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Is Pronouncement of Divorce Under Duress Valid?

19 August, 2019
Q As-Salamu `alaykum. Dear scholar, I am hoping that you will please answer this since it is very important. I have read that divorce pronounced by force or under duress (hence having no prior intention) is not valid. If during some fight the wife forces the husband physically/emotionally (by grabbing his shirt collar, etc.) and repeatedly asks him to end the marriage and in turn he loses control in anger also and says the words of divorce, will that be a valid divorce? He had no prior intention of this and the wife’s forcing him caused him to lose control, etc. She admits to the fact and both of them regret the incident. I would highly appreciate your advice.


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:

The pronouncement of divorce, uttered in a state of duress, without prior intention to divorce, cannot be considered as valid.

In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: 

Divorce is the most hated permissible thing in the sight of Allah. It dissolves families and deprives children of the family atmosphere. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The most hateful permissible thing (al-Halal) in the sight of Allah is divorce” (Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah)

The spouses should avoid divorce as much as possible. If they have difficulties and problems, they should be patient and forbearing. They have to try to work out their differences and seek help from their relatives, friends, or professional counselors.

According to the vast majority of scholars divorce pronounced under duress cannot be considered as valid. This is the view of the majority of imams, scholars of the past as well as the present, including most of the eminent Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

This ruling is based on a number of facts, among which are the following: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Allah has lifted the obligation from people with respect to their slips, forgetfulness and that which they have been coerced into.” (Ibn Majah)

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is also reported to have said, “Divorce is not valid when one’s mind is blocked.” (Ibn Majah)

This has been interpreted to indicate the state of a person who is not in full possession of his senses because of being under the influence of extreme anger or emotional or physical pressures exerted on him.

Since a person in such a state cannot be expected to make a free and well-considered decision, his utterance of divorce cannot be considered as valid. The above ruling is further strengthened by the following well known Prophetic hadith: “Actions are reckoned by intentions.” (Al-Bukhari)

In light of the above, the pronouncement of divorce, uttered in a state of duress, without prior intention to divorce, cannot be considered as valid.

Having said this, I must advise both of you to never provoke each other into taking actions that you may regret later, and refrain from playing with the words of divorce, for it is akin to toying with the laws of Allah.

You must also seek professional marriage counseling preferably from qualified Muslim professionals in your community. It is our Islamic duty to do whatever steps are necessary in order to foster a fulfilling and successful marriage relationship.

Finally, you should ask forgiveness of Allah for your past actions and pray that He guides you to words and actions that are pleasing to Him whereby you can find true fulfillment in your marriage, besides attaining felicity in both worlds. Ameen.

Almighty Allah knows best.

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