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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Identity

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About two years ago, Saudi Arabia passed a law that allowed women to have an identity card (see article from Riyadh Times). Why is that such a big deal? Prior to that, according to Quranic laws, women had to bring male acquaintances along with them to identify who they were. You see, women are not allowed to testify in court unless they have been identified and the only way they can do that is to have men establish their true identity for the judge. Of course, if the case was due to adultery or accusations of a sexual nature, women were reluctant to bring men (or might not be able to find a man who would vouch for them).

This is the predicament women find themselves in some countries. In the West, we have so many freedoms that we take them all for granted and don’t really give it another thought. If you want an identity card or driver’s license, you just go, pay a small fee and get it. No one questions you.

Yet, it is in the West that I find so many women struggle with their identity. I have women who come to me for Executive Coaching for work. These are women in high positions who don’t really know who they are. I also talk to stay at home moms who seem to have lost their way, teenagers who don’t understand which role they should play, how they should dress, which group would be most accepting of them. Why is that?

Society throws different ideas around of who women are (sexual objects, wife, mother, I am a goddess, hear me roar, etc) and I am convinced that the women’s lib movements caused more confusion by saying you can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. You don’t need to depend on anyone but yourself. Right after the movements of the 60’s and 70’s, the US saw divorce rates go through the roof. Women initiate 2/3 of the Divorces in the United States (see article for study). It doesn’t stop there. Harvard Health reported that the use of anti-depressants in the US has increased a whopping 400% since 1994. They estimate that 1 in 10 takes an anti-depressant… women’s lib isn’t really panning out to be the answer, is it?

So where is the answer? Both men and women search for their identity. We turn to others as if they have the answer for us. Chances are that they haven’t even figured it out themselves. The answer lies in the One who made us. Genesis 1:27 says that “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” In one of my favorite passages of Genesis 2:21-22, God creates Woman “21So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.…” It’s interesting to note that Adam noticed that creation was not complete without a helper for him and even more interesting to see that Adam is put to sleep while God does “divine surgery” on him. We can infer from the passage that when Eve was created, she also was alone with God. Herein lies the secret to our identity. Not only were we created in God’s image and bear a stamp of his likeness, but we get a close-up view of how God feels about us when we spend time alone with Him.

I am most confused when I listen to the voices of the world “You should do this” “Why are you spending time on that?” or “You would be good at that.” These are well-meaning family and friends, but the One who really knows you before you were even born (Psalm 139) is the One you should turn to first to find out who you are and what you should be doing. When we establish our identity through others (“oh, she’s the pretty one” or “she’s a cut-throat business woman”), we continue on in our own insecurities and weaknesses.

It wasn’t until I met Christ that I found out who I was. I was looking towards my dad (whom I love dearly) to provide everything I needed in life. When I got married, I simply transferred all those expectations on to my husband (whom I love dearly). What a huge burden for him to bear! Christ says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. He didn’t say to give all your burdens and expectations and place them upon others to fulfill you. Yet, that’s what we do! We expect our boss to know what we need to be happy at work. We expect our spouse to know what makes us happy at home. We expect our children to know what makes us happy as parents. However, none is better equipped to bring you true JOY than the Lord.

God has invited us into a relationship with Him. Some of the words God uses to describe us are: Forgiven. Chosen. Redeemed. Holy. Beloved. Child. Heir. New Creation. Cleansed. Daughter. Glory of Man.

So when you find yourself saying:

I am worthless     REMEMBER: Matthew 6:26 ~Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

I am a failure     REMEMBER: Phil 4:13 ~I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

I am unlovable   REMEMBER: Romans 8:39 ~nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I have so much guilt   REMEMBER: Isaiah 43:25 ~I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

I have nothing   REMEMBER: Phil 4:19 ~And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Don’t listen to the voices that accuse. Listen to the voice that gives life. God is the One who created us and He is our heavenly Father who loves us. This is your identity as one created in His image. You bear the fingerprints of God. If you get confused and find out that you have no plan or feelings of self-worth, turn to the scriptures for the truth of who you are and why you were created.

My prayer for you: Lord, thank you for creating me in your image. Help me to see myself and others with your eyes. Help me to not elevate myself over others or you and to not let myself be degraded by others opinions. I want to live in your light, as you are in the light. Amen.