Obeying Parents in Divorcing my Wife

Obeying Parents in Divorcing my Wife

Question:

I have a question on my marriage part. I am married to a nice girl and she is OK with me, she is also belonging to Ahle-bait too. I love and respect her, but now my mother wants me to divorce her due to some problems. What can I do? Should I divorce her? Please for Allah’s sake give me good tips to make things work out. I do not want to divorce her, but according to the saying of our Prophet, I have to listen to my mother otherwise Allah will not forgive me.

Answer:

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

Obedience to one’s parents is one of the most important obligations and social injunctions of Islam. Parents deserve one’s utmost respect, and their rights come after the right of Allah Almighty and His beloved Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace). Disrespecting one’s parents and being bad to them is considered to be a major sin.

Allah Most High reminds us:

“Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good to parents…..” (Surah al-Nisa: 36)

And:

“Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: “My Lord! Bestow on them your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.” (Surah al-Isra: 23-24)

Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that I asked the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace): “Which deed is the dearest to Allah?” He replied: “To offer prayer at its appointed time”. I asked: “What is the next (dearest)?” He replied: “To be good and dutiful to your parents”. I again asked: “What is the next (dearest)?” He replied: “To participate in Jihad in the way of Allah.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no: 504)

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) also warned us that being bad and disobedient to one’s parents is considered to be amongst the major sins, alongside associating partners with Allah and false testimony. (See: Sahih al-Bukhari, 10/405)

Hence, obedience to one’s parents is (in general) necessary and obligatory at all times, whether one is young or old, and whether before marriage or after being married and whether having a family and children or otherwise.

Obeying parent’s order to divorce wife

However, at times, one faces the dilemma of parents ordering one to divorce one’s wife, whilst on the other hand; one loves and cherishes one’s spouse and children. In such a case, what is the Islamic ruling? Is it necessary to obey one’s parents and divorce the wife or is there an exception to the general ruling?

The fuqaha and scholars mention that it is recommended (and necessary, according to some) for one to obey one’s both parents or one parent in their order to divorce the wife, but this is when parents order one to divorce one’s wife out of genuine concerns and reasons such as the son or they (parents) being harmed or the wife being extremely immoral to the point that her husband and others are also being affected, and not order one to divorce one’s wife out of selfishness and obstinacy. This also provided that the son himself does not fear being harmed or falling into the unlawful.

Some narrations in this regard:

1) Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that I was married with a woman whom I loved but my father disliked her and ordered me to divorce her, but I refused. Then I mentioned this to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) who said: O Abd Allah ibn Umar! Divorce your wife.” (Sunan Tirmidhi, no: 1189, Sunan Abu Dawud, no: 5095 & Musnad Ahmad, 2/42)

In another version of this Hadith, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Obey your father and divorce her.” (Sahih Ibn Hibban, 2/169 & Mustadrak al-Hakim, 2/197, with concurrence from al-Dhahabi)

2) Sayyida Umayma (Allah be pleased with her) – the freedwoman of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) – relates that I was pouring water over the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) for his ablution when a man entered and said: “Advise me” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) replied: “Do not associate anything with Allah (shirk) even if you are cut to pieces and burnt alive. And do not disobey your two parents even if they command you to part with your wife and worldly possessions: leave them all….” (Tabrani in his Mu’jam al-Kabir, 24/190 Similar narrations have been narrated by Mu’adh ibn Jabal, Ubada ibn Samit, Abu al-Darada (Allah be pleased with them all)

3) Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami narrates that a man got married but his mother disliked it, so he came to ask Sayyiduna Abu al-Darda (Allah be pleased with him) who said: “Divorce your wife and obey your mother, for I have heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) say: “A mother is the middle door to paradise, so either destroy it or preserve it.” (Mustadrak al-Hakim, 4/152, with concurrence from al-Dhahabi)

4) Abu Talha al-Asadi says that I was sitting in the company of Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) when two Bedouins came to him and sat on his two sides. One of them said: “I was looking for my camel, hence I visited a tribe. One of their girls pleased me so I married her. My parents swore that they shall never take her in, and the young man (the one asking the question) swore that he would free one thousand slaves and make one thousand gifts and sacrifice one thousand camels if he divorced her” Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) replied: “I am not one to order you to divorce your wife nor to go against your parents.” He said: “Then what should I do with this woman?” Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) said: “Observe your parent’s wish.” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba, 5/223)

5) The Prophet of Allah, Sayyiduna Ibrahim (peace be upon him) ordered his son Sayyiduna Isma’il (peace be upon him) to divorce his wife, and he dually obliged in obedience to his father. (Sahih al-Bukhari)

The aforementioned narrations signify that one should obey one’s parents in their order to divorce one’s wife. However, this ruling is not general as may be understood. The jurists mention that obedience is not unconditional and absolute. One is ordered to obey one’s parents (and for a wife, her husband) as long as it does not cause harm to oneself and does not violate one’s own rights.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “There shall be no harming and no reciprocating harm.” (la dharar wa la dhirar). (Musnad Ahmad, Mustadrak al-Hakim, 2/57 and others)

Mulla Ali al-Qari, the great Hanafi Imam, (Allah be pleased with him) says:

“It is not necessary for one to divorce one’s wife when ordered by one’s parents, even if they (parents) are extremely harmed in case of not divorcing her. The reason being is that the son himself may be harmed, hence he will not be forced to bear harm because of them being harmed…..” (Mirqat al-Mafatih, 1/132)

Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (Allah have mercy on him), from the Shafi’i School, states:

“Divorce is recommended when one is ordered to do so by one’s parents without the parents giving this order out of obstinacy and stubbornness, as is the case with many unreasonable parents, and without having the fear of falling into Fitna or harm by divorcing her.” (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj Sharh al-Minhaj, 8/3)

Imam Ibn Hajar, Mulla Ali al-Qari and others mention that the command of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) to Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) to obey his father and divorce his wife, was one of recommendation (nadb) and not obligation (wujub). (See: Mirqat al-Mafatih, 9/209 & Tuhfat al-Muhtaj)

It is narrated from Sayyiduna Hasan al-Basri (Allah be pleased with him) that it was said to him, a man has been ordered by his mother to divorce his wife (hence what shall he do?). He replied: “Divorcing his wife is not from the obedience of his mother.” (al-Bir wa al-Silah, p: 32, by Imam al-Marwazi)

Imam Ashraf Ali al-Tahanawi (Allah have mercy on him) replied to a similar question posed to him, by stating:

“If there is a fear of the man or his wife not being able to bear the consequences of the divorce, then he should not divorce his wife in obedience to his father.” (Imadad al-Fatawa, 2/467)

The outcome of the above is that there are three conditions with regards to one obeying parent’s order to divorce the wife:

1) Parents order one to divorce the wife out of genuine concerns and not out of selfishness or obstinacy,

2) One should not fear falling into fornication and the unlawful,

3) One should not fear being harmed by issuing the divorce.

Hence, if by divorcing one’s wife, one feels that one will be harmed and not be able to bear the consequences of divorce, or one fears falling into the unlawful, then one should not divorce his wife in obedience to one’s parents.

That leaves us with the situation where one does not fear the abovementioned two things. Will it be necessary to divorce one’s wife or is it merely recommended? According to the majority of the scholars, even in such a case, it is only desirable for one to obey one’s parents and divorce the wife, as the command in the Hadith is one of recommendation and not of obligation. However, some scholars such as Imam Abu Ja’far al-Tahawi (See: Mushkil al-Athar, 3/417), Imam Taj al-Din al-Subki (See: Ithaf Sadat al-Muttaqin, 6/321) and others state that in such a case it will be necessary to obey one’s parents and divorce the wife.

In conclusion, you state that you love your wife deeply but your mother orders you to divorce her. Hence, if you fear that you will be harmed by divorcing her, then you do not have to obey your mother and divorce her. It would be wise to keep your wife and explain to your mother in a kind and polite manner. You will have to use allot of wisdom in trying your best to come to a solution. If the problem is due to you residing in the same house, then you should think about moving out. You must also remember that being disrespectful and bad to your mother is never permissible, hence if you do not obey her in her order to divorce your wife, you must refuse in a manner that is not disrespectful, for respecting one’s parents is absolute and unconditional.

And Allah knows best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK

Question #: 5149
Published: 08/09/2004