In my last article, I briefly mentioned the four main methods
of separation in Islam. They are:
Granting of Divorce by the Husband –Talaq
Separation by way of consent between the parties –Khula
Dissolution of Marriage –Faskh-e-Nikah
When the power of Talaq
is transferred to the Wife – Tafweedh-e-Talaq
In this article I focus on the first type of separation
mentioned above, and certainly the most well-known out of the four, Talaq.
Talaq is the
unilateral right of the man to divorce his wife. He can do this either verbally or in
writing. That much is common
knowledge. What isn’t, however, is that
there are actually three different types of Talaq. The type of Talaq pronounced by the husband affects the type of separation that
ensues and also affects the methods of reconciliation to be adopted by the
parties if reconciliation does indeed happen.
I think it would be prudent to mention at this point that
whilst Islam has not made divorce a sin and has kept the door open for both men
and women to end their marriages, divorce as a whole is the least liked out of
all the Halal (permissible) acts in
Islam. Indeed, a saying of the Prophet
Muhammad confirms that Talaq ‘shakes
the Throne of God’.
This is to emphasise to Muslims the gravity of marital break-up
and how much thought and consideration the parties should give to try to save
their marriage before embarking upon the process of separation. It would be fair to say that this teaching,
that of the unity of the family and of maintaining ties of kinship, is one of
the most central yet most overlooked teachings of Islam. The Qur’an is very clear on many occasions of
the need to preserve these ties, even directing at one verse how reconciliation
should be approached to try to bring two estranged parties (not limited to
married couples) together again.
However, it must also be stressed that any attempts at
reconciliation are only advocated from an Islamic point of view as long as both
parties as consenting – to force a married couple to stay together or indeed to
force a marriage in the first place is against the teachings of Islam.
What follows is a brief exposition on the different types of Talaq and the process for each, as this
piece is meant to provide the reader with an insight into the practical side of
how Talaq is given and its
The three different
types of Talaq
They are as follows:
Talaq-e-Raj’i – Revocable
Talaq-e-Ba’in – Irrevocable
Talaq-e-Mughallazah – Irrevocable
1. Talaq-e-Raj’i – Revocable divorce
This type of Talaq
falls when Talaq is given by the
husband and he either uses or says the word ‘Talaq’ once or twice. He can
do this in writing as well. Readers will
note that the word of Talaq need only
be uttered by the husband for it to be effective.
However, as lawyers, we are trained to confirm things in
writing and so from a personal point
of view, I take the view that if a husband gives Talaq, it is better that it is in written form so that there is
record of it. This can be beneficial
especially when parties wish to re-marry and their prospective spouses or
families want to see proof of Islamic divorce.
is a revocable form of Talaq. It is revocable because if after
pronouncement the couple wish to reconcile, they can do so as long as
reconciliation occurs before the expiration of what is known as the Iddah period or waiting/cooling-off
Traditionally, Iddah is
a requirement so that the couple can think about what has happened and for there
to be time for reconciliation before the Talaq
is made final. I always compare this
to the 6-week period between decree nisi and decree absolute which was again,
traditionally seen as a cooling-off period before it was made into a procedural
requirement for the purposes of matrimonial law in England and Wales. For me it is one of many similarities between
Islamic and English family law procedure.
The Iddah period is
3 menstrual cycles and if reconciliation has not occurred before then, the Talaq is made irrevocable and is classed
as a Talaq-e-Ba’in (discussed below). Incidentally, should a couple wish to
reconcile after the expiration of
the Iddah period then they simply
have to perform the Islamic Nikah (wedding)
ceremony again and they will be classed as man and wife again.
This type of Talaq falls
when the husband utters the words, “I
give you Talaq-e-Ba’in” or the words that are uttered in giving divorce are
It also occurs if the separation is by way of Khula (see my previous article ‘Khula – The Islamic Non-Fault Divorce’)
or the marriage has been dissolved by a Shariah Court (in countries where there
is an Islamic legal system) or by a Shariah Council (in non-Muslim countries).
There is also an interesting Islamic principle, Khalwat-e-Saheeha, which means having
valid privacy with a spouse. What this
means in practice is any duration of time when the married couple have been
alone together. If Talaq is pronounced by the husband prior to this (which is very rare and can usually only occur at the
beginning of marriages), the type of Talaq
that falls is immediately Talaq-e-Ba’in.
Finally, a Talaq-e-Raj’i
converts into a Talaq-e-Ba’in if
reconciliation is not effected by the end of the Iddah period.
The effect of Talaq-e-Ba’in
is that the marriage comes to an immediate end once it is pronounced. It is not like Raj’i for instance where a cooling off period is initiated. The couple can, however, re-marry anytime
during or after the Iddah by simply
performing the Nikah ceremony again.
3. Talaq-e-Mughallazah – Irrevocable divorce
Finally, the most controversial
method and also most misunderstood method of Talaq, Talaq-e-Mughallazah also
known as giving triple Talaq.
From the outset, I must say that
there is vastly differing (and sometimes heated) Islamic jurisprudential
opinion as to what constitutes Mughallazah. That is due to the differing opinions in the four
main schools of thought (Madhab) in
Islamic jurisprudence. Without wishing
to spend too much time on this, most Muslims will know and it is correct that
the four main schools of thought in Islamic jurisprudence are not seen as a
point of conflict but as a point of debate and a continuing example of the
diversity of opinion in Islamic jurisprudence.
The schools of thought are
important for maintaining consistency of action and belief in the day-to-day
practice of a Muslim and can be viewed as a codification of the laws of Islam
carried out by the greatest Islamic Jurists (or as I like to think of them,
Judges) that ever lived. Each Madhab has its own criteria for the
interpretation of Hadith (sayings of
the Prophet Muhammad), giving rise to differences in interpretation of the same
legal point (Mas’ala). Muslims
believe that all four are correct and it is up to each individual as to which
one he/she follows.
For the purposes of this piece,
however, I will stick to the Hanafi school
of thought founded by the leading Islamic Jurist and Imam, Abu Hanifa an-Nu’man
and followed by an estimated one-third of all Muslims worldwide. Indeed, all the points and Mas’ala mentioned in this article
relating to the different types of Talaq are
from the Hanafi school of thought.
Talaq-e-Mughallazah is initiated if the husband pronounces Talaq saying, ‘I give you three Talaqs’ or saying ‘Talaq, Talaq, Talaq’ in one sitting. It should be noted that this method of
separation is actually Haraam (forbidden)
in Islam, however, if pronounced it is still effective. It totally and irrevocably terminates the
marriage with immediate effect.
It is also effective if three separate Talaqs are
pronounced in the duration of three non-menstrual cycles, ie after each
This will lead to immediate ending
of the marriage with the parties not being able to reconcile until the
following procedure is carried out:
of the Iddah resulting from the Talaq;
marries another man by performing Nikah;
couple have sexual intercourse;
husband divorces the wife of his own free will or he passes away;
completes the Iddah of either the Talaq or death
the first husband can re-marry his ex-wife.
Now you know why I said this was the most controversial
method. The apparent reason for the undeniably draconian method of
reconciliation is that it is a punishment for the husband for having resorted
to pronouncing the most extreme method of Talaq
when he should have exercised restraint and pronounced Talaq by either Raj’i or
Ba’in, both of which have the same effect of ending the marriage, the only
difference being that the door of reconciliation is left open.
The practice of giving Talaq
three times in one sitting stems from the nomadic culture of the Arabs at
the time of the Prophet Muhammad – a culture which perceived as being backwards,
full of ignorance and one which the Prophet was tasked to reform. Muslims believe that this was undertaken by
revelation of the Holy Qur’an and the
practical example of the Prophet himself.
I mentioned earlier that this was also the most
misunderstood. I say this because in my
experience as pro-bono Advisor to a Shariah Council in the north of England for
8 years and the continuing enquiries of clients, Talaq-e-Mughallazah is still thought of as the only method of Talaq which
is effective in separation of the marriage – this could not be further from the
My mentor always gave the example, ‘Why fire three bullets when you can get the job done in one?’ Crude as it may seem, it sums up the
situation precisely and I have lost count how many times I have had to explain
this to clients. Of course, what is most
saddening is when I am approached by Muslim couples after Mughallazah has been pronounced and I have had to tell them that
they are no longer man and wife and cannot even reconcile.
Talaq-e-Ahsan – The preferred
method of Talaq
It is quite reasonable at this juncture to ask, what, if any
is the best or most correct way for a Muslim man to pronounce Talaq?
Once again, the Qur’an provides
us with an answer in Talaq-e-Ahsan.
Here, the husband divorces the wife once, using clear words
whilst she is in her non-menstrual period and in a period in which the husband
has not had sexual intercourse with her.
This then leaves room for the parties to reconcile if they so wish. If not, they will be separated upon the
expiration of the Iddah period.
Please note my comments about only the Hanafi school of thought being taken into consideration as I can
already imagine people coming forward with different views on each of the
different types of Talaq.
final note. I would like all readers
here to consider the detail that Islamic jurisprudence places on how the
marriage is brought to an end and the continuing emphasis on reconciliation and
how different types of separation affect the nature of reconciliation. Islam always has and will always continue to
place great importance on the structure and stability of the family unit as a