Al-Baqarah · Juz 2 · Qur'an Tafseer

Taking back the Mahr [Dowry]


In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

there is no blame

Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 229 (Part 2)

Part 1

“And it is not lawful for you to take anything of what you have given them unless both fear that they will not be able to keep (within) the limits of Allah.” It means that men should not pressure their wives to end this situation by giving back their Mahr and any gifts that their husbands have given them, in return for divorce. A similar command appears in Surah an-Nisa ayah 19,

“And do not make difficulties for them in order to take (back) part of what you gave them unless they commit a clear immorality…” (4: 19)

However, if the wife willingly gives back anything with a good heart by her own choice and not by force, then men can enjoy the dowry without any fear (see Surah an-Nisa 4: 4).

Allowing Khul and the Return of the Mahr

“But if you fear that they will not keep (within) the limits of Allah, then there is no blame upon either of them concerning that by which she ransoms herself.” When the spouses have irreconcilable differences wherein the wife ignores the rights of the husband, dislikes him and becomes unable to live with him any longer, she is allowed to free herself (from married life) by giving him back what he had given her (in gifts and Mahr). In this case, there is neither any sin on her nor on the husband if he accepts such offer.

Ibn Jarir said that this ayah (2:229) was revealed about Thabit ibn Qays ibn Shammas and his wife Habibah bint ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy bin Salul. In his Muwatta’, Imam Malik reported that Habibah bint Sahl Al-Ansariyah was married to Thabit bin Qays ibn Shammas and that Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam once went to the Fajr [Dawn] prayer and found Habibah bint Sahl by his door in the dark. Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Who is this?” She said, “I am Habibah bint Sahl, O Messenger of Allah!” He said, “What is the matter?” She said, “I and Thabit bin Qays”, meaning, (she can no longer be with) her husband. When her husband Thabit bin Qays came, Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said to him,

هذِهِ حَبِيبَةُ بِنْتُ سَهْلٍ قَدْ ذَكَرَتْ مَا شَاءَ اللهُ أَنْ تَذْكُر

“This is Habibah bint Sahl, she said what Allah has permitted her to say.”

Habibah also said, “O Messenger of Allah! I still have everything he gave me.” Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

خُذْ مِنْهَا

“Take it from her.” So, he took it from her and she remained in her family’s house. This was reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and An-Nasai.

Al-Bukhari reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said that the wife of Thabit bin Qays bin Shammas came to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and said, “O Messenger of Allah! I do not criticize his religion or mannerism. But I hate committing Kufr in Islam (by ignoring his rights on her).” Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,

أَتَرُدِّينَ عَلَيهِ حَدِيقَتَه

 “Will you give him back his garden?”

She said, “Yes.” Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

اقْبَلِ الْحَدِيقَةَ وَطَلِّقْهَا تَطْلِيقَة

“Take back the garden and divorce her once.” An-Nasa’i also recorded it.


Sometimes men say that they will not divorce their wives. Sometimes they keep their wives and sometimes send her to her parents’ house. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala presented the woman with the way out. She is not to live in torture forever. She has the option to ransom herself out of the unpleasant experience.

How kind is our Rabb that He has allowed the woman to return her dowry and ransom herself! If the husband fails to fulfill his duties, abandons her or mistreats her then she is not a captive that she must live with him till death. She is a human being with emotions and self-respect. She has a right to live a content life.

It also teaches us that if a woman chooses to take khul she must not be rebuked by her family or society. It is a right given by her Creator and re-read the above hadeeth – the woman says that I don’t criticize his religion or mannerism but she feels incompatible with the person. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not say in reply: O woman! You should fear Allah. He simply asked her if she was willing to return the dowry. And hence, the matter was settled. Human psychology is what the Creator understands. Rebuking or shunning divorced women is a borrowed tradition.

[Should You Get a Divorce (as a Muslim)?]

Notice a constant reminder to fear Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in the ayaat of divorce. None of the parties should be harmed. Parents too should keep this in mind and let people go free instead of insulting them and keeping them tied in an unhappy relationship. There is a constant reminder to treat the woman with kindness and the command to not infringe her rights. She is a human being after all and not an object with no feelings.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “there is no blame upon either of them,” therefore we too should refrain from cursing the divorced couple. If you do not understand human emotions then there is a problem with your understanding. Perhaps, you are an insensitive person. A person cannot go on living with someone who has mistreated them for the sake of family honor. Marriage is not a punishment in Islam. It is very easy to say: Do sabr shukr sister, until you are in a similar situation.

[6 Things NOT to Say to Someone Who is Divorced]

NOTE: In case the woman has run out of her mahr then her family should come to her help and provide her with the required money to free her from the relationship.

The Waiting Period for the Khul

At-Tirmidhi reported that Rubayi’ bint Mu’awwidh ibn ‘Afra got a khul during the time of Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and he ordered her to wait for one menstruation period for ‘Iddah.

[The Waiting Period for the Divorced Woman]

Why does the woman have to return her mahr?

Some might declare this injustice against woman. Remember that mahr is a wedding gift – it was given for the purpose of marriage. In Islamic weddings, there are no weeklong functions where there should be a mayoun, mehndi, barat and valima. There is only nikkah and valima, and the “groom” is to bear the cost. It is unfortunate that today Muslim marriages are not according to the Sunnah. We spend so much money on the wedding functions only to show off – not knowing that this is extravagance and contrary to the Sunnah. People have to take loans to “show off”.

[Wedding Extravagance: Much Ado About a Superficial “Do”]

In Islam the man is the “seeker”. He seeks the woman in marriage, therefore, he spends on the marriage. (The women can have their “private” women function where only women are not invited but it does not need to be grand. They are not obligated to do so in Islam. We should know what an Islamic wedding is.)

Since man spends on her, as a compensation for the hurt, the woman returns the gift. The mahr to be returned is either agreed between the husband and the wife or by the scholar.

[Finding Allah through Divorce]

Transgressing the Limits of Allah

These are the limits of Allah, so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses the limits of Allah – it is those who are the wrongdoers.” This means that the laws that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has legislated are His set limits, so do not transgress them. An authentic hadeeth states:

إِنَّ اللهَ حَدَّ حُدُودًا فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا، وفَرَضَ فَرَائِضَ فَلَا تُضَيِّعُوهَا، وحَرَّمَ مَحَارِمَ فَلَا تَنْتَهِكُوهَا، وَسَكَتَ عَنْ أَشْيَاءَ رَحْمَةً لَكُمْ مِنْ غَيْرِ نِسْيَانٍ فَلَا تَسْأَلُوا عَنْهَا

“Allah has set some limits, so do not transgress them; and commanded some commands, so do not ignore them; and made some things unlawful, so do not commit them. He has also left some matters (without rulings) as mercy with you, not because He has forgotten them, so do not ask about them.”

When a woman begins her married life she has to go through many changes. She enters a new environment where there are new people and new sets of responsibilities. She then goes through pregnancy, child birth and sometimes miscarriages as well. She suffers a lot contrary to what romantic movies portray. Therefore, at the time of divorce anyone who has some decency and fear of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will not mistreat her. He will neither hurt her physically nor through his words. Remember that this command is not only for the divorced couple but for us as a society as well. Whenever we hear about someone’s divorce what is our reaction? For many of us, we blame the individuals for not trying to work it out. How do we know their situation and “human emotions”? Why is that when a publicly renowned person or a celebrity gets divorced, it is the most important topic of our discussions for weeks? Why can’t we mind our own matters and work on improving “our lives” and become less concerned about what’s happening in other’s lives?

Also remember whatever thoughts you give room to in your mind and heart about the divorced person, is how your character is. If you are Allah-fearing person, you will mind your tongues and hearts.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Reading the Tafseer of the divorce ayaat do not assume that you are now in a position to issue fatwa. Should you or someone you know go through this situation (Allah-forbid) please consult a learned scholar. Do not decide your case reading a fatwa online. The scholars who issue fatwa they listen to both sides of the stories and then answer the questions. They have spent years studying jurisprudence, Tafseer and ahadeeth. We do not qualify to issue fatawa merely by studying a few ayaat.

DOWNLOAD PDF: Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayah 229

رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيم
“Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing.” [Al-Baqarah 2: 127]

2 thoughts on “Taking back the Mahr [Dowry]

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