Modern and Youth Issues

What is the Sikh attitude to divorce?

Sikhi favours family life and monogamy.
ਏਕਾ ਨਾਰੀ ਜਤੀ ਹੋਇ ਪਰ ਨਾਰੀ ਧੀ ਭੈਣ ਵਖਾਣੈ ॥
“Be faithful to your ‘one wife’, see others as your daughters and sisters, (for women you must be faithful to one husband and see others as your sons and brothers)”
(Bhai Gurdaas Ji, Vaar 6: Pauri 8.)

Marriage is highly regarded and both man and woman must respect one another as they join together to share their spiritual path and goal in life. The ideal family is one where there is mutual love and respect between the husband and the wife and their children and grand children if any. The Anand Marriage Act, 1909, gave a wife status equal to that of her husband. The marriage establishes a permanent relationship between the partners and there is no provision for a divorce under this Act, for the Sikh marriage (Anand Karaj) is a sacrament and not a civil contract.

There is no concept or Maryada (code) of divorce in the Sikh religion. Civil divorce is considered a very grave matter. When the marriage takes place the husband and wife agree in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji to stay with each other and love and honour each other for life. This should be honoured by both parties to their best of their abilities. If marital discord takes place, the community intervenes. Panj Pyaaray can be asked to help resolve the situation.

The Sikh Rehit Maryada states:

ਟ) ਆਮ ਹਾਲਤਾਂ ਵਿਚ ਸਿੱਖ ਨੂੰ ਇਕ ਇਸਤਰੀ ਦੇ ਹੁੰਦਿਆਂ ਦੂਜਾ ਵਿਆਹ ਨਹੀਂ ਕਰਨਾ ਚਾਹੀਏ ॥
p. In normal circumstances, no Sikh should marry a second wife if the first wife is alive.
(SRM: Chapter 11, Article 18)

In some very extreme, abnormal or rare circumstances marital breakdown, the Sangat or Panj Pyaare can give permission to someone to re-marry, however, even then there is no religious ceremony for divorce. The couple can, however, obtain a divorce under the Civil law of the land. In the olden times if the marriage broke down in an extreme circumstance, the woman would leave her husband and go and stay with her parents. Nowadays, the partners may live separately, or apply for a civil divorce. However, the Panj Piaare, elder Gursikhs or Sangat should be consulted. Marriage is not however considered something that can be formed and broken at will. It is a commitment made in front of God and to be relieved of that commitment to the other person some very extenuating circumstances must be present.

If one gets to get remarried, they can get remarried with the Anand Kaaraj ceremony:

ਙ) ਪੁਨਰ ਵਿਆਹ ਦੀ ਵੀ ਇਹੋ ਰੀਤ ਹੈ, ਜੋ ‘ਆਨੰਦ’ ਲਈ ਉਤੇ ਦੱਸੀ ਹੈ |

o. Remarriage may be solemnized in the same manner as the Anand marriage.
(SRM: Chapter 11, Article 18)