Women and the Koran


Women and the KoranDivorce in pre-Islamic laws and traditions must have been abysmal for Allah’s revelations to be considered an improvement where women were concerned. Some of His revelations pertaining to the separation of legally married couples were said to have been introduced because of one woman pleading with the Prophet.


58 Al-Mujadilah

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

58:1 Allah has heard the words of that woman who disputes with you, concerning her husband, and complains to Allah, while Allah hears you both conversing. Allah is truly All-Hearing, All-Seeing.

The improvements introduced by Allah have mainly to do with the disposition of the dowry, which in Islam is the gift a husband makes to his new wife.

2:236 You incur no offence if you divorce women before the consummation of marriage or fixing the dowry. And provide for them in a rightful way: the wealthy according to his means, and the less fortunate according to his means. This is incumbent on the righteous.

2:237 If, however, you divorce them before the consummation of marriage, but after fixing the dowry, then [give them] half of the fixed dowry, unless they forgo that, or the man in whose hand is the marriage tie (the husband) forgoes his half. To forgo it is more righteous. And do not forget to be bountiful to each other. Allah sees what you do.

A husband does not need a reason to divorce any of his wives or obtain anyone’s permission to do so. He simply has to tell her, “I divorce you" and wait until his soon-to-be-ex-wife has experienced three menstrual cycles, and it’s over. For a woman it is a little more complicated. She can, however, simplify the process and remain in Allah’s good books if she agrees to pay her husband a ransom. The price of freedom usually includes returning much of what he has ever given her, including the dowry.

2:229 Divorce may be pronounced twice. Then they (women) are to be retained in a rightful manner or released with kindness. And it is unlawful for you [men] to take back anything of what you have given them, unless both parties fear that they cannot comply with Allah’s Bounds (by obeying His commands). If you fear that they cannot do that, then it is no offence if the woman ransoms herself (pays money to be set free). Those are the bounds set by Allah. Do not transgress them. Those who transgress the bounds set by Allah are the wrongdoers.

“Divorce may be pronounced twice” in the preceding verse means that the husband can divorce his wife twice. If he divorces her a third time, he can never take her back. Then, once her third menstrual cycle has passed, the officially divorced woman is expected to leave the family home. Her former husband can allow her to stay longer if he wishes, so long as it is not for ulterior motives, for example to obtain a larger ransom.

2:231 If you divorce [your] women and they reach the end of their [waiting] period, retain them in an honourable manner or release them in an honourable manner. Do not, however, retain them for the sake of causing them harm and in order to commit aggression (by forcing them to ransom themselves, or by retaining them for a longer period). Whoever does that shall do wrong to himself. Do not make a mockery of Allah’s Revelations; and remember the Grace Allah has bestowed upon you, and the Book (the Koran) and the wisdom He has revealed to you in order to admonish you. Fear Allah and know that He knows everything.

Allah recommends that your divorced women receive an “affordable provision”; for how long, He does not say. For widows it is determined to be one year (2:240). They may have to pay for their sustenance depending on your interpretation of ‘affordable’.

2:241 Divorce women should be provided with an affordable provision. This is incumbent on the righteous.

2:242 Thus Allah makes clear to you His Revelations, so that you may understand.

If you have never touched a lawfully-wedded spouse you can send her away on a moment’s notice, as long as it is done in an honourable way.

33:49 O believers, if you marry believing women then divorce them, before touching them, you owe them no fixed term to reckon. So make provision for them and set them free in an honourable way.

It is safe to to assume that the following revelation does not apply to the Prophet's wives only.

65:1 O Prophet, if you divorce your women, divorce them when they have completed their menstrual period. Calculate the period and fear Allah your Lord. Do not drive them out of their homes, and let them not go out, unless they have committed a manifest foul act. Those are the bounds of Allah. He who transgresses the bounds of Allah has surely wronged himself. You do not know,

If the divorce leaves the divorcer inconvenienced in any way and he has followed Allah instructions to the letter, God will make it better. As for the divorcee, she is on her own, unless her former husband decides to keep her in some other capacity.

65:2 Then, when they have reached their term, retain them honourably or part with them honourably, calling two just witnesses from among yourselves. Administer the witnessing to Allah Himself. By that is exhorted whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day. He who fears Allah, He will grant him a way out;

65:3 And He will provide for him from sources he could never conceive. He who puts his trust in Allah, Allah will be sufficient unto him. Allah shall attain His goal. Allah has meted out a measure for everything.

How long should you retain a woman or a girl who is not menstruating, such as a child-bride, or one who is pregnant?

65:4 As for those of your women who have despaired of menstruation, if you are in doubt, then their term shall be three months; and those too who have not menstruated yet. As to those women with child, their term shall be upon delivering their burden. He who fears Allah, Allah will grant him relief in his affair.

65:5 That is Allah’s Command, which He has sent down to you; and he who fears Allah, He will acquit him of his sins and amplify his reward.

Revelations about marriage made women out to be very much like chattel to be bargained for and disposed of at the buyer’s discretion, except in the case of a soon-to-be-divorced spouse who is pregnant with her soon to be ex-husband’s child. In this instance, her status goes from chattel to employee for the duration of the suckling, if she is willing to accept the wages offered by her former husband for breastfeeding her newborn. If not, the former husband can choose another woman to suckle what is, in Allah’s Sight, his child. According to the Koran, a baby is created perhaps exclusively from the man’s contribution, with the woman relegated to a mere receptacle for his sperm to grow into a baby.

I do not know of any mother who would let another woman suckle her child because of a disagreement over wages; even after a divorce, which will undoubtedly leave her lacking many of life’s bare necessities and dependent on the charity of others, mostly her family, unless she can quickly find another husband.

For all practical purposes, Revelation 65:6 leaves a mother who cares about the child to whom she has just given birth with no negotiating position whatsoever, and it is not like a god of Allah’s stature to pretend otherwise, unless I am missing something.

65:6 Put them up where you are lodged, according to your means, and do not badger them so as to make life difficult for them. If they are with child, support them until they deliver their burden; and if they suckle for you, then pay them their wages. Confer with each other honourably; but if you are at odds, let another woman suckle him.

From each according to his means but not to each according to her needs:

65:7 Let the man of means spent out of his means, and he whose provision has been constricted, spend out of what Allah gave him. Allah does not charge any soul except with what He gave it. Allah will cause relief to follow every hardship.

God is unclear, apart from that ransom deal, as to how a believing woman can get a divorce without the money to buy her freedom. Maybe that is why in countries that are governed by the Koran, this is a matter decided by religious courts operating under the Sharia or Islamic Law, the law derived from the Koran and the sayings and example of the Prophet Muhammad. A woman seeking a divorce will usually appeal to an all-male Sharia Tribunal, forced to state a compelling reason for a divorce to be granted, since Allah prefers reconciliation.

4:35 And If you fear a breach between the two (the husband and wife), then send forth for an arbiter from his relatives and another arbiter from her relatives. If they both desire reconciliation, Allah will bring them together. Allah is indeed all knowing, Well-Informed.

God favours reconciliation even if a spouse has been mistreated or fears being mistreated by her husband. What Allah favours, you ignore at your risk and peril.

4:128 And if a woman fears maltreatment or aversion from her husband, they would not commit an offence if they are reconciled amicably; reconciliation is best. Souls are prone to avarice, and if you are charitable and if you ward off evil, He is surely Well-Aware of what you do!


Narrated Aisha:

Regarding the explanation of the following verse: "If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband's part" (4.128). A man may dislike his wife and intend to divorce her, so she says to him, "I give up my rights, so do not divorce me." The above verse was revealed concerning such a case.

Bukhari 43.630


Revelation 4:128 is an effective way of eliminating battering or other forms of abuse as grounds for granting a wife’s request for a divorce. Revelation 4:128 is also the logical consequence of Revelation 4:34, which grants a husband the unassailable right to beat his wives “Hence righteous women are obedient, guarding the unseen which Allah has guarded. And those of them that you fear might rebel, admonish them and abandon them in their beds and beat them.”

To get her divorce a wife must usually agree to give up all or part of the dowry, the amount dependent on her reason for seeking a divorce, as compensation to her husband. Allah promises that if they do separate, He will ensure that both former husband and wife are provided for.

4:130 And if they separate, Allah will give each one plenty of His Abundance; and Allah is Munificent and Wise.

4:131 And to Allah belongs what is in the heavens and on earth. We have enjoined those who received the Book before you, as well as yourselves: “Fear Allah, and if you disbelieve, surely to Allah belongs what is the heavens and on earth. Allah is All-Sufficient, Praiseworthy.”

A husband’s wealth remains largely undiminished due to a divorce—and, in fact, may increase, not only because of the return of all or part of the dowry but also the ransom he may demand and obtain for giving a wife her freedom. As to what a recently divorced woman can expect from Allah’s Abundance is far from clear.

Can a divorced couple get remarried? Yes, if the former wife has, in the interim, been married, consummated the marriage, and then been divorced by her latest husband. If her former husband was impotent, the Prophet ruled, she could not remarry; in effect, she was condemned to never knowing the intimacy of intercourse again.

Narrated Aisha:

The wife of Rifa'a Al-Qurazi came to the Prophet and said, "I was Rifa'a's wife, but he divorced me and it was a final irrevocable divorce. Then I married Abdur Rahman bin Az-Zubair but he is impotent."

The Prophet asked her "Do you want to remarry Rifa'a? You cannot unless you had a complete sexual relation with your present husband."

Bukhari 48.807

Yahya related to me from Malik that Rifa'a ibn Simwal divorced his wife, Tamima bint Wahb, in the time of the messenger of Allah three times. She then married 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn az-Zubayr and he turned from her and could not consummate the marriage and so he parted from her.

Rifa'a wanted to marry her again and it was mentioned to the Messenger of Allah, and he forbade him to marry her. He said, 'She is not halal for you until she has tasted the sweetness of intercourse.'

Al-Muwatta 28 7.17b

The most recent husband should not interfere with his now ex-wife’s plans to marry a former spouse.

2:230 If he divorces her, she shall not be lawful to him again until she has married another husband. If the latter divorces her, then it is no offence if they go back to each other, if they both think that they shall keep within Allah’s Bounds. Those are Allah’s Bounds which He makes clear to men who have knowledge.

2:232 If you divorce your women and they reach the end of their [waiting] period, do not prevent them from marrying their [former] husbands if they agree among themselves in a rightful manner. With this are admonished those who believe in Allah and the Last Day; it is better and more decent for you. Allah knows and you do not.