Meaning of Iddat: literally, the meaning of “Iddat” is to count, whereas “Iddat” in the Islamic Shari’ah, is a fixed period within which the wife, due to the death of her husband, or divorce/repudiation (redemption) that results in the separation of both the spouses, is bound to observe some legitimate provisions. Owing to difference in natural conditions of a woman, waiting period is varied, whose detailed discussion is mentioned below.
Legal Status of Iddat (Waiting period): In the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah, the Muslim Ummah is agreed that because of death of husband, or divorce or repudiation (redemption) and consequently being husband and wife separated, Iddat (waiting period) is obligatory (enjoinment) on the wife.
The waiting period is obligatory for two reasons:
1) Death of husband:
In case, the wife is not pregnant and her husband dies, then her Iddat (waiting period) will be 4 months and 10 days, whether she is menstruating or not, whether she has genuine sexual intercourse or not, as Allah the Almighty says in the holy Qur’an: وَالَّذيْنَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنْكُمْ وَ يَذَرُوْنَ أَزْواَجاً يَّتَرَبَّصْنَ بِاَنْفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَّ عَشْراً And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind – they, (the wives, shall) wait four months and ten (days). (Baqarah 234).
If the wife is pregnant at the time of her husband’s death, then the waiting period will end upon the delivery of the baby, whether its period would be less than four months and ten days or more than that. As Allah the Exalted said in the holy Qur’an: وَأُوْلاَتُ الأَحْمَالِ أَجَلُهُنَّ أَنْ يَّضَعْنَ حَمْلَهُنَّ (al-Talaq: 4), and for those who are pregnant, their term is until they give birth. It is evident from this verse that the waiting period of every pregnant woman is the same, whether she is divorced or widow, as there is obvious clarification in (Divorce Chapter) of Ahadeeth books.
2) Divorce or (Repudiation) Redemption:
In some unavoidable circumstances, sometimes ending of marriage contract is not only better for the spouses, but also it will be the biggest relief for both the families. That is why, Islamic Shari’ah has enacted the law of divorce and annulment (repudiation) of marriage pact, in which only men have been given the power of divorce, usually because, the power of thought, endurance and patience of the man is far better than the woman. As it is mentioned in the holy Qur’an: (وَ للرّجاَلِ عَلِيْهِنَّ دَرَجَة) and the men are a degree above them (in responsibility and authority). (Baqarah 228) (الرَّجَالُ قَوّامُوْنَ عَلَى النِّسآءِ) Men are in charge of women by (right of) what Allah has given one over the other (Nisaa 34). But the woman has not been deprived of the right altogether, but she has also been authorized, she can raise her case in a court according to the law and she can get repudiation (redemption).
If, at the time of divorce or repudiation, the wife is not pregnant, then her Iddat (waiting period) will be (3 periods of menses). As, Allah the Almighty has said in the holy Qur,an: وَالْمُطَلَّقَاتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنْفُسِهِنَّ ثَلاَثَةَ قًرُؤءٍDivorced women would remain in waiting for three periods (Baqarah 228).
(Note): Iddat will end after completion of the third period. In accordance with the conditions of women, the Iddat can be more than 3 months or less than that.
If, the wife is pregnant at the time of divorce and repudiation, then, her waiting period is until the delivery of the baby, whether she gives birth in less than three months’ period. As, Allah the Almighty has said in the holy Qur’an: وَأُوْلاَتُ الأَحْمَالِ أَجَلُهُنَّ أَنْ يَّضَعْنَ حَمْلَهُنَّ and for those who are pregnant, their term is until they give birth. (Al-Talaq 4).
(Note): If it is known after the death of husband or divorce, that she is pregnant, then, her waiting period will be the delivery of the baby, even though the period is of 9 months.
The women whose menstruation is stopped due to reaching an old age or menstruation did not yet started, and then in the event of divorce, her iddat will be three months. As, Allah the Exalted has said in the Holy Qur’an: وَالّلآتٍيْ يَئِسْنَ مِنَ الْمَحٍيْضِ مِنْ نِسَآئَكُمْ إِنِ ارْتَبْتُمْ فَعَدَّتُهُنَّ ثَلاَثَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَ الّلآتٍي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ “And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women – if you doubt, then their period is three months, and (also for) those who have not menstruated.” (Al-Talaq 4).
After marriage, but before having sexual intercourse with the wife, if she was divorced, then there is no Iddat for that woman. As, Allah the Exalted has said in the Holy Qur’an: يَا أَيُّهَا الّذِيْنَ آمَنُوْا إَذاَ نكتحتم المؤمنات ثم طللقتموهن من قبل أن تمسوهن فما لكم عليهن من عدة تعتدونها (Al-Ahzab 49) O You who have believed, when you marry believing women and then divorce them before you have touched them, then there is not for you any waiting period to count concerning them.
(Note): In event of the death of the husband after getting marriage, but before having real sexual intercourse, then there is no Iddat for such woman also. Viewing commonness of Surat Baqarah verse 234 and in the light of other authentic Ahadeeth, there is a consensus of Muslim Ummah on this matter.
(Note): Having been entered into a marriage pact, if the husband divorced, before having sexual intercourse, then he has to pay half dower. (And if you divorce them before you have touched them and you have already specified for them an obligation, then (give) half of what you specified). (Baqarah 237)
Benefits of Iddat (Waiting Period): There are many earthy and heavenly benefits of Iddat, some of them are as under:
1) Iddat (waiting period) is the pursuit of pleasure and contentment of Allah the Exalted. As, because the obedience of Allah’s commands is worship and worship is a means for nearing to Allah.
2) The most important purpose for enjoinment of Iddat is to ascertain the fact that there is no effect of the former husband in the uterus, so that no doubt should be there in the child’s ancestry.
3) Since marriage is a great blessing of Allah, this is why, upon its breakage, Iddat (waiting period) becomes due.
4) For knowledge and cognition of lofty goal of marriage, Iddat has been obligated, so that it is not considered a child’s play by a man.
5) Due to the death of husband, a gap and vacuum which is created in the home and family, Iddat is made obligatory for wife to keep his remembrance for some more time.
Iddat of a woman (either divorced or widow) in all cases, will be whether delivery of baby or miscarriage (or whatsoever reason may be for that.)
Iddat will start right after the death of husband or divorce, whether the news of death or divorce reaches the wife in late.
The divorced or widow should not get out of the house during waiting period without legitimate reasons.
If she faces difficulty in spending waiting period in husband’s house, then she can also spend waiting period in her own family or another house. (Talaq 1)
It is prohibited for woman to get marry to another person during Iddat, however, engagement can be done. (Baqarah 234/235)
The woman whose husband has expired, then during waiting period, she is not allowed to use perfume, to beautify, apply eye kohl and needlessly use perfumed oil, henna and wear the most glamorous clothes.
If the husband passed away on the first lunar day, then months have to be completed according to the lunar system, whether months is of 29 or 30 days, Iddat will end on the 11th day of the lunar system.
If the husband dies on a day other than the first day, then Iddat will be of 30 days. There is another opinion of scholars that after four months from the date he died, 10 more days would have to be increased, for instance, he died on 15 Muharram, then her iddat will end on 26 Jamadiul Awwal.
If the wife, in the event of death of her husband or divorce, does not observe Iddat or she began observing Iddat but did not complete, and then she will be considered a lawbreaker which is a great sin. So she has to repent and seek pardon from Allah and she must accomplish her Iddat.
During Iddat of a divorced, the husband is fully responsible for her provision of alimony.
Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi (www.najeebqasmi.com)