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:
1- 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.
2- However, if all efforts of reconciliation prove failure, and the spouses resort to divorce, as a final solution, they should consider both the legal and Shar`i procedures so as to set the affair to order.
3- Once a husband divorces his wife, it is an Islamic divorce, whether he does it by filing a legal document in the court or by saying the words of divorce to her or by writing them for her.
In responding to your question, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, Former President of the Islamic Society of North America, states:
If a man divorced his wife legally according to the US law, then she is also divorced from him according to Islamic law.
Once a husband divorces his wife, it is an Islamic divorce, whether he does it by filing a legal document in the court or by saying the words of divorce to her or by writing them for her.
It is not correct to say that one is giving a legal divorce and not an Islamic divorce. When a man initiates a divorce legally, it automatically becomes an Islamic divorce.
The problem comes only when a woman takes a legal divorce from the non-Islamic court and her husband refused to give her an Islamic divorce.
In this situation, she should contact her local Islamic center or some Muslim scholars to see how she can obtain an Islamic divorce.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.