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:
Man is not allowed to divorce his wife simply because of the whims and fancies of his parents or anyone else if she has not committed any serious violation or breached any of the fundamental principles.
With regard to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada., answers:
In Islam, everyone has proper duties and responsibilities. Islam establishes a balance between the rights of various sections of the society (parents, children, houses, neighbors, fellow Muslims and humans at large). Based on this balance and equity, one’s spouse has right just as one’s parents do.
Therefore, man is not allowed to divorce his wife simply because of the whims and fancies of his parents or anyone else if she has not committed any serious violation or breached any of the fundamental principles. If, however, a wife has committed any of the serious violations, then of course the husband’s parents have a right to propose or suggest to him to divorce her.
The case of Caliph `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) with his son ‘Abdullah cannot be generalized. ‘Umar was exemplary, selfless person whose advice to his son was truly motivated by religious considerations. Therefore, it cannot be cited as a precedent for parents to compel their children to divorce their wives for material considerations.
The great Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal was once asked by someone, “Shall I divorce my wife because my father orders me to do so?” Imam Ahmad promptly replied, ‘Definitely not!’ The man then asked, “how come `Umar ordered his son to divorce his wife?’ Upon saying this, Imam Ahmad said: “When your father reaches the level of ‘Umar in piety and righteousness, then you can do so.”
Sheikh Hamed Al-`Ali, Instructor of Islamic Heritage at the Faculty of Education, Kuwait and Imam of Dahiat As-Sabahiyya Mosque, adds:
If parents demand their son to divorce his wife for religious or Islamically accepted reasons and not because of whimsical and authoritative wishes, then he should obey his parents. However, I should say that many parents ask their sons to divorce their wives simply because they want to oppress the girl, wish for practicing control and authority, punishing the family of the girl and for other whimsical grounds. In the latter case, a husband is not allowed to obey his parents.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.