Does the elderly woman mourn and what is the ruling concerning that?

Question: A man died and his wife was elderly, over seventy years old, with little ability to think and no servant. He died while she was still married to him. Does she have to go through the mourning period like others? What is the wisdom behind such an act if someone is old like her? Why then is it that the pregnant woman mourns only until she gives birth, implying that the mourning period is just to make certain that the woman is or is not pregnant? In a case like this woman, that possibility is not present.

Response: The woman mentioned in the question goes through the mourning period of four months and ten days since she falls under the generality of Allaah’s words, ‘Those of you who die and leave wives behind, they [the wives] shall wait for four months and ten days” (al-Baqarah 234). From the Sharee’ah wisdom of the waiting period and mourning even if the woman is old and could not possibly be pregnant is: honoring the seriousness of the marriage contract, raising the status and demonstrating the honorableness of the marriage, and fulfilling the rights of the husband, and showing the effects of one’s loss by not beautifying or adorning oneself. Therefore, her mourning in that case is more than her mourning in the case of the death of a father or child.

The ruling concerning a pregnant woman is until she gives birth based on the generality of Allaah’s statement, “For those who are pregnant, their waiting period is until they deliver” (at-Talaaq 4). This verse particularizes the generality of the other verse, ‘Those of you who die and leave wives behind, they [the wives] shall wait for four months and ten days” (al-Baqarah 234). A wisdom behind relating the end of the waiting period to giving birth is that the pregnancy is the right of the first husband. If she gets married after the first husband’s death or other [type of separation from him] and she is pregnant, then the second husband may be mixing his sperm with another man’s. This is not allowed due to the statement of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam), “It is not allowed for a Muslim man who believes in Allaah and the Hereafter to water what another has sown with his water [that is, to have intercourse with a woman impregnated by another man].” This was recorded by Imam Ahmad, Abu Daawood and Ibn Hibban on the authority of Ruwayfee ibn Thaabit al-Ansaaree.

It is obligatory upon a Muslim to apply the laws of the Sharee’ah regardless of whether he knows the wisdom behind then or not. He must have belief that Allaah regulates what is best and proper in His Law and His Decrees. However, if Allaah blesses one with the knowledge of the wisdom, then that is light upon light and goodness in addition to goodness.

And with Allaah lies all success and may Allaah send prayers and salutations upon our Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) and his family and his companions.

The Permanent Committee for Islaamic Research and Fataawa

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