Egypt’s top Islamic body has rejected President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s suggestion for a legislation to ban the practice of Muslim men verbally divorcing their wives, saying it is an “undisputed practice” since the days of Prophet Muhammad.
The Council of Senior Clerics in Al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, on Sunday unanimously ruled that verbal divorce, meeting all requirements, has been an “undisputed” practice since the days of the Prophet Muhammad.
However, it said the legislative superior should legislate a deterrent punishment for men who did not or delayed in documenting the verbal divorce.
In a statement, the council said the verbal divorce should meet requirements, including that the man has a sound mind, full consciousness and uses appropriate phrasing.
Addressing the “people” without mentioning the President’s name, the carefully-drafted statement said the man should document the verbal divorce immediately to preserve the rights of the divorcee and children.
The council expressed concern over the soaring divorce cases in Egypt.
According to a recent study by Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Centre, divorce cases increased from 7 per cent to 40 per cent in the last 50 years, making Egypt the first in divorce rate worldwide.
Last month, President Sisi had suggested to put a new legislation to invalidate verbal divorce.
During a speech, the President told Al-Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, who was among the attendees, “Don’t you agree with me, your eminence?”, indirectly acknowledging that he needed al-Azhar’s backing for his proposed legislation.
Then he said with a smile “you tired me, your eminence”.
The Committee of Religion issues of the Egyptian Parliament today welcomed the council’s statement which confirms the validation of verbal divorce.
Osama el-Abd, head of religion issues committee in the parliament, said the decision of the council has elaborated three important points.
“The first one is that it confirmed that verbal divorce is an undisputed practice. The second point, is that it confirmed the importance of documenting the divorce to preserve the rights of the woman. The third point is that the Council gave the president the right to adopt a legislation to punish men who do not documenting the divorce,” Al-Abd told Al-Ahram Arabic newspaper.
Prominent constitutional law expert Nour Farahat tweeted that Al-Azhar sided with the views of senior jurists without looking at what happen in reality or taking into account the welfare interest and the developments happen in the society.