Iddat: Duration, Effects & Validity
Under Muslim Law, Iddat is regarded as a period of mourning that all widows must necessarily follow following the dissolution of their marriage. During this period, the woman must practice abstinence and must keep to herself. This is a practice followed in order to ascertain paternity of children if in case the divorced or widowed women are with child during the dissolution of their marriage. It also gives the couple time to reconcile and thing about their relationship in order to revoke the Talaq in case of a divorce.
It is considered to be one of the fundamental rules to be followed with regards to Muslim tradition. Upon completion of Iddat, the marriage will be totally annulled and dissolved and the husband may not remarry the wife unless she marries another and divorces him. Iddat must be kept by the woman after either divorce or after the death of her husband though the time period for the two scenarios can be different. In cases of death, the widow must maintain Iddat for 4 months and 10 days and if found to be with child, she must maintain the Iddat until the birth of the child. In cases of death of husband, the wife must mandatorily observe Iddat and consummation of the marriage is deemed immaterial.
However, if the marriage has not been consummated, she need not follow Iddat in cases of divorce. If the marriage has been consummated and the couple divorce one another, the woman must maintain Iddat for 3 months and if she is found to be pregnant, she must observe Iddat until the delivery of the child.
Iddat commences immediately upon the death of the husband in cases of dissolution due to marriage and in cases of divorce, Iddat commences upon the pronouncement of divorce. It is to be noted here that marriage to a woman undergoing Iddat is deemed to be an irregular or Fasid marriage under Muslim Law.
It is also important to highlight that the husband must maintain the wife during the period of Iddat however, once the period Iddat has expired, the iwfe is not entitled to any of the ex-husband’s property. Upon dissolution of marriage, the dower must be settled. Prompt dower or Deferred dower must be paid in full to the divorced wife. Further, the husband cannot marry a fifth wife until the fourth wife’s marriage has been completely and irrevocably dissolved.
In essence, Iddat helps the woman mourn and grieve for her husband as well avoid social criticism regarding remarrying too quickly after the dissolution of her marriage. Further, unless the wife moves out of the husband’s home of her own free will, the wife is entitled to one year’s residence and maintenance provided at the expense of her husband. If in case, someone else wishes to marry a widow following Iddat, his intentions must be made clear from the beginning and there must not be any secret commitments or consummation during her Iddat.
It is mandatory that the woman follow Iddat at the place in which she had resided at the time of her husband’s death or during the dissolution of her marriage. If the woman is on a pilgrimage when she receives the news of her husband’s death, she must immediately return to the husband’s dwelling place and observe Iddat. It is to be noted that the wife’s parental home is not considered her permanent place of residence under Muslim Law and so, if she is at her parental home during the demise of her husband, she must make haste and return as quickly as possible to follow her Iddat.
There are certain restrictions and regulations that a woman must abide by while observing Iddat and these include:
- Applying makeup during the iddat period
- Wearing fancy dresses or silk clothes is prohibited
- Leaving the house alone during this time is not allowed unless it is a medical emergency that cannot be attended to at home
- She must necessarily pray to Allah for her husband and herself in order to mourn
- The tradition of not being allowed to look at the moon and the mirror is false and need not be followed
- The woman cannot attend any funerals and she cannot visit the ill during this period
- She can leave the house for medical purposes with a male member of the household however this male member must not be able to marry her (eg: Father, Father-in-Law, Brother etc)
It is to be noted that the wife cannot leave the premises for any reason during the Iddat period especially if she is provided with everything she may need to survive. However, if she is the only working adult in the household and must provide for herself as well as her children, she may be permitted to leave the house for work only during daytime and must mandatorily return before the sun sets.
The circumstances upon which the woman may be allowed to leave the residence of the husband are as follows:
- If the house is in ruins or may collapse any time and puts the inhabitants in danger, she may be allowed to shift to another safe place to complete her Iddat period.
- If the relatives of the husband make it particularly difficult for the woman to complete her Iddat and practice her rituals or if the family members do not permit her to use the husband’s property.
- If her husband had owned a leased out or rented property, and the wife is unable to pay the rent, she may move to another residence in order to complete her iddat.
- In cases where she is the only person that stays in the husband’s house alone and the fear of being all alone is of such a magnitude that it causes mental illness, she may be allowed to move to another place, however reasonable fear cannot serve as a ground for shifting to another residence.
- After shifting once, the woman may not be permitted to move another time without a fool-proof and absolutely valid reason and she must prove this to be beyond reasonable doubt.
Author: Keerthana R,
Christ University 2nd Year, Law Student