Divorce in the Bible and the Muslim culture
                           Dallas M. Roark, Ph.D.
In March 26, 2012 a story broke about a Saudi man who divorced his wife using the mall’s loudspeaker.

 CAIRO: A Saudi husband used a loudspeaker to divorce his wife at a busy shopping mall after seeing her take a note from another man bearing his phone number.    This, according to the Saudi Arabic language quotidian, Kabar.   The husband was with his wife and three children at the mall when he went his own way into a men’s clothes shop.  “When he left that shop, he saw a man giving his wife a note bearing his phone number…she accepted the paper and put it inside her bag,”    The newspaper did not mention where the mall is located.

“He then used the mall’s loudspeaker to shout divorce words against his wife although    she was with her three children.” (March 26, 2012, Jihadwatch.org)

Lots of questions can be raised about the situation.  Could the wife have been accepting information relating to a gift she planned to buy for her husband?   Could the husband be disgruntled and planned the whole thing as a setup to claim reasons to divorce his wife. The sudden abrupt announcement makes one question the husband’s distrust of his wife.  The suddenness of the announcement for divorce makes one think he was extremely jealous, or short sighted in his thinking, and lack of appreciation for a wife who bore him three children.

 The story does not give any reasons.   Without doubt the children would be taken from her and she would be turned out of his house.   The sad truth is that a divorced woman does not have the power and position she once had.   Easy divorce has been depersonalized by the approval of cell phones to send a text  message, “I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you.”

The story of Sauda, one of Mohammed’s  wives, illustrates some of the issues in marriage and possible divorce.  Sauda  was described by Aisha as a “fat huge lady” and others sources say she was old.   Since Mohammed visited his wives in rotation Sauda feared she would be divorced and requested that Mohammed give up his turn with her in favor of a younger wife to ward off possible divorce.   ((Bukhari vol.6 book 60 ch.241 no.318 p.300)  Mohammed agreed to the arrangement.  The fear of divorce in that culture as well as Muslim cultures today is real.  Since the bargaining position of the women is not strong divorce is a bad option.

Easy divorce in Islam is a terrible threat to women.  The attitude of the Muslim God toward divorce is in sharp contrast to the attitude of Yahweh in the Bible.   “So God created humans to be like himself; he made men and women.”(Genesis 1:27)   And Gen 2:21-25 “So the LORD God made him fall into a deep sleep, and he took out one of the man's ribs. Then after closing the man's side,  the LORD made a woman out of the rib. The LORD God brought her to the man,
 and the man exclaimed, "Here is someone like me! She is part of my body, my own flesh and bones. She came from me, a man. So I will name her Woman!"   That's why a man will leave his own father and mother. He marries a woman, and the two of them become like one person.  Although the man and his wife were both naked, they were not ashamed.”

In the passages above we read that Yahweh created humans to be like himself. They are rational and moral creatures.  One man and one woman were created equal.  There was no subordination.  Both were rational, both were moral beings.  Then the man exclaimed,”she is part of my body,” a complement to him, a companion to him, and a union with him that is non-breakable.   This union is such that two persons become like one person. Unity in marriage grows through the years so that one person may feel or know what the other person is thinking.  Unity in love deepens as the years pass and one cannot imagine living without the other.

This is the prototype of marriage in Genesis.  There are only two, a man and a woman, not a man and several wives, or a man and another man.   The biology is that of male and female.  The “plumbing” is obvious when one see a nude man and a nude woman.  There is no hint of divorce in this passage.
The Bible stands alone as the world’s foremost document for monogamy.  From the very beginning, in the story of creation, there was one man and one woman. ( One can point to people who did not live up to the model, but they do not negate the model.)   We have these wonderful words in the account: “So God created humans to be like himself; he made men and women.”(Gen. 1:27)   This was to be a life long relationship.

Jesus affirmed this ancient principle in the words of Matthew: “Jesus answered, "Don't you know that in the beginning the Creator made a man and a woman?   That's why a man leaves his father and mother and gets married. He becomes like one person with his wife.  Then they are no longer two people, but one. And no one should separate a couple that God has joined together." (Matthew 19:4-6)   Only death will separate this oneness. 

So how did divorce come into being?    We find that Moses described the situation concerning divorce in the book of Deuteronomy.   “ Suppose a woman was divorced by her first husband because he found something disgraceful about her. He wrote out divorce papers, gave them to her, and sent her away.  Later she married another man,  who then either divorced her in the same way or died.  Since she has slept with her second husband, she cannot marry her first husband again. Their marriage would pollute the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and he would be disgusted.” (24:1-4)    Jesus has a response to this issue in Matthew, " He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”(Matthew 19:8)

The passage can be seen as an official proclamation  about divorce, but the reason is so vague: “something disgraceful” “something  he does not like”(GNB) and that could be anything.

The Muslim situation is quite different.  The Qur’an says,
 “Divorce is twice; then honourable retention or setting free kindly. It is not lawful for you to take of what you have given them unless the couple fear they may not maintain God's bounds; if you fear they may not maintain God's bounds, it is no fault in them for her to redeem herself. Those are God's bounds; do not transgress them. Whosoever transgresses the bounds of God -- those are the evildoers. If he divorces her finally, she shall not be lawful to him after that, until she marries another husband. If he divorces her, then it is no fault in them to return to each other, if they suppose that they will maintain God's bounds. Those are God's bounds; He makes them clear unto a people that have knowledge.”   S. 2:229-230

This is not as clear as one desires.  However, the hadith about this is more to the point.

Narrated by 'Aisha,   Volume 7, Book 63, Number 187,   “A man divorced his wife thrice (by expressing his decision to divorce her thrice), then she married another man who also divorced her. The Prophet was asked if she could legally marry the first husband (or not). The Prophet replied, "No, she cannot marry the first husband unless the second husband consummates his marriage with her, just as the first husband had done."
In this example the woman is required to marry and have  sex  with another man before returning to her first husband.   In the case of the Bible she cannot return to her first husband after sleeping with her second husband.   This raises a question for Muslims. Who is right?  Yahweh or Allah?  If one accepts Yahweh’s position one has to raise the question: who is Allah?   This is an important question because there are lots of statements in the Qur’an that cannot be verified in the Bible.

We have a couple of examples in the Bible in which Yahweh is said to be unchanging in what He has said.   Balaam was paid by Balak to pronounce a curse on the Israelites.  Balaam responded that “God is not like people. He tells no lies. He is not like humans. He doesn't change his mind. When he says something, he does it. When he makes a promise, he keeps it.”  (Numbers 23:19)

Samuel, the prophet, declared “the eternal God of Israel isn't a human being. He doesn't tell lies or change his mind." (1 Samuel 15:29)

Another strong declaration about God’s unchanging nature is found in Hebews:

“When people take oaths, they base their oaths on someone greater than themselves. Their oaths guarantee what they say and end all arguments.   God wouldn't change his plan. He wanted to make this perfectly clear to those who would receive his promise, so he took an oath. God did this so that we would be encouraged. God cannot lie when he takes an oath or makes a promise. These two things can never be changed. Those of us who have taken refuge in him hold on to the confidence we have been given.   We have this confidence as a sure and strong anchor for our lives.”  (Hebrews 6:16-19)

The attempt on the part of Muslims to relate Allah to Yahweh cannot be made because these issues are contradictory.  In the one case, no remarriage is possible ever, and in the other case of Islam remarriage is possible when the woman has slept with another man in sexual union. Yahweh does not change, He does not lie, and his promise is unchangeable.

Jesus rejects the Mosaic prescription for divorce in these words as well as rejecting the Muslim claim.

“Some Pharisees came to test him. They asked, "Can a man divorce his wife for any reason?" Jesus answered, "Haven't you read that the Creator made them male and female in the beginning  and that he said, 'That's why a man will leave his father and mother and will remain united with his wife, and the two will be one'?  So they are no longer two but one. Therefore, don't let anyone separate what God has joined together."  The Pharisees asked him, "Why, then, did Moses order a man to give his wife a written notice to divorce her?"  Jesus answered them, "Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because you're heartless. It was never this way in the beginning. I can guarantee that whoever divorces his wife for any reason other than her unfaithfulness is committing adultery if he marries another woman."  (Matthew 19:3-9)

Jesus rejected easy divorce.  There is only one condition–unfaithfulness. Given the statement of Jesus it becomes evident that Muslim men who divorce their wives and marry others without the condition of unfaithfulness are living in adultery.  According to Islam adulterers should be stoned to death.  We read of women being stoned for adultery but very little or nothing about men being stoned for adultery by virtue of divorcing and re-marrying.

The standard of Yahweh and the standard of Allah cannot be reconciled.       Yahweh hates divorce. Here is the statement in Malachi, “Didn't God make you one? Your flesh and spirit belong to him. And what does the same God look for but godly descendants? So be careful not to be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.  "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel. "I hate the person who covers himself with violence," says the LORD of Armies. "Be careful not to be unfaithful." (Malachi 2:15-16)

Not only does Yahweh hate divorce, he also hates violence which is seen in random jihad on the part of all people including Muslims.  The claim that Muslims who do suicide bombing will enter paradise with 72 virgins waiting for them needs to consider the words of Jesus concerning  life after death.  The following story relates to a group of Sadducees who sought to trap Jesus in a theological problem.  They did not believe in the resurrection after death.  So they asked:

“ Teacher, Moses wrote that if a married man dies and has no children, his brother should marry the widow. Their first son would then be thought of as the son of the dead brother. Once there were seven brothers who lived here. The first one married, but died without having any children. So his wife was left to his brother.
The same thing happened to the second and third brothers and finally to all seven of them.  At last the woman died.   When God raises people from death, whose wife will this woman be? She had been married to all seven brothers.  Jesus answered: You are completely wrong! You don't know what the Scriptures teach. And you don't know anything about the power of God.   When God raises people to life, they won't marry. They will be like the angels in heaven.   And as for people being raised to life, God was speaking to you when he said,  "I am the God worshiped by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." He isn't the God of the dead, but of the living.”   (Matthew 22:24-32)      

There will be no orgy in paradise.  Angels do not marry, are not sexual, have no lust for sex, and are holy beings who are at the command of God.   Jihadist who kill themselves for hopeful sexual union with 72 virgins are the most to be pitied.  According to Jesus they will be terribly disappointed and terribly deceived by the Muslim ideology for jihad. The hope Christians have about life after death is to be in the presence of Jesus, their Lord and Savior.  The Muslim goal of 72 virgins in paradise does not reflect well on Allah, but it has a lustful appeal to the male ego and sex drive.  The fact that the sex drive diminishes with age should make one aware that sex is not forever. 

So what are some responses to this issue?

First, the human race needs to see the origin of the human specie from the standpoint of the Creator.   He made both male and female in his image.    When males demean females it is contrary to the equality expressed in their creation.   It is ridiculous to slander women as having  only half the intelligence of man.   It is arrogant to assume that men have more rights than women.

How am I to find a spouse?   Arranged marriages are so limited and political. Is Yahweh interested in who we marry?   There is an example in the Old Testament of Abraham sending a servant to his people to find a wife for Isaac.  The servant prayed that a number of conditions would arise to indicate Yahweh’s choice for Isaac’s wife. All those conditions came to pass.

 When I was in high school I had a motto that God gives his best to those that leave the choice to Him.   I prayed that God would lead me to the woman I should marry.  He did and we have had a wonderful life together.   There is not  a day goes by that I do not tell her I love her.  Our love has grown deeper and wider through the years.
Second, love is the basis of the marriage relationship.  Yahweh loves us and we are to love one another.   If the woman is considered the property of the man, she is not going to be loved, nor will she love.   Today I read of Muslim women in Yemen who are tired of being enslaved and have rebelled and kill their husbands.   Constant physical and psychological abuse can only be tolerated so long.  In the story over 50 women have killed their husbands in 2012 because of domestic violence against them.  (http://www.jihadwatch.org/2013/01/yemen-husband-killings-on-the-rise.html#comments)

The Scripture commands, “ Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, ...  husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”  (Ephesians 5:25; 5-28)   The marvelous truth is that a wife will do something in love for her husband that she would not do for money, or for anyone else.    Love brings out the sense of sacrificing oneself because of love, but not for fear, or enslavement.

Third, Forgiveness has a relationship to love.     Before Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection, he gave this command to his followers: that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47)         Husbands and wives need to admit their wrongs to one another and repent of them and have the other pronounce forgiveness to them.  This is done in a context of love.  If the husband assumes superiority  over his wife there is no admitting wrong and no forgiveness forthcoming. Submission to a tyrant does not produce love and forgiveness.

Fourth, The source of all this comes in a relationship with Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. Yahweh has loved his creation from the beginning, Consider the words of Scripture,

 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,   even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.   He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.” (Eph. 1:3-8)

Yahweh’s blessing is related to Jesus Christ.   Before the creation the intention for us is that we should be holy and blameless before him.  This is because of his great love for us.  In his death on the cross we are given forgiveness of our sins.   Behold how marvelous is the grace of God “lavished upon us.”   Such love cannot be found anywhere else.  Only in Jesus.  Consider his words, his love for you, his gift of everlasting life, his gift of grace and forgiveness. Yahweh wants you to know his love and forgiveness now.  All this is only a prayer away. It can be yours right now.