Rulings on the mourning of a woman whose husband has died

Dear Brothers & Sisters,
As-Salaamu-Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh. (May Allah's Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon all of you)
One of our brothers/sisters has asked this question:
What are the regulations concerning the idda of a widow?
I have been told that she cannot leave her husband's house at all during the 4 months and 10 days, but other say she must only be careful to leave only for true needs and must never sleep away from her husband's house during this time.
I have also been told that she cannot wash or comb her hair. The latter especially seems contrary to Islam regarding cleanliness. A detailed response would be greatly appreciated.
Jazakum Allahu khayran
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Praise be to Allaah.

Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

And those of you who die and leave wives behind them, they (the wives) shall wait (as regards their marriage) for four months and ten days, then when they have fulfilled their term, there is no sin on you if they (the wives) dispose of themselves in a just and honourable manner (i.e., they can marry). And Allaah is Well-Acquainted with what you do. [al-Baqarah 2:234]

And those of you who die and leave behind wives should bequeath for their wives a years maintenance and residence without turning them out, but if they (wives) leave, there is no sin on you for that which they do of themselves, provided it is honourable (e.g., lawful marriage). And Allaah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.

[al-Baqarah 2:240]

Umm Atiyah reported that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: No woman should mourn for a dead person for more than three days, except for a husband, (in which case the period of mourning is) four months and ten days. She should not wear any coloured clothes, only simple dress. She should not apply kohl to her eyes, or use perfume, except for a little qust or izfaar (types of perfume), when she cleans herself after finishing her period. (Reported by Muslim, 2739).

Umm Habeebah bint Abi Sufyaan reported that when the news of her fathers death reached her, she called for some perfume and wiped it on her forearms, and said: I do not need it, but I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: It is not permitted for a woman who believes in Allaah and the Last Day to mourn for any dead person for more than three days, except for a husband, (in which case the period of mourning is) four months and ten days. (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 4926).

Umm Salamah, the wife of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: The woman whose husband has (recently) died should not wear clothes dyed with safflower or torn clothes, or dye her hair, or use kohl. (Reported by al-Nisaai, 3479, and others).

Zaynab bint Kab ibn Ujrah reported that al-Furayah bint Maalik ibn Sinaan, the sister of Abu Saeed al-Khudri, told her that she came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and asked him whether she should go back to her people among Banu Khudrah. Her husband had gone out in pursuit of some rebellious slaves of his, and when he caught up with them at the edge of al-Qadoom, they killed him. She said: I asked the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) whether I should go back to my family, because my husband had not left me a place to live that belonged to him, or any money for provisions. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said yes, so I started to leave, and I had reached the hujurah (room) or the mosque, when the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) called me or told someone to call me. So I came back, and he asked me, What did you say? I repeated the story I had told him about my husband. He said: Stay in your house for the specified length of time. So I spent my iddah there, four months and ten days. At the time of Uthmaan, he sent word to me asking about this, so I told him, and he followed what I said and judged in accordance with it. Muhammad ibn Bashshaar told us that Yahyaa ibn Saeed informed us that Sad ibn Ishaaq ibn Kab ibn Ujrah informed us of something similar. Reported by al-Tirmidhi, who said: This is a saheeh hasan hadeeth. The majority of scholars among the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and others followed this hadeeth and did not allow a widow to move out of her husbands home until her iddah was over. (Sunan al-Tirmidhi, 1125).

On the basis of the texts quoted above, the scholars have defined the rules governing widows and described how the widows mourning should affect her life. These rules may be summed up as follows:

  1. It is forbidden for the recently-widowed woman to use perfume, whether on her body or on her clothes

  2. It is forbidden for the recently-widowed woman to adorn herself with things like henna or facial make-up, or to use kohl unnecessarily, or to use anything else that may make her beautiful and attractive to others.

  3. It is forbidden for the recently-widowed woman to wear attractive clothes, such as clothes dyed with safflower or saffron, or other types of red dyes and colours that are used for adornment.

  4. It is forbidden for the recently-widowed woman to wear jewellery.

  5. It is forbidden for the recently-widowed woman to spend the night outside her own home, meaning the home of her deceased husband, except for some Islamically legitimate reason, such as her being afraid for her own safety, or being evicted by the landlord of rented premises, etc. If a recently-widowed woman needs to go out for medical treatment, to attend legal proceedings in court, to take exams in school, or to go shopping when she has no-one who can do this for her, then she should do these things during the day, so long as she comes back home to her husbands house before maghrib (sunset).

  6. She is forbidden to marry or draw up a marriage contract; even engagement is forbidden, unless it is merely hinted at and not stated clearly.

From the above, it is clear that Islam gives the husband immense rights. The wife should give up wearing adornments and perfume, and should stay in her husbands home during this period because of those rights. These rules also pay attention to her psychological state at this time when she has lost her support. Even though these rules are so clear, many people have still fallen prey to many different kinds of bidah when it comes to mourning, so they forbid a woman to do things that are not forbidden in Islam, and they fabricate lies and introduce bidah into the religion of Allaah. Shaykh Abd al-Azeez ibn Baaz said:

Some people may think and imagine that a recently widowed woman should not speak to anyone, or speak to anyone on the telephone, or have a bath more than once a week, or walk barefoot in her house, or go outside in the moonlight, or other such nonsense which has no basis. But in fact she is allowed to walk barefoot or with shoes in her house, to do whatever she needs to in her house, to cook food for herself and her guests, to walk in the moonlight on the roof or in the garden of her house, to take a bath whenever she wants, to speak to whomever she wants so long as it is decent talk, to shake hands with other women and with her mahram relatives (close relatives such as father, brother, etc.) but not with non-mahrams, and to remove her headcovering so long as there are no non-mahrams present. She should not use henna, saffron or perfume, and she is not allowed to get engaged a hint is permissible but not a clear statement. And Allaah is the source of strength.

(Fataawaa Islamiyah, 3/316)

Shaykh Abd-Allaah ibn Jibreen said: Wearing black to mourn the deceased is a form of bidah, and the wives of the deceased only need to avoid fancy clothes, adornment, jewellery, makeup and perfume during the mourning period. Neglecting regular work during the mourning period is also a form of bidah. The recently widowed woman should still take care of cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, laundry, etc., and there is no sin invloved in doing so. And Allaah knows best. (al-Lulu al-Makeen, 39).

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-Uthaymeen said:

Wearing special clothes to accept condolences is a form of bidah, in our opinion, because it could indicate that one is discontent with the decree of Allaah, may He be glorified. (Fataawaa al-Taziyah, 38).

He also said:

Wearing black as a sign of mourning is a false symbol that has no basis. At times of bereavement a person should do what is taught by Islam, which is to say: Innaa Lillaahi wa innaa ilayhi raajioon. Allaahummajurni fi museebati wakhluf li khayran minhaa (To Allaah we belong and unto Him is our return. O Allah, recompense me for my affliction and replace it for me with something better). As regards wearing some special clothing, such as wearing black and so on, this has no basis, and it is false and reprehensible conduct.

(Fataawa Islamiyah, 3/313).

And Allaah knows best.

Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allah's Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.

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