What is Talaq?

Tara Barnett
Tara Barnett
Under Islam, only men can use the term "talaq" in order to renounce a marriage.
Under Islam, only men can use the term "talaq" in order to renounce a marriage.

Talaq is a term used in Islamic divorce. Typically, divorce is accomplished by saying "talaq," or "I divorce you," either once or three times depending on the tradition. Only men can use this term to achieve divorce. This type of divorce is effective under Islamic law but not always under the law in countries where Muslims reside. Often, there are additional steps to becoming divorced even under Islamic law.

Divorce in some Islamic traditions is accomplished by a man saying, "I divorce you." Once the term has been said the prescribed number of times, there is typically a period of reconciliation called iddah, and sometimes an additional period must be observed if a woman is pregnant or there are mitigating factors. If the couple engages in sexual intercourse or otherwise makes peace during the reconciliation period, the divorce is voided. Once the iddah has been observed in full, the couple is divorced and the woman typically moves in with her own family.

There are a number of variations on talaq, some requiring witnesses and others requiring nothing more than a man's word. In no tradition can a woman achieve divorce in this manner. Even though divorce is permissible for Muslims, it is considered a highly undesirable outcome for marriage and is usually avoided at all costs. There are typically emotional and social consequences for divorcees and their families.

Interestingly, it does not matter whether or not the talaq was said in jest or seriously, nor does it matter in what medium the talaq was communicated. A man who tells his wife that he divorces her sarcastically or jokingly has still divorced his wife in the eyes of Islamic law, even if it was clear to all parties that the phrase was uttered in a non-serious manner. The only exception to this is when a man talks about divorce, as this is not directed toward his wife. Talaq can be communicated in writing, online, over a phone, in any language, and in any other medium and still be effective. Given the gravity of this word, great care should be taken when uttering it.

This method of achieving divorce is unusual, because the word itself accomplishes the act of divorcing a person. It is not mediated by a legal agency, placing the majority of the control of the relationship in the hands of the husband, who can end the marriage at any time. People who are married both in the eyes of Islam and the eyes of a nation must be sure to terminate the marriage in both realms, as taxes and other legal statuses are often affected by divorce. No matter where the talaq occurs, it is important to fully comprehend the relevant rules concerning divorce to make sure both the husband and wife have their rights upheld.

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Discussion Comments


How completely nuts! Where I grew up, people chose to marry because they loved each other so much they were better together forever than apart.

It seems Islam is more interested in proving the progeny and bedroom-worth of a female. Then they can be discarded like an unwanted sheep from a flock if they don't measure up.

A big failing in the modern world is that many old school Muslim men never even get to know women, let alone appreciate them - or love them. They are still viewed as possessions or responsibilities - poor people! Life is so much more rewarding when you have more than 50 percent of the population to admire and work with.


If a man swears talaq not to do something and she does it, what does that mean?


It's true that Muslim women can't divorce their husbands by saying "I divorce you." But they can request their husbands to divorce them. Of course, the final word is still left to the husband.

Women are still protected by a male family member though. This is usually the person who was there at the nikah to negotiate any dowry. For me, it was my father and it's usually the father, unless someone's father has passed away. It can also be a brother, uncle, grandfather, basically any male member.

The husband also has such an elder to advise and help him in his marriage. So if a marriage is not going too well, the elders are usually informed and everyone will get together and discuss what the issues are. This is a good way to protect the woman's rights and also to advise the husband and wife so that they don't take any rash decisions that they might regret later.

The presence of the family also places some pressure for the man and woman in a marriage to treat each other right. If a divorce takes place, it will take place in front of these family members, just as the marriage had. And if they don't get back together, the woman will go back to her family home. The children are usually left with the father.

Some Muslim women's families are not always so understanding and might be resistant to have their daughter living with them. My mother was separated from my father for about six months and returned to her family home before I was born. My mom said that my grandfather pressured her a lot during this time. He didn't force her to make up with my father but said that if she were to divorce, she would need to marry again right away. My mom ended up going back to my father.

It's this kind of pressure that may force women to do things they don't want to do. But if the family is supportive, the woman's life will be fine even after divorce.


Interestingly, everything I have learned about talaq in Islam was through a daily soap opera that I have been watching. Here the woman was divorced by her husband three times.

The husband said that he divorced his wife three times in front of other people who served as witnesses. The woman kept staying in her husband's house for the next three months. This period was to make sure that she was not pregnant. They got back together in those three months, but the husband divorced her again some months later. Again, they entered the three months, made up, and guess what, he divorced her again for the third time.

After the third time, the divorce was final, he could not get back together with his wife unless his wife had married and divorced another man. I was so shocked to learn about this. Apparently, they can still get back together if the woman marries another man, stays married for even one day and is divorced by him.

The man couldn't let his wife go so he actually arranged one of his friends to marry his wife for one day and divorce her the next. This was an arranged thing and they weren't really married. It was done just to fulfill the requirement so that they could remarry. But I think this gives Muslim women some liberty to find another life partner and try to find happiness.

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    • Under Islam, only men can use the term "talaq" in order to renounce a marriage.
      By: Eray
      Under Islam, only men can use the term "talaq" in order to renounce a marriage.