The report on a Malaysian sultan's divorce carries an enduring urban legend with which I had to put up while growing up among many non-Muslim close friends (Sultan's wife declares love for him in video amid divorce reports, July 19).
The article mentions an irrevocable form of divorce in Islam which is done by simply repeating the word "talaq" (divorce) three times. Irrevocable divorce does exist and it is called "talaq ba'in". But it is not so easily acquired.
By Islamic law, whether you utter "talaq" once, thrice or a thousand times, the authority mandated to administer Muslim marriages and divorces must determine whether all relevant conditions and circumstances have been met before a divorce can happen.
If divorce happens for the first time, this first divorce is reconcilable. This means, the former spouses may reconcile through a formal declaration or remarry if a certain period of time has lapsed.
A second divorce too is reconcilable through the same process.
A third divorce will fall under the category of "talaq ba'in" and this is irreconcilable. This means that reconciliation is no longer possible.
Furthermore, the former spouses can remarry each other only after the woman's subsequent marriage to someone else has failed.
In some instances, the authority may allow a couple to effect a "talaq ba'in" on the very first divorce. But this is done after a thorough investigation on the part of the authority.
It is certainly not as simple as a husband's utterance of "talaq, talaq, talaq".
The perpetuation of this misconception is a disservice to the Muslim community's strenuous efforts to educate its members on the solemnity of marriage and the severity of divorce.