Regulations on Divorce: Biblical Perspectives vs. the Qur’anic Program (3)

IN PARTS 1 and 2 we looked at the sparse representation of regulations on divorce in the Judeo-Christian Bible (Old Testament and New Testament). Their marriage is based upon faithfulness of the man and the woman to each other, and divorce is all but forbidden.

We know that in Islam, God hates divorce. Accordingly He has made the process of divorce an arduous one, in which social and psychological factors are designed to conspire against a successful breaking of the marriage relationship. The Quran has a program through which one must pass if he or she is intent upon breaking the bond. Letting off the steam of one’s frustration with one’s spouse in a healthful manner may be the path towards repairing a broken marital rapport. If divorce does occur, the separated parties and their child are given rights for maintaining all in a compassionate and just way.

We continue with the details of Qur’anic divorce regulations, showing how they better serve the individual and society than do their Biblical counterpart.

Effects of Divorce: Chain of Adulterers vs. Helping Hand

The command of the New Testament is that without the cause of adultery none must be given divorce. If one does so, he will initiate a chain of adulterers.

For adulterers the Bible commands the death sentence. (See Deuteronomy 22:13-30)

Firstly, the partner who is victim of a divorce will likely become an adulterer.

[Jesus said,] “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ … “It was also said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce.’ But now I tell you: if a man divorces his wife, even though she has not been unfaithful, then he is guilty of making her commit adultery if she marries again; and the man who marries her commits adultery also. (Matthew 5:27, 31-32)

Secondly, the person who will marry the divorcee will likewise be considered as an adulterer.

[Jesus said,] “Any man who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery; and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. ” (Luke 16:18)

Thirdly, if the divorce-giver marries another spouse, then he or she will also become an adulterer.

[Jesus] said to them, “A man who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against his wife.  In the same way, a woman who divorces her husband and marries another man commits adultery. (Mark 10:11-12)

(See also Matthew 19:3-9)

These statements reported of Jesus mean that one divorce followed by one or more remarriage can result in a chain of adulterers. Besides that, the Old Testament makes the wife helpless. After divorce, the divorced wife has no right to get anything and she shall go to her father’s home or elsewhere. The divorce arrangement doesn’t need to prescribe any assistance for the divorced wife.

By contrast, the Quran does not suggest a chain of adultery as implied in the New Testament, nor does it make the divorced wife helpless as in the Old Testament. Rather, the Quran sets out a program to assist her so that she may get equitable and just treatment in her financial affairs and social status. For example:

  • During the departure of the divorced wife, the husband is obliged to leave her provided with acceptable means–not by taking away anything that she has been given — even if that is “a great amount.” Regarding this issue Allah warns: Even if ye have given the latter a whole treasure for dower, take not the least bit of it back; would you take it in injustice and manifest sin? [Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:20].In fact, the husband is bound to give her financial assistance. It is obligatory for him to help her by financing what she needs. Such as when the Quran says:And for divorced women is a provision according to what is acceptable – a duty upon the righteous. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:241]
  • It is imperative that the husband give a gift of compensation–in proportion to his capability–to the wife with whom he has not consummated his marriage and with whom he has not agreed to a specified dowry. There is no blame on you if ye divorce women before consummation or the fixation of their dower; but bestow on them [a suitable gift]… [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:236].O ye who believe! When ye marry believing women, and then divorce them before ye have touched them, no period of ¢idda have ye to count in respect of them; so give them a present, and set them free in a handsome manner [Sûrat Al-Aḥzâb, 33:49].
  • It is also ordered that he give half of the agreed upon dowry amount to the wife whose dowry is specified but with whom he has not yet consummated their marriage: And if ye divorce them before consummation, but after the fixation of a dower for them, then the half of the dower [is due to them], unless they remit it of [the man’s half] is remitted by him in whose hands is the marriage tie; and the remission [of the man’s half] is the nearest to righteousness and do not forget liberality between yourselves.  For Allah sees well all that ye do [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:237].
  • After the divorce, the husband must not create any obstacle against the wife such that she might feel a problem like being insulted in society or being barred from marrying another man. Regarding this matter, the Quran even commands:Do not prevent them from remarrying their [former] husbands if they agree among themselves on an acceptable basis. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:232]

Separation: Remain Unmarried vs. Taking Concrete Decision

In some cases, it is seen that a couple maintains separation instead of going to the way of divorce. Regarding this issue, the Bible (New Testament) gives permission for a wife to do that conditionally–and if she does so, she must not remarry another man and must remain single; or else she has to reconcile to her husband. It prohibits the husband from turning a separation into divorce, saying:

A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. (The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians 7:10-11)

But the Qur’anic view is different from the biblical permission. It permits, if necessary, a man to be separated from marital relations with his wife, but the duration of the separation must not exceed four months. The Quran commands:

For those who swear not to have sexual relations with their wives there is a waiting time of four months. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:226]

This separation should not cause a barrier to natural human life. So Allah makes a direction that within this period, they–husband and wife–have to take a decision whether they will return to their normal relations. In this context, if they want to be reconciled, the Quran declares:

Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:226]

Or, if they want to divorce, it also announces:

Allah is Hearing and Knowing. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:227]

Remarrying the Divorced Wife: Forbidden Forever vs. Conditionally Acceptable

The instructions of the Bible and the Quran are not similar in the case of the divorced wife, as to whether she can remarry her ex-husband. The Bible (Old Testament) clearly and unconditionally prohibits such remarriage, forever warning:

Then suppose she marries another man, and he also decides that he doesn’t want her, so he also writes out divorce papers, gives them to her, and sends her away from his home. Or suppose her second husband dies.  In either case, her first husband is not to marry her again; he is to consider her defiled. If he married her again, it would be offensive to the Lord…. (Deuteronomy 24:2-4)

The Biblical prophet, Jeremiah, also proclaims that God prohibits such remarriage.

The Lord says: “If a man divorces his wife, and she leaves him and becomes another man’s wife, he cannot take her back again…” (Jeremiah 3:1)

On the contrary, the Quran permits a man to remarry the divorced wife conditionally. If she marries another man and gets a divorce from him, only then can she be remarried to her ex-husband. Responding to this scenario, the Quran rules:

There is no blame upon the woman and her former husband for returning to each other if they think that they can keep [within] the limits of Allah. (Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:230)

To be continued, inshâ’Allah

 

 

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