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Surah al-Baqarah (230-232)
Qur'anic Exegesis
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

فَإِنْ طَلَّقَهَا فَلَا تَحِلُّ لَهُ مِنْ بَعْدُ حَتَّى تَنكِحَ زَوْجًا غَيْرَهُ فَإِنْ طَلَّقَهَا فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا أَنْ يَتَرَاجَعَا إِنْ ظَنَّا أَنْ يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ وَتِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ يُبَيِّنُهَا لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ (٢٣٠)

وَإِذَا طَلَّقْتُمْ النِّسَاءَ فَبَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَأَمْسِكُوهُنَّ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ سَرِّحُوهُنَّ بِمَعْرُوفٍ وَلَا تُمْسِكُوهُنَّ ضِرَارًا لِتَعْتَدُوا وَمَنْ يَفْعَلْ ذَلِكَ فَقَدْ ظَلَمَ نَفْسَهُ وَلَا تَتَّخِذُوا آيَاتِ اللَّهِ هُزُوًا وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَمَا أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ مِنْ الْكِتَابِ وَالْحِكْمَةِ يَعِظُكُمْ بِهِ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ (٢٣١)

وَإِذَا طَلَّقْتُمْ النِّسَاءَ فَبَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَلَا تَعْضُلُوهُنَّ أَنْ يَنكِحْنَ أَزْوَاجَهُنَّ إِذَا تَرَاضَوْا بَيْنَهُمْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ذَلِكَ يُوعَظُ بِهِ مَنْ كَانَ مِنْكُمْ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ ذَلِكُمْ أَزْكَى لَكُمْ وَأَطْهَرُ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ (٢٣٢)

If a husband [after revoking divorce twice in a marriage bond] divorces his wife [for the third time], he cannot marry her until she has wedded another man. But if this [second husband] also divorces her, it shall be no offence for either of them to return to each other, if they think that they can [now] keep within the limits set by Allah.1 Such are the bounds of Allah. He makes them plain to men who want to gain knowledge.2 (230)

And when you have divorced your wives and they have reached the end of their waiting period, either retain them with kindness or let them go with kindness. But do not retain them with the intention of harm so that you commit excesses against them. And [you should know that] whoever does this wrongs his own soul. Do not make a mockery of Allah’s commandments. Remember the favors He has bestowed upon you, and the Book and the wisdom which He has revealed, of which He instructs you. Fear Allah and know that He has knowledge of all things.3 (231)

And when you have divorced your wives and they have reached the end of their waiting period, do not prevent them from marrying their future husbands if they have come to an agreement according to the norms [of decency]. These words of advice are given to every one of you who believes in Allah and the Last Day; this is more decent for you and more chaste. And [in reality] Allah knows, but you do not.4 (232)



1. Once this third divorce is given, a husband does not have the right to annul it in the waiting period. However, in case the same husband and wife want to remarry one another, the Qur’ān has imposed three restrictions on them:

Firstly, the wife should formalize her Nikāh (marriage contract) with someone else.

Secondly, the second husband divorces her because for some reason the marriage cannot be pulled along.

Thirdly, the two think that after re-marriage the two would be able to remain within the bounds set by the Almighty.

In the first and second conditions, the word ‘Nikāh’ only implies the legal marital knot and the word ‘divorce’ implies the divorce that one gives one’s wife when it is no longer possible to keep the marriage intact. Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī writes:

The real thing is that Nikāh is a known term referring to a marriage contract which takes place between a man and a woman with the intention of forever living together in the bond of matrimony. If this intention does not exist in a Nikāh, then in reality it is not a Nikāh; it is more of a plot conspired by a man and a woman. The option of divorce in marriage, upheld by the Sharī‘ah, is not part of the original scheme; it is only a last resort to deal with insolvable situations. Consequently, the true nature of a Nikāh is that it should be solemnized with the intention of living together as husband and wife permanently. If a person honors a Nikāh only for a certain fixed period, then this is called ‘Muta‘h’, and it is totally prohibited in Islam. Similarly, if a person solemnizes a Nikāh with a lady and then divorces her just to provide her with a legal excuse to marry the first husband, then in religious parlance this is called ‘Halālah’ and, like ‘Muta‘h,’ it is also totally prohibited in Islam. A person who does such a despicable thing is like a pimp or pander or as a Hadīth says such a person plays the role of ‘a rental male species for breeding’ and a person who does this and he who has it done are cursed by the Almighty’. (Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 537)

The third condition has been imposed in order to make divorce a very serious affair so that people do not carelessly indulge in it. They should only divorce their wives while remaining fearful of the Almighty and when they think that there is no possibility of keeping the marriage intact. Similarly, when they embark upon marrying someone, they should do so with sincerity of purpose and with the intention of creating a harmonious relationship. It is not befitting for a believer to adopt an attitude contrary to this.

2. The original Arabic words are ‘لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ’. In Arabic, just as a verb implies its conventional meaning, it also expresses intention. Here, the verb ‘يَعْلَمُونَ’ expresses intention, and is translated keeping in view this aspect.

3. This is an explanation of what is implied by retaining a wife with kindness. Writes Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī:

In the previous verses, the implied meanings were stated positively, but here they are stated negatively, in order to caution cruel husbands who could misuse the right of divorce as well as the right to revoke it in the Iddat period. Such an attitude, of course, is outright injustice and amounts to playing with the Sharī‘ah. Those who are bold enough to do this may think that they are oppressing their wives; however, in fact, they wrong their own selves. This is because those who toy with divine directives and exceed the limits set by the Almighty shall have to face a grievous punishment.

In the end a reminder is sounded regarding the blessings of the Almighty: He has made Muslims a chosen Ummah and sent a Prophet to them from among them to guide them. He has also blessed them with a book to guide them regarding good and evil. It is composed of the precepts of faith and law. If they repay this great favor by violating the limits of the Almighty and toying with His Sharī‘ah then they should contemplate the consequences of such a behavior. The verse goes on to warn Muslims to remain fearful of the Almighty and to keep in mind that He has knowledge of all their deeds. In other words, He is granting respite to people in spite of their mischief. However, once He decided to catch them, no one will be able to runaway from His grasp. (Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 539)

4. These verses direct believers regarding matters that can cause dispute after divorce. They are told that once a husband divorces a wife, he does not have the right to, in any way, hinder a decision she takes. He should not indulge in such tactics whether openly or through a hidden conspiracy. After being divorced, a woman can marry anyone she wants to at any time that suits her. If her decision regarding her second marriage is in accordance with the norms (ma‘rūf), it cannot be objected to in any way. The use of the word ‘الْمَعْرُوْف’ (al-ma‘rūf)  by the Qur’ān shows that though a man and a woman are free to decide their affairs, they should not do something which is against decency or which may potentially harm the repute and honor of the ex-husband, future husband or the lady’s family. While explaining the last part of the verse Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī writes:

These sound words of advice are being given to those who believe in Allah and the Last Day. In other words, those who have belief in Allah and the Last Day should follow what is being advised since this is the outcome of true belief. Such an attitude is more pure and seemly. If a lady is impeded in anyway to re-marry, this may result in great evils in the family and society. It is from here that back doors to clandestine relations and fornication are opened, eventually bringing great disrepute to those whose false pride induces them to obstruct natural emotions. through worthless customs. The words ‘And Allah knows, but you do not’, at the end imply that man’s knowledge and vision is very limited. He cannot fully grasp the ups and downs of life; therefore, he should follow what the Almighty is directing him to do. (Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 545)

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