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How long does a wife mourn in Islam?

In Islam, when a husband dies, the wife is required to observe a mourning period called iddah. The purpose of iddah is to allow the wife time to grieve, and also to ensure any pregnancy is identified. The specific length of iddah depends on the woman’s circumstances.

Iddah for a Widow

For a widow, the iddah period is four months and ten days. This is based on the words of Allah in the Quran:

And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind – they, [the wives, shall] wait four months and ten [days]. And when they have fulfilled their term, then there is no blame upon you for what they do with themselves in an acceptable manner.

(Quran 2:234)

So for a widow, regardless of whether the marriage was consummated or not, the iddah period is a fixed duration of four months and ten days. She must not remarry during this time.

Iddah for a Divorced Woman

If a woman is divorced, the iddah depends on whether the marriage was consummated and whether she is menstruating:

  • If the marriage was consummated: iddah is 3 menstrual cycles
  • If the marriage was not consummated: no iddah
  • If she is pregnant: iddah lasts until delivery
  • If she does not menstruate: iddah is 3 months

Allah says in the Quran about divorced women:

Divorced women remain in waiting for three periods.

(Quran 2:228)

Purpose of Iddah

The iddah period serves several important purposes:

  • A time to grieve for the deceased husband
  • Ensuring any pregnancy is identified
  • Providing time for reconciliation if divorce was in anger
  • Letting affections and memories fade before moving on
  • Determining lineage of any future child

By patiently observing the iddah, a woman shows respect for her former husband’s rights and helps maintain the sanctity of marital relations.

Restrictions During Iddah

During her iddah period, a woman must observe the following restrictions:

  • No remarrying or proposing marriage to another man
  • Remaining in the former home where she lived with husband
  • Avoiding beautification or adornment
  • Refraining from any romantic contact with men

Allah emphasizes the importance of iddah, saying:

And do not resolve on the knot of marriage until the waiting period has passed.

(Quran 2:235)

Exceptions and Special Cases

There are some exceptions and special cases when it comes to iddah:

  • Pregnant woman – Iddah lasts until childbirth
  • No menstruation – Iddah is 3 months
  • Pre-pubescent marriage – No iddah required
  • Husband is missing/captive – Iddah is 4 years
  • Suckling baby – No need for iddah
  • Menopausal woman – No iddah

The iddah can therefore be extended, shortened or eliminated based on the unique circumstances of each woman.


The iddah mourning period allows a Muslim woman time to grieve, reflect, reconcile if possible, and ensure any offspring is attributed to the proper father. The specific length depends on her status as widow, divorcee, pregnant or not. While the iddah period may seem restrictive to some, its ultimate aim is to preserve the sanctity and dignity of marriage in Islam.