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Iddah

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي ; وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي ; وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِنْ لِسَانِي ; يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي

‘Iddah’ (pronounced as ‘Iddat’ by Urdu linguists) literally means to keep a count. In Islamic terminology, it is known as ‘the waiting period’ i.e. the period a woman should wait before she can re-marry.

A. ‘Iddah’ for a woman whose husband dies

وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنْكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجاً يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْراً فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَلا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنفُسِهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ

“And those of you who die and leave wives behind them, they (the wives) shall wait for four months & ten days, then when they have fulfilled their term, there is no sin on you if they dispose of themselves in a just and honourable manner. And Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.”

(Aayah No. 234, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 2, Holy Qur’an).

Therefore, a woman whose husband dies should observe ‘Iddah’ for a period of four months and ten days. This is required to be followed even by those women who become widow even before their marriage could be consummated i.e. a case where the husband dies without having made a sexual relation with his wife.

B. ‘Iddah’ for a divorced woman

A woman who is divorced by her husband is supposed to observe ‘Iddah’ for a period of three menstrual cycles. This ruling is established as per following verse of Qur’an:

وَالْمُطَلَّقَاتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ ثَلاثَةَ قُرُوءٍ

“And divorced women shall wait for three menstrual periods….”

(Aayah No. 228, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 02, Holy Qur’an).

However, if the divorce takes place before the marriage is consummated i.e. if the husband divorces his wife before he has had a sexual relation with his wife, then the woman does not have to observe any ‘Iddah’. In such a divorce, the woman has the right to go and marry immediately to anyone if she wishes to, without observing any ‘Iddah’. This is based on following verse:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا نَكَحْتُمْ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ثُمَّ طَلَّقْتُمُوهُنَّ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ تَمَسُّوهُنَّ فَمَا لَكُمْ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ عِدَّةٍ تَعْتَدُّونَهَا فَمَتِّعُوهُنَّ وَسَرِّحُوهُنَّ سَرَاحاً جَمِيلاً

“O you who believe! When you marry believing women, and then divorce them before you have sexual intercourse with them, no ‘Iddah’ have you to count in respect of them. So give them a present, and set them free in a handsome manner.”

(Aayah No. 49, Surah Al-Ahzab, Chapter No. 33, Holy Qur’an).

However, this does not apply to a woman whose husband dies before consummation of her marriage (as we have already talked about this earlier in Section A of the article).

C. ‘Iddah’ for a woman separated by ‘Al-Khul’

Refer to following two narrations:

Ubadah bin Al-Walid bin Ubadah bin As-Samit narrated from Rubayy bint Mu’awwidh. He said: I said to her, “Tell me your hadith.” She said: I was separated from husband by ‘Khul’; then I came to Uthman (RA) and asked him, “What ‘Iddah’ do I have to observe?” He said, “You do not have to observe any ‘Iddah’ unless you had intercourse with him recently, in which case you should stay with him until you have menstruated.” He said, “In that I am following the ruling of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) concerning Mariam Al-Maghaliyyah, who was married to Thabit bin Qais and was separated by ‘Khul’ from him.”

(Hadith No. 3528, Book of Divorce, Sunan An-Nasa’i, Vol. 4; Hadith No. 2058, Chapters on Divorce, Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 3).

and,

It was reported from Nafi, from Ibn Umar (RA), who said, “The waiting period of the woman who asks for a ‘Khul’ is one menstrual cycle.”

(Hadith No. 2230, Book of Divorce, Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 3).

Based on these narrations, it is inferred that a woman separated from her husband by ‘Al-Khul’ should observe ‘Iddah’ for a period of one menstrual cycle. But if someone wants to make it for three months (menstrual cycles), as is the view of Hanafi scholars, then also there is no harm in that, as that is what Qur’an tells us. In case of a conflict in views, the rule of Qur’an shall prevail and the decision shall be in favour of three menstrual cycles.

D. ‘Iddah’ for a woman who does not have menstruations (i.e. due to medical/health reasons) or is past her age of menstruation (i.e. menopause)

وَاللاَّئِي يَئِسْنَ مِنْ الْمَحِيضِ مِنْ نِسَائِكُمْ إِنْ ارْتَبْتُمْ فَعِدَّتُهُنَّ ثَلاثَةُ أَشْهُرٍ وَاللاَّئِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ وَأُوْلاتُ الأَحْمَالِ أَجَلُهُنَّ أَنْ يَضَعْنَ حَمْلَهُنَّ وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ يُسْراً

“And those of your women as have passed the age of monthly courses, for them the ‘Iddah’, if you have doubt (about their periods) is three months; and for those who have no courses, their ‘Iddah’ is three months likewise, except in case of death. And for those who are pregnant (divorced or widowed), their ‘Iddah’ is until they lay down their burden; and whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make his matter easy for him.”

(Aayah No. 4, Surah At-Talaq, Chapter No. 65, Holy Qur’an).

Based on this, all women who are past their age of menstruation (i.e. into menopause) or women who are not old but do not have menstruations due to any medical/health reasons, their ‘Iddah’ period in case of divorce (or ‘Al-Khul’) shall be three months.

However, in case of ‘Iddah’ because of death of husband, all women should observe it for four months and ten days even if they are of old age and/or has no menstruations.

E. ‘Iddah’ for a pregnant woman

Based on Aayah No. 4, Surah At-Talaq, Chapter No. 65 of Holy Qur’an, mentioned in previous section also, the ‘Iddah’ period of a pregnant woman (whether divorced or widowed) shall be until she delivers her baby. And this is applicable to all cases, whether a woman is observing ‘Iddah’ due to a divorce, or due to ‘Al-Khul’ or due to the death of her husband.

This means that if a pregnant woman becomes a widow (or a divorcee), for example, at 10 o’clock in the morning, and she gives birth to her baby 12 noon (i.e. after 2 hours of start of her ‘Iddah’), her ‘Iddah’ ends after that i.e. after two hours.

This also means that if a woman becomes a widow (or a divorcee), and is pregnant, and shall deliver the baby, let us say, after eight months, her ‘Iddah’ period shall be that much long.

This should be understood very clearly by all of us so as to act accordingly.

F. Where should a woman spend her ‘Iddah’?

F.1. In case of a widow

There are two opinions about this matter:

Opinion 1: Woman should stay in her husband’s house during the period of ‘Iddah’.

This is the view of all four Imams and most of the companions of the Prophet (PBUH). This view is based on following hadith:

Zainab bint Ka’b bin Ujrah narrated that Al-Furay’ah (or Faria’ah) bint Malik bin Sinan – sister of Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri (RA) – informed her that she went to Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) to ask him if she could return to her family in Banu Khudrah. Her husband had gone out searching for his runaway slaves, and when he was in Taraf Al-Qadum, he caught up with them and they killed him. She said: So I asked Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) if I could return to my family since my husband had not left me a home that he owned nor any maintenance. She said: So Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said ‘Yes’. Then I left. When I was in the courtyard, or in Masjid, Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) called me, or summoned for me to come back to him and said, “What did you say?” She said: So I repeated the story that I had mentioned to him about the case of my husband. He said, “Stay in your house until what is written reaches its term.” She said: So I observed my ‘Iddah’ there for four months and ten (days). She said: During the time of Uthman (RA), he sent a message to me asking me about that, so I informed him. He followed it and judged accordingly.

(Hadith No. 1204, Chapters on Divorce & Lian, Jami’ At-Tirmidhi, Vol. 2; Hadith No. 2031, Chapters on Divorce, Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 3).

Based on these, it is inferred that a woman must stay in house of her husband to complete the period of ‘Iddah’.

Opinion 2: Woman can observe her ‘Iddah’ wherever she wants.

This is the view of Syedna Ali (RA), Ibn Abbas (RA), Aishah (RA) and Jabir bin Abdullah (RA). Their view is based on following:

It was narrated from Ibn Abbas (RA) that this verse (i.e. Aayah No. 240, Surah Al Baqarah, Chapter No. 2 of Holy Qur’an) abrogated the woman’s ‘Iddah’ among her family, and she may observe her ‘Iddah’ wherever she wants. That is the saying of Allah, the Mighty and Sublime: ‘without turning them out’.

(Hadith No. 3561, Book of Divorce, Sunan An-Nasa’i, Vol. 4).

The verse of Qur’an referred to by Ibn Abbas (RA) in hadith above is:

وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنْكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجاً وَصِيَّةً لأَزْوَاجِهِمْ مَتَاعاً إِلَى الْحَوْلِ غَيْرَ إِخْرَاجٍ فَإِنْ خَرَجْنَ فَلا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي مَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنفُسِهِنَّ مِنْ مَعْرُوفٍ وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ

“And those of you who die & leave behind wives should bequeath for their wives a year’s maintenance without turning them out, but if they leave, there is no sin on you for that which they do of themselves, provided it is honourable. And Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.”

(Aayah No. 240, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 2, Holy Qur’an).

Some say that this verse is abrogated/superceded by the Verse No. 234 of Surah Al-Baqarah which is as follows:

وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنْكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجاً يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْراً فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَلا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنفُسِهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ

“And those of you who die & leave behind wives behind them, they (the wives) shall wait (as regards their marriage) for four months and ten days, then when they have fulfilled their term, there is no sin on you if they (the wives) dispose of themselves in a just and honourable manner (i.e. they can marry). And Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.”

(Aayah No. 234, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 2, Holy Qur’an).

As per my understanding, above mentioned verse (i.e. Aayah No. 234, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 2, Holy Qur’an) and another verse (i.e. Aayah No. 12, Surah An-Nisa’, Chapter No. 4, Holy Qur’an), which is concerning wife’s inheritance from her husband’s wealth, these two verses of Holy Qur’an supercede/abrogate the verse quoted by Ibn Abbas (RA) in context of the waiting period (i.e. the period of ‘Iddah’) and providing the wives with one year’s maintenance, but not in context of where they shall spend their ‘Iddah’.

Therefore, Ibn Abbas’s (RA) view that a woman can observe her ‘Iddah’ wherever she wants, also holds valid.

And Allah knows best.

F.2. In case of a divorce

Case 1. If it is first or second divorce (i.e. revocable divorce)

In case of first or second divorce, the divorced woman has to observe the ‘Iddah’ period in the house of her husband, along with her husband. This is based on following verse of Qur’an:

سْكِنُوهُنَّ مِنْ حَيْثُ سَكَنتُمْ مِنْ وُجْدِكُمْ وَلا تُضَارُّوهُنَّ لِتُضَيِّقُوا عَلَيْهِنَّ

“Lodge them (the divorced women) where you dwell, according to what you have, and do not harm them so as to suppress them (that they be obliged to leave your house)…”

(Aayah No. 6, Surah At-Talaq, Chapter No. 65, Holy Qur’an).

We also refer to Aayah No. 228 of Surah Al-Baqarah (Chapter No. 2, Holy Qur’an) where Allah says that their husbands have the better right to take them back in that period if they wish reconciliation, and Aayah No. 229 of Surah Al-Baqarah (Chapter No. 2, Holy Qur’an) where Allah says that the divorce is twice, after that either you retain her on reasonable terms or release her with kindness.

There is also a narration to support this ruling which has been reported by Imam Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir as follows:

Ibn Jarir related that Alqamah said: We were with Umar bin Al-Khattab (RA) when a woman came and said, “My husband divorced me one or two periods ago. He then came back to me while I had prepared my water (for taking bath), took off my clothes and closed my door.” Umar (RA) asked Abdullah bin Masoud (RA), “What do you think?” He said, “I think that she is still his wife, as long as she is not allowed to resume praying (i.e. until the third period ends before he takes her back).” Umar (RA) said, “This is my opinion too.”

(Ref. Tafsir by Imam Ibn Kathir).

This should be understood from the fact that Allah gives a chance/option to the husband & wife during the waiting period of first and/or second divorce to rethink about the decision and reconcile. Based on all this, a divorced woman (in revocable divorce) should spend her Iddah at the place of her husband, and she should not be forced to leave that place during her Iddah. Also, during this period, the husband is responsible for the spending of his wife.

Case 2. If it is third divorce (i.e. irrevocable divorce)

A woman observing ‘Iddah’ for her third divorce (i.e. irrevocable divorce) is should spend her ‘Iddah’ period at a place other than her husband’s house. This ruling is based on following:

فَإِنْ طَلَّقَهَا فَلا تَحِلُّ لَهُ مِنْ بَعْدُ حَتَّى تَنكِحَ زَوْجاً غَيْرَهُ

“And if he has divorced her (the third time), then she is not lawful unto him thereafter until she has married another husband….”

(Aayah No. 230, Surah Al-Baqarah, Chapter No. 2, Holy Qur’an).

In context of this, there is a famous hadith which narrates us the ruling of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) of a similar case for Fatima bint Qais (RA):

Abu Salamah narrated that Fatimah bint Qais, sister of Ad-Dahak bin Qais, told him that Abu Hafs bin Al-Mughirah Al-Makhzumi divorced her three times, then he went to Yemen. His people said to her, “You are not entitled to maintenance from us.” Khalid bin Al-Walid (RA) came with a group of people to Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) in the house of Maimunah (RA) and said, “Abu Hafs has divorced his wife three times; is she entitled to maintenance?” Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “She is not entitled to maintenance, but she has to observe ‘Iddah’.” And he sent word to her, saying, “Do not be hasty in making a decision concerning yourself.” He told her to move to (the house of) Umm Sharik, then he sent word, saying, “Umm Sharik is visited by the first Muhajirin. Go to Ibn Umm Maktum, the blind man, for if you take off your ‘Khimar’ (i.e. the head cover), he will not see you.” So she went and stayed there, and when her ‘Iddah’ was over, Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) married her to Usamah bin Zaid bin Haarithah (RA).

(Hadith No. 3700 (1480), Book of Divorce, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 4).

G. A woman observing ‘Iddah’ should not adorn herself during the period of ‘Iddah’.

It is not allowed for a woman to do adornments etc. during her period of ‘Iddah’. This is authenticated by following hadith:

Narrated Umm Atiyya: “We were forbidden to mourn for more than three days for a dead person except for a husband, for whom a wife should mourn for four months and ten days. (While in mourning period) we were not allowed to put kohl in our eyes, nor perfume ourselves, nor wear dyed clothes, except a garment of ‘Asb’. But it was permissible for us that when one of us became clean from her menses and took a bath, she could use a piece of certain kind of incense. And it was forbidden for us to follow funeral processions.”

(Hadith No. 5341, Book of Divorce, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 7).

H. Can a woman observing ‘Iddah’ go out of her house for some work?

Refer to following hadith:

Jabir bin Abdullah (RA) said: My maternal aunt was divorced and she wanted to harvest her date palms. A man rebuked her for going out, so she went to the Prophet (PBUH), and he said, “No, go out and harvest your date palms, for perhaps you will give charity or do an act of kindness.”

(Hadith No. 3721 (1483), Book of Divorce, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 4).

Therefore, a woman observing ‘Iddah’ is allowed to go out for works where she is required to go out. These works could be related to her family, her children and even her personal works. For example: she could be the solo bread-earner for her children, and as such shall require going for work. Such cases are permitted.

However, unnecessary going out, like going to meet relatives just as routine, attending marriages & other functions among relatives and other similar outings etc. are not permitted for a woman in ‘Iddah’.

I. ‘Iddah’ rulings for slave women

I.1. For a divorced slave woman

In his ‘Muwatta’, Imam Malik quoted verdicts of Uthman (RA), Zaid bin Thabit (RA) and Abdullah bin Umar (RA), that a male slave has right to divorce two times only, and waiting period of a female slave will be two menstrual cycles only. Therefore, divorce relies on husband’s status of him being free or slave, while waiting period depends on woman’s status of her being free or a slave.

I.2. For an ‘Umm-al-Walad’ when her master dies

After death of her master, the female slave becomes free. If she is ‘Umm-al-Walad’, she should observe ‘Iddah’ period similar to that of a free woman i.e. four months and ten days. A female slave who gives birth to a child by her master is called ‘Umm-al-Walad’.

Concluding Remarks

There might be many reasons with Allah for ordaining the requirement of ‘Iddah’, for His wisdom is infinite. However, our careful study can help us understand some reasons, Be-izn-Allah, which can explain why ‘Iddah’ is ordained for us.

Firstly, it is required to establish the state of the womb i.e. to ascertain whether the woman has conceived prior to that or not. That’s why the period of ‘Iddah’ in almost all cases is calculated on the basis of menstrual cycles.

The second reason could be understood in terms of the mourning period for a woman. Refer to the hadith of Umm Atiyya reported in Sahih Bukhari and mentioned above in Section G of this article; it clearly states that a woman is allowed to mourn for her deceased husband for a period of four months and ten days. We should understand that the relation of husband-wife is one of the closest relations on this earth. Allah develops a strong bond of love and affection in this relationship. The death of husband (or parting with husband through divorce) is a sort of setback and a shocking event for the woman; the pain of such a shock is immense. Therefore, the ‘Iddah’ serves as a period of consolation; the woman gets some time to get back to normal from the pain of getting away from her husband; she gets time to make up her mind to take decisions for future course of action related to her life. This reason can be understood by the obligation of ‘Iddah’ ordained upon the women who are of old age and past their age of menstruation.

Along with the reasons explained above, the biggest reason for us to respect the requirement of ‘Iddah’ should be that it is an instruction from Allah; and for a Muslim, this reason alone should be enough to accept and observe this requirement.

All Muslim women should observe ‘Iddah’ piously. Its observance should not be influenced by modern thought-process which tends to misguide us on the basis of woman’s age or her status in the family or status of her children in society etc. Rather, this should be observed with utmost sincerity, devotion and as a mark of respect to the word of our Creator.

And Allah knows best.

May Allah forgive me if I am wrong and guide us to the right path…Ameen.

.سُبْحَانَ رَبِّكَ رَبِّ الْعِزَّةِ عَمَّا يَصِفُون َ ; وَسَلامٌ عَلَى الْمُرْسَلِينَ ; وَالْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

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233 comments

  1. Wa alaikum Salam Warahmatallah,

    When it comes to your Iddah period, you can talk to your Employer to give you your annual leave. Try to get as many leaves from your Employer you can without having any negative effects on your job. But in case you are not able to get a leave, and as your current job is the only source of your livelihood, then you may keep attending your work during your Iddah period in such unavoidable circumstances. This is authenticated form following narration:

    Jabir bin Abdullah (RA) said: My maternal aunt was divorced and she wanted to harvest her date palms. A man rebuked her for going out, so she went to the Prophet (PBUH), and he said, “No, go out and harvest your date palms, for perhaps you will give charity or do an act of kindness.” – (Hadith No. 3721 (1483), Book of Divorce, Sahih Muslim, Vol. 4).

    But still, adhere to other requirements of Iddah i.e. do not adorn yourself so that other males get attracted towards you, do not get too much intermingled with people of opposite gender, do not attend unnecessary gatherings (apart from your routine job) like parties, friends meets etc., do not wear attractive clothes, observe Hijab properly etc.

    If you respect these rulings, Insha’Allah there shouldn’t be a problem. But if you use this as an excuse to live a extrovert life-style as modern ladies are into, then it will be sinful.

    And Allah knows best.

  2. What has to be done after the end of iddah period…does the women need to vist her maternal home exactly at the end of iddat? is it necessary to do so? plz answer asap.

  3. Salam alaikum,

    First of all you should tell me what type of Iddah it is; is it Iddah for a widow or for the divorced woman. It also depends where the woman has spent her Iddah. But still, there is no such rule that after completion of Iddah the woman should go to her maternal place or any such other specified place.

    And Allah knows best.

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