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Oath to Abstain from the Wife

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Mathabah.org

Answered by Shaykh Yūsuf Badāt


Please explain “īlā’”, the oath to abstain from intercourse, and under what circumstances does one/is it permissible to take such an oath?


In the Name of God, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate

Jazāk Allāh Khayr/ Thank you for contacting us for your question.

Īlā’ literally means to take an oath. Technically, it means to take an oath to abstain from intercourse.

Īlā’ was a pre-Islamic custom wherein a husband would take an oath to abstain from intercourse with his wife. This practice served as a period of separation after major disputes or disagreements. Pre-Islam, there was no time limit to this abstinence or separation period. Thus, wives would be oppressed by remaining hanging for months and years on end with no resolution from the husband regarding maintaining the marriage.

Islam upheld the practice but provided rights to women. Islam instructed that a husband can render such a practice for the maximum period of four months. After four months, if the husband does not maintain the sanctity of marriage, the wife could ask to reconcile or seek out divorce. Some jurists are of the opinion that once four month surpass, the divorce automatically takes place, while others suggest that the wife has her divorce finalized through the islamic courts. (Al Fiqh al Islāmiy wa Adillatuhū)

“Those who swear to abstain from their wives have four months of waiting. Therefore, if they revert back, Allāh is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful” (Qur’ān 2:226)

This answer was collected from Mathabah.org. It’s an Islamic educational institute based in Canada. The questions are generally answered by Sheikh Yusuf Badat and Sheikh Omar Subedar.

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