Giving divorce after prolonged separation


What do the expert scholars of shari’ah say regarding the following scenario? A woman has been living separately from her husband for four years after which he has given her a divorce. Will there still be an iddah (waiting period) for the wife?


In the scenario mentioned the ‘iddah will be the duration of three menstrual cycles. Allah ﷻ has mentioned in the Holy Qur’an:

“Divorced women must wait for three menstrual cycles before they can marry; it is not lawful for them to keep secret what Allah has created in their womb if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. Their husbands have a right to take them back during this period if they wish to be reconciled. Women too have rights and responsibilities in equal measure, according to the custom.”

The verse clearly states a divorcee woman will have an ‘iddah of three menstrual cycles. If the husband and wife are living separate the ‘iddah will remain the same. During the ‘iddah, the wife should remain in the husband’s house. If the situation is such that this is not possible then she should stay at her parent’s house, or a place where she is safe and protected.

There are two types of ‘iddah. The ‘iddah of a divorcee and the ‘iddah of a widow. If the divorce given was raj’i (revocable) then there are no restrictions placed upon the wife during her waiting period. If the divorce given was ba’ina or mughalaza (irrevocable), or if the ‘iddah is of a widow, then there are certain restrictions the wife must follow.

She should not beautify herself, wear jewellery or perfume. She should not apply mehndi or wear bright, fanciful clothes. A woman should not leave her house unless it is necessary, such as seeing a doctor due to a severe illness, this is the case for a divorcee or a widow.

In the case a widow who does not have provisions to provide for herself, then she can leave her house in order to work but should spend the night at home. A divorcee woman will not be allowed to leave her house even for work purposes, as her husband will be covering her expenses during her ‘iddah.

It is mentioned in Al-Fatawa Al-Hindiya, “A widow or divorcee will be in mourning during her iddah. Mourning constitutes that she avoids perfume, oils, kohl and henna…it is necessary for her to avoid these. However, if they become a need then there is no harm. If she has a headache or pain in her eye and uses oils or kohl, there is nothing wrong with this.”

Allama Ibn Abidin Al-Shami has also mentioned in Radd Al-Mukhtar, “the widow may leave during the day but must spend most of the night at home. As she must provide for herself for which she must leave the house.”

If, the husband refuses to pay nafaqah (maintenance) to the wife, then she can also leave her house to work. This will be classed as a ‘necessity’. It is an accepted legal maxim within the shari’ah that ‘necessities make the impermissible, permissible’. Similarly, in the scenario given if the husband refuses to provide nafaqah then the wife can leave the house in order to work.

And Allah knows best.

Dr Musharraf Hussain Al-Azhari
Director of British Fatwa Council

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