Based on Quran we learn that God discourages divorce and encourages the continuation of marriage. Striving to preserve marriage is a duty for both husband and wife, even in extreme cases of misbehavior (4:34,128). The discouragement of divorce is understood in the light of 2:226-227 where a 4-month cooling off period is issued before considering the decision of separation, in 4:35 where it is decreed that an arbitrator from each side should be appointed to try to reconcile the couple, in 4:22-23, where God is stating that unlawful marriages (out of ignorance) are not to be broken, in 2:232 where it states that reconciling after divorce is purer and more righteous choice, and in 2:229 where two chances are given to the divorced couple to get back together
Divorce, however is decredd by God for the believers in exceptional circumstances when all atempts of resolving disputes between the spouses are failing. There have been a lot of abuse and violation of God's laws when it comes to divorce. There are also a lot of misconceptions about the women's rights before, during and after the emotional turmoil of divorce. This article is to state the laws relating to divorce that are decreed by God in Quran and must be followed by those who believe in God and reverence Him.
Appoint an arbitrator
[4:35] If a couple fears separation, you shall appoint an arbitrator from his family and an arbitrator from her family; if they decide to reconcile, God will help them get together. God is Omniscient, Cognizant.
Wait 4 months cooling off before divorce
[2:226-227] Those who intend to divorce their wives shall wait four months (cooling off); if they change their minds and reconcile, then God is Forgiver, Merciful. If they go through with the divorce, then God is Hearer, Knower.
If the estranged couple chooses separation they must go through with it equitably. There must be two equitable witnesses witness the divorce before God
[65:2] Once the interim is fulfilled, you may reconcile with them equitably, or go through with the separation equitably. You shall have two equitable witnesses witness the divorce before God. This is to enlighten those who believe in God and the Last Day. Anyone who reverences God, He will create an exit for him.
Divorced women to observe an interim period
[2:228] The divorced women shall wait three menstruations (before marrying another man). It is not lawful for them to conceal what God creates in their wombs, if they believe in God and the Last Day. (In case of pregnancy,) the husband's wishes shall supersede the wife's wishes, if he wants to remarry her. The women have rights, as well as obligations, equitably. Thus, the man's wishes prevail (in case of pregnancy). God is Almighty, Most Wise.
[65:4-5] As for the women who have reached menopause, if you have any doubts, their interim shall be three months. As for those who do not menstruate, and discover that they are pregnant, their interim ends upon giving birth. Anyone who reverences God, He makes everything easy for him. This is God's command that He sends down to you. Anyone who reverences God, He remits his sins, and rewards him generously.
Exception for observing interim period:
[33:49] O you who believe, if you married believing women, then divorced them before having intercourse with them, they do not owe you any waiting interim (before marrying another man). You shall compensate them equitably, and let them go amicably.
After the fulfilment of the interim the divorced women is free to do whatever she wants
Although the following verse is in context of widows, it appears to be applicable to a divorcees too.
You Shall Observe the Pre-Marriage Interims
[2:234] Those who die and leave wives, their widows shall wait four months and ten days (before they remarry). Once they fulfill their interim, you commit no error by letting them do whatever righteous matters they wish to do. God is fully Cognizant of everything you do.
[2:235] You commit no sin by announcing your engagement to the women, or keeping it secret. God knows that you will think about them. Do not meet them secretly, unless you have something righteous to discuss. Do not consummate the marriage until their interim is fulfilled. You should know that God knows your innermost thoughts, and observe Him. You should know that God is Forgiver, Clement.
Divorced women have to be provided for
This is probably one of the abused laws in the Quran. But God holds us responsible for our innermost thoughts. If one observes God’s laws then God makes it easy for him / her.
[65:7] The rich husband shall provide support in accordance with his means, and the poor shall provide according to the means that God bestowed upon him. God does not impose on any soul more than He has given it. God will provide ease after difficulty.
Alimony For Widows and Divorcees
[2:240] Those who die and leave wives, a will shall provide their wives with support for a year, provided they stay within the same household. If they leave, you commit no sin by letting them do whatever they wish, so long as righteousness is maintained. God is Almighty, Most Wise.
[2:241] The divorcees also shall be provided for, equitably. This is a duty upon the righteous.
Compensation when marriage is not consummated
Breaking the Engagement:
[2:236] You commit no error by divorcing the women before touching them, or before setting the dowry for them. In this case, you shall compensate them - the rich as he can afford and the poor as he can afford - an equitable compensation. This is a duty upon the righteous.
[2:237] If you divorce them before touching them, but after you had set the dowry for them, the compensation shall be half the dowry, unless they voluntarily forfeit their rights, or the party responsible for causing the divorce chooses to forfeit the dowry. To forfeit is closer to righteousness. You shall maintain the amicable relations among you. God is Seer of everything you do.
Divorced women entitled to stay
in the same house she stayed before divorce
Do Not Throw the Divorcees Out Onto the Streets
[2:231] If you divorce the women, once they fulfill their interim (three menstruations), you shall allow them to live in the same home amicably, or let them leave amicably. Do not force them to stay against their will, as a revenge. Anyone who does this wrongs his own soul. Do not take God's revelations in vain. Remember God's blessings upon you, and that He sent down to you the scripture and wisdom to enlighten you. You shall observe God, and know that God is aware of all things.
[65:6] You shall allow them to live in the same home in which they lived with you, and do not make life so miserable for them that they leave on their own. If they are pregnant, you shall spend on them until they give birth. If they nurse the infant, you shall pay them for this service. You shall maintain the amicable relations among you. If you disagree, you may hire another woman to nurse the child.
Divorce can be retracted twice:
In other words, if the couple reconciles after the first divorce and wish to be husband and wife again, they can re-marry. This is allowed for two divorce only. If the couple divorces third time they have to observe God's commandment in 2:230 (quoted below.) God makes it not-so-easy for the couple to divorce. This law serves as a deterrent for those who want a divorce for the third time and they would be very careful to take this step.
[2:229] Divorce may be retracted twice. The divorced woman shall be allowed to live in the same home amicably, or leave it amicably. It is not lawful for the husband to take back anything he had given her. However, the couple may fear that they may transgress God's law. If there is fear that they may transgress God's law, they commit no error if the wife willingly gives back whatever she chooses. These are God's laws; do not transgress them. Those who transgress God's laws are the unjust.
[2:232] If you divorce the women, once they fulfill their interim, do not prevent them from remarrying their husbands, if they reconcile amicably. This shall be heeded by those among you who believe in God and the Last Day. This is purer for you, and more righteous. God knows, while you do not know.
[2:230] If he divorces her (for the third time), it is unlawful for him to remarry her, unless she marries another man, then he divorces her. The first husband can then remarry her, so long as they observe God's laws. These are God's laws; He explains them for people who know.
Also note the words "It is not lawful for the husband to take back anything he had given her." in 2:229.
In case there is a baby during the interim: If during the observation of the interim period it is discovered that the divorced women is pregnant then as stated in 65:4 the interim ends upon giving birth. God has decreed the following law dealing with the infant:
[2:233] Divorced mothers shall nurse their infants two full years, if the father so wishes. The father shall provide the mother's food and clothing equitably. No one shall be burdened beyond his ability. No mother shall be harmed on account of her infant, nor shall the father be harmed because of his infant. (If the father dies), his inheritor shall assume these responsibilities. If the infant's parents mutually agree to part, after due consultation, they commit no error by doing so. You commit no error by hiring nursing mothers, so long as you pay them equitably. You shall observe God, and know that God is Seer of everything you do.
Under what conditions can a woman divorce her husband?
Whichever party chooses for divorce must obey the laws as aforesaid. Normally divorce is mutually decided by the couple. If the aforesaid laws are observed, there could be a situation where either of the spouse may not give their consent but if the arbitrators from both the families decide that divorce is the best solution for the estranged couple then they would, nevertheless go through divorce. The divorce laws are applicable to both man and woman (4:35 and 2:237 indicate this) except that there are certain additional laws which a divorced woman has to observe.
The following seem to be the only conditions where a believing women leaves her husband without observing the above laws. In fact, I think in this case even a formal divorce is not required under Quran. However if the law of the land requires a formal divorce then one must follow suit.
[60:10] O you who believe, when believing women (abandon the enemy and) ask for asylum with you, you shall test them. God is fully aware of their belief. Once you establish that they are believers, you shall not return them to the disbelievers. They are not lawful to remain married to them, nor shall the disbelievers be allowed to marry them. Give back the dowries that the disbelievers have paid. You commit no error by marrying them, so long as you pay them their due dowries. Do not keep disbelieving wives (if they wish to join the enemy). You may ask them for the dowry you had paid, and they may ask for what they paid. This is God's rule; He rules among you. God is Omniscient, Most Wise.