Salam aleikum, Although talaq is not encouraged, even disliked, in Islam, I read that a lot of the Prophet's companions and other people living in his time divorced their wives. How could this be explained?
All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.
Divorce is not disliked in all cases, but it can be disliked, forbidden, obligatory, desirable and permissible.
Divorce is permissible for a need, like due to the misconduct of the wife, and when the husband is harmed by her while the objective of marriage is not achieved.
Divorce is disliked when there is no need for it, as this will terminate the marriage contract which has many desirable benefits. Some of the people of knowledge are of the view that this kind of divorce is forbidden (Haraam), because it wrongs the woman, and it harms her. The Prophet said: "Do not harm yourselves and do not cause harm to others." [Ahmad]
Divorce can also be desirable due to the existing harm, and it can be obligatory for a necessity, like when the husband swears not to have sexual intercourse with his wife and refuses to approach her, in which case the judge orders him to have sexual intercourse with her or obliges him to divorce her.
Divorce when the wife is in menses is forbidden, and this is called ‘a divorce of innovation’, i.e. it did not take place according to the Sunnah, and in which case it is forbidden due to the way it took place and not the actual divorce.
Undoubtedly, the companions, may Allah be pleased with them, were the most knowledgeable people among the Muslim nation after the Prophet and they were the most pious of people. Therefore, the things which they did and which one would mistakenly think they are disliked should be considered in a positive way.
In addition to this, they were people like us and they were not infallible. Even if one of them had sinned, he would have undoubtedly repented from sinning, or had performed good deeds which would have wiped out that sin, or that he was forgiven due to his previous record of good deeds or due to the intercession of the Prophet as they were the most deserving his intercession, or that he had been afflicted in this worldly life and as a result he was forgiven. Hence, Allah is pleased with them as they pleased Him, and we hope that Allah will gather us with them in Paradise.
Allah Knows best.
Fatwa answered by:The Fatwa Center at Islamweb