"Our Dialogue" 6th Edition Rev



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You will not be doing anything against Islam if you do so. Let me first of all assure you that if your daughter gets a judgment in an American court which gives her any amount of money in marriage settlement, then what she receives is perfectly lawful for her to take. There is a rule in Islam which says that “a contract is binding to the parties thereof.” This applies unless the contract violates any particular Islamic principle, making lawful what is forbidden or forbidding what is lawful. That man entered into a marriage contract with your daughter on the basis of American law, because he wanted the benefits that law gives him as a result. So he accepted the American law as binding on him. It is binding now when he wants to divorce her for his own convenience. Another rule of Islamic law says: “Gain goes hand in hand with responsibility.” The man cannot get away with having the gains that he may claim without fulfilling his responsibility.

Another reason which should make you insist on making him pay for his attitude is that to him marriage is simply a device to serve his interests. It is not a relationship between two human beings which creates rights and commitments. When he no longer has any use for his wife, he throws her away without any twinge of conscience. Where is his respect for his wife’s and personal integrity?

These are of little concern to him. He should be made to realize that the honor of Muslim women is not something to be trifled with. Let him pay whatever the law of the country says. If it hurts him, so be it. She should stick to all her rights under the Islamic and American laws combined.

• Divorce: Whimsical divorce

May I put to you the case of a husband who was sitting on his desk with pen and paper, writing all sorts of nonsense. Following a sudden whim, he wrote on a piece of paper, "I divorce so and so (writing the name of his wife) three times." He went away, leaving the paper on the table. His wife entered the room and read the paper and immediately started crying. She informed her parents who immediately came and took her away with them. The matter still remains unsettled. Scholars in the local area give contradictory views. It should be added here that the husband had no intention whatsoever of divorcing his wife. I will be grateful for your comments.

I have often said that Islam views marriage very very seriously. In fact, the seriousness with which Islam views this matter cannot be over exaggerated. Abu Hurairah quotes the Prophet as saying: "Three matters are taken seriously whether they are said in earnest or in jest: marriage, divorce and revoking a divorce." (related by Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah, Al-Tirmithi and Al-Hakim) The point is that these matters cannot be trifled with. It is not possible for a person to go through a marriage contract, then to claim afterward the he is joking. That is totally unacceptable. Similarly, if he divorces his wife, he cannot protest that he has meant that in jest. Again if he has divorced his wife and she is still in her waiting period and he tells her that he has revoked the divorce, as he is entitled to do without a fresh marriage contract, then he cannot go back and say that he had said it in jest. These are matters that entail rights and duties. Therefore, they cannot be taken lightly. For this reason, the overwhelming majority of scholars agree that a divorce said in jest is valid and takes affect. The same applies to marriage and to revoking a divorce.

Effecting a divorce in writing is permissible, provided that the writer intends divorce. If he writes that without intending divorce then the divorce does not take effect because what is written does not necessarily mean what is intended. A person may write something on a piece of paper which may have no relevance to what is in his mind. He may be writing only to try a new pen or to improve his handwriting, or he may write the word of divorce in order to upset his wife, or for any other reason.

If a man writes the word of divorce intending something totally different, such as improving handwriting, then divorce does not take place. If his intention is to upset his wife, then, according to Imam Ahmad, the divorce takes effect.

If we consider the particular case cited by our reader, it is clear that the man has acted on a sudden whim. Most probably, that whim was to upset his wife. We accept as correct his statement that he had no intention whatsoever of actually divorcing her. Nevertheless, his action indicates that he wanted her to see the paper, realizing that she would be upset, as indeed has happened. That is the only explanation for his writing these words, leaving the paper on the desk and going out.

Let me say to this man that his joke or his whim is highly objectionable. It is done in bad taste. As a Muslim, he should know better than that. He knows what effect the thought of divorce has on a woman. Why should he give his life's partner an impression that their partnership is over. If the matter is only a whim and there is nothing to make his wife expect that he may divorce her, then the poor woman must have had the shock of her life when she read that piece of paper. He obviously did not consider all the possibilities when he played his joke. He is an obvious case of a divorce made in jest. I can only give his the verdict of Imam Ahmad who says that this divorce takes effect. It is true that a few scholars have a different view, but we are here applying the Hadith which we have already quoted that divorce made in jest actually takes effect.

Perhaps it is useful to mention here that the Prophet was once told by one of his companions that he had divorced his wife a hundred times. The Prophet went up on the pulpit and spoke to his companions. He was very angry. He said to them: "Do you take Allah's book jokingly when I am still alive among you?" That comment by the Prophet certainly applies to every case of divorce made in jest.

If the man has written on piece of paper "I divorce - three times" as our reader has quoted, then this counts as a single divorce. Many scholars count it as a three-time divorce. However, the weightier opinion is that it still counts as a single divorce.

I have explained on numerous occasions that a single divorce is revocable within the waiting period, without the need for either a fresh marriage contract or a new dower. If the waiting period has lapsed, then a marriage between the divorcees is possible with a new marriage contract and a new dower.

Perhaps the man whose case has been explained to us wishes to go back on his divorce and to tell her that he wants her as his wife again. If she agrees, he may marry her again, giving her a new dower. She may wish to exact something more from him, for giving her such pain, by asking larger dower. If he agrees to that, it is payable to her and he has no authority to claim back any part of it, unless she gives it to him willingly. A Muslim woman has complete authority and sole discretion over what to do with her dower.

[Added: Allah in His wisdom has directed in the Qur'an that the wife should remain in her (husband's) house during the waiting period. Had her parents not taken her back hastily, the situation as described above may not have arisen at all and a reconciliation/retraction of the situation would have been much simpler. Indeed, Allah is Wise and Knows all.]

• Divorce: Wife divorcing her husband and a precondition

1. I married a girl in my home town about two years ago. The marriage took place only a couple of days before I left to resume my work here [in the Kingdom]. After the marriage was officially made, I stayed with my wife for a very short period in her family home, because I had no home of my own. I wrote to her father several times but I did not write to her, expecting that she should be the first to write. However, I spoke to her a few times over the phone. Recently, I received a letter from her in which she said that she is seeking a divorce, citing what I have mentioned about my lack of writing and the fact that I did not send her any money as her reasons for the divorce. She wrote the word of divorce three times in her letter and mentioned that she was sending copies to the Marriage Registry Office, Local Administration Office and my local guardian. I am rather confused about what steps should I take. Please advise.

2. It is known and accepted that the authority to divorce is vested only in man. As a Muslim I recognize that Allah has chosen this and I submit. I also understand that there is the proviso of 'Khula' for women in Islam. Is there any situation where a woman may divorce her husband? I would be grateful for your advice.

1. This is the most strange of the stories I have heard since I started editing this column nearly 14 years ago. First a man gets married but the arrangement is that his wife will stay with her family for some time. He goes back and refuses to write to her because he expects her to write first. Then when a letter arrives, the woman takes the law of divorce into her own hands and dismisses him as a divorcee. That is very strange indeed.

May I ask how seriously you looked at this marriage? I do not wish to be too hard on you, because you did not have anything more than the marriage contract followed by a short visit to your wife. It is not as if you stayed together for a month when the marriage became a reality in your life which would have given you memories to cherish in your stay abroad. Perhaps this is nobody's fault, but then you have not taken any steps to start on that road which leads to the establishment of kindness and compassion between married couples. You chose to continue to be worlds apart, not merely physically, but also in thoughts and concerns. You established a rule for yourself that you would not write to her unless she wrote first.

May I ask why? Is it male chauvinism? It is in fact your duty to take the initiative and lead your wife into her new life as a married woman. When a woman is married she moves into her husband's home. So he is duty-bound to make the transition easier for her. In your case this was delayed, so you should have taken even greater interest in order to make the change that affected both your lives a reality, at least in thoughts and feelings. Instead you were waiting for her to write to you. Since she did not, you did not either. How was she to feel that you cared for her? How would she imagine her life with you would be like?

I suppose that any woman in her place would have serious misgivings about what the future would be like when she will have moved into your home. If her impression of you, as a result of this, was one of a hard, un-budging and determined character who does not allow much room in his life for the tender feelings of love and compassion, she may have her reasons for that. If she insisted on her parents that she would like to be divorced or that she would not be forced into putting her marriage into effect, they would have a very difficult time trying to convince her otherwise, simply because, by your own admission, you have not given them any grounds for defending you. Besides, a husband should look after his wife, even when he leaves her with her parents. It is true that you told them to open a bank account for her so that you could send her some money, but no actual transfer had taken place. I do not like to blame you for this, but it remains a fact which would not work in your favor. Had you sent her on the odd occasion some money, or some gifts over the last two years, you would have demonstrated that you cared for her. Again there is a failing on this count.

But all this does not deal with the problem that has now arisen as a result of her letter. What amazes me is that basic facts about how marriage is made and terminated under Islamic law are ignored. People tend to approach such serious matters too casually, particularly divorce. Your wife sends you a letter saying that she has divorced you and does exactly like a man who wants to divorce his wife without reference to the rules which apply to cases of divorce and how it should be approached. What is more, she wants to send copies of this to the government departments concerned with cases of marriage and divorce. In other words, she wants her lack of knowledge to be known to them all.

What she has called a divorce is of no value or consequence whatsoever. A woman may not approach divorce in that manner under Islamic law. She does not have the jurisdiction to initiate divorce in this way. She may start proceeding for divorce or Khula' in a court of Islamic or civil law, but to do the action of divorce herself is not open to her. It is like a man who never learned how to drive a car applying for participation in the world motor racing championship. His application would not be looked at the championship organizing committee.

This divorce is as valid as one which is pronounced by someone who is unmarried. Suppose your brother does not like your wife, so he tells her: "You are divorced." Would his words have any significance? Your wife's letter is as ridiculous as that. So you need not have any worry about the status of your marriage yet.

If your wife really intends to have the marriage terminated, she has to do something quite different. She should apply to a court of law, preferably Islamic law if that is available in your country, requesting the nullification or termination of her marriage. I have no doubt that a court of Islamic law would grant her request when she states the reasons for her application as you yourself have explained them.

Alternatively, she should ask you to divorce her. If the two of you come to an agreement on that, the matter could be resolved and divorce given amicably. If she does not follow either one of these routes, then she remains married to you.

Having said that, let me say a word of advice to you. When a Muslim marries, he commits himself to the fulfillment of certain duties toward his wife. In your case, these have not been done. So it is better that you attend to them without any further delay. You may start by writing her a letter saying that you now realize that you were wrong in omitting to write to her, and that you are working toward settling together soon. You should add that you understand her frustration, but you will now work on bringing about a closer relationship between the two of you. She may be happy to see such a change in you, and perhaps the relationship between the two of you will soon be on the mend.

2. Allah has given the right of divorce to the man in any marriage because it is he who bears all the financial commitments which result from this relationship. He has to pay a dowry to his wife and provide a home for both of them and their children. He has also to support his wife financially, even if she is rich. When a man divorces his wife, he again takes upon himself certain financial commitments. Apart from the payment of her dowry or its balance, if any, he pays her maintenance during her waiting period and gives her a present.

Moreover, when a man who has divorced his wife wishes to marry another woman, he has to pay similar expenses which make the whole idea of divorce and marriage to another woman a very costly affair. Any man would think twice before going through this process because he realizes that it constitutes a heavy burden on him.

A woman does not pay any of these expenses. If she has an income and she shares with her husband the expenses of their married life, it must be known to both of them that she has no obligation to make such a contribution. She does it voluntarily because the benefit goes to her own family. The distribution of financial responsibilities is the main reason for the fact that Islam gives the right to divorce to the man.

This right may, however, be exercised by the wife only if it has been agreed between her and her husband that he relinquishes his right to her. In other words, an express agreement must be entered between them which gives the wife the right to divorce if she wants to do so. If this condition is not stipulated, then the woman cannot divorce her husband either verbally or in writing, in his presence or in his absence.

• Dogs — using guard dogs

In order to minimize pilferage and theft in my small farm in my country, I have domesticated a couple of dogs which we keep away from home. Some of my friends, however, have criticized me. They say that as Muslims we cannot have dogs near to us. I am worried that their criticism may be true and that I may have committed a mistake. I would be grateful for your clarification.

Scholars differ as to whether a dog is impure or not. We have an authentic Hadith which tells us to wash a utensil, which a dog uses, seven times; one of them with dust and water. Scholars who maintain that dog is not impure argue that the Hadith does not mention any impurities. It simply orders us to wash the traces of a dog in a certain way. Some scholars who take the opposite view maintain that this ruling is the same which is required to remove the impurity of pigs. As such, the dog must be classified in the same grade with regard to impurity as the pig which is unanimously agreed to be impure. Whichever view one wishes to adopt - and we can adopt a scholar's view only on the basis of the evidence supporting it - we would not like to be too close to dogs so that we do not need to have our clothes and other objects washed in that difficult way which the Hadith mentions.

There are, however, situations where the dog can be of immense use. One such situation is that which you mention in your letter. All scholars agree that it is permissible to use a guard dog in order to protect one's family and property. Again, we can use a dog for hunting without feeling at all uneasy about that.

If one employs a dog for such purposes, one should treat it well, give it food and be kind to it. Islam teaches us to treat our animals in a kind way. When the Prophet saw a weak and thin camel, he said to his companions and to Muslims in all generations: "Fear Allah in your treatment of your animals." A Hadith which explains the proper attitude a Muslim should have toward animals is that which tells the story of a man walking in the desert and getting very thirsty. He was so thirsty that he felt he was sure to die unless he soon found some water to drink. Suddenly he saw a well right in front of him. Having nothing with which to draw from the well, he went down himself and drank his full. When he came out to the top, he found a dog gasping because of thirst. He said to himself: This dog must be as thirsty as I was a few minutes ago. He went down again and filled his shoe with water and brought it up and put it in front of the dog. Allah forgave him all his sins for his kind act to that dog. When the Prophet told this Hadith to his companions they wondered whether one would get reward for kindness to animals. The Prophet said: "You have a reward for any kind­ness you do to any living creature."

To sum up, there is nothing wrong with your employment of dogs to guard your farm against intruders who want to steal your crops. You should be kind to those dogs and try as far as possible to keep them away from yourself and your clothes. It is not necessary for one who has a guard dog or a dog for hunting to treat his dog in the same way as Western people treat their pets.

• Donations for building mosques

The mosque in our locality is being rebuilt, but much of the money is received as donations from rich people who acquired their wealth through cheating the government and bribery. What is the Islamic point of view in this matter? Can one stay away from such a mosque and pray at home on grounds that it is built with money earned through non-Islamic ways? Can donations from non-Muslims be used in the construction of a mosque?

What worries me in your question is the sweeping remark that rich people have acquired their wealth through unlawful means. It is not beyond a highly God-fearing man who has a good measure of business acumen to get rich through perfectly legitimate means. While it is true that some people may not have any scruples about cheating the government or bribing officials in order to get some unlawful advantages, we cannot apply the same standards to everybody in a sweeping statement which condemns everyone that gets rich. Among the companions of the Prophet, there were people who managed to become very wealthy and none of them can be accused of having used unlawful means.

When the mosque is built in your locality, to abstain from offering prayer in it is wrong. By doing so, you deprive yourself of an opportunity to congregational prayers. You will be abandoning a duty. Allah tells us to bow down in worship with others who do likewise. That means that congregational prayer is a duty.

The fact that some of the money received for building the mosque may have come from a suspect source is no justification to abstain from attending it. To start with, donations received from Christians and other non-Muslims can be used in the construction of the mosques. That is certainly permissible. Moreover, the committee collecting donations is not required to verify the source of every donation made. What you have to remember is that giving a donation is a separate transaction. The money itself is not contaminated by the process it is earned. Therefore, if I sell a certain item of merchandise to a person who pays the price with money he had stolen or had received as bribery, my earning is perfectly legitimate because I am not responsible to verify his source of income. The same applies to the fund-raising committee for building the mosque. You may say that these people are known to accept or take bribery or whatever, but Islam does not conduct its dealings with individuals or communities on the basis of hearsay.

• Dower: Death of spouse

Could you please explain what happens to the dower if it remains unpaid until the husband dies. In my home country, it is customary that the woman declares to the deceased husband at the time when his body is taken for burial that she forgives him and forfeits her dower. If a woman does not make this declaration, relatives and friends remind her to do so. Could you also explain what happens to the dower if the wife dies first, without the dower being paid.

The dower is an amount of money, which may be in cash or kind or some other benefit, which is payable to the wife by the husband at the time when they are married, i.e. when the marriage contract is made. It may be deferred until a later date or deferred indefinitely, but it remains payable if the wife demands it at any time. When it is paid, it becomes the property of the woman and she has sole discretion on how she wants to spend it. She may save, invest or spend it without interference by her husband, father or indeed anyone else. As you realize she is a complete and independent status which enables her to own and dispense of her possessions at her own discretion. A dower is made obligatory with an express order in the Qur'an. The relevant verse may be translated as follows: "Give to women their marriage portions in the spirit of a gift: but if they, of their own accord, give up to you any portion of that, then enjoy it with pleasure. (4;4)" The phrase, "in the spirit of a gift", is significant, because it means the giving of something willingly, of one's own accord, without expecting a return for it. The amount of the marriage portion or dower, which the bridegroom has to give to the bride has not been prescribed by the law. It depends entirely on the agreement of the two parties, and may consist of anything, even a mere token. The point is that the woman should agree, without being subjected to any pressure, to the amount offered.

If the dower is unspecified at the time of contract, it remains payable. Its amount may be agreed upon by the two parties after marriage. If they cannot agree on an amount, the matter may be referred to an Islamic court and the judge will order the husband to pay an amount which is equivalent to the dower received by women in a similar social status. The judge will take into account the dower paid to the woman's sisters, cousins or neighbors who have similar qualities including age, education, maturity and beauty. If the husband refrains from paying it, the judge can order enforcement in the normal method of enforcing any judgment.

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