What is meant by the hadith stating that the women who want to divorce are munafiqs and that they cannot smell the odor of Paradise?

The Details of the Question

"The women who want to divorce from their husbands in any case are munafiqs. The odor of Paradise will be forbidden to them." [Narrator: Ibn Umar] 

- What exactly is meant by the hadith above?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The statements mentioned in the question are from two separate hadiths.

"If any woman asks her husband for divorce without some strong reason, the odor of Paradise will be forbidden to her." (see Abu Dawud, Talaq, 18; Ahmad b. Hanbal, 5/277)

"Women who want to be divorced from their husbands in return for property (wealth) are munafiqs." (see Kanzul-Ummal, 9/661)

- Such hadiths have the style of guidance that emphasize the importance the religion of Islam gives to the protection of the family.  

In Islam, the family is a really holy institution; it needs to be permanent, not temporary. Therefore, those who break up this institution are warned severely:

"…Live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good." (an-Nisa, 4/19)

The order and advice given to husbands in the verse above are among those warnings.

“Get married but do not demolish the building of the family with divorce because the divine throne shivers due to it." (Kanzul-Ummal, 9/661)

The hadith above includes an important warning for the spouses related to the protection of the family building.

“Allah does not like the men who change their wives frequently and the women who change their husbands frequently." (Kanzul-Ummal, 9/662)

The hadith above also deals with this issue.

The Prophet (pbuh) addresses men as follows:

"A person should not hate and nurse a grudge against his wife. Even if she has some characteristics that he does not like, she also has characteristics that he likes." (Muslim, Rada, 61)

In the hadith above, men are asked to show respect to the family by acting patiently, sensitively, solemnly and by being free from their own desires.

“The one among the halal (permissible) deeds that is most unpleasant in the eye of Allah is divorce." (Kanzul-Ummal, 9/661)

It is emphasized in the hadith above that divorce is an unpleasant deed in the eye of Allah and that it is wrong to demolish a family if it is unnecessary. It is very bad for a man to divorce his wife unjustly; similarly, it is very bad for a woman to want to be divorced from his husband unjustly.

We see the following in another hadith:

"Iblis establishes his throne on water. Then, he sends his gangs. The one closest to him is the one that makes the greatest mischief. One of them comes and says, 'I did this and that’. Iblis says, 'You have not done anything.' Then, another one comes and tells him what he did: 'I continued following a man until I separated him from his wife.' Thereupon, Iblis makes him sit closer and says, 'Well done. (You are very good)' Iblis compliments him." (Muslim, Sifatul-Munafiqin, 67. For hadiths regarding the issue, see Kanzul-Ummal, 9/661-663)

- It is necessary to repent for the sins committed related to the family just like the other sins in order to be saved from those sins. It is necessary for the spouses to forgive each other for the repentance to be accepted. The harsh expressions included in hadiths are related to the violation of personal rights – of especially the spouses.

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