The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The most hateful permissible thing (al-Halal) in the sight of Allah is divorce.” (Reported by Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah). The spouses should avoid divorce as much as possible. If they have difficulties and problems they should be patient and forbearing. They have to try to work out their differences and seek help from their relatives, friends or professional counsellors.

Sheikh Hamed Al-Ali, instructor of Islamic Heritage at the Faculty of Education, Kuwait and Imam of Dahiat As-Sabahiyya Mosque, states that: The most correct view is that written divorce does count whether the writing is on paper, a text message via cellular phone, or other methods. However, we have to make sure that the husband is the one who wrote the words of divorce. If he admits that he wrote the divorce, then it counts and considered as a valid divorce. Otherwise, there must be two just witnesses to prove that he is the one who wrote the divorce, because it might be someone else who wrote the divorce.

The evidence that the written divorce counts is that writing expresses the intention of the writer. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was charged with the task of conveying the message of Islam and this was carried out verbally with some people and in a written form with others, such as kings. Another evidence for the validity of written divorce is that the writing of the judge is admissible in proving debts and other rights, in lieu of his statement, as stated by Ibn Qudamah in his book Al-Mughni.

The validity of written divorce is held by the majority of scholars especially the four schools of fiqh. However, some of them maintain that it counts even if the husband does not intend divorce. Others hold that it does not count unless the divorce is intended, for it’s like allusive divorce. The last view is held by Imam Abu Hanifa, Malik and As-Shafi`i. They maintain that writing may be meant for testing the pen or improving one’s handwriting or making one’s family sad (through writing the words of divorce); thus it happens without niyyah (intention).

I personally go along with the last view.

Moreover, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, adds: There are so many people who use the e-mail and other methods in an evil way. When it comes to the matter of divorce, which is of grave consequences, one has to exercise caution in applying that serious matter which might entail the disintegration of a Muslim family. The issue of divorce is a serious matter and it is a grave mistake to abuse it.

As for divorcing one’s wife through the e-mail or by sending a text message on cellular phone, we have to view two important things:

1. If the husband confesses that he wrote the divorce, then the divorce is valid and it is counted as one divorce.

2. If the husband does not admit or if he is away and there is no access to him, while the lady receives an e-mail or a text message on her cell phone, then we go with the juristic rule that states: certainty cannot be removed by a mere doubt. What is certain is her marriage, and divorce is shrouded in doubt. So, marriage cannot be annulled except if there are two just witnesses to prove that the husband is the one who wrote the words of divorce. If there are no two just witnesses and the husband does not confess to issuing the divorce, then the wife will be considered as still married and fully entitled to her rights as a wife.

The reason why we are very cautious regarding this matter is that corruption has spread nowadays and we cannot easily know the right from the false. In the period of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) or the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) the case was different. Now we have so much fitnah and corruption is rampant, so we have to be on our guard against anyone who wants to cause trouble especially to a solemn covenant like marriage.