Rulings around divorce

Rulings around divorce

Surat at-Talaq is considered a mini version of Surat an-Nisa. Although Allah also mentions divorce (talaq) in Surat al-Baqarah (2:227-232), this surah also has the details about when and what is a valid talaq. For example:

‘O prophet, when you people divorce women, divorce them at a time when the period of ‘Iddah may start, and count it accurately.’ [65:1]

This means, divorce her after her period has ended. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) described divorce as ‘the most hated of permissible acts’ to Allah [Abu Dawood] It’s disliked, but it’s still permissible: if you hit a dead end, you have an exit, and this is out of Allah’s mercy. If two people came together with right intention, but then discover that they have personality clash, or cultural clash, or whatever it may be, talaq is the way to leave with ihsan. In Jahiliyya times, they used to divorce their wives and then take them back, and go through cycles over and over again. This just caused extra pain, so in Surat al-Baqarah Allah places a limit of three talaqs, and in this surah He explains the valid forms.

Divorce during a woman’s period is not valid

Ibn ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with them) reported that he divorced his wife while she was in her menses. ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) asked Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ) about that, and he said:

Command him to take her back until she is pure and then she enters the second menses and then becomes pure. Then either divorce her (finally) or retain her. [Muslim]

The story behind the revelation of this surah was that Abdullah ibn Omar, the son of Omar ibn al-Khattab, had divorced his wife while she was on her period. He went to the Prophet (peace be on him), and that was when the revelation came that this was not a valid talaq. The Prophet (peace be on him) said that Abdullah had to take back his wife, wait until she was in a state of purity, and then he could divorce her if he still wanted to.

Scholars have different opinions on this hadith. This is from the mercy of Allah, that scholars can take the same evidence and reach different conclusions. In this case, we have two schools of thought, based on the question of why Rasul Allah (peace be on him) said Abdullah should ‘take her back’, if it hadn’t been a valid talaq in the first place. How could he take his wife back if she was still in the marriage?

One opinion says that divorce during a woman’s period is not valid. This is talaq al-bid’ah, which is sinful. The other kind is talaq as-sunnah which is allowed. The rest of the surah is full of details related to divorce and how to behave after it, and issues such as custody of children, breastfeeding, etc. Even though it’s a very short surah, it has a lot of rulings.

The story of ‘Awf bin Malik

Another beautiful thing about the surah is how Allah talks about taqwa, which He mentions three times. The first is:

‘Whoever behaves with taqwa, Allah shall make a way out for them, and provide for them from where they wouldn’t expect.’ [65:2]

This ayah was revealed when the son of a Companion named ‘Awf bin Malik was taken captive during a battle. ‘Awf went to the Prophet (peace be on him) for help, who said he should go home, fear Allah, and be patient, and told him to say la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah (there is no no power nor strength except with Allah).

So he went back and said this, and a couple of days later his son came back. Allah had created an opportunity for him when his captors were distracted, and he was able to escape. Not only that, but he brought with him a big flock of sheep – some narrations say as many as four thousand! This is why the ayah talks about Allah providing from sources you wouldn’t expect.

The importance of taqwa

The other two mentions of taqwa are, ‘Whoever behaves with taqwa, Allah will make their matters easy.’ [65:4] And, ‘Whoever behaves with taqwa, Allah will forgive their sins and increase their rewards.’ [65:5] See how beautiful this is. Even though the surah is about divorce, which is a scary and unpopular topic, the surah reminds us to treat it with optimism. Divorce is not the end of the world. Allah will provide for you, open your way, and grant you something better. On just one condition: you need to have taqwa. Otherwise, it is sinful to do talaq with no valid reason. We ask Allah to enable us to be among those who act with taqwa. Ameen.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim – Ramadan Night 28

Transcribed by Hana Khan

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.