Islam requires spouses to preserve their marital relationship and urges them to do their utmost to keep it going. However, should there be a genuine need for divorce, Islam requires them to follow certain rules it has laid down in this respect.
Islam urges that the marriage contract be permanent and that the marriage relationship be characterised by continuity so much so that husband and wife remain together until death separates them. Islam goes as far as to call marriage a “solemn pledge”. Specifying a date for terminating the marriage contract is strictly prohibited.
While Islam stresses all this, it does, however, take into account the fact that it lays down rules and regulations for human beings with frailties that characterise human nature, and so it lays down rules and regulations as to how a divorce may be negotiated after all efforts of reconciliation have been exhausted and there is no other recourse. In this way, it deals fairly and in a practical manner with both spouses. When aversion and conflicts between spouses persistently become intolerable, divorce becomes a necessity for the prosperity and familial and social stability for each one of them. The reason for such an inevitable course of action explains the failure of marriage to realize its purpose, hence dissolution of marriage becomes the lesser of two evils.
It is for this reason that Islam allows marriage dissolution through divorce as a means to end an unsuccessful marriage and to give each spouse the chance to find another spouse for a better relationship. As the Qur’an states, “If a couple do separate, Allah will enrich each of them from His boundless wealth. Allah is All-Encompassing, All-Wise.” (Soorat An-Nisaa’, 4:130)
However, it has laid down a number of rules and criteria concerning divorce, including the following:
- As a general rule, divorce rests with the husband except under certain circumstances.
- The wife may request a divorce from the judge if she cannot bear to live with her husband any longer for legitimate reasons and the latter refuses to divorce her. The judge then undertakes to dissolve the marriage contract if the reason for requesting a divorce is acceptable.
- A husband can remarry his wife after a second divorce; however, if he divorces her a third time, he cannot possibly remarry her unless she marries another man who has genuinely divorced her.