Respected scholars, as-salamu `alaykum. If a man said, "if you have entered your sister's house, I divorce you (used past tense)." I've read previous fatwas about conditional divorce but the tenses used are not mentioned clearly (i.e. past or future).
As in this case, it's clearly mentioned that a man used past tense (wife used to go to her sister's house without telling her husband). Later on the husband said that his intention was not to divorce his wife. What does Islam say regarding this situation? Jazakum Allahu khayran.
Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- The words of divorce should never be taken lightly. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said that there are three matters that must be taken seriously whether said in earnest or jest: “marriage, divorce, and freeing of a slave.”
2- Therefore, a husband should never pronounce the words of divorce in whatever form without knowing the consequences.
3- Conditional divorce happens in case the husband intended divorce conditioned with doing or not doing an action. So, each case should be decided accordingly.
In his response to your question, Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, Member of the Executive Committee of the Fiqh Council of North America and the Religious Director of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, states:
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Three things happen even if said in a joking manner,” and he mentioned divorce as one of them.
In this case, if the wife knew that she would be divorced if she entered the house of her sister and she intentionally did it, divorce would be applicable although the husband will be wrong to stop his wife from visiting her sister but still the divorce will apply if he intends to divorce the wife provided that she was to visit her sister without his permission.
In this case, Islam punishes the husband who put a wrong condition, but unfortunately a wife would also suffer because she knowingly violated the divorce condition. It is a very painful scenario but the divorce applies to it.
In case that the intention of the husband was not to divorce his wife, but rather to threaten her, and the wife also understood that this was just a threat and not the true intention, then there is a room for reconciliation, but only Allah knows the true intention.
Therefore, both the husband and wife need to look into their true intentions at the time when the conditional divorce was made and base their judgment on that true intention.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.