Muslim Sexual Ethics: Triple Repudiation

In Islamic jurisprudence, there are two types of divorces: revocable (raj‘i) and irrevocable (ba’in). Revocable divorce means that the husband has the right to take back the wife during the three-menstrual cycle waiting period (‘idda) that follows all consummated marriages. In irrevocable divorces, by contrast, he does not have this right. However, following the end of the waiting period from a revocable divorce or after an irrevocable divorce, the couple can still remarry. This is the case even after two divorces. However, when the husband repudiates the wife for the third time, the divorce becomes “absolute.” In this case, not only is the divorce irrevocable, but the spouses cannot remarry until the wife has married another man, and that marriage has been consummated, then ended through death or divorce. Only after this can the original spouses remarry. [The jurists understand this intervening marriage to be necessary from Qur’an (2:230); they rule that this marriage to a different husband must be consummated based on a reported statement from the Prophet that it was not lawful for a woman to return to a husband who had divorced her three times “until she has tasted the sweetness [of intercourse]” with her other husband.]

Triple repudiation, talaq thalatha, occurs when a husband pronounces three repudiations at once rather than divorcing his wife once, revocably, and simply allowing the waiting period to expire without taking her back. In this way, he immediately makes his divorce of her absolute, creating a bar to remarriage between them. The Sunni jurists generally consider triple repudiation, or other similar pronouncements that lead to absolute divorces (talaq al-batta), to be reprehensible (makruh). Yet even though triple repudiation is disapproved, traditional Sunni jurists nonetheless consider it effective and binding.

Content by Kecia Ali
Senior Research Analyst, FSE
Revised July 1, 2003