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Can a Woman Initiate Divorce?

22 January, 2018
Q Dear scholars, As-Salamu `alaykum. Can a woman initiate divorce? If yes, is it similar to a man?


Wa `alaykum as-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

In this fatwa:

Divorce can only initiated by husbands; a woman cannot initiate divorce except via khul`or in the court.

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Answering the question in point, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, states,

There are three types of divorces according to the Shari`ah. Talaq is the divorce that is initiated by the husband. Only a husband can give talaq to his wife.

When a husband divorces his wife, he has to pay her full mahr (dower) if the marriage was consummated or half of the mahr if the marriage was not consummated.

He also has to pay the `iddah expenses and if there are children then he has to pay the child care expenses to the wife.

The second type is called khul`. It is a request for divorce initiated by the wife. In case a wife is not happy to live with her husband, she may ask her husband to divorce her at her request. In this case, she is not entitled to the mahr and the husband may ask her to return the mahr that he gave her at the time of marriage. He may ask her some other compensation as well.

The third is the dissolution of marriage done by the Judge (qadi) at an Islamic court. This is called Faskh an-Nikah. The husband or wife or both can approach the court and ask the judge to dissolve their marriage due to some irreconcilable differences or problems.

In this case, the judge makes the decision and he may grant some compensation to the wife or some relief to the husband according to his judgment.

Allah Almighty knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.