The People of the House
The Arabic word /'umatti'kunna/ is derived from /mut'ah/ and, as it has been said in the commentary of Sura Al-Baqarah, No. 2, verse 236, its purpose is a present which is fit with the rank of a woman.
Here the purpose is that he ought to add to the dowry an appropriate sum, or if there has not been appointed a particular dowry he may give them a worthy present so that they become content and happy and that their separation would occur in a friendly environment.
The Arabic word /sarāh)/ is originally derived from /sarh)/ in the sense of a plant which has leaves and fruit; and the Arabic phrase: /sarah)tul-'abil/ means 'I left the camels to enjoy the plants and the leaves of the trees'. Then, it has been used in a vaster scope of meaning, with the sense of any kind of leaving anything and anyone; and sometimes it is also used ironically in the sense of 'to divorce'.
However, the objective meaning of the Qur'ānic phrase: /sarāh)an jamīlā/ (in a handsome manner) mentioned in the verse under discussion is: 'To set women free pleasantly and without any quarrel and wrath.
Here, there are some detailed discussions among the Islamic commentators and jurists whether the purpose of this statement mentioned in the above verse is that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) let his wives free between remaining or they separate, and if they chose separation, it would itself be counted as divorce and it did not need the formula of repudiation to be recited. Or the purpose has been this that they would choose one of those two ways. If they chose separation, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) would recite the formula of repudiation, otherwise they would remain in their own state.
Yes, the combination of the meaning of the above verse and other verses of divorce requires that separation must be done by means of divorce.
However, this problem is discussed among the jurists of both Shī'ah and the Sunnites, though the second attitude, i.e. separation by the way of divorce is nearer to the apparent of the holy verse. Moreover, the application of the Qur'ānic phrase /'usarrih)kunna/ (I set you free) denotes that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) took action in separating them, specially that the word /tasrīh)/ in another occurrence of the Holy Qur'ān has been used in the sense of 'divorce'. (Sura Al-Baqarah, No. 2, verse 229)
For more information in this regard, you may refer to the legal books, particularly to the book Jawāhir, Vol. 29, P. 122.
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