Divorce formulae must be clear and with direct words. In case the husband uses ambiguous phrases; divorce will be subjected to his intentions. This article clarifies the reason behind this rule.

Formulae for divorce

Divorce may be effected when the husband says certain words. These are of two types:[1]

1- Clear and unambiguous phrases: These are the words that mean divorce and cannot be interpreted in any other way. They include the word divorce in various expressions that use the past tense or use certain adjectives, such as: ‘I have divorced you,’ or ‘You are divorced’, or ‘You are now a divorcee’. All these formulae indicate that the divorce has taken place. This does not apply to the use of the present, future or imperative forms, such as ‘You will be divorced’, or ‘Get divorced’.

2- Ambiguous phrases: Which may mean divorce but may have different meanings, such as the husband saying to his wife: ‘You are free’, or ‘Go to your family’, or ‘I have nothing to do with you’.

The difference between the two types is that when clear phrases are used, the divorce takes place even though the husband has not given his wife notice of his intention. It takes effect whether these phrases are said seriously or in jest.The Prophet(peace be upon him) says:

‘Three statements are taken seriously, whether they are said in seriousness or in jest: marriage, divorce and the reinstatement of marriage (after divorce).’  something else.

Related by Abu Dawud, hadith No. 2,194; al-Tirmidhi, hadith No. 1,184; Ibn Majah, hadith No. 2,039

In the case of using ambiguous formulae, divorce takes effect only if the husband intends it as he says these words. The reason is that such formulae have more than one meaning. Therefore, it is his intention that determines whether he meant divorce or


  1. [1] Ibid., p. 98.