He Divorced His Wife Three Times
Fatwa No: 82583

Question

I had been married and then I divorced my wife three times but the time between the divorcing and returning her was not more than two weeks (not three months)and now I want her back with me. So what do I have to do? Or she must marry someone else before me?

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.

If you divorced your wife and then returned her to conjugal life before her ‘Iddah (waiting period) expired, then you are considered to have divorced her one time. However, you remain married since the ‘Iddah had not passed and you do not need a new marriage contract. If you divorced her a second time and returned her to conjugal life during her ‘Iddah, then this is considered another divorce, but the marriage still remains intact without the need for a new marriage contract. In the case of a third divorce of any kind, she must separate completely from you. It is then prohibited for you to take her back until and unless another man marries her and consummates the marriage with her and they are separated by divorce or death. In this case, you can marry her if you wish through a new marriage contract. There is no disagreement among the Muslim scholars about this ruling.

If you divorced her by delivering three divorces at once saying you are divorced three times without repeating the expression (you are divorced, I divorced you or the like); or you issued the divorce in numerous words but it was during one period of purity from menses before taking her back, then in this case Muslim scholars have different opinions.

1. Issuing three divorces at once, or in one period of purity without taking the wife back are valid divorces, and it would be considered that she was divorced three times. This is the opinion of Imam Ash-Shaafi’i and Imam Ahmad as stated in an early narration from him and also narrated from some righteous predecessors.

2. This divorce is considered as divorcing three times and it is effective, but does not conform to the Sunnah as the preferred method of establishing a divorce. This is the opinion of Imams Abu Haneefah, Maalik, Ahmad according to a later narration from him, and many followers of Imam Ahmad prefer this opinion. It is also narrated from many companions of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) and their immediate followers.

3. A third group of scholars believe that this way of divorcing three times in one ‘Iddah is not valid and is forbidden. They consider it as only one divorce, rather than three. This opinion is also held by several companions of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) such as Az-Zubayr ibn Al-‘Awaam and Abdur-Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf, and it is also narrated from ‘Ali and Ibn Mas’ood in a narration from them. This is the opinion of Imams Taawoos, ‘Ikrimah, Khallas ibn ‘Amar and Mohammed ibn Ishaaq. Some followers of Imams Abu Haneefah, Maalik and Ahmad also have the same opinion.

Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him and his student Ibn al-Qayyim  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him chose this opinion, supported it and disagreed with the other opinions. Other eminent contemporary scholars also chose this opinion.

Anyway, the opinion of the majority of the companions of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) and their followers is that it would be considered as three divorces. The four Schools of Fiqh also share the same opinion.

Based on this evidence, if you have divorced your wife thrice in one session (repeating the word of divorce three times), or issued three divorces in only one period of her purity, or issued three divorces during her ‘Iddah, then you have no right to take her back unless she marries another man and he consummates the marriage with her, and then he divorces her or dies. Doing this is safer for you. If you wish to take the other opinion; i.e., of those who say that it is only one divorce, you may do so since there are scholars who permitted it. In this case, you are obliged to take her back during the ‘Iddah period. If the ‘Iddah has expired, in order to take her back as wife you must conduct a new marriage contract while fulfilling all the conditions of a new marriage contract.

After doing so, you have the right of divorce of the times remaining.

Allah knows best.

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