The idea of wanting to file for divorce in Islam is a heavy subject that should be discussed among Muslim communities more often. It is a type of knowledge necessary to be equipped in order to empower Muslims by knowing their rights and educate them on the seriousness of the matter.
A lot of people treat the topic of divorce as a taboo because “why would you want to even think of divorce when you’re not heading there at all? Learning about it will only make you think of a possibility that’s not going to happen!”
To counter the argument, learning about divorce is not only applicable to those actively seeking divorce but also to all Muslims, so they know how divorce works and motivate them to keep their marriage alive. Because, let us be real, divorce is not a minor decision that should be taken lightly.
It is such an impactful decision that alters the course of, not only your life but also the lives of other people such as your family, in-laws, as well as children.
The alarming statistics of divorce among Muslims
According to Unified Lawyers, 31 percent of worldwide divorce cases are from Muslim communities, ranking second after the Protestants at 34 percent. To put things into perspective, that is a huge percentage of divorce rates among the overall population, considering there are way fewer marriages now compared to the 1960s.
It is alarming to see the increasing rate of divorce in Muslim communities due to many factors, which is a whole topic on its own.
But to those who are looking to learn more about divorce or are headed in that direction, you may have a few questions regarding divorce:
- How do you ensure that you part ways with your partner respectfully and diplomatically?
- How do you ensure that both parties are able to cooperate in the phase of filing for a divorce?
- How do you cater to your children who will be mostly affected by the whole process and change?
In other words, what is the etiquette of seeking divorce according to Islam? Let’s take a look at some of the tips and processes of divorce.
Etiquette of seeking divorce according to the Islamic perspective
Dr. Ramlan, a marriage counselor, stated that there is some sort of etiquette that needs to be considered before seeking a divorce from both the Islamic and Western perspectives.
1. Try to make it work
It is important to note that Islam encourages spouses to exhaust their efforts to reconcile and fix their issues before really deciding to end it once and for all.
Many factors can contribute to making harsh decisions such as the inability to control one’s anger and negative emotions, lack of communication, compassion, tolerance, and so on.
It is imperative that partners seek solutions in order to keep their marriage intact, such as seeking marriage counseling, talking to people they trust, or finding healthy ways to cope with their emotions.
2. Find an arbiter
If all efforts are to no avail, the next course of action is to find an arbiter or a middleman to help resolve solutions between spouses.
Allah (SWT) says:
And if you fear a breach between the two, appoint an arbiter from his relatives and an arbiter from her relatives. If they both desire reconciliation, Allah will effect harmony between them. Verily, Allah has full knowledge, and is aware of everything. 1
You can definitely reach out to your closest family members to become the arbiter in resolving the issue, but it is best to find someone who will not take any sides, is absolutely neutral, and has mutual respect for both parties. This could also be a distant relative or a friend of both partners.
This is because close family members often have a bias toward their own child or sibling, so their judgment might be partial unless they possess qualities of fairness and justice.
If you are not comfortable reaching out to people you know and would like to discuss things in private, you could go see a marriage counselor or go to your state’s religious department to see if your issues can still be rectified.
3. When everything fails, it’s time to file for divorce
As much as partners find each other intolerable or impossible to live with, divorce is one of the saddest events one has to go through in life, as it changes the course of their life and will have a direct impact on their child.
To file for divorce, there are two possibilities; one initiated by the husband or the wife. If it is initiated by the husband, it is defined as talaq.
The divorce may be verbal or written, and should only be done once, as there are three pronouncements in total. Since the husband is the first to initiate the divorce, the wife has all the rights to keep her dowry (mahr) paid to her.
If the situation was reversed, in which the wife initiates a divorce, there are two possible options. If the wife chooses to break the marriage contract, she may return her dowry to end the marriage.
It is not lawful for you [men] to take back any of your gifts except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allah. There is no blame on either of them if she gives something for her freedom. These are the limits ordained by Allah, so do not transgress them. 2
Another possibility is that if there is a reasonable cause for the wife to file for a divorce, she may choose to petition an Imam for divorce.
Such reasonable causes include the husband’s inability to fulfill his responsibilities, harming or abusing the wife physically, emotionally, or mentally, and much more. In this situation, she is not required to return the dowry to her husband.
4. Divorce has occurred, what now?
Again, it is important to emphasize that divorce can only be done three times. The first two times are for the sole purpose of giving each other space and time to think things through and reconcile if they choose to pursue their relationship again.
The duration period for the first two incidents of divorce is three months each, and if both partners consent to continue their marriage, they are required to inform and legalize their marriage again at the state religious department.
However, when divorce is announced for the third and final time, this marks the permanent end of the marriage and both partners are not allowed to continue or pursue their marriage anymore.
It is also important to note that during the process of talaq, even when both partners are longer together temporarily, the husband is still obligated to fulfill his financial responsibilities to provide for his wife and children.
Help children cope with the major change
It can get chaotic and haywire during the divorce process, especially when both partners are not emotionally stable during the major change.
However, it is essential to remember that the people who will be most affected by the sudden change are children who have been living their whole lives with their parents.
In difficult times, it is crucial to stay close to them and be emotionally present with them to ensure that they feel safe despite the change.
Let them know the truth of the matter without influencing them to pick sides. It can be difficult to be as impartial as possible unless your spouse has harmed you and will pose a threat to your children as well.
Besides being transparent with them, you should also provide them with a safe space for them to project their emotions or voice out their opinions on the matter. It is important for them to feel heard, although this is a matter to be dealt with between you and your spouse.
For the sake of your children, it is best for you to maintain a neutral or positive relationship with your ex-partner. Even when marriage is no longer possible between both of you, it should not stop your children from spending time with both of their parents and giving them the life they deserve.
However, if it is difficult to do so and unless your children’s safety and happiness are on the line, you may seek help from your loved ones or even professional help on how to go forward with becoming a single parent.
Marriage is no easy feat no matter how simple and romantic social media makes us think it is. People are complex, and we end up in different kinds of relationships with spouses. So the secret to happiness or a long-lasting marriage is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
It requires determination, effort, tolerance, and patience to make it work. It requires compassion and mercy for spouses to make it work for a lifetime.
And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them, and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed, these are signs for people who give thought. 3
وَمِنْ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦٓ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَٰجًۭا لِّتَسْكُنُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةًۭ وَرَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّ فِى ذَٰلِكَ لَـَٔايَـٰتٍۢ لِّقَوْمٍۢ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
However, Allah Almighty has also created the concept of divorce for those who just could not find compatibility in their marriage and the only way forward is to part ways. Parting ways is not a negative thing. In some cases, it is absolutely necessary to protect oneself and preserve one’s basic human rights.
The most important thing is how we approach the topic of divorce and how we go about it as civilized Muslims. Just like in every aspect of human life that requires etiquette, the same goes for divorce.
For those of you who are seeking to file for divorce, may Allah Almighty ease your affairs and facilitate you to find peace and contentment. May Allah Almighty grant you the best of outcomes, Insha’Allah.