Please keep in view the following verses of the Qur’an: 2(221, 232,
234); 4(22-25); 5(5); 24(3, 26); 24(32-33).
Law of marriage as evolved from the Qur’an and the Sunnah is briefly
discussed as follows:
1. In the Arabic, the Qur’an has used the word “Nikah” or “Aqd” for
marriage. It means uniting or union. It is, as its literal meanings
go, carnal conjunction of the union of sexes. For facility of
discussion in English language we would use the word marriage
instead of “Nikah” or “Aqd”
2. Marriage is essential. The Prophet of Islam is reported to have
remarked: “Nikah (marriage) is my Sunnah and whosoever rejects my
Sunnah is not from me”. The Qur’an says: “Marry those among you who
are single” – (24:32). The Arabic word Ayyama means single or
solitary. A single person, may be a man or a woman, should be
married. He or she may be single on account of having not yet
married or on account of dissolution of his or her marriage by
divorce or by death of the other spouse. Whatever may be the reason
for being single, he or she is supposed to marry or remarry. Even
poverty is no excuse or justification to abstain from marriage, as
the Qur’an says in this very verse “If they are in poverty, Allah
will give them means out of His grace”. Monasticism which is
considered to be an ideal way of life in some religions is
discouraged by Islam. Similarly, life of celibacy is not encouraged
as the Prophet of Islam strongly objected to one of his companions
living such life. According to a Hadith, one makes his religion half
perfect by marrying and he would meet Allah pure and purified. There
is consensus of Muslim jurists that marriage is ‘Sunnat muwakkidah’.
Institution of marriage embraces in itself the character of ‘Ibadah’
as well as character of ‘Muamlat. Marriage in Islamic society though
essentially civil contract is also devotional act.
3. Islam permits marriage of widows and divorced women unlike
certain other religions which do not allow such women to remarry.
However, virgins (unmarried women) may be preferred for the first
marriage of a young man since virgins are generally more prolific,
more affectionate and are easily satisfied with little means of
income of the husband (according to a Hadith).
4. Islam, as the religion of nature, understands human nature
thoroughly and, therefore, it allows a man and a woman, who want to
marry, to look at each other before marriage. Apparently it may look
rather a liberal and progressive approach which is rejected by many
creeds and customs, but actually it is the correct approach.
Would-be spouses should see each other and should exercise their
right of choice. On the contrary if they are herded together
forcibly by their parents or guardians, their union is likely to
5. Islamic law has made it compulsory that a woman’s consent must be
obtained before she is married. According to the Ahadith of the
Prophet, the consent of the women, whether previously married or
virgin, is essential for marriage. A virgin may feel shy and keep
quiet. If she remains silent that shall be considered her consent,
but if she declines there shall be no compulsion on her. Thus
Islamic law provides clearly a right to a woman to exercise her
choice for marriage by saying yes or no. This idea of obtaining
consent has led to the legal concept that for the completion of a
marriage contract there must be proposal from one side and
acceptance from other side. No compulsion or coercion can,
therefore, be exercised to force a woman into marriage against her
6. Marriage contract like anyother civil contract is to be evidenced
by two competent witnesses. This has been emphasised by the Prophet
of Islam and is established by the common practice among his
followers. The verse number 2 of chapter 65 of al-Qur’an also
enjoins upon the believers to call to witness two just men from
among them at the time of marriage as well as divorce.
7. A minor girl, when given in marriage by her guardian, has the
option to repudiate the marriage when she attains puberty. The
Prophet of Islam annulled the marriage of a girl who had been given
in marriage by her father, since she disliked it. However,
repudiation must be made immediately after she attains puberty and
before cohabiting with the husband.
8. Females prohibited to a man for marriage have been mentioned in
detail by the Qur’an in its verses 22, 23 and 24 of Chapter 4. The
following women are forbidden to you as commanded by the Qur’an:
I) Your mothers (real mothers). II) Women whom your father married
(step mothers). III) Your daughters. IV) Your sisters. V) Your
father’s sisters. VI) Your mother’s sisters. VII) Your brother’s
daughters. VIII) Your sister’s daughters. IX) Your foster-mothers.
X) Your foster-sisters. XI) Your mother-in-law. XII) Your
step-daughters born of your women unto whom you have gone-in. XIII)
Wives of your real sons. XIV) Two sisters together. XV) All married
women save those captives whom your right hands possess.
Certain unions have also been prohibited specifically by Prophet
Muhammad (PBUH). According to Prophet: A woman and her paternal aunt
cannot be united, nor a woman and her maternal aunt can be united.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also told one of his followers not to marry
9. The Qur’an in its verse number 221 of chapter number 2 has
strongly forbidden its followers (Muslim males as well as females)
to marry idolatresses and idolaters till they believe. Thus, the
marriages of Muslims with non-Muslims have been prohibited. However,
there is one exception and that is in the case of a Muslim male who
has been permitted by the Qur’an (5:5) to marry a virtuous woman of
the people of the Scripture i.e. the Jews and Christians. But a
Muslim woman cannot marry a male scripturalist (a kitabi man i.e. a
Jew or a Christian).
10. According to well-reported Ahadith, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
prohibited Muta marriages (temporary marriages) and Shigar marriages
(exchange marriages without fixing dower for the females).
11. Proclamation and publicity of marriage is very important in
Islam as it dislikes secret marriage. Hosting of Waleema (marriage
feast) is an obligatory Sunnah of the Prophet which should be
performed by the bridegrooms to entertain their relatives and
friends in order to celebrate their marriages. Even Daf beating and
singing is allowed on the occasion of marriage for the purpose of
celebration and jubilation.
12. The solemnisation of marriage requires certain formalities and
conditions which briefly speaking are:
Proposal and acceptance (Ijab-o-Kabul)
The words conveying proposal and acceptance be uttered in each
other’s presence or in the presence of their agents called ‘vakils’.
Transaction must be completed in one meeting.
The parties to marriage must be competent i.e. they must have
capacity to marry. The capacity to marry depends on understanding,
puberty, free will and consent. Puberty is presumed in respect
marriage at completion of the fifteen years of age. A minor under 15
years can, however, be validly married through guardian. But even in
this case he must not be below 7 years because marriage below that
age is void in all cases.
Under sunni law, there must be two witnesses on the occasion of
There must be no legal bar to the union i.e., the couple must not be
related to each other within prohibited degrees.
13. Views differ regarding the age of puberty. Abu Hanifa fixes the
age of puberty in case of boys at 18 years and in case pf girls at
17 years. According to Abu Yusuf, it is 15 years for both. Hedaya
places the earliest period of puberty in respect of a boy at 12
years and in respect of a girl at 9 years. The Child Marriage
Restraint Act,1929. has fixed the age of puberty for male at 18
years and for female at 16 years.
Please keep in view the following verses of the Qur’an: -
2(236-237); 4(4, 20, 24); 33(50); 60(10);
The Arabic word Mahr is translated into English as dower. It has
been defined in various ways. According to a popular definition,
dower is a sum of money or other property which a wife is entitled
to get from her husband in consideration of marriage in Islam. It is
a bridal gift which a Muslim husband is obliged to pay to his bride.
The Qur’an and the Sunnah have laid down the following rules and
regulations regarding Haq Mahr or dower:
1. Payment of Haq Mahr (dower) to his wife is obligatory on the
husband. It is an essential part of marriage. The Qur’an says: “O
Prophet! We have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have paid
their dowers” – (33:50). At another place the Qur’an says: …… “And
there is no blame on you to marry them when you give them their
dower”. – (60:10). However, the marriage is not invalid if dower is
not paid or fixed before marriage. It is apparent from verse 236 of
chapter 2 of Al-Qur’an which reads: “There is no sin for you if you
divorce women when you have not yet touched them nor fixed their
dower. But provide for them, the rich according to his means and the
poor according to his means, a fair provision. This is a duty for
those who do good”.
2. The amount of dower which the bridegroom has to pay to his bride
has not been fixed by the Qur’an or the Sunnah. It depends entirely
on the agreement of the contracting parties. The Qur’an says: “….The
wealthy according to his means and the poor according to his means,
a fair provision. This is a duty for those who do the right
There is no minimum or lower limit of dower prescribed by law,
though some jurists say that it should not be less than ten dirhams.
It may be in the form of cash or in kind. The Prophet (PBUH) did not
fix any minimum. According to the well reported Traditions of the
prophet of Islam, even a handful of barley or dates or even an iron
ring may be sufficient provided the bride agrees to accept it. The
Messenger of Allah himself married Hadrat Safiyyah and her
emancipation was her dower. Omme Solaim agreed to marry Abu Talha on
the condition that he should embrace Islam. Abu Talha fulfilled the
condition and his acceptance of Islam was declared to be mahr or
dower of Omme Solaim. In another case, the teaching of one or two
verses of the Holy Qur’an by the husband to the wife was declared to
be an adequate Mahr for the bride.
Similarly no maximum or upper limit of mahr or dower has been fixed
by Islam either. The Qur’an says: “But if ye decide to take one wife
in place of another, even if you had given the latter a whole
treasure for dower, take not the least bit of it back” – (4:20).
From this verse it has been deduced that the right of a woman to
demand any amount of dower as a condition of her agreeing to
marriage is not restricted by the Islamic Law. Hadrat Umar, the
second pious caliph of Islam, once thought of fixing the upper limit
of dower on the complaint of men that women were demanding huge
amounts; but he was dissuaded by a woman who drew his attention to
verse of the Holy Qur’an quoted above.
3. If a person divorces his wife before touching her and before
appointing any amount of dower for her, he has been directed to make
provision for her according to his means. But if he divorces her
before touching her and after fixing the amount of dower for her, he
is bound to give half of the amount of dower which has been fixed.
However, if the woman agrees to forgo her right of accepting this
half dower or the man shows generosity in giving her full dower,
such an accord is permitted. (Al-Qur’an 2:237)
4. The men should give to their wives their dower willingly. But if
the women of their own accord agree to remit the whole or part of
their dower, the husbands must welcome this gesture – (Al-Qur’an
4:4). Hadrat Umar and Qadi Shuraih have decreed that if a wife
remits the dower but later on demands it, the husband shall be
compelled to pay it because the very fact that she demands it is a
clear proof that she did not remit it of her own free will.
5. According to verse 24 of Surah An-Nisa, dower has to be paid as a
6. Dower can consist of either a sum of money or certain property or
thing or article of use. But there are certain goods or objects
which are not allowed by Fiqh to form the subject of dower. For
Things forbidden to a believer, like pork, wine, etc.
Things not yet in existence such as fruit crop of next year.
Personal service of husband.
Any thing over which the dominion or the right of property can be
exercised or anything which comes within the meaning of ‘mal’ and
has a value, may according to Hanafi law, form the subject of dower.
7. The object of dower is three-fold. Firstly, it would be a check
on the arbitrary exercise of the power of divorce by the husband.
Secondly, it would restrain the husband to indulge in polygamy.
Thirdly, it would work as an obligation imposed upon the husband as
a mark of respect to the wife. It has been rightly observed: “The
marriage contract is easily dissoluble, and the freedom of divorce
and the rule of polygamy place the power in the hands of the husband
which the Law-giver intended to restrain by rendering the rules as
to payment of dower stringent on the husband”.
8. Dower according to Jurists is of two types: one is called “prompt
dower” (Mahr-i-Mu’ajjal) which is payable on demand and the other is
called “deferred dower” (Mahr-i-Mu’wajjal) which is payable on
dissolution of marriage by death or divorce. The jurists are
unanimous on the point that the wife can refuse to perform her
marital obligations unless prompt dower is paid.
9. If the amount of dower is fixed in the marriage contract, the
dower is called specified dower. When the amount is not fixed, the
wife is entitled to “proper” or “customary” dower (Mahr-i-Misl),
which is determined keeping in regard the amount of dower settled
upon other females of her father’s family. Dower is a debt and the
widow is entitled alongwith other creditors of her deceased husband,
to have it satisfied out of his estate. However, this debt is an
unsecured debt and ranks after secured creditors. But it has
priority over legacies and rights of heirs.
Please keep in view the following verses of the Qur’an:- 2(226-227);
2(229); 2(230-232); 2(236-237); 2(241); 4(35); 24(6-9); 58(2-4);
The Arabic word ‘Talaq’ which is translated into English
as divorce means ‘freeing or undoing the knot’ or ‘dismission’ or
‘rejection’. Under Islamic Fiqh it is a release from marriage tie.
It is the dissolution of marriage between the husband and the wife
by the pronouncement of certain words. Any adult Muslim of sound
mind can divorce his wife whenever he desires, without assigning any
The law regarding divorce as emanating from the Qur’an
and the Sunnah and Fiqh is outlined as under:
1. The divorce is the most hated and unpleasant thing in Islam.
According to a well reported Tradition, the Messenger of Allah said:
“The most detestable of lawful things near Allah is divorce.”
Despite that, Islam permits divorce because it becomes inevitable in
some extreme situations when it is not possible for the husband and
the wife to pull on together. It is allowed normally when all the
efforts for reconciliation have proved abortive and there are no
chances left for the couple to live together amicably.
2. To resolve the differences between the husband and the wife,
resort can be made to arbitration. The Qur’an in its verse 35 of
chapter 4 instructs its followers to appoint arbiters, one from
husband’s family and one from wife’s family for making
reconciliation and rapprochement. If the parties wish for settlement
and peace, the efforts of the arbiters shall be successful and Allah
would effect harmony between the spouses.
3. The method of divorce as propounded by the Qur’an and the Sunnah
is briefly described in these words: If the husband intends to
divorce his wife, he can do so by making a single pronouncement of
divorce within Tuhr during which he has not had sexual intercourse
with her, and then leave her to observe Iddah. After expiry of Iddah
(three monthly courses) the divorce would attain finality. The other
method is that the husband would pronounce divorce thrice in three
successive Tuhrs, and in this way, the divorce would become
irrevocable after the third pronouncement. In case of one or two
divorces, the husband retains the right of Rajuah or reunion within
period of Iddah by resuming sexual intercourse or by verbal
retraction. However, after the expiry of Iddah, divorce becomes
irrevocable and the husband’s right of Rajuah stands forfeited. Now,
the couple has the right to remarry if they desire to live together.
But when a husband has given three divorces, he has no right of
revocation, neither the couple can remarry. In this situation, the
parties can remarry only when the woman marries another husband and
the latter dies or divorces her after actual consummation of
Tuhr is period of purity between two monthly courses and Iddah is
the waiting period which a divorcee has to undergo before she can
contract a second marriage.
4. The procedure of divorce enunciated by the Qur’an and Sunnah, as
stated above, is spread over a period of almost three months, during
which the husband has a right to revoke the divorce. It has been
done with a view to check hasty, rash or an arbitrary action on the
part of the husband and also to leave the door open for the parties
to reconcile during the period. During Iddah the wife cannot be
expelled from the house and she would be entitled to full
maintenance and also to good treatment.
5. Those who pronounce three divorces at a single sitting, they have
been condemned by the Holy Prophet. According to an authentic
Tradition, the Prophet of Islam, when he heard of a man who had
given three divorces to his wife at one time, got up enraged and
said: “Are you playing with the Book of Almighty and Glorious Allah,
while I am still amongst you?” So, the simultaneous pronouncement of
three divorces was treated as a single divorce during the time of
the Prophet and of Abu Bakr and even in the early days of the
caliphate of Umar. Umar reportedly used to whip such persons who
gave three divorces in one sitting. However, later on, Umar changed
his mind when he found that people frequently divorced by three
pronouncements. He, therefore, ordered to treat three pronouncements
as three divorces and made them operative as a matter of punishment
upon those who used this sinful method. This form of Talaq is called
Talaqul Biddat or irregular divorce and is sinful being against the
teachings of the Qur’an and Hadith. However, it dissolves the
marriage irrevocably and immediately in the opinion of some jurists.
But other jurists take it as single divorce which is not
irrevocable. Shafii and Hanfi Law recognize this form of divorce
though they consider it as sinful, but the Shias and Malki do not
recognize this mode of Talaq.
6. When a husband has repudiated his wife by making three divorces,
the divorce becomes irrevocable. He cannot after that remarry her
until after she has married another husband and that other husband
has divorced her. This has been further explained by the Prophet in
his traditions. According to the Prophet, marriage in such situation
with the first husband is lawful only when the wife has consummated
her marriage with the second husband, and the second husband has
voluntarily divorced her or he has died.
The method of making a woman lawful for her first husband in common
parlance is called ‘Halalah’. Prophet of Islam has condemned the man
who makes a woman lawful for her first husband intentionally, and
the first husband, has also been cursed for whom she was made
lawful. Thus, Halalah is abominable and the most unpleasant method.
Those who indulge in this practice intentionally are the most cursed
7. In case of divorce, the husband is not entitled to take back
anything out of the dower which he has given to her, however great
it may be (Al-Qur’an 4:20). If he has not given her dower already,
he is obliged to make the payment of dower immediately at the time
of divorce. For the divorced woman, the husband is required to make
some provision as the Qur’an (2:241) deems it a duty for the
8. Al-Qur’an has given the right of obtaining divorce to a wife if
she agrees to pay some ransom or compensation. This is called Khula.
If the husband and wife are not able to keep the limits of Allah and
they agree to dissolve the marriage on the condition that the wife
gives some compensation, it is permitted by the law (The Qur’an
2:229). The jurists are generally of the opinion that such
compensation should not exceed the dower given by the husband to the
wife. Thus Khula is a kind of facility provided to the woman to
secure divorce from her husband by returning a part of or full
amount of the bridal gift or Mahr. According to a tradition the
Apostle of Allah permitted the wife of Sabet-b-Qais to get divorce
from her husband by surrendering a garden which had been given to
her in Mahr.
So the Islamic law stipulates that whenever a marriage is dissolved
at the instance of the wife and there is no fault of the husband
regarding his performance of marital obligations, the wife is the
contract-breaking party and must, therefore, return the part or full
of dower which she has received from the husband.
9. There was an evil custom in the “Days of Ignorance”, according to
which a man would swear that he would not go to his wife for carnal
connection. By this means he would put away his wife for indefinite
period. He would keep her in suspense by neither divorcing her nor
resuming cohabitation. This practice was resorted to as many times
as a husband wished and, thus, the life of the wife became
miserable. This custom is known as ‘Ieela. The Qur’an abolished this
custom by warning such persons to take decision within four months
about their course of action. They should either resume their
conjugal relations and take back their wives or give them divorce
(Al-Qur’an 2:226). In case the husband does not decide, the woman
can take her case to a Qadhi who would order the husband to take her
back or divorce her.
10. There was yet another evil practice which was abolished by the
Qur’an. The man would say to his wife: “Thou are to me as back of my
mother,” and thus separate her indefinitely. It was called Zihar. It
was held to imply a divorce and freed the husband from any
responsibility for maintenance of wife and children and other
conjugal duties, but the wife was not allowed to leave the husband’s
home or to contract another marriage. So this custom was not only
degrading to a woman but also fatal to the lives of the children.
Al-Qur’an abolished this custom by saying: “Such of you who put away
their wives (by saying they are as their mothers) – they are not
their mothers; none are their mothers except those who gave them
birth-they indeed utter an absurd word and lie….”--(58:2). Such
person who is guilty of Zihar has been commanded by the Qur’an in
the subsequent verses to set free a slave or to fast for two
consecutive months or to feed sixty needy persons as a mater of
expiation. After undergoing this penalty he can touch his wife. But
if he does not perform this prescribed penance, his wife has a right
to apply to a court of law for judicial divorce.
11. If the husband charges his wife of adultery and has got no
witness, the couple has to undergo what is called Lian. The
procedure of Lian has been prescribed by the Qur’an in the verses
from 6 to 9 of chapter 24. The Prophet of Islam used to separate
such spouses who had preformed Lian. It has been held by the jurists
that if the charges are false, the wife is entitled to sue for and
obtain divorce from a court of law.
The procedure of Lian or imprecation as stated in the Qur’an is
briefly described thus: If a husband charges his wife of adultery
and has no witnesses, he shall swear by Allah four times saying that
he is speaking the truth, and a fifth time he would invoke curse of
Allah on him if he is liar. If the wife wants to deny the accusation
and save herself from punishment, she would swear by Allah four
times saying that her husband is telling lie, and a fifth time she
would invoke wrath of Allah on her if the husband speaks the truth.
Lian literally means mutual cursing, while technically it signifies
a form of divorce which is performed in the court and after mutual
cursing, the Qadi separates the husband and the wife.
12. From verse 2 of Chapter 65 of the Qur’an, some jurists have made
the presence of two witnesses compulsory for divorce, while the
others consider it optional. Sunni Law makes the presence of two
witnesses essential at the time of marriage but not at the time of
divorce. On the other hand, the Shiah doctors hold the presence of
two witnesses as necessary at the time of divorce but not at the
time of marriage.
There is a difference of opinion among scholars about calling
witness to revocation of divorce and taking the wife back. According
to Imam Malik and Shafi’i it is essential to call witness to the
revocation of divorce. But Imam Abu Hanifa and Shafii (in one of his
statements) do not think it necessary to call witness for
13. Upon divorce, the wife becomes entitled to deferred dower, and
prompt dower if not paid. If the marriage was not consummated, she
is entitled to only half dower.
14. There is almost a consensus of opinion among the scholars that a
divorce pronounced in jest is valid and operative. This unanimous
opinion of the learned is based on the tradition of the Prophet who
is reported to have said: “There are three things which, whether
undertaken seriously or in jest, are treated as serious: marriage,
divorce and taking back a wife (after a divorce which is not
final).” Thus, if an adult and sane person pronounces divorce in
joke, that is valid. It is of no use saying afterwards that he was
just joking. This rule is based on the rationale that if such
divorce is not taken seriously, people would begin to play with the
injunctions of the religion like a sport. However, divorce of the
idiot is not lawful whether pronounced in joke or seriously.
15. Divorce under force, compulsion or duress is not valid. Even
divorce in anger is unlawful. This is the view of three Sunni Imams
– Malik, Shafi and Ibn Hanbal – who quote Hadith reported by Ayesha
that the Messenger of Allah said: “There is no divorce and no
emancipation by force.” However, Imam Abu Hanifa differs with them
and maintains that divorce under force is valid.
16. Islam gives right to a woman to get divorce from her husband by
the following means:
Talaq-i-Tafweez: If a husband has delegated the power of divorce to
his wife, she can exercise the delegated power and can pronounce
Khula or Redemption: If she agrees to pay some consideration or
compensation to her husband for her release from the marriage tie,
the divorce would be known as Khula. (Please refer to serial No. 8
Mubarat or Mutual Release: If the husband and wife, by mutual
consent, agree to dissolve marriage conditionally or
unconditionally, the woman would be released.
Lian or Imprecation: If the husband falsely accuses her of adultery,
the wife has right to sue him and obtain divorce. (Please see serial
Zihar: In case of Zihar, if the husband does not expiate himself
from prescribed penance, the wife has a right to apply to court for
divorce. (Please see No.10 above).
Ieela: If in case of Ieela or vow of abstinence the husband does not
resume conjugal relations, the wife can apply to the court for
divorce. (Please see No.9 above).
Judicial divorce: A Muslim woman can also obtain judicial divorce
from her husband under the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act,
1939, on the grounds mentioned in that Act such as absence of
husband, imprisonment of husband, impotency or insanity of husband,
his cruelty, husband’s failure to maintain her or his failure to
perform marital obligations, etc.
Talaq-e-Taliq: it means contingent divorce. A divorce may be
pronounced to take effect on the happening of a future event. For
example, a husband agrees to pay his wife maintenance allowance
within a specified time and in case of his default the divorce would
take place. Thus, the failure to honour the agreement would operate
as valid divorce.
17. Effect of apostasy: Apostasy from Islam of the husband operates
as a complete and immediate dissolution of the marriage. If a woman
converted to Islam from some other faith, re-embraces her former
faith, the marriage would stand dissolved. But mere renunciation of
Islam by a married woman or her conversion to any other religion
does not, ipso facto dissolve the marriage. However, she may sue for
dissolution on any of the grounds mentioned in Section 2 of the
Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, 1939.
Kindly keep in view the following verses which deal with
this subject: 2(228); 2(234); 2(235); 33(49); 65(4); 65(5);
The rules of law made by the jurists in the light of
Qur’an and the Sunnah are discussed as under:
1. Iddah is the period of waiting or probation during which it is
incumbent upon a woman, whose marriage has been dissolved by divorce
or death of her husband, to remain in seclusion and abstain from
marrying another man. Syed Ameer Ali calls it ‘interval which a
woman is bound to observe between the termination, by death or
divorce, of one matrimonial alliance and the commencement of
another. Thus, Iddah is the period during which a divorced woman or
a widow is not permitted to remarry.
2. Period of Iddah in case of a divorced woman with whom marriage
has been consummated and who is still in the age of menstruation is
three monthly courses. In case of a divorcee who is past the age of
menstruation and in the case of a divorcee who has no menstruation
(because it has not yet started), the period is three months. In the
case of a pregnant woman the Iddah is up to her delivery. In the
case of a widow, the waiting period is 4 months and 10 days. In case
of a marriage which has not been consummated, there is no iddah to
be observed. In the case of a pregnant widow, if delivery or
miscarriage takes place before 4 months and 10 days, the remaining
period will have to be observed, according to some jurists. The
period of Iddah when husband dies after divorce would run from the
day of his death.
3. The primary purpose of the Iddah is two fold: firstly the
ascertainment of possible pregnancy and thus preventing the
confusion of parentage of the would-be baby; secondly to provide
opportunity to the husband and wife to resolve their differences and
reconcile if the divorce is revocable.
4. During the period of Iddah, the woman, who has been divorced by
less than three pronouncements and is pregnant, shall be entitled to
have both dwelling and maintenance. A woman separated by revocable
divorce shall also have dwelling and maintenance, even if not
pregnant, during the period of Iddah. As for a woman whose husband
has died, she will have no maintenance but will have dwelling during
the Iddah. In the case of a woman who has been divorced irrevocably
but is pregnant, both maintenance and lodging are almost unanimously
approved by the jurists.
However, there is some difference of opinion amongst the scholars
about maintenance and lodging for a woman who has been divorced
irrevocably by three pronouncements but is not pregnant. According
to Imam Abu Hanifa, such a woman is entitled to dwelling and
maintenance during the period of her Iddah. He and his followers
base their opinion on verse 6 of chapter 65 of the Holy Qur’an.
The meaning of ‘Nafqah’, which is the Arabic, equivalent of
‘maintenance’, is what a person spends on his family. Maintenance
includes food, clothing and lodging. Under Islamic law, a person is
bound to maintain his wife and children and in certain circumstances
his parents. The law regarding maintenance is briefly discussed as
According to some well known Traditions reported in authentic books
of Hadith, the Prophet (may Allah’s peace be upon him) required his
followers to accord their wives the best possible treatment. He
impressed upon men the rights of women regarding food, clothing and
lodging. Even in his famous Farewell Address at Arafat, the Apostle
of Allah did not forget to exhort the believers to fulfil their
obligations regarding the proper maintenance of their women. The
Qur’an also enjoins upon the believers to accord proper treatment to
Duty of providing maintenance to the wife is so important that the
Qur’an makes even a divorced wife entitled to it during the period
of Iddah when the husband would provide her food, clothing and
lodging and cannot expel her from his house (Al-Qur’an 65:1 and
65:6). If she is pregnant, the husband is bound to maintain her till
delivery and in case she suckles the child she would be entitled to
receive the due payment for this service. (Al-Qur’an 65:6)
The Qur’an makes it a duty for the pious and God-fearing persons to
make some provision even for those women who have been divorced by
No scale or standard has been fixed for maintenance by the Qur’an or
by the Sunnah. However, a lot of guidance has been provided to
determine it in the given circumstances. The Qur’an says: “No one
should be charged beyond one’s capacity” (2:233). At another place,
the Qur’an directs: “Provide for them, the rich according to his
means and the straitened according to his means, a fair
Please refer to verses 2:215; 2:233; 2:236; 2:241; 4:34; 65:6-7;
Islam permits a male Muslim to have more than one wife at a time
although number of wives has been restricted to maximum four. The
rights of a woman in case of multiple or plural marriages of her
husband have also been protected. The relevant verses of the Qur’an
are as follows:
And if you fear that you will not be able to deal fairly with the
orphans, then marry the women (having orphan children with them) who
seem good to you, two or three or four. But if you consider that you
will not be able to do justice with them, then marry only one or
(marry) a slave girl who is in your possession. Thus it is more
likely that you will not do injustice. (4:3)
You will not be able to do full justice between your wives even if
you earnestly wish to do so. Hence, do not incline towards one of
them to the extent that you leave the other hanging (as in
suspense). And if you make reconciliation (with them) and keep away
from evil, then Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. (4:129)
The relevant Traditions of the Prophet of Islam are as follows:
Ibn Umar reported that Gailan-b-Salamah al-Saqafi accepted Islam
while he had ten wives of the Days of Ignorance. They also embraced
Islam with him. The Holy Prophet said: Keep four and be separate
from the rest. (Ahmad, Tirmizi and Ibn Majah)
Naufal-b-Mu’wayiah reported: I accepted Islam while there were five
wives with me. I asked the Prophet who said: Separate one and keep
four. (Sharhi Sunnat)
Ayesha reported that the Messenger of Allah used to have turns among
his wives and do justice. He used to say: O Allah! this is my
division in what I can control. So don’t blame me in what Thou dost
control and I cannot control. (Tirmizi, Abu Daud, Ibn Majah)
Abu Hurairah reported from the Holy Prophet who said: When a man has
two wives and he does not deal equitably between them, he will come
on the Resurrection Day with a side hanging down. (Tirmizi, Abu
In the light of the above mentioned verses of the Qur’an and the
Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) the subject of polygamy i.e.
the permission to man of having wives upto four at a time is
discussed as under:
1. The Qur’an, in its verse 3 of chapter 4 permits polygamy and the
following hard and fast rules have been laid down about it:
If you fear that you would not be able to deal fairly and equitably
with the orphans, you should marry the women who (have these orphans
with them and) seem good to you.
You are permitted to marry even two, three or four women but not
more at a time provided you can treat them justly and equitably.
If you have reason to fear that you cannot do justice with as many
wives, you should marry only one.
‘Adl or justice has not been defined in this verse. However all the
commentators of the Qur’an unanimously hold that justice in this
verse means equality of treatment in food, clothing and lodging.
Mu’tazilite doctors, however, hold that in addition to food,
clothing and lodging there must be equal treatment in love and
2. The Qur’an in its verse 129 of chapter 4 holds that you cannot
deal (in matter of love and affection) equally with all of your
wives however much you wish. Therefore, you are directed not to
incline towards one so much that you leave the other in suspense.
There may be so many factors on account of which it would be
difficult for the husband to deal equally between them. For example,
difference in temperament, appearance, education, family background,
age, ability to look after the household affairs, etc., may cause
the husband to prefer one above the other. However, the husband must
try his best to keep balance and accord them equal treatment in the
things on which he has control like food, clothing and lodging. On
the things on which he has no control like love and affection, even
there he should not display by his outward behaviour that he loves
one wife and hates the other one. The husband should not incline
towards his favourite one altogether and neglect the other one
completely. On the basis of this verse (4:129) some people try to
establish that monogamy is the only form of marriage which is right
because polygamy is permitted with the condition of justice and in
this verse, Allah has Himself pointed out that maintaining justice
between wives is impossible. However this assumption is nor correct
when we look at the second sentence of this verse which reads: “But
turn not altogether away (from one), leaving her as in suspense.”
3. There is almost consensus of opinion among all the scholars of
the Qur’an that verse 3 of chapter 4 of the Qur’an permits polygamy.
However, the injunction is in the nature of permission and not in
the nature of order or command. The Qur’an simply permits its
followers to contract plural marriages but it does not command them
to essentially do so. It also restricts the maximum number of wives
at four and makes the permission subject to the condition that the
husband must do justice with all the wives and deal with them
equally. In my view there is another condition or proviso also and
that is that the choice of wives for plural marriages must be from
among the widows. It is only in this sense that the relevance of the
opening sentence of this verse (4:3) is justified which reads: “And
if you fear that you will not be able to deal fairly with the
orphans…….”. If this sentence of the verse under discussion is read
and considered with the preceding verse (4:2), the meanings become
more clear. “Give unto orphans their wealth. Exchange not the good
for the bad (in your management thereof), nor absorb their wealth
into your wealth. Lo! That would be a great sin. And if you fear
that you will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women,
who seem good to you, two or three or four…..” (4:2 and 4:3). It is
clear from this that the Qur’an is exhorting its followers to do
justice with the orphans who are under their care. It is against
this background that polygamy has been permitted so that they may be
able to do justice with the orphans and treat them fairly by
marrying the mothers or the sisters of the orphans and thus becoming
their close relations. In that way they would feel and develop love,
affection and tenderness towards the orphans and would treat them
kindly as if the orphans were their own children.
4. The Qur’an did not, in fact, introduce polygamy. That existed in
pre-Islamic Arabia and also in the neighbouring communities.
Al-Qur’an actually limited the number of wives, which was
unrestricted among the pagans, to four and also subjected polygamy
to a very strict condition of doing justice between the wives.
Traditions of the Prophet of Islam also support this interpretation.
5. The jurists have justified the need of polygamy in the following
In case of war men are generally killed in large numbers. Thus the
number of men is decreased while the number of females increases
specially of helpless widows and orphans. If polygamy is not
permitted to support the widows and the orphans and also to bring
the unmarried women into marriage bond, it would lead not only to
economic misery of many families but also to immoral practices like
prostitution, adultery, sexual anarchy etc. Such a social
disintegration can be averted only if a man is permitted by law to
have more than one wife.
The wife may be sterile and the natural desire for progeny may lead
the husband to contract another marriage, who does not want to
divorce the first wife but at the same time wants to have children.
Some men may, by nature, be sexually very strong. So they cannot
remain content with one wife. A woman is disabled on account of
menses for almost a week in every month and besides that, pregnancy,
delivery and weaning of the child is spread over almost a period of
more than two years. During these periods, she is unable to meet the
husband’s biological needs. Hence the need of the husband for the
second wife is necessary.
The wife may be chronically diseased and unable to satisfy the
sexual urge of her husband. In certain cases she may be able to
perform marital obligations but her fragile health may not withstand
pregnancies and child births. Hence a second marriage in such a
situation may become a necessity to keep the husband away from
indulging in immorality.