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Questions On Divorce

NNM wrote in a message

Obeying parents' order to divorce wife

As-Salamu ʿalaykum:

It is desirable in the Law (mustahabb) that a Muslim obey his parents if they order him to divorce his wife as per the instructions of the Prophet ﷺ to that effect, the practice of the Companions, and the position of the majority of the Jurists, while Imam Ahmad in one report, al-Ghazzali, Ibn al-ʿArabi al-Maliki, and al-Mundhiri said it is obligatory to obey one's father in the matter and some said the obligation is to obey both father and mother, such as Imam al-Tahawi, al-Qurtubi, al-Subki, al-Shawkani, and Ahmad al-Ghumari, the latter two emphasizing obedience to mothers over fathers.

A Muslim should obey his parents if they order him to divorce as per:

I. In the Prophetic Narrations:

The explicit instruction of the Prophet ﷺ to that effect, narrated:

- from Ibn ʿUmar in the Sunan of: al-Tirmidhi (hasan sahih), book of Talaq, chapter on the man asked by his father to divorce his wife; Abu Dawud, book of Adab, chapter on filial piety; Ibn Majah, book of Talaq, ch. on the man asked by his father etc. Text: "I was married with a woman whom I loved but my father disliked her and ordered me to divorce her. I refused. Then I mentioned this to the Prophet ﷺ who said, 'ʿAbd Allah ibn ʿUmar, divorce your wife!'"

- from Ibn ʿUmar in Musnad Ahmad, Sahih Ibn Hibban (2:169 - sahih al-isnad), al-Hakim's Mustadrak (2:197 - sahih, al-Dhahabi concurring). Text: "Obey your father and divorce her."

- from Umayma the Prophet's freedwoman and the Companion Abu Rayhana [Shamʿun ibn Zayd] respectively in al-Tabarani in al-Muʿjam al-Kabir (24:190) with a chain containing Yazid ibn Sinan al-Ruhawi whom Ibn Hajar declared weak in his Taqrib as confirmed by al-Arna'ut and Maʿruf in Tahrir al-Taqrib (4:112 #7727). But al-Tirmidhi reported in his Sunan that al-Bukhari said this grading applies only to reports by Yazid's son Muhammad from his father - which is not the case here -, otherwise his narrations are "safe from harm." Further, it is confirmed by an identical report through a different chain, from Abu Rayhana by Ibn al-Najjar in his Tarikh as stated by al-Zabidi in Ithaf al-Sadat al-Muttaqin (2:392). Text: "I was pouring water over the Messenger of Allah ﷺ for his ablution when a man entered saying, 'Advise me!' The Prophet ﷺ replied: 'Do not associate anything with Allah even if you should be quartered or burnt alive; do not disobey your two parents even if they should command you to part with your wife and worldly possessions: leave them all....'"

- from Muʿadh ibn Jabal by al-Tabarani in al-Awsat (8:58 #7956) with a chain graded "good for confirming other chains" by al-Mundhiri in al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib (1:383). Text: "A man came to see the Messenger of Allah ﷺ saying, 'O Messenger of Allah, teach me a deed whereby, if I do it, I shall enter Paradise.' He replied, 'Do not associate anything with Allah even if you should be tortured or burnt; obey your two parents even if they should cause you to lose everything you own and everything that is yours....'"

- from ʿUbada ibn al-Samit by al-Tabarani with a chain of trustworthy narrators except for Salama ibn Shurayh who is not known, but the unknown Tabiʿi against whom nothing disparaging is on record, is considered acceptable according to the Prophet's ﷺ blanket accreditation of his generation. This holds even truer for independently confirmed rulings, so the hadith is acceptable. Text: "The Messenger of Allah ﷺ recommended seven attributes to me, [among others]: '.... Do not disobey your parents even if they order you to leave the whole world behind - leave it....'"

- from Abu al-Darda' by al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad (1:69) and al-Tabarani with a chain of trustworthy narrators except Shahr ibn Hawshab according to al-Haythami in Majmaʿ al-Zawa'id (4:217), although Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari (1989 ed. 3:65) and al-Dhahabi declared Shahr reliable after the opinion of several of the early Imams. Text: "The Messenger of Allah ﷺ recommended seven attributes to me, [among others]: 'Do not associate anything with Allah even if you should be quartered or burnt; do not disobey your two parents even if they should command you to leave the whole world behind - leave it....'"

- mursal from Umm Ayman with a missing Sahabi- or Tabiʿi-link between her and Makhul by al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra (7:304), a narration strengthened by Ibn ʿAsakir's identical report through two complete, muttasil chains in Tarikh Dimashq (17:81 and 17:322). Text: "The Messenger of Allah ﷺ instructed someone in his household the following: 'Do not associate anything with Allah even if you should be tortured or burnt; obey your two parents even if they should cause you to leave everything behind - leave it....'"

II. In the Companion Reports:

The practice and fatawa of the Companions to that effect, narrated:

- from Abu al-Darda' by al-Tirmidhi (sahih), Ibn Majah, Ahmad, al-Hakim (4:152 and 2:192, both sahih and confirmed by al-Dhahabi), Ibn Hibban in his Sahih (2:167-168 sahih per Shuʿayb al-Arna'ut), al-Baghawi in Sharh al-Sunna (#3421-3422), al-Tahawi in Sharh Mushkil al-Athar (2:158) and others. Text: "A man got married but his mother disliked it, so he came to ask Abu al-Darda' who said: 'Divorce your wife and obey your mother. Truly I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say: <>'" In Ibn Majah's version: "Either keep your parents or do without them." In Ibn Hibban and al-Hakim's second version: "He said: 'I would never order you to rebel against your parents nor order you to divorce your wife but, if you wish, I shall tell you what I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say. I heard him say, <>' So he divorced her."

- from Ibn ʿAbbas by Ibn Abi Shayba in his Musannaf (5:223). Text: Two Bedouins came to see Ibn ʿAbbas. One of them said, "I visited some tribe to buy some camels for myself. One of their girls pleased me so I married her. Then my father and mother swore that they shall never take her in, and this gentleman [fata=himself] swore that he would free one thousand slaves and make one thousand gifts and sacrifice one hundred camels (badana) if he ever divorced her!" Ibn ʿAbbas replied: "I am not one to order to divorce your wife nor to rebel against your parents." The Bedouin said, "Then what should I do with this woman?" Ibn ʿAbbas said: "Observe your parents' wish."

Note: In the hadith of the two prisoners of the wells before the battle of Badr (narrated by Ahmad in the Musnad with a chain of trustworthy narrators according to al-Haythami, Ibn Jarir al-Tabari who declared it sound, al-Bazzar in his Musnad, Ibn Abi Shayba, Ibn Hisham in the Sira 3:164, al-Bayhaqi in Dala'il al-Nubuwwa, and others) the Prophet ﷺ concluded that the enemy were between 900 and 1,000 strong on the basis of the report that they slaughtered between 9 and 10 camels a day to feed the troops, each camel feeding approximately 100 people. One thousand camels would therefore feed 100,000 people and this is therefore a huge sacrifice. The greatest and costliest animal sacrifice known to the Romans was the "hecatombe" < Gr. hekaton, "100" + bous, "ox". Here, this Bedouin Arab vowed ten hecatombs, and slaves were even costlier than camels. This should give an estimate of what the Arabs of old meant by "a gift." The Roman poet Horace (1st century CE) wrote for his friend Postumus about the inevitability of death: non si trecenis, amice, quotquot eunt dies / places illacrimabilem Plutona tauris... ("Not if with three hecatombs, my friend, every day that went by, / You tried to appease tearless Death - even with bulls...").

- from Abu Bakr al-Siddiq by Ibn Hajar in al-Isaba (8:11-12 #11448), al-Suyuti in Musnad Abi Bakr (p. 179), cf. Kanz al-ʿUmmal (9:706 #28069) and al-Turtushi in Birr al-Walidayn (p. 73). Text: "ʿAtika ibn ʿZayd [ibn ʿAmr] was married to ʿAbd Allah ibn Abi Bakr. He would value her opinion over his own and she preoccupied him more than his business so Abu Bakr ordered him to divorce her one time, which he did. This bore heavily on him. He waited for his father as the latter went out to Salat one day and, upon facing him, recited poetry: 'I never saw to this day such as myself divorce the like of her, / nor any woman such as she, divorced for no fault on her part.' Whereupon Abu Bakr's heart softened for him and he ordered him to bring her back." ʿAtika was a beautiful noblewoman and a notable poet. After ʿAbd Allah died, ʿUmar married her.

Al-Bukhari also reported from Ibn ʿAbbas in his Sahih that the Prophet Ismaʿil (as) divorced his wife after being so ordered by his father Ibrahim (as). Text: "After Ismaʿil's mother died, Ibrahim came [to Makka] after Ismaʿil's marriage to see the rest of his family but he did not find Ismaʿil there. When he asked Ismaʿil's wife about him she replied, 'He went out in search of our livelihood.' He asked her about their way of living and their condition, and she replied, 'We are living in misery; we are living in hardship and destitution,' complaining to him. He said, 'When your husband returns, convey my salutation to him and tell him to change the doorstep of his house.' When Ismaʿil returned he sensed something and asked his wife, 'Did anyone visit you?' She replied, 'Yes, an old man of such-and-such appearance came and asked me about you and I informed him, and he asked about our state of living, and I told him that we were living in hardship and poverty.' Ismaʿil said, 'Did he advise you to do anything?' She replied, 'Yes, he told me to convey his salutation to you and to tell you to change the doorstep of your house.' Ismaʿil said, 'That was my father, and he is ordering me to divorce you. Go back to your family.' Ismaʿil divorced her and took another woman from among the same people (i.e. Jurhum)." Abu Bakr ibn al-ʿArabi in his commentary on al-Tirmidhi titled ʿAridat al-Ahwadhi (5:164) mentions the report adding that this is nothing in comparison with Ismaʿil's greater filial obedience at the price of his own life.

And Allah knows best.

Sources: Sa'id Bakdash, Taʿat al-Walidayn fi al-Talaq. Beirut: Dar al-Basha'ir al-Islamiyya, 2000. Pb. 104 p.; Ahmad al-Ghumari, Birr al-Walidayn. 3rd ed. Cairo: Maktabat al-Qahira, 1995.

Blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions.

Hajj Gibril

Oath of Wife's Right to Divorce


I the undersigned ___________________ hereby swear a solemn oath (qasamun billah) that if I should leave my wife _____________________ for a period of four months or more without the presence of an authorized representative (wakeel) or without giving her or the wakeel living expenses (nafaqa), should she complain to the judge (qaadi) or imaam and seek divorce and should she swear to the qaadi or imaam that I did not give her nafaqa and that at the same time she has not betrayed her duty to me as a wife, one divorce will take effect; that if I should willingly or unwillingly disappear from her for a period of six months or more, should she complain to the qaadi or imaam that she cannot wait any longer for me to return, one divorce will take effect; and that if I should hit her with a blow or blows strong enough to inflict serious bodily damage upon her, one divorce will take effect.

To this I solemnly swear,



We have witnessed the above.

1.____________________________ 2.__________________________



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latest update: Thu, 12 Feb 2009
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