There are two types of divorce; Sunnah divorce and Bid’ ah divorce which differ in the number and the time of divorce. This article shows the difference between them and which one God has made lawful in His book.

Types of divorce

1- Sunnah divorce, which follows the proper course permitted under Islamic law and in accordance with its provisions. This applies to the number of divorces and the time when it is done. According to the Sunnah, when divorce becomes inevitable the husband divorces his wife, saying the word of divorce once only when she is not in her menstrual period and provided that no sexual intercourse has taken place after her last period. He leaves the matter at that and does not add a second divorce throughout her waiting period.

:Allah says

‘Prophet (peace be upon him)! When you [1] divorce women, divorce them with a view to their prescribed waiting period, and reckon the period accurately’


The expression, ‘with a view to their prescribed waiting period’, means the time when they can start their waiting period which is after the menstrual cycle has finished. The menstrual period is not reckoned as part of this period. In explaining this Qur’anic statement, Ibn 'Umar, Ibn 'Abbas and other scholars said: ‘It indicates a time of cleanliness from menstruation without having had an intercourse.’[2]

2- The Bid'ah divorce follows an improper way that Allah has forbidden. This also applies to the number of divorces and the time when it is done. The Bid'ah divorce occurs when a husband divorces his wife three times, pronouncing them all at the same time, or separately in the same period when she is free of menstruation, or when she is in menstruation or having postnatal bleeding, or after having had sexual intercourse with her and before she has her next menstrual period and she is not confirmed to be pregnant. All these situations are included under the Bid'ah divorce, which is clearly forbidden in Islam. Anyone who resorts to any of these incurs a sin. All scholars agree that the Bid'ah divorce is strictly forbidden and whoever does it commits a sin.

‘There is no disagreement that this type of divorce is contrary to what Allah has made lawful in His book, the Qur’an, and what the Prophet (peace be upon him)made clear in the hadith concerning Ibn 'Umar. Whatever is contrary to what Allah and His messenger have legislated is unacceptable, as made clear in a hadith reported by 'A’ishah quoting the Prophet (peace be upon him):

“Every action that is contrary to this matter of ours is rejected.”

(Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

‘Whoever claims that this deviation constitutes a valid divorce, and that this action, which is contrary to what the Prophet (peace be upon him) has explained, commits the perpetrator to it, must produce evidence in support of this claim.

‘The early scholars that considered the Bid'ah divorce invalid include 'Abdullah ibn Ma'mar, Sa'id ibn al-Musayyib and Tawus, a disciple of Ibn 'Abbas. It is also the view of Khallas ibn 'Amr and Abu Qulabah, both of whom were leading scholars of the generation following that of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Companions. This is also the view of Ibn 'Aqil, a leading scholar of the Hanbali school of Fiqh [...] the Zahiriyyah school of Fiqh and Ibn Taymiyyah. It is also one view endorsed by the Hanbali school.’[3]

The hadith referring to Ibn 'Umar’s case mentions that he divorced his wife during the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) lifetime at a time when she was in her period. His father, 'Umar ibn al-Khattab asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about this and he said to 'Umar: ‘Tell him to take her back and retain her until she is clean from menses, and then she has her next period and completes it. Then when she is clean from menses he has the choice either to hold on to her as his wife or to divorce her. This is the time when she can start her waiting period and the one which Allah has ordered to be the start of the divorce.’


  1. [1] The plural form is used here indicating that the address is to the Muslim community as a whole.
  2. [2] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-[Azim, vol. 8, p.143.
  3. [3] Sabiq, Fiqh al-Sunnah, vol. 2, p. 264.