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What is Khula?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for MyLawQuestions. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon276266 — On Jun 22, 2012

I would like some advice on Islamic divorce in the UK. We did a nikah five years ago, and for past two or three years have not gotten along and have had issues. Although we tried to get along and still lived together and did our daily duties, as normal, we had an argument and decided we couldn't be together anymore. This was a mutual decision by both and then for four days we both stayed out of each other's way to give it time to calm and blow over, but after few days he began saying it again and so my feeling was also the same. He gave me one paper and told me to go, but I said if you are giving me this and asking me to leave, I want all three papers, which he provided to me. I got the three papers with the witnesses and agreed I wanted nothing from him other than what I'm entitled to.

We managed to reconcile with an agreement that this is only to reflect and if I wish, I can have my freedom to move on now. He has now changed his tune and is asking me to give him his gold back for the papers, which I have sold and spent as living costs for the past year.

Please, can someone help?

By gkzuber — On Jan 25, 2012

My wife complained in a family counseling session for “Khula” from me. Every time they ask her will you go to your husband's house, she used to say no. She did seven times. But she was being pressured by her mother and brother, and her mother used to tell her to get a separate house to live in because we are in a joint family.

So her mother and brother forced her to take khula from me. But she used to call me and ask me what to do. I told her to come to me and do not fear about your mother because you are my wife. But she fears her mother.

At last, the women's cell decided to get the “Khula Nama” on bond paper and notarized. But we both have sign on the Khula Nama in front of the notary. My wife also signed but was angry. I also signed but not willingly. Is this khula is valid or not. I have given all the Maher and gift amount to her.

Now she is telling me that she wants to live with me. Is this possible or not? If yes, what is the procedure for both of us?

By anon223379 — On Oct 19, 2011

What does a woman do when a man chases her for years knowing that she is a single parent and a homeowner born and bred in england. He is a cousin with no legal status, no home and no money but she marries him for love as she feels that he is family and will look after her and her three daughters only to find out later that he doesn't want to live with her or provide for her but wants her to help him with a stay and spend money on him and get herself into debt.

She has been married to him for four years and each year he has shown no responsibility towards her. She gets pregnant but loses the baby, and he does not support her emotionally forget financially.

She has gained nothing from the marriage and all she wanted was a supporting, loving, caring husband who at first showed all the traits but changed once she was married to him.

He has used every excuse in the book to hide from his responsibilities, like traveling distances from slough to london (where he works) is too much so he can't live with me mon-fri. Come weekends and he needs his rest as he has worked so hard all week, yet I work five days a week, 10-11 hours to keep my home and my children running smoothly.

The latest blow was I had a health scare and husband was nowhere to be seen to support me in the time of crisis. He instead found ways to aggravate me and get me more upset.

Thank allah the news is positive, but I feel I can't be with this man who will never love me or care for me. You can't force a 40-year-old man to do something he does not have within him.

By burcinc — On Mar 27, 2011

Khula seems to be different for different cultures. In my family (and extended family) a woman does not have to go to the council to separate from her husband, and khula means separation for us, rather than divorce because divorce is called talaq.

So if a woman wants to leave her husband, she can tell her husband and go to her family's home. Usually she is not supposed to go right away. She should wait for a month to see whether she is pregnant. In Islam, a pregnant woman has to wait until she delivers to separate or divorce from her husband.

If she is not pregnant, she can leave her husband. After that, the families will be involved, they will try to help the couple to solve their problems and get back together or they will get a divorce.

If the husband prevents his wife from separating, then the woman may ask a religious authority or council to interfere and grant her a separation or divorce.

By ddljohn — On Mar 26, 2011

Okay, so from what I understand, Muslim women cannot divorce their husbands simply because they don't love them or don't get along?

Do men have to have legitimate reasons to divorce their wives as well in Islam or can they just divorce for no reason?

It's such a common thing for us to get divorced because we are not in love anymore. It's hard to imagine that anyone would accept to remain in a marriage with someone they don't like.

I'm also curious how the religious councils make their decisions. In the U.S. women and men can ask for a divorce for psychological abuse as well as physical. Is there a recognition of psychological abuse in Islam for example?

By candyquilt — On Mar 24, 2011

I'm not sure how it works in other countries, but in countries that function as a democracy, I think Muslim women will directly file for divorce with the state instead of khula. They may still speak to a religious authority beforehand to make sure that their reason for requesting divorce is acceptable under Islamic law. It's a way to make sure that you are personally abiding to God's laws.

It's always tricky when you are under both Islamic law and the law of a non-Islamic state. For example, my aunt divorced because her husband was cheating on her. She saw her husband with another woman but did not have any proof or witnesses. In Islam, there must be witnesses for everything because it is one of the biggest sins to to charge someone with something they are not guilty of.

In this situation, my aunt knew her husband was cheating but did not have any witnesses. If she had used khula, the religious council probably would not have granted her a divorce.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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