Do Men and Women have Equal Rights in Terms of Divorce?

Answered by Irshaad Sedick

Question

I have read that we are all equal in the sight of Allah, and there is no distinction between people regarding reward and punishment. However, there is a hadith that says whichever woman asks for a divorce for no valid reason; then paradise becomes forbidden for her.

I thought that the same applies to men as well. I hear scholars say that this huge punishment only applies to women, but for men, divorce without reason is merely disliked, as the severe warning in the hadith only applies to women. They reason that if a woman asks for a divorce, it harms the man and the family. But a man divorcing also harms her and the family, if not more, since Islam tells men to marry virgins even if he has been married before.

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Especially Merciful.

As with the rest of Sacred Law, Regulations about divorce conform to what Allah says in the Quran and what the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) taught. There is always wisdom in Sacred Law, even when we humans can’t perceive it.

Both husband and wife must treat each other well. Allah says, “Women deserve the like of what they are obliged to give, in kindness.” [Quran, 2:228]

Divorce is generally considered disliked (makruh) but still permissible when needed. Valid excuses for divorce include abuse, physical defects, religious differences, and character defects. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Of all the lawful acts, the most detestable to Allah is divorce.” [Abu Dawud]

If there are absolutely no valid reasons, then whichever spouse seeks divorce will be held accountable by Allah for any harm they cause, thereby, and Allah knows best. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Whichever woman seeks a divorce from her husband without harm (cause), then the scent of Paradise will be unlawful for her.” [Tirmidhi]

Furthermore, there are certain circumstances in which, if a husband divorces his wife, he is considered sinful and liable for punishment (such as during her menses or in a clean period wherein copulation occurred), though the divorce would be valid. [Nawawi, Majmu‘]

Women Seeking Divorce

A woman may request a divorce (khula‘) from her husband in exchange for her dower or a different monetary recompense. Imam Nawawi [Allah have mercy on him] said, “If the wife dislikes her husband because of his ugly appearance or bad companionship, and she fears she will not fulfill his rights, it is permissible to request a divorce from him on condition of compensation (‘iwad).” [Nawawi, Majmu‘]

Based on the above, the scope of “valid reasons” for divorce is broad, which means that the hadith referred to in the question relates to a near-whimsical divorce request with no reason. Should a husband whimsically issue a divorce, he too would be held accountable for his actions by Allah for any harm he may cause, and Allah knows best.

Are Men and Women Equal?

Females are different from males, and in both, there is goodness. Therefore, Islam values both males and females differently. Sacred Law values each gender with equity and justice, not equality, which means that the rules for each gender are slightly different but fair.

Allah says: “But when she [Hanna] delivered her [baby Mary], she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, “And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah].” [Quran, 3:36]

Are Men Favored or Women?

Superficially it may seem that Islam favors one gender over the other at different times. Sometimes it appears that the female gender is the privileged one. Males, for example, are generally financially responsible for their wives, while women enjoy financial independence.

Another example of this is the reward for fighting for God’s cause. Males have to physically defend their faith to attain that reward, while females earn it by fulfilling their Hajj. ‘Aisha, the mother of the faithful believers (may Allah be pleased with her), narrated that she said, “O Allah’s Messenger! We consider Jihad as the best deed.” The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The best Jihad (for women) is a righteous Hajj (Mabrur). [Bukhari]

More examples of the above follow.

Blessings of the Daughters

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “If anyone has a female child, and does not bury her alive [a common practice among the Arabs before Islam], or slight her, or prefer his male children to her, Allah will bring him into paradise. [Ahmad; Hakim]

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Whoever supports two girls till they attain maturity, he and I will come on the Day of Resurrection (close to each other) like this –The Messenger of Allah joined his fingers to illustrate closeness.” [Muslim]

Better than Equality

In this world, nothing physical distinguishes one group’s superiority over the other. Only righteousness and piety make us ‘better’ by Allah. Allah says: “Oh humankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” [Quran, 49:13]

In the Hereafter, our souls are equal by Allah. Allah says: “Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so-for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” [Quran, 33:35]

I pray that this benefits you.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan. 

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.