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But those who divorce their wives by Zihar, then wish to go back on the words they uttered,- (It is ordained that such a one) should free a slave before they touch each other: Thus are ye admonished to perform: and Allah is well-acquainted with (all) that ye do.

If Zihar were to be ignored as if the words were
never uttered, it would mean that men may foolishly
resort to it without penalty. It is therefore recognised in
respect of the penalty which the man incurs, but
safeguards the woman’s rights. She can sue for
maintenance for herself. If it was a hasty act and he
repented of it, he could not claim his conjugal rights until
after the performance of his penalty as provided below.
If she loved him, as Khawlah’s case, she could also
herself sue for conjugal rights in the legal sense of the
term and compel her husband to perform the penalty
and resume marital relations.

References:

Yusuf Ali, Abdullah. Translation and Commentary of the Quran. (surah 58 verse 3 Quran Arabic with English Translation & Commentary (Tafsir) by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Free Download (quran4u.com)

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