Marriage and Divorce
Preface and Comparison with the Bible
Marriage is not a binding union in Islam. The Qur'an does not view divorce as a tragic option when all else fails. There are striking differences between what the Qur'an and the Bible teaches on this subject as the following collection of twenty-five verses demonstrate.
One true story which illustrates this fact is found in the book, Not Without My Daughter, by Betty Mahmoody (St. Martin’s Press, 1987) and the movie by the same title starring Sally Field. It documents the crisis that many Christian women face when they marry Muslim men. Mrs. Mahmoody was held captive in Iran by her husband’s relatives until she escaped, but she would not leave without her daughter. Sympathetic Muslims assisted her escape. Since then, she has worked with women who find themselves in the same situation. She has helped more than seventy-five children reunite with their mothers in the United States (Ladies Home Journal, November 1998, p.44).
The Islamic teachings on marriage and divorce have caused concern even among Muslims. For one Muslim woman, who was divorced for no apparent reason, it meant the beginning of a search that led her to the Bible for answers. She embraced Christianity when she discovered the sanctity of marriage that is proclaimed in the Bible. Her name is Bilquis Sheikh, the author of I Dared to Call Him Father (Chosen Books of The Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978). What is the difference? Both the Qur'an and the Bible teach against sexual immorality but the Biblical teachings are unique.
In the Bible’s very first book and chapter, it defines “man” as both male and female and reveals that they were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). In marriage, the two become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The Lord Jesus used these very passages to emphasize the sanctity of marriage and only allowed divorce in cases of unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:3-12). Many Christians believe that the definition of the word “unfaithfulness” includes abandonment and abusiveness. Christian marriage is so sacred that it is used throughout the New Testament to illustrate God’s love for His bride, the global church (Ephesians 5:31,32).
Contrary to the Bible’s instructions on marriage, the divorce rate in western countries is extremely high. Some Muslims are critical of this fact. They are right. There is a problem. Christians believe that this is one of those facts that emphasizes the truth that everyone falls short of God’s glory and that all stand in need of a Savior for grace and comfort (Romans 3:22-24).
The Qur'an Says ...
Blessings of Wives and SonsBelievers in the Qur'an have been given wives, sons and grandsons. They have been given good things. It is a wonder why unbelievers turn away from such blessings (16:72).
PolygamyMuslims are allowed up to four wives at a time. If the man fears that he cannot treat multiple wives fairly then he should marry just one (4:3). Even when a husband tries his best to treat his wives equally, it is impossible. Just make sure that no wife is abandoned in such a way that she is left in suspense. Allah will forgive you for not being totally impartial (4:129).
ConcubinesMuslims are those who abstain from sexual relations beyond their wives and slave girls they have captured in battle. Such relationships are blameless (23:5,6). Slaves do not share equally the riches Allah gives their owners. Their owners do not fear their slaves as they do their fellow Muslims (30:28).
Adult - Child MarriagesWhen Muslims want to divorce their child brides who have not started their periods, they must wait three months before finalizing the divorce to insure that the child is not pregnant. If the child is pregnant, her husband must put off the divorce until after the birth (65:4).
StepdaughtersWhen a Muslim marries a woman who has daughters of her own, he may marry her daughters also as long as he has not yet had sexual relations with their mother (4:23).
Married WomenIt is prohibited for Muslims to marry women who are already married, unless they are their slaves that they have possessed by force of battle (4:24).
DivorceIf a Muslim husband wants to exchange his present wife for another woman, he should not take back any of the wedding gifts from her even if it is a treasure (4:20). If he has divorced his wife with the pagan statement, “You are my mother,” he has gone about it in the wrong way. She cannot be your mother. If you want her back, you must free a slave, fast two months or feed sixty poor people (58:1-4).
Unbelieving WivesA Muslim should not stay married to a woman who is an unbeliever. He must get back what he spent on her and let her receive back what she spent on him (60:10).
Inherited WomenMuslims may not inherit women against their will. Inherited women must not be treated unfairly in financial matters, unless they are guilty of a sexual sin (4:19).
RemarriageIf a Muslim husband divorces his wife irrevocably (by saying “I divorce you” three times) he cannot remarry her until she has married another man and been divorced by him. After that, the original couple will not be guilty if they remarry (2:230).
Women’s RightsIn matters of divorce, women have similar but lesser rights than men since men have a higher status than women (2:228). If a woman feels that her husband is cruel or has deserted her, the couple should settle the matter between themselves and come to some mutual agreement (4:128).
ProstitutionThose slave girls who desire chastity should not be forced into prostitution for mere earthly gain. But if their owner does compel them, Allah is forgiving (24:33).
Widow’s InheritanceA husband, who is about to die, should leave his wives enough provision that they will not have to leave their homes for one year, unless they desire to do so. Some provision should also be made for divorced women as well (2:240,241).
Fields to PlowWomen are fields for men to own and plow whenever and however they wish (2:223).
Wife BeatingMen are in charge of women because they have been created superior to them and because they support them. Good women are obedient. If disobedience is suspected, the rebellious woman is to be scolded, made to sleep alone and beaten until she changes (4:34).