The European Council for Fatwa and Research issued the following Fatwa: “Marriage is indeed a sacred bond that brings together a man and a woman by virtue of the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Indeed, Allah Almighty describes this relationship is as though one is a garment to the other; “they are a libas (i.e. body cover) for you and you are the same for them” (Al-Baqarah: 187), thus illustrating the closeness, affection, warmth and love of one for the other.
Thus, each partner in this sacred relationship must treat the other beautifully and properly. A man must not divorce his wife to bring harm upon her, as this constitutes an act that demolishes this noble establishment, breaks the woman’s heart, and possibly separates the woman from her children without any reason. Thus, the separation between a man and his wife [without just reason] was considered one of the major and grave sins, and one of the most beloved actions of Satan, as was narrated in a number of hadiths.
Imam Muslim reported on the authority of Jabir ibn `Abdullah, who stated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Iblis (Satan) places his throne upon water, then sends his groups. The closest to him are those who (tempt people to) commit the most grievous of sins (fitnah). One of them would approach him and say: I did such-and-such. Iblis would reply: You have done nothing. Another would approach and say: I did not leave him (a man) until I caused him to leave his wife and for them to be separated. Iblis would bring him close to his throne and would say: How good you are!”
And since the man must never divorce his wife in order to bring harm upon her without reason, it is also forbidden for a woman to ask for a divorce without a sensible reason. Ahmad and At-Tirmidhi narrated on the authority of Thuwban (may Allah be pleased with him): The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Any woman who asks her husband to divorce her without an acceptable reason will never smell the scent of Paradise.” (Reported by Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and Ibn Majah) The obvious implication of the hadith is that she is allowed to ask for a divorce for an acceptable reason.
Thus, the question is: Is the husband’s dissipation or sinfulness considered a reasonable justification for the woman requesting a divorce?
It is without doubt that sinners vary in the manner and extent to which they sin, and also vary in their relationship with their wives. A man might force his wife to assist him in committing sinful acts, such as to serve him alcohol, which is an act deemed forbidden for her; thus, she has the right to request a divorce to avoid any punishment that may come her way as a result of committing what is essentially haram. Another man mistreats and abuses his wife, which gives the woman the right to request a divorce, especially should the husband continue to abuse her, and she holds no hope of him repenting and correcting his ways.
There is also the man who neither forces his wife to assist him in committing his sinful acts, nor does he abuse and mistreat her. Although a sinner, he may be good to his wife and not force her to do what she does not wish to do. This case is obviously different fr
om the first two.
The majority of scholars, for instance, stipulated that a man who does not pray out of laziness, rather than denial of the obligation of prayer, is a wayward fasiq (sinner) and not a reverted kafir (disbeliever), and thus he is not to be separated from his wife. Thus, the Council sees in this case that should the woman hold hope of her husband’s repentance and that she may have a role in offering him advice that could lead him to a better state of conduct, then she ought to be tolerant, even if he does not pray or if he drinks alcohol. This tolerance becomes more of an obligation should the couple have children, who may go astray or be negatively affected by any separation.
However, the Council emphasizes that this does not include a husband who believes that it is permissible to desert mandatory prayers or to consume alcohol, as he would then have reverted to clear and overt kufr, which deems the separation between him and his wife mandatory.”