Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Islamic Verbal Divorce: The bizarre practice of 'Triple Talaq'

"Divorce may be pronounced twice; then the wife may either be kept back in fairness or allowed to separate in fairness." (Al Baqarah 229)

"And the divorced women (after the pronouncement of the divorce) must wait for three monthly courses (menstruation)... and their husbands are fully entitled to take them back (as their wives) during this waiting period, if they desire reconciliation." (Al Baqarah 228)

"Then, if the husband divorces his wife (for the third time), she shall not remain lawful for him after this divorce, unless she marries another husband..." (Al-Baqarah : 230)

"When you marry the believing women, and then divorce them before you have touched them, they do not have to fulfill a waiting period, the completion of which you may demand of them." (Al-Ahzab : 49)

"And if those of you who die, leave wives behind, the women should abstain (from marriage) for four months and ten days." (Al-Baqarah 234)

Source: http://www.searchtruth.com/tafsir/Quran/65/index.html


"Talaq-i-Bid'ah means innovated (or sinful) form of Divorce. It is defined as a divorce which is pronounced thrice in one sitting when the wife is in the state of purity (tuhr), i.e., when man says: "I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you."  The Hanafis believe that though this form of divorce is sinful and innovative, it is nevertheless valid and divorce will take place.  According to the Hanafis when triple divorce is pronounced, the wife will become totally alienated from the husband and he cannot remarry her.  She becomes haram (totally prohibited) for him.  Neither can he take her back nor can he go for fresh nikah with her. He can go for nikah with her only after she marries another person and that person divorces her on account of marital conflict or she becomes a widow.

According to Maulana 'Umar Ahmad 'Usmani this is the position of not only Abu Hanifa but also of Imam Malik and Shafi'i. Imam Shafi'i says this form of divorce is perfectly valid.  It is not innovation (bid'ah).  It is quite proper on the part of the husband to pronounce such a divorce.  No husband can be prevented from adopting a valid course.  Even Imam Ahmad Hanbal's position is the same as that of Imam Hanifa and Imam Malik.  Thus it 'seems that all major founders of four schools of jurisprudence accept the validity of triple divorce.'"

"In the Qur'an, nikah (marriage) is described as misaqan ghaliza, i.e., strong bond and has explained how and with whom one can enter into this strong bond and this strong bond cannot be dissolved without proper reason and method.  It certainly cannot be dissolved whimsically.  A man has to pass through different stages to bring about reconciliation either by persuading his wife to behave properly, or by appointing arbitrators as per Qur'anic injunctions (4:35).  If all this fail only then recourse can be taken to divorce. "

-Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
President, Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.


So what is the deal with this triple divorce stuff? It seems as casual as ordering a triple scoop of vanilla Ice cream or something. Like all things religious, people can't exactly agree...to just how favourable this form of verbal divorce is, where a man simply says 'I divorce you' three times (in one sitting, vs. two sittings, vs. three sittings), and the deed is done. It seems there is disagreement as to how much time he should wait between each time of saying 'I divorce you', probably as a measure to avoid on-the-spot divorces from happening during fights or disagreements. Some argue whether you should utter the words once or thrice. 

Minor details, point is - pretty much most schools of Islamic thought agree that a verbal divorce is valid once you've uttered the words under the conditions they find favourable. With enough loopholes and vagueness to argue one's way out if thats what the man later desires. Notice of course that this convenient ability of on the spot verbal divorces is only granted to *man*. But oh no no, dissolving marriage isn't whimsical at all...just that it depends entirely on the whims of 'the man'. 

It just so happens the Quran is generally addressed to men. Women are addressed indirectly, through what men should tell them to do. Sure some will argue that 'mankind' or whatever refers to everyone, and that in some instances maybe, if you squint your eyes the Quran is addressing women directly. The quote I shared above is a perfect example of how the Quran addresses women through men

"And if those of you who die, leave wives behind, the women should abstain (from marriage) for four months and ten days." (Al-Baqarah 234)

Also in the paragraphs I shared above, you can see how women are treated as objects, at mercy of their husband's will. 

"A man has to pass through different stages to bring about reconciliation either by persuading his wife to behave properly"

"Persuade" her to behave properly indeed: 

It is often cited as a good thing that a man is given several stages, before he can resort to beating her. Even as a last resort, this is outright misogyny, abuse. So I can't say that the one way triple-verbal-divorce surprises me. And in an ideal Islamic society, where everything is set up to make the woman dependant on the man and most vulnerable...she truly is at his mercy. He can divorce her by uttering words, he can marry other women while being married to her, he can strike her...

It sounds ridiculous that adults could believe uttering something as meaningless as beetlejuice or 'bloody Mary' is going to have real world consequences. That's how I see it, it may be how you see it...but we can't possibly begin to imagine the fear it evokes in women who's real lives can actually be affected by this utterance. 

This recent Guardian piece explains it well, and cites some truly awful examples:  

“All Muslim women are haunted by this word,” Nisa said. “During fights, I used to argue back but if it got too heated, I stopped because I was frightened my husband might say talaq.”

In India, which has a Muslim minority, Muslim men have sent triple talaq by text, email, Facebook, Skype and WhatsApp. The reasons vary from not liking the wife’s dyed hair to her cooking.
At a civil court, Nisa was told by a judge that the instant divorce was valid as it was permitted to Muslim men under Muslim personal law, or the sharia.
Its incredibly upsetting to hear that Muslim men get this verbal divorce ability granted to them, because 'religion'. Equality under the law seems to be slipping through our fingers especially because of cultural and religious relativism. 
Now that we have the technologically updated version of 'triple talaq', we've got things like whatsapp and facebook divorces!? For fuck's sake. This should be unacceptable to anyone with half a brain, let alone courts and judges. 
I received this story from a reader recently...breaks my heart to think that women live in such fear. 
Dear Eiynah,
My story is about my parents. My father is old and in hospital, suffering from several illnesses including dementia. My mother brings him food and visits him often, but he isn't always in a lucid state. Sometimes he has random fits of rage and gets really angry with her for no reason at all. As a good Muslim wife she's spent her entire life serving him and treating him with respect. They haven't had a relationship as equals, ever. Now that he is ill and not in his senses most of the time, the dynamic has shifted in the sense that she is not dependent on him but vice versa, still she is intimidated by the idea that he has more power in their relationship as a man, because of how Islam has commanded a husband/wife relationship to be.
The other day I received a call from her. She was very upset on the phone and crying, I asked what was wrong and she told me that during one of his unpredictable outbursts (which are caused by dementia, as well as all the medication he takes) - he started saying he wanted to divorce her. He was babbling and clearly not making sense, he wasn't in his senses and also under the influence of medication, but he said it twice (probably not even with the intention of triple talaq, he was just mad, inexplicably and so venting frustration this way). My mother, with a quivering voice told me she ran out of the hospital room, and left the hospital, rushed home as fast as she could because she was afraid he'd utter 'talaq' for the third time. I calmed her down and convinced her that it didn't count because he is not in his senses, obviously. It upsets me to think that she is worried about this, As an Atheist myself (my parents don't know) I obviously don't believe in this stuff. But the only way to explain it to my mom is in religious terms. So I tried to talk her down, but later learned that she even went and consulted some ultra religious people she knows, just to make sure she hadn't been suddenly divorced because her husband has dementia and doesn't know what he's saying half the time. A simple trip to visit him at the hospital resulted in so much trauma for my mother. And its easy to say she shouldn't believe in such nonsense, but this is all she's ever known in her life.

When I'd calmed her down on the phone, I did have a laugh and tease her a little bit, because come on, it was kind of funny how she took it so seriously. She laughed along with me, and i hope it eased her worry. But I wish she'd truly consider how illogical such beliefs are. We live in theWest, in a country where divorce is obviously not accepted if its just verbal, still she was seriously worried.

So that's my story, I just wanted to share what kinds of effects religion can have on marriage, relationships, illness. 


Wow :( I'm sorry to hear about this story, but glad you cheered your mom up after and joked about it. Power to the Muslim women fighting against this archaic practice.

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  1. How sad and distressing for the letter writer and their mom. Sounds like they did a great job comforting the mom.
    Many dementia sufferers say things they'd never say when well.
    I still giggle when remembering one visit to my dad where he told me the nurse looking after him "wouldn't let me touch her tits".

  2. I've gotten a legal divorce from my husband here in the U.S. one year ago (my decision- there was a lot of emotional abuse during the 23 years we were married). He remarried a few months ago and yet, he refuses to give me an Islamic divorce. He keeps telling me that I cannot marry again because I'm still Islamically married to him. Other Muslims in town agree with him. Honestly, the only way I see is to turn my back on religion altogether so I can live an actual life. I've ended up just leaving the Muslim community as a whole. I spent the last 20 years being "friends" with these people - what waste!!!!

    1. I'm sorry to hear this :( This is what religion does to good people, it makes them turn their backs on you if they think you are breaking the 'code' ....i think the decision to be free of religion is an excellent one. And I think you'll find it quite liberating. Good luck, and enjoy life! xx

    2. I am not sure about the U.S, but a Muslim woman can file for "khula" or divorce at the family court in Pakistan and India. And in some cases the consent of the husband is not even required and the court can finalise the divorce.

  3. Unfortunately, in the area that I live in, there is only one mosque and it is run by Arabs. My ex went crying to them when I filed for a legal divorce. They took his side. Basically, the community has treated him as the victim and me as the wrongdoer. I'm so disheartened by all of this. I started to distance myself from the Muslim community and found that I rather enjoy the peace and gossip-free life I have now found.
    I have started making new friends (all non Muslims). They have been my rocks through this ordeal. It was really eye opening to see how differently people reacted to me: Muslims vs. the non-Muslims.