Iddah or Iddat is an Arabic term that suggests a period of waiting and is observed by Muslim women. It’s a period of chastity which a Muslim woman is bound to observe after the dissolution of her marriage due to the death of her husband or by divorce before she can lawfully marry again. The rationale behind observing the iddat period is to ascertain and determine whether the woman is pregnant and to acknowledge the certainty of paternity. 
Iddat period varies in different cases:
i. A divorced woman shall observe iddat for a period three months whereas a widowed woman whose husband has recently died observes it for a period of four lunar months and ten days after the death of her husband, regardless of whether the marriage was consummated.
ii. Iddat period lasts for a divorced woman who is pregnant at the time of divorce till the time she gives birth or miscarriage.
iii. If a woman is pregnant at the time of the husband’s death, she observes the iddat period for a complete year consisting of nine months of pregnancy and three months of iddat period. 
This period is considered as a balance between rituals and necessity by Islamic jurists and scholars, wherein by providing sufficient time to mourn for the death of her husband and also protects the widow from criticism of remarrying within months of her husband’s death. This period mainly helps in determining whether a woman is pregnant or not since four and a half months is half the duration of a normal pregnancy if there is any. In Muslim law, the husband shall make arrangements for wife for the provision of one year’s residence and maintenance, unless the wives leave the house out of their own free will and decide not to live at his residence.
Verses- Al-Baqarah 2: 234 – 235, Quran enlists the following things about Iddat.
i. The observing period for a widow is four months and ten days,
ii. During this period, a woman cannot marry another man
iii. If a man wants to marry a widow or divorced woman, he may declare his intentions during and in a socially acceptable manner, while iddat period is running, there shouldn’t be any commitment of marriage which is made secretly with the widow.
iv. Once a period of four months and ten days have completed, a marriage contract can be finalized containing time and place for marriage rituals.
The above-mentioned verses and the learning have been taken from the Quaran, customs, and usages. Whereas in 1986, a statute was passed by then Rajiv Gandhi committee known as The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act dealing with the rights of Muslim women. The said act does have a provision for Iddat;
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 has defined the term “iddat period” in case of divorce as:
i. Three menstrual courses after the date of divorce, if she is subject to menstruation
ii. Three lunar months after the divorce, if she is not subject to menstruation.
iii. If she is enceinte at the time of her divorce, the period between the divorce and the delivery of her child or the termination of her pregnancy, whichever is earlier. 
The wife is entitled to a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance within the iddat period by her former husband.
The Place to observe Iddat
It is mandatory to observe iddat period within the same house where the woman was residing permanently at the time of her husband’s death or in case of divorce. Thus, if a woman who was at her parental home should return to her permanent home that is the house of her husband, upon her husband’s demise to complete her Iddat there because according to the law, Iddat is said to be completed in the house which is the permanent residence of a wife. Her parents’ house cannot be said to her permanent residence.
If a woman receives the news of her husband’s death while she was on vacation or journey, she is supposed to immediately return to the place of her permanent residence to observe iddat period, provided that her home is within the reach and not beyond.
Rules of Iddat
Certain things are impermissible to Muslim women during the period of iddat. Under the Muslim Personal Law, the term ‘Haraam’ is employed for strictly prohibited things such as:
i. It is Haraam upon a woman to beautify herself or indulge in the activities of such nature through makeups or any other ways during iddat.
ii. She is forbidden from wearing any gaudy dresses or wear silken clothes. Just simple and plain clothing would suffice to mourn for her husband.
iii. She is not allowed to leave the house except under any emergency until the completion of the iddat period. Any emergencies like the requirement of basic needs or medical illness would quantify.
iv. She is obligated to mourn for her husband by praying to God (Allah) and supplicating Allah-Subhanahu for her husband and for herself.
Rights and duties during Iddat
i. The wife is entitled to claim maintenance from her husband during the iddat period.
ii. The wife is forbidden to marry another man until the completion of her iddat, any marriage during the said period would be considered as void.
iii. The wife is entitled under law to deferred dower, and the prompt dower becomes immediately payable if it has not been paid.
iv. In the event of the death of either the husband or the wife before the iddat period is completed, the other party is entitled to inherit from him or her in the capacity of wife or husband.
Commencement of Iddah/Iddat
Iddat period commences right after a divorce of a Muslim wife or after the death of her husband. A Muslim woman is obliged to observe the iddat period, despite her ignorance or unwillingness to observe iddah, it would not be held due or affected in any manner.
1. If she didn’t receive the news on time of her husband’s demise but got to know about it within the prescribed iddah period, then she is obliged to observe it for the remaining days of the iddat period.
2. In case if she receives the news at a later stage when the iddah period has already passed, she is not bound to experience it.
Prohibition of marriage during Iddat
Once the completion of the iddat period, any Muslim woman can lawfully enter into a contract of a second marriage. A marriage which comes into existence during the iddat period is not recognized in the Islamic law as well as Muslim women act. Such marriage is considered void.
Maintenance during Iddat
During the iddat period, the divorced Muslim wife is entitled to claim reasonable maintenance by her former husband. Whereas, A Muslim wife after the death of the husband is not entitled to claim any maintenance out of her late husband’s estate as she would herself become an heir to it. The underlying reason is that the liability of maintaining the wife is only to be dealt with by the husband and not on by any subsequent heirs. If she hasn’t received her dower i.e. Mehr nor has she renounced it, she would be the first charge from the late husband’s estate.
Case Laws on Iddat and Subsequent Maintenance
Mohd. Ahmad Khan v. Shah Bano Begum
Shah Bano was a Muslim woman who aged 62 and was divorced by her husband in the year 1978 and was denied maintenance by her then-husband. She had five children and was unable to support herself and the children. Thus, she filed a case for maintenance against her husband under section 125 of CrPC claiming Rs. 500 as maintenance in the court of Judicial Magistrate. Although she was granted maintenance of a total sum Rs. 25, she went to the high court claiming higher maintenance.
The High court granted maintenance Rs. 179.20 in the said matter, the husband didn’t agree with the decision of the high court and he appealed to the Supreme Court as within his right against this order. The main contention put forward by the husband was that since the dissolution of marriage had already taken place, she has no right claim maintenance as under the Muslim law, she is not entitled to maintenance. It was also contended that the maintenance is a responsibility only during the period of iddat. In the present case, Mr. Khan i.e. the husband of Shah Bano Begum paid the dower at the time of the iddat period, and thus under the Muslim law, the wife is not entitled to maintenance.
The Supreme Court bench of five judges which was headed by Justice Chandrachud upheld the decision of the lower Court. The court gave a landmark judgment stating that a husband would be bound to pay maintenance to his wife even after the iddat period if the wife is in need of financial support. The wife is entitled to claim under section 125 of the CrPC.
Justice Chandrachud stated –
“It would be incorrect & unjust to extend the rule of maintenance under Muslim Law to the cases in which the divorced wife is unable to maintain herself, so if the divorced wife is able to maintain herself, the husband’s liability ceases with the expiration of the period of Iddat, but if she is unable to maintain herself after the period of Iddat, she is entitled to have recourse to Section 125 of Cr. P.C.”
The Supreme Court settled the law on the maintenance of a Muslim woman on the following two grounds;
i. If she is not able to support herself or the children
ii. If she has not been remarried.
There was a huge uproar by the Muslim community through the territory of India against this decision of the Supreme Court. They felt that the court tried to amend and interfere with the Muslim Sharia law. As a result, the then Rajiv Gandhi government passed a new statue to nullify the effect of the said supreme court judgment. Thus, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 came into existence.
Intervention by the Supreme Court
This act had become another pillar of controversy as the implementation of this act differed in relation to the judgment passed by the Supreme court and the statue.
In Danial Latifi v. Union of India , A writ was filed under section 32 of the Indian constitution challenging the constitutionality of the Muslim Women Act. The court upheld the validity of the Muslim Women Act and held that the said act is not violative of Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Indian constitution. The Supreme court in the present case has tried to interpret the act in a slightly different manner. The term “within” in section 3(1)(a) of the act is asked to be read with “fair and reasonable provision”. The motive of the said act to uplift the status of Muslim women in society and thus it is the duty of the court to interpret the act in favor of women.
In A. A. Abdulla v. A. B. Mohmuna Saiyadbhai , the court adopted a similar formula stated above. In the present case, the court has stated that the Muslim husband is required to contemplate the future needs and make preparatory arrangements in advance for meeting those needs which include maintenance for her residence, food, clothing, and so on.
In Shabana Bano v. Imran Khan , the Supreme court held that a divorced Muslim woman can claim compensation under section 125 of CrPC, even after the expiry of the iddat period.
In Iqbal Bano v. the State of UP , the Supreme Court has interpreted section 4 of the Muslim Women Act and held that a reasonable and fair provision of maintenance can be claimed by the wife only against the former husband and not the relatives.
Iddat is a practice that Muslim women have to perform to ascertain the possibility of pregnancy and parentage of a child born of such pregnancy. According to the Muslim laws, a husband is bound to maintain his wife only during the iddat period and after the iddat is dover with, the woman isn’t entitled to receive iddat.
In the Shah Bano Begum caselaw, the Supreme Court went against the traditional convention and allowed for maintenance to the Muslim wife even after the iddat period. Due to this, there was furor in the Muslim community and Muslim Women Law, 1986 came into existence to nullify the decision of the Shah Bano case. Further, this act had its controversy in the High Court but later the Supreme Court settled the law by interpreting it in favor of the wife.
It should be noted that now under Muslim law after recent landmark judgments it is clear that a husband has the responsibility and is bound by precedent to maintaining his former wife even after the commencement of the iddat period irrespective of her Financial condition. The status of women has been raised by the judiciary and it can be said that women have the back of the court to claim equal status in a patriarchal society like India.
 Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook
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 Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986
 1985 AIR 945, 1985 SCR (3) 844
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 AIR 1988 Guj 141, (1988) 1 GLR 452
 Criminal Revision No. 285 of 2005
 Appeal (CRL.) 795 of 2001