‘To Khul’ a Mockingbird’, or A Woman’s Right to Divorce

‘To Khul’ a Mockingbird’, or A Woman’s Right to Divorce

graphic by Kaighla Um Dayo
graphic by Kaighla Um Dayo

EDITOR’S NOTE: **UPDATED, This piece previously stated that two people who have been divorced by khul cannot be remarried later. It has been brought to our attention that khula is, in fact, not a permanent end between two people, should they wish to reunite later, assuming they draw up a new contract. We sincerely apologize for this mistake. May Allah forgive and guide us all, ameen.**

It was early April and my sister had just left Egypt. We enjoyed a wonderful family vacation to Luxor, Hurghada and the pyramids at Giza– all on her dime.

Something happened inside my heart being with my sister, being in this strange place with another person for the first time ever who really knew and understood me. I gained a new awareness of the true me I had been forced to repress for years. So when my husband began oppressing and neglecting me again after she left, I knew that I had had enough.

This was the final straw in 5.5 years of heaps of emotional, spiritual, mental and financial neglect.

After the final time he tried to refuse one of my rights or tried to convince me I was wrong to need my rights fulfilled, I opened my wallet and handed him the equivalent of my mahr, or the gift of money he gave me when we married. I told him 5.5 years of neglect and oppression was enough, thank you, and with my new job I was financially stable enough not to need to rely on him. I told him that the money was for my khul’, or wife-initiated divorce.

He took the money, but refused to grant me the khul’ and within a week, had used two imams and their wives to convince me to take him back– and the money– and give it one last try.

When that one last try proved to be– surprise!– no different than the past, I demanded a divorce. We went to Cairo and signed the divorce papers, but not without my having to defend myself to every. single. person. in the divorce office.

“Come on, sister! You have four babies! They need their father! How can you break up the family? Please, Allah loves the patient ones, sister,”  I was rebuked, time and time again. And the pleading and begging and accusations didn’t stop there.

As soon as anyone in our town learned of the divorce, it was immediately my fault. I was shamed for ‘giving up on my marriage’, for ‘ruining his good reputation’, for ‘making the family look bad’.

But not one person admitted that I had been robbed of my rights in plain view for many years. Not one person stood up and said yes, Islam gives women the option to pay back their dowry and be forever free from marriage with a man who was bad for her. When one of my only friends here told him he was wrong for how he treated me all these years, he tore her reputation to shreds in revenge, saying she deserved it for ‘helping to break up a family’.

But in the time of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, women were granted khul’  simply for not liking their husbands.*  

robbing women of their rights

And we have no record of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, ever telling a woman no, she could not be granted this right and she should be patient and return to the man she could not respect, love or even like.

I was granted a talaq, but in my heart, our divorce was anything but a ‘talaq’.

I was the one who left him, and yet I was the one being forced to stay in our apartment for 3 months, unable to move on and find healing, or even another husband, perhaps. But because of a technicality I had been persuaded to accept, my husband was able to leave Egypt and go start a new, happy life in another country while I had to stay in our apartment, in this tiny town in Egypt– alone.

Yes, God hates divorce, but yes, divorce is still halal. And I believe that the evidence is clear that there is something God hates more than divorce: oppression.

God answers the call of the oppressed one and his or her du’a is never rejected. It is oppression being married to a man who neglects you financially, emotionally, in time and attention, sexually and otherwise. It’s also oppression of your own soul when you find yourself unable to give him his right to respect because of the many ways he has abused and/or neglected you.

By robbing women of this fundamental right to be free of men they cannot any longer remain happily married to, and by blaming them and calling them ‘impatient’, we are stepping over the line of what Islam dictates. How can imams and spiritual leaders in our community think they know better than Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him?

free bird

Just before my ‘iddah period ended, I was given a life-altering choice: go to the country he had made a life in and remarry him, giving my children the chance of a lifetime, but robbing them of the happy, fulfilled, alive, emotionally-well mommy I always, always became in his absence.

Or I could take a chance on a new life alone with them in a different part of Egypt, far from the negativity and rumors of a small village, but with the opportunity to finally heal and come to terms with myself as an American Muslim, and build a stable home in a community of other converts.

All thanks be to God, I chose the latter, and finally escaped my cage.

* “The wife of Thabit Bin Qais went to the Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) and said to him: ‘Messenger of Allah, I dislike Thabit the most. I do not level any charge against his faith or morals; but I fear that living with him may plunge me into Kufr.’ The Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) asked her whether she would return the garden which he (Thabit) had given her as Mahr. To which she replied in the affirmative. Then he (the Prophet) asked Thabit Bin Qais to get the garden back and divorce her.” (Bukhari)

For more info on the right of khul’ in Islam, check out this piece. And this one

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15 thoughts on “‘To Khul’ a Mockingbird’, or A Woman’s Right to Divorce

  1. Well, I am relatively new to this world of blogging and to you ane your blog, Kaighla. You cannot imagine how concerned about you I have been. One question was haunting me: does your husband know about your blog? What if he found out that you were writing this stuff about him? And I woul always pray he never does because I can imagine what would happen if he did.
    So reading this post was a GREAT relief! Phewww…. He is not your husband any more! Alhamdulellah…
    Congratulations for taking this step 🙂
    Now my question: where in the book was any Mocking Bird killed? I remember tge story but I suddenly realized that I do not remember a mocking bird being killed any where! 😀

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    1. You know, I had a blog in the past, ever since I first converted. It attracted the haters, big time. He used to read that one, I think. It’s no secret to him that I write about our marriage and that it failed. Does he like it? No. Would he do anything to me if he read this? No. He can’t and he wouldn’t.
      I personally never read the book, but I have heard there is no killing of a bird, at all! ha ha

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      1. No mocking bird to start with! Lol… There was just that sick dog that they shot…
        Any way…
        I asked because reading bits and bites about your experience I can imagine that he would be the kind of men to use ‘your blog’ as a bad propaganda against you… You know… Muslim women should be shy, silent, never speak in public, never say anything that might in a way or another embarass her husband…
        Any way, congratulations for your bravery! 🙂
        May Allah continue to surround you with his blessings… Ameen…

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  2. Assalamu’alaikum sister, jazakillah khoir for writing this post. Reading your experience, I’d say that you’re such a great Mom for your children. And also a great woman that you can still continue your life nicely. May Allah bless you n your children! Luv you fillah! 😍

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  3. May Allah bless you, strengthen you, heal you, and give you the best in this life and in the next. I’m so proud of you! ❤ hugs ❤

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    1. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. And may Allah give you all that you asked Him to bless me with.

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  4. I used to read your old blog and was so worried for you also. You are such a strong person to have faced what you faced and persevered. MashAllah TabarakAllah. I am so happy you have found some peace and clarity, and got rid of baggage and stress. I am in a similar situation, stay in America and be unhappily married or leave with my kids and save myself. May Allah SWT continue blessing you and your children.

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  5. It very sad to see that every event in our life that is a hardship have to be publicized on the Internet. When it very clear this blog by title is related to Islam but the no Islamic scholarly writings. But sisters venting and speaking their mind from their points of views. Because a person love Islam, is not a prerequisite to write about Islam, or qualifies a person to speak on behalf of it when they are not qualify. This is one of the dilemmas of our time every layman wants to speak about Islam from their views and point or what they feel is right. Take your Deen like you take your medical care serious. If a doctor claims he study medicine from reading only and never in a school of Medicine and not licence to practice medicine would you go in surgery with him. No need to write a question mark the answer is clear. What if the false educated doctor start writing blogs on medical advice for heart patients who you use this site if you was in the need of serious medical advice. No need fora question mark the answer should be clear. It is the same thing in Islam! This is one of the reason our Ummah is in a dilemma. This was not to belittle you but soon our later you have to hear this.

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    1. Exactly what has she said that is incorrect?? What has she said that is complicated enough to take a scholarly verdict?? And If you are the specific type of scholar of which you speak, why are you not writing about the ills women face today in Muslim families and society that CONTRADICT Islamic values? No one has stepped into the realm of scholarly arguments, here. Do not ever come to this blog and tell us, with our over 5 decades of combined Islamic study and practice, that we cannot talk about our faith, using CLEAR and AUTHENTIC proofs, because YOU find it distasteful that we don’t have some fake degrees or haven’t sat with a Sheikh YOU deem worthy (one who would probably reject us as students just because we are women in the first place). No, sir, you have no right to come here and belittle our efforts and slander our names in one fell swoop just because you have some strange qualifications for people who even utter a hadith. We have every right to talk about our lives and how our faith relates to them. It is very sad indeed that you have no proof here to claim we have something wrong but still wish to demean us and our efforts. So Back up!

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      1. There are many who speaks about family issues on the Internet:

        Here a list:
        “Preserving Family Integrity and Unity” Arabic and English Part -1 Lecture by Dr. Shaykh Ahmed Al-Muhammadi, at Markaz-Ul-Islam in
        Fort McMurray.
        https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=979415975413709&id=251179001570747&notif_t=comment_mention&ref=m_notif

        The one doing translation on his Facebook page speaks about women’ rights and affairs in Islam which I post on my site time to time. His name is Shaykh Abdur-Rahman Murad who hold a B.A. in Shariah he was studying either his Masters which he do not boast about, very humble. And his father who is Dr. Mahmoud Murad who translate number of books also speak about women and family issues.
        Here my favorite one 9 part lecture: How to Establish the Islamic Home Seminar – Shaykh Fareed Abdullah [Audio|En]
        http://salaf-us-saalih.com/2012/09/08/how-to-establish-the-islamic-home-seminar-fareed-abdullah-mp3en/

        Never forget whoever opens their mouth to speak on Islam is open to be criticize because this Deen is not own by you or any one. When there are mistakes in the open the are correct in the open. Your website is public and from your about page it says it is a website to learn Islam. My personal advice to not make put your personal problems as a blog that title to learn about Islam. Because when you go to read a novel , or a subject book what happen in the novel the author start talking about in the middle of his novel her has to run to the bathroom or every time he drinks he say so, or a subject book academic the authors write between the subjects how he dislike the other authors he is working with or each person hardship in their like and it is an academic on math or science. This text book would not sell, neither be marketable for a publisher. It say on your about page you wrote for CNN, so you understand perfectly these points.

        Your site and writings claims to be for Islam , so you have to represent it correctly due to being in front of the people.
        Ibn Mas’ood said, “How many have intended good, but never accomplish it?” He meant that a person must hold to the Sunnah in his affairs, as innovation is built upon the idea of intending good, just as those people said, “We only intended good!”

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      2. Writing about struggles women face and this sister specifically writing about her experience with being denied her rights as a Muslim is not in any way like talking about going to the bathroom. Are you serious?? Are you saying we should just sweep these issues under the rug because they are distasteful to you? Are you saying we can’t share our experiences even if they may help someone else? This is a MAJOR issue women face all over the world. It needs to be discussed. It MUST be discussed and we MUST listen to the voices of the oppressed. People who have been oppressed MUST speak up and help their brothers if he is the oppressor or the oppressed. It is their Islamic obligation. But to you, we should remain silent because you find it distasteful that someone has had their rights trampled.
        You still didn’t say what she has said that is incorrect?
        I fully understand, probably better than most, that when I write a public blog about Islam, I will receive criticism. I ALSO have the RIGHT to respond to that criticism.
        And as you said this deen is not owned by me or any one. So you proved my point. Scholars don’t own this deen. Nor to they hold exclusive right to talk about it.
        This, “we only intended good” quote is in regards to shirk. And, yes, deviating from the sunnah is a form of shikr, but I ask you again, how have we deviated from the sunnah here? Did the female sahabi not complain about their marriage issues when they were being oppressed?

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    2. Excuse me brother…

      You said: “When it very clear this blog by title is related to Islam but the no Islamic scholarly writings.”
      Islam is not owned by the scholars. It is not owned by ANY ONE. You said it, this blog IS about Islam, but it is not a blog of scholarly knowledge. No one claimed it to be, in fact. Islam is very broad. And this blog is about the every day life-related issues that the Muslim authors are facing. And there is nothing WHATSOEVER wrong about this.

      You say: “Because a person love Islam, is not a prerequisite to write about Islam, or qualifies a person to speak on behalf of it when they are not qualify.”
      If I would take your statement into consideration, 90% of the “sheikhs” should stop talking to people in public or write any word! The Islamic book shops are full of Islamic books that are no more than hocus pocus. And they are written by some widely celebrated “scholars”. (Does the fact that the earth revolves around the sun need a fatwa?!!)

      You say: “If a doctor claims he study medicine from reading only and never in a school of Medicine and not licence to practice medicine would you go in surgery with him. No need to write a question mark the answer is clear. What if the false educated doctor start writing blogs on medical advice for heart patients who you use this site if you was in the need of serious medical advice. No need fora question mark the answer should be clear. It is the same thing in Islam! This is one of the reason our Ummah is in a dilemma. This was not to belittle you but soon our later you have to hear this.”
      And now let me ask: what is your definition of Islamic scholarly education that qualifies some one to speak about Islam?
      Living for a couple of years with a sheikh that you believe in and listen to his lessons?
      Let me tackle this from the base:
      If you mean “talking about Islam”, then every single Muslim has the right to talk about Islam and his or her experience from his point of view as a Muslim, even my 9 months old son as soon as he can speak clear words! Islam is not owned by any one. It is the religion of us ALL. We all live it, breath it, wake up to it, sleep to it every day.
      But if you mean “teaching people Islam”, then not even you (with all dues respect to your effort in assembling your blog, yes, it is rich with knowledge, BUT!) have the right to do. Because if we want to live up to the standards of the original scholars of Islam, then their effort was never just “reading” books or “listening” to lessons of their sheikhs. Do you memorize the Holy Quraan? Probably yes. Do you memorize the two authentic hadith books, Sahih Al Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim? I doubt! These are the simplest texts that original scholars memorized in order to be qualified to start learning. If not, then the difference between you and any one of us is the amount of reading.

      Your point of view is valid, though. But not here. Not in this place. I have seen alot of websites in which people narrate all sorts of weird stories as Islamic knowledge just because the imam of the Masjid in which they pray have told it to them.

      But here, in Islamwich, if I have note read several times in several posts sister Corbin advising her readers to never take any knowledge without authentication, and without asking about references, I would not be a loyal reader for this blog and I would not feel obliged to write back and make this clarification.

      Here in this post in specific, Kaighla did not try to preach any Islamic knowledge or Fiqh. She only spoke about her experience, and there is NOTHING WRONG in that!

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      1. Thank you so much, sister, for this appeal to reason. Jazakum Allah Khair. I hate to lose a brand new contributor who has a lot to say and can help a lot of people just because of this brother’s one baseless comment.

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