145. What did Jesus and Mohammed teach about divorce?

Jesus taught his disciples about divorce in Matthew chapter 5 verses 31-32. Jesus said: ‘You have heard that law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her written notice of divorce. But I say that a man who divorces his wife unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.’ Then in Matthew 19 verses 3, 7-12 the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked the question: ‘Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason? Why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?’ they asked. Jesus replied: ‘Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery – unless his wife has been unfaithful.’ Then Jesus’ disciples said to him: ‘If this is the case, its better not to marry?’ ‘Not everyone can accept this statement,’ Jesus said, ‘Only those who God helps. Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

Many people have the misconception that a married Muslim man can dissolve his marriage at any time by saying to his wife: ‘Talaq, talaq, talaq’ on one occasion of his own free will and desire. (‘Talaq’ means ‘I divorce you.’).

After the solemnisation of marriage between the parties, if some marital problems arise, the husband may divorce his wife. The question is how he divorces his wife, and whether pronouncement of divorce three times on one occasion is valid. The surah related to divorce, surah 65 Al Talaq ayat 1-2 states: ‘O Prophet! When you do divorce women, divorce them at their prescribed periods, and count (accurately) their prescribed periods: And fear Allâh your Lord: and turn them not out of their houses, nor shall they (themselves) leave, except in case they are guilty of some open lewdness. Those are limits sit by Allâh: And any who transgresses the limits of Allâh, does verily wrong his (own) soul: You know not if perchance Allâh will bring about some new situation: Thus when they fulfill their term appointed, either take them back on equitable terms, or part with them on equitable terms, then; and take for witness two persons from among you, endure justice, and establish the evidence as before Allâh. Such is the admonition given to him who believes in Allâh and the last Day. And for those who fear Allâh, He prepares a way out.’

Zeenat Shaukat Ali, Professor of Islâmic Studies St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai published an article in the ‘Indian Express’ with title: ‘Divorce, Divorce, Divorce.’ He attempted to clear up misconceptions by Muslims and others about the triple pronouncement of Talaq. The main points in his article were:

  1. Talaq and divorce are strongly condemned within Islâm but he provided no sources for this stance.
  2. In the case of difficulties within a marriage that the husband and wife cannot solve by themselves, each shall appoint an arbitrator or conciliator to resolve the matter. This is mentioned in the Qur’an surah 4 Al Nisa ayah 35: ‘If the fear Shiqaq (breach) between the Twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family, and other from hers, if they wish for peace, Allâh will cause their reconciliation.’
  3. TALAQ-UL-BIDDAT or triple TALAQ: It is important to understand that the word “biddat” itself means disapproval or something the Prophet of Islâm never did or recommended.
  4. Caliph ’Umar legitimised this form of divorce as an emergency measure.

Most Muslims believe that there shall be an interval of one month between each ‘talaqa’ pronouncement. If the during these pronouncements, the wife disobeys the lawful order of her husband, he may divorce her. During this time of breach they should take measures to reconcile by themselves or with the help of their relatives etc. All efforts as provided in the Qur’an and Sunna should be made to avoid a breach of the marriage.

The triple pronouncement of ‘talaq’ has been ‘…banned by law in many nations, including Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. India still permits it.’ In all such countries arbitration councils and judicial interventions have been introduced to promote reconciliation.

Offices staffed by female police are being established in Punjab state, India to redress grievances, particularly by married women. These facilities promote arbitration to help reconcile the couple. When all efforts fail, the matter is referred for investigation and later to the court for a trial.

It is hoped that people of the Islâmic faith will learn from the above information on divorce, and become aware of the controversial practice within Muslim marriages of the triple pronouncement of ‘talaq’ on one occasion which is regarded as Un-Islâmic and Un-Qur’anic. Avoiding that practice will create proper respect, honor and adoption of the Holy Qur’an and Sunna (observing the path) of the Prophet of Islâm, Mohammad.