Must a woman have her husband’s permission in order to divorce? Can a woman divorce for any reason (as her husband can) or only for specific reasons? If it is only for specific reasons could you please specify what they are?
In conformity with the fact that the man as a husband is responsible for the well being of his wife and children (from the point of view of this life as well as the hereafter), and is therefore made the head of the family structure, the Qur’an has given the right of pronouncing divorce to the husband only. In my opinion, the phrase: “In whose hands is the contract of marriage” (Al-Baqarah 2: 237) refers metaphorically to this fact.
If the woman wants a divorce she should ask her husband for it. The husband, should sympathetically consider her grievances and if he believes that he is unable to resolve her grievances, should submit to her demands and divorce her. He must not forget that if he misuses the rights that God has given him and exploits the woman’s position, he would soon be faced with a day on which God shall hold him answerable for all that he was given responsibility for and when no one shall be able to save him from God’s wrath, in case he has misused any of the authorities that God had bestowed upon him..
In case the husband, due to any reason refuses to divorce his wife, the woman can go to a court of law and request a divorce. If the court is satisfied that the woman cannot live with the man, it would direct the man to divorce his wife, or even enforce divorce on his behalf.
A woman can ask for divorce for absolutely any reason. Nevertheless, like the man, the Prophet (pbuh) has directed her to try and resolve all kinds of issues and thereby safeguard against the breaking up of the family.
28th November 1998