Talaq (Islamic divorce) and Iddah (waiting period) information article

Just as Islam gives specific guidance to Muslims in terms of how a Nikah (Islamic marriage) is contracted and how the spouses should fulfil their duties to each other, similarly it also provides clear guidance and instructions regarding how a Nikah may be ended via Talaq (Islamic divorce). This brief article seeks to explain some of these teachings and associated rulings particularly related to Talaq and Iddah (the waiting period).

In Islamic law a Muslim lady who is Islamically married, cannot contract another Nikah until the previous Nikah is ended via Talaq. In case a Talaq is issued for example by a husband to end the Nikah or via a Shariah Council based on the grounds required for Faskh (dissolution) being found, the divorced lady can Islamically marry someone else once the Iddah has expired.

The Iddah is a period of time during which it is impermissble for a divorced Muslim lady to contract another Nikah.This period of time normally lasts the duration of three menstrual cycles, once the third such cycle is complete, she will Islamically be able to contract a valid Nikah. However, any Nikah contracted even after Talaq has been issued but before this Iddah expires will be Islamically invalid.

More detailed rulings in this regard are now discussed which have been directly mentioned in the Holy Qur'an. It should be noted that the concept of Talaq is outlined in the Holy Quran in a number of different verses. Indeed one may appreciate the importance of Talaq in Islam, due to the fact that Surah (chapter) 65 of the Holy Quran is entitled Surah al-Talaq, ‘The Divorce’. It is instructive to examine the very first verse of this chapter in relation to the concepts of Talaq and Iddah.

Oh Prophet! Inform the believers that when you divorce your wives, divorce them at a time when the period of Iddah may start. And count the period of Iddah, and keep your duty to Allah.”

The rulings of this Quranic verse have been explained by the renowned contemporary Islamic scholar, Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani as follows:

‘Iddah in this verse means the period in which a divorcee woman cannot marry another man. For a divorcee woman, this period is three full periods of menstruation. The verse says that should a man divorce his wife, he has to do so in the period of Tuhr (that is, when she is not menstruating), so that her Iddah may start with the following menstruation. If on the contrary, one divorces his wife during menstruation, her Iddah will start from the next period of menstruation…’[1]

Similarly, the following verse 228 of the Holy Qur’an from surah al-Baqarah explains the ruling regarding the Islamic prohibition for a divorcee woman from marrying whilst in her Iddah:

“Divorced women must wait, keeping themselves from men for three menstrual cycles. It is unlawful for them, if they believe in Allah and the Last Day, to hide what is in their wombs.”

The reasoning given for why a Muslim divorcee lady is to abstain from marrying during her Iddah, is explained as follows:

‘This is the ‘iddah (waiting period) prescribed for divorced women which means that they cannot marry another person unless three menstrual periods have passed after divorce. One of the objectives of this waiting period is that if the woman is pregnant, her pregnancy is discovered, in which case she will have to wait until she delivers the baby. Therefore, the verse warned her that she should not conceal her pregnancy or menstruation, as the case may be...[2]

For further detailed rulings regarding Talaq, Iddah etc. one may refer to the manuals of Islamic law or a reputable Islamic scholar.

Fiqh Council Birmingham Resource Library Articles © 2015

[1] [The Meanings of the Noble Qur’an, vol. 2 page 1062, Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, Maktabah Ma’ariful Quran, Karachi]

[2] Ibid volume 1 page 72