Divorce is one of the most disliked of halaal actions in Islam and unfortunately over the recent past the trend toward more divorce is becoming apparent not only in the western society but in our own too. In order to understand and protect ourselves form this phenomenon, it is essential to study its pathology, which is a study concerned with the causes and nature of this ‘disease’ including diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.
The series of articles on this topic shall focus on a scholarly study on the nature of divorce, its symptoms, its causes, its types, its processes and consequences and all matters relating to this social phenomenon. The discussions described herewith are specifically intended to inform and educate the public on this issue. The examples used in these discussions are not intended to reflect any particular individual or couple. The examples will only serve to highlight an issue or to make it easier to understand.
Although the following discussions will attempt to cover all the relevant issues related to divorce, it is extremely difficult to get a complete understanding of the issues for 2 primary reasons. The first is that most of the cases deal with numerous variables not all of which are known or can be understood and secondly, the cases differ from couple to couple due to the differences in will power and emotions involved. It is therefore impossible to analyze this issue comprehensively in a scientific manner but all attempts will be made to ensure that as much information that can deciphered be presented.
The target audiences for these discussions are those who are on the verge of marriage, although those already married would benefit greatly. It is only by targeting those on the verge of marriage, who still have the opportunities available to make the correct decision in the first place, can this disease be significantly reduced if not eliminated completely.
Of all the social relationships in the world today, marriage is one of the most prevalent and embraced by every society and culture. Islam has greatly encouraged this form of social contract for numerous reasons, the obvious being the proliferation of the human race on earth. This natural phenomenon of marriage, whose importance in a stable, intelligent and complete society cannot be overstated, over the past few decades has being viewed as a burden on society due to the increasing levels of divorce and its associated physical, emotional and spiritual harms.
In western societies in particular, the levels of divorce are alarmingly high (Figure 1.1) and are correlated with the materialistic, individualistic egocentric lifestyle of people in these countries. It is inevitable that as the world moves towards greater individualism, consumerism, and materialism, the levels of divorce will increase, dragging more and more families into its net. Marriage breakdowns is not the only consequence, fewer people are opting to get married, even if they do it is at ever increasing ages and often associated with ‘pre-marital cohabitation’.
Unfortunately, this trend of increasing divorce is a global phenomenon in these countries such that even within the Muslim, Shi’a communities in these countries, the levels are not any different! In our community in Sydney, the divorce rate is as high as 68%!
Although the global trend for the rate of divorce is decreasing, this is not as a result of more successful marriages, it is as a direct consequence of people not getting married anymore or registering their marriage. Another point of note is that there is no specific correlation between length of time married and divorce rate. For example a couples who have been married (katab kitaab) as little as 2 weeks sought divorce claiming they cannot stand each other or on the other extreme a couple who filed for divorce 3 times having been married for 40 years, and the third time the husband died of stroke due to old age leaving behind grandchildren!
Divorce in Divine Religions
Divorce in Judaism
Divorce in Judaism, called get, is an act although allowed in Judaism, is not encouraged. Judaism recognized the concept of “no-fault” divorce thousands of years ago Under Jewish law, a man can divorce a woman for any reason or no reason. The Talmud specifically says that a man can divorce a woman because she spoiled his dinner or simply because he finds another woman more attractive, and the woman’s consent to the divorce is not required. In fact, Jewish law requires divorce in some circumstances: when the wife commits a sexual transgression, a man must divorce her, even if he is inclined to forgive her. The procedural details involved in arranging a divorce are complex and exacting. Except in certain cases of misconduct by the wife, a man who divorces his wife is required to pay her substantial sums of money, as specified in the marriage contract. There are many other rules in regards to divorce which are outside the scope of this discussion.
It should be noted that orthodox Judaism and Islam deal very similarly with the issue of divorce in terms of its jurisprudence, further evidence that the latter of divine religions were sent by God to complete the former.
Divorce in Christianity
Christianity stands alone among the religions in prohibiting both divorce and marriage to divorced men and women. Jesus (peace be on him) is reported to have said, “It was also said, ‘whoever divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorcement. But I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except on the grounds of adultery, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who has been divorced commits adultery.” (Matt. 5:31-32) “And he said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries commits adultery against her; and if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’ ” (Mark 10:11-12). Its for this reason that the church does not recognise divorce. This is one of the reasons that is disillusioning many Christians from their faith and from the church, considering the high rate of divorce in the western societies.
Divorce in Islam
Divorce has been mentioned numerous times in the books of hadith and in the Quran. Divorce in Islam is considered to be the most detested of the permissible actions.
This fact is made clear by Imam Sadiq (AS) who says “Nothing is more beloved to the Almighty God than a house built in Islam by marriage, and nothing is more detested to the Almighty God than a house ruined in Islam by separation (divorce).” [al-Kaafi 5:328].
Imam Sadiq also has said “There is nothing among what God has made Halal more detested to Him than divorce. Surely the Almighty Allah dislikes the one who divorces at times and tries different people.” [Wasa’el 22:8]
النبی (ص): ”من اضرّ بامرأة حتی تفتدی منه نفسها لم یرض الله له بعقوبة دون النار, لان الله یغضب للمرأة کما یغضب للیتیم.. و من ضارّ مسلما فلیس منّا و لسنا منه فی الدنیا و الآخرة. و ایّما امرأة اختلعت من زوجها لم تزل فی لعنة الله و ملائکته و رسله و الناس اجمعین حتی اذا نزل بها ملک الموت قال لها: ابشری بالنار , فاذا کان یوم القیامة قیل لها: ادخلی النار مع الداخلین. الا ان الله و رسوله بریئان من المختلعات بغیر حق. الا و ان الله و رسوله بریئان ممن اضرّ بامرأته حتی تختلع منه.
(وسائل الشیعة 283:22)
The Holy Prophet has said “Whoever harms his wife until she pays him a ransom to free herself, Allah will not accept any punishment for him less than Fire, for the Wrath of Allah will be incurred for (in support of) a woman as it will be incurred for (in support of) an orphan. And whoever harms a Muslim he/she is not from us and we are not from him/her neither in this world nor in the Hereafter. And any woman who seeks divorce from her husband remains in the curse of Allah and His Angels and His Messengers and all the people until the Angel of death descends to her telling her: You woman! Be informed of the Hell. Then on the Day of Resurrection it will be said to her: You woman! Enter the Hell with those who are entering. Behold Surely Allah and His Messenger are free from those women who divorced themselves without accepted reason. Behold! Surely Allah and His Messenger are free from whoever that harms his wife so that she seeks her divorce.” [Wasa’elu-Shi’a 22:283]
In Islam there are three types of divorce which will be discussed in detail in later chapters, the first is Talaq Rij’i, where the man applies for divorce. The second is Talaq al Hul’e, whereby the woman applies for divorce and the third is Talaq Mubaraat, which is a joint application. The reason that The Prophet is specifically blaming women for divorce is that it is a fact that statistically, 91% of divorce cases are initiated by women, in the western world [The 91% Factor -Edward Baiamonte]. These statistics are reflected even in our very own community whereby more than 80% of cases of divorce are brought forward by women. The Prophet (SAWS) in his statement clearly indicates those who could be or are at fault when it comes to divorce blaming men and also women equally. The next chapters shall discuss what these ‘accepted reasons’ for divorce.