The Iddat of a Woman in Islam

The Iddat of a Woman in Islam


Prof. Gabriel Sawma



In Islamic marriages, a marriage is considered void, if the divorced wife, or widow after the death of her husband, gets married before the expiration of the period of iddat, which is incumbent upon the divorced wife, or widow to observe.

The iddat of a woman arising on divorce is three courses, if she is subject to menstruation; if not, it terminates at the expiration of three months from the date of divorce.

The iddat of a woman arising on widowhood is four months and ten days. But if the woman is pregnant, the period of iddat does not terminate until she gives birth to the infant.

There is no iddat for a woman whose divorce is revocable, because such a divorce is not final. For an iddat to be observed, the divorce must be irrevocable.

The iddat is assigned for women only; it does not apply to men unless the husband intends to marry the sister of his divorced wife; in such a case, he has to wait until the iddat of his first wife expires. Thus the iddat in this case, is not for the husband, but rather to his former wife.


A Divorced Wife after Iddat

It is important to note that the wife who has been divorced must observe the iddat. Once the divorce is irrevocable and the iddat period is expired, the first husband cannot change his mind by simply remarrying his divorced wife and restart their marriage again. Under the rules of Islamic sharia, the wife must first remarry, legally, another man and get an Islamic divorce from him. Only then she can go back to her first husband and restart a new marriage contract. This is based on the Quran, which reads:


Divorce is twice; then honorable retention or setting free kindly. It is not lawful for you to take of what you have given them unless the couple fears they may not maintain Alla’s bounds; if you fear they may not maintain Allah’s bounds, it is not fault in them for her to redeem herself. Those are Alla’s bounds; do not transgress them. Whosoever transgresses the bound of Allah—those are the evildoers. If he divorces her finally, she shall not be lawful to him after that, until she marries another husband. If he divorces her, then it is not fault in them to return to each other, if they suppose that they will maintain Allah’s bounds. Those are Allah’s bounds; He makes them clear unto a people that have knowledge.” (quran 2:229-230).

A divorced Muslim woman gets “nafaqa” (alimony) during the period of iddat.


DISCLAIMER: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author at [email protected] or call (609) 915-2237.

Gabriel Sawma is a lawyer with Middle East background; Professor of Middle East Constitutional Law and Islamic law; Expert Consultant on Islamic divorce in US Courts and Canada; admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association; former Associate Member of the New York State Bar Association and the American Bar Association. Lectured at the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) in New York State.  For more information on the author, please visit this link:

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