Dialect Affects Divorce

Aug 8, 2012 by

The lack of preparation, agreement or notification that constitutes a legal divorce for Muslim men in India was noted when Divorce.com reported on “The World’s Easiest Divorce” last year. According to the Sunni Islamic seminary in India, a husband can end his marriage simply by saying the word talaq (divorce) three times. The deed requires no witnesses and the triple utterance is a valid divorce even if the wife doesn’t hear the words at all. This allows Sunni Muslim men to divorce their wives over the phone even if the wife is unable to hear it due to network problems, thus securing the “world’s easiest divorce.”

Now it seems the triple talaq is creating new ripples in the Muslim world over in Egypt where a new finding by one the country’s senior jurists could threaten  the validity of thousands of divorces in that country. The fatwa (Islamic legal opinion) from Egypt’s senior jurist, Sheikh ‘Ali Goma’a, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, said that mispronunciations of the word talaq due to discrepancies between colloquial and literary Arabic could nullify the validity of a divorce and any couples affected would still be legally married.

Adding to the problem is that differences between colloquial and literary Arabic speakers are common in the nation where the letter Q is pronounced as an A and the word “talaq” sound different in colloquial Arabic. Naturally, the fatwa was not very popular with citizens and religious experts alike. The Grand Mufti’s ruling caused a surge of reaction on Egyptian Internet forums and the Egyptian newspapers reported the story negatively stopping just short of personal criticism of the senior jurist.

The scholars at the Islamic Egyptian Institution (Dar Al-Ifta) that oversee religious opinions in Egypt said they would review the issue. The final ruling remains in question for now as some feel the Grand Mufti will not be swayed, and others believe the scholars at Dar Al-Ifta will eventually overrule his opinion. If the ruling sticks, Egypt can expect a big bump in divorce activity when thousands of people brush up on their dialects and go back to the Sharia courts to prove they are divorced for a second time.


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