Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Assalam alaykum
Inshallah this year I should be getting married and something I am very worried about is verbal divorce. I am scared that perhaps in a state between wakefulness and sleep that I might utter something I don’t mean or that I might say a statement of divorce inadvertently in anger. Would it be permissible for me to stipulate in my marriage contract that I am not allowed to conduct a verbal divorce and must instead conduct it in writing format? And if not, are there any ways I can avoid a divorce I don’t want to happen?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. May Allah Most High make it a means of joy and blessings in this life before the next. Amin.
No, you cannot revoke your right to divorce your wife verbally. But you should train yourself to avoid mentioning the word in the presence of your wife, except when it is clearly required. Don’t pay attention to misgivings.
As for divorcing her whilst asleep, it would not count because you aren’t considered to be legally responsible for your actions whilst you are sleeping. If you are referring to a hypnagogic state, and if possible to speak at this time, the same ruling would generally appear to apply because you aren’t entirely with your senses and experiencing reality. However, you should always consult a reliable scholar regarding such matters because they are often very sensitive.
Divorce in Anger
Anger, on the other hand, is inexcusable, and almost inevitably counts as an effective divorce. In a tradition (hadith) recorded by Imam Nawawi as one of the most central traditions in Islam, the Beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) instructs a Companion (sahabi), “Don’t get angry.” (Bukhari) Certainly, there is a place for anger in religion, namely, that which is for Allah Most High, but not misplaced anger or that which is for merely selfish interest. If you fear divorcing your wife in some burst of anger, you need to work on your gracious character and realise your role of being a caretaker (qawwam) more fully.
If there is marital discord which is regularly reaching argumentative levels, without any signs of complete resolution, there is a problem which needs to be immediately addressed. Many people fall into unwanted situations of divorced and otherwise because they couldn’t control their words and anger, and the Sacred Law (shari‘a) cautions husbands, in no uncertain terms, about the harms of abusing their station of “caretaking.” Ask Allah Most High to grant you the ability to fulfil the rights of your spouse, and to remain cool-headed in difficult times.
Finally, it is important to remember that we are responsible for our words, whether we approve of them or not. “Are we responsible for what we say?” (Tirmidhi), asked our Master Mu’adh (may Allah be well-pleased with him). The prophetic response was in the affirmative. So a lie is a lie, an oath is an oath, and, here, divorce is divorce even if you would like to change its applicability with respect to you. If you are suffering from misgivings, I’d suggest you seek some professional help, if necessary, as such thoughts are unhealthy and you have time to resolve them before your wedding. May Allah Most High grant you ease and facilitation.
(Haskafi/Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar; Abyani, Sharh al-Ahwal al-Shakhsiyya (Article #220))
Please also see this answer.
And Allah Most High knows best.
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorised the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen, and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based with his family.