Question: Is it incumbent on women in their post-marriage waiting period to cover her face from non-mahrams? Can she speak to her non-mahram? Are there cultural factors that cause women to only wear niqab during the idda period, or to abstain from talking to their family members?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate,
It is not incumbent for a woman in her waiting period (idda) to keep her face covered before marriageable people (non-mahram). [Maydani, al-Lubab fi Sharh al-Kitab]
A mourning period is necessary for a woman who was divorced thrice or whose husband passed away if she is an adult Muslim. In this mourning period, she must refrain from adorning and beautifying herself without excuse. She does not wear clothing dyed with provocative colors. [Ibid.]
There is no obligation for her to cover her face.
Purpose Of Mourning (Ihdad)
Marriage is seen as a blessing from Allah Most High. When the marriage is terminated, either by death or divorce, the woman is obliged to show a sense of loss for losing that blessing. [Ibid.]
This is echoed in the following Prophetic narration:
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The most odious of the permissible to Allah Most High is divorce.” [Abu Dawud]
Socializing During the Idda
During the post-marriage waiting period (idda) a woman is obligated to remain in her home for a specified period of time. In this time, she can communicate with her family and entertain them as guests. [Maydani, al-Lubab fi Sharh al-Kitab]
As for marriageable kin (non-mahram), the basic rule applies. The basic rule with non-relative inter-gender interactions is to keep the interaction to a minimum and only when there is a need or clear worldly or religious benefit that could not be obtained from a woman.
If such a case arises, she can interact/communicate with them.
Remaining At Home
It is necessary for the woman in her post-marriage waiting period to remain in her home. If her marriage ended due to the death of her husband, she can leave the house by day if the need arises. [Maydani, al-Lubab fi Sharh al-Kitab]
Due to modern circumstances, the lack of strong extended family structures, and the other practical implications, scholars have given legal verdicts giving more expansive practicality regarding the waiting period. Thus if one has peculiar circumstances in which remaining at home would become unduly difficult – one should consult the scholars regarding the specifics of their situation.
The purpose of mourning is to show a sense of loss. That is manifested by remaining home (with the aforementioned conditions and exceptions) and abstaining from those things that are clear shows of provocative behavior. Covering the face is not entailed in this meaning.
She may continue to engage in family relations without exiting the home. Thus you will find that certain cultural aspects are congruous to the Islamic guidelines whereas others don’t.
I hope this helps,
Allah knows best.
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a graduate from Tarim; a student of Habib Umar and other luminaries; and authorized teachers of the Qur’an and the Islamic sciences