Commentary on the Quran (Chapter 2:229)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Rules of the Revocable Divorce
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
الطَّلَاقُ مَرَّتَانِ ۖ فَإِمْسَاكٌ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ تَسْرِيحٌ بِإِحْسَانٍ ۗ وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَن تَأْخُذُوا مِمَّا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ شَيْئًا إِلَّا أَن يَخَافَا أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّـهِ ۖ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّـهِ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا فِيمَا افْتَدَتْ بِهِ ۗ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّـهِ فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا ۚ وَمَن يَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَ اللَّـهِ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ ﴿٢٢٩﴾
2:228 Divorce is twice. Then, either keep [her] in an acceptable manner or release [her] with good 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 the limits ordained by Allah (SWT). Then if they (three people and more) fear that they (both spouses) will not keep the limits ordained by Allah (SWT), then there is no sin for either of them if the women ransom herself (compensate the husband with some of what she received) in order to obtain divorce. These are the limits ordained by Allah (SWT), so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses the limits of Allah (SWT) – it is those who are the wrongdoers.
Commentary: When the husband proceeds with the divorce, according to verse 2:228, he has an option to reconcile his marriage with his wife while she is in her waiting period. This type of divorce is called a revocable divorce within Islamic jurisprudence. The revocable divorce gives spouses a grace period to resume their marriage if the spouses agree that they can amend their differences and live together in peace and tranquility.
Some men misunderstood the meaning of a revocable divorce. They would divorce their wives multiple times and would revoke the divorce while their spouses were in the waiting period. Consequently, they inflicted psychological harm to their spouses. Hence, the above verse was revealed and put a stop to this unfair practice [Tafseer-e-Namooneh, Vol.2, P. 167].
The verse asserts that a revocable divorce is limited to two times (الطَّلَاقُ مَرَّتَانِ). Each time, the husband has an option to reconcile his marriage and resume living with her in a fair, just, and acceptable manner (فَإِمْسَاكٌ بِمَعْرُوفٍ). Otherwise, he should let the marriage dissolve in kindness (أَوْ تَسْرِيحٌ بِإِحْسَانٍ).
Im’sak (إِمْسَاكٌ) means to retain and Maʿruf (مَعْرُوفٍ) means fair, just, reasonable, acceptable to the society and recognized in the religion. Hence, (فَإِمْسَاكٌ بِمَعْرُوفٍ) means to keep the wife in a fair, just, and acceptable manner within the society.
Also, Tasriḥ (تَسْرِيحٌ) means to release, and (تَسْرِيحٌ بِإِحْسَانٍ) means to release her with kindness. It is noteworthy that the verse does not ask the husband to part with his spouse on fair terms (تَسْرِيحٌ بِمَعْرُوفٍ); instead, it says to part with her in kindness (تَسْرِيحٌ بِإِحْسَانٍ), and that kindness is a step higher in goodness than fairness (Al-Mizan Vol.2 P.234).
The verse goes on to say that in the event of a revocable divorce, the husband cannot claim back the gifts given to his wife. In particular, the verse says: “Ut is not lawful to you (O! husbands) to take back from them (wives) anything that you have given them” such as dowry, gifts, etc. (وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَن تَأْخُذُوا مِمَّا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ شَيْئًا), unless there is a mutual fear (consent) between the spouses that they might not be able to live within the rules set by Allah (SWT) (إِلَّا أَن يَخَافَا أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّـهِ). The latter statement implies that the husband can claim some or all of that which he has given to his wife if she initiates the divorce. This is further explained in the next paragraph.
Specifically, the verse states, if they fear (خِفْتُمْ) that the spouses will not live together by the rules set by Allah (SWT) (أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّـهِ), then there is no sin upon either of the spouses if the woman opts to give something for the pronouncement of divorce by husband against his will:
… فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّـهِ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا فِيمَا افْتَدَتْ بِهِ ۗ … ﴿٢٢٩﴾
2:228 … But if they fear that they will not keep [within] the limits of Allah (SWT), then there is no sin for either of them if the women ransom herself (compensate the husband with some of what she received) in order to obtain divorce.
The verb Khiftum (خِفْتُمْ) is plural and means three, or more than three, people in fear. Hence, the phrase (فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّـهِ) implies three or more than three people fear that the couple will not live within the limits set by Allah (SWT). This is indicative that a judicial authority needs to supervise this form of divorce and affirm that the divorce is in the best interests of the couple.
The verse’s conclusion states that these are the rules enacted by Allah (SWT) (تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّـهِ) which should not be violated (فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا). The verse warns that “Whoever exceeds the bounds set by God, such are wrongdoers.”
… تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّـهِ فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا ۚ وَمَن يَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَ اللَّـهِ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ ﴿٢٢٩﴾
2:228 …These are the limits of Allah (SWT), so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses the limits of Allah (SWT) – it is those who are the wrongdoers.
There are two forms of irrevocable divorce in Islam which are “Khula” (خلع) and Mubarat (مبارات) divorce. In an irrevocable divorce, the husband cannot resume marriage during the wife’s waiting period. Instead, he has to wait and seek a new marriage after the wife’s waiting period.
In Khula (خلع) divorce, the request emanates from the wife to be released from the marital state, and the husband agrees for certain consideration, usually the dowry. In Mubarat (مبارات) both spouses genuinely find the marital relationship to be annoying and cumbersome. Hence, they mutually seek freedom from their married state. Nevertheless, in some circumstance, she can resume her marriage while she is in her waiting period in both Khula (خلع) and Mubarat (مبارات) forms of divorce.
The meaning of the phrase is, (فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا فِيمَا افْتَدَتْ بِهِ), there is no sin for either of them (فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا) in what (for instance the dowry) she pays (ransom) (فِيمَا افْتَدَتْ) (so through) that thing (بِهِ) (to get the pronouncement of divorce by the husband against his will).
[الطَّلَاقُ] The divorce [مَرَّتَانِ] (is) twice. [فَإِمْسَاكٌ] Then to retain [بِمَعْرُوفٍ] in a reasonable manner [أَوْ] or [تَسْرِيحٌ] to release (her) [بِإِحْسَانٍ] with kindness. [وَلَا] And it is not [يَحِلُّ] lawful [لَكُمْ] for you [أَن] that [تَأْخُذُوا] you take (back) [مِمَّا] whatever [آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ] you have given them [شَيْئًا] anything. [إِلَّا] Except [أَن] if [يَخَافَا] both fear [أَلَّا] that not [يُقِيمَا] they both can keep [حُدُودَ] the limits [اللَّـهِ] of Allah (SWT).
[فَإِنْ] But if [خِفْتُمْ] they fear [أَلَّا] that not [يُقِيمَا] they both can keep [حُدُودَ] the limits [اللَّـهِ] of Allah [فَلَا], then there is no [جُنَاحَ] sin [عَلَيْهِمَا] on both of them [فِيمَا] in what [افْتَدَتْ] she pays as ransom (she forgives) [بِهِ] for that thing
[تِلْكَ] These [حُدُودُ] are the limits of [اللَّـهِ] Allah (SWT) [فَلَا] so do not [تَعْتَدُوهَا] transgress them. [وَمَن] And whoever [يَتَعَدَّ] transgresses [حُدُودَ] the limits [اللَّـهِ] of Allah (SWT) [فَأُولَـٰئِكَ] then those [هُمُ] they [الظَّالِمُونَ] are the wrongdoers.