Why You Should Not Divorce Without Seeking Counsel First

04 February, 2018
Q Assalamu alaykum. I have a question regarding a woman getting a divorce. In the hadith about the first woman asking for a divorce, the messenger of Allah never asked or told her that she needed to speak to elders, counselors or mediators. So, why would the imam say that a woman seeking divorce wouldn't be sinful as long as she did those things? And why does every article advise always that you should seek help from everyone and involve so many people in the affairs of your marriage when it is good to hide the faults of others, and the messenger of Allah saws didn't require this from her? Jazak Allah khair

Answer


In this counseling answer:

There are many benefits of seeking counsel before  divorce including being able to see their own faults, exploring both spouses’ sides of the argument in a safe space as well as addressing issues that both partners may not have thought of, especially those pertinent to the Islamic perspective that can often take a back seat or be forgotten.


Wa alaikum salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuh sister,

It is understandable why this causes much confusion. Before seeking a divorce, a couple are advised to seek counsel to try and resolve issues, trying all means before taking the last resort and getting a divorce. Yet, at the same time, this involves potentially uncovering the faults of others, namely, the spouse, which is generally not acceptable behavior in Islam. So what is the best thing to do?

To begin with, I’m not a scholar, so I cannot account for that side of the perspective. However, I can offer the psychological perspective on this which I hope will bring you some clarification and comfort in the matter.

The importance of marriage

Marriage is a treasured institute in Islam for numerous reasons. It provides comfort and protection and gives us a means to have our needs met in an acceptable and halal way.

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. “ (Qur’an, 30:21)

‘…They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them…’ (Qur’an, 2:187)

This last quote could be particularly relevant to your question as it also implies the covering of faults, which is your primary concern regarding seeking assistance during marital difficulties. This will be discussed here.

So, as we know, marriage is highly regarded in Islam and, therefore, we must do all we can to protect it where possible. However, in some cases, couples will face difficulties and may consider divorce at some point. It is important to consider the reasons behind which people seek divorce in the first place.

The irrationality of human nature

As humans, we tend to be quick to come to irrational conclusions and make irrational decisions as a result of such thoughts. All too often, when it comes to difficulties in marriage, this will lead a spouse to abandon their marriages without thinking twice. Quite often, this will not only affect the two themselves but extended family, especially children if they have them.

Many a time, when divorce occurs under these conditions, the couple will eventually look back with regret that they sought a divorce. Seeking some kind of assistance from outside of the marriage can be useful in preventing divorce happening in such cases.

Realizing one’s own faults

When couples face the prospect of divorce, it can be a very lonely time for both spouses. Seeking the advice of others can be a way to break this loneliness and get support.

Certainly, it’s not advisable to divulge all problems to everyone. However, getting certain people involved can be very useful too. It is not always necessary even to expose full details, especially people who are close to the couple. But a good imam or counselor will not ask for such details or ask for more depth except allowing them to explore the emotions attached to the events.

When it comes to exposing people’s faults, sometimes we don’t realize our own faults. Certainly, if there is a problem with a certain person, like a spouse, we would not be willing to hear a declaring of faults from them as the finger is pointed right back, almost as a form of ego defense at times. If a spouse is unwilling to hear such things, then they will never admit to any problems within them self, or even believe that they exist. This may. in turn. even have an effect on other relationships with others also.

To express these things with someone else present is more likely to give them a chance to actually be more attentive to these things as there is less chance of biting back. This would most likely be the case where a neutral third party was relied upon.

However, if the third party is friends or family, it can help add strength to what is being said and make the other party more likely to listen as it is coming from other than just the spouse. However, this could obviously even make things worse.

So, if this approach was taken, it would be important to have representatives from both sides in this case as well as a neutral party to provide the rational perspective if necessary. However, this approach comes with both potential risks and benefits.

Some couples might be able to work things out between the two of them without intervention. However, this is not always the case. If counselling is sought, yes, it does mean potentially expose the faults of others to someone else. But the chances of survival are increased. Even if it still ends in divorce, both couples can walk away feeling that they did all they could to save the marriage.

Too often, a couple will try to resolve their issues without involving someone else. Things will get irrational and heated and they will divorce, only to look back with regret because they didn’t do all they could to save the marriage.

Whilst seeking support and advice from within the family can have its uses, seeking advice from a counselor or imam can overcome the problems that potentially come with involving the family.

A safe space to explore potholes spouses’ feelings

We tend to have an inability to see things from the perspective of another person which leads us to such one-sided conclusion which ultimately leads us to make such irrational decisions. If these difficulties are kept within the confines of the marital couple only, then it can become nearly impossible for either party to see beyond what they want to see as they refuse to see things from the perspective of the only other person in the situation, i. e.  Their spouse.

Taking the matter outside to a third person who can act as an impartial mediator or counselor places them in a stronger position to express their own feelings. It will help them explore the feelings of the other spouse in a safe environment without judgment. This way, they are more likely to amicably find a way out of the situation. In the presence of other people like this, they are more likely to make more rational decisions.

Getting an Islamic perspective on the situation

Likewise, when seeking counsel from an imam, the couple can also get the Islamic perspective on their unique situation. Often when couples face the stress of a potential divorce, they become blind to these things. So, turning to an imam can help put things into perspective again in line with things they may have forgotten in the heat of possible anger towards one another.

Summary

Ultimately, couples going through difficulties and facing the prospect of divorce face many issues. Seeking the advice of others could potentially be seen as a way of exposing the faults of others, which is generally not recommended in Islam, especially in a marriage. However, there are also many reasons why seeking counsel from outside the marriage can be useful as a means to save a marriage that might not otherwise due to human error. Such benefits include being able to see their own faults, exploring both spouses’ sides of the argument in a safe space as well as addressing issues that both partners may not have thought of, especially those pertinent to the Islamic perspective that can often take a back seat or be forgotten. Exploring these alternatives are a useful way to ensure couples do all they can to save such a sacred institution in Islam before walking away with regret.

May Allah bring ease to couples who are facing difficulties in marriage and guide them to overcome them successfully.

Amen,

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Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Hannah Morris
Hannah Morris is a mum of 4 and she currently works as Counsellor and Instructor of BSc. Psychology at the Islamic Online University (IOU). She obtained her MA degree in Psychology and has over 10 years of experience working in health and social care settings in the UK, USA, and Ireland. Check out her personal Facebook page, ActiveMindCare, that promotes psychological well-being in the Ummah. (www.facebook.com/activemindcare)