Al Arabiya English, by Sonia Farid
“Can’t we have a law that makes divorce only effective when it is documented?” asked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in a televised speech he gave at the Police Day celebration on January 24. “If marriage is documented then the same should apply to divorce.” Sisi then addressed the Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, who was among the attendees: “Don’t you agree with me, your eminence?”
Egypt’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Shawki Allam said that Dar al-Iftaa, the institution in charge of issuing religious edicts, receives an average of 3,200 inquiries about verbal divorce. “After thorough investigation of each case and after looking into the husband’s intentions and the circumstances under which verbal divorce took place, only three of them prove to be an actual divorce,” he said.
Preacher Mazhar Shahin said that there are hundreds of cases where women are trying to prove that they were verbally divorced and cannot remarry because of that. “All these women remain in limbo for they are neither married nor divorced and have no right to remarry because no document proves they were divorced,” he said. Shahin added that as “guardian” of the Egyptian nation, Sisi has the right to “restrict the permitted,” as he put it, if this is in the best interest of his nation.
MP and professor of theology Amna Nosseir said that Sisi’s request “sent ripples across stagnant water,” as she put, since it brought back to the forefront one of the most critical problems Egyptian families face. “I think that the Committee of Religious Affairs at the House of Representatives should start taking the necessary steps towards drafting a legislation that bans verbal divorce,” she said, adding that she will fully provide members of the committee with the scholarly help they would need in this regard.
MP and secretary general of the Committee of Religious Affairs at the House of Representatives Amr Hamroush said that the committee will be ready in a few days with a draft law that regulates verbal divorce. “We will meet with representatives of major religious institutions and prominent scholars to discuss the law and make sure it does not contradict Islamic law,” he said. “The law aims at protecting Egyptian families from disintegration and at preserving the rights of the wife and the children and it will include fines and jail sentences for violators.” MP and member of the same committee Mohamed Shaaban argued that the new law is a manifestation of respect for women as stipulated in Islam. “A woman will no longer be under the mercy of a few words said by an angry husband during an argument,” he said.