Khula is the right of an Islamic woman to seek divorce or separation from her husband. Depending on the region, it may be legally acceptable as a form of divorce, or it may only provide a divorce in the eyes of a presiding religious council. This right is distinct from a man's right to seek divorce or separation, which is known as talaq.
Since the practice of khula is derived from religious law, the implications, process, and validity of the concept may vary extensively in different regions. Traditionally, a woman is allowed to ask for a divorce if her husband is behaving inappropriately according to religious prescripts. Engaging in illegal activity, alcoholism and drug addiction, and certain forms of spousal abuse may be considered legitimate reasons. Abandonment is also considered a legitimate reason in many cases. If a woman seeks divorce for no reason considered legitimate by religious precepts, it may be considered a serious transgression.
One of the main factors that makes this type of divorce a controversial issue is that the woman must get her husband's agreement before it is permitted. In addition, traditional requirements include that a woman must return gifts, dowry, and other financial considerations in return for being permitted to divorce. A woman who separates from her husband under this law must often agree to give up custody of any children over seven, either to her ex-husband's care or to other relatives. Some legal experts also suggest that women may be subjected to abuse, humiliation, and threats if seeking divorce, not only from her husband and male family members, but also from Shariah courts.
A request for a divorce under this law is usually submitted to the presiding religious law council, which then may proceed with an investigation. Both the husband and wife may be questioned about the motives for the separation. If the council finds the reasons sufficient, it may choose to grant a divorce. Men may also be asked to initiate talaq in order to make the divorce fully effective.
It is important to note that, in some regions, khula is not a substitute for a legal divorce. For Muslim couples who are citizens of countries that have state-sanctioned marriage, a religious decree may not count as an official divorce in the eyes of state law. A woman is also allowed to seek a legal divorce under the laws of a non-Islamic law system, even if a religious divorce is not granted.