Aspects Of Islamic Faith - 74: Mourning For Deceased Relatives
Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals
& Information - By Adil Salahi
communities have different traditions with regard to
mourning for close relatives and friends. Some are
very strict, while others are not. However, a period
of mourning is acceptable in most societies. Mourning
is mostly associated with women and traditions impose
certain behavior on women mourners. Islam has much to
say on this matter.
In pre-Islamic Arabia, a woman faced a very difficult
period of time when her husband died. She was expected
to wear her worst clothes, stay in terrible
accommodation, refrain from taking a bath, cleaning
herself or clipping her nails for a full year. When
she came out, she looked horrible. Islam put an end to
all such cruel traditions. As usual, Islam respects
human nature, recognizes people's feelings and sets
its own rules that steer a middle way.
Umm Habeebah, a wife of the Prophet (peace be upon
him), quotes the Prophet as saying: "It is not
permissible for a woman who believes in God and the
Last day to mourn for a deceased person for more than
three days, except for her husband, in which case she
mourns for four months and ten days". (Related by Al-Bukhari).
What is meant by ‘mourning' in this context is that a
woman refrains from wearing makeup, fine clothes, and
attending to her appearance in a way that is socially
recognized as consistent with situations of happiness
and joy. When a relative or a close person, a
neighbour or a friend dies, a woman is unlikely to be
interested in her appearance. Her grief takes over.
The closer the relative is, the longer such grief
lasts. In this hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him)
makes clear that a woman must not observe mourning
traditions for more than three days, even though the
deceased be her child, brother, sister or parent.
Three days are enough to express one's grief in a
changed appearance. After that, a woman must not show
any physical indications of that grief. She must
reflect her acceptance of God's will as He is the one
who grants life and deals death.
The Prophet makes clear that a longer period of
mourning is inconsistent with faith. Hence, he speaks
of ‘a woman who believes in God and the Last Day',
i.e. a woman who knows that she is accountable for her
deeds before God on the Day of Judgement. This is not
to do with her grief for the loss of a loved one, but
with the physical expression of that grief.
The only exception is the case of a woman who loses
her husband. It is well known that when a man dies,
his wife must observe a waiting period of four months
and ten days when she cannot marry anyone else, unless
she is pregnant when her waiting period lasts until
she gives birth. This Hadith makes clear that such a
widow observes mourning for the duration of her
waiting period. Scholars make clear that mourning is
not a duty in the case of relatives and friends, even
though its period is only for three days. However, it
is a duty in the case of a husband. His widow must
observe such mourning for four months and ten days.
She is allowed to go out for her essential business
and to clean herself, take a bath at any time, etc.
A question arises in the case of a pregnant widow who
gives birth within a few days or a few weeks after her
husband's death? Should she continue her mourning
after her waiting period has expired upon delivery?
How about the one who gives birth after six, seven or
even nine months? Scholars have linked the allowed
period of mourning with the waiting period. When the
waiting period is over, so is mourning, regardless of
whether the waiting period is shorter or longer than
the normal duration of four months and ten days.