الآية رقم (228) - وَالْمُطَلَّقَاتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ ثَلاَثَةَ قُرُوَءٍ وَلاَ يَحِلُّ لَهُنَّ أَن يَكْتُمْنَ مَا خَلَقَ اللّهُ فِي أَرْحَامِهِنَّ إِن كُنَّ يُؤْمِنَّ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ وَبُعُولَتُهُنَّ أَحَقُّ بِرَدِّهِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ إِنْ أَرَادُواْ إِصْلاَحًا وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌ وَاللّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكُيمٌ

(228) - (Divorced women remain in waiting for three periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have more right to take them back in this [period] if they want reconciliation. And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable. But the men have a degree over them [in responsibility and authority]. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.)

Islamic legislation is meant to preserve human’s dignity and rights; and Allah’s (swt) approach is the ideal one to realize the goal of happiness in both this life and the afterlife for men and women alike. Divorce is legitimized by Allah (swt) to save and preserve the society because sometimes, impurities spoil the complete harmony of two people; so, if there’s no way to linger, reconcile, return to normal and have understanding; then divorce would be the solution: the two partners get separated and give up their mutual life which was initiated as a human partnership meant for mutual living and establishing a family. Therefore, Allah (swt) has legitimized divorce for such a necessity. Marital life succeeds in some families with love and understanding prevailing between the two spouses. This may not be the case with other spouses in other families though. Not every marital relationship is the ideal example of happiness between the man and the woman. Disagreement and conflict of tendencies and wishes might be there sometimes, so the couple either reconcile -and that is the best for them- or as the Prophet (saws) said:

“Of all the lawful acts the most detestable to Allah is divorce.[1]

It’s true that divorce is the most detestable of all the lawful acts; yet, it has been legitimized for cases in which divorce is the only way out. Here we have the verse:

( وَالْمُطَلَّقَاتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ ثَلَاثَةَ قُرُوءٍ…) (Divorced women remain in waiting for three periods,.…): This verse is about the waiting period for the divorced woman. Such period is a must and is called ‘Iddah.’ It’s meant for, first of all, getting time to review stances, reconcile and return. The ‘Iddah’ of the woman paves the way for divorce. Yet, there is still a chance to return and refrain from getting divorce. Divorce is retroactive during the ‘Iddah,’ and the man may undo the decision of breaking up with his wife and, thus, return to her. This is one aspect. Another aspect is to preserve descendance of the baby to their father, in case of pregnancy, or keep the womb clear of any conceiving from the husband. This is so important in order not to mix descendances between the former husband and the new one, if any, has there been no ‘Iddah.’ The Sharia, after all, is meant to maintain the rights of the woman, the man, the kids, and the whole family. In addition, the ‘Iddah’ is meant to give a chance to undo the divorce which ruins the family. The rules for the ‘Iddah’ are set out in this verse as three periods.

Why does the Arabic word of “themselves” is mentioned? It is because the woman is the only one that can keep such an unknown thing. No one can ever know the three periods and the cleanliness of the womb but the woman herself. Nobody can make such a judgement. Three periods here mean the interval among two menstrual periods. Scholars have different opinions on this issue; some of them say three periods mean three menstrual periods; others say they are three intervals among two menstrual periods. The latter is most likely, as the counting noun, i.e. the number (in Arabic language) controverts the counted noun in terms of gender. And here in the verse (in Arabic) three is feminine and periods is masculine, and thus three periods means three intervals and not three menstrual periods. Most scholars go for this opinion. It is even acceptable if we say three periods means three menstrual periods. Some opinions are supportive of such saying. This is part of Allah’s mercy upon us; the legislation is set; and different schools have different opinions on the rules but never on the doctrine. The schools never differ for the sake of differences. It’s taken for granted that different opinions never spoil amity. What matters here, anyhow, is that divorced women remain in waiting, that’s they have to be patient; and the word ‘remain in waiting’ is so realistic, as a divorced woman has to wait for three menstrual periods or three intervals till the ‘Iddah’ period is over. The man can, during this period, return the woman as his wife with no need for a new contract, dowry, acceptance or witnesses as in the first time the marriage contract was made. This called retroactive divorce as mentioned earlier. Allah (swt) says:

وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَهُنَّ أَن يَكْتُمْنَ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ فِي أَرْحَامِهِنَّ إِن كُنَّ يُؤْمِنَّ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ) (and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs if they believe in Allah and the Last Day.,.…): Why? Because the ‘Iddah’ for a pregnant woman is:

 {وَأُولَاتُ الْأَحْمَالِ أَجَلُهُنَّ أَن يَضَعْنَ حَمْلَهُنَّ ۚ}

(…And for those who are pregnant, their term is until they give birth.)  (Al-Talaq: 4)

The waiting period ‘Iddah’ for a pregnant woman is till she gives birth; whereas the waiting period for a woman after menopause is:

 {وَاللَّائِي يَئِسْنَ مِنَ الْمَحِيضِ مِن نِّسَائِكُمْ إِنِ ارْتَبْتُمْ فَعِدَّتُهُنَّ ثَلَاثَةُ أَشْهُرٍ وَاللَّائِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ ۚ}

(And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women – if you doubt, then their period is three months, and [also for] those who have not menstruated..)  (Al-Talaq: 4)

We have three Sharia rules here: the first is the general rule of the waiting period, ‘Iddah:’ three menstrual periods or three intervals, and both are acceptable; the second is for the pregnant woman: till she gives birth; and the third is for women who never expects menstruation anymore: three months. Moreover, a woman can’t be married to during the waiting period, ‘Iddah.’ As for the man, he may return his wife during the ‘Iddah’ in case of the retroactive divorce, and he may reconsider his decision and mend what has been spoiled and disagreed upon during this time:

( وَبُعُولَتُهُنَّ أَحَقُّ بِرَدِّهِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ إِنْ أَرَادُوا إِصْلَاحًا  ..  ) (..And their husbands have more right to take them back in this [period] if they want reconciliation…): So, if the husband wants reconciliation, he can return the woman if he is honest and his actual intention is reconciliation not to be against the woman, oppress her, or prevent her for getting married to another man. The man shouldn’t have any bad intention; his intention should only be reconciliation. The Quranic text is clear, and Prophet Muhammad (saws) said:

“The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.[2]

A true believer honors the woman if he loves her and never be unjust to her if he hates her. This is how every believer, Muslim is.

Divorce here is retroactive. A man can return his wife provided that the intention is reconciliation and not to oppress the woman:

( وَبُعُولَتُهُنَّ أَحَقُّ بِرَدِّهِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ إِنْ أَرَادُوا إِصْلَاحًا  ..  ) (..And their husbands have more right to take them back in this [period] if they want reconciliation…): This is how the retroactive divorce is: a man can return his woman with no need for a new contract nor a new dowry.

( إِنْ أَرَادُوا إِصْلَاحًا  ..  ) (..if they want reconciliation…): ‘if’ is a conditional article, and the condition is reconciliation, not if they want revenge, oppression or injustice. After that, Allah (swt) says:

( وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ۚ ..  ) (..And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable…): And this is a very great rule as Islam has made men and women equal in terms of duties and rights. However, Islam recognizes the morphological differences between men and women, and that’s due to the nature of women that Allah (swt) bestowed her so that she is the maker of generations and men as such. Women are the ones who conceive, give birth and breast feed. Islam never prevents women from working or any of their social or economic rights. Nonetheless, Allah (swt) says:

( وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ۚ ..  ) (..And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable…): That should be according to what is reasonable and not what is common among people. So, women have rights and duties according to what is reasonable under the Sharia, righteousness and the good. Men, as such, have rights and responsibilities with respect to their wives. And the relationship between the man and the woman has three main elements: tranquility, affection, and mercy, as Allah (swt) says with respect to men and women:

 {وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ }

(And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought..)  (Al-Room: 21)

Equal duties and responsibilities for men and women are based on this framework. On the other hand, the Quran emphasizes here that:

( وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌ ..  ) (..But the men have a degree over them…): What such degree is? It iss stated in the Sura of (An-Nisaa):

 {الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ وَبِمَا أَنفَقُوا مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ }

(Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth.)  (An-Nisaa: 34)

Such degree of being in charge of women shouldn’t be taken as interpreted by the ignorant but rather as interpreted by scholars. The one in charge is the one who takes care of others’ affairs. Thus, men have a degree over women in terms of responsibility so that they are more patient, meek, and they give to, spend on and serve their wives. That’s a degree of obligation rather than honoring. It’s another obligation of the man to protect his wife, honor her, respect her emotions and spend on her even if he was poor and she is rich. This is among the basic rules of the Islamic Sharia. This is the marital relationship as stipulated and maintained by Islam, which has figured out a solution when it reaches a deadlock i.e. divorce. After the waiting period ‘Iddah’ is over, the divorce can’t be undone but with a new contract and dowry. The man can take his wife back during the waiting period with the intention of ‘reconciliation.’

Thus, the rule of the waiting period, is in favor of the woman and is not meant to oppress her as some people are trying to publish against Islam.

( وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ  ) (….And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise): Exalted in might means that He dispenses with the worship of his creatures. You have to abide by the heavenly approach. Allah (swt) is exalted in wise and sets the rules that fit humans at all places, times, conditions and cases so that marriage not to confine people. Although Allah (swt) calls it as a solemn covenant:

{ وَأَخَذْنَ مِنكُم مِّيثَاقًا غَلِيظًا }

(…and they have taken from you a solemn covenant.)  (An-Nisaa: 21)

Such covenant can dissolve after the waiting period, rethinking the matter within one’s self, considering the matter objectively away from passion and anger, and depleting all the ways and means possible for reconciliating the two spouses.

[1] Sunan Abi Dawud, Divorce Vol., Chapter: Regarding The Disliked Nature Of Divorce, Hadith no. 2178.

[2] Sahih Al-Bukhari, Revelation Vol., Chapter: How Revelation to Prophet Muhammad (saws) started, Hadith no. 1.