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Divorce: The Worst Halal
Just as most Shi'as today are confused about marriage and under all sorts of misconceptions and confusion, so they are with divorce. Divorce is permissible in Islam, and does not require any sort of clerical intercession as it does in the Catholic Church. But it is, according to many ahadeeth, the most hated of permissible things, and it does not suit a believing person to enter into divorce frivolously. Those who desire nearness to Allah (swt) must take the greatest care in this regard, and not separate from their spouse until absolutely necessary. There are a number of ahadeeth in which we read of the dislike Allah (swt), the Prophet (s), and the Imams (as) have for divorce, including:
Imam as-Sadiq (as) said: "Allah, Glorified and Exalted, loves the house in which there is a wedding, and he hates the house in which there is a divorce."
Imam as-Sadiq (as) said: "There is nothing Allah has made halal that angers him more than divorce."
From one of the Imams (as): "Marry, and do not get divorced, for divorce shakes the Throne of Allah."1
Unfortunately, these concerns do not effect many Muslims, who will enter and exit from marriage quite frivolously. It is a task of the families of married people to seek to bring about reconciliation between people, yet we see that many families will do everything in their power to break a marriage apart. Such people have been cursed by the Prophet (s), where he says:
"Those who work to separate a woman from her husband have earned the wrath of God and have been cursed by Him in this life and the hereafter. It is a right upon God that He smash such people with a thousand rocks from hell. Whoever steps into causing dissension between a husband and wife but does actually separate them is also in the wrath of God and is cursed in this life and the hereafter, and Allah has forbidden Himself to look upon that person's face."2
It is from the work of shaytan to try and break apart a marriage, yet for many reasons (most usually racism) families seek to do this. Ethnic communities will often play a great role in helping to sever a marriage, doing everything to spread gossip and corruption in order to force the families of the couple to attempt to break the marriage. The frequency of this event will bring a curse upon the Muslims, both those who did such things, and those who stand by without saying anything as this tragedy effects many young people's lives.
Allah (swt) is a Being of Perfect Unity; He desires that we experience some portion of that unity by experiencing the interpersonal union brought about by marriage. It is in His Nature to hate separation and differentiation between people, whether it be wars between nations, or a simple divorce between two people. Allah (swt) has intended that Muslims be a people who are at peace with themselves and bring peace to the world, and it is of the utmost importance that everything be done to attempt to reconcile a couple who are contemplating divorce. Because of the frequency of divorce, many 'ulama who are usually charged with handling divorces have ceased to try and reconcile people, since to deal with every individual case would be too burdensome. Many mosques, especially in the West, have been turned into divorce factories. Muslims who are not interested in following the practice of Islam are to blame for this more than those mosques are, for it is hard to blame a mosque staff for being disinterested in a divorce case when they receive dozens of such requests each day.
Islam has sought to make marriage easy and divorce difficult. Marriage requires no witnesses, whereas divorce requires two just and pious witnesses. Many scholars hold the opinion that the marriage formula can be recited in a language other than Arabic, but almost all hold that the divorce formula must be recited in perfect Arabic. One thing that many Shi'a are not aware of is that there is a mandatory waiting period before divorce. A man can not have sex with a woman and divorce her in the same period lying between her two menstrual cycles. If a man wishes divorce, he must avoid having sex with his wife until the woman has completed one menstrual period, been clean from menstruation, and then complete another menstrual period, before he can divorce her. If he has sex with her before this approximately one-month long period is over, then he cannot divorce her. Once he has divorced her, there are three menstrual periods in which the man has to continue supporting the wife, and let her live in his house. If he has sex with her at any point during that period, the divorce is nullified and he would have to start all over again. Islam, then, has sought to give couples every chance and motivation towards reconciliation, and it is hateful that some Muslim families and communities will try to drive people into divorce through emotional blackmail and gossip.
Divorce can even, in some cases, be haram. For a man to marry a woman, contract a relationship with her, and then divorce her suddenly for a trifling reason, is an act of oppression against that woman, and all acts of oppression are haram in Islam. To simply dispense with a woman in a foolish fashion is not something countenanced by Islam, and some scholars have given fatwa on this issue.
Even when people do divorce, it must be done properly, but often people choose to dispense with Islamic law and seek a civil divorce in whatever country they live in. They do not follow the proper rules about waiting periods, pious witnesses, or proper recitation of the divorce formula. They get a civil divorce and then assume they are free to go about their business, whereas they are not. There are many cases where a woman gets divorced in such a way, and then re-marries, only to find out that she is still married to her previous husband in the eyes of God. Worse, if a woman who is married has sex with another man, she and that man are forbidden to marry each other for the rest of their lives, even if they repent of their sin. Woman who get divorced with civil divorces instead of Islamic ones find that there new husband, whom they may be very happy with, is not only not her husband in the eyes of God, but is in fact now forbidden to ever marry her. Such people have only themselves to blame, for by ignoring the shari'ah and not bothering to investigate what Islam requires of them in terms of divorce, they have brought the wrath of God upon themselves and have earned His Punishment.
A further problem is that many women use the civil court systems of their country to oppress their husbands after divorce. Islam requires that a man pay the dowry he agreed upon after divorce, and requires of him that he continue to support his wife during the waiting period after divorce. He is also required to support any children that he might have had from that marriage. Unsatisfied with this, however, many women choose to use Western court systems to financially destroy the life of their ex-husband. Just as it is oppression for a man to divorce a woman frivolously, so is it even more oppression for a woman to use a non-Muslim judicial system to force her ex-husband to pay money that was never part of the original marriage contract. Western court systems are more than willing to oblige in this case. This is not, as many Muslims might think, because of some kind of "feminist" (whatever this means) influence on Western courts, but rather because most governments in the West know that most divorced women (especially poor divorced women) with children usually do not work full-time again, and wind up going on state benefits. Disdainful of having to pay out any more benefits then they have to, these courts are more than satisfied to victimize a man into paying debts that are not his. If the man is poor, the vindictiveness usually increases. If the man is Muslim, then many Muslim men have found no limits to the hatefulness expressed by divorce judges. Islam has sought to make everything fair, and the woman is given her rights according to Islamic law. She has no right to drag a non-Muslim, and probably anti-Muslim, legal system into the fray in order to oppress her husband. This is especially true in a place like the United States, where a man who is unable to pay the outrageous alimony and child support usually ordered by courts will often be sent to prison for several months.
Putting that aside, any attempt to cause more conflict than need be during a divorce is reprehensible. The Prophet (s) said: "Come together in good spirits, and part each other in good spirits." If a couple do decide on divorce, than they should at least seek to end that relationship on the best of terms. They are most especially prohibited from engaging in slander campaigns against their ex-spouse, which is, tragically, the norm in most Muslim communities. Because of the involvement of Western-style court systems in divorce, divorce in Western countries tends to be a bitter and acrimonious affair that drags on year after year. Muslims should avoid that system as much as they can, for it breeds hatred and vindictiveness between couples who are breaking apart.
In this most weighty of affairs, Muslims should strive to follow the Qur'an and sunnah, and not let the whisperings of shaytan drag them into slander, oppression, and hatred. Allah (swt) has tried to free us from such things, but the burden to choose the right path is always on us.