Assalamualaikum SS Dato’ Seri Mufti. If a husband died before having intercourse with his wife, is it obligatory for the wife to complete the ‘iddah?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Answering the above question, there is differences between iddah due to the husband’s death or iddah because of talaq (divorce). This is in accordance with a general statement of Allah SWT in the Quran:
وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجًا يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْرًا
“And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind - they, [the wives, shall] wait four months and ten [days].”
Surah al-Baqarah (234)
When explaining the above verse, Imam al-Qurtubi said: “The verse is regarding the iddah of a woman whose husband died, the literal is general and the meaning is specific.” (See Mukhtasar Tafsir al-Qurtubi, 1/262)
The same is stated in a hadith from Abdullah bin Mas’ud RA, he said:
أَنَّهُ سُئِلَ عَنْ رَجُلٍ تَزَوَّجَ امْرَأَةً, وَلَمْ يَفْرِضْ لَهَا صَدَاقًا, وَلَمْ يَدْخُلْ بِهَا حَتَّى مَاتَ, فَقَالَ ابْنُ مَسْعُودٍ: لَهَا مِثْلُ صَدَاقِ نِسَائِهَا, لَا وَكْسَ, وَلَا شَطَطَ, وَعَلَيْهَا الْعِدَّةُ, وَلَهَا الْمِيرَاثُ، فَقَامَ مَعْقِلُ بْنُ سِنَانٍ الْأَشْجَعِيُّ فَقَالَ: قَضَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ - صلى الله عليه وسلم - فِي بِرْوَعَ بِنْتِ وَاشِقٍ - امْرَأَةٍ مِنَّا - مِثْلَ مَا قَضَيْتَ, فَفَرِحَ بِهَا ابْنُ مَسْعُودٍ.
He was asked about a man who married a woman but did not name a Mahr or consummate the marriage before he died. Ibn Mas'ud said: "She should have a Mahr like that of women like her, no less and no more; she has to observe the 'Iddah, and she is entitled to inherit." Ma'qil bin Sinan Al-Ashja'i stood up and said: "The Messenger of Allah passed a similar judgment among us concerning Birwa' bint Washiq." And Ibn Mas’ud rejoiced at that.
Sunan al-Tirmizi (1145), Sunan al-Nasa’ie (3524) and Ibn Abi Syaibah in al-Musannaf (1590)
Thus, it is obligatory for a wife whose husband dies before consummating the marriage to complete her iddah.
The same is stated in a guideline issued by Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) regarding a woman whose husband died whether the marriage is consummated or not and she is not pregnant, where it states: “A woman whose husband died is obligatory to complete her iddah as well as mourn for his death. The term of her iddah is four months and ten days.” (See Iddah Guidelines for Divorced Women or Whose Husband Died by JAKIM)
Hopefully, this answer will give a good understanding for us all regarding iddah. Amin.