Does Telling Someone “I’m Leaving You” Count as a Divorce?

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Question 

A husband once used some unclear words of divorce, “our relationship is finished,” to his wife. When asked about his intention, he denied that he intended to divorce; now, after some months, he lied about another issue. Now the wife is confused about whether the husband lied about his intention to divorce. What should she do? Should the wife believe the husband about his intention to divorce or not?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah guide every dimension of our lives to that which pleases Him.

His word should be accepted if he says he did not intend to divorce. Saying, “our relationship is finished,” is an allusive expression and only counts as a divorce if one intended it as divorce at the time of saying it, and Allah knows best.

Plain Words of Divorce

The words that effect a divorce may be plain or allusive. Simple words cause divorce whether one intends it or not, while allusive words do not render it unless one intends to divorce.

Using plain words to effect a divorce means expressly pronouncing the word divorce (in any language) or terms derived from it. When the husband says: “I divorce you” or “You are divorced,” the wife is immediately divorced whether he has made the intention.

Here and in the rulings below, expressions such as “the wife is divorced” or “the divorce is effected” mean just one of the three times necessary to finalize it unless the husband intends a two or threefold divorce or repeats the words three times.

When a husband is asked, “Have you divorced your wife?” and he says, “Yes,” she is divorced even if he does not intend it. [Nuh Keller, Reliance of the Traveler]

Allusive Words of Divorce

Using allusive words to effect a divorce includes:

  • 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,” “I am leaving you,” and the like.
  • He saying, “I am divorced from you.”
  • When he commissions the wife to pronounce the divorce, she says, “You are divorced.”
  • When someone asks the husband. “Do you have a wife?” He says, “No.”
  • or 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. [ibid.]

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Check 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 has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.