Question: Why is it that men are allowed li’an but not women? A man can separate from his wife if she commits adultery by this method easily if he chooses even if she commits it once or has repented. Adultery is adultery. Just as a man will feel pain by adultery from his wife. Similarly, a woman will also feel the same pain. Why did Allah not give women this privilege? Or, can I get separated from my husband through khula in case he commits adultery once and even has repented?
Wa ‘alaykum assalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh.
I pray you are well.
What Is Li’an?
It seems that there may be some confusion on what li’an is and why it is done. Li’an means mutual cursing. This is the case when a husband accuses his wife – who, without delving into other rulings, is a lady who could get a court to take penal action against someone who accused her of zina (adultery).
If the husband accuses her of it, yet he cannot provide four witnesses – as per the requirement when accusing someone of zina – then to prevent himself from getting the penal punishment, he must perform the li’an. She also must take part. This ruling also applies if he denies that the child she gave birth to is his.
Defending One’s Honour
Li’an is not a tool to enable the husband to exit the marriage. He can do so at any time by divorcing her. Rather, it is a means of defending one’s honor. There is a time when people can be unfaithful. It is a source of pain for both parties.
Just like a lady would feel hurt and betrayed, a man does too; and in some cultures, the stigma is much worse on men whose wives have been unfaithful. This would be worse if she gave birth to a child, and he had to see it as a reminder of that pain.
Humans have emotions. Sometimes they need to feel vindicated, and so they act out of emotion. If a man was to find that his wife was unfaithful, and he declared it, then, to save his honour and himself from being whipped he would have to do this to prevent consequences in this life.
Likewise, it is a huge matter for a lady to be accused of infidelity. To defend her honour, there is a ruling of punishment for those who make the accusation yet cannot prove it. However, if it is her husband – the last person who would, usually, accuse her of that – then she too must have a way of defending her honour. [Maydani, al-Lubab]
All Is Revealed In the Akhira
Both must agree to curse each other if the liar does not own up. This way, they can defend their honour – in this life – and no legal consequences will be applied to the husband. Whoever is lying, however, only brings a severe punishment on themselves in the Akhira. Punishments in this life purify one and are lighter than they would be in the Afterlife.
Allah is just, and no injustice will be ignored on that day. All will be revealed.
Clearly, this is something that would be carried out in a court in an Islamic state. We can also see that it is a mutual process: for her to defend her honor and for him to do the same and to prevent another’s child from being ascribed to him.
If a lady’s husband was unfaithful, she could approach a Shari’a court and present a case. In any situation, they may annul the marriage on the grounds of the emotional harm inflicted on her. This would depend on the court and the details. Allah knows best.
I hope that clarifies matters for you.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani