Question # 182: What is the standing of divorce in a civil court from Islamic perspective?

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Dear questioner,

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Answer: Applying for divorce by the husband (to the civil court) is an initiation of divorce and a delegation of the judge to issue the divorce on behalf of the husband. Consequently, the wife is Islamically divorced when the non-Muslim judge issues the divorce decree, as the husband is the one who authorized him to do so.

If the husband was the one who applied for divorce to the civil court, then the divorce decree issued by the judge is Islamically genuine and valid. This is because the husband is the only one who has the right to issue divorce in Islam (except in a very few cases where the Muslim judge can interfere). So, when the husband designates someone or asks somebody else to initiate divorce on his behalf, then this kind authorization is valid. Obviously, it is not the case if the wife was the one who applied for the civil divorce. When she gets her civil divorce, she has to get back to her husband to initiate the Islamic divorce. In case of [husband’s denial] …, the wife can approach the Islamic authority in her locality (most probably her local Imam) to issue the Islamic divorce on her husband’s behalf.

(The above reply is based on various fatawa by Dr. Main Khalid Al-Qudah, Member of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America, on the topic)

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