WE CONTINUE LAYING out how the Quran directs us to deal with a situation heading for divorce and how the couple are to proceed righteously in exploring whether they really need to break up their marriage, and if so, how this is to be done with the least harm to all parties.
How Better to Divorce: Direct Action vs. Step by Step (continued)
- If even this second step–of bringing in the relatives of both husband and wife– proves to be ineffective, and there appears to be no sign of reunion, then the husband can use his right of effecting a divorce. It should not be enacted hurriedly, but after about three months so that the couple may have time to clear-headedly revise or retreat from the decision. Here are the Quranic steps: The declaration of divorce should be announced three times, one by one, once during each new time when the wife is again in a ‘state of purity’ (when she is clean after her menstrual period) and the husband had not had sexual intercourse with her. That means that effecting divorce is not permitted during her menstrual period.
So then, the wife has to complete a probationary waiting period that is three menstrual periods or three ‘states of purity.’ As the Quran states:
…divorce them for [the commencement of] their waiting period and keep count of the waiting period. [Sûrat AlṬalâq, 65:1]
Divorced women remain in waiting for three periods. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:228]
The All-knowing Allah mandates a waiting interval before one can finalize the divorce-in-progress–so as for it to be identified whether or not she is pregnant. Here are some variants of this situation:
- Or, so that the person(s) concerned can rethink and revise the effects of the divorce and so that he may retreat from their decision. So, the wife who has regular menstrual periods should wait for her period of ʿidda to be completed, that is, for three menstrual periods.
- But the wife who has no menstrual flow is to wait for three lunar months to pass. Such of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the prescribed period, if ye have any doubts, is three months, and for those who have no courses [it is the same]… [Sûrat AlṬalâq, 65:4].
- Or, the wife who is pregnant shall wait until she gives birth. For those who carry [life within their wombs], their period is until they deliver their burdens: And for those who fear Allah, He will make their path easy [Sûrat AlṬalâq, 65:4].
- Or, in the case of the wife who has contracted her marriage but has not yet had sexual intercourse, she has no waiting period. O ye who believe! When ye marry believing women, and then divorce them before ye have touched them, no period of ʿidda 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].
After the completion of the wife’s first state of purity, the second declaration of intention to divorce can be allowed in the next state of purity. Thus the third and final declaration will be declared only in the third state of purity. Within the duration of the first and second declaration time periods, the husband has the right to cancel the divorce and take back his wife, or if the husband and the wife have had sexual intercourse within this period, then the divorce process will be invalidated.
The third announcement of the intent to divorce will be the final step needed to complete the divorce, and if the third period passes without the husband’s renewed declaration to finalize the divorce, he will then lose the right to take back his wife and to resume their marital relationship. After finishing the ʿiddah of the three declarations (or three menstrual periods), the divorce will take effect. The Quran instructs our ummah to accomplish this procedure in a rightful and acceptable manner,
And when you divorce women and they have [nearly] fulfilled their term, either retain them according to acceptable terms or release them according to acceptable terms. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:231]
It also strongly cautions the husband not to be dictatorial, headstrong, and transgressive about his prerogative. The Quran warns:
And do not take the verses of Allah in jest. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:231]
Furthermore, the procedure of divorce shall be carried out in the presence of two just witnesses to avoid further uncertainty and lack of closure. It is stated:
And call to witness two just men among you. [Sûrat AlṬalâq, 65:2]
- Until finalizing the divorce and ending the waiting period, the husband must not oust his wife from his house or shelter, but he shall maintain her in her needs as a wife. In addition, the wife should not take it upon herself to leave residing in his house. The Quran warns not to transgress such limits of Allah: 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] Allah [Sûrah AlṬalâq, 65:1].
It again commands the man to give her a place to live and he must not torture or abuse her in any form–physical or mental. As it is stated:
Lodge them [in a section] of where you dwell out of your means and do not harm them in order to oppress them. [Sûrat AlṬalâq, 65:6]
During that time, the husband who does any evil against the wife will be marked as a sinner. As stated:
…and do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress [against them]. And whoever does that has certainly wronged himself. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:231]
- If the wife is pregnant, the husband shall bear all expenditures until she gives birth. He is obliged even to cover the cost of providing for the newborn child and its mother–food, clothing, wet-nursing, if applicable–during the breastfeeding period, and in the most acceptable way. The mothers shall give suck to their offspring for two whole years, if the father desires to complete the term. But he shall bear the cost of their food and clothing on equitable terms. No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear. No mother shall be treated unfairly on account of her child, nor father on account of his child; an heir shall be chargeable in the same way. If they both decide on weaning by mutual consent, and after due consultation, [then] there is no blame on them. If ye decide on a foster-mother for your offspring, there is no blame on you provided ye pay [the foster-mother] what ye offered on equitable terms. But fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what ye do [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:233]. And: Let the women live [in ʿiddah] in the same style as ye live according to your means; annoy them not, so as to restrict them. And if they carry [life in their wombs], then spend [your substance] on them until they deliver their burden: and if they suckle your [offspring], give them their recompense: and take mutual counsel together, according to what is just and reasonable. And if ye find yourselves in difficulties, let another woman suckle [the child] on the [father’s] behalf. [Sûrat AlṬalâq, 65:6]
- Besides the above provisions, a wife, too, has the right to divorce her husband in the form of “khula.” If she faces some unavoidable problem from her husband, she can make a good agreement with her husband to break their marriage. Allah says: And if a woman fears from her husband contempt or evasion, there is no sin upon them if they make terms of settlement between them – and settlement is best. And present in [human] souls is stinginess. But if you do well and fear Allah – then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, acquainted [Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:128].
To be continued, inshâ’Allah...