As much it is within their right to quit a marriage that is not working, Muslim wives are taking extreme measure like acquiring divorce documents  without duly annulling the previous marriage.

According to Islamic Sharia, the right to issue a divorce is mainly a preserve of a Muslim husband but instances of a Muslim wife ‘divorcing herself’ or quitting a marriage are also allowable. Either way, aggrieved parties wishing to annul a marriage for whatever reasons have to follow certain laid down channels before calling it quits. Though divorce is a weighty matter that affects not only couples, the involvement of children further complicates the equation. Initially, a Muslim husband would issue the mandatory three talaqas (divorce decree) that would signal the beginning of the end to a marriage. Now, Marhaba Life and Style can report of increasing numbers of frustrated Muslim wives quitting their marriages in total disregard of laid down procedures complicating not only their lives but also that of children involved.

Further, it is also emerging that many of these Muslim women hastily quitting their marriages are leaving behind ‘trails’ that suggests she could be living in two different marriages by different husbands, that is, one active and another, dormant. Marhaba Life and Style has also learnt that desperate Muslim wives are going an extra mile to acquiring divorce certificates to get out of their marriages courtesy of rogue registrars of Islamic
marriages and divorces. Habiba Ali, for instance, from Kibera, Son who wanted to buy fathers’ busy time-P9 Nairobi ‘bought’ her divorce certificate at a cost of KSh.3000. She quit her marriage of seven years in a huff after stumbling upon her husband with another woman in their matrimonial bed.  “I caught him in the act with another woman who was not even a co-wife,” says a disappointed Habiba. “I was deeply hurt and did not understand why he was cheating on me. He could have told me he was no longer interested.” Dejected, Habiba decided to move on with her life and get married to a different man. “I was not able to get married immediately as I had hoped because I was told to submit a divorce certificate of my previous marriage,” says Habiba. Interestingly, the former husband- not even remorseful of his actions declined to grant Habiba a divorce despite being adamant that she did not want anything to do with him and obliviously-their marriage.

When Marhaba Life and Style sought some clarification as to whether she was legally divorced, Habiba seemed puzzled and confused. “My ex-husband has not been willing all along to grant me a divorce because of our six year old child.” Unperturbed, Habiba went ahead and paid KSh.3000 to a Kadhi to have things speeded up and facilitate her new marriage to someone else. Even though Habiba is ‘newly married’, she occasionally meets with her ex-husband because he has never neglected his six year old son. “We still meet. He is the father of my son and as he needs a father figure,” quips Habiba.

Elsewhere in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area, Rukia Abdinoor also shares a similar tale. “I was married at a colourful wedding any woman would imagine to have but what is left are bitter memories,” begins Rukia. Three years down the line, Rukia’s marriage is just but a painful past she wishes to forget. What reminds her of the marriage are the two children she is now raising single handedly through hawking clothes on the streets of Eastleigh. Rukia’s tale is something close to a script out of a Mexican TV soap opera. “My marriage took a nose dive when in-laws and relatives of my former husband ganged up against me on flimsy accusations. Unfortunately, my ex-husband seemed more inclined to listening to them than finding the truth
from me.” Soon, Rukia felt like an outsider in her marriage and by extension- her new extended family. Rukia confides to Marhaba Life and Style that her ex-husband’s family and relatives were hell-bent on getting back the mahr (bride price) paid to her on the occasion of her wedding. “I knew this
after I was told by one of their relative who was against their scheme. Thus, the relatives played the clannism card on my husband but their eyes were actually set on recovering ‘their’ mahr,” says Rukia.

After going through a series of frustrations and feeling isolated, Rukia opted to seek guidance from a Kadhi on how best to end this marriage. “By then, I could not take it any longer even if it meant returning ‘their mahr’ just to reclaim my life and safe guard the future of my children,” confides Rukia. By the time Rukia’s ex-husband was summoned by the Kadhi, it was evident that the damage was already done. “My ex was remorseful and was clearly torn in between his relatives and me,” says Rukia. Rukia was finally granted a divorce and is glad to have had moved on. “I have since gladly handed back everything they claimed was ‘theirs’. I thank Allah that I now have a peace of mind!” From Jericho in Nairobi, Husna Rajab also  sought to be granted a divorce from husband on grounds of failing to ‘maintain her and daughters’ in their eight year old marriage.

When Munira Muhammad, the chairlady of Lotus Welfare Association was asked to explain the reason behind this latest phenomena, she blames the present generation for being too Westernized and ‘fast-lane life’ such that everyone wants to do everything in a fast way without wasting time. “We are living in a ‘fast life’ generation. From fast food, fast way of communication and unfortunately, fast nikkahs and inevitably, fast divorces,” Munira observes. “When people get married they become one and sometimes if the commitment does not work divorce seems like the only way out even if it takes to fake divorce documents.” “Marriage is a sacred union that must be respected. It is a union that has its reward but also has a lot of challenges,” she counsels. True that divorce is also among the lawful things that Allah (SAW) hates according to a hadith reported by Abu Dawud.

The Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said that among the lawful things, divorce is most hated by Allah. Even then, divorce should be avoided and prevented unless in extreme cases. Spouses should always try to settle their differences but if they are irreconcilable then divorce is permissible but it should be done in a descent manner. Therefore, A couple should seek counseling from those who have had long experience in marriage and try solving their issues after getting advice. Should all these efforts fail, if divorce is anything to go by both parties should consider Islamic arbitration and a people to represent both sides by the decisions agreed upon. This is to help empower a person such that they will be able to rectify their behavior and attitudes because people do not really see their destructive behaviours and weaknesses and they tend to be pre occupied by their temporary likes and dislikes. So this makes it possible for one to work on himself/herself. Sheikh Ahmed Khamisi Mwangauri from the Family  Resource Centre (FRC) at Jamia Mosque, Nairobi supports this by saying that by checking oneself you will be able to deal with your own problem  as an individual and that way you will prevent divorce.

“A person one should understand their challenges and weaknesses so that you will be a better person in a new relationship instead of moving from
one relationship to another looking for perfection when you haven’t worked on yourself and so divorce becomes a cycle for such a person.” However, there are several grounds for a divorce to be granted:

1) Physical/mental or emotional abuse or torture. When one of the spouses becomes abusive and inflicts physical, mental or emotional torture and is not willing to change by taking practical measures though therapy or counselling, divorce will be considered valid and necessary. It is also important
to note that injustice (Zhulm) is not tolerated in Islam regardless of who the perpetrator is.

2) Failure to fulfill the objectives or purposes for which marriage was initiated especially when the spouse are not compatible and this may be expressed by their irreconcilable differences in temperaments, likes and dislikes and so on.

3) Marital infidelity- can be a major cause for dissolution of a marriage since marriage as a union is built on trust and confidence in each other. Once
this foundation is eroded then divorce becomes the way to go.

4) Failure of the husband to provide. When the man fails to shoulder his responsibilities as the provider and the maintainer of his family, the wife finds it unbearable to tolerate his shirking of responsibilities and there will definitely be ground for divorce. These reasons can be considered valid
for divorce when a man refuses to grant his wife her divorce then she is certainly justified by Islamic law to approach legal proper authorities to get a divorce.

Can a woman divorce herself then? In his book, The lawful and The Prohibited in Islam by Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, states that, “If a woman cannot bear to live with her husband she has the right to free herself from the marriage bond by returning to her husband the mahr (bride price) she was given or more or less according to a mutual agreement between the two. However it is preferable that he should not ask for more than he has given her. In Sura Baqarah, Allah (SWT) says: “The divorce is twice after that either you retain her on reasonable terms or release her with kindness. And it is not lawful for you men to take back from your wives any of your mahr which you have given them except if those parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allah, then there is no sin on either of them if she gives back her mahr for her Khul. There are three limits ordained by Allah so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses the limits ordained by Allah then such are the Zalimun (wrong doers).”

Further, the wife of Thabit ibn Qays came to the Prophet (SAW) and said, “O Messenger of Allah, I do not reproach Thabit ibn Qays in respect of character and religion, but I do not want to be guilty of showing anger to him.’’ (Her meaning was that although Thabit was a good man, she was unable to get along with him and thus might not be able to show him the respect due to a husband.) The Prophet (SAW) asked her about what she had received from him. She replied, “A garden.” He asked, “Will you give him back his garden?” “Yes,” she said. The Prophet (SAW) then told Thabit, “Accept the garden and make one declaration of divorce.” (Bukhari and Nasa’i) In our past issue of Marhaba Life and Style on why Muslims don’t value registering their marriages, Abdulaziz Tito Kunyuk, the Isiolo Kadhi emphasized that contracts in Islamic Shariah law should be put in writing and a marriage is one such contract-Whether it is the beginning or end of a marriage. Thus, under section 9 of the Muhammadan Marriage and Divorce Registration Act cap 155 of the Laws of Kenya it demands for registration of Muslim marriages and divorces within seven days of such marriage and pronouncement of such divorces...” he says.

On the issue of Muslim women choosing to ‘buy’ divorce certificates, it is worthwhile to note that this was a concern of Chief Kadhi Sheikh Ahmed Shariff Muhdhar while addressing a workshop organised by Supreme Council of Kenya Muslim (Supkem) that brought together Kadhis and registrars of Muslim marriages in and around Nairobi. During then, the chief Kadhi raised an alert of the existence of fake marriage certificates being hawked in Nairobi, Kajiado and Mombasa cities. Is there a possibility that crooks have infiltrated and exploiting desperate Muslim wives wishing to end their marriages through issuance of fake divorce documents? To conclude, Sheikh Mwangauri blames the younger generation of couples or generally people do not want to follow the right procedure and want to take shortcuts. “There are procedures to be followed and even if your husband refuses to issue a divorce; then one can ask a Kadhi to facilitate one according to Islamic Sharia,” he observes. On the issue of Muslim women who are quick to ask/demand for a divorce whenever rattled, many scholars are of the opinion that divorce still remains to be a preserve of the husband and as such should not be issued/demanded for the fun of it. It is reported in a hadith narrated by Tirmidhi that the Prophet (SAW) said; “If a women asks her husband for a divorce, for no reason, then the smell of paradise is forbidden for her”.

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