“The most hateful thing to Allah among the lawful matters is divorce.” This hadith (record of the traditions or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) taken from Sunan Abu Dawood explicitly says that while divorce could be considered permissible, it is highly discouraged within Islam.
However, divorce seems to be the route a popular Malaysian Muslim reality TV star, Muhammad Abu Sufyan Mohd Mokhtar Rozaidi seems to be taking. The 25-year old celebrity who was a winner on the popular Pencetus Ummah Islamic reality TV series recently courted controversy when his ex-wife, who is currently 7-months pregnant with his child, posted on social media that he divorced her simply because she did not agree to his idea of polygamy.
"On March 13, my husband Abu Sufyan left me because he wants to marry a widow named Hana Azraa. PU Abu asked me to agree to polygamy two months after our wedding but I rejected because we had just gotten married".
This sparked outrage among Malaysia’s netizens. One group wanted him to be reprimanded for disrespecting women while another defended his actions as just and lawful.
On one hand, he has the right to divorce his wife. As stated in the earlier hadith, while it is strongly discouraged from doing so, Allah permits a man to divorce his wife if he finds that the familial institution would not be happy if things were left to go on.
The timing of the divorce is also important as according to Pahang Mufti (Muslim legal expert) Abdul Rahman Osman “the only time divorce is not accepted is during a moment of madness” and he continues by saying that the divorce was valid because it “followed the standard of procedures and received the approval of the shariah court.”
Legally, Abu Sufyan is allowed to do all these things and there would be no repercussions against him from the civil or shariah court.
However, his actions could be seen as morally inept as it is viewed as being disrespectful towards women.
Malaysia’s track record for women’s rights isn’t exactly spotless. Back in 2018, during a United Nations (UN) conference, Malaysia was scrutinised for practicing Female Genitalia Mutilation (FGM). The World Report 2019 by Human Rights Watch (HRW) shows that Malaysia has yet to criminalise marital rape.
Abu Sufyan’s actions, if not condemned, could further besmirch Malaysia’s human rights record.
Divorcing a pregnant wife is seen by many as being disrespectful as it is a time when a woman has to endure morning sickness and other pregnancy related issues.
This sentiment is echoed by Rahmat Ikhsan Muhammad Sofyan an Islamic preacher who tweeted his concerns regarding the issue. “The issue isn’t the timing of the divorce. The issue is the implications of it. The woman’s emotions could be disturbed to the point where she might commit suicide.”
Malaysians must show that they are opposed to such practices as it could be seen as violating women’s rights.
Thankfully, many prominent individuals have condemned the celebrity’s actions. "It's not worth ruining a marriage and a family to satisfy your lust with another woman, and then you tell us to be patient in the name of religion and for pahala (reward)," Malaysian actress Wardina Safiyyah posted on Instagram.
“Please don’t build an institution of happiness atop your wife’s tears,” posted Muslim preacher Ustaz Ebit Lew on social media.
Respecting women should be something that is encouraged by institutions within Malaysia, religious or otherwise. This incident might be one of many in which a religious figurehead is condemned in public for doing something seen as morally bankrupt, but allowed within the boundaries of a religion which strongly discourages the action in the first place.