60) The Qur’an instructs that the widow must separate herself from
society and must maintain a mourning period of more than four
months. Is this not a restriction imposed upon woman?

The Qur’an does instruct that the woman whose husband has
passed away must maintain an idha period of four months and four
days. “And make not God’s (name) an excuse in your oaths against
doing good, or acting rightly, or making peace between persons; for
God is One Who heareth and knoweth all things.” (H.Q 2:224). What
is the purpose behind this legislation? The purpose is actually two fold. One is that she, thereby, mourns her separation from her life partner.
The other is to clear all doubts pertaining to her possible pregnancy
through her now deceased husband.
What is she to do during the period of idha? She is not to
marry during this period. Marriage proposals, too, are prohibited during
this period. She is neither to attract men by enhancing her beauty
nor is she to encourage sexual passions within herself. During this
period she is also prohibited from using ostentations ornaments, facial
colouring, eyeliners or perfumes. However, there is nothing to
prevent her from moving about for urgent or pressing matters and
from using clean and decent clothing. In short, therefore, the woman
is duty bound to abstain from all things that serve to generate sexual
passions in her.
If, after four months and ten days of her husband’s demise –
she is found pregnant and delivers her child – she is free to do as she
pleases. She can either re-marry or she can decide not to do so for the
time being. The decision, in any case, must be left to her choice..
During the ‘Age of Ignorance’, the widows of Arabia used to
maintain a mourning period of one year. It was a way of mourning
wherein they clothed themselves in the filthiest of clothes and went
about without bathing or cleaning themselves. It was Islam which
brought about a sea change in such a state of affairs.
What must the Hindu woman, who has lost her husband, do?
Observe the ruling of the Manu Smrithi:
“Kamanthuksha paye dehan pushpa moola Falai Shubai
Nathu namapi grahanee yaath pathyow preda parasyathu
Aaseetha maranaal Kshantha niyatha brahmacharinee
Yo Dharma Aekapathni namkamk shanthi thamanuthamam.”
“After the death of the husband (she) is to while away time by
wasting her body on a diet of pure tuber, fruits, flowers etc. She is not
to utter the name of another man with the intention of lust. After the
death of the husband, the woman is to remain steadfast, patient and
pure; as one ever conscious of the Brahma; as one abstaining from
the consumption of wine and flesh and as one who is ever desirous of
the dharma of the righteous woman bereft of her husband”.
This is the ruling of the Manu Smrithi. The situation that prevailed
in India was, however, even more appalling. The woman was
instructed to immolate herself at the funeral pyre of her husband. This
was the cruel tradition of Sati. Those women who refused to comply
with the demands of this tradition were to shave their heads and to live
in isolation within the society. The law stipulated that even the six and
seven years olds were forced to shave their heads and to live like
after the death of their husbands imposed upon them through child –
marriage. The only facility that was allowed them was one meal each
The Qur’an does not prohibit widows from remarrying. The
only condition that it does put forth is that they are to wait four months
and ten days. Indeed, this waiting term is wholly scientific and beneficial
for the woman. For it is possible that the fathership of the child
born to the woman who remarries before the expiration of this waiting
period can come into question. Such doubts could lead to cracks in the
solidarity of the family and to the associated mental torture that goes
with it. But for the woman who remarries after completing the waiting
term prescribed by the Qur’an such problems never arise. The child
born can be confirmed to be that of the second husband himself. Here
it is clear that the law of idha prescribed by the Qur’an is beneficial to
the woman and is one that seeks not to put her in any difficulty.

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