Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2 : 229

ٱلطَّلَٰقُ مَرَّتَانِ ۖ فَإِمْسَاكٌۢ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ تَسْرِيحٌۢ بِإِحْسَٰنٍ ۗ وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَن تَأْخُذُوا۟ مِمَّآ ءَاتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ شَيْـًٔا إِلَّآ أَن يَخَافَآ أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ ٱللَّهِ ۖ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ ٱللَّهِ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا فِيمَا ٱفْتَدَتْ بِهِۦ ۗ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ ٱللَّهِ فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا ۚ وَمَن يَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَ ٱللَّهِ فَأُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلظَّٰلِمُونَ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
Divorce is twice. Then [after that], either keep [her] in an acceptable manner or release [her] with best treatment. 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 Allāh. But if you fear that they will not keep [within] the limits of Allāh, then there is no blame upon either of them concerning that by which she ransoms herself. These are the limits of Allāh, so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses the limits of Allāh - it is those who are the wrongdoers [i.e., the unjust].

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

The next set of rules relates to the number of times divorce can take place and the wife’s full entitlement to her dowry, except in the case when a wife buys herself out of a marriage she feels she could not sustain for fear that she might commit an act of disobedience to God. Under such circumstances, a wife may forgo part of her dowry or make an agreed settlement in order to release herself when her husband is unwilling to divorce her.

Couples are allowed to divorce and revoke their divorce twice before the condition stated in the next verse applies. Under this provision, remarriage with a three-times divorced wife cannot take place except in the case when she legally marries another husband who may subsequently, and in the normal course of events, divorce her. Should this take place normally, without it being pre-arranged, the woman and her first husband may be re-married, if they believe that by now they are able to make their marriage successful.

The first divorce, as we said earlier, would put the whole relationship to the test, the second one would provide a second and final chance to reassess the situation before judging whether it is irreconcilable. If the marriage could be saved, well and good. A third divorce would, however, be evidence of a total breakdown of the relationship, and that the marriage was unworkable.

In any case, divorce should only be a last resort option to remedy a situation which could not otherwise be saved. Once divorce takes place twice, it would only be fair to either maintain the relationship with honour and dignity and resume as happy a life as possible, or to amicably bring it to an end without pain or acrimony. This would be the third divorce, after which both man and woman are free to start afresh with a different spouse. This is an extremely realistic approach, providing practical solutions. It neither denies the problem nor condemns it, nor attempts to re-create human nature to suit it, nor, indeed, does it ignore the problem altogether or try to sweep it under the carpet.

If the marriage proved unsustainable, the woman would be entitled to everything that had come to be hers during the marriage including the dowry. She would not have to reimburse the man for any upkeep or other costs he had incurred, unless it was her decision to end the marriage, for reasons of her own which had convinced her that life with that particular husband was no longer tolerable or would drive her to transgress the limits of decency, with herself or in her relationship with her husband. In this case the woman may ask for a divorce but would be obliged to compensate the man for the break-up of his marriage home, through no fault of his own, by giving him back the dowry he had paid her, or reimbursing him for all or some of the costs he had incurred while keeping her and enabling her to preserve her honour and dignity.

These realistic and scrupulous measures take account of all possible situations and feelings, ensuring that a wife will never have to accept an unhappy marriage under duress, and that a husband does not forgo any of his rights if his marriage breaks up through no fault of his own.

To put these rulings within their proper religious context, the verse ends with a powerful reminder, saying: “These are the bounds set by God; do not, then, transgress them. Those who transgress the bounds set by God are wrongdoers indeed.

2. Linguistic Analysis

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Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *


3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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The scholars are unanimous that Surah al-Baqarah is Madani and that it was the first Surah revealed in Madinah. [Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in Fath al-Bari no. 160/8].

Despite it being the first Surah to be revealed in Madinah, it contains Ayaat from a later period also. In fact, according to Ibn Abbas [as mentioned in Ibn Kathir] the last Ayat revealed to the Prophet was Ayat no. 281 from Surah al-Baqarah and this occurred 8 days or so before his death [which corresponds to the year 11 Hijri].

8. Reasons for Revelation

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The background to this ruling is that in pre-Islamic Arabia no limitation was set on the number of times divorce could take place. Men would marry, divorce and remarry the same woman, virtually at will. When a man from Madinah had fallen out with his wife and grew to dislike her intensely, he vowed that he would neither keep her nor let her go; he would divorce her and then take her back just before her waiting period had elapsed. The woman complained to the Prophet Muĥammad, to whom this verse was then revealed.

This is another example of the prudent and propitious method the Qur’ān had adopted in providing the Muslims with the rulings and directions they needed to organise their community. This approach continued throughout the period of the revelation of the Qur’ān until all the main provisions of the Islamic code were fully laid down, enabling succeeding generations of Muslims to live by their guidance and principles.

Limiting the number of times divorce can be revoked prevents its abuse. The first time a man divorces his wife he would be entitled, without the need for any formalities, to take her back anytime during her waiting period. If this period elapses, the divorce would become final and a fresh marriage contract, with a fresh dowry, would have to be entered into. In both cases, the husband is allowed one additional divorce if matters again go wrong. The third time a divorce takes place, it is final and irrevocable. The only way a three-times divorced couple could resume a married relationship would be if the ex-wife married a different man who subsequently dies or, in the normal course of events, divorces her and she completes her waiting period without the marriage being re-instated.

9. Relevant Hadith

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During the Prophet Muĥammad’s lifetime. Mālik reports in al-Muwaţţa’ that one morning, at dawn, the Prophet found Ĥabībah bint Sahl, wife of Thābit ibn Qays, waiting at his door. He asked her what she wanted and she replied: “I can no longer live with Thābit ibn Qays.

The Prophet sent for her husband and told him what Ĥabībah had said. Ĥabībah then turned to the Prophet and said: “I still have all that he had given me,” upon which the Prophet said to Thābit: “Take it back”; which he did and Ĥabībah went back to her people.

The version related by al-Bukhārī mentions that Ĥabībah said to the Prophet: “I take nothing against Thābit’s religious or moral behaviour, but as a Muslim I cannot live with him and be ungrateful.” The Prophet asked her: “Would you give him back his orchard?” (The orchard being the dowry Thābit had given her.) She agreed and the Prophet said to Thābit: “Take back the orchard and divorce her once.

Another version related by al-Ţabarī mentions that Abū Jarīr had asked `Ikrimah how the khul` had been instituted. He said that Ibn `Abbās used to say that the first case of khula` was when `Abdullāh ibn Ubayy’s sister went to the Prophet and said: “Nothing could ever make me put my head next to his! I lifted my curtain and saw him with a group of men. He was the darkest, shortest and the least handsome of them all.” Her husband then said: “But I have given her the best of what I have: my orchard. If she gives it back to me, I shall let her go.” She agreed and offered to give him more, if he so wished. The Prophet annulled their marriage.

These incidents show how the Prophet took into consideration the psychological and emotional state of the wife, and settled the matter fairly and forthrightly, in full appreciation of human nature and consideration of family relations and personal feelings.

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