¡ O Prophet! When you divorce your wives, divorce them for the waiting period and count well the waiting period, and reverence your Lord. Expel them not from their houses; nor
shall they depart, unless they commit a flagrant indecency. These are the limits set by God, and whosoever transgresses the limits set by God has surely wronged himself. Thou knowest not: perhaps God will bring something new to pass thereafter.
1 Although this verse is addressed to the Prophet in the second-person singular, it is meant for the entire community (JJ). Such double signification of the second-person singular is found in several verses, such as 4:79. It is reported that the Prophet divorced his wife Ḥafṣah, and so God revealed this verse. It was said to him, “Take her back, for she is one who fasts often and stands often in night vigil, and she is one of your wives in the Garden” (Q, Ṭ, W). The waiting period refers to the three courses of menstruation discussed in 2:228. If, however, the marriage were not consummated, no waiting period would be enforced, as stipulated in 33:49: O you who believe! If you marry believing women and then divorce them before you have touched them, there shall be no waiting period for you to reckon against them. But provide for them and release them in a fair manner. In the present verse, for the waiting period can also be read to mean “during the waiting period,” in which case it is understood to indicate that a man cannot divorce his wife while she is menstruating, but must wait until her menstruation is finished, as when the Prophet told ʿUmar regarding his son ʿAbd Allāh, who had declared divorce from his wife while she was menstruating, “Tell him to take her back and keep her until she is clean and then to wait till she gets her next period and becomes clean again, whereupon, if he wishes to keep her, he can do so. And if he wishes to divorce her, he can divorce her before having sexual intercourse with her; that is the prescribed waiting period that God has fixed for the women one intends to divorce”
(Q). Expel them not indicates the rights that the wife continues to have over the husband, and nor shall they depart indicates the rights that the husband continues to have over the wife (Q; see 33:33), though they are no longer to engage in conjugal relations. Unless they commit a flagrant indecency indicates that a woman cannot be expelled from her house based upon a suspicion or an accusation of adultery; rather, any charges of infidelity must be properly substantiated (R) through the testimony of four trustworthy witnesses; see 4:15c. Perhaps God will bring something new to pass thereafter means that God may reconcile their hearts during the waiting period that was being observed after the first or second declaration of divorce and before the third (JJ,
Q), since after the third declaration divorce is final and marital relations cannot be resumed; see 2:230c.