 2010 through the court but my husband would not divorce me through the mosque. I have tried everything, he’s left our home in Sept 2009 and left me with our two children and moved in with another woman. Please help."

The AMJA scholar replies:

"If your husband was the one who applied for the civil divorce, then he is giving the power of attorney to the judge to issue the divorce on his behalf. Consequently, once the civil divorce’s decree is issued, the Islamic divorce occurred simultaneously.
It is not the case if you were the one who applied for it, as the wife can ask for divorce - Islamically - but is not the one who initiates it. But even if you were the one who applied, and now you have your civil divorce; you can ask your local Imam to issue an Islamic divorce for you within certain criteria he knows it." [37]

Note that the woman does not initiate the divorce. And what if the imam does not grant her the Islamic divorce? Does she rescind in some way the civil divorce? Is she left in limbo, so to speak?

The next case involves polygamy. It is not clear where the threesome lives, but if it is in the USA, they are breaking civil law. But they are not breaking Islamic law, which allows polygamy. Once again, the two legal systems are in conflict.

The enquirer writes:

"I am married for 18 years and have a daughter from my marriage; 2 years ago I got married to a 2nd wife with the permission of my first wife. Now my 1st wife is […] forcing [me] to divorce [the] 2nd [wife]. If I issue a divorce under pressure [from] my 2nd wife, what is its validity in Islam?"

The AMJA scholar says:

"None of your two wives can put any pressure on you as you are the man and the one who has the final word in the house.

Based on that, whatever divorce you initiate is valid and counted. So, fear Allah ... and do not divorce your wife if she does not deserve divorce." [38]

Then another enquirer asks whether his divorce statement, three times in a row, in the heat of anger, is valid.

The AMJA scholar replies:

"If you uttered the divorce statement you indicated in your question while you were extremely mad to the extent that you were not aware of what you were saying, then your divorce is not counted. It is to be clear that the regular anger a husband experiences when divorcing his wife does not negate the divorce or make it invalid as divorce usually occurs during anger." [39]

An emailer wants to know what the difference is between khula and divorce (talaq). The AMJA scholar replies:

"Generally speaking, Khula’a is a compensated divorce, requested by the wife and executed by the husband. The wife does not have the authority to terminate the marriage contract by herself without being authorized by the husband to do so." [40]

An emailer wants to know: “What is the ruling on a woman who is married to a man, but she doesn’t love him?”

The AMJA scholar clarifies what Islamic love is and what a khula divorce is:

"Few houses are built on love; people build relationships on Islam and on marrying into a good family. This woman has two options:
  • Either she can be patient with that and consider it part of the trials for which those who are patient will be rewarded, their levels will be raised thereby and their sins will be forgiven, or perhaps Allah might cast love for her husband into her heart by the blessing of this patience and her anticipation of reward. Especially if she has children with her husband, she should take into consideration their care and the management of their affairs.
  • As for the second option, which is also permissible for its part, is for her to get khula from her husband, giving him back what he gave her as mahr and asking him to grant her khula. If he does that, she would be divorced from him with a minor irrevocability [as opposed to a major irrevocability after which they may not contract a new marriage unless she has married another man and also been divorced by him]. Then, after she has completed the term of iddah [generally three menstrual cycles or the end of pregnancy], she may marry whomever she pleases, and there is no blame in that if she fears she will not be able to keep the limits set by Allah with her husband. Indeed, Allah has made this part of His Book, to be recited. The Most High has said (interpretation of the meaning): {And it is not lawful for you (men) to take back any of what you have given to them (mahr), except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allah. If you fear they would not be able to keep the limits ordained by Allah, there is no sin on either of them in that by which she ransoms herself [the mahr (full or partial) she returns for khula].} [Al-Baqarah 2:229] That, and we ask Allah (Glorious & Exalted) to send guidance down upon her and to bring her to the more commendable of the two options to Him and the more gentle in ending." [41]

Finally, in another situation, a scholar at AMJA confirms a divorce’s validity outside of the court of law:

"To execute the divorce, the husband does not need to ask the judge to do so for him; rather he has the authority to do it himself." [42]

As to that last quotation, it is sometimes said in defense of the Quran’s divorce law that the divorce has to be verified in a court. That is true. However, all that the judge will ask is whether, for example, the husband said the right words and did not speak under duress or out of irrational anger. If the husband assures the judge that he did things correctly, then no judge can revoke the husband-initiated divorce. It is legally binding even though it took place outside of the courtroom.

Reformist Views

Harun Yahya of the Muslim Women’s League says that Islam attaches great importance to the role of women. On marriage and divorce she writes:

"Many rules and commandments exist in the Qur’an regarding the protection of women’s rights on marriage. Marriage is based on the free will of both parties; the husband has to provide economic support for his wife (4:4); the husband has to look after his ex-wife after divorce (65:6)." [43]

It may true that men have to maintain their ex-wives, but she omits the subject discussed in this article. Perhaps she intended to only put the best face on Islam and not reveal any troubling passages and topics.

Sisters in Islam, reacting to a recent sharia court ruling that a man may divorce his wife by a Short Message Service (SMS), write this conclusion to their letter to the editor:

"Islamic fiqh or juristic opinions developed over the centuries, and it is quite proper that changing circumstances and modern developments, including that of science and technology, should be taken into account. However, Sisters in Islam finds it curious that our religious authorities are so ready to accept the use of modern technology when it is to the advantage of the men, and are resistant to the application of modern science and technology when it can benefit women and children, e.g. the use of DNA testing to determine paternity." [44]

Sisters in Islam points out that Islamic scholars are willing to innovate when it benefits men, but not when it benefits women and children.

Dr. Muhammad Khalid Masud is the Director General of Islamic Research Institute, International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan. Formerly he was Chairman (2004 – 2010) of the Council of Islamic Ideology in Pakistan. After reviewing divorce laws both in his home country and in the Quran – an excellent article – he concludes that opposition to reform in Pakistan fails to take into account social changes and suffering of young wives; women must be given the right to divorce.

"Opposition to reform in divorce laws today fails to take into consideration the social changes in contemporary family settings. They do not take into account the suffering of young wives in growing number of forced marriages mostly arranged against their consent.  They disregard also a large number of unhappy marriages in which wives undergo serious emotional problems and complexes, often due to uneducated husbands of more educated wives. It causes frictions mostly to the disadvantage of the wives. In most of these unhappy marriages parents and family members do not really appreciate the severity of tension between the couple when they advise the young wives to be patient and adjusting. Unhappy marriages are responsible for the increasing domestic violence in our society, which borders on criminal offences like acid throwing, burning and murder." [45]

Then Dr. Masud adds that gender equality before the law must be updated in Pakistan:

"Unfortunately, our family system is no longer helpful in addressing the problems of failing marriages. Families tend to be either a source or part of the conflict as they insist on traditional methods of reconciliation, namely, obliging the wife to be patient and obedient. Patience and obedience may prolong an unhappy marriage but cannot reduce the sufferings of partners in marriage unless reconciliation addresses the root causes of unhappiness. Divorce laws often do not recognise the most basic root cause of unhappy marriage, i.e., inequality in the rights of divorce. Wife’s right of divorce can be an effective deterrent against the whimsical and irresponsible divorces by the husbands. This inequality is rooted in the ancient notion that marriage is a sacred bond, which cannot be dissolved. Islam reformed that taboo long time ago, but the social norms still regard it as a stigma. It is only recently that the legal systems in the world have begun to treat marriage as a civil contract, which could be terminated when it fails to serve its objectives.  Basic rights like owning property and voting were allowed to European women as recently as in the twentieth century. Gender equality is an idea introduced in the world by Human Rights declaration. In Pakistan, these are the local conservative social prejudices, and foreign legal constructs that militate against the rights of women given the Qur’an." [46]

Muslim women in India are pushing for reform of divorce laws, reports the New York Times:

"Zeenat Shaukat Ali, a professor of Islamic Studies at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai and the author of 'Marriage and Divorce in Islam,' is blunt in her assessment of the current situation.
'We are asking for codification of the legal system within the framework of Koranic law,' she said. 'The Koran does not support a system that is controlled by the patriarchy, and the government has to treat this matter on a war footing if they truly mean to bring about gender justice.'
The changes that women’s organizations have been discussing for more than a decade — with major meetings held across India over the last three years — include the compulsory registration of marriages with the state, the abolition of the triple talaq [divorce] on the grounds that violates the Koran and the establishment of a more reliable system of financial support for wives.
'There is no political will to change this law even though we are a secular democratic republic,' said Ms. Ali. 'Politicians refuse to move ahead because some males have objected.'" [47]

Ms. Shaukat Ali mischaracterizes the Quran (Koran) when she says it does not “support a system that is controlled by the patriarchy.” Even Muslim feminists recognize that it does. Their goal is to set aside the obvious patriarchy and reinterpret the Quran, not pretend the patriarchy does not exist.

To wrap up this section, in a few years these excerpts from modern Muslims, both traditional and reformer, will seem outdated. However, the main point is still clear: Islam is undergoing a struggle. But we should not be naïve. The traditionalists are far ahead because they have 1,400 years of the Quran, the traditions, Islamic law, commentaries, and history to back them up. Islam is an extremely conservative religion, so it is difficult, even loathe to reform.


More to the point, despite the best efforts of the moderates, the traditional divorce and remarriage laws still dominate Islamic societies.

So let’s review them, comparing them with progressive societies.

It is true in modern societies that in extreme and rare cases an irresponsible couple can divorce and remarry each other over and over again, but extreme cases make bad law for all of society. They should not ruin the opportunity of genuine reconciliation from a spirit of true love in a responsible couple. The pair should not be punished by the bad faith of a few irresponsible ones.

Here are the key boiled-down differences between a progressive society and a sharia-based society, in divorce and remarriage of the original divorced couple.

The differences in the following list assume the couple’s search to get back together is sincere and genuine, not irresponsible.

Modern Society:

  1. Divorce is finalized only by the court’s written decree.
  2. Reconciliation and remarriage of the couple is allowed without legal or personal hindrance, if they so choose.

Islamic Society:

  1. Divorce can be irrevocably finalized by the husband’s correctly and thrice-spoken words (“you are divorced”) outside of the court.
  2. The court verifies his already legally binding divorce. The court cannot reverse it.
  3. Before reconciliation of the original couple can take place, her marriage to another man is commanded.
  4. The new couple’s sexual consummation of the marriage is required.
  5. The second man’s divorce of her can be irrevocably finalized by his correctly and thrice-spoken words (“you are divorced”) outside of the court.
  6. The court verifies his already legally binding divorce. The court cannot reverse it.
  7. Only now is reconciliation and remarriage of the original couple allowed, if they so choose.


In modern society, divorce is a tragedy. Something went wrong with the marriage and relationship. But modern divorce laws allow for reconciliation of the couple, even after the divorce, without hindrance or the intervening step of her marrying a second man, having sex, and his divorcing her.

Even in an honest scenario among couples, this dishonors marriage, ultimately. It forces yet a second divorce between the wife and another man, on the road to a possible reconciliation of the original couple. Putting roadblocks between the husband and wife who got divorced before they can reconcile is confusing and destructive of the institution of marriage, which is built on reconciliation and forgiveness.

Thus, even if we assume that pre-Islamic seventh-century Arabs divorced and remarried their wives “virtually at will,” to quote Qutb, the Quran’s reform did not improve things by much. The intervening steps of her marriage to a second man, their sexual relations, and his divorcing her may limit careless divorces and remarriages, but the steps certainly do not fit into modern society if a couple worked out their differences and wished to remarry after a divorce. It may ruin any chance of reconciliation.

The muta marriage was included in this chapter because some Islamic sects still permit it (and Muhammad himself permitted it for a while). But it does cheapen marriage, if the man is able to divorce his “wife” after a few days or even a few weeks or months. It further shows that original Islam absorbed its surrounding culture, but canceled the marriage arrangement because the early Muslim leaders were in the process of reforming matters. This shows progress back then. Can modern Muslims continue to progress today?

Another drawback in the Islamic system as it is currently configured, without reform so far, is that it puts too much power in the hands of the husband, who can initiate a legally binding divorce outside of the court of law. It may be true, for example, that a husband must not speak the divorce three times in irrational anger, for then the divorce is not counted. But how does the judge measure or interpret the heat of irrational anger when he does not witness it? Once the judge interviews the couple and determines that the husband said the right words (“you are divorced”) and with the right intention, the divorce is absolute and irrevocable, even if the husband regrets it. No Islamic judge can overturn it without disobeying clear Quranic law.

Quran 2:229 says and the traditions and classical law confirm that a wife may opt to buy her way out marriage – to initiate a divorce. This is called the khula divorce. But the husband must consent and execute it, and she must give back her bridal gift. So that is not the way to fight for women’s rights. The best way to fight for marriage rights is to set aside these laws, for they come from seventh-century patriarchal culture and have an expiration date – back then.

Islam’s (supposed) improvement on its original surrounding culture of the seventh century should not apply to modern society. We can have counseling; Islam can too. We can have either the husband or wife initiate divorce if the counseling breaks down; Islam can too, but only in rare cases for the wife. But we do not allow the husband to finalize a legally binding divorce outside of a court of law; yet Islam allows it. And we allow immediate and unhindered reconciliation after a divorce, without the wife’s second marriage, sex, and divorce; Islam cannot allow that, unless it reforms and sets aside the Quran and hadith.

Islamic divorce and remarriage laws are much too complicated and archaic for us today. Not pointing this out would be a dereliction of our duty to maintain justice and our way of life.

Most important, the life and liberty of the institution of marriage is put at risk if modern judges in progressive societies permit Islamic laws on divorce and remarriage of the original couple to be admitted into the courtroom, even in a court of arbitration. Instead of submitting to Islam or allowing its laws to be binding, we should be encouraging it to reform and be updated, setting aside the legal commandments in the Quran. [48]

This article first appeared at Jihad Watch on August 17, 2012, but has been updated here.


[1] M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, the Quran, 2nd ed., (New York: Oxford UP, 2010). The bracketed comments are his. If readers would like to see various translations of the Quran, they may go to the website quranbrowser.com and type in the references.

[2] Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, Introduction to the book of divorce, Sahih Muslim, 4 vols., (Lahore, Pakistan: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1992). The hadith are searchable online at the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, under the aegis of the University of Southern California.

[3] Bukhari, Divorce, 007.063.187, with small mechanical adjustments.

[4] Ibid. 007.063.249, with small mechanical adjustments.

[5] Ibid. 007.063.190, with small mechanical adjustments.

[6] Ibid. 007.063.188, with small mechanical adjustments. My comments are brackets; the parenthetical comments are the translator’s.

[7] Ibid. Marriage, 007.0062.052, with slight mechanical adjustments. The parenthetical notes are the translator’s.

[8] Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, Introduction to the book of divorce, Sahih Muslim. The translator’s comments are in parentheses; mine are in brackets.

[9] Bukhari, Divorce, 007.063.197 (see also 198). My insertion is in brackets; the translator’s insertions are in parentheses.

[10] Ibid. 007.063.199.

[11] Ibn Rushd, The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, vol. 2, trans. Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee (Reading: Garnet, 1996), 103-04, with slight mechanical adjustments.

[12] Ahmad Ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveler: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, rev. ed. trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Beltsville, Maryland: Amana, 1994), 673.

[13] Imam Muhammad, The Muwatta of Imam Muhammad, trans. Mohammed Abdurrahman, Abdassamad Clarke, and Asadullah Yate (London: Turath, 2004), 254, with slight mechanical adjustments. The first bracketed comment is the translators’; the second is mine.

[14] Ibid. 2.66-67. The bracketed note is mine; the ones in parentheses are the translator’s.

[15] Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveler: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, rev. ed., trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller, (Beltsville, Maryland: Amana, 1994), 552. The comments by “A” are those of Sheikh Abd al-Wakil Durubi; the comments labeled “O” are those of Sheikh Umar Barakat; and the comments labeled “N” are added by Sheikh Nuh Ali Salman (b. 1939), who resides in Amman, Jordan.

[16] Malik ibn Anas, Al-Muwatta of Imam Malik ibn Anas: The First Formation of Islamic Law rev. ed., trans. Aisha Bewley, Inverness, Scotland: Madina Press, 1989, 2001), 29.3.10, with slight mechanical adjustments. This law book is also available at the ahadith.co.uk.

[17] Ibn Rushd, Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, vol. 2, 79, with a few mechanical adjustments; the comment in brackets are mine. The parenthetical ones are the translator’s.

[18] Ibid. vol. 2, 80. The words in brackets are the translator’s.

[19] Ibid. vol. 2, 81. My insertions are in brackets; the translator’s is in parentheses.

[20] Malik, Muwatta, 29.17.45-46, with slight mechanical adjustments.

[21] Ibid. 29.26.72, with slight mechanical adjustments.

[22] Reliance, 561, with slight mechanical adjustments.

[23] Ibn Rushd, ibid., 67-68, with slight mechanical adjustments. The comments in brackets are mine

[24] Sayyid Qutb, In the Shade of the Quran, vol. 2, rev. ed., trans. and ed. Adil Salahi and Ashur Shamis (Markfield: The Islamic Foundation, 2003), 359 and 364. The comments in brackets are mine.

[25] Bukhari, Dress, 7.5825.

[26] Qutb, In the Shade, vol. 2, 363.

[27] Sayyid A’La Abul Maududi, The Meaning of the Qur’an, 4th ed., vol. 1, trans. Ch. Muhammad Akbar and ed. A. A. Kamal, (Lahore, Pakistan: Islamic Publications, 2003), 167, note 250. His translation and commentary are available online at englishtafsir.com.

[28] Ibid. note 250.

[29] Ibid. note 250. The comment in brackets is Maududi’s.

[30] Ibid. note 250, my comments in brackets.

[31] Sheikh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid, “He Divorced over the Phone Three Times,” Fatwa no. 147987. The parenthetical comments are original.

[32] Ibid. “He Divorced Her Officially and Irrevocably, and Now He Wants to Go Back to Her,” Fatwa no. 142683, with small mechanical adjustments. The word in brackets is mine; the parenthetical comments are the sheikh’s.

[33] Salah Al-Sawy, “Procedures of Divorce,” Question ID or fatwa no. 79977, amjaonline.com, September 15, 2009. My comments are in brackets; Al-Sawy’s are in parentheses.

[34] Idem, “Three Divorces,” Question ID or fatwa no. 79736, amjaonline.com, August 8, 2009. I inserted the comments in brackets.

[35] Idem, “Divorcing Thrice at Once,” Question ID or fatwa no. 78418, amjaonline.com, March 31, 2009.

[36] Jamaal Zarabozo, “What Do I Do to Keep My wife after an Islamic Divorce?” Question ID or fatwa no. 85735, amjaonline.com, October 22, 2011, with minor mechanical adjustments.

[37] Main Khalid al-Qudah, “Divorced in the Court, But My Husband Would Not Divorce Me through the Mosque!” Question ID or fatwa no. 83698, February 5, 2011, amjaonline.com, which minor mechanical changes.

[38] Main Khalid al-Qudah, “Forced to Divorce 2nd Wife by the First One,” Question ID or fatwa no. 82933, amjaonline.com, October 23, 2010, with minor mechanical adjustments. The bracketed insertions are mine.

[39] Main Khalid al-Qudah, “Three Divorces in One Sitting,” Question ID or fatwa no. 82931, amjaonline.com, October 23, 2010, with minor mechanical changes.

[40] Main Khalid al-Qudah, “ ************” Question ID or fatwa no. 81630, amjaonline.com, April 24, 2012.

[41] Salah al-Sawy, “I Don’t Love My Husband,” Question ID or fatwa no. 77874, amjaonline.com, February 17, 2009. All emphases and parenthetical comments are original.

[42] Main Khalid Al-Qudah, “Clarification on Questions about Divorce,” Question ID or fatwa no. 10, amjaonline.com, Nov. 27, 2007, with small adjustments. If readers would like a brief review of divorce, then click on that link or go to amjaonline.com and search fatwa no. 10. Highly recommended.

[43] Harun Yahya, “The Eminence Islam Attaches to Women,” Muslimwomensleague.org, no date.

[44] Sisters in Islam, “SMS Divorce Does Not Conform to the Quranic Principle of Ihsan (Kindness),” sistersinislam.org, January 21, 2010.

[45] Muhammad Khalid Muhsan, “Interpreting Divorce Laws in Pakistan,” maruf.org, May 1, 2011. This article is highly recommended for its brevity and clarity.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Nilanjana S. Roy, “Muslim Women in India Seek Gender Equality,” nytimes.com, April 24, 2012, with small mechanical adjustments. The word in brackets is mine.

[48] This series of articles does not contrast Christianity and Islam. But readers may be curious about it. If so, this article explains the differences on marriage and divorce, mainly written by Sam Shamoun.

James M. Arlandson, Ph.D., has written the book:
Women, Class, and Society in Early Christianity.
He has also written the 17 part series:
Islamic Sharia Law: Its Origins, Development, and Application Today
and the 12 part series:
The Sword in Early Christianity and Islam
as well as numerous other articles.

Articles in the Series

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