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Should a Christian man, who was a Muslim married to several wives, divorce his wives after he becomes a Christian?
Answers to a Question from Nigeria
How the Koran has Changed God's Old Testament and New Testament Commandments on Monogamy and Polygamy
(by Salam Falaki)


The next two cases will again be treated together. This is the case when a wife is divorced and the former husband and the former wife become divorcees and then remarry, ending up being married to more than one spouse during their lifetimes (consecutive polygyny for the male divorcee and consecutive polyandry for the female divorcee). Because these two cases are similar, we treat them together here.

(remarriage of divorcees)
(remarriage of divorcees)
Torah: Tolerated (except for two cases)
Gospel: Forbidden (except for the case of adultery)
Koran: Allowed

OLD TESTAMENT: God nowhere in the Old Testament commanded divorce, rather it was only indirectly tolerated in the Torah: "1 When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance" (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). This means that a husband, who divorced his wife, was never allowed to remarry her again. Also divorce could not be effected with mere words, but needed a certificate handed over to the divorced wife. -- There are however two cases, when it was forbidden for a husband to divorce his wife: a) If the husband falsely accused his wife of having had sexual relationships to another man before marrying him (Deuteronomy 22:13-21); and b) if his wife was a virgin that he had raped and thereupon was forced to marry her (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). In both cases the husband is bound to his wife until the end of his life. -- Priests were not allowed to marry divorced women. (Leviticus 21:7) -- Finally, in Malachi 2:16 we read: "For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless." This shows that in the Old Testament divorce was in no way encouraged or regarded as good.

NEW TESTAMENT: Contrary to the Torah, divorce is forbidden in the Gospel: "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery." (Luke 16:18) Since adultery was forbidden (Exodus 20:14), therefore divorce was also forbidden, for it made the divorcee become an adulterer. -- It was in the context of a discussion about divorce that Jesus made an important statement about marriage. Here is the incident: "2 'And Pharisees came up and in order'to test him asked,Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? '3 'He answered them,What did Moses command you?' 4 'They said, 'Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.' 5 'And Jesus said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 'But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 'and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 'What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. 10 'And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. '11 'And he said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, '12 'and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.' " (Mark 10:2-12) The important revelation of Jesus regarding marriage is this: "What God has joined together, let not man separate!" Jesus here takes up the Old Testament teaching about the union of a husband and wife in marriage, a union that can reflect the image of God in them. He says that this union is an act of God himself. This is why marriage is binding for the whole life of the spouses. -- Jesus, however, makes an important qualification: in the case of the adultery of one of the spouses, marriage can be divorced: "But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and'whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32).

KORAN: Regarding divorce and the remarriage of divorcees the Koran has substantially changed biblical teachings on divorce. Contrary to the teaching of Jesus (Mark 2:9), the Koran explicitly allows divorce, treating it as a simple matter. It does not even necessitate a written document (as in the Torah, Deuteronomy 24:1,3), but can be effected with a simple phrase indicating that the wife is dismissed. The husband can then take her again and dismiss her again for two more times. Contrary to the Torah (Deuteronomy 24:4), she can again become lawful to him. The condition is the following: his divorced wife must legally marry another man and be dismissed by him three times. Then she can remarry her earlier husband. For the LORD this is an abomination (Deuteronomy 24:4). -- Also there are different reasons for and forms of divorce that the Koran speaks about, but which we will not list here. The following are some Koran verses, which have changed the revelation of God in the Bible, and which Muslims should follow when divorcing their wives: "The divorce (with the option of remarrying) is twice, after that, either you retain her on reasonable terms or release her with kindness. And it is not lawful for you to take back anything of what you had brought to them (as a bridal gift), except when both fear that they would be unable to uphold Allah's limits (i.e. be unable to follow Allah's commandments, if they continue being married). So if you (Muslims) fear that they would not be able to uphold Allah's limits, then there is no sin on either of them if she redeems herself (with part of her bridal gift) (to leave her husband). These are Allah's limits; so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses Allah's limits, then they are the evil-doers" (Sura 2:229). --- "And if he has divorced her (the third time), then she is not lawful unto him thereafter until she has married another husband. Then, if he (the other husband) divorces her, it is no sin on both of them that they reunite, provided they feel that they can keep the limits ordained by Allah. These are the limits of Allah, which he makes plain for the people who have knowledge" (Sura 2:230). --- "O Prophet! When you divorce women, divorce them at their 'Iddah (prescribed period) and count their 'Iddah (carefully). And fear Allah your Lord. And turn them not out of their houses (during this waiting period) nor shall they (themselves) leave (during that time), except in case they commit something particularly abominable. …" (Sura 65:1). --- "And divorced women shall wait by themselves for three (menstrual) periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal, what Allah has created in their wombs, if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have all the right to take them back in that period, if they wish for reconciliation. And they (the women) have the same claims (from their husbands) as they (the women) have obligations (towards their husbands), (acting) legally. But the men stand (in all this) a step above them. And Allah is mighty, wise" (Sura 2:228). --- "There is no sin on you, if you divorce women while you have not yet touched them, nor appointed unto them a legal obligation (a bridal money?) And let them enjoy (what you give them), the rich according to his means, and the poor according to his means, a gift of reasonable amount is a duty on the doers of good" (Sura 2:236). -- It is important to note, that the apostasy of one of the Muslim spouses in the Muslim contract of sexual enjoyment, which constitutes marriage in Islam, automatically invalidates this marriage contract and leads to the immediate and total divorce of that marriage. All Muslim schools of law agree upon this. So if the Muslim husband becomes a Christian his marriage contracts automatically become invalid and his wives are obliged to leave him immediately. The same applies if the Muslim wife becomes a Christian: then she must be divorced islamically and the children remain with the Muslim husband.

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