The word “IDDAH”, is derived from the Arabic word “AL-ADAD”,
meaning the number. In the terminology of the Shariah, it means “a period of waiting” after the death of a woman’s husband or her separation or divorce from him.
The same word Iddah is used to describe both waiting periods resulting from either death, separation / divorce as the case may be. The Muslim Jurists have unanimously agreed on its importance since the injunction of the Quran is quite explicit on this subject.
THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF IDDAH (WAITING PERIOD)AND THEIR RESPECTIVE DURATIONS
1. Iddah of a woman who still menstruates (iddah resulting from separation or divorce): three monthly periods
2. Iddah of women who have passed the age of menstruation (as in old women): three months
3. Iddah of a woman whose husband died: four months and ten days or 130 days ( the extra period of 40 days seems to have been added to provide ample time for the widow to mourn her husband)
4. Iddah of a pregnant woman ( as result the death of the husband or divorce): until she delivers the unborn child.
5. Iddah of a woman whose marriage is not yet consummated i.e. a woman whose husband divorces her before having any sexual relations with her: there is no waiting period
Some Scholars like Ibn Abass have said that since Allah has made it obligatory for the woman whose husband dies to wait for four months and ten days, and has the specified period of waiting for the pregnant woman to last until she has delivered, it follows that if the husband dies leaving a pregnant wife, she is bound by the two periods CONCURRENTLY just as she would fulfil any two duties combined together.
This means that though the Iddah of a widow is intended to last for four months and ten days, if she is pregnant her waiting period will depend on the length of time left for the child to be delivered. The waiting period could be more, equal or less than the specified period depending on how old the pregnancy was at the time the husband died. This is to say that if a pregnant widow delivers a child even a day, a week etc, after the husband dies, her Iddah ends the very day the child is born. She needs not wait again.
There are Quranic injunctions to support the aforementioned types of Iddah. In Quran 2:228, it is stated unequivocally that,
Divorced women shall wait concerning themselves for three monthly periods. Nor is it lawful for them to hide what Allah hath created in their wombs if they have faith in God and the last day”.
Besides, Allah says concerning Iddah resulting from the death of a husband, “If any of you dies and leaves widows behind, they shall wait concerning themselves for four months and ten days. When they have fulfilled their term, there is no blame on you if they dispose of themselves in a just and reasonable manner. And Allah is well acquainted with what ye do (Quran 2:234).” Again, explicitly, the Quran says about Iddah for a woman whose marriage is not yet consummated. “ O! You who believe: when you marry believing women and you divorce them before you have touched them, no period of Iddah (waiting) have you to count in respect of them. So give them a present, and release them in a handsome manner”(Quran 33:49).
WIDOWHOOD IN THE DAYS OF IGNORANCE
(BEFORE THE ADVENT OF ISLAM)
Women, before the advent of Islam went through the worst of conditions. It is well known that in those days (the days of ignorance), the
Arab woman suffered many atrocities and untold hardships. The Arab woman had no right whatsoever to the extent that her permission was not sought in matters concerning her own being. In fact, she herself became a property to be inherited upon the death of her husband.
With the advent of Islam some 1,400 years ago, came her liberation and emancipation leading to the termination and condemnation of such barbaric acts.
It is reported in a hadith that Zaynab Bint Jahsh said, “ If a woman in the days of ignorance (before the advent of Islam) loses her husband, she is kept in a small room similar to a pen where animals are kept to undergo a waiting period of one year. She will be made to wear the worst among her dresses, not take a bath, not use any fragrance, nor adorn herself with jewellery or ornaments until the year has ended.
When the waiting period is over, animals like goats, sheep and birds are used to rub her body and the stench on her body is such that the animals hardly survive; they die.
When she is finally let out of the pen after completing her waiting period of one year, the faeces of a camel are poured on her after which she is set free”. How barbaric, inhumane and savagely cruel!!! (This Hadith was agreed upon by Bukhari and Muslim in their collections
of Traditions). How barbaric, inhumane and savagely cruel!!!
WIDOWHOOD AFTER THE ADVENT OF ISLAM
With the advent of Islam came the emancipation of the Muslim woman. Today’s Muslim woman was emancipated some 1,400 years ago contrary to what it seems in contemporary times. Her rights are succinctly enshrined, entrenched, in the Holy Quran. Her rights were granted,
guaranteed and spelt out unambiguously, vividly, and explicitly in Chapter 4 of the Holy Quran. A whole Surah (chapter), in fact, has been dedicated to women in the Quran. This chapter is known as AN –NISA meaning, The Women. Why the dedication to Women only? Allah knows best.
Some of these rights include the right to be maintained by her husband, the right to choose her own spouse and not under duress, the right to own and dispose of her property as she deemed fit, the right to education, among others, with her first right being the knowledge that these rights do exist for her. She can only know this through education which is a jurisprudential foundation of Islam. It is only through education that one can exercise one’s rights as a citizen of any nation. It is only when one knows that one can access a lot of governmental interventions that have been designed to eradicate poverty, hunger and disease. The Muslim woman must therefore, seek knowledge wherever it may be.
HOW IS THE IDDAH PERFORMED? (CODE OF CONDUCT OF THE WIDOW WITHIN THE PERIOD)
first thing to know is that the widow is supposed to wait for four months and
ten days or precisely 130 days after the death of her husband. The countdown
starts from the day he died.
widow must have self-control and patience
that period, the widow must always appear neat, simple, ordinary and modest as
Islam always expects of her no matter how
wealthy her family may be. Her dressing must not depict affluence,
sophistication or opulence.
must neither adorn herself nor wear any
jewellery or ornaments.
must not use any fragrance like perfumes, cologne etc.
must not adorn herself with any kind of make-up; not even kohl (eye
must not enter into any matrimonial agreement with any man during the period of
waiting. She may only do this afterwards.
Concerning the use of kohl, it is
reported by Umm Salama (may Allah be pleased with her) that, a woman came to
the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) and said, ”O Prophet!, my daughter’s husband died and
whilst she was in her Iddah she complained of her eyes. The kohl has always been
the solution for her eye problem. May we
apply collyrium (kohl)on her eyes? The
Holy prophet answered, “No”. The question was repeated two or three times and
each time the answer was an emphatic “No”. Then the Holy Prophet said, ”It is
only four months and ten days after which the kohl is permitted”. This Hadith
goes to show how patient and enduring a woman should be as she performs the
Iddah. The natural disposition of women
upon which Allah created them is to love
beauty and the art of beautifying but ,the time for Iddat is no time for
IS THE IDDAH NECESSARY?( WHY DOES THE WIDOW GO THROUGH THE WAITING
first and foremost reason why a Muslim woman must undergo the Iddah is because
Allah says so. Allah’s commandments are meant to be obeyed. One cannot claim to
worship Him if one does not obey Him.
gone through such a trying time, coupled with shock, depression, anguish and
sadness the woman is allowed time to mourn her husband’s death, reflect on a
number of issues and gradually purge herself of the shock through Allah’s
ascertain whether the widow is pregnant for the deceased husband. The waiting
period will enable the deceased husband’s relatives as well as society at large
to know if the widow is harbouring a child of the husband in her womb so that
there may be no confusion or disagreements about the paternity of such a child
if the woman seeks to re-marry. By this, the deceased husband’s lineage will be
widow needs to wait for the period since engaging in social activities soon
after the husband’s death might make society suspicious of her. Her husband’s
honour and dignity must be protected.
extremely difficult, Islam encourages women to marry again after their
husband’s demise, the waiting period allows the woman time to be fit enough to
exercise her fullest judgement to avoid making hasty and regrettable decisions,
and Allah knows best.
CAN THE WIDOW GO OUT TO WORK?
Amongst the rights of a Muslim Woman
is the right to be maintained by her husband. Maintenance here, is the right of
a wife to receive food, clothing, residence and other essential services from
her husband on a scale commensurate with their social position and in
accordance with the customs and norms of the society in which they live.
Maintenance of a woman according to the Quran, the Sunnah and the concensus of
the jurists is an obligation upon a husband. There are however, exceptional
cases where for one reason or the other the Muslim woman, apart from being the
manager of her home, accepts an employment outside her home to cater for the
needs of the entire family, including her husband either because the husband is
indisposed and cannot work or to supplement her husband’s meagre income. This
is permitted in Islam. Upon the demise of her husband, this obligatory
maintenance ceases to exist naturally. The widow is supposed to be taken care
of from her husband’s estate or property if he left any. In the absence of
that, society must bear the burden of catering for her needs until she has
completed the Iddah. If society does not fulfil this obligatory act, then two
things may happen.
Firstly, a widow who was employed
before the death of her husband and cannot obtain the luxury of a leave of
absence of four months and ten days or 130 days with or without pay as a
corporate or organisational policy, may go to work and earn her living.
Besides, a widow who was not employed
before the death of her husband may go out to earn a living if her husband left
nothing to be used to feed and cater for her needs or if society is not
forthcoming with her upkeep. In an
authentic Hadith, Jabir narrated that
his maternal aunt was divorced. During the period, she went out to cut the
fruits from her palm-trees. A man saw her and forbade her to go out. She went
to the Holy Prophet and reported the matter to him. The Prophet said: “ Certainly,
You may go out to cut down fruits from your palm-trees, for perhaps you may give
sadaka (charity) or do an act of kindness”.(This Hadith was
reported by Muslim). From this narration it is clear that a Muslim Woman
performing Iddah is permitted to go out to work, to earn a living and certainly
use part of her earnings to do an act of kindness like charity.
WHERE SHOULD THE IDDAH BE PERFORMED?
A widow must spend the days of her
Iddah in the house of her late husband. Such is the ruling given by majority of
the religious scholars. She should be taken care of by close relatives and
other family members from both sides. However, assuming the widow was out of the
country(with the consent of her husband when he was alive) for say, an official
or national assignment and is resident (
as in the case of foreign or diplomatic
service personnel )in that country, she
can perform the Iddah there, without necessarily coming back home. If she was in
that country only for a visit,
then it is incumbent on her to come back home to perform the Iddah in her late
HOW CAN WIDOWS MAKE THE IDDAH BENEFICIAL?
Have faith in ( Allah) God. In this moment of truth, one needs a lot of
purging to do. The only guaranteed means of purifying the heart, removing
anxieties and worries is to have complete faith in Allah. There can be no true
meaning to life, in fact, when one has no faith. In proportion to your faith
i.e. whether strong or weak, firm or wavering will you be happy and at peace. The
waiting period is a very trying and turbulent condition. A stage in life which has
to be surmounted with faith and
belief in Allah. To have faith means one must understand and accept
wholeheartedly without reservations that, “No kind of calamity can occur except by
the leave of
Allah. And if anyone believes in Allah,
He guides his heart (aright): For Allah knows all things”(Quran 64:11). The
Quran says, ”Whoever works righteousness whether male or female, while he is a
true believer; verily, to him we will give a good life(in this world with
respect, contentment and lawful provision). And we shall pay them certainly a
reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. paradise in the
hereafter) Quran 16:97”. Allah has said that He will test us with something of
fear, hunger, loss of lives, fruits,
and that there will be glad tidings for the patient ones. The only way to pass
this test, Brothers and Sisters is through Faith.
Besides, Remembrance of Allah. Remember Allah always for, He has said that
“Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do
hearts find rest (Quran 13:28)”. Remembrance is not only a safe haven from the
problems and worries of this world, but also a short and easy path to achieving
ultimate success. When we remember Allah, clouds of worry and fear are driven
away and the mountains that make up our problems are blown away. Repeat His
Beautiful, Blessed names and mention Him as being
alone, worthy of worship. Mention His praises, supplicate to Him and ask for
forgiveness from Him: you will find, by the will of Allah, happiness, peace and
illumination. By remembering Allah, you walk towards Him. He will reciprocate
by running towards you. In an authentic Hadith, the Holy prophet Muhammad (S.A.W),
said “ The example of one who remembers his Lord to one who does not is that of the
living and the dead”.
Furthermore, one must be
constant and steadfast in PRAYER. Widowhood is a difficult and
challenging situation, a period of turbulence, for one to find oneself. God ,
however listens to us when we are on bended knees and when we prostrate
especially. God has said that His servant is closest to Him when he prostrates
to Him. As a widow, you are beset with fear and anxieties but, stand up and pray
for that is when your soul will find comfort and solace. The prayer, as long as
you perform it sincerely with a wakeful heart, is guaranteed to have a soothing
effect on you. The tears will flow freely when you do not even expect it but
take more of it to your Lord in Prayer. Allah loves it when we call on Him. He
is always expecting us to ask Him to do something for us; the medium is prayer,
sincere prayer involving the heart and mind. What He loves best? Prayer, deep
in the night when sleep is probably enjoyed most. “911” Him for a quick
response deep in the night for, He is always on standby to pick that call. His
lines are never busy. At least not around 2am. That is when He would wish you
call on Him. This is why He emphatically says in Quran76:25-26, ”And celebrate
the name of thy Lord morning and evening, and part of the night, prostrate
thyself to Him: and glorify Him a long night through”. Sisters, prayer will
make your anchor hold in this storm of life.
Moreover, READ. Read wide. This article would not have been possible if I had
not read, if I had not researched and
consulted to get the necessary information. The period of waiting is long. We
(Women)would never have waited if Allah had not commanded us to do so. We have
to make it useful and worthwhile for, time and tide waits for no man. Reading
expels anxiety and grief. Reading helps to develop the mind and purify its
thoughts. Reading increases one’s faith especially if one reads beneficial
books. Reading increases one’s knowledge and improves one’s memory and
understanding. Reading helps to relax one’s mind from distraction and to save
one’s time from being wasted. Do not
waste the waiting period! Make sure you read the Holy Quran, cover to cover,
understand, and reflect on its meaning. I agree the Holy Quran is voluminous
but, be determined and you can, for, the difference between the possible and
impossible is determination.
Last but not least, give out as much
“Sadaka “(charity) as you can. Engage in many acts of goodness and kindness. If
possible, help the poor, the needy, the destitute, the deprived, the homeless,
the aged, children, orphans, the sick, your neighbours, other widows etc. No
matter the condition, no matter the situation, you may be better off than someone.
That has always been Allah’s
own plan. Do these acts of goodness with
the sole intention of attracting Allah’s immeasurable blessings unto yourself
and ask Him to extend same to the departed ones. Remember, all the good things
they did in their lifetime and all those we do on their behalf after they
depart from us will be beneficial to them in the hereafter. It is added unto
what they already have to their credit in a scale or balance called AL-MIIZAN.
Would you not love to help make the
good deeds of your beloved departed souls outweigh the bad ones (if any)? It is not
far- fetched. The aforementioned
acts of goodness and kindness will make it possible, Insha Allah (If God
Sisters and Brothers, I must say in
conclusion that, do not be sad, for that which has been pre-ordained has
already been decided upon and will take place though you may not like it. The
pens have dried, the scrolls have been rolled up and every affair is firmly
established. No woman in her right senses would pray to God to make her a widow
since that would be tantamount to killing but if it so happens through God’s
knowledge, pre-ordainment and divine plan we must be ready to accept it and
keep the faith.
On a more personal note, I think as a widow, I
believe that whatever had happened to me was decreed for me just as whatever I
have missed out was never meant for me. “Que sera, sera” ( whatever will be, will
be). . ………… Allah is
All-Wise, All-Knowing. A waiting period
of four months and ten days is so long. A period which to me, is an experience
of a lifetime. I so selflessly made good use of every passing moment that, with
the end of the period in sight I cannot help but miss it and wish the last day
would never come. How time flies!
Everything that has a beginning must
surely have an end but little did I know it will be so soon. Though a stage in
life, a test of time, I
believe it is the best thing that ever happened to me. Strive to intensify all acts
of worship. Have
unreserved faith in Allah, remember Allah, pray, read and intensify all acts of
goodness and kindness as if it is the end of time for you. Again, we must
strive to contemplate the many favours and gifts that Allah bestows upon us and
be thankful to Him. Remember , Allah has said: ” And if you would count up the
favours of Allah, never could you be able to number them………( Quran