Domestic violence cycles and escalates. If a woman's husband is violent, he will often become incrementally more violent as time goes on. (Why Doesn't She Just Leave?) The general advice in these circumstances is to get out before it escalates (and put up with being called "irrational" and "overreacting").

If a wife decides to escape a violent husband, the Islamic way requires satisfying a (probably all-male) Islamic authority of some kind (e.g. through khula). In doing so, she risks provoking further violence and being branded a rebellious wife; the authority will strive for "reconciliation" with the violent husband (see this question), sending her back into the lion's den after the lion has been angered.

There seems alternative ways out, e.g. running away, going to the police, or responding violently, although each of these can be inhibited by the husband, and could make things worse.

However, it seems that divorce by apostasy offers a plausible (and efficient) means of escape:

However, if a wife apostates from Islam, her marriage contract becomes void by her apostasy. Nonetheless, in our view, her marriage depends on her waiting period, meaning that if she re-embraces Islam before the expiry of her waiting period, then the marriage is still valid, otherwise no -- IslamWeb (another example is Darul Uloom Trinidad & Tobago)

Let's assume she doesn't genuinely disbelieve, but she fears for her safety as a result of her husband's violence, and she's invoking Qur'an 16:106 (being forced to do so, while being secure in her faith).

Question: Could divorce by feigning apostasy be used to escape a violent husband?

I'm wondering if this could work in reality.

I recognize that apostasy is punishable by death, but it's rare in most places:

In "recent decades" before 2006, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom listed four cases of execution for apostasy in the Muslim world. -- Wikipedia

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    I think the article means that his (not hers) contract becomes void by her apostasy. But anyway, a violent husband would probably not care much about her leaving islam. If the case is that a woman has to "leave islam" in order to get off his violence, i'd bet he would be either more violent to force her into "belief" again, or maybe he'd just not care about her "leaving islam" at all, but he'd not let her leave him..
    – Kilise
    Jun 18, 2017 at 0:13
  • Is the question about the Islamic view assuming the court is ruling by Islamic law?
    – III-AK-III
    Jun 18, 2017 at 1:26
  • Yes. Basically, could it succeed in getting her divorced? Without all the usual complications. Jun 18, 2017 at 1:34
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    Even if the marriage contract becomes void, such a "husband" in practice wouldn't let her go unless beating her to death, I'm afraid!
    – Medi1Saif
    Jun 18, 2017 at 2:08
  • Medi1Saif made the exact same comment I was about to make. Perhaps it might be better to ask another question such as "If a husband beats his wife does that nullify/void a marriage?"
    – Aboudi
    Jun 18, 2017 at 15:16

2 Answers 2


Feigning apostasy is neither allowed (as there is no feigning allowed), nor necessarily viable.

A Muslim is not allowed to pretend not to be a Muslim, either through actions or words, except if forced on pain of death or severe physical harm:

مَن كَفَرَ بِاللَّهِ مِن بَعْدِ إِيمَانِهِ إِلَّا مَنْ أُكْرِهَ وَقَلْبُهُ مُطْمَئِنٌّ بِالْإِيمَانِ وَلَٰكِن مَّن شَرَحَ بِالْكُفْرِ صَدْرًا فَعَلَيْهِمْ غَضَبٌ مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

Whoever disbelieves in Allah after his belief ... except for one who is forced [to renounce his religion] while his heart is secure in faith. But those who [willingly] open their breasts to disbelief, upon them is wrath from Allah, and for them is a great punishment;

An-Nahl 16:106

Feigning apostasy is apostasy. There are numerous accounts of companions facing torture without renouncing their Islam.

This Fatwa 150748 states the conditions under which it is permissible to renounce Islam verbally in self-defence:

  1. The threat is severely destructive: killing or cutting off parts of body.
  2. The threat is real, and may potentially materialize.
  3. The inability to protect oneself by running away or seeking the help of others.

In the case you pose of a wife attempting to escape domestic violence by feigning apostasy:

  1. If the threat rises to the level of threatening her life or body parts, then it may be permitted.
  2. If she believes the husband is capable of inflicting such harm, and if the husband is in a position that he can carry out such threat, then it may be permitted.
  3. Running away or seeking the help of others remain to be valid options. So this condition is not fulfilled.

She is not allowed to feign apostasy to escape a marriage with domestic violence. Feigning apostasy in this case would be considered apostasy for real.

In any case, the Islamic authority, mostly if not all male, that would rule on her separation from her husband based on domestic abuse will be the same one ruling on her separation from her husband based on apostasy. I doubt that such an authority that one may suspect would label a wife rebellious for asking for khula' (Arabic: خلع) would be more sympathetic when a wife is asking for both khula' and apostasy.

Proving, with a degree of certainty, that an all-male authority would be biased (not that I agree that this will be the case as a blanket statement, at all times, and in all cases), there will always be the option of arbitration through family members as per An-Nisa 4:35.

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    "Feigning apostasy in this case would be considered apostasy for real." - I think this would be opinion based...
    – Kilise
    Jun 18, 2017 at 10:35

Feigning apostasy to leave a marriage became quite frequent in Hindustan (modern India & Pakistan) there are reports of women actually doing this in the 1800's.

Under Hanafi Law the nikkah becomes null and so the woman is free to leave. Should she return to Islam she can marry any Muslim man she wants.

Some scholars like Moulana Ashraf Thanvi addressed this problem by applying the Maliki Law which states that if a woman claims to be an apostate then her nikkah will be annulled however if she was to return to Islam she could not marry any other Muslim man except her previous husband.

This is how feigning apostasy to get out of a marriage was finally curbed.

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