Three Divorces at Once

My husband said to me “you are divorced, you are divorced, you are divorced!” Is this considered as one divorce or three?

A pronouncement of three divorces is prohibited and extremely sinful however the divorce does take place and is final. As mentioned in the following narrations from Abdullah bin Umar and Abdullah bin Abbas:

وحَدَّثَنِي زُهَيْرُ بْنُ حَرْبٍ، حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ، عَنْ أَيُّوبَ، عَنْ نَافِعٍ، أَنَّ ابْنَ عُمَرَ، طَلَّقَ امْرَأَتَهُ وَهِيَ حَائِضٌ، فَسَأَلَ عُمَرُ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، فَأَمَرَهُ أَنْ يَرْجِعَهَا، ثُمَّ يُمْهِلَهَا حَتَّى تَحِيضَ حَيْضَةً أُخْرَى، ثُمَّ يُمْهِلَهَا حَتَّى تَطْهُرَ، ثُمَّ يُطَلِّقَهَا قَبْلَ أَنْ يَمَسَّهَا، فَتِلْكَ الْعِدَّةُ الَّتِي أَمَرَ اللهُ أَنْ يُطَلَّقَ لَهَا النِّسَاءُ
قَالَ: فَكَانَ ابْنُ عُمَرَ إِذَا سُئِلَ عَنِ الرَّجُلِ يُطَلِّقُ امْرَأَتَهُ وَهِيَ حَائِضٌ، يَقُولُ: أَمَّا أَنْتَ طَلَّقْتَهَا وَاحِدَةً أَوِ اثْنَتَيْنِ، إِنَّ رَسُولَ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَمَرَهُ أَنْ يَرْجِعَهَا، ثُمَّ يُمْهِلَهَا حَتَّى تَحِيضَ حَيْضَةً أُخْرَى، ثُمَّ يُمْهِلَهَا حَتَّى تَطْهُرَ، ثُمَّ يُطَلِّقَهَا قَبْلَ أَنْ يَمَسَّهَا، وَأَمَّا أَنْتَ طَلَّقْتَهَا ثَلَاثًا، فَقَدْ عَصَيْتَ رَبَّكَ فِيمَا أَمَرَكَ بِهِ مِنْ طَلَاقِ امْرَأَتِكَ، وَبَانَتْ مِنْكَ

Ibn Umar reported that he divorced his wife during the period of menses. Umar asked the Messenger of Allah, and he commanded him (Abdullah bin Umar) to take her back and then allow her respite until she enters the period of the second menses, and then allow her respite until she is purified, then divorce her before touching her (having sexual intercourse with her), for that is the prescribed period which Allah commanded (to be kept in view) for divorcing women.
When Ibn Umar was asked about the person who divorces his wife in the state of menses, he said If you pronounced one or two divorces then Allah’s Messenger has commanded taking her back and then allowing her respite until she enters the period of the second menses, and then allowing her respite until she is purified, and then divorce her before touching her (having sexual intercourse with her). Although if you have pronounced three divorces, then you have disobeyed your Lord with regard to what He commanded you about divorcing your wife and she is irrevocably divorced. Sahih Muslim (1471)

حَدَّثَنَا حُمَيْدُ بْنُ مَسْعَدَةَ، حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ، أَخْبَرَنَا أَيُّوبُ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ كَثِيرٍ، عَنْ مُجَاهِدٍ قَالَ: كُنْتُ عِنْدَ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ فَجَاءَهُ رَجُلٌ، فَقَالَ: إِنَّهُ طَلَّقَ امْرَأَتَهُ ثَلَاثًا، قَالَ: فَسَكَتَ حَتَّى ظَنَنْتُ أَنَّهُ رَادُّهَا إِلَيْهِ، ثُمَّ قَالَ: ” يَنْطَلِقُ أَحَدُكُمْ، فَيَرْكَبُ الْحُمُوقَةَ ثُمَّ يَقُولُ يَا ابْنَ عَبَّاسٍ، يَا ابْنَ عَبَّاسٍ، وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ قَالَ: {وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مَخْرَجًا} [الطلاق: 2] ، وَإِنَّكَ لَمْ تَتَّقِ اللَّهَ فَلَمْ أَجِدْ لَكَ مَخْرَجًا، عَصَيْتَ رَبَّكَ، وَبَانَتْ مِنْكَ امْرَأَتُكَ، وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ قَالَ: {يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِذَا طَلَّقْتُمُ النِّسَاءَ فَطَلِّقُوهُنَّ} [الطلاق: 1] فِي قُبُلِ عِدَّتِهِنَّ

Mujahid said I was with Ibn Abbas when a man came to him and said that he divorced his wife by three pronouncements. He kept silent and I thought that he was going to restore her to him. He then said “A man goes and commits a foolish act and then says ‘Oh Ibn Abbas! Oh Ibn Abbas!’ And indeed Allah said ‘And for those who fear Allah, He provides a way out (for them).’ Since you did not fear Allah, I did not find a way out for you. You disobeyed your Lord and your wife is permanently separated from you. Indeed Allah said ‘Oh Prophet! When you divorce women divorce them in the beginning of their waiting period.’”Abu Dawud (2197) – Sahih

Many people in our communities believe that if a divorce is not pronounced three times all together then it is invalid, this is a grave error and leads to many problems. Firstly as mentioned above such a person will be extremely sinful. Secondly, this constitutes a final divorce (Baynunah Kubrah) and it is not possible for these two people to re-marry, even if they were to perform a new marriage (nikah) it will be invalid and they will be living together in sin if they remain together.

Allah said in the Holy Quran:

الطَّلَاقُ مَرَّتَانِ فَإِمْسَاكٌ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ تَسْرِيحٌ بِإِحْسَانٍ وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَنْ تَأْخُذُوا مِمَّا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ شَيْئًا إِلَّا أَنْ يَخَافَا أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا فِيمَا افْتَدَتْ بِهِ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا وَمَنْ يَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

Divorce (may be revoked) twice, whereupon the marriage must either be resumed in fairness or dissolved in a goodly manner.” – (Al Baqarah – 2:229)

The above verse limits the option of resuming a marriage to two divorces, and as mentioned explicitly in numerous narrations, once the number of divorces reaches three then there is no option to reconcile or continue the marriage.

The Hanafi scholars said that three divorces at one time is an innovation and thus prohibited:

وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ الْبِدْعِيَّ عَلَى نَوْعَيْنِ بِدْعِيٌّ لِمَعْنًى يَعُودُ إلَى الْعَدَدِ وَبِدْعِيٌّ يَعُودُ إلَى الْوَقْتِ وَقَدْ بَدَأَ بِالْأَوَّلِ فَقَالَ (وَبِدْعِيُّهُ) أَيْ بِدْعِيُّ الطَّلَاقِ عَدَدًا (تَطْلِيقُهَا ثَلَاثًا، أَوْ ثِنْتَيْنِ بِكَلِمَةٍ وَاحِدَةٍ) مِثْلُ أَنْ يَقُولَ أَنْتِ طَالِقٌ ثَلَاثًا، أَوْ ثِنْتَيْنِ وَهُوَ حَرَامٌ حُرْمَةً غَلِيظَةً وَكَانَ عَاصِيًا لَكِنْ إذَا فَعَلَ بَانَتْ مِنْهُ

“Know that the innovated divorce is of two kinds, one relates to the number of divorces and the other relates to the time of occurrence. As for the first, it is to divorce thrice or twice in a single statement, like saying, ‘you are divorced thrice’ or ‘twice’, this is severely prohibited. He is sinful in doing so but the divorce is effected and final.” – (Majma al-Anhur, Chapter of Divorce)

As for the divorce occurring Ibn Mawdud al-Mawsili states:

“Because of his (the Prophet’s) statement ﷺ ‘every divorce counts’ and as for the him being sinful, it is for contradicting the sunnah and the consensus of the companions.”– (Al-Ikhtiyar, Chapter of Divorce)