Seeking divorce from an errant husband is a recurrent case that Islam has different views on it. If he thinks his sins are lawful then the marriage is dissolved. If not, she must be more patient and guide him.

Can a Wife Seek Divorce if her Husband is a Transgressor

Similar Questions 

· Seeking divorce from an errant husband.

The Issue 

A woman may have the problem of her husband being negligent of his religious duties and careless about Islam. As it is easy to commit all sorts of actions that Islam prohibits, and as many people take an irresponsible attitude, Muslim minorities suffer. If a woman is married to someone who frequently transgresses the bounds of Islam, can she seek divorce? 


If the husband goes beyond committing sins to consider them lawful then he takes himself outside the religion of Islam. As such his attitude causes the dissolution of his marriage. However, if he does not consider them lawful, the woman is advised to be patient with him, but she still has the right to seek divorce. The authorities that confirm this ruling include: 

The European Council for Fatwa and Research said: 

Marriage is a firm pledge and a sanctified bond that unites a man and a woman in accordance with God’s revelations and His messenger’s practice. It makes both spouses a match for one another,

as God describes the marital relationship

They [i.e. your wives] are as a garment for you, as you are for them

2: 187

 The word ‘garment’ gives an impression of closeness, warmth and adornment. Therefore, each must be good to the other, treating each other well and being patient with him or her. It is not permissible for a husband to divorce his wife in order to harm her, because this is an act that destroys an important partnership, in addition to the personal injury that the wife suffers. Some husbands do so and go further than that to unjustifiably deprive her of her children. Therefore, sewing discord between man and wife is one of the things Satan loves most. 

Jabir reports that the Prophet said

Iblis places his throne on water and sends out his troops. The closest to him are the ones that cause the greatest evil. Any of them might come back and say, “I did this and that”, but Iblis will say to him, “This is of little value”. Ultimately one will come back and say: “I have not left this man until I caused a split between him and his wife.” Iblis will place him close to him and praise his deed

Related by Muslim, hadith No. 2,813

As it is forbidden for a man to cause harm to his wife by divorcing her for no valid reason, it is similarly forbidden for a woman to seek divorce without proper reason.

 A hadith quotes the Prophet as saying

Any woman who asks her husband to divorce her for no harm done shall not experience the smell of heaven

Related by al-Tirmidhi, hadith No. 1,189; Abu Dawud, hadith No. 2,226; Ibn Majah, hadith No. 2,055

The hadith suggests that if she seeks divorce because she is being harmed or for a valid reason, she incurs no sin. The question is whether the transgression by the husband is of such a valid reason that allows a woman to seek divorce. There is no doubt that people differ as to the extent of their transgression and their treatment of their wives. Any husband may want his wife to help him commit a sin, such as serving him drinks, which of course is forbidden for anyone to do. In this case, she may seek divorce in order to avoid sharing his sin. A man may ill-treat his wife and cause her all sorts of harm. This gives her the right to seek divorce, particularly if this continues over time and she has little hope that things will improve. Others may do neither, a man may treat his wife well and be kind to her but transgress in other ways, for example by neglecting his prayers. In this case scholars have different views. The majority of scholars are of the view that a person who is negligent of his prayers is a transgressor and a sinner, not an apostate. As such, no dissolution of his marriage is warranted. 

The view we take is that if the woman hopes her husband will mend his ways and that he may heed good advice and improve his situation, then she should keep faith with him and be patient, even though he may be a transgressor, negligent of his prayers or a drinker. This applies especially if they have children and she fears that her children may be lost as a result of the divorce. This is applicable provided that he does not deny the duty of prayer or thinks that drinking is permissible. If he does either then he is an unbeliever, which necessitates dissolution of their marriage.

Islam Question and Answer

A woman may request divorce if her husband insists on committing serious offences such as drinking and taking drugs. If her husband refuses to divorce her, she may put her request to a competent judge who will order the husband to divorce her. If the husband insists on his refusal, the judge can then enforce the divorce. If a competent judge is not available, then she puts her case to an Islamic institution in her place of residence, such as an Islamic centre. The people in charge should then try to persuade the husband to agree to divorce. If he gives no response, then they should resort to khul'. It is permissible for her to document this Islamic divorce with the necessary national authorities as such documentation is necessary.  


In answer to a question in this regard put to IslamWeb by a Muslim woman whose elderly husband did not attend to his prayers and consorted with loose women, the website reminded her that she should have made proper enquiries about the man and his commitment to Islam, as well as his morality, manners and temperament. In this instance, that he was old is not a fault of his but not attending to his prayers and having relations with loose women were great faults.

We would advise that the lady should remind her husband of the need to be God-fearing and of the Day of Judgement, gently counselling him to stop doing what is sinful. She might also give him some literature or broadcasts speaking about the effects of such sinful practices. If this brings about the desired result, all well and good. If not, the lady should seek divorce, because it is not good for her to live with a husband who neglects prayer and has relationships with loose women. If he refuses to give her a divorce, she should seek it through an appropriate legal channel or resort to khul[.

The situation of a religious woman living with a man who is not religious is very common. A good religious woman may face this as a test, so that she may prove her sincerity and dedication. God cites the case of Asya bint Muzahim, one of the best women ever, who was married to Pharaoh, one of the worst unbelievers ever.

We pray to God to give people the best that helps them and to choose for you all that is good and beneficial. We also draw people’s attention to that it is not permissible for a Muslim woman to establish relations through the phone or the internet with men who are unrelated to her, because this may be a prelude to committing what is forbidden.

The Permanent Committee for Research and Fatwa 

If your husband neglects prayers altogether, even intermittently, then you should seek termination of your marriage, because the deliberate negligence of prayer is tantamount to disbelief.

 The Prophet says

What brings a person into disbelief is the deliberate omission of prayer

A Muslim woman may not remain married to an unbeliever,

as God says

If you ascertain that they [i.e. migrant women] are believers, do not send them back to the unbelievers. They are no longer lawful [as wives] for the unbelievers, and these are no longer lawful to them

60: 10

Responsibility for the children is on both parents, as the Prophet says: ‘Order your children to pray when they are seven years of age, and gently beat them for not praying when they are ten. Separate male and female children in beds.


· The European Council for Fatwa and Research. 
   · Islam Question and Answer:  
   · Home page for website:  
   · The website of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA):  
   · The Permanent Committee for Research and Fatwa.