Ruling on marriage, divorce and taking back (one’s wife) in jest / joke

Posted on January 29, 2015


Narrated by Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said:
The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“There are three matters in which seriousness is serious and joking is serious: marriage, divorce and taking back (one’s wife).”
[Narrated by Abu Dawood, 2194; al-Tirmidhi, 1184; Ibn Maajah, 2039. Classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Irwa’ al-Ghaleel, 1826.]

It was narrated that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: 
“There are four things which become binding if they are spoken: 
– divorce, 
– manumission, 
– marriage and 
– vows.” 

It was narrated from ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him): 
“There are three in which jesting is like seriousness: divorce, marriage and manumission.” 

Abu’l-Darda’ said: 
“There are three matters in which jesting is just as valid as saying them seriously: divorce, marriage and manumission.” 

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, after mentioning the hadeeth quoted above: 

“These Sunnahs imply that one who is accountable jokes about divorce, marriage or taking back his wife, then what he joked about becomes binding on him. This indicates that the words of a joker carry weight even though the words of a sleeper, one who forgets, one who has lost his mind and one who is forced do not count. The difference between them is that the joker intends to say the words although he does not want the ruling on his words to apply, but it is not up to him. Rather uttering these words is up to him, but as tforo the ruling on those word, that is up to the Lawgiver, whether the person intended it or not. What matters here is the word that he chose to use willingly when he is of sound mind and accountable. If he intended to utter these words, then the Lawgiver will apply the ruling to him whether he was serious or was joking. This is unlike one who is sleeping or the one who has lost his mind or one who is insane etc, they do not have any real intention and they are not accountable, so the words that they say are idle talk, like the talk of a child who does not understand what he is saying and does not mean it. 

The heart of the matter is the differentiation between one who says something deliberately, knowing what he says but not intending to be subject to the ruling on what he says, and one who does not mean it and does not know what it means. There are four categories: 

1- When he intends the ruling but does not utter the words

2- When he does not intend the ruling or the words

3- When he intends the words but not the ruling

4- When he intends both the words and the ruling. 

The first two are idle talk, and the second two carry weight. This is what may be understood from all the texts and rulings.”

(Zaad al-Ma’aad, 5/204, 205)