Zihâr or Likening the wife to one’s mother

Bahishti Zewar, Fiqh, Part 4-Nikah (Marriage) in Islam / Monday, August 2nd, 2010

1. A person says to his wife: “You are equal to my mother.”,”To me, you are equal to my mother”, “According to me, you are equal to my mother”, “According to me, now you are similar to my mother or like my mother”. In all the above cases, look at the intention of the person and what did he mean by these words. If he meant that she is similar or equal to his mother in respect and piety or that she is absolutely old just like his mother, equal in age to her, etc. then there will be nothing wrong in saying all these things and no rule will be enforced. Similarly, if he did not intend anything at the time of uttering these words or did not mean what he said but merely blurted these words out, even then no rule will be enforced.

However, if the person intended divorce when he uttered these words or intended separating his wife, then one talâqul bâ’in will take place.

The person did not intend divorcing her nor separating her, but merely intended to inform her that: “Although you are my wife and although I am not breaking up this nikâh, I will not have sex with you. I am making sex with you harâm upon myself, you can merely eat, clothe yourself and live with me – that is all.” In short, he did not intend divorcing her but merely made sex with her harâm upon himself. In the Sharî‘ah, this is called zihâr.

The rule with regard to zihâr is that this woman will remain in his nikâh. However, as long as the man does not pay kaffârah, he cannot engage in sexual intercourse with her, he cannot touch her with the passions of youth, he cannot fondle her nor kiss her, etc. All this will be harâm. As long as he does not pay the kaffârah, that woman will remain harâm upon him irrespective of how many years pass. Once he pays the kaffârah, they can now live as husband and wife without having to renew the nikâh. The kaffârah for zihâr is given in the same manner that the kaffârah for not fasting is given.

2. If the person engages in sexual intercourse before giving the kaffârah, he will be committing a major sin. He must repent to Allah Ta’âlâ, seek His forgiveness and make a firm resolution that he will not engage in sexual intercourse again without having given the kaffârah. As for the woman, she should ensure that as long as he does not pay the kaffârah, she should not allow him to approach her.

3. If a person equals or likens his wife to his sister, daughter, aunt or any other woman with whom nikâh is harâm forever, the same rule will apply.

4. A person says: “To me, you are equal to a pig.” If his intention was that of divorce or separating her, divorce will take place. If he intended zihâr, i.e. he did not mean to divorce her but actually intended to make sexual intercourse with her harâm upon himself, then in such a case no rule will apply. Similarly, no rule will apply if he had no intention at all.

5. If the person does not engage in sexual intercourse for four months or more after pronouncing the zihâr and has not paid the kaffârah as yet, divorce will not take place, i.e. it will not be ’îlâ’.

6. As long as the kaffârah is not fulfilled, it is not harâm to look at the wife or to converse with her. However, it is not permissible to look at her private parts.

7. A person did not pronounce the zihâr forever. Instead, he specified a certain period of time, e.g. he says: “To me, you are equal to my mother for four months or for one year.” In such a case, zihâr will be considered for the period that he specified. If he wishes to engage in sexual intercourse within this specified period, he will have to pay kaffârah. If he engages in sexual intercourse after the specified period, he does not have to pay anything and his wife will be halâl for him.

8. Just as in divorce, if a person says ’Inshâ’ Allah immediately after pronouncing the zihâr, it will not be considered and no rule will apply.

9. An immature boy or a lunatic cannot pronounce the zihâr. If they pronounce it, it will not be considered. Similarly, if a person pronounces the zihâr to a woman who is not his wife, it will not be considered. It will still be permissible for him to marry such a woman.

10. If the zihâr is pronounced several times, e.g. a person says: “To me, you are equal to my mother” and he says this two or three times, then each time that the zihâr is pronounced, a separate kaffârah will have to be paid. However, if the person repeated the zihâr merely to emphasize it and did not intend pronouncing several zihârs, he will only have to pay one kaffârah.

11. If a person has more than one wife and pronounces the zihâr to more than one wife, he will have to pay a separate kaffârah for each wife.

12. When pronouncing the zihâr, a person did not use the words: “equal”, “similar”, “like”. Instead, he said: “You are my mother” or “You are my sister”. This will not be zihâr and his wife will not become harâm on him. However, to say so is a sin. Similarly, it is not good to address one’s wife by shouting: “My sister! Do such and such work for me!” Despite this being a sin and an evil habit, it is not zihâr.

13. A person says: “If I keep you, it’s like keeping my mother”, “If I have sex with you, it’s as though I am having sex with my mother”. Zihâr is not considered.

14. A person says: “You are harâm upon me just as my mother is harâm upon me.” If he intended divorce, it will take place. If he intended zihâr or did not intend anything, zihâr will take place. Sexual intercourse with her will be permissible after fulfilling the kaffârah.

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