Does Ziha’r is limited to one’s mother. Is this equals to divorce

In the name of Allah,


Ziha’r derives its lexical meaning from the word zahr, which means ‘back’. This is because, in pre-Islamic times, anyone who practiced Ziha’r with his wife used to declare, “You are to me just like the back of my mother.” Before Islam, it was seen as a divorce. Islam outlawed this, called it disgusting, and views it differently from divorce[i].


Shariah Meaning and its ruling in Islam


Ziha’r is the phrase a man uses to tell his wife, “You are to me like the back of my mother.”

It is illegal because Allah labels it an abomination and a lie, which are prohibited characteristics. Allah says,


‘And verily, they utter an ill word and a lie. [Translation Al-Mujadilah 58:2]

Whoever does it is therefore guilty of sin. He is not allowed to have sexual relations with his wife or to enjoy any parts of her body prior to atonement.


The Qur’anic ayah and hadith concerning Ziha’r


It was narrated from ‘Urwah bin Zubair, that ‘Aishah said:


“Blessed is the One Whose hearing encompasses all things. I heard some of the words of Khawlah bint Tha’labah, but some of her words were not clear to me, when she complained to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) about her husband and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, (ﷺ) he has consumed my youth and I split my belly for him (i.e., bore him many children), but when I grew old and could no longer bear children he declared Zihar upon me; O Allah, I complain to You.’ She continued to complain until Jibra’il brought down these Verses: ‘Indeed Allah has heard the statement of she who pleads with you (O Muhammad) concerning her husband, and complains to Allah.’[ii] (58:1)


Abu Salamah and Muhammad bin Abdur-Rahman (bin Thawban) narrated that :

Salman bin Sakhr Al-Ansari – from Banu Bayadah – said that his wife was like the back of his mother to him until Ramadan passed. After half of Ramadan had passed he had intercourse with his wife during the night. So he went to the Messenger of Allah to mention that to him. The Messenger of Allah said to him: “Free a slave.” He said: “I don’t have one.” So he said: “Then fast two consecutive months.” He said: “I am unable.” He said: “Feed sixty needy people.” He said: “I can not.” So the Messenger of Allah said to Farwah bin Amr: “Give him that Araq – and it is a large basket that holds fifteen or sixteen Sa’ – to feed sixty needy people.”[iii]


Narrated Khuwaylah, daughter of Malik ibn Tha’labah:


My husband, Aws ibn as-Samit, pronounced the words: You are like my mother. So I came to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), complaining to him about my husband.

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) disputed with me and said: Remain dutiful to Allah; he is your cousin.


I continued (complaining) until the Qur’anic verse came down: “Certainly has Allah heard the speech of the one who argues with you, [O Muhammad], concerning her husband…” [58:1] till the prescription of expiation.

He then said: He should set free a slave. She said: He cannot afford it. He said: He should fast for two consecutive months. She said: Messenger of Allah, he is an old man; he cannot keep fasts. He said: He should feed sixty poor people. She said: He has nothing which he may give in alms. At that moment an araq (i.e. date-basket holding fifteen or sixteen sa’s) was brought to him.


I said: I shall help him with another date-basked (‘araq). He said: You have done well. Go and feed sixty poor people on his behalf, and return to your cousin. The narrator said: An araq holds sixty sa’s of dates.

Abu Dawud said: She atoned on his behalf without seeking his permission.

Abu Dawud said: This man (Aws b. al-Samit) is the brother of ‘Ubadah b. al-Samit[iv].


Ziha’r is not particularly restricted to mentioning one’s mother


The scholars agree that Ziha’r is committed when a man tells his wife, “You are for me like the back of my mother.” They disagree on whether he specifies another body part or the back of a woman other than his mother who is not allowed to marry him.

Most experts agree that Ziha’r is not just limited to mentioning one’s mother. Instead, a person has committed Ziha’r if they compare their wife’s back to any female family member who is categorically prohibited to marry them[v].

According to some scholars, the text is quite precise in mentioning solely the mother, hence it is not considered to be Ziha’r. Other scholars, including Malik, Ash-Shafi’i, and Abu Hanifah, believe it to be Ziha’r. They utilize analogy (qiyas) as evidence because the cause of the restriction is declared to apply equally to mothers and female unmarriable kin. According to Ahmad and Malik, it is valid even if the woman she was compared to is not permanently forbidden, like any woman. Furthermore, Ahmad adds, “Even with respect to animals.”


If a man says to his wife, You are to me like my mother or my sister.” Without mentioning part of the body is this Ziha’r?


In Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (34/5) Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (R.A) was questioned about a husband who told his wife, “You are to me like my mother or my sister.”

He responded: If what he meant was comparing her to his mother or sister in terms of marriage, then this is zihar and he has to follow the same rules as the person who divorces his wife through zihaar: if he chooses to keep her, he should wait to approach her until he has made the expiation for zihaar. If he meant that you share the same level of honor with me as my mother or sister, he is not required to do anything.’


According to Ibn Qudaamah in al-Mughni (11/60),


According to most experts, including Abu Haneefah and his two companions al-Shafa’i and Ishaaq, it is zihaar if he says: “You are to me like my mother.”

If he meant to imply that she is similar to her in age or in any other way, or if he wanted to express honor and respect, then this is not zihaar. What he says about his intentions is important’[vi].[End quote].


Divorce will not be affected by Zihar


Even if one were to state: “You are like the back of my mother, yet I intend to divorce,” Ziha’r and divorce are no longer synonymous. According to Ash Shafiee, if someone affects Ziha’r with the intention of divorcing, it is only Ziha’r.


In contrast, if he issues a divorce decree with the intention of Ziha’r, it is divorce.


According to Ahmad, if someone says, “You are like the back of my mother, yet I intend to divorce, “it is only Ziha’r. Even though Aws Bin As Saamit indented to divorce, the Ziha’r decision was applied in his case[vii].




[i] Fiqh of the Muslim family, A manual book in Islamic jurisprudence Hassan Ayub Al Falah staff members. Islamic inc publications. Page 302

[ii] [ii] Grade: Sahih (Darussalam)Reference: Sunan Ibn Majah 2063

[iii] Grade: Hasan (Darussalam) Reference : Jami` at-Tirmidhi 1200

[iv] Reference            : Sunan Abi Dawud 2214

[v] Encyclopedia of Islam (Concerning Muslim Women) Volume – 2, Yusuf Al-Hajj Ahmad, Published By: Darussalam Publishers, Page-146


[vii] Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya (ZAD AL M AA’D) PROVISIONS OF THE AFTERLIFE, WHICH LIE WITHIN PROPHETIC GUIDANCE, Translation Ismail Abdus Salaam, Dar Al-Kotob Al-llmiyah Publication, 2010, Page 796

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