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.