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What is the philosophy behind the observance of Iddah?

By: Ayatullah al-Uzma Nasir Makarim Shirazi
In verse 228 of Suratul Baqarah, we read:
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And the divorced women should keep themselves in waiting for three courses.
The question that crops up here is: What is the philosophy behind this Islamic ruling?
Since the breaking up of families generally tends to inflict irreparable damage upon the fabric of a society, Islam has set stipulations which, till the maximum possible limit, seek to prevent such matrimonial break-ups. On the one hand it regards divorce as 'the most abominable of the permissible acts', while on the other hand, by referring the matrimonial disputes to the family courts established by the relatives, and initiating reconciliatory measures through the relatives of the disputing spouses, it has sought to prevent this occurrence.
One of these stipulations, which is itself a cause for delaying the divorce and weakening this matrimonial break-up, is the observance of 'Iddah - the duration of which has been set to be three (), which means to become clean, three times, from menstruation.

Iddah, a means for reconciliation and return
At times, due to certain factors, the mentality of a person comes to possess such a state that a small dispute inflames feelings of revenge so intense as to blanket the intellect and conscience, and predominantly, the division of a family occurs in these circumstances. However, it frequently happens that a short while after the dispute the husband and the wife come to their senses and repent for their actions, especially when they realize that they would have found themselves in great difficulty had their family broken up.
It is here that the verse, under discussion, states: The women must observe Iddah and remain patient till this wave passes by and the dark clouds of strife and animosity disperse from the skies of their lives.
In particular, the stipulation of Islam asking a woman to refrain from going out of the house during the period of Iddah serves to stimulate the faculty of reflection within her and is very effective in the betterment of her relationship with her husband.
And it is for this reason that we read in the first verse of Suratul Talaq:


Do not drive them out of their houses, nor should they themselves go forth, unless they commit an open indecency; and these are the limits of Allah, and whoever goes beyond the limits of Allah, he indeed does injustice to his own soul. You do not know that Allah may, after that, bring about reunion.
Usually, reminiscence of the warm and sweet moments of the life before divorce is sufficient to bring back the lost love and brighten the dimmed light of affection.

Iddah, a means to protect the generation
Another philosophy behind the Iddah is to make a woman cognizant of her state with respect to pregnancy. It must be admitted that although witnessing one phase of menstruation is usually indicative of absence of pregnancy in a woman, at times it has been observed that a woman, despite bearing a child, menstruates in the initial phase of her pregnancy and hence, in order to be absolutely sure that she does not bear a child from her previous husband, it has been ordered that she should witness three periods of menstruation after which she can enter into another marriage.[121]
Notes:
[121] Tafsir-e-Namunah, vol. 2, pg. 106

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