In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
[Explanation in the light of Surah Al-Baqarah Ayaat 231 and 232]
The first rule given in the first ayah is: When women given revocable divorce reach near the completion of their ‘iddah [waiting period], the husband has two choices: either he may revoke his divorce and let her continue to be married to him or he may not revoke his divorce, discontinue the marriage and release her.
Along with these choices, the Qur’an places a restriction which requires that a wife, if retained, must be retained in accordance with a manner well-recognized and should it come to a parting of ways, the parting should be in accordance with the Shari’ah.
The word ma’aroof in the ayah suggests that there are conditions and rules governing the choice of retaining as there are in the choice of releasing. When choice is made from either of the two options, it must be done in accordance with the method prescribed by the Shari’ah and not under the heat of anger or sentiments. Some of these rules appear in the Qur’an itself, and others have been given by the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
For instance, should the thought of ugly consequences of separation after the incident of divorce produce a change of heart in favor of revoking it and keeping the marriage intact, then the Shari’ah has a method. It stipulates that the purpose in doing so should be to wash out past anger and displeasure and resolve to live anew in good family relationship with intention to give her the due rights.
The purpose should not be to hold the woman in captivity or to harass and torture her. Therefore, the following words were said in the ayah: “do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress (against them).”
The other method of raj’ah [revocation] has been mentioned in Surah at-Talaq:
“And bring to witness two just men from among you and establish the testimony for (the acceptance of) Allah…” (65: 2)
It means that anyone intending to take his wife back by ra’jah should invite two trustworthy Muslims to act as witnesses to prevent legal disputes in the future. for example, one of the parties can claim that they have already done the raj’ah before the expiry of the iddah but there is no way to prove it. To eradicate these evils, the Qur’an instructs that the act of revocation should have two trustworthy witnesses.
Release them in Fairness
It is also possible that hearts remain heavy and anger does not go away even after the long period of ‘iddah which gave them sufficient time to think. So, a termination of relationship may seem to be the choice, in which case the anger of hostile emotions flaring up is acute which can envelop two families and become a danger for both their worldly life and the Hereafter.
To offset this danger, it was briefly said, “or release them according to acceptable terms…” meaning if you have to leave or free a wife and sever your relationship with her then do so in a decent manner. (We have explained that the decent manner means not to throw women out of their homes, with their children and belongings confiscated. Not to insult or threaten them or their families after the divorce has been finalized. It also means that the husband should not ask for the dowry, if the divorce was initiated by him. Rather, the husband should gift something to the wife even at the time of parting.)
Thus, the fulfillment of some rights of the divorced wife has been made mandatory for the divorcing husband while the fulfillment of some others has been assigned to him in the form of kind treatment and good conduct. This a chaste lesson in high morals and social manners which points to the fact that, just as the marriage was a transaction and mutual contract, the divorce is the termination of a transaction. There is no reason to end it with enmity and hostility. Rather, it should be done with decency and compassion.
Anyone who Acts against Allah’s Law Harms Himself
After all these commands it was said, “And whoever does that has certainly wronged himself.” Anyone who acts against the divine commands will harm none but himself. In the Hereafter every injustice and cruelty will be avenged in the Sight of Allah. The oppressor will not move an inch unless the oppressed is avenged.
If an oppressor gets away with his cruelty, the evil consequences often disgrace him right here in this world. He may or may not comprehend them, but he is overtaken by misfortunes which make him taste at least some retribution of his oppression. Shaykh Sa’adi, mercy be on him, said in a Persian couplet:
The oppressor presumed that he had hit me
But his weapon boomeranged back into his neck while it sailed past me!
With every law, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gives mankind a reminder to fear Him and that one should not forget their accountability in the Hereafter.
Do not make Marriage and Divorce a Play Thing
The words of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala should not be taken lightly as amusement, “And do not take the ayaat of Allah in jest.” According to one explanation – playing games with the ayaat of Allah or making a mockery of it – means acting against Divine ordinances in matters of marriage and divorce. Another explanation reported from Abu Darda radhiAllahu ‘anhu is that some people during pre-Islam Arabia would give divorce or free a slave, then they would go back on their word and start saying that this was all in fun; divorce or freeing of slave was not intended. Thereupon, this ayah was revealed giving the ruling that anyone going through divorce and marriage, even if it be jokingly, would find these enforced and the plea of “having no intention” will not be accepted as valid.
(Remember to not say such things in jokes. A divorce giving through any way of communication whether it be face-to-face, through email or social media becomes valid. Be conscious of the kind of jokes you make. Refrain from making marital jokes.)