Islamic Divorce In The UK FAQs

mariam-abu-hussein
Mariam Abu HusseinLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 24th May 2024

An Islamic divorce, also known as a "talaq" or "khula," is a form of divorce that follows Islamic principles and is recognized by Islamic law (Sharia). It allows Muslim couples to end their marriage through procedures prescribed by Islamic teachings.

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Many Muslim couples in the UK are married solely under Islamic law, through a religious marriage. This means that the marriage is not legally recognised under UK law and couples who have an Islamic ceremony but no civil ceremony are treated as cohabitants with no automatic entitlement to make claims in the event of a relationship breakdown or if one partner passes away. 

In this article, we’ll answer frequently asked questions on Islamic divorce in the UK. 

Table of Contents

Is Islamic divorce recognised in the UK? 

Islamic divorce is recognised in the UK within the Muslim community and has legal standing within Islamic law (Sharia). However, it may not be automatically recognised by UK civil courts unless certain legal requirements are met.

In cases where a Muslim couple wishes to obtain a divorce solely through Islamic procedures, without involving the UK civil court system, the divorce would be recognised within the Muslim community but may not have legal recognition under UK law.

However, if the divorce is sought in conjunction with a civil divorce obtained through the UK court system, it will be recognised and enforced by UK civil courts, particularly in matters relating to financial settlements and child custody arrangements.

What is the process for getting an Islamic divorce in the UK?

Either husband or wife may initiate the Islamic divorce proceedings by following the procedures outlined within Islamic law (Sharia). This typically involves expressing the intention to divorce verbally or in writing.

The process for obtaining an Islamic divorce may also depend on whether the marital contract (Nikah) has been adhered to throughout the marriage. If there are specific terms or conditions outlined in the Nikah regarding divorce, these may need to be addressed during the divorce proceedings.

What is the process if the husband wishes to initiate divorce? 

If the husband wishes to initiate divorce in Islamic tradition, the process is called Talaq. 

In this, the husband expresses his intention to divorce his wife verbally, in writing, or through other means recognised within Islamic law. This expression of intent constitutes the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

Following the expression of intent to divorce, there is typically a waiting period known as the Iddah. The length of the Iddah period may vary depending on the specific Islamic tradition followed, but it is generally three months.

The husband, as the 'contract breaker' in this scenario, may be required to fulfill certain financial obligations, including payment of the Mahr (also known as a dowry) to the wife.

If the Mahr has been deferred in part or full, the husband must pay it. If it has already been paid, the wife is entitled to keep it all.

What is the process of Islamic divorce if the wife initiates it? 

If the wife wishes to initiate divorce in Islamic tradition, the process may involve seeking the divorce from a Sharia Council through processes such as Khula, Faskh, or Tafreeq.

Khula 

Khula is a type of divorce initiated by the wife, where she seeks to dissolve the marriage by offering compensation to the husband in exchange for his consent to the divorce. The compensation may involve returning the Mahr (dowry) or other financial settlement agreed upon by both parties.

Faskh 

Faskh is a type of divorce initiated by the wife on grounds of fault or failure by the husband to fulfill his marital obligations. This may include instances of abuse, neglect, or abandonment by the husband.

The wife presents her case to a Sharia Council, which may grant the divorce based on the evidence provided.

Tafreeq

Tafreeq is a type of divorce initiated by the wife when she seeks to dissolve the marriage due to oppression or hardship endured within the marriage. This may include situations where the husband fails to provide for the wife's financial or emotional needs, or where there is irreconcilable conflict between the spouses.

In each, the wife may need to seek guidance from a Sharia Council to initiate the divorce proceedings. The Sharia Council will consider the circumstances of the case and may grant the divorce if it is deemed justified under Islamic law.

What steps are encouraged before starting a divorce in Islamic law? 

Islamic law encourages the appointment of arbitrators (Hakam) to assist with reconciliation efforts and mediate disputes between spouses. The arbitrators may be knowledgeable individuals within the community, such as religious leaders or elders, who can offer impartial guidance and facilitate negotiations.

Spouses are encouraged to try to reconcile their differences and salvage the marriage. This may involve acknowledging mistakes, seeking forgiveness, and making compromises to address underlying issues within the relationship.

Is a civil divorce required in addition to an Islamic divorce? 

Yes, in most cases, a civil divorce is required in addition to an Islamic divorce to legally end the marriage under UK law.

A civil divorce issued by a UK court provides legal recognition of the divorce and addresses matters such as financial settlements and child custody arrangements.

Can I get financial settlements and child custody arrangements through an Islamic divorce?

In Islamic divorce proceedings, the focus is primarily on the dissolution of the marriage according to Islamic law (Sharia), and the process may not directly address financial settlements and child custody arrangements in the same manner as a civil divorce under UK law.

Mahr 

In Islamic marriages, the Mahr (dowry) is a financial settlement agreed upon between the spouses and is typically paid by the husband to the wife.

During divorce proceedings, the Mahr may be considered, especially if it has not been fully paid or if it was deferred and needs to be settled.

Nafaqah

Islamic law requires the husband to provide financial support (nafaqah) to his wife and children during the marriage and, in some cases, after divorce.

While the specifics of financial support may vary depending on individual circumstances and interpretations of Islamic law, the concept of financial responsibility towards dependents is recognised.

Hizanah 

Islamic law also addresses child custody arrangements (hizanah) following divorce.

In general, custody of young children may be awarded to the mother until a certain age, after which custody may transition to the father or another suitable guardian.

However, the specifics of child custody arrangements may vary depending on factors such as the welfare and best interests of the child, the ability of the parents to care for the child, and any agreements reached between the parties.

While Islamic divorce proceedings may touch upon these financial and custodial considerations, they may not provide the same level of detail or legal enforceability as civil divorce proceedings under UK law.

Therefore, it is advisable for individuals seeking financial settlements and child custody arrangements to address these matters through the UK court system alongside or following the Islamic divorce process.

Seeking legal advice from a family law solicitor who is knowledgeable in both Islamic law and UK family law can help ensure that all legal matters are properly addressed and resolved.

What recourse does the wife have if the husband has not paid the Mahr in full, and the couple is legally married in the UK?

The wife can make a financial application to the Family Court as part of the overall financial settlement process. In the UK, Family Courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate financial matters arising from divorce or dissolution of marriage, including the enforcement of financial obligations such as unpaid Mahr.

It is advisable to seek legal advice from a solicitor who can assess the specific circumstances of the case, advise on the legal options available, and guide through the process of making a financial application to the Family Court.

If a couple is married solely under Islamic law but not legally married in the UK, the wife can seek recourse through a Sharia Council.

Sharia Councils have the authority to adjudicate disputes related to unpaid Mahr and issue rulings or judgments to enforce the husband's obligation to pay.

The wife may have recourse under Islamic contract law principles, as the Mahr is considered a contractual obligation between the husband and wife. If there is a written marriage contract (Nikahnama) specifying the Mahr amount and payment terms, the wife can enforce the terms of the contract through legal action or arbitration.

Do I need a solicitor for an Islamic divorce?

While it's not strictly necessary to hire a solicitor for an Islamic divorce, especially if your situation is straightforward and amicable, having legal representation can provide peace of mind and ensure that your rights and interests are protected throughout the divorce process. 

It's advisable to seek legal advice to assess your options and determine the most appropriate course of action based on your circumstances.

Can I remarry after an Islamic divorce?

Yes, you can remarry after obtaining an Islamic divorce. In Islam, divorce (Talaq for men or Khula for women) effectively terminates the marriage contract, allowing both parties to move on and remarry if they choose to do so.

Once the divorce is finalised according to Islamic law (Sharia), individuals are free to enter into a new marriage contract if they meet the legal requirements and conditions for marriage.

However, it's important to consider any legal obligations or restrictions that may apply in your specific circumstances, especially if you are also married under civil law in the UK.

If you were previously married under UK civil law, you would need to obtain a civil divorce through the appropriate legal channels before remarrying to ensure the previous marriage is legally terminated.

How can Lawhive help?

At Lawhive, we understand the unique complexities of Islamic divorce and are committed to providing compassionate and expert legal assistance to individuals seeking to dissolve their marriages under Islamic law. Our network of experienced divorce lawyers can offer personalised advice and representation tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

With Lawhive, you can benefit from:

  • Expertise: Our network of solicitors have extensive experience in divorce law and can provide expert guidance on your rights, obligations, and legal options.

  • Compassionate Support: We understand the emotional challenges of divorce and provide compassionate support and advocacy to help you navigate the process with confidence and peace of mind.

  • Affordable Solutions: We offer affordable, fixed-fee legal solutions tailored to your individual needs and objectives, ensuring that your interests are effectively represented throughout the divorce proceedings.

If you're considering an Islamic divorce and want to learn more about how a Lawhive divorce lawyer can help, contact our Legal Assessment Specialists today for a free initial consultation. With Lawhive, you can trust that you're in capable hands every step of the way.

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