Doubts about the Numbers of Divorce
Fatwa No: 82354

  • Fatwa Date:8-9-2000 - Jumaadaa Al-Aakhir 9, 1421
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Question

If I have divorced my wife several times but have made a mistake in counting the number of times 2 or 3 times..I am not sure..what is the status. What is the ruling if I made a mistake or was not serious. My wife takes it seriously and has assumed that I have divorced her irrevocably.

Answer

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  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

Dear brother,

The scholars of Islam differed over the ruling concerning the person who doubts the number of divorces he has issued to his wife. Some of them believe that he should consider only the number he is certain of, others believe that he should consider the highest number as to get away from all doubts.

The prevailing and more preferable opinion is that he should not hasten to a conclusion but rather wait and try to see which number is more certain; i.e., the one that seems more reasonable. Then, he should act accordingly.

If no number gets more precise in his mind, he should then take precautions and opt for the highest number.

Since this opinion is more preferable, we advise you to act according to it.

So, if you assume that it is more probable that you have divorced your wife twice only, this divorce is revocable and you can take her again as your wife. If you suppose that this is less probable or that it is more likely that you have divorced her three times, then it becomes prohibited for you to marry her again unless she gets married to another man a serious marriage and he consummates the marriage with her. If the second husband divorces her or dies, you could then marry her with the conditions set for any new marriage. Know also that if you have uttered the word of divorce mistakenly - not meaning it at all - this divorce is not valid in the Sharee’ah and, therefore, it is not considered.

But, if you divorced her before maturing your decision (without thinking about the consequences), then this divorce is valid and is counted as a full divorce.

As for your saying that you might have divorced your wife jokingly or without being serious about this matter, this kind of divorce is counted according to the ruling that says that a divorce is valid whether it is done by a husband who is serious about it or by one who is not serious about it. It is reported that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “There are three things which if they are done seriously they are valid and if they are done in jest they are also valid: marriage, divorce and taking back a wife (to marital bond after divorce).” [Abu Daawood, At-Tirmithi, An-Nasaa’i and Ibn Maajah]

Allah knows best.

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