When a muslim woman is divorced or widowed she has to undergo iddat before she can marry again. Prisoners of war can be turned into sex slaves, so do they also have to do iddat? If their husband was killed in battlefield do they have iddat for four months? Do they have iddat when their master dies?

1 Answer 1


They do have a waiting period but not necessarily iddah. The waiting period for a slave woman depends on what ended her previous relationship:


If the woman was initially a harbi non-muslim who has been captured and enslaved then sexual intercourse may be had with her (via concubinage or marriage) after:

  • one menstrual period if she menstruates and is not pregnant
  • delivery if she is pregnant
  • passage of a period of time if she does not menstruate - the mahabs differ on what period suffices: one month, one and a half month, two months or three months.

This is based on the ahadith:

عن أبي سعيد الخدري، ورفعه، أنه قال في سبايا أوطاس لا توطأ حامل حتى تضع ولا غير ذات حمل حتى تحيض حيضة

Abu Sa’id Al Khudri traced to Prophet (ﷺ) regarding the captives taken at Awtas:

There must be no intercourse with pregnant woman till she gives birth to her child or with the one who is not pregnant till she has had one menstrual period.

Abu Dawud

قدم النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم خيبر، فلما فتح الله عليه الحصن ذكر له جمال صفية بنت حيى بن أخطب، وقد قتل زوجها وكانت عروسا، فاصطفاها النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لنفسه، فخرج بها، حتى بلغنا سد الصهباء حلت، فبنى بها رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم

The Prophet (ﷺ) came to Khaibar and when Allah made him victorious and he conquered the town by breaking the enemy's defense, the beauty of Safiya bint Huyai bin Akhtab was mentioned to him and her husband had been killed while she was a bride. Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) selected her for himself and he set out in her company till he reached Sadd-ar-Rawha' where her menses were over and he married her.


This waiting period is called istibra ( استبراء ) and apart from it there is no additional iddah, otherwise it would have been mentioned here. The first hadith categorically permits sexual intercourse with her after the passage of a menstrual period or after delivery of her pregnancy.

Note that this waiting period is similar to iddah but it is not iddah. Its purpose is only to ensure that her womb is empty so that there is no doubt about the paternity of any children born from her. Unlike iddah its purpose is not to honor her previous marriage rather her previous marriage is either not recognized by Islam or was rendered void the moment she was captured.

Also note that this prohibition is on sexual intercourse. It is permitted for her master to move her out of her house and to look at her and to be alone with her, by consensus. Some madhabs even allow for intimacy (other than sexual intercourse like by kissing etc.) during this waiting period.

إذا سبوا المرأة أبيحت بعد الاستبراء والمسبية ليس عليها إلا الاستبراء بالسنة واتفاق الناس

If a woman is captured then she becomes lawful after istibra', and there is nothing else on her except istibra' according to the sunnah and the agreement of the people

Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa

وأجمعوا أن المسبية من أهل الحرب لا عدة عليها، وعليها حيضة الاستبراء

There is consensus that a female captive from the Ahl al-Harb does not observe iddah, rather on her is a menstrual period for istibra'

al-Iqnaa‘ fi Masaa’il al-Ijmaa‘

Transfer of ownership:

If ownership of a slave concubine is to be transferred by being sold, gifted or inherited then the same waiting period applies as stated above.

Being freed:

If a slave woman was a concubine and then was freed by her master then the same waiting period applies as above. However a minority opinion differs on the case of an Umm Walad whose master has freed her or who has become free automatically by the death of her master, saying that her waiting period is three menstrual cycles.

Divorce or death of husband:

This applies when the slave was married off under Islamic rule after enslavement. Note that a slave's owner can keep her as a concubine for himself but he can also instead give her in marriage to someone else. Any non-mahram free male (other than her owner) can be married to a slave woman when he is unable to afford marriage to a free woman and when he fears falling into zina otherwise (Quran 4:25). Similarly any non-mahram male slave can be married to a slave woman (Quran 24:32).

When this marriage is over she has to observe iddah. If she is divorced then her iddah is as follows according to the majority of the madhabs:

  • if she is pregnant then it is till she delivers
  • if she menstruates then it is two menstrual periods. The iddah for a free woman is three menstrual cycles (Quran 2:228) and for a slave it is half (and the fraction rounded up) of that amount
  • if she does not menstruate then her iddah is determined by passage of a period of time. The madhabs differ on whether this will be one and a half month, or two months, or three months.

If her husband died then:

  • if she was pregnant then her iddah lasts until she delivers
  • otherwise her iddah\mourning period is two months and five days. The iddah for death of husband for a free woman is four months and ten days (Quran 2:234) and that for a slave woman is half of that.

According to the majority of the madhabs the iddah of a slave woman is half that of a free woman. That is based on the hadith:

طلاق الأمة تطليقتان وعدتها حيضتان

The divorce for a slave woman is two divorces, and her Iddah is two menstruations.

Jami at-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud etc. corroborated by mawqoof reports and Ijma'

And based on analogy with the fact that the amount of hadd for a slave is halved, and that other amounts for a slave are also halved:

فعليهن نصف ما على المحصنات من العذاب

for them is half the punishment for free [unmarried] women

Quran 4:25

And based on Ijma':

اتفاق الصحابة، - رضي الله عنهم - على أن عدة الأمة المطلقة على النصف من عدة الحرة، فكذلك عدة الوفاة

The sahaba were agreed that the iddah of a divorced slave woman is half of the iddah of a free woman, and similarly the iddah of death is also half


Although rare dissenting opinions exist such as of some Zahiris who holds that her iddah is equal to a free woman i.e. three menstrual periods after divorce and four months ten days after becoming a widow.

Ref: Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah استبراء and رق / عدة الأمة

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