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IslamQA: Can a Muslim woman divorce without the husband’s approval?

Is it true that a woman can’t divorce a man unless he says “we are divorced”? What if the woman has ood reasons wanting to get divorced

In classical Islamic law while a man had the right to divorce his wife of his own initiative, a woman had to get her husband’s approval, and if not, a judge’s approval. The judge can either be a government-appointed judge, or it can be two people, one from each of their families. Ibn Qudama (a famous Hanbali jurist) says that if a woman fears that due to her dislike for the marriage she cannot carry out her duties as a wife, then she has the right to divorce.

So the difference was that a man could divorce without a judge or judges’ approval, while a woman could not. This has been recently challenged, such as by the Kuwaiti scholar and intellectual Khaled Abou El-Fadl, who believes that a woman should have equal rights to divorce. I have not studied divorce sufficiently to know who is right in the debate.

Regarding what you said about his saying “we are divorced”, that is part of the formal divorce ceremony done before witnesses. But if he does not approve of the divorce, then his approval is not needed; the judge or judges can force an end to the marriage based on the woman’s request regardless of the husband’s opinion.

Sources: Essay by Al-Qaradawi | Fatwa 1 | Fatwa 2

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