How long can one mourn over the death of someone?


A lady informed Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa of the demise of her brother and asked about Islamic injunctions regarding the mourning by a widow and the mourning by other people, especially the mourning of a sister over the death of a brother. 

Huzooraa, in a letter dated 4 February 2020, gave the following reply: 

“Islam has guided its followers regarding every matter of happiness as well as sorrow. Hence, where, on the one hand, it exhorts to be patient after the death of a loved one, on the other, it also allows the bereaved to express grief caused by separation. All the loved ones, including parents, siblings and children of the deceased, are allowed to mourn for a maximum of three days. 

“A wife, on the other hand, has been instructed to mourn the death of her husband for a period of four months and 10 days. This is mentioned in Surah al-Baqarah of the Holy Quran. 

“Moreover, the instructions of the Holy Prophetsa in this regard that he gave at various occasions are also recorded in ahadith. Hence, it is narrated by Hazrat Zainabra bint Abi Salamah (who was the stepdaughter of the Holy Prophetsa):

“‘I went to Hazrat Umm Habibara, the noble wife of the Holy Prophetsa, who said that she heard Allah’s Messengersa saying, “It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to mourn for any dead person for more than three days except for her husband, for whom she should mourn for four months and ten days.”’ 

“[The narrator further states:] ‘Later, I went to Hazrat Zainabra bint Jahsh when her brother died.’ When three days had passed after the demise of her brother, she asked for some scent, and after applying it on herself, she said, ‘I am not in need of scent but I heard Allah’s Messengersa, while on the pulpit, saying, “It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to mourn for more than three days for any dead person except her husband, for whom she should mourn for four months and ten days.”’ (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Jana‘iz, Bab ihdadul mar‘ati ala ghairi zaujihaa)

“Thus, all the bereaved, save the widow, whether they are parents, children or siblings, are allowed to mourn for only three days, not more than that. 

“As far as the limits and the scope of mourning by a widow is concerned, (which is four months and ten days,) Islam does not make any exceptions to this, nor does it grant any age-related exemption. Therefore, it is incumbent upon a widow to spend this period of iddah in her home as much as possible. She is not allowed to adorn herself, participate in social events or leave the house unnecessarily during that period. 

“During the iddah period, a widow may go to her husband’s grave to pray, provided that the grave is in the town where the widow resides. Moreover, if she has to go to the doctor, she would be exempt on the grounds of compelling circumstances. 

“Similarly, if a widow’s family’s livelihood depends on her job or she has no other arrangements for taking the children to school and bringing them back or doing the shopping, then all these circumstances would grant her an exemption on grounds of compelling circumstances. In such a case, it would be incumbent upon her to go straight to work and return home after completing the work. That is the maximum extent of the permission to leave the house on grounds of compelling circumstances or dire need. She is not allowed to participate in any kind of social gatherings or programmes.”

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