It goes without saying that a true Muslim woman seeks guidance in her life affairs, follows the instructions given by Allah and His Messenger. Regarding the `Iddah (waiting period) of a widow, the prominent Muslim scholar Dr. Muzzamil Siddiq, former President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), has stated that: “Immediately after the death of her husband, a widow should observe `Iddah for four months and ten days. Almighty Allah says: “ Such of you as die and leave behind them wives, they (the wives) shall wait, keeping themselves apart, four months and ten days. And when they reach the term (prescri
bed for them) then there is no sin for you in aught that they may do with themselves in decency. Allah is Informed of what ye do.” (Al-Baqarah:234).
In case the widow is pregnant then her `Iddah should continue until she delivers. Almighty Allah says: “And for those with child, their period shall be till they bring forth their burden.” (Al-Talaq:4). The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, also explained this, in his Hadith reported by Imam Bukhari that reads: “It is forbidden to mourn for a dead person for more than three days, except in the case of a widow for whom mourning is allowed for four months and ten days.” (Al-Bukhari, volume 1, Hadith no. 310)
During that time, she is not allowed to wear kohl, perfumes or put on colourful dresses. But she is allowed to wear light perfume when taking bath after menses.
According to the Sunnah, a widow should spend her time at home and should not go out for socialization. She should wear plain and simple clothes and avoid perfumes and make-up. All widows whether young or old should observe these rules, according to the Sunnah of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. A widow, however, does not have to cover her hair all the time. When she is in her home and in front of other Mahrams (unmarriageable relative) then she can uncover her head. She is not required to wear black clothes or black head cover.”
Focusing on the point of widow’s going out for work or for fulfilling a necessary need, the prominent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi adds the following:
“Such a woman (a widow in her waiting period), however, is permitted to go out to fulfill a need such as seeking medication or buying necessary stuff if there is no other person to do that. She is also permitted to go for work if she is a career woman, working as a teacher, a doctor, a nurse or the like. In all these cases, being in `Iddah she is allowed to go out of her house, as we know, she is not going out for socialization.”