Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

Jamadi Thani / Rajab 1425 H July 2004
Volume 17-07 No : 211
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Our Dialogue - Adil Salahi

Intention Counts When Pronouncing a Divorce
Divorce During Wife's Illness

Intention Counts When Pronouncing a Divorce

Q. After three years of marriage, during a quarrel with my husband, he said to me Talaq, when I was pregnant with our first child. However, we sorted out our quarrel and resumed our married life. A year later, the same thing happened again, but my husband says now that he does not remember it. A year ago, i.e. two years after the second incident, another quarrel took place, during which my husband said Talaq six times and then said, 'I am giving you divorce', repeating it twice. At the time I was pregnant with our second child. A few days later we made up and resumed our married life again. However, someone told us that now we are fully divorced and cannot live together. Please explain.

A. I cannot give you a valid opinion about your situation unless you confirm what was your husband’s intention when he said the word Talaq, on each of the three occasions. You see, the word means ‘divorce’, and if it is said on its own, it could mean anything. A divorce process is set in motion when a husband says to his wife, ‘I divorce you’, or words to this effect. The word your husband used could mean different things, depending on his intention. It could be a threat or a warning or an actual divorce. This last possibility could be the one if both of you, or people in your community, understand it as a substitute for the sentence, ‘I divorce you’. His intention at the time makes all the difference.

If it was meant as a warning or threat, then it has no effect on your marriage. If it was intended as an actual divorce, then the divorce process was started. It counts as a divorce even though you subsequently made it up and resumed your marriage. No one can tell you anything without this clarification, which must be honest and true.

The third case is perhaps a little easier. When your husband said the word of divorce six times, he seems not to mean it as an actual divorce. Rather, it sounds as someone considering the matter, repeating it time after time.

What makes me say so is the fact that he followed this with the sentence, ‘I am giving you divorce’. This sounds as though a process was going through his mind, first considering the possibility and then making a decision. Now the other sentence, ‘I am giving you divorce’, could be interpreted as a declaration of intent or as taking an action there and then.

If it is a declaration of intent, it has no effect on your marriage until the intention is carried out. If it is an action being taken, the repeated sentence counts as one divorce. Again only you and your husband could determine this.

What you have to do is a heart-search exercise, determi-ning the intention in each of the three cases. The fact that your husband does not remember the second case is problematic, with scholars having different opinion in such a case. Your husband should try to remember, making an honest effort, and keeping in mind all the time that it is a question of making your marriage lawful or making it a relationship of adultery.

He cannot deceive God. So, if he honestly does not remember divorcing you on the second occasion, then it did not happen. If he is in doubt and you are clear that he did, then a second divorce took place, and now you have the third one.

Assuming the worst, if he says that on each of the three occasions, his words meant ‘I divorce you now’, then you have exhausted all possibilities of reunion in marriage. Since you have resumed married life, this is totally invalid and you are living in sin. You must separate immediately and you cannot be re-married again, unless you first marry someone else and live with him intending that this marriage is permanent. If this other husband then dies or divorces you at a future time, then you can go back to your first husband.

But you must understand that this cannot be arranged so that this marriage is meant for a short duration, in what is known as halalah. Halalah is forbidden and cannot have any effect on whether you can return to your husband or not.

On the other hand, if your heart-search exercise indicates that on one or more of the three occasions, he did not intend his words as an actual divorce, but as a threat or a declaration of intent, then you can remain married.

The number of divorces you have had depends on which occasion was a divorce and which was not.

Having said this, I should warn you that in such a matter you and your husband have to be very honest with yourselves and with God. It is far better that you should separate, if you have had three divorces, and never reunite than to live in sin for the rest of your lives. You will be facing God on the Day of Judgment, and He knows for certain your intentions and your secret thoughts. You cannot cheat Him. Hence, be honest with yourselves, at least for the sake of your children and determine your case as it is.


Divorce During Wife's Illness

Q. May I put to you the case of a woman who has been suffering from a mental disorder for several years and was on medication. She has been married for over 25 years and gave birth to three normal and healthy children. She was on psychiatrist treatment for sometime. In her condition, she had frequent disputes with her mother-in-law. She had to be admitted to hospital, but the very second day, her husband divorced her. Is this right? Is the divorce valid?

A. This question should be looked at from two different angles. Firstly, the validity of the divorce. The answer is that it is valid, if the husband took the proper action of divorce.The right to divorce has been given to the husband as a means of ending the marriage, while a wife is given the right to end the marriage by ‘khula’.

Secondly, we should look at the case from the point of view of the mutual care God requires man and wife to take of each other. The Prophet (peace be upon him) says: “Everyone of you is a shepherd and responsible for his charge. A man is a shepherd looking after his family and children, and he is responsible for them, and a woman is a shepherd in her husband’s home and property, and she is responsible for her charge.” Hence, the husband is responsible to provide the best care he can afford for his wife and children when they are ill. Needless to say, when he divorces his wife during her illness, his action suggests that he is abdicating his responsibility. Allah will certainly question him about that on the basis of His knowledge of the man’s intentions.

This woman was certainly in a very difficult situation, suffering from a mental disorder over which she had no control. To find herself cast away as a result makes her feel unwanted and hard done by. Her husband would have earned a great reward from Allah, had he remained patient with her and provided her with the necessary care.



Why is Burying Better than Cremating Dead Bodies?

Why do Muslims bury dead bodies instead of cremating them, i.e. burning them?

1. Components of human body present in the soil

Elements that are present in the human body are present in lesser or greater quantity in the soil. Hence it is more scientific to bury a dead body, as it easily gets decomposed and mixed in the soil.

2. No Pollution

Cremating (burning) the dead body leads to pollution of the atmosphere, which is detrimental to health and harmful for the environment. There is no such pollution caused by burying a dead body.

3. Surrounding land becomes fertile

To cremate a dead body several trees have to be chopped, which reduces the greenery and harms the environment and the ecology. When dead bodies are buried, besides the trees being saved, the surrounding land becomes fertile and it improves the environment.

4. Economical

It is expensive to cremate a dead body when tons of wood has to be burnt. Annually there is a loss of crores of rupees, only because dead bodies are cremated in India. Burying dead bodies is very cheap. It hardly costs any money.

5. Same land can be utilised for burying another body

The wood used for cremating a dead body cannot be re-utilised for cremating another dead body since it gets converted to ashes. The land used for burying a dead body can be re-utilised for burying another body after a few years since the human body gets decomposed and mixed in the soil.


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