What does Islam say about divorce and remarriage?

Although it is not encouraged, most Muslims agree that divorce is permitted if a marriage has broken down, and generally Muslims are permitted to re-marry if they so wish.

However, there are differences between Muslims about the procedures for divorce and remarriage:

  • Sunni Muslims do not require witnesses. The husband must express his desire for a divorce on three separate occasions with a waiting period of three months.
  • Shi'ah Muslims require two witnesses, followed by a waiting period before a marriage can end.
  • If a woman initiates a divorce it is called khula. There must be a waiting period to ensure the woman is not pregnant.

Although Shari'ah Law permits divorce, in the Hadith, Abdullah ibn Umar reported that the Prophet Muhammad said, The most detestable of lawful things before Allah is divorce. So although divorce is allowed, Muslims should try to avoid it, if possible.

This means that many Muslims who experience marital difficulties will try to resolve their issues. It is also because they have made a contract before God, called a nikah, to remain together for life and divorce would mean breaking that contract.

What does this mean in practice?

A couple can go to their mosque for advice and support from the Imam if they are experiencing marital problems. Extended families also play a vital role in trying to help the couple sort out any issues. However, in some situations a couple might feel divorce is their only option.

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