Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The strange divorce and remarriage law in the Qur’an...

We will find out a lot of interesting issues, especially about Muhammad's treatment of his wifes...

It may be rare that a divorced couple would like to reconcile and remarry each other, but this does happen.

The Qur’an has a strange marriage law for the divorced couple in this situation, after they have worked out their differences. It says that
a divorced couple may remarry each other if and only if the wife first marries another man, have sexual intercourse with each other, and then this second man divorces her.

The Bible, does not prohibit a divorced couple from reconciling and remarrying each other, and it permits this directly and straightforwardly without interference or an intervening marriage and divorce.

Surah 2:230 says: “
And if the husband divorces his wife (for the third time), she shall not remain his lawful wife after this (absolute) divorce, unless she marries another husband and the second husband divorces her. (In that case) there is no harm if they [the first couple] remarry…” (Sayyid Abul A’La Maududi, The Meaning of the Qur’an, vol. 1, p. 165)

Maududi (d. 1979) is a traditional and conservative commentator on the Qur’an, so let’s give a look to his interpretation, explanation and about the context of this remarriage law in Surah 2:228-232.

A final and absolute divorce is built on a three-stage process, coordinated with a woman’s monthly cycle. He reports that a man may pronounce a divorce against his wife only
after her menses, not during it: in order to check hasty action and leave the door open for reconciliation at many stages, the right method of pronouncing divorce as taught by the Qur’an and the Traditions is that if and when it becomes inevitable, it should be pronounced only when she is not in her menses and even if a dispute arises during the monthly period, it is not right to pronounce divorce during that condition, but he should wait for her to cleanse herself and then may pronounce a single divorce [but not the third and final one], if he so likes.

Then Maududi says that the divorce pronouncement is repeated two more times. On the
third one, the divorce is final and absolute.

Then he should wait for the next monthly course and pronounce the second divorce [but not the third and final one], if he so wishes after she is cleansed. Then he should wait for the next monthly course to pronounce the third and final divorce after she is cleansed. (vol. 1, p. 167, note 250)

Despite this three-month process,
Islamic law also allows a husband three divorce pronouncements in quick succession, without waiting three months. Also, the right to divorce is nearly exclusively on the side of the husband. In Islamic law, a woman has a very hard time divorcing her husband against his will, while a husband can easily divorce his wife against her will. She will not be asked.

But in regards to this three-month procedure, it must be admitted that this procedure has
two advantages, on the surface. First, this process offers hope for reconciliation. It allows a "cooling off" period. Indeed, Maududi goes on to say that the husband should wait and reconsider the matter because he has the right to take his wife back after the second pronouncement. Second, Maududi informs us that in pre-Islamic Arabia a man could make as many divorce pronouncements as he pleased, which was unfair to the wife, so Muhammad limited this to three. When the man does this for the third time, he "forfeits the right to take her back, nor can the couple remarry [each other]" (note 250).

However, the Qur’an does not go far enough in protecting women and in honouring marriage, as seen in Maududi’s explanation: "nor can the couple remarry [each other]."

This is when Surah 2:230, our target verse, comes into play.
The couple who is divorced finally and absolutely is not permitted to remarry each other after they worked out their differencesUNLESS the wife marries another man, and then he divorces her. Maududi does not offer an explanation or defence of this rule. He says that Muhammad cursed schemers. This refers to a case in which a woman and another man plotted to get married, so that he could divorce her, with the express purpose of her getting back together with her first husband. This is dishonest, says Maududi (note 253). Though he does not explain this verse, what else does he need to say? The verse is clear enough as written. It may be true that Muhammad cursed schemers who misused remarriage to get their own way. But his ruling opened up the door to scheming in the first place.

Even in an honest scenario
, Surah 2:230 dishonours marriage, ultimately. It engenders a second divorce between the wife and another man, on the road to a possible reconciliation of the original couple—and this is potentially adulterous. Why have the intervening steps of a second marriage and divorce before the first divorced couple can work out their differences and get back together?

It would have been better if Muhammad had allowed a judge to work out reconciliation after an absolute divorce. Putting roadblocks like a second marriage and a second divorce before the original couple is permitted to reunite is confusing and possibly destructive of the institution of marriage.

Furthermore, even though the husband is the one who divorces the wife,
it is she who has to pay the price for the (hasty) divorce. It is she who is humiliated by yet another marriage and divorce before they can come back together. Why does only the woman have to marry and get divorced another time before she can be joined again with her original husband? Why not the husband who in most cases initiated and pushed through the first divorce? Why is the wife punished if the husband makes this mistake?

This policy contrasts with the Bible’s rulings on the divorce and remarriage of a couple. The Bible promotes and protects the sanctity of marriage, and it promotes and protects a straight path towards reconciliation and remarriage.

Here is the essential difference between the Qur’an and the Bible.

The Qur’an prohibits reconciliation and remarriage of a couple to each other after a divorce; but it also requires and demands a second marriage and divorce before permitting the reconciliation and remarriage of the original couple. On the other hand, the Bible allows reconciliation and remarriage after a divorce without requiring or demanding an intervening second marriage and divorce.

It is important to note that the new marriage has to be consummated! You can get further background information from the Muslim traditions regarding the
muhallil, the second man who is necessary to make the wife lawful to her first husband again:

If a Muslim man has divorced his wife, but then has a change of mind, he cannot simply remarry her even if both want to start over again. Islamic law stipulates that the wife must first marry and have intercourse with another man, and who has to divorce her again, before it becomes lawful for the original couple to remarry.

The man who marries a divorced wife in order to make her lawful for her former husband again is called muhallil, which literally means, "One who makes lawful."

As we have seen, the basis for this law is found in the Qur'an, Surah 2:230

Muslim tradition specifies that this cannot be a pro forma marriage (i.e. they cannot only marry on paper, not only register the marriage), but the woman must engage in sexual intercourse with the man before she can return to her former husband:
 Yahya related … that Rifaa ibn Simwal divorced his wife, Tamima bint Wahb, in the time of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, three times. Then she married Abd ar-Rahman ibn az-Zubayr and he turned from her and could not consummate the marriage and so he parted from her. Rifaa wanted to marry her again and it was mentioned to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and he forbade him to marry her. He said, "She is not halal for you until she has tasted the sweetness of intercourse." (Malik's Muwatta, Book 28
Number 28.7.18) 

The man who makes the woman lawful for her former husband is called
 Yahya related…when asked whether it was permissible for a man to return to his wife if he had divorced her irrevocably and then another man had married her after him and died before consummating the marriage, al-Qasim ibn Muhammad said, "It is not halal for the first husband to return to her." Malik said, about the muhallil, that he could not remain in the marriage until he undertook a new marriage. If he had intercourse with her in that marriage, she had her dowry. (Malik's Muwatta, Book 28, Number 28.7.19)

This Islamic law stands in stark contradiction to the Biblical command:

What the Bible’s God calls detestable, the Qur'an commands Muslims to perform. It is one of many reasons why we believe that the Qur'an does not originate from the same source as the Bible. It is not from the God of the Bible.

Even from the time of Muhammad, we have reports about some of the bad consequences resulting from this Islamic regulation:

Narrated 'Ikrima: Rifa'a divorced his wife whereupon 'Abdur Rahman bin Az-Zubair Al-Qurazi married her. 'Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green veil (and complained to her (Aisha) of her husband and showed her a green spot on her skin caused by beating). It was the habit of ladies to support each other, so when Allah's Apostle came, 'Aisha said, "I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!" When 'AbdurRahman heard that his wife had gone to the Prophet, he came with his two sons from another wife. She said, "By Allah! I have done no wrong to him but he is impotent and is as useless to me as this," holding and showing the fringe of her garment, 'Abdur-Rahman said, "By Allah, O Allah's Apostle! She has told a lie! I am very strong and can satisfy her but she is disobedient and wants to go back to Rifa'a." Allah's Apostle said, to her, "If that is your intention, then know that it is unlawful for you to remarry Rifa'a unless Abdur-Rahman has had sexual intercourse with you." Then the Prophet saw two boys with 'Abdur-Rahman and asked (him), "Are these your sons?" On that 'AbdurRahman said, "Yes." The Prophet said, "You claim what you claim (i.e. that he is impotent)? But by Allah, these boys resemble him as a crow resembles a crow." (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 715)

Whatever the reasons for their marital disagreements, the man was beating his wife (which the Qur'an
allows,) and which seems to be of no concern to Muhammad), but based on this law, Muhammad demands from her to have intercourse with this man, even though this may not be possible. Men can become impotent for many reasons. Perhaps 'AbdurRahman was able to perform intercourse in earlier years, but he had become impotent later. Having two sons does not prove anything about a man's present ability for intercourse. Muhammad was apparently unaware of this basic medical fact. Whether she was lying, or he was lying, it is obvious that this was not a happy marriage. Muhammad demanded that two people who had no love for each other, have intercourse before the woman could remarry her former husband, assuming that he wanted her back.

For a general survey of divorce in Islam, see this old but still reputable and informative
online dictionary. Scroll down to "divorce."

More bizarre aberrations deriving from the Islamic divorce rule:
- This
news report says that Malaysia permits "text messaging" divorce.
- This Muslim website in a
reply to a question says that divorces via emails are valid. 


Muslims generally reply to this by saying that divorce is one of the things that Allah fears the most. Moreover, it is believed that Muhammad was the best example for humanity. So, with this in mind, let’s give a look to Surah 4:130 and to why he decided one day to divorce!

What is told, is that, in Islam, the reason why a marriage can be terminated is to avoid unnecessary pain to either party, be it the husband or the wife, if a better solution cannot be found. Although a divorce is allowed in Qur’an, 4:130 whenever a friendly understanding cannot be reached between a husband and his wife, there is a further suggestion indicated via the Qur’an in an attempt to reconcile the marriage before the decision for a divorce is obtained:

Let’s give a look to the Surah that allows divorce: “And if a woman fears ill usage or desertion on the part of her husband, there is no blame on them, if they effect a reconciliation between them, and reconciliation is better, and avarice has been made to be present in the (people's) minds; and if you do good (to others) and guard (against evil), then surely Allah is aware of what you do. You will not be able to be equitable between your wives, be you ever so eager; yet do not be altogether partial so that you leave her as it were suspended. If you set things right, and are godfearing, God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate. But if they separate, God will enrich each of them of His plenty; God is All-embracing, All-wise. Surah 4:128-130

In the above text,
instead of warning the men against mistreating their spouses, women who fear mistreatment or desertion are told that they can seek a means of reconciliation. What many don’t realize is that this text refers to Muhammad’s mistreatment of his wife Sauda bint Zamah because she had gotten old:
 [“Making peace is better than separation. An example of such peace can be felt in the story of Sawdah bint Zam'ah who WHEN SHE BECAME AGED, THE PROPHET WANTED TO DIVORCE HER, but she made peace with him by offering the night he used to spend with her to A'isha so that he would keep her. The Prophet accepted such terms and kept her. Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi recorded that Ibn ‘Abbas said, "Sawdah feared that the Messenger of Allah might divorce her and she said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Do not divorce me; give my day to 'A'ishah.’ And he did ...

In the Two
Sahihs, it is recorded that 'A'ishah said that when Sawdah bint Zam'ah BECAME OLD, she forfeited her day to 'A'ishah and the Prophet used to spend Sawdah's night with 'A'ishah ...

. IT REFERS TO THE WIFE RELINQUISHING SOME OF HER MARITAL RIGHTS and his acceptance of the offer. Such compromise is better than total divorce, as the Prophet did when retained Sawdah bint Zam'ah. By doing so, the Prophet set an example for his Ummah to follow as it is a lawful act ]... (the preceding citation taken and adapted from Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Abridged, Volume 2, Parts 3, 4 & 5, Suraht Al-Baqarah, Verse 253, to Suraht An-Nisa, Verse 147 [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, Lahore; first edition March 2000], pp. 599-601, and Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Part 5, Sura An-Nisa, ayat 24-147, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafa’i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000 first edition], pp. 193-194)

One recent Muslim author says in a caption that:
Muhammad's personal and family life were not always smooth. His wives sometimes bickered amongst themselves and even once engaged in a petty plot against him. A'ishah, for example, disliked her Jewish co-wife, Safiyah, and insulted her periodically. Muhammad had to defend her status and honor a number of times and scold the youthful A'ishah. Hafsah became jealous of her co-wife, Maria, when she found her and Muhammad resting[sic] in her apartment one day. Sawdah gave up her allotted day with the Prophet WHEN SHE REALIZED HE WAS NOT REALLY ATTRACTED TO HER. … Though these incidents were not the norm, they demonstrate that the women in Muhammad's life were as human as the rest of us. (Yahiya Emerick, Critical Lives: Muhammad [Alpha Books, A Member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2002], p. 263)

Commentator Al-Tabari stated that: Umra bin Ali & Zaid bin Ahram said: …
Saudah feared divorce by the messenger of Allah, so she said: Do not divorce me, and do not share with me! And he did, and this verse was revealed: And if a woman fears ill usage or desertion on the part of her husband.

Muhammad bin Husain said…
and Saudah bint Zama'h who became old, then the messenger of Allah wanted to divorce her, but they agreed that he will keep her but give her day to Ai'sha. (Arabic source; translated by Mutee’a Al-Fadi)

Al-Qurtubi wrote: … Ibn Abbas said:
Saudah feared that the messenger of Allah will divorce her so she said, "Do not divorce me and keep me, and give my day with you to Ai'sha." He did and this verse came down: "there is no blame on them, if they effect a reconciliation between them, and reconciliation is better." He said: this is a good and strange hadith. (Arabic source; translated by Mutee’a Al-Fadi)

Sahihayn (the two Sahih collections) confirm that Sauda gave up her conjugal rights in order to please Muhammad:

Narrated Aisha: …He used to fix for each of them a day and a night. But Sauda bint Zam’a gave up her (turn) day and night to ‘Aisha, the wife of the Prophet in order to seek the pleasure of Allah's Apostle (by that action). (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number 766)
 ‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: Never did I find any woman more loving to me than Sauda bint Zam'a. I wished I could be exactly like her who was passionate. As she became old, she had made over her day (which she had to spend) with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) to ‘A’isha. She said: I have made over my day with you to ‘A’isha. So Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) allotted two days to ‘A’isha, her own day (when it was her turn) and that of Sauda. (Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3451)

The hadiths also mention that
Sauda was an overweight woman:

Narrated Aisha: Sauda (the wife of the Prophet) went out to answer the call of nature after it was made obligatory (for all the Muslims ladies) to observe the veil. She was a fat huge lady, and everybody who knew her before could recognize her." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 318)

What this basically implies is that
Muhammad no longer felt attracted to Sauda and wanted to abandon her because she was old and "fat". Hence, Surah 4:128-130 gives men the right to simply ignore wives whom they are no longer attracted to, denying them the pleasure of love and intimacy! How in the world could Muslims believe that Surah 4:130 is a fair and just command is simply beyond us.


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