Is a Personal Replacement of the Word Divorce with Another Word Binding?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani


My unmarried brother said that he wouldn’t use the word ‘Talaq’ to divorce his wife. Rather he would say ‘Monkey’ or ‘Deer’ to divorce his wife. Whenever he would say ‘Monkey’ or ‘Deer’ to his wife, the meaning will be divorce. He didn’t want to issue any conditional divorce but wanted to replace the word ‘Talaq’ by ‘Monkey’ and ‘Deer.’ Now, he wants to revoke his silly statement. What should he do?


In the Name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate

Walaikum assalam,

I hope you’re doing well, insha’Allah.

This “replacement” of the word “divorce” (talaq) for some personally-designated words (such as those mentioned) is of no consequence. Divorce uttered with those other words wouldn’t count. Thus, such a personally-designation doesn’t need to be “revoked.”

Two Types of Pronouncements of Divorce

The expressions used for divorce are of two types:

(1) Explicit (sarih), which are those words whose primary meaning is divorce (talaq).

The wisdom in explicit pronouncements of divorce counting is to highlight the gravity of divorce and to deter people from casual and hasty pronouncements.

(2) Allusive (kinaya), which are words whose primary meaning isn’t divorce—but which are customarily used for divorce. In English, there are few—if any—such expressions. [Maydani, al-Lubab fi Sharh al-Kiran; Mawsuli, al-Ikhtiyar Sharh al-Mukhtar]

Other expressions don’t entail pronouncements of divorce, even if one intended divorce by them. [ibid; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.

[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center