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Iddah of a Widow (Period of waiting)

In the Holy Qur’an, women are ordered to complete the “iddah” (waiting period) after divorce or the death of their husbands. Women can remarry after completing iddah. They cannot marry again before that because the main purpose of that is to find out if woman is pregnant or not. If she immediately marries again, the issue of the child’s lineage will arise. This is the reason why there is no Iddah on a woman who is married and has not established the relationship of husband and wife (Al-Quran 33:49). This is because neither relationship of husband and wife was established nor there is a possibility of pregnancy and Iddah was not demanded.

The Iddah of a divorced woman is three periods and since the main purpose is to know the state of the woman’s pregnancy, the man is ordered to divorce her in a state of purity in which the relationship between them has not been established. After that, it is certain that the woman is not pregnant after three periods. Since no such restrictions can be imposed in the case of the death of the husband, the widow’s iddah period has been slightly increased to four months and ten days so that even if the relationship has been established before three menstrual periods, the matter will be clarified for another month and a quarter. If a woman is pregnant, then for this reason, the iddah period lasts until pregnancy.

In the light of the Holy Quran, the only restriction on a widow is that she will not remarry during the period of Iddah. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) advised the widow to observe the iddah in mourning and not to wear any adornment during this period, in view of the fact that the wife spends the iddah at her husband’s house. The Prophet said:
“A widow must not wear clothes dyed with safflower (usfur) or with red ochre (mishq) and ornaments. She must not apply henna and collyrium. (Abu Dawud, No. 2304)
These are the restrictions imposed by religion on a widow in Quran and Hadith. But unfortunately another restriction on widows is often mentioned by our jurists. That is, widows should not leave the house during this period. Despite our efforts, we could not find any source of this order in the Qur’an, Sunnah and Hadith. At most, what was said is that this restriction is imposed to preserve the lineage of the late husband, so that during this period the widow does not have an illegitimate relationship and give birth to a child that is not his.

In our poor opinion, this thinking needs to be revised. A woman who has to perform this “feat” can do this work even while her husband is alive. There is no need for her to wait for her husband’s death and for the “golden opportunity” of iddah. What our religion teaches us in this respect and the general prohibitions it has imposed to prevent fornication and immorality are sufficient themselves. If they are not sufficient, no additional order can prevent the misconduct.

The reality is that as a result of such restrictions, a common widow finds herself in dire straits. In the modern era, it is now a norm for women to step out of the house. Then usually women are widowed at an older age when they are far from the age of marriage, and at this age Allah makes it optional for them to wear a veil and a dupatta (Al-Quran 24:60). We lock this widow in the house in the name of Shariah. In today’s fast paced life, relatives do not have time to visit the widow. In such a case, banning the widow from going somewhere is like punishing a miserable woman with detention and solitary confinement.