Question # 192: Aslamualikum is instant (triple) talaq valid, either orally or on paper?

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: For the purpose of divorce, the writing of the words “You are divorced” depends on the intention of the husband. If he was determined to divorce her, then it is counted as one divorce as “actions are but by intentions”. As for triple divorce, the correct view is that it is counted as one divorce, whether it is uttered in a single phrase, “You are thrice divorced” or in repeated words “You are divorced, you are divorced, you are divorced.” Giving talaaq (divorce) three times at once is bid’ah, and goes against the divine revelations.

In accordance with Sunnah, a woman may be divorced by pronouncing only one talaaq at a time either a) when she is pregnant or b) when she is taahir (not menstruating) and he has not yet had intercourse with her following her period. The moment the husband pronounces divorce, the wife enters into her waiting period (‘iddah) which is three menstrual cycles (in case of non-pregnant woman). Next, the divorce in which the husband has the right to take the wife back is the first or second divorce, before the ‘iddah ends and hence, is considered revocable divorce. But if the ‘iddah of a first or second divorce ends, it becomes irrevocable in a minor sense, and she cannot go back to her husband unless there is a new marriage contract. However, if a third divorce takes place, she is not permissible for him except after her marriage to another husband, and after consummation of marriage, he leaves her either through death or divorce – this is irrevocable divorce in the major sense.

Long Answer: There are two issues under consideration:

a) Divorce in Writing

If the husband writes a message to his wife saying “You are divorced,” whether that is via a mobile phone or on a piece of paper or via e-mail, then it depends on his intention at the time of writing. If he was determined to divorce her, then it counts as a divorce, but if he wrote that without the intention of divorce, rather he wanted to make his wife upset or some other reason, then it does not count as a divorce.

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Actions are but by intentions…” (Al-Bukhari) Ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “…if the divorce is written [and the husband] intended it as such, then his wife is divorced. This is the view of al-Sha’bi, al-Nakha’i, al-Zuhri, al-Hakam, Abu Hanifah and Malik, and it is the view that is narrated from al-Shafi’i. If a man writes it without intending divorce, then it does not count as such according to the majority of scholars, because writing is open to interpretation, and he may have intended just to …upset, [threaten or scare] his wife, without intending it (as a divorce).” (al-Mughni)

b) Triple divorce

The fuqaha’ differed concerning the threefold divorce (talaq). The correct view is that it counts as one divorce, whether it is uttered in a single phrase, such as saying “You are thrice divorced” or in repeated words such as saying, “You are divorced, you are divorced, you are divorced.” This is the view favored by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) and was the view regarded as most correct by Shaykh al-Sa’di (may Allah have mercy on him) and Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him).

They quoted as evidence the hadith narrated by Muslim from Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) who said: At the time of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم), Abu Bakr and the first two years of ‘Umar’s caliphate, a threefold divorce was counted as one. Then ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said: People have become hasty in a matter in which they should take their time. I am thinking of holding them to it. So he made it binding upon them.

According to another report narrated by Muslim: Abu’l-Sahba’ said to Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه): “Was not three counted as one at the time of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and the time of Abu Bakr (رضي الله عنه) and the first three years of the time of ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه)?” He said: “Yes”.

Another report narrated by Imam Ahmad in al-Musnad with a jayyid isnad from Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) states that Abu Rakaanah divorced his wife by saying “I divorce you thrice”, then he regretted it, so the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) returned her to him with one word and said, “This is only one (divorce).”

Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “…This was the view of Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) according to a sahih report narrated from him; according to the other report narrated from him he shared the view of the majority. The view that they should be regarded as one divorce was narrated from ‘Ali, ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf and al-Zubayr ibn al-‘Awwaam (رضي الله عنهم). This was also the view of a number of the Taabi’een, Muhammad ibn Ishaq, the author of al-Seerah, and a number of the earlier and later scholars. It was also the view favored by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah and his student Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on them). This is also my view, because that is following all of the texts, and because it is also more merciful and kind to the Muslims.” (Fataawa Islamiyyah)

Correct way of issuing Divorce (Talaaq)

Giving talaaq (divorce) three times at once is bid’ah, and goes against the ayah: “… When you divorce women, divorce them at their ‘iddah (prescribed periods) …” (Soorah al-Talaaq 65:1) If a Muslim wants to divorce his wife, he should divorce her according to the Sunnah … means that a woman may be divorced in two cases:

  1. When she is pregnant; this is a Sunnah divorce and is not bid’ah.
  2. She should be taahir (pure, i.e., not menstruating) and her husband should not have touched her (i.e., had intercourse with her), i.e., she should have become taahir following menstruation or nifaas (post-natal bleeding) and before he has intercourse with her. Talaaq in this case is in accordance with the Sunnah. (Fataawa al-Talaaq by Shaykh Ibn Baaz)

[The moment the husband pronounces divorce, the wife enters into her waiting period (‘iddah) which is three menstrual cycles. Next,] revocable divorce is that in which the husband has the right to take the wife back, without a new marriage contract, dowry or consent of the wife. The divorce in which the husband has the right to take the wife back is the first or second divorce, before the ‘iddah ends. But if the ‘iddah of a first or second divorce ends, it becomes irrevocable in a minor sense, and she cannot go back to her husband unless she agrees and there is a new marriage contract and a new dowry. There is no difference of opinion concerning this among the scholars, and the evidence for it is the verse in which Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “The divorce is twice, after that, either you retain her on reasonable terms or release her with kindness” (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:229). If a third divorce takes place, she is not permissible for him except after she marries another husband in a genuine marriage, then he divorces her or dies after consummating the marriage with her — and this is the irrevocable divorce in the major sense. The evidence for that is the following verse in which Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “And if he has divorced her (the third time), then she is not lawful unto him thereafter until she has married another husband. Then, if the other husband divorces her, it is no sin on both of them that they reunite, provided they feel that they can keep the limits ordained by Allah. These are the limits of Allah, which He makes plain for the people who have knowledge.” (Soorah al-Baqarah 2: 230)

(The above reply is based on various answers by Islamqa.info on the topic)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam