What Constitutes a Valid Divorce?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Question

I would like to know how many divorces are issued by this dialogue:

Husband: “I’m done.”
Wife: “What do you mean?”
Husband: “Divorce. I’m done.”
Wife “What do you mean?”
Husband: Divorce, I’m done. You mentioned it twice. I’m giving you what you want. I’m done.”

What if the husband intended one divorce? Or what if he wasn’t sure how many divorces he intended?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

May Allah guide every dimension of our lives to that which pleases Him.

Your description would indicate one divorce unless your husband intended more than one because he repeated the allusive expression multiple times. He either clarified the initial “I’m done” repeatedly or intended different divorce presentations. His intention would be the deciding factor, and Allah knows best.

Allusive Words of Divorce

When your husband said, “I’m done,” this was the allusive expression of divorce, as was clarified each time you asked him what he meant. Using allusive words to effect a divorce includes:

  1. The husband’s saying, “You are now alone,” “You are free,” “You are separated,” “You are parted,” “You are no longer lawful to me,” “Rejoin your kin,” “You are footloose,” “I am done,” and the like;
  2. His saying, “I am divorced from you.”;
  3. When he commissions the wife to pronounce the divorce, and she says, “You are divorced.”;
  4. When someone asks the husband. “Do you have a wife?” and he says, “No.”;
  5. When the husband writes words that effect the divorce, whether able or unable to speak at the time of writing, whether he is present or absent, or whether he writes in plain or allusive words.

When one intends divorce by any of the above, the words effect it, but if one does not, they do not. [Keller, Reliance of the Traveler]

I pray this is of benefit.
[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.