By Nilofar Ahmed
THE Council of Islamic Ideology has finally realised that the matter of three-in-one divorce is a matter worth examining. The act of pronouncing all three talaqs, or words of divorce, by the husband in one breath — and its destructive and tragic outcome — is due to the lack of knowledge of the injunctions about divorce in the Quran and Hadith.
Besides destroying a whole household, including young and innocent children, the one who is most upset by this happening is the husband himself. He often runs from mufti to mufti, trying to find a way out of this dark situation.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that a divorce is one of those halal, or permitted acts, which is most disliked by God (Abu Dawud). According to the Quran, if a husband and wife cannot get along, two arbitrators, one from each family, should provide counselling in an effort to avert the much-disliked talaq (4:35).
When all efforts have failed, steps can to be taken to bring about a divorce. Divorce can be broadly of two types: (i) talaqul sunnah, that which is based on the Quran and Hadith and (ii) talaqul badi, three-in-one divorce, though based on a heterodox innovation, will still be considered to have taken legal effect.
When Hazrat Umar was the caliph, he used to punish those men severely who followed this method. The talaqul sunnah is further divided into the ahsan, or the best and most laudable, and the hasan, or the laudable. In all the above types, the divorce is revocable up to the second pronouncement, but becomes irrevocable after the third pronouncement of the words of divorce.
In the talaqul ahsan, or the best method, the husband pronounces the words in the presence of two witnesses, and lets the wife be for a waiting period of three months. The divorce is revocable any time before the expiry of this period, and the husband can take the woman to be his wife again through another nikah and the payment of a new mehr.
This is the best method because the wife does not have to marry another man and be divorced by him as well, in case she wants to reunite with the first husband, as is the case with the talaqul hasan and the talaqul badi.
The prescribed Quranic method of giving a divorce (2:226-232) is to intentionally pronounce the words of divorce once, after the woman is clear of her monthly cycle, in the presence of two witnesses. This is necessary to make the procedure of divorce complete (65:2). The woman should not be expelled from the house, but both should continue to live in the same house for a month (65:1).
During this time, the husband can revoke the divorce if they decide to reunite. But if he is adamant in his resolve and decides to move ahead, the second pronouncement of divorce has to be made after the completion of her second monthly cycle, again in the presence of two witnesses. After this, another one-month period of waiting ensues, which is another chance to reunite.
During these two intervening months, the woman should be asked to stay honourably in the same house, thus increasing their chances of reuniting (65:6). After the third monthly cycle is over, and if the husband deliberately pronounces the words a third time, in the presence of two witnesses, the divorce will become final and irrevocable.
After the third and final pronouncement of divorce, she has to observe the iddah or a three-month waiting period, during which she cannot marry another man (2:228). This is to establish pregnancy and paternity, since the responsibility of the child’s upkeep is on the child’s father.
During the iddah, the woman should not live in the husband’s house but move, preferably to a relative’s house, where she can observe the restrictions of segregation. For three months, the woman will have to mostly stay at home, going out only when necessary. In the divorce initiated by the husband, the wife does not have to return any of the mehr, jewelry or anything else given to her by the husband.
In order to protect families from undue suffering, and to control the widespread menace of the three-in one talaq, the knowledge about the talaqul ahsan should be spread widely. The imams of mosques should be given the responsibility of spreading the knowledge of the Quranic method of giving a divorce, to members of their congregations so that it becomes common knowledge.
But the best deterrent of all will be to follow in the footsteps of the second caliph, Hazrat Umar. He would accept the three-in-one talaq as being valid, final and irrevocable, but would give a severe punishment to the culprit. Today, a large fine can be imposed for violating the letter and spirit of the Quran.
The writer is a scholar of the Quran.
Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2018