Divorce in Islam

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A few weeks ago, as I was quietly sitting down to a meal with my family, the discussion about women’s rights and Islam came up. The spirited discussion was heavily one-sided. The claims about how wonderful Islam was and how much women gained from the Quranic laws were being thrown around liberally.  Someone even made the comment that the Quran does not have any sayings about divorce, but that the divorce decrees and rules are all made by the Imams.

I couldn’t take it anymore…

I tried to sit in silence, but sometimes the unsubstantiated claims become too much to bear. I prayed quickly (“Lord Jesus, help me!”) and then said that I agreed that Mohammad put an end to female infanticide (killing baby girls because of the patriarchal society) but apart from that… nothing more. That’s when the whole table jumped on me. There were claims being made that Islam allows for women to openly divorce me (no, not true) and that women do have a choice when it comes to marriage (again, not according to the  Quran).  Another claim was that the “I Divorce You” statement said three times was also not in the Quran (yes, it is… see Al Baqarah verse 2:229-230). When I challenged that the Quran does indeed have rules about women and divorce, I was told “well, you read the translation – in Arabic, it’s different.”

Oh yeah… let’s play the translation card.

There is an entire Surah (Chapter) on Divorce! It’s called “Al Talaq.” The very first verse says :

“O Prophet, when you [Muslims] divorce women, divorce them for [the commencement of] their waiting period and keep count of the waiting period, and fear Allah , your Lord. Do not turn them out of their [husbands’] houses, nor should they [themselves] leave [during that period] unless they are committing a clear immorality. And those are the limits [set by] Allah . And whoever transgresses the limits of Allah has certainly wronged himself. You know not; perhaps Allah will bring about after that a [different] matter. (Al Talaq, 65:1)”

So… what is “the waiting period?” What is a “clear immorality?” Notice, that you don’t let them go and neither can they go of their own choice. If they leave = clear immorality! It’s a catch 22. There are women right here in Edmond, Oklahoma who are trying to help a Muslim woman leave her husband’s home because he has encouraged their young son to join in on the physical beatings she has received since the day they were married. She has suffered through this over the last 13 years. I met her 6 years ago, when the ladies from a church offered her a safe home. She told me then that she had no choice, but to return to him, since she was his property and rightfully belonged to him. Now, 6 years later, the beatings have doubled. There is NO HOPE.

Why then are Muslims, even cultural ones like my family, so quick to come to the defense of Islam and elevate it to the high levels as ones who not only support women’s rights, but PROTECT them?

The answer is: They haven’t really read the Quran. If they have read the Quran, they’ve read it in Arabic. If they’ve read it in Arabic, know that over 84% of the Muslim world doesn’t speak Arabic as their mother tongue. In other words, they have “read” and recited the Quran in Arabic (that’s the only way you are supposed to read it if you are a Muslim, by the way, for Arabic is considered to be the language of Heaven). If you read the Quran in a translated language, it is not exact because you are not reading it in Arabic. You cannot know what it says unless you read it the way it was given – in Arabic. The Muslims who don’t speak Arabic DO NOT actually understand what the heck it is they are reciting – in the Quran and also in their prayers.

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Hadith Book 12 verse 2218

The second piece of this mystery is the Hadith. The Hadith are traditions of the prophet that were used to explain confusing passages in the Quran. When I was a Muslim, I knew about the Hadith, but there was no access to it. The internet has brought the Hadith to everyone, but even now my family shrugs it off – they have the Quran and that’s all they need. They get traditions and Quranic verses confused all the time. Here is a good website where you can find more information on what traditions exist about Divorce and Women.

When I was a Muslim (and a pretty bad one at that), I tried to pray 5 times a day after 9/11. The prayers are all recited in Arabic. Did I mention that I was one of the 84% that didn’t speak Arabic? Yes, it’s true. I recited all my prayers in Arabic, knowing that I probably was not pronouncing the prayers correctly, so I would do extra rakats (for extra credit). This is the reality and truth for many Muslims around the world: Praying without knowing what you are saying, reading your holy book without knowing what it says and then claiming that you know what Islam is all about.

I hope this explanation helps with understanding why so many Muslims seem confused about what they believe in. I was one of those.

Here is a link to an excellent article by Pastor Mateen Elass titled

Fake News Headline #2: Muhammad Was a Champion of Women’s Rights!

Many Muslims have a heart for God. They are out there searching for answers and the truth. Islam is confusing. The writings in the Quran are confusing. They are praying for God to show them the way. Please pray that they will indeed find the WAY, the TRUTH and ultimately, the LIFE through Jesus Christ Our Lord!

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OVERFLOW!

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may OVERFLOW with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit ~ Romans 15:13

What does each day look like for you? Is there an overflow of love, joy, peace, goodness, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control? I can tell you that I had an extra piece of dessert today at lunchtime (yes, the cookie from Panera Bread was indeed forced upon me!) so the “self-control” part wasn’t looking too good today.

Does it seem like there is a parched desert instead of rivers of living waters emanating from you? Why is it that some people dwell in a state of calmness while others get irritated at the smallest of things?

I can answer that.

Since I have started the discipline of reading God’s Word in the Holy Bible on a daily basis, something is changing within me. There are reminders throughout the day that bring me back from the brink of anger, irritation, sadness and other things that want to move me out of my peace with Christ. For example, I had a meeting that got moved at the last minute, causing me to have a conflict with another and thus, lose income. I could have been furious at that, but instead chose to look at it as something that may instead have been a part of how today was supposed to be planned. Maybe it was for the best that I was already in one place and had to miss the other. Things happen for a reason. I have to trust that there is a bigger purpose from God and that He truly is involved in my daily work.

Christ said that He is the bread of life (John 6:48). Christ is also the Word of God (the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… John 1:14). The Word of God is how we can stay full in an empty world. How can you feed others and pour into them when you are starving yourself? If you do not feed daily on the Bible and take in what God says to you, then it is predicted that you will wither on the vine (John 15:4). Bible illiteracy is at an all-time high.

I am so amazed at Christians who tell me that they have read the Quran and when I ask them if they have read the Bible cover to cover, they sheepishly tell me “no!” We had a pastor who once told of his own testimony that when he was in seminary, reading the Bible was not mandatory. He felt convicted to start reading the Bible when he realized that he had read “The Lord of the Rings” by Tolkien more times than he had read the Bible. Since then, he took great care to read the bible cover to cover every year.

What’s going on? Why won’t Christians take the time to read? I have a few theories on this:

  1. Too busy – children’s sports, recitals, needs, wants, etc. and demands of work and life
  2. Too intimidating! Have you ever started at Genesis and tried to read the next few books? By the time most get to Numbers, their eyes glaze over and it ends there
  3. Too complex – there are more interesting things to read. Why not read a fictional book about the Bible instead?
  4. Takes too long – have you seen how big the Bible is?

Reading the Bible and making time to read are disciplines. It’s no different than going on a diet or exercising. You have to set realistic goals and try to stick to them. You have to be INTENTIONAL.

I started off trying to carve out a little Quiet Time at the end of my day to pray, read a verse, meditate and pray some more. I was already crocheting before bedtime, so this was not that hard to do. The next step was to actually crack open my Bible and start reading a passage or two to meditate upon. Again, not too difficult, once I placed my Bible by my yarn. Next, I decided to try to read the Bible daily for 30 days. Most professionals will tell you that it takes a minimum of 30 days to start a habit.

Guess what? The 30 days came & went. I was encouraged! 30 days turned into 90 days and now, I have been reading the Bible consistently for almost a year.By the way, “consistently” means that I may have skipped a day or two, but I don’t let that get me down or give up on the whole thing! I have made it through the entire old testament (which I had read before) and now am going through parts of the new. A good way to start your reading is NOT at the start.

RC Sproul recommends that you take 3 sections at a time. Start with Genesis, Psalms, and Luke. You will be amazed at how the 3 correlate! You don’t have to read entire chapters. Just a bit at a time. why-study-the-bible

As you start dusting off that Bible you got years ago as a gift (to yourself or from someone else), you will find that you will start to recall more and more of what Christ says. Some verses will jump out to you more than others and you will begin to think, dwell and examine God’s word. This is what “meditating” on God’s word means. It means to chew on it and think about it and roll it around in your head.

May the fountain of living water never dry up again in you. May you resemble the River Jordan that overflows with life, instead of the Dead Sea where everything ends and dies. May the waters that run through you water those who are also thirsting for peace, joy and eternal life. Christ says “… but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14). Amen!