The Narrations of the Hadith
The hadith of 'Of all things Allah has permitted, divorce is the most hated' was narrated by a trustworthy narrator Mu'rif ibn Wasil on the authority of the trustworthy tabi'i (companions' student) Muharib ibn Dathar.
From them, there are two chains of narrators: one is muttasil (correctly attributed to the companion ibn Umar and the Prophet, therefore sound) and the other is mursal (not narrated by the companion, rather going to the tabi'i and then to the Prophet).
The muttasil narrations are narrated from Mu'rif by Muhammad ibn Khalid al-Wahbi that ibn Umar (ra) said:
أَبْغَضُ الْحَلاَلِ إِلَى اللَّهِ الطَّلاَقُ
"The most hated of permissible things to Allah is divorce." (Ibn Majah 2018, Abu Dawud 2178, Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra, Vol. 7. P. 322, Ibn Addi, al-Kamil, Vol.6, p. 2453)
This was also narrated as muttasil in a weak hadith in al-Mustadrak on the authority of Muhammad ibn Uthman. (al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, 2794, Bayhaqi, Vol. 7, p. 322)
The other mursal narrations (statements of tabi'i) are narrated from Mu'rif by Ahmed ibn Yunus, Wakee ibn al-Jarrah and Yahya ibn Bakir without attributing them to ibn Umar (ra):
مَا أَحَلَّ اللَّهُ شَيْئًا أَبْغَضَ إِلَيْهِ مِنَ الطَّلاَقِ
"Allah did not make anything lawful more abominable to him than divorce." (Abi Dawud 2177, Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra, Vol. 7, p. 322, Ibn Abi Shaybah, Vol. 5, p. 253, al-Daraqutni, al-Illal, Vol. 13, p. 225)
Scholars of hadith fall into two groups:
The first view was adopted by al-Hakim, Dhahabi, Manawi, ibn Muflih and others. (al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak 2749, Manawi, Fadd al-Qaqeer, Vol.5, p. 413, Ibn Muflih, al-Mubdi, Vol. 7, p. 250)
The second view was adopted by Abu Hatim ar-Razi, Daraqutni, Bayhaqi, Sakhawi, al-Khatabi, Ibn Hajar and others. (Abu Hatim, al-Illal, Vol. 1, p. 431, Daraqutni, al-Illal, Vol. 13, p. 225, Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra, Vol. 7, p. 322, Sakhawi, al-Maqasid al-Hasanah, p. 11, Khatabi, Ma'alim al-Sunan, Vol. 3, p. 231, Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol. 9, p. 356)
Classical Approaches to the Hadith
Almost all jurists and commentators, even those who consider the hadith as mursal, use the hadith referring to divorce as the last resort people should approach as it is highly discouraged by the shari'ah.
So even if one was to accept the hadith as mursal (which is a branch of weakness), scholars accept the hadith as the narrators are trustworthy and so it must go back to the companion.
Furthermore, there are other sound ahadith carrying the same meaning albeit with different wording and given it is compatible with the maqasid (purposes) of the shari'ah for keeping the family (nasl) and communities unbroken it raises no problems.
For examples of such scholarship see:
There are many authentic and muttasil narrations, as well as weak and mursal narrations, that carry the same meaning as this hadith.
For example, Abu Musa al-Ash'ari (ra) narrated:
لا تُطلِّقوا النِّساءَ إلَّا مِن رِيبةٍ فإنَّ اللهَ لا يُحِبُّ الذَّوَّاقِينَ ولا الذَّوَّاقاتِ
"Don't divorce women except when you doubt them because Allah does not like the male or female taster (one who seeks trying many of the other genders)." (Tabarani, al-Mu'jam al-Waseet, Vol. Vol. 8, p. 24, al-Num'ani, al-Lubab fi Ulum al-Kitab, Vol. 17, p. 145)
It was also narrated the Prophet (saw) said:
أَيُّمَا امْرَأَةٍ سَأَلَتْ زَوْجَهَا طَلاَقًا فِي غَيْرِ مَا بَأْسٍ فَحَرَامٌ عَلَيْهَا رَائِحَةُ الْجَنَّةِ
"If any woman asks her husband for divorce without good reason, the odour of Paradise will be forbidden to her." (Abu Dawud 2226, Ibn Majah 2055, Tirmidhi 1187)
The Prophet (saw) said Iblis is more joyful when a divorce happens than any other sin. Jabir (ra) narrated:
إِنَّ إِبْلِيسَ يَضَعُ عَرْشَهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ ثُمَّ يَبْعَثُ سَرَايَاهُ فَأَدْنَاهُمْ مِنْهُ مَنْزِلَةً أَعْظَمُهُمْ فِتْنَةً يَجِيءُ أَحَدُهُمْ فَيَقُولُ فَعَلْتُ كَذَا وَكَذَا فَيَقُولُ مَا صَنَعْتَ شَيْئًا قَالَ ثُمَّ يَجِيءُ أَحَدُهُمْ فَيَقُولُ مَا تَرَكْتُهُ حَتَّى فَرَّقْتُ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ امْرَأَتِهِ - قَالَ - فَيُدْنِيهِ مِنْهُ وَيَقُولُ نِعْمَ أَنْتَ " . قَالَ الأَعْمَشُ أُرَاهُ قَالَ " فَيَلْتَزِمُهُ "
"Iblis places his throne upon water; he then sends detachments (for creating dissension); the nearer to him in rank are those who are most notorious in creating dissension.
One of them comes and says: "I did so and so." And he says: "You have done nothing."
Then one amongst them comes and says: "I did not spare so and so until I sowed the seed of discord between a husband and a wife."
Satan goes near him and says: "You have done well." A'mash said: He then embraces him." (Muslim 6755)
The understanding of the companions of the notion was similar to the meaning of the hadith. For example, Anas (ra) narrated Umar (ra) used to severely punish (ta'zeer) whoever rushed in divorcing his wife.
Anas (ra) narrated:
أَنَّ عُمَرَ كَانَ إِذَا أُتِيَ بِرَجُلٍ طَلَّقَ امْرَأَتَهُ ثَلَاثًا أَوْجَعَ ظَهْرَهُ
"When people bring to Umar (ra) a man who divorced his wife trice, he would pain his back." (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol. 9, p. 362, Sana'ani, Subul al-Salam, Vol. 3, p. 271, Ayni, Nukhab al-Fikar, Vol. 11, p. 60, Al-Qastalani, Irshad al-Sari, Vol. 8, p. 132, Al-Mala al-Haruwi, Murqat al-Mafatih, Vol. 5, p. 2137)
The above scholars agree this is a sound narration.
What does 'Allah dislikes divorce' mean?
Scholars don't understand this hadith literally because the Prophet (saw) divorced wives and ordered others to issue a divorce and he would not order people to do nor do a disliked matter.
For example, the Prophet (saw) ordered ibn Umar:
يَا عَبْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ عُمَرَ طَلِّقِ امْرَأَتَكَ
"O Abdullah bin Umar! Divorce your wife." (Tirmidhi 1189)
So, scholars argue the disliked divorce is the one without a real or necessary cause such as mistreatment, unkindness and so on. The desire of entering a new relationship or sleeping with many men or women or considered otherwise.
The fourth century Shafi'i jurist Khatabi argued:
ِومَعْنَى الكَرَاهَةَ فِيهِ مُنْصَرِفٌ إِلَى السَبَب الجَالِبُ لِلطَلَاقِ وهُوَ سُوءُ العِشْرَةِ وقِلَة المُوَافَقَةِ لَا إِلَى نَفْسِ الطَلَاق
"The meaning of hatred refers to the reason the begs the divorce, such as the mistreatment and less of agreement, but it is not because of the divorce in itself." (Khatabi, Ma'alim as-Sunan, Vol. 3, p. 231)
The Shafi'i jurist Imam Nawawi said:
وَأَمَّا الْمَكْرُوهُ فَأَنْ يَكُونَ الْحَالُ بَيْنَهُمَا مُسْتَقِيمًا فَيُطَلِّقَ بِلَا سَبَبٍ
"But for the dislikes, it happens when their life is incorrupt, and they divorced for no reason." (Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim, Vol. 10, pp. 61-62)
The tenth-century jurist Al-Mala al-Haruwi argued:
فَمَحْمَلُهُ الطَّلَاقُ لِغَيْرِ حَاجَةٍ ... مَحْظُورٌ لِمَا فِيهِ مِنْ كُفْرَانِ نِعْمَةِ النِّكَاحِ
"It has been understood as the divorce out of no need … (it is) banned because it implies the ingratitude of marriage." (Al-Mala al-Haruwi, Murqat al-Mafatih, Vol. 5, p. 2137)
For similar views, see:
Sana'ani also argued if the divorce is not for the above cases, it is not disliked, but rather preferred:
ذَلِك اّلذِي لَا يَكُونُ لَهُ سَبَبٌ إِلَا التَشَّهِي والتَنَقُل فِي الحَرِيمِ والرِجَالِ، فَالمَرْأَة تَطْلُبُ الطَلَاقَ شَهْوةً فِي غَيرِ مَنْ هِيَّ تَحْتَهُ وَهُوَ يُفَارِقُ أَهْلَهُ لِيَذُوقَ غَيْرَهَا … وَأَمَّا مَا كَانَ لِسُوءِ عِشْرَتِهَا وَمَخَافَةِ أَنْ لا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللهِ، فَإِنّهُ مَحْبُوبٌ إَلَى اللهِ لَأَنّهٌ خَلُوصٌ عَنْ مَعْصِيَتِهِ يُحِبُ اللهُ الخَلُوصَ مِنْهًا، فَقَدْ نَهَى اللهُ تَعَالَى عَنْ الإِمْسَاكِ ضِرَارًا.
"This (divorce) that has no reason other than the mere desire and (the willing) of moving around men and women: as a woman asks for divorce sexually seeking other than her husband and a man divorces his wife to test other than her…
But if (the divorced was issued) for the mistreatment of her or fearing of establishing not the rulings of Allah, it becomes beloved to Allah because it's a kind of protection against disobeying Allah and Allah loves (us) avoiding it.
As Allah forbade keeping wives them with the intention of harm" (Sana'ani, Sharh al-Jami' as-Sagheer, Vol. 1m p. 246)
There are two narrations of this hadith; one of them is mursal (unauthentically attributed to the companion) and the other is muttasil (authentic). In both cases, scholars acknowledge this meaning by similar Ahadith.
Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra;
Ibn Addi, al-Kamil;
Ibn Muflih, al-Mubdi;
Manawi, Fadd al-Qaqeer;
Abu Hatim ar-Razi, al-'Illal;
Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari;
Khatabi, Ma'alim al-Sunan;
Sakhawi, al-Maqasid al-Hasanah;
Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim;
Abu al-Fadl ibn al-Huseen, Tarh al-Tathrib fi Sharh al-Taqreeb;
Sana'ani, Subul al-Salam;
Sana'ani, Sharh al-Jami al-Sagheer;
Al-Qastalani, Irshad al-Sari;
Ayni, Umdat al-Qari;
Tabarani, al-Mu'jam al-Waseet;
Al-Num'ani, al-Lubab fi Ulum al-Kitab;
Al-Mala al-Haruwi, Murqat al-Mafatih;
Al-Asfahani, Tafseer al-Raghib al-Asfahani.
Great answers start with great insights. Content becomes intriguing when it is voted up or down - ensuring the best answers are always at the top.
Questions are answered by people with a deep interest in the subject. People from around the world review questions, post answers and add comments.
Be part of and influence the most important global discussion that is defining our generation and generations to come