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Khul', also called khula, is a procedure through which a woman can divorce her husband in Islam, by returning the dower (mahr) that she received from her husband.

This raises a problem if she does not have the mahr, e.g., she may have given it to charity, or bought something with it. The mahr might have originally been $X, but she simply does not have $X to return to her husband (should she seek khula).

Question: Can a wife get a divorce if she is incapable of returning the mahr?

I'm just wondering what mechanism would be in place in this situation, if any. It seems like she could be stuck.

  • I think it's seeking divorce, giving divorce. Maybe I've not fully understand the question, but one can always pays equivalent of mahr, if she don't have the exact thing. – Anwar Jun 15 '17 at 6:09
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    Interestingly, section n5.0 of the reliance of the traveler, which deals with khul, does not say the amount to be paid back has to be the same as the mahr. n5.5 says that if the khul happens without an amount stipulated, then the wife owes what a woman of her status would usually get as a mahr. Seems like the husband and the wife can determine the amount she owes for the khul, which fits with the fact that khul [consensual divorce] is only possible with the husband's consent (as opposed to talaq [unilateral divorce by the husband] and fasakh [dissolution of the marriage by court order]). – G. Bach Jun 15 '17 at 12:05
  • This may also be relevant. I'm not sure these comments cover the question, so I'm leaving them as comments. – G. Bach Jun 15 '17 at 12:08
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TL;DR: A husband may refuse khul' regardless of whether or not the wife is capable of repaying the mahr. Among the reasons a husband may refuse khul' is the inability of the wife to pay the husband an agreeable compensation. Ordinarily, khul' requires returning an amount equivalent to the mahr, but the husband can agree to less.


It seems that the mahr is normally the amount to be returned.

Khul' is when a wife demands divorce if she does not like her husband for any reason. She can do so giving him back the bridal money he gave her.
IslamWeb

This appears to be due to the hadith Sunan an-Nasa'i 3463 [grade: sahih]. However, there are fatawa that say that this is not a strict requirement:

It is up to the man and his wife to agree on a lesser compensation. Most scholars agree that the compensation may be more than the mahr itself, but some scholars say that this is not permissible.
Dar Al-Ifta (see also Islam Q&A)

The Dar Al-Ifta fatwa continues

A man who does not have anything to give as mahr must not be offended if his marriage proposals are rejected. Similarly, a woman who cannot compensate her husband for what he stands to lose as a result of the termination of marriage is not to feel aggrieved if he refuses. But in these matters, it is recommended to show forbearance and kindness to others. Even though we may be unhappy with the termination of the marriage, as a community we should look into helping her.
Dar Al-Ifta

This indicates that the husband may refuse the divorce if she cannot afford it. She may then take it to a sharia court; see another Dar Al-Ifta fatwa for the technical details.

A Darul Iftaa fatwa describes the case that the husband is at fault:

However, the Fuqaha state that, if the husband was at fault and it was his wrongdoings that resulted in the failure of their marriage, then it is impermissible for him to demand a financial payment in return for a divorce.
Darul Iftaa

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