The Exhaustive Opinion on Unorthodox and Successive Divorces


Al-Qawl al-jāmiʻ fī al-ṭalāq (The exhaustive opinion on unorthodox and successive divorces) is a counter-treatise on ṭalaq (divorce) in Islamic jurisprudence by Egyptian jurist Muhammad Bakhit al-Mutiʻi (1856‒1935), a scholar who taught at al-Azhar in Cairo. It is a response to an unnamed “writer of the treatise on divorce in Islam published in al-Muayyid newspaper, issue 3664, on Saturday, 16 Safar, 1320 [May 24, 1902].” Al-Mutiʻi harshly criticizes the unnamed writer for having “encroached upon Islamic sharia” and “waded into a question that both early and contemporary scholars have exhausted.” At issue is whether two particular types of unusual divorce are legal: the mutatabiʻ (successive) and the bidʻi (unorthodox). In a successive divorce, utterance of the talaq the maximum three times, a step necessary to initiate the divorce process, is done at once, with the aim of avoiding reconciliation. The bidʻi (unorthodox) divorce, on the other hand, is seen as invalid because it does not meet all the conditions stipulated by sharia for a legal divorce. While the author of the original treatise was not mentioned by name, some references by al-Mutiʻi suggest that he might have been an adherent of a Shiite school of jurisprudence. His opinion was said to have been based on the reasoning of the rawafid (naysayers), a pejorative term used by some Sunnis to refer to Shiites. Al-Mutiʻi also criticizes the author for criticizing Caliph Umar, a revered Sunni figure unpopular among Shiites. Al-Mutiʻi divides his treatise into three “introductions” meant to serve as a background and to make his opinion exhaustive. He concludes with a summary of his rebuttal. Founded in circa 972, al-Azhar is the oldest degree-granting Sunni institution in Egypt. The copy of the book presented here is from the collections of the Law Library of the Library of Congress.

Last updated: May 9, 2016