How long is iddah for widows? Do older women need to observe iddah?

How long is the mourning period  in Islam

Mourning lasts for three days for everyone except the widow.

The widow has to mourn four months and ten days, as stipulated in the Quran:

And those of you who die and leave wives behind them, they (the wives) shall wait (as regards their marriage) for four months and ten days. (2:234)

Who does iddah (mourning period) apply to?

Mourning for a widow is regardless of her age – she could be 80, it doesn’t matter. If a woman dies, the mourning is three days for her husband and children. Only Allah Almighty knows the wisdom in this. It is not about pregnancy, it is a command from Allah Almighty. We have to accept this. After all our slogan as Muslims is ‘we hear and we obey’.

The iddah of a pregnant woman

If she is pregnant, a woman’s iddah is until the delivery of her baby, whether it is after one day or after 9 months. It is a means of ensuring there is no pregnancy, as well as an indication of loyalty, coming to terms with the end of the marriage and honouring the relationship.

And for those who are pregnant, their Iddah (prescribed period) is until they lay down their burden’ (65:4)

What does iddah involve

The wife’s mourning (iddah) is overloaded by culture, what she can do and what she can’t do? In the hadith, the Prophet (peace be on him) mentioned that she shouldn’t put on make up, or go out and meet non-mahrams unless there is need. Umm Salamah narrated that the Prophet (peace be on him) said:

A woman whose husband has died must not wear clothes dyed with safflower (usfur) or with red ochre (mishq) and ornaments. She must not apply henna and collyrium. (Abu Dawoud)

What does iddah NOT involve

Some cultures go far beyond this.  They say she should cover up her mirrors, she should not comb her hair, take a shower, watch TV, or look out her window or receive visitors. Such practices have been acquired from other cultures, and have no basis in Islam. This is maltreatment of women – then the widow might as well stop breathing! They might as well have buried her with her husband. This is too much. The poor woman is suffocated by culture.

Can a widow leave her home during her iddah

Within limits, the mourning widow is able to leave her home, for example to work if she has no provider, to go for a walk, to visit her children, and to buy her groceries.

Her life is not supposed to continue as usual, as she is not allowed to wear bright clothes, make up and perfume, or have her hair done.

She should not attend weddings, or celebrations, but should be able to do anything else that helps her cope within the limits is fine.

Is she allowed to go for a walk in the park? Yes.

Can she visit her daughter? Yes, that’s fine.

If she cannot sleep at home because she is alone, can she go to her daughter’s house? Yes.

Can a women attend the janazah of her family member during iddah? Yes.

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001.His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College).He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.