Divorce rate spikes in Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi Islamic culture

by WorldTribune Staff, October 3, 2016

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of divorce in the world.

In the kingdom, which follows strict guidelines of Wahhabi Islam, 30 percent of marriages now end in divorce.

Saudi women must go to court to obtain a divorce, while men need only cite the divorce word (Talaq) three times to end a marriage.
Saudi women must go to court to obtain a divorce, while men need only recite the divorce word (Talaq) three times to end a marriage.

“The society and laws (of Saudi Arabia) prevent any kind of interaction between males and females (before marriage), so usually people who get married don’t know much about each other,” Jana, a lawyer in Saudi Arabia who asked that her name be withheld, told The Media Line.

In 2016, there have been 46,000 divorces in Saudi Arabia. There were roughly 40,000 divorces for all of 2015 and 33,954 in 2014.

In Jeddah, a major port city, divorce rates have increased 50 percent since last year, according to a report by the Saudi Ministry of Justice.

“I think there are many divorces because arranged marriages are so widespread and they have a great probability to fail,” Daad Alhakami, 25, told The Media Line. “Also, this generation is irresponsible and does not respect the sacredness of the relationship of marriage.”

Some analysts attribute the increase to women who are starting to speak up if they are abused by their husbands. In the past, the stigma against divorce may have convinced them not to speak out.

“A woman cannot file a divorce, only a man can,” Jana said. “Divorce doesn’t cost a man anything.”

There are two types of divorce in Saudi Arabia, Talaq and Khula.

Talaq is when the man asks for a divorce. Saudi men are allowed to divorce their wives without any legal reasoning.

Once he has decided to divorce, a man must recite the divorce call three times. Talaq, Talaq, Talaq is the divorce call. After saying that three times, or even sending it in a text message, the couple is divorced.

Khula is when a woman asks for a divorce. Saudi women are unable to obtain a divorce without the consent of their husbands, who remain their guardians throughout divorce proceedings. A woman must go to court to seek a divorce.

“Sometimes the only way a woman can get a divorce is by filing an extraction to give up all of her rights and pay him all of the money he had given to her (over the course of the marriage),” Jana said.

According to Sharia law, men are also allowed to practice polygamy and can have up to four wives at any given time.

There is also no minimum age for marriage in Saudi Arabia. While most women wait until after high school or college to get married, girls can get married from the age of 13 and some are even married before they begin puberty, according to Alhakami.

Despite the increase, divorce is still frowned upon in both Islam and Saudi society.

“Islam hates divorce. The Prophet Mohammed said, ‘the most hated thing to Allah is divorce,’ ” Alhakami said.