Modes of Divorce:

A husband may divorce his wife by repudiating the marriage without giving any reason. Pronouncement of such words which signify his intention to disown the wife is sufficient. Generally, this is done by talaaq. But he may also divorce by Ila, and Zihar which differ from talaaq only in form, not in substance. A wife cannot divorce her husband of her own accord. She can divorce the husband only when the husband has delegated such a right to her or under an agreement. Under an agreement the wife may divorce her husband either by Khula or Mubarat. Before 1939, a Muslim wife had no right to seek divorce except on the ground of false charges of adultery, insanity or impotency of the husband. But the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939 lays down several other grounds on the basis of which a Muslim wife may get her divorce decree passed by the order of the court.


There are two categories of divorce under the Muslim law:

1.) Extra judicial divorce, and

2.) Judicial divorce.


Conditions for a valid talaaq:

1) Capacity: Every Muslim husband of sound mind, who has attained the age of puberty, is competent to pronounce talaaq. It is not necessary for him to give any reason for his pronouncement. A husband who is minor or of unsound mind cannot pronounce it. Talaaq by a minor or of a person of unsound mind is void and ineffective. However, if a husband is lunatic then talaaq pronounced by him during “lucid interval” is valid. The guardian cannot pronounce talaaq on behalf of a minor husband. When insane husband has no guardian, the Qazi or a judge has the right to dissolve the marriage in the interest of such a husband.


2) Free Consent: Except under Hanafi law, the consent of the husband in pronouncing talaaq must be a free consent. Under Hanafi law, a talaaq, pronounced under compulsion, coercion, undue influence, fraud and voluntary intoxication etc., is valid and dissolves the marriage.


Involuntary intoxication: Talaaq pronounced under forced or involuntary intoxication is void even under the Hanafi law.


Shia law:

Under the Shia law (and also under other schools of Sunnis) a talaaq pronounced under compulsion, coercion, undue influence, fraud, or voluntary intoxication is void and ineffective.


3) Formalities: According to Sunni law, a talaaq, may be oral or in writing. It may be simply uttered by the husband or he may write a Talaaqnama. No specific formula or use of any particular word is required to constitute a valid talaaq. Any expression which clearly indicates the husband’s desire to break the marriage is sufficient. It need not be made in the presence of the witnesses.


According to Shias, talaaq, must be pronounced orally, except where the husband is unable to speak. If the husband can speak but gives it in writing, the talaaq, is void under Shia law. Here talaaq must be pronounced in the presence of two witnesses.


4) Express words: The words of talaaq must clearly indicate the husband’s intention to dissolve the marriage. If the pronouncement is not express and is ambiguous then it is absolutely necessary to prove that the husband clearly intends to dissolve the marriage.


Express Talaaq (by husband):

When clear and unequivocal words, such as “I have divorced thee” are uttered, the divorce is express. The express talaaq, falls into two categories:

• Talaaq-i-sunnat,

• Talaaq-i-biddat.

Talaaq-i-sunnat has two forms:

• Talaaq-i-ahasan (Most approved)

• Talaaq-i-hasan (Less approved).


Talaaq-i-sunnat is considered to be in accordance with the dictats of Prophet Mohammad.


The ahasan talaaq: consists of a single pronouncement of divorce made in the period of tuhr (purity, between two menstruations), or at any time, if the wife is free from menstruation, followed by abstinence from sexual intercourse during the period if iddat. The requirement that the pronouncement be made during a period of tuhr applies only to oral divorce and does not apply to talaaq in writing. Similarly, this requirement is not applicable when the wife has passed the age of menstruation or the parties have been away from each other for a long time, or when the marriage has not been consummated. The advantage of this form is that divorce can revoked at any time before the completion of the period of iddat, thus hasty, thoughtless divorce can be prevented. The revocation may effected expressly or impliedly.


Thus, if before the completion of iddat, the husband resumes cohabitation with his wife or says I have retained thee” the divorce is revoked. Resumption of sexual intercourse before the completion of period of iddat also results in the revocation of divorce.


The Raad-ul-Muhtar puts it thus: “It is proper and right to observe this form, for human nature is apt to be mislead and to lead astray the mind far to perceive faults which may not exist and to commit mistakes of which one is certain to feel ashamed afterwards”


The hasan talaaq:

In this the husband is required to pronounce the formula of talaaq three time during three successive tuhrs. If the wife has crossed the age of menstruation, the pronouncement of it may be made after the interval of a month or thirty days between the successive pronouncements. When the last pronouncement is made, the talaaq, becomes final and irrevocable. It is necessary that each of the three pronouncements should be made at a time when no intercourse has taken place during the period of tuhr. Example: W, a wife, is having her period of purity and no sexual intercourse has taken place. At this time, her husband, H, pronounces talaaq, on her. This is the first pronouncement by express words. Then again, when she enters the next period of purity, and before he indulges in sexual intercourse, he makes the second pronouncement. He again revokes it. Again when the wife enters her third period of purity and before any intercourse takes place H pronounces the third pronouncement. The moment H makes this third pronouncement, the marriage stands dissolved irrevocably, irrespective of iddat.



It came into vogue during the second century of Islam. It has two forms: (i) the triple declaration of talaaq made in a period of purity, either in one sentence or in three, (ii) the other form constitutes a single irrevocable pronouncement of divorce made in a period of tuhr or even otherwise. This type of talaaq is not recognized by the Shias. This form of divorce is condemned. It is considered heretical, because of its irrevocability.



Besides talaaq, a Muslim husband can repudiate his marriage by two other modes, that are, Ila and Zihar. They are called constructive divorce. In Ila, the husband takes an oath not to have sexual intercourse with his wife. Followed by this oath, there is no consummation for a period of four months. After the expiry of the fourth month, the marriage dissolves irrevocably. But if the husband resumes cohabitation within four months, Ila is cancelled and the marriage does not dissolve. Under Ithna Asharia (Shia) School, Ila, does not operate as divorce without order of the court of law. After the expiry of the fourth month, the wife is simply entitled for a judicial divorce. If there is no cohabitation, even after expiry of four months, the wife may file a suit for restitution of conjugal rights against the husband.



In this mode the husband compares his wife with a woman within his prohibited relationship e.g., mother or sister etc. The husband would say that from today the wife is like his mother or sister. After such a comparison the husband does not cohabit with his wife for a period of four months. Upon the expiry of the said period Zihar is complete.


After the expiry of fourth month the wife has following rights:

(i) She may go to the court to get a decree of judicial divorce

(ii) She may ask the court to grant the decree of restitution of conjugal rights.

Where the husband wants to revoke Zihar by resuming cohabitation within the said period, the wife cannot seek judicial divorce. It can be revoked if:

(i) The husband observes fast for a period of two months, or,

(ii) He provides food at least sixty people, or,

(iii) He frees a slave.


According to Shia law Zihar must be performed in the presence of two witnesses.


Divorce by mutual agreement:

Khula and Mubarat: They are two forms of divorce by mutual consent but in either of them, the wife has to part with her dower or a part of some other property. A verse in the Holy Quran runs as: “And it not lawful for you that ye take from women out of that which ye have given them: except (in the case) when both fear that they may not be able to keep within the limits (imposed by Allah), in that case it is no sin for either of them if the woman ransom herself.” The word khula, in its original sense means “to draw” or “dig up” or “to take off” such as taking off one’s clothes or garments. It is said that the spouses are like clothes to each other and when they take khula each takes off his or her clothes, i.e., they get rid of each other.


In law it is said is said to signify an agreement between the spouses for dissolving a connubial union in lieu of compensation paid by the wife to her husband out of her property. Although consideration for Khula is essential, the actual release of the dower or delivery of property constituting the consideration is not a condition precedent for the validity of the khula. Once the husband gives his consent, it results in an irrevocable divorce. The husband has no power of cancelling the ‘khul’ on the ground that the consideration has not been paid. The consideration can be anything, usually it is mahr, the whole or part of it. But it may be any property though not illusory. In mubarat, the outstanding feature is that both the parties desire divorce. Thus, the proposal may emanate from either side. In mubarat both, the husband and the wife, are happy to get rid of each other . Among the Sunnis when the parties to marriage enter into a mubarat all mutual rights and obligations come to an end.


The Shia law is stringent though. It requires that both the parties must bona fide find the marital relationship to be irksome and cumbersome. Among the Sunnis no specific form is laid down, but the Shias insist on a proper form. The Shias insist that the word mubarat should be followed by the word talaaq, otherwise no divorce would result. They also insist that the pronouncement must be in Arabic unless the parties are incapable of pronouncing the Arabic words. Intention to dissolve the marriage should be clearly expressed. Among both, Shias and Sunnis, mubarat is irrevocable. Other requirements are the same as in khula and the wife must undergo the period of iddat and in both the divorce is essentially an act of the parties, and no intervention by the court is required.


Divorce by wife:

The divorce by wife can be categorized under three categories:

(i) Talaaq-i-tafweez

(ii) Lian

(iii) By Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939.


Talaaq-i-tafweez or delegated divorce is recognized among both, the Shias and the Sunnis. The Muslim husband is free to delegate his power of pronouncing divorce to his wife or any other person. He may delegate the power absolutely or conditionally, temporarily or permanently . A permanent delegation of power is revocable but a temporary delegation of power is not. This delegation must be made distinctly in favour of the person to whom the power is delegated, and the purpose of delegation must be clearly stated. The power of talaaq may be delegated to his wife and as Faizee observes, “this form of delegated divorce is perhaps the most potent weapon in the hands of a Muslim wife to obtain freedom without the intervention of any court and is now beginning to be fairly common in India”.


This form of delegated divorce is usually stipulated in prenuptial agreements. In Md. Khan v. Shahmai, under a prenuptial agreement, a husband, who was a Khana Damad, undertook to pay certain amount of marriage expenses incurred by the father-in-law in the event of his leaving the house and conferred a power to pronounce divorce on his wife. The husband left his father-in-law’s house without paying the amount. The wife exercised the right and divorced herself. It was held that it was a valid divorce in the exercise of the power delegated to her. Delegation of power may be made even in the post marriage agreements. Thus where under an agreement it is stipulated that in the event of the husband failing to pay her maintenance or taking a second wife, the will have a right of pronouncing divorce on herself, such an agreement is valid, and such conditions are reasonable and not against public policy . It should be noted that even in the event of contingency, whether or not the power is to be exercised, depend upon the wife she may choose to exercise it or she may not. The happening of the event of contingency does not result in automatic divorce.



If the husband levels false charges of unchastity or adultery against his wife then this amounts to character assassination and the wife has got the right to ask for divorce on these grounds. Such a mode of divorce is called Lian. However, it is only a voluntary and aggressive charge of adultery made by the husband which, if false, would entitle the wife to get the wife to get the decree of divorce on the ground of Lian. Where a wife hurts the feelings of her husband with her behaviour and the husband hits back an allegation of infidelity against her, then what the husband says in response to the bad behaviour of the wife, cannot be used by the wife as a false charge of adultery and no divorce is to be granted under Lian. This was held in the case of Nurjahan v. Kazim Ali by the Calcutta High Court.