Definition of Iddat:
Iddat is a period of chastity which a Muslim woman is bound to observe after the dissolution of her marriage by the death of her husband or by divorce, before she can lawfully marry again. This is a period of continence imposed on the woman on the termination of marriage in the interest of certainty of paternity.
The abstinence is imposed on her to ascertain whether she is pregnant by the husband, so as to avoid confusion of the parentage. This is a period by the completion of which a new marriage is rendered lawful. The primary object of Iddat is to impose a restraint on the marriage of the wife for a certain time.
To take an illustration, if X has four wives, А, В, С and D, and he divorces A after consummation of the marriage with her, A is not permitted to marry another husband during the period of her iddat.
Duration of Iddat:
(i) Iddat of Death:
Iddat of death lasts:
(a) In the case of a woman who is pregnant at that time, for four months and ten days, or until delivery, whichever period is longer; and
(b) In the other cases, for four months and ten days.
The Iddat of death commences from the date of the husband’s death. If the information of the husband’s death does not reach the wife until after the expiration of the period of iddat, she is not bound to observe iddat. If the marriage is dissolved by death, the wife is bound to observe the period of iddat, whether the marriage was consummated or not.
(ii) Iddat of Divorce:
Iddat of divorce lasts for three menstrual periods. If the divorced wife is not subject to menstruation for any reason other than gestation, the period of iddat lasts for three lunar months. If she is pregnant at the time, the iddat lasts until delivery, irrespective of whether the period is shorter or longer than three months.
The iddat of divorce commences from the date of divorce. If, however, the information of divorce does not reach the wife until after the expiration of the period of iddat, she is not bound to observe iddat of divorce, and she is free to marry immediately.
In the case of an irregular (fasid) marriage, if the marriage is consummated, the duration of iddat, on divorce, is three months.
Under the Muslim Woman (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, the “iddat” period, with reference to a divorced woman, is defined to be:
(a) Three menstrual courses after the divorce, if she is subject to menstruation;
(b) Three lunar months after her divorce, if she is not subject to menstruation; and
(c) If she is enceinte (pregnant) at the time of the divorce, the period between the divorce and the delivery of the child, or the termination of the pregnancy, whichever is earlier?
Wife’s Rights during Iddat:
1. The wife is entitled to lodging in the husband’s house during iddat.
2. She is also entitled to maintenance during the iddat of divorce. Khilwat-us-Sahiha. (Valid retirement)