Concept Of Iddat Under The Muslim Law


When a marriage is dissolved by death or by divorce, the woman is prohibited from marrying within a specified time. This is known as iddat. It is a period of continence imposed on the woman.The purpose of iddat is to ascertain whether the woman is pregnant and avoid any confusion as to paternity .


A marriage could be dissolved either by divorce or death of the husband.  the period of iddat in these two situations is as follows


  1. i) in the case of a woman who is pregnant at the time of husband ‘s death the period of iddat is four months and ten days or until delivery, whichever period is longer .
  2. ii) if the woman is not pregnant ,the period is four months and ten days.

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  1. i) if a woman is subject to menstruation ,the period of iddat upon divorce is three courses.
  2. ii) if the woman is pregnant at the time of divorce ,the iddat lasts until delivery whether it is less or more than three months, iii) if the woman is not subject to menstruation, it is tree lunar months.

Commencement of iddat

If the marriage is dissolved by death, the period commences from the date of death; in case of divorce, it commences from the death of divorce. If the information of husband‘s death or divorce does not reach the wife until after the expiration of the period of iddat, then she is not bound to observe iddat. If the marriage is dissolved by death, observance of iddat by the wife is compulsory whether there has been consummation or not. However, in case of divorce, iddat is compulsory only when the marriage is consummated. A marriage with a woman who is undergoing iddat is termed as irregular marriage.

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Rights and duties during iddat –

  1. The husband is bound to maintain the wife during the period of iddat.
  2. The wife cannot marry another person until completion of her iddat, and if the husband has four wives including the divorced one, he cannot marry a fifth wife until the completion of the divorced wife’s iddat.
  3. The wife in entitled to deferred dower, and if the prompt dower has not been paid, it becomes immediately payable.
  4. In the event of death of either party before the expiration of the iddat period, the other is entitled to inherit from him or her in the capacity of wife or husband, as the case may be, if the divorce has not become irrevocable before the death of the deceased.
  5. If the divorce is pronounced in death-illness, and the husband dies before the completion of wife’s iddat, the wife is entitled to inherit from him, even if the divorce has become irrevocable prior to his death, unless the divorce has been affected without her consent.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 defines “iddat period” in case of divorce, as follows-

  1. Three menstrual courses after the date of divorce, if she is subject to menstruation
  2. Three lunar months after divorce, if she is not subject to menstruation.
  3. If she is enceinte at the time of her divorce, the period between the divorce and the delivery of her child or the termination of her pregnancy, whichever is earlier.[1]

The wife is entitled to a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance within the iddat period by her former husband.

[1] Section 2(b) of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.

Vaishali Phull

Content Writer, Law Corner, Student of BBA LLB, 3rd Year, Sharda University

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