The minimum wait (Iddat)

At the termination of a marriage, there is a mandatory waiting period before a woman is permitted to remarry; this is known as iddat. Marriage is terminated1 due to the (1) husband’s death, (2) her being divorced or (3) both. In the first, for the widow, her iddat is four months and ten days2. In the second, for the divorcee, the iddat is dependent on her circumstance; consummation and menstruation. In the third, for the divorcee who is widowed whilst in iddah, it is whichever wait is lengthier. Note! If the woman was (4) pregnant, giving birth will terminate the iddat in all these cases3.

Expounding on the second case, the divorcee has three scenarios; she is (2a) unconsummated, (2b) non-menstruating, or (2c) menstruating. The first (2a), has no iddat for the husband had no opportunity to impregnate4. The second (2b), be it due to youth or menopause, has an iddat of three months 5. All scenarios thus far are undisputed. The third scenario (2c), which is also the most common, is that of the menstruating divorcee. Her iddat is agreed to be three quru6.

The schools are differed in their definition of quru. The Ahnaf and Hanabilah declare quru to mean haydh whilst The Shawafi’ and Malikiyyah proclaim it to mean tuhar. Haydh is the menstrual bleeding and tuhar is the clean period. Hence, the Ahnaf and Hanabilah state that iddat is three complete menstrual cycles (haydh) and the Shawafi’ and Malikiyyah hold it to be two complete clean periods and the remainder of the first (which may be minute).

The limit of Haydh and Tuhar

The minimum possible days for a menstruating divorcee differs based on (a) the minimum and maximum days of haydh as well (b) the minimum number of days for tuhar.

Other than the Hanabilah7, all the schools assert that the minimum days of tuhar are 15 days whilst Hanabilah claim it to be 13 days8. All are unanimous that tuhar has no upper limit.

In terms of the haydh, the Ahnaf state that the minimum days are three. The Shawafi’9 and the Hanabilah hold the minimum to be one day and one night (approx. 24 hours). The Malikiyyah 10 claim that haydh for iddat11 at the minimum should be a day or even half a day. As for the maximum, the Ahnaf declare it to be ten days whilst the rest state it to be 15 days for the menstruating divorcee (2c).

Minimum iddat

The Ahnaf have two views on the minimum days of iddat for a menstruating woman (2c); the Sahibayn state 39 days and Imam Abu Hanifa 60 days. The first take the minimum haydh whilst the latter take the maximum. 39 is attained with the following sequence, 3+15+3+15+3, with the three representing the minimum haydh and 15 representing minimum tuhur whilst Imam Abu Hanifa forwards the sequence, 10+15+10+15+10, with the 10 representing the maximum haydh.

The Hanabila like the Ahnaf count iddah with haydh but differ on the minimum. They declare the minimum days of iddah to be 29 days. The suggested sequence is 1+13+1+13+1 with 1 representing minimum haydh and 13 the minimum tuhar.

The Shawafi count the tuhur to determine the iddat; the tuhur in which the divorce was given and the two following tuhar. Hence, it is possible for her be divorced and the haydh to start moments later. They declare the minimum days of iddah to be 32 days12. So the sequence will follow 0+1+15+1+15 with the zero and 15 representing tuhar and 1 representing haydh.

The Malikiyyah follow the same procedure as the Shawafi’ for iddat in using tuhar albeit they assert that the minimum haydh can be half a day. So the sequence will be 0+1/2+15+1/2+15 with zero and 15 representing tuhar and zero and ½. Hence, the minimum will be a bit under 32 days for a menstruating divorcee.

Summary

The (2a) unconsummated woman has no iddat whilst the (2b) non-menstruating woman has an iddat for three months. The minimum iddat for the (2c) menstruating woman is 39 or 60 days according to the Sahibayn and Imam Abu Hanifa respectively. The Hanabila assert the minimum iddat to be 29 days, the Shawafi’ 32 days and the Malikiyyah a little under 32 days. These are the cases for a (2) divorced woman. As for the (1) widow, the iddat is four months and ten days and for the (3) divorced whose ex-husband dies during the iddat, it is whichever is later. The iddat of (4) the pregnant divorcee will finish upon giving birth.

Allah knows best.

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Muhammad Saifur Rahman Nawhami
15 Muharram 1434
29 November 2012

  • 1. Li’an, Zihar and Faskh al-Nikah is not addressed in this article
  • 2. وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجًا يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْرًا - سورة بقرة:234
  • 3. وَأُولَاتُ الْأَحْمَالِ أَجَلُهُنَّ أَن يَضَعْنَ حَمْلَهُنَّ - سورة الطلاق:4
  • 4. A woman is considered consummated if the husband has khawat sahihah i.e. he had the opportunity without any tibbi (medical), tab'i (natural) and shar'i impediments
  • 5. (‏وَاللَّائِي يَئِسْنَ مِنَ الْمَحِيضِ مِن نِّسَائِكُمْ إِنِ ارْتَبْتُمْ فَعِدَّتُهُنَّ ثَلَاثَةُ أَشْهُرٍ وَاللَّائِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ - سورة الطلاق:4
  • 6. وَالْمُطَلَّقَاتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ ثَلَاثَةَ قُرُوءٍ - سورة بقرة:228
  • 7. Zad al-Mustaqani’ of Sharf al-Din Abu al-Naja’ Musa b. Ahmad al-Maqdisi with al-Rawd al-Murabba’. al-Bahuti (d. 1051). 1424. Dar al-Ghadd al-Jadid; al-Mansurah, Egypt.
  • 8. Ibid
  • 9. Umdat al-Salik wa Uddat al-Nalik. 1982. Ahmad b. Naqib al-Misri (d. 769). p. 31
  • 10. Mukhtasar Khalil. 1426/2005. Sh. Khalil b. Is'haq Maliki (d. 767). Dar al-Hadith; Cairo, Egypt.
  • 11. It should be noted that the Malikite differ on the minimum and maximum days of Haydh based on whether or a not a woman is in iddat. In terms of Ibadah, the minimum haydh is a moment whilst the maximum is dependant on the woman. If she is not pregnant and has no habit it is fifteen days, however, if she has a habit it three days above her habit. If she is less than six months pregnant it is 20 days or else if over six months it is 30 days.
  • 12. Umdat al-Salik wa Uddat al-Nalik. 1982. Ahmad b. Naqib al-Misri (d. 769). p. 222