Alexandra Tolhurst-Swim
NELC 238

“Divorce Iranian Style” shows multiple divorce proceedings taking place in an Islamic family court of law. During the proceedings, based on the circumstances, multiple different doctrines of divorce are prescribed by the judge. The doctrines used in the movie are talaq and khul’, and child custody in divorce law is explored, as well as many singular laws within each doctrine that show the ability of the judge to apply discretion to each case.
In the first case, a husband is petitioning the court for divorce from his wife because he believes she is having a secret relationship. This case falls under the doctrine of talaq, which is the male’s right to end a marriage in Islamic law. When the petition is filed, a period of three months begins in which the divorce is not yet final. During this time, because divorce is so frowned upon in Islamic law and religion, the parties must try to reconcile the marriage. It is generally assumed to be the women’s job to provoke this reconciliation though in certain cases where the man has done clear wrong, he must work to reconcile it as well. During the three months, to assist at reconciliation, the wife must remain in the house of the husband and he must pay her lodging and maintenance. In this case, the wife did not want reconciliation or to live with her husband, but the judge ordered this to happen as this is part of the talaq doctrine.
The second case outlines one of the conditions for khul’. Women are generally not allowed to ask for a divorce in Islamic law, but under certain conditions, such as the man’s inability to father a child as in this case, she is permitted. This case shows the judge’s use of the state functions to enforce sharia law by enforcing that the husband submit to a fertility test or be arrested. Part of the doctrine of khul’ permits the woman to be paid at least a portion of the marriage gift promised to her at the time of marriage upon divorce. Because it is not a right of women to get a divorce, they must have consent from the husband, who will often convince the woman to give up her right to the monetary gift for his consent. In this case, the husband will not pay the gift and the woman does not want a court battle over the gift, so she gives up the right to the marriage gift in return for his consent.
The third case once again deals with khul’, but outlines the struggle a woman must go through to get a divorce if the husband is not giving their consent. Ziba, the wife, tries multiple excuses that woman are permitted to use in khul’ to get out of her marriage, such as the husband’s insanity and deception at the time of marriage. Because neither of these are credible enough with the judge, mainly due to the fundamental idea of the need for witnesses, she is unable to get the judge to sign the petition. She then has no choice but to get her husband to agree to divorce by mutual consent, which he does, but he does not want to pay her the marriage gift and she refuses to give it up. Because they technically agreed to divorce by mutual consent, the judge leaves the mediating of the marriage gift to their elders, who fail to come up with a solution and say Ziba has no right to the gift, when the judge says she does. In the end, Ziba gives up her right to the gift as well to be officially declared divorced and free from her husband.
The fourth case of the movie shows a woman trying to divorce her husband because he has assaulted her and her son and fails to provide maintenance of the family. This would fall under the doctrine of khul’, a woman’s ability to apply for a petition of divorce, but once again, the husband is not consenting and wants to remain with his wife. This case outlines how important the idea of reconciliation is in divorce law and how much the judges frown upon a divorce, doing everything possible before making it official. The judge orders the husband