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Can the Wife Terminate the Marriage?

24 March, 2017
Q As-salamu `alaykum. In Islam (i.e., as per the Shari `ah), a man can divorce his wife by triple divorce or by other forms of divorce, and the process is simple. If Islam truly stands for gender equality, why should the woman be unable to divorce her husband by a similar triple divorce or other forms of divorce? Jazakum Allahu khyaran.

Answer

Wa `alaykum as-salam warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.

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.
Sister, thanks for your important question. We ask Allah Almighty to guide us all to the straight path of Islam.
Divorce is one of the rights that Islam grants to husbands. In most cases, a husband can claim that right. However, there are also some cases in which a wife can terminate marriage; for example, by means of khul` (wife’s right to obtain divorce under certain conditions).

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In her response to your question, Zeinab Al-`Alwani, instructor of fiqh and Islamic studies at the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences, stated:

The issue is not as simple as you described. Islam teaches fairness and equity for both sides. It also puts obstacles in the way of divorce, rather than making it a simple process as you said.

For example, a husband is not allowed to divorce his wife when he is very angry or when his wife is in her menstrual period. He is also not allowed to divorce his wife if an intimate relation took place between two menstrual periods.
So, the process of divorce is not that simple. In Islam, the concept of family is highly emphasized, and the process of terminating marriage is not simple at all.

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However, a woman has the right to seek divorce through khul`, which means that she can obtain divorce on her own as well.

You needn’t look for “technical equality.” In fact, you need to understand the entire Islamic system for divorce, which takes many aspects into consideration, such as the well-being of the family, children, etc. Equality between a husband and wife may not be identical, but equity and fairness are secured.

Almighty Allah knows best.

About Zeinab Al-`Alawani
Dr. Zainab Alwani is the Founding Director of the Islamic Studies program at Howard University School of Divinity (HUSD). She is the Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and the chair of the Religious Studies Master of Arts program at HUSD. She is an Islamic scholar, researcher and community activist. Dr. Alwani is also the first female jurist to serve on the board of the Fiqh Council of North America and currently serves as the Council’s Vice-Chair. She is a member and a board member of various national organizations including, Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights KARAMAH, and the American Academy of Religion. Dr. Alwani is currently serving as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Islamic Faith and Practice. Her research focuses on Quranic studies, Islamic jurisprudence, the relationship between civil and religious law in the area of family, women and gender, and inter-religious relations.