The Quran provides for the maintenance of a divorced wife in the following words:
“For the divorced women let there be a provision in kindness; this is an obligation for those who are mindful of God.”
However, under Muslim personal law as applied in India, a divorced wife can claim maintenance from the former husband only for that period during which she is observing her Iddat. The duration of Iddat on divorce is three menstruation periods or, if pregnant, till delivery of the child.
The former husband’s liability extends only up to the period of Iddat; not beyond that. For the claim of maintenance under Muslim personal law the wife has to file a civil suit against her former husband.
Where the husband pronounces Talaq in the absence of wife, she is required to observe the Iddat from the date on which she gets the notice of her divorce. Accordingly, where divorce is pronounced in her absence, the wife is entitled to be maintained from the date on which she came to know of her divorce.
Thus, where a husband served a notice of divorce on his wife, the wife was entitled to maintenance from the date on which she received the notice, although the notice mentioned an earlier date as the date of pronouncement of Talaq.
In Mohommed Ali v. Fareedunnissa Begam, the marriage was contracted in 1950, and a son was born to the couple. But, thereafter, the husband neglected the wife and refused to maintain her. The trial court passed a decree in her favour. The wife was informed by written notices from the husband that she had been divorced by him on the night of their wedding.
The first notice was served on 12.5.1960. The husband’s plea was that as the wife had been divorced on the very first night, he was under no obligation to maintain her. It was held by the court that when a Talaq is pronounced through notice, the wife is required to observe “Iddat of divorce” from the date on which the notice is served on her. The wife was therefore, entitled to maintenance during the period of Iddat which began from the date of the first notice i.e. 12.5.1960.
The court further observed that the wife was not entitled to maintenance from the earlier date of divorce i.e. 1950. Under Muslim law a divorced wife cannot claim her past maintenance unless the claim is for the arrears of maintenance under any specific agreement.
Muslim law does not prescribe any maximum or minimum amount to be given during Iddat of the divorced wife. The court is competent to fix any amount keeping in view the socio-economic status of the husband and wife.
It is significant to note that maintenance of a divorced Muslim woman is now governed by the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. The provisions of this Act are being discussed in the following lines separately. Besides other provisions, this Act lays down that a divorced Muslim woman is entitled to claim maintenance from her former husband only up to the period of Iddat.
Thus, the law relating to divorced Muslim woman’s claim of maintenance from her former husband under pure Muslim law has now become a statutory Muslim law, and is subject to the provisions of the above mentioned enactment on this point. Detailed account of divorced Muslim Woman’s claim of maintenance under this Act has been discussed in the following lines under separate head.