Al-Ila' Verse (Arabic: آیه ایلاء) is the verse 226 of Sura al-Baqara (Qur'an 2) concerning the Shar'i rulings of a Jahiliyya practice of separation between spouses. "Ila'" is an oath taken by a husband, out of wrath, to refrain from sexual intercourse with his wife. This oath was a type of divorce in the Age of Ignorance, in which the woman was put under pressure, left in suspense, and prevented from marrying another man. In this verse, God condemns this kind of divorce and states rulings to solve problems caused by Ila'.
According to the verse, a man can refrain from having sex with his wife for up to four months, but after that, he must either return to his wife or divorce her. If the man refrains from this and the woman litigates against him, then the Shari'a ruler must imprison the man until he consents to either return to his wife or the divorce her.
On an interpretation of the rest of the verse, it is not sinful for the man to breach his oath before the four moths and return to his wife sooner, but he must pay a expiation for breaching his oath. According to some exegetes, Islam did not terminate the ruling of Ila', but has prevented its harmful consequences.
Ila' is said to have conditions, such as the woman having been sexually penetrated by the husband, the oath being in the name of God and His attributes, being permanent or at least four months, and being out of anger and wrath.
لِّلَّذِينَ يُؤْلُونَ مِن نِّسَائِهِمْ تَرَبُّصُ أَرْبَعَةِ أَشْهُرٍ ۖ فَإِن فَاءُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
"For those who forswear their wives shall be a waiting [period]of four months. And if they recant, Allah is indeed all-forgiving, all-merciful."
|— Qur'an 2:226|
A Brief Introduction and the Occasion of the Revelation
The Qur'an 2:226 is known as al-Ila' Verse. The verse and its following verse state certain rulings regarding family relationships, particularly the divorce between men and women. The first issue appearing in these verses is the ruling of Ila'.
The practice of Ila', which is also known as the divorce of Jahili people, was a mischievous practice in the age of ignorance. On this practice, when a man hated his wife, he took an oath to refrain from sexual intercourse with her, and then he refrained from having an intercourse with her or divorcing her for one year, two years, more than two years, or even for lifetime.
The purpose behind Ila' was to put women under pressure, persecute them, leave them in suspense, and separate from them without allowing them to marry another man. The verse condemns the wrong practice and states rulings to overcome its harmful consequences in favor of women's rights.
The Notion and the Exegesis of the Verse
In shari'a, Ila' is an oath taken by a man to refrain from having sexual intercourse with her wife for four months or more.
According to al-Ila' Verse, after four months, the man must either return to his wife or divorce her. Thus, he cannot leave his wife in suspense forever. If the man refrains from making a decision after four months and the wife litigates against him, the shari'a ruler must force him to either return to his wife or divorce his wife. If he does not comply, then the shari'a ruler can imprison him until he consents to either return to his wife or divorce her. This is one of the exceptional cases in which the shari'a ruler can imprison a person in order to prevent a dispute.
The fact that Ila' is enforceable is not because Islam has conceded to the Jahili practice. Instead, it is because Ila' involves an oath to God, and the oath is enforceable in Islam. The oath involved in Ila' obtains only if one takes an oath in the name of God or His attributes, and it must be out of anger, although there is no difference between an oath taken at the time of anger and an oath at the time of happiness. There is a disagreement among scholars over whether Ila' includes a cases in which a man takes an oath to abandon his wife or not pay her alimony. According to an exegesis of the verse, it is not sinful to breach the oath and return to one's wife, although the man must pay its expiation.
According to Ayatullah Makarim Shirazi, a contemporary exegete of the Qur'an, Islam did not fully terminate the ruling of Ila', although it has prevented its harmful consequences, since it does not allow the man to leave his wife in suspense, and setting a deadline of four months implies that sexual intercourse between a man and his wife is obligatory at least once every four months. Moreover, if the interval between sexual intercourses leads them to sins, then the interval must be shorter than four months.
Conditions of the Fulfilment of Ila'
Certain conditions have been specified for the fulfillment of Ila', including:
- The wife having been sexually penetrated by her husband.
- The oath being taken in the name of God.
- Ila' must either be permanent (for instance, the man takes an oath to refrain from having sexual intercourse with his wife forever) or, if it is temporary, then it must be longer than four months. Otherwise, it would not be an instance of Ila'.
- It must be out of anger with the intention to harm the wife. If it is, say, because of the woman's illness in such a way that is in her favor, then it would not count as an Ila'.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from آیه ایلاء in Farsi WikiShia.