Q: Why is it in Islam a couple may not reconcile after 3 talaaqs (divorces), and why are they only allowed to reconcile after halaala (wife marries someone else, consummates the marriage and is then divorced or husband dies)?
A: Islam created talaaq to break a marriage. This was necessary because when a couple is incompatible then the need is to separate them, otherwise living together will be miserable. The separation comes through divorce as a necessity. The question then arose as to how many divorces should be implemented. Allah Ta’ala in his infinite Wisdom, ordained three divorces. This is simply to give the couple three chances of reconciliation. Had there been only one or two talaaq, then we could argue that our couples are not given enough chance to patch up their marriages. People make mistakes and utter divorce; so they need some chance to reconcile to undo their indiscretions. So Allah Ta’ala gave us three chances, which is very fair to both parties. Had there been more than three talaaq, then marriage would become a mockery, because husbands would give talaaq and revoke, give and revoke, and the wife’s life would become a misery.
Now once we’ve settled on three talaaq, the question arises: Why can’t they reconcile after three? The answer is that if a couple could reconcile after three talaaq, we would be faced with the same difficulty just mentioned. A man would divorce his wife three times, then reconcile. After six months, they have a fight, he divorces her three times. Then they reconcile again, and the process is repeated. The result of this fiasco would be reducing nikah to a mockery. Nikah would no longer remain sacred. The couple would no longer fear talaaq or divorce. But by creating a cut-off point of three talaaq, and then prohibiting reconciliation thereafter, Allah has sounded a warning to both husband and wife: “Don’t play around with divorce”! This serves as a great deterrent.
However, Allah also knew that couples married to each other for long, don’t forget each other in a hurry, and would definitely like to reconcile. While not allowing reconciliation after three for the above reason, there had to be another method of reconciliation, and that was the halaala. Since the halaala is a tedious process and one that a woman would not like to get involved in quickly, it serves as the perfect buffer between two marriages.
Reasons for halaala:
1. After living with another man, sometimes the wife appreciates her former husband.
2. In halaala the second husband must divorce her before she can come back to the first. Assuming the halaala comes about naturally, as is ordained by Shariah, the woman who is divorced for a second time might find it easier to go back to the first husband than to any other man.
3. There is a logical reason: When a woman married, she had the respite of three talaaq. When that ended, it will take another marriage to bring back that respite of three talaaq. In others words, it is only a nikah that can bring back three talaaq; obviously that nikah cannot be the nikah of the same husband, for we explained earlier that this would destroy the deterrent factor in halaala and would reduce nikah to a mockery. So it has to be nikah to someone else. And that someone else is the second (or third husband).
And Allah Ta’ala knows best
Mufti Siraj Desai