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Religion and divorce

(18 Posts)
namechangingspecimen Sat 11-Jul-15 00:28:03

Anyone else here either been through divorce or considered it and got grief from the minister/imam/rabbi etc? I've been told that I do not have a biblical reason for divorce - I have generally experienced a serious lack of respect and won't tolerate it anymore.

Positivelyfatalistic Sat 11-Jul-15 02:31:08

Sorry to hear that OP. I love my faith Islam but family law on topics such as divorce are so skewed ( because of the male dominated canonisation process of only certain quranic verses/hadith into sharia law to cement male dominance and te ignoring other verses/hadith that could make for great gender equality) that i seriously encourage sisters to head down to the civil courts to start the process first before their soon to be ex can get to the religious one. Iv just heard of to many imams (pastoral) and muftis (who are formally trained in religious law to give divorces) who make it hard on women to leave difficult marriages.

It sometimes comes down to not just searching for a fatawa to give you a way out but also shopping searching for a mufti, and sometimes even finding a sympathetic mufti to give one a divorce isn't the end as then remarrying can cause problems if the local imam doesn't accept the first muftis rulings and may want the divorce redone again even years later.

mathanxiety Sat 11-Jul-15 05:29:15

I have had the opposite response from the RC church via the annulment process, and also informally in chats with my parish priest. I know this sort of supportive attitude wasn't always the case in my particular church but my experience was one of support and dare I say it, love.

TheDietStartsTomorrow Sat 11-Jul-15 06:11:33

Positively that has not been my experience. I counsel Muslim women as part of my job and our process is to initially encourage reconciliation and mutual agreements to resolve situations. If that does not work, or either one of the couple do not want to reconcile for whatever reason then they are referred to a mufti who holds a sharia court. We have two muftis in our locality who undertake this and both are very sympathetic to the needs of both spouses. In situations where the husband is unwilling to divorce the wife or holds back in order to emotionally abuse the wife, the muftis sit with them and try to convince them to separate amicably. If they still refuse he is issued a written ultimatum to change his ways (as long as he is being unreasonable) and given a month to respond. If he does not respond by the third letter the muftis issue a 'faskh'of the nikah (annulment).
In situations where no side is being unreasonable but the wife feels that she does not love him anymore or doesn't want to be with him for her own personal reasons then the same procedure is adopted, ie. the husband is encouraged to divorce her Islamicaly but if he refuses then the mufti issues an annulment.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no compulsion in Islam for a married couple to stay together. The husband has the right of divorce but the woman also has a right to khulah (returning the dowry and forcing him to divorce her) or faskh (annulment) if he refuses.

Yes, there are some imams and muftis who don't follow the decreed process and instead make seperation difficult. However, this is because of their cultural influences and because they are misinformed of Islam and is not because Islam makes it difficult to leave a difficult marriage. There is a process, yes, but it's there to ensure the correct decision is made and not because it's skewed.

Lastly, although divorce is discouraged in Islam because it is a breaking of ties and uproots children and extended families, it is not forbidden or a sin. There are many Companions of the Prophet Muhammad who divorced, incuding a number of the most high ranking companions and all four of his closest companions and it was not condemned. In fact, during the time of the Prophet Muhammad there was no stigma attached to divorce and nor was there any stigma attached to marrying divorcees. Unfortunately the customs and cultures of our societies has changed that.

mathanxiety Sat 11-Jul-15 06:42:57

Maybe I am being a bit dim here about Islam, and I am sure I am not well informed, but it seems to me that the crux of the issue is expressed here: 'Yes, there are some imams and muftis who don't follow the decreed process and instead make seperation difficult. However, this is because of their cultural influences and because they are misinformed of Islam and is not because Islam makes it difficult to leave a difficult marriage.'

How can you say any particular approach is or is not properly Islamic? Islam is a faith where multiple interpretations of texts and tradition jostle for dominance and influence, as far as I can see, and if people are unlucky enough to live in a place where 'the customs and cultures' of society tend to be unsympathetic to women who wish to end a marriage, then those women's lives can be pretty miserable and it really does not matter one bit what some other authority somewhere else says -- they are stuck dealing with the reality on their own doorstep.

Positivelyfatalistic Sat 11-Jul-15 07:53:59

I do know of such processes as yours sister diet and they are very good for women who want mediation or are open to a chance of reconciliation. And a lot of the inhibitions placed on women to stay in marriages are cultural rather than religious as you pointed out how divorce is seen in the Quran and amongst the early generations. But I know that a decree nisi from a civil court is now accepted by certain orthodox schools/muftis as a valid islamic divorce. So I encourage sisters to go down that route to save themselves the angst and hassle of having to prove physical/emotional/financial abuse to a religious council in order to pressure the husband to grant a divorce or acquire themselves a khul or annulment.

When I learnt about the status of a decree nisi I wondered why women who are past the point of mediation even bother going to these imams etc anymore. But I know psychologically knowing something is halal/lawful is not the same as having it in one's heart but even that we say 'to convince the husband to give a divorce' puts too much bargaining power in the man's hand. And I understand why some sisters would need that as it makes a difference to financial settlements such as the mahr (dowry) or the muakhr (post divorce settlement by husband). What I see is that british muslim councils/muftis can get the mahr paid back for a woman to get her khul easier than getting a man to pay his muakhr/alimony if he initiates the divorce.

Of course it depends on what madhab one follows,that we have the four traditional shaafiee/hanafi/Maliki/hanbali schools of law are seen as proof that islam is not monolithic but pluralistic and tolerant of competing interpretations. i really think we can look from within them and pick the best opinions from all four to create a religious family law system that is fair on both parties and on the family. Like in the Maliki school the laws on alimony post divorce -based on the quran -are more advanced than in the other madhabs so why not take those laws and incorporate them to fit the modern financial and societal reality we live in? Because It's fine when both in a couple are reasonable and responsible and can come to an agreement between themselves on separating. and doesn't Allah encourage that? But what happens when everyone is angry and no longer respectful or merciful to each other? That's when you go to the law

Positivelyfatalistic Sat 11-Jul-15 07:58:54

Sorry last sentence I meant to say 'that's when you go to the letter of the law, when there is no more mercy or spirit to the difficult process of divorce. And it's in the letter of islamic divorce law rather than the spirit that I see a wilful choice by muftis and imams to make it difficult for women and easy for men. Though Muhammad (pbuh) had intended it made it easy for both by the hadith. but even knowing specific hadith and verses that attest to that means very very little because unless it has become part of the formal cannon of religious law it doesn't help.

TheDietStartsTomorrow Sat 11-Jul-15 19:44:17

Positively, you raise some really valid points about a unified Islamic family law system that incorporates Islamic law with the modern financial and societal realitywe live in as well as being compatible with the laws of the land. It would make the divorce process much easier for Muslim women particularly as we see that due to cultural setbacks some women in abusive marriages are not supported by their families. However I feel it's the secularists that would oppose it. There are many who don't understand the first thing about sharia and cannot see past the extremists welding swords and think that allowing some sort of conjugation between a sharia divorce and an court divorce would mean a law system run by fanatics whereas what they don't see is how this would really help so many women free themselves from a difficult marriage. In the end, it's because of their reluctance to even listen that the vulnerable are left to delay with their mess themselves.

I myself know from personal experience how despite physical and emotional violence, there is still reluctance to support a potential divorcee in our communities. It shouldn't be that way but it is and it's something I hope that strong Muslim women with the courage to stand up for the rights of women with one day challenge successfully. I hope I too can be one of them as it is something I feel strongly about.

TheDietStartsTomorrow Sat 11-Jul-15 20:07:44

mathanxiety, yes, the primary sources of Islamic law, namely the Quran and sunnah (saying, practices and consent of the Prophet Muhammad) are interpreted in different ways but there are still principles that need to followed and an established process to deriving rulings. Culture rarely come into it; for something to be proven to Islamic practice it has to be proven through the Quran and Sunnah so unless those muftis and imams who are making divorce difficult can prove their case from these sources it's not classed as Islamic practice and can be rejected. We are taught to always look for evidence in every ruling that shows there is a precedent for it in the Quran and sunnah and this makes it easy to weed out the baseless customs. If they can't provide the evidence then what they say is not part of Islam.

And as you say, there are many muslim women around the world living in communities that are not sympathetic to women. But it's our job to educate them. We can empower women with the knowledge and help them challenge customs. It's not always easy as with any battle where you are going against the norms but that doesn't mean it's not possible. In my own community, many mysogonist customs are already being challenged with the correct interpretation of Islam. For example, my aunt was forced into a marriage against her will and just one or two generations ago this was not challenged so easily. Fast forward to today and in my same family, a forced marriage would not be tolerated by a single member of the family across the generations. That's because we have successfully proven through education that in Islam, a woman has the right to chose her own marital partner and it is prohibited to force her into marriage. Such a marriage is not even considered valid.
Other practices such as giving women their fair share of family inheritance, her right to education and wealth, her voice in a marriage etc which were until recently undermined by custom and culture are being challenged with the Quran and Sunnah and this is empowering to Muslim women today.

mathanxiety Sat 11-Jul-15 20:42:17

Those unsympathetic communities are Muslim communities, surely? The authorities there have presumably found some way of justifying their approach, basing it on the Quran and Sunnah and perhaps Hadith. Everyone seems to think they have the correct interpretation of Islam.

I think, flawed though it is (because western law is still influenced in subtle ways by the philosophy of male superiority) the civil law is the way to go if it results in a speeding up of the process and certainly if the net result is women being treated more fairly. Perhaps if more women were to seek the remedies of the civil law first their example would serve as a valuable educational tool for their communities? i.e. it would show other women that they have more options than they think they have.

Positivelyfatalistic Sat 11-Jul-15 21:16:03

I agree dear diet about education and paring down customs to their origion to find out whether they are cultural or religious. knowledge is so important, otherwise simple muslimahs are like putty told 'you have no right to this..' 'you cannot do this....' 'you have to wear this....'. but i think dear diet, that as far as there are so many orthodox sunni ulema that oppose gender equality than even if we had a unified sunni family law system, women wouldnt be much better off. because there would still be male bias in application and interpretation of scripture, what we need is to go back to basics and question fundamental ideas about male headship/qiwamah first, because otherwise the pulling together of 4 into one would only result in cementing male power. female scholarship not just female advocacy and organisations such as Musawah are doing both. and what i like about them is that they challenge from within the islamic tradition. as heartsick and wretched as i feel about the persistence of misogyny in this deen i still believe that reformation and change must reach and come through the formal cannon of law, that is, orthodoxy rather than radical sweeping away and starting over.

www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ziba-mirhosseini/men-in-charge-rethinking-authority-in-muslim-legal-tradition

Richard Carter here in his article 'Losing my religion for Equality' said: "The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter." its been so hard for me to come to terms with this but its what iv concluded about whats going on in our own deen.

Positivelyfatalistic Sat 11-Jul-15 21:40:18

mathanxiety i would like to explain how culture is the as for misogynistic customs diet im heartened to hear that as well, in my own community alot of work is being done on FGM awareness and eradication through understanding the origins of the practise. whilst our mothers and grandmothers had it done its been nearly wiped out in my generation as globalisation of islamic fiqh occurs and people learn more from each other about history/faith/custom.

outside of Africa where FGM is practised by animists, muslims, christians, FGM is prevalent in only a few reigions of the muslim world. amongst the Kurds of Iraq and Iran, the Yemen, Malaysia, Indonesia. someone knowledgeable of the spread of the four schools of thought would recognise these countries as being followers of the Shaafiee Sunni school. one could look at that geographically and culturally disparate group of countries, see the common factor between them and say that FGM must be from islam therefore, not culture. nevermind that to wide swathes of the muslim world FGM is as abhorrent and alien to citizens of conservative Afghanisatan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, as it is to UK citizens. (if it is found in those countries, it is, like in the UK, because it is being practised by people who originate from countries where FGM is done eg Somalia, Yemen.) whilst acceptance and practise of male circumcision across the muslim world is nearly 100%, amongst secularists and liberals as well as the orthodox.

but delve deeper. looking at the origin of the Shaafiee school compared to the others and it is the only one that comes out of Africa, and specifically it is known as the Cairo school (whereas the Hanafi madhab is from Basra, Iraq and the Maliki madhab originated from Madinah, Arabia). this makes all the difference because the origin of FGM is pre-islamic/christian going back to the pharoanic times and was such a strong cultural custom that until recently was as much done by Egyptian Coptic Christians as by Egyptian Shaafiee muslims. much less culture of medieval Cairo. thus the backdrop to Imam Shaafiee's scholarship was this culture that permeated into the jurisprudence that when that madhab/school spread outside of africa to those kurds and yemenis and south east asian muslims it took the cultural practise of FGM with it.

mathanxiety Sat 11-Jul-15 21:52:26

But what is 'orthodoxy' in the Islamic context?

TheDietStartsTomorrow Sun 12-Jul-15 03:04:36

Those unsympathetic communities are Muslim communities, surely? The authorities there have presumably found some way of justifying their approach, basing it on the Quran and Sunnah and perhaps Hadith.

This is exactly the problem. It's not justified based on Quran and Sunnah at all. It's just drummed into the heads of those who don't question or challenge them.

I know it may seem to outsiders that it's a group of scholars arguing with another group of scholars but to those with even a small insight into the Islamic laws, it's very easy to tell the difference between law that is based on sound principles of extracting a ruling from Quran and sunnah and what it just conjured out of an ignorant persons back pocket. One is an intellectual and methodical argument of a scholarly nature using evidence and principles, along with authentication of the evidence and the analysis of its reliability. The other is a two and two put together to make ten.

"Orthodox" Islam is practice on all the commandments of the Quran, acceptance of all the sound and reliable hadith that are recorded in the main collections of hadith (The Sihah Sitta-meaning the 6 reliable collections) and to interpret them according to the findings of the early scholars of Islam.

Positivelyfatalistic Mon 13-Jul-15 08:18:17

I think more methodology of early scholarship rather than the findings of early scholarship. I used to have quite a lot of confidence in their 'findings' and the use of 'sound and reliable hadith' and deductions. then I found recently a key hadith on hijab that i took as gospel, it's quoted everywhere, referenced everywhere when people give explanation of the Quranic verses on dressing modestly to mean all but face and hands. 'The scholars say these verses mean' because the quran itself is not explicit about covering the hair let alone the face, and Id known that for years but I always knew of the Hadith when the Prophet (pbuh) purportedly told Asma (rah) his SIL that when a muslim woman reached puberty then she covers all but her face and hands. I told myself on hot days, on days when I was worried the hijab was going to stuff up my chances at a job interview, days I got weird looks, hostile looks etc 'this is what Nabi Muhammad (pbuh) said the quranic verses meant, and I'm going to stay loyal to this'. It's quoted in one of the six reliable collections: Sunan Abu Dawud so automatically you assume if it's from one of the six its sound. Then I found out this Hadith is actually graded weak, because the chain of transmission from the narrator back to the prophet (pbuh) was incomplete. That even the author of that particular Hadith collection said it wasn't sound/strong. Yet this Hadith is quoted on many articles on hijab and if anyone knows how the drive of the last 20years in scholarship has been to go back to only hadiths with a strong chain of transmission, how debates are finished if someone brings along a weak Hadith it is such a slap in the face. I was astonished that a key point of religious/sharia law: that many women followed out of reverence for the scripture was based on such weak evidence. Ironically, I read about it on a website that advocates face covering as obligatory and the author of the article was trying to take this 'face and hands' Hadith apart as it is also used as an argument against the face veil.

islamqa.info/en/23496 ( goes into all the reasons why the Hadith is weak)

I know other strong Hadith that can be used against the author's argument but none that explicitly underpin the hijab argument as interpretation of the 'modest' verses as much of this one. I asked myself are we just doing it then because the scholars so say without any sound scripture evidence, just their deduction because it was tradition/custom for 1400 years? This would/could never happen on an issue for men only women are taught to go along with something on flimsy evidence. im still trying to come to terms with this and it has made me deeply disillusioned.

Sorry OP you came on for advice and we took it quite a different direction. The civil court process for muslim women only helps if their marriages are registered in the first place, and it's something many imams recommend that couples get a civil marriage as well as religious marriage.

mathanxiety Tue 14-Jul-15 06:17:42

PositivelyFatalistic, I can see how that would be very troubling.

I must say I am bothered by the thought that there are Muslim women who do not have civil marriages as well as religious marriages. Civil marriage brings with certain rights and status under the civil law, and rights and status if the marriage ends too.

It seems to me that intelligence or strong intellect could conceivably overcome deficiencies in texts -- someone with his own strong agenda might be persuasive enough, or persistent enough, or eloquent enough, or might appear learned enough to make a good case out of weak material. The process of discernment seems to be a process that is vulnerable to individual input and individual agendas. Hence my question about orthodoxy.

Nolim Tue 14-Jul-15 06:35:39

One of the reasons why i am not a catholic is because i went to a catholic school and the nuns, priests etc gave a hard time to children of divorced parents. While i understand that the official position of the church giving a hard time to a bunch of kids while preaching about the love of god is very hypocritical imo.

Positivelyfatalistic Fri 17-Jul-15 19:25:55

sorry didnt come back to this thread the last few days, Ramadan ended yesterday and its been quite frenetic getting ready for Eid today. OP i hope you come back, really didnt mean for this to change course so and sorry for my part in that. as to the author of the book 'Men in Charge', on the DNA of muslim patriarchy, Ziba Mir Hosseini, she was involved in a documentary on iranian divorce courts that is on youtube. About the struggles of Iranian women in obtaining religious divorce....

www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs9XSTt-DIE (subtitles only seem to appear in full screen mode)

"""Divorce Iranian Style challenges preconceptions about what life is like for women in Iran. The most startling thing about the film is simply that it was made. The filmmakers follow the cases of three women who are attempting to divorce their husbands. Although Iranian religious law frowns on divorce, a man is allowed to claim the privilege without needing to show cause, provided he pays his ex-wife compensation. A woman, however, can only sue for divorce if she can prove that her husband is sterile or mad, or if he agrees to let her out of their marriage contract. In the last case, the compensation becomes the bargaining chip: the man will sometimes give his wife her freedom if he doesn't have to pay.
The women are assertive, demanding, and persistent to a degree that confounds stereotypes of oppression. They challenge the judge, badger the uncooperative clerk for misplaced files, chew out their husbands and their husbands' families. At one point, the judge tells a little girl (the daughter of the court stenographer who has been a fixture in the court from the age of two months) that he has a man picked out for her who's "not like the riffraff that come in here." The girl has a more radical plan: "I won't marry ever, now that I know what husbands are like."""

really fascinating documentary.

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