This article originally appeared on VICE UK
A few weeks ago, I received a distressed phone call from a friend. This isn't unusual—Bilal's always ringing for advice after a row with his lady. This time, he sounded particularly distraught: "I've really gone and done it. I think I've accidentally divorced my wife."
He explained that in the denomination of Islam that he follows (Sunni, Hanafi school of jurisprudence), saying "I divorce you" three times to your wife means that you're immediately over in the eyes of God. This is known as "triple talaq." Ideally, the phrase should be said on separate occasions with time in between, but it's still binding when said in a single sitting. Typically, couples would then take their case to a UK court for it officially count as a divorce under national law, Bilal said.
"The triple talaq is considered binding by the majority of Muslims, as is a talaq under anger," a spokesman for the Islamic Council for Meditation and Arbitration, which specializes in marriage and divorced-based issues, told VICE. Shahid Raza of the Muslim Law Shariah Council UK also said that in cases of extreme anger, when a guy's lost control of his senses, a divorce can be declared invalid, but in situations where there the triple talaq is used due to "moderate and normal" anger, it's still valid.
Bilal had shouted the words during a row whilst furiously angry. I originally questioned whether or not the triple talaq is still binding when that happens, but according to the Islamic Council for Meditation and Arbitration, the fact that the words were said in a fit of rage is no excuse. To qualify as "extreme anger," the husband basically needs to have been furious to the point where it drove him temporarily insane. Bilal had said the words during a run-of-the-mill domestic row, so this definitely wasn't going to get him off the hook.
At first, it seemed a bit harsh that something said during a fit of rage could have such long-lasting consequences—but actually, most so many breakups stem from anger anyway, don't they? We got in touch with Vali Hussein—a Muslim imam with experience counseling guys in the UK at Scotland's Inverness masjid—to find out how much of this was hearsay nonsense and what women make of being ditched like this.
VICE: What happens in situations when a man's unsure if he's said the triple talaq?
Vali Hussein: If there are no witnesses to it and he's not sure, then this is a matter between him and God. The judgement will be down to the man, and if he is faithful, his consciousness will provide him with the best answer to whether he said it or not.
But what advice would you usually give to guys who've divorced their wives like this?
I'm not sure what advice you can give to someone in that situation. They've usually learnt their lesson, but obviously, they can't come back to that person again unless the woman gets married to another person and then divorces. A fit of rage can also cost a man the dowry, and the children are his responsibility, not that of the woman.
How do guys approach you about their accidental, verbal divorces? Sounds like quite the chat.
People come to me quite a lot and say "I said it in the moment," "I was angry," or "I said all three talaqs in one sitting, so it can't be binding." But according to the majority of the scholars that I'm aware of, it is binding in those circumstances.
What about women?
They are often upset, and if they came over from Pakistan, they sometimes know that they'll be going back there now that the marriage is over. In some cases, they feel that they provoked the husband to the point where he gave the three divorces, and are regretful about that.
It gets trickier when volatile emotions come into the picture. How do you approach cases where women are divorced by their husbands in anger?
I normally advise for her to be patient and understand and accept what the Almighty has ordained. Most people know that three talaqs is like a non-revocable divorce, accept it, and move on.
How would you typically console a man post-triple talaq?
Usually people have regret, so I say, "Unfortunately, this is the verdict in Islamic law." In most cases where people divorce through saying three divorces, there's been a trail of abuse, and it's been an unsteady relationship. At the time, they still think they may be better off together, but at the end of the day, the divorce was their fate, and they will have to eventually come to terms with it.
How often do you come across triple talaqs voiced during fits of rage?
Although divorce is allowed in Islam, it's very disliked by God. It used to be a taboo, and you wouldn't hear about it, but nowadays, unfortunately you hear about it a lot more. Sometimes it's for good and valid reasons, but sometimes it's just because it's become part of our culture. Our parents and grandparents would have tolerated a lot of things that people perhaps wouldn't today, and nowadays, even small things can break up marriages.
What advice do you give to Muslims to safeguard them against the possibility of divorcing during a fit of anger?
It's very important for them to consult an imam and to educate themselves. Most imams talk about the consequences of different types of divorce in their lessons and sermons.
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