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According to Wikipedia:

Iddah is, the period, three months after a divorce and four months and ten days after the death of a spouse, is calculated on the number of menses that a woman has. Iddah was intended to ensure that the male parent of any offspring produced after the cessation of a nikah would be known.

Is it necessary for an old lady to observe Iddah(period of waiting)?

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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The iddat for a divorced woman is set to three menstrual periods, as interpreted from the following ayah:

Divorced women remain in waiting for three periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. ...
[Al-Baqarah 228]

This above applies to any woman, regardless of age, as long as she is menstruating. However, for the cases of a woman for whom no menstrual periods are expected (be it due to age or any other reason) the iddat is still required and set to a fixed three (lunar) months:

And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women - if you doubt, then their period is three months, and [also for] those who have not menstruated. ...
[Al-Talaq 4]

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  • The iddah for a divorced woman is three menstrual periods if she doesn't appear to be pregnant.

  • If the woman is no longer menstruating either because she is too old or for any other reason, then the iddah is three lunar months.

  • The iddah for a widowed is four lunar months and 10 days if she doesn't appear to be pregnant.

  • If she is pregnant, or discovered that she is pregnant before the three menstrual periods (if she is divorced) or the four months lunar months and 10 days (if she is widowed) are finished, then the iddah is till she give birth.

  • Those rules are based on those ayat:

    وَالْمُطَلَّقَاتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ ثَلَاثَةَ قُرُوءٍ ۚ وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَهُنَّ أَن يَكْتُمْنَ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ فِي أَرْحَامِهِنَّ إِن كُنَّ يُؤْمِنَّ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ ۚ وَبُعُولَتُهُنَّ أَحَقُّ بِرَدِّهِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ إِنْ أَرَادُوا إِصْلَاحًا ۚ وَلَهُنَّ مِثْلُ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ۚ وَلِلرِّجَالِ عَلَيْهِنَّ دَرَجَةٌ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ

    Sahih International Translation

    Divorced women remain in waiting for three periods, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah has created in their wombs if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands have more right to take them back in this [period] if they want reconciliation. And due to the wives is similar to what is expected of them, according to what is reasonable. But the men have a degree over them [in responsibility and authority]. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.

    [Surat Al-Baqarah:228]

    and

    وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجًا يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْرًا ۖ فَإِذَا بَلَغْنَ أَجَلَهُنَّ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِيمَا فَعَلْنَ فِي أَنفُسِهِنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ

    Sahih International Translation

    And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind - they, [the wives, shall] wait four months and ten [days]. And when they have fulfilled their term, then there is no blame upon you for what they do with themselves in an acceptable manner. And Allah is [fully] Acquainted with what you do.

    [Surat Al-Baqarah:234]

    and

    وَاللَّائِي يَئِسْنَ مِنَ الْمَحِيضِ مِن نِّسَائِكُمْ إِنِ ارْتَبْتُمْ فَعِدَّتُهُنَّ ثَلَاثَةُ أَشْهُرٍ وَاللَّائِي لَمْ يَحِضْنَ ۚ وَأُولَاتُ الْأَحْمَالِ أَجَلُهُنَّ أَن يَضَعْنَ حَمْلَهُنَّ ۚ وَمَن يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ يُسْرًا

    Sahih International Translation

    And those who no longer expect menstruation among your women - if you doubt, then their period is three months, and [also for] those who have not menstruated. And for those who are pregnant, their term is until they give birth. And whoever fears Allah - He will make for him of his matter ease.

    [Surat Aţ-Ţalāq:4]

The ruling is clear, and no exceptions based on age are mentioned neither in Quran nor in Sunnah (at least according to my simple search), so old women still have to perform iddah, even if they no longer can become pregnant or menstruate.

In fact, the reasoning behind iddah is not just to ensure that the male parent is known (i.e, Wikipedia's article is not accurate, and that's told in the note at its top - citation and verification needed). Yes, that might be among the reasons, but that is not the only reason, so if that reason is gone the ruling is not gone.

And Allah knows best.

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In the Ja3fari school of fiqh, there is no 3iddah (of divorce) upon a girl who is non-baligh nor upon a woman who has entered menopause. The verse in Surat al-Talaq has an important clause that deserves attention - if you doubt - and in various tafasir, it is used to refer to women who have reached the age of menopause, yet the menstrual cycle is not ascertained to have stopped definitely. In such a case, the woman, even if old, would have to keep an 3iddah of three menstrual cycles. The other case is of women of reproductive age, who are experiencing amenorrhea, and hence they have to also observe 3iddah like normal women their age would. Also if a man never had sexual intercourse with his wife, regardless of her age, she does not have to keep an 3iddah.

This is the link to fatawa from Sayyid al-Sistani concerning the above:

http://www.al-islam.org/laws/divorce.html#2519

In the case of 3iddah of death, every widow has to observe a set four months and ten days, unless she was expecting, in which case she will wait out the term which is longer.

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