English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 2: Al-Baqarah — The Cow (Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections, 286 verses)

Section 29 (Verses 2:229–2:231): Divorce



اَلطَّلَاقُ مَرَّتٰنِ۪ فَاِمۡسَاکٌۢ بِمَعۡرُوۡفٍ اَوۡ تَسۡرِیۡحٌۢ بِاِحۡسَانٍ ؕ وَ لَا یَحِلُّ لَکُمۡ اَنۡ تَاۡخُذُوۡا مِمَّاۤ اٰتَیۡتُمُوۡہُنَّ شَیۡئًا اِلَّاۤ اَنۡ یَّخَافَاۤ اَلَّا یُقِیۡمَا حُدُوۡدَ اللّٰہِ ؕ فَاِنۡ خِفۡتُمۡ اَلَّا یُقِیۡمَا حُدُوۡدَ اللّٰہِ ۙ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَیۡہِمَا فِیۡمَا افۡتَدَتۡ بِہٖ ؕ تِلۡکَ حُدُوۡدُ اللّٰہِ فَلَا تَعۡتَدُوۡہَا ۚ وَ مَنۡ یَّتَعَدَّ حُدُوۡدَ اللّٰہِ فَاُولٰٓئِکَ ہُمُ الظّٰلِمُوۡنَ ﴿۲۲۹﴾

2:229 Divorce may be (pronounced) twice;1 then keep (them) in good fellowship or let (them) go with kindness.2 And it is not lawful for you to take any part of what you have given them,3 unless both fear that they cannot keep within the limits of Allah. Then if you fear that they cannot keep within the limits of Allah, there is no blame on them for what she gives up to become free thereby.4 These are the limits of Allah, so do not exceed them; and whoever exceeds the limits of Allah, these are the wrongdoers.

فَاِنۡ طَلَّقَہَا فَلَا تَحِلُّ لَہٗ مِنۡۢ بَعۡدُ حَتّٰی تَنۡکِحَ زَوۡجًا غَیۡرَہٗ ؕ فَاِنۡ طَلَّقَہَا فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَیۡہِمَاۤ اَنۡ یَّتَرَاجَعَاۤ اِنۡ ظَنَّاۤ اَنۡ یُّقِیۡمَا حُدُوۡدَ اللّٰہِ ؕ وَ تِلۡکَ حُدُوۡدُ اللّٰہِ یُبَیِّنُہَا لِقَوۡمٍ یَّعۡلَمُوۡنَ ﴿۲۳۰﴾

2:230 So if he divorces her (the third time),5 she shall not be lawful to him afterwards until she marries another husband. If he divorces her, there is no blame on them both if they return to each other (by marriage), if they think that they can keep within the limits of Allah.6 And these are the limits of Allah which He makes clear for a people who know.

وَ اِذَا طَلَّقۡتُمُ النِّسَآءَ فَبَلَغۡنَ اَجَلَہُنَّ فَاَمۡسِکُوۡہُنَّ بِمَعۡرُوۡفٍ اَوۡ سَرِّحُوۡہُنَّ بِمَعۡرُوۡفٍ ۪ وَ لَا تُمۡسِکُوۡہُنَّ ضِرَارًا لِّتَعۡتَدُوۡا ۚ وَ مَنۡ یَّفۡعَلۡ ذٰلِکَ فَقَدۡ ظَلَمَ نَفۡسَہٗ ؕ وَ لَا تَتَّخِذُوۡۤا اٰیٰتِ اللّٰہِ ہُزُوًا ۫ وَّ اذۡکُرُوۡا نِعۡمَتَ اللّٰہِ عَلَیۡکُمۡ وَ مَاۤ اَنۡزَلَ عَلَیۡکُمۡ مِّنَ الۡکِتٰبِ وَ الۡحِکۡمَۃِ یَعِظُکُمۡ بِہٖ ؕ وَ اتَّقُوا اللّٰہَ وَ اعۡلَمُوۡۤا اَنَّ اللّٰہَ بِکُلِّ شَیۡءٍ عَلِیۡمٌ ﴿۲۳۱﴾٪

2:231 And when you divorce women and they reach their prescribed time, then retain them with kindness or let them go with kindness and do not retain them for injury so that you exceed the limits.7 And whoever does this, he indeed wrongs his own soul. And do not take Allah’s messages for a mockery,8 and remember Allah’s favour to you, and what He has revealed to you of the Book and the Wisdom, instructing you by it. And keep your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is the Knower of all things.



  1. The divorce spoken of here is the revocable divorce of v. 228, after which a reconciliation may be effected in the waiting period. Islam allows a revocable divorce on two occasions only, so that the period of waiting in each of these two cases might serve as a period of temporary separation during which conjugal relations could be re-established. Remarriage of the same parties is allowed after the lapse of the waiting period.
  2. The husband must make his choice after the second divorce either to retain the wife permanently or to bring about a final separation. The object of a true marriage union is indicated in the simple words keep them in good fellowship. If good fellowship is entirely absent the only remedy is to let the woman go with kindness.
  3. The full payment of the dowry to the wife by the hus­band is another condition relating to the Islamic law of divorce. (This is the nuptial gift the hus­band owes the wife, as agreed between them at the time of marriage.)
  4. These words give the wife a right to claim a divorce. Islam gives the wife the right to claim a divorce even on grounds of disliking her husband, if she is willing to forgo the whole or part of her dowry (i.e., nuptial gift from the husband). The words unless both fear that they cannot keep within the limits of Allah mean their inability to perform towards each other their marital obligations and to maintain good fellowship. The words if you fear refer to the properly cons­ti­tuted authorities and this shows that the authorities can interfere in the matter.
  5. The words refer to the “letting go with kindness” of the previous verse, and hence by divorce here is meant the irrevocable divorce pronounced a third time, i.e., after there has been a divorce and a restitution of conjugal rights twice.
  6. When the wife has been divorced twice, after each of which reconciliation has been effected and has failed, the third divorce becomes irrevo­cable. It is not simply by repeating the pronouncement of divorce three times that the third pronouncement becomes irrevocable. A divorce should actually have taken place twice, followed each time by reconciliation, then and only then the third divorce becomes irrevocable. It would, in fact, be very rare. After the third irrevocable divorce, the husband cannot remarry the divorced wife until she has been married elsewhere and divorced; but it must be a genuine marriage and a genuine divorce.
  7. If the husband is proved to give injury to the wife, he cannot retain her, and she can claim a divorce. Injury to the wife may be of a general nature or one given with the object of compelling her to remit her dowry to obtain a divorce. It is for the judge to see that the husband is not taking undue advantage of his position. On the other hand, the husband is enjoined to show liberality to the divorced wife, and the judge would no doubt see that the injunctions of the Quran were observed. It is made clear in 4:35 that decision in matters of divorce rests with the judges appointed, not with the husband or the wife.
  8. The injunctions relating to the kind treatment of women must not be taken lightly, we are told here. Retaining women to cause them injury has already been declared to be a transgression and emphasis is now laid on the proper obser­vance of these injunctions by stating that these are most serious matters relating to the welfare of society as a whole.