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Story 121: Cucumber Seller

In the second century of Hijrah, divorcing woman thrice in one sitting was a question deliberated by the religious authorities. Many of the scholars and Islamic jurisprudents of those days believed that divorcing three times in a sitting without any return from both sides was valid. But the Shi'i scholars and jurisprudents, the disciples of the eminent Imams ('a), considered such a divorce null and void.

They said: "Divorcing a woman thrice is valid in case it happens in three sittings, that is to say, a man divorces his wife and then revokes it; he divorces her again, and he revokes it again. Then for the third time when he divorces his wife, under this condition the right of revocation in waiting term (Oddah) is deprived of him.

Even after the expiration of the waiting term he has no right to remarry to her unless the formalities of "Muhalil " - the thrice divorced woman marry to another man - are carried out; that is they cohabit and then either they divorce, or death separates them from each other.

Once in Kufah, a man divorced his wife thrice in one sitting, and then he became remorseful of his action because he loved her. It was only an insignificant misunderstanding causing them to decide to separate from each other. The woman loved her husband too, they both started to look for an expedient. They consulted the Shi'i scholars about this question.

Unanimously, the answer given by the scholars was that divorcing three times in one sitting was null and void. Presently they both are legally married and according to the Islamic Law this marriage is valid. But on the other hand, the common people following their schools and jurisprudents considered this divorce valid, and bewared them of having mutual relationship.

A strange problem had been developed, it was a question of licit or illicit of their own matrimonial relations. They were desirous to continue their mutual life as before, yet they were anxious that if the divorce might be valid, their relations would be illicit and their future children would be illegitimate.

The man decided to act according to the Shi'i scholars' legal opinion. Considering the divorce null and void, however, his wife proposed him to inquire personally from Imam al-Sadiq ('a) about this question so that she could calm down.

At that time Imam al-Sadiq ('a) lived in the ancient city of Hirah close to Kufah. It was sometime that Safah, the Abbasside Caliph, had summoned him ('a) and apprehended him from leaving the city. No one was allowed to meet him ('a) nor able to speak with him ('a).

He made several plans and tried in several ways to gain access to see the Imam ('a), but he failed. One day, standing close to the Imam's ('a) custody and deeply reflecting on the matter how to enter the Imam's ('a) place, all of a sudden, he saw a villager from the neighbourhood of Kufah selling cucumber with a tray full of them on head shouting "cucumber! cucumber!"

At the sight of that villager, a thought struck like a flash through his mind. He approached him and asked: "What is the price for all of these cucumbers?"

"Only one dirham!"

"Take it, here is one dirham!"

Then he demanded the villager to lend him his garment for a while and promised him to return it soon. The villager agreed with it; he put it on and took a glance from his head to the feet; he had resembled like a real villager. Putting the tray of cucumbers on his head, he began shouting: "cucumber! cucumber!"

While shouting as if he was selling the cucumbers, he made his way towards the place where Imam al-Sadiq ('a) was living. When he reached before the Imam's ('a) residence, a servant came out and called him: "O cucumber seller! Come here!"

Without realization of the guards, he easily approached the Imam ('a).

The Imam ('a) said: "Well done! You made a good plan! Tell me now what you want to ask?"

He said: "O descendant of the Messenger of Allah! I have divorced my wife thrice in one sitting. Although I have asked the Shi'i scholars about it, and they have unanimously considered it null and void, my wife is not satisfied yet. She says: "Unless you go and ask the Imam ('a) and get an answer from him ('a), I will not accept it." This is the reason I have approached you by this trick so that I get my answer from you personally."

The Imam ('a): "Go and be sure that the divorce is null and void, and you both are legitimate husband and wife with each other.1

  • 1. Bihar al-Anwar, v. 11, p. 154.