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Sorry for keeping you waiting

Am I Better Off Single?

Karima umm ‘Umar discusses the issue of widows remarrying in the light of Islam and her own experiences.

I am a widow. My husband died a little over a year ago. He was a loving, caring and gentle man and the perfect companion, so it is nigh on impossible for me to conceive of ever being married to anyone else.

 

As a Muslim, I know that I have been accorded Divine Guidance in every single aspect of my life; I do not have to rely solely on my own, sometimes somewhat wobbly, whims and emotions. So what does Islam say on the subject of widows remarrying?

 

When a Muslim woman loses a spouse, Allah (SWT) has, in His Infinite Mercy and Wisdom, ordained for her an extended mourning period, known as her ‘iddah’, or ‘waiting period’.

 

“If any of you die and leave widows behind they shall wait concerning themselves four months and ten days: when they have fulfilled their term there is no blame on you if they dispose of themselves in a just and reasonable manner. And Allah is well acquainted with what ye do.” (Al-Baqarah:234)

 

I refer to this prescribed waiting period as a mercy because I personally found it so. In Islam, the usual mourning period for the loss of a loved one other than a spouse is three days. To be expected to get over the death of one’s husband in such a short space of time, Allah (SWT) in all His Wisdom knows, is not possible! My husband was someone I relied on heavily. I realise it is a cliché, but he was a rock, a cornerstone in my life. We were, after all, as close as garments to one another. When he died, the fact that I was not expected to move on straight away – that I was allowed, nay expected and encouraged, to take a considerable length of time to grieve openly and fully – took an enormous pressure off me, Alhamdulillah.

 

My friends have become bold lately, as my all-consuming grief diminishes somewhat. They quip that it’s time I thought about remarrying, that I’m still young and ought not to be struggling alone with the children. They are right, in a way. It’s certainly not easy being on my own, and my three angst-ridden teenagers and zippy four-year-old pose many and varied challenges on a daily basis. Yet this to me seems a prime reason not to remarry. Although it would be wonderful to have someone alongside me to share the load, to shoulder some of the responsibility and the decision-making that I find so very hard at times, would this really be fair to the children? It would depend on the character and intentions of the brother of course, and I may well be blessed with a man who wanted to act as a loving father to my children, as well as a supportive husband to me; but making a wrong choice is far too risky in my mind, in terms of the upbringing and well-being of the children. It is mentioned in Bukhari’s book of manners that ‘Awf ibn Malik reported that the Prophet (SAW) said, “I and a woman who is widowed and is patient with her child will be like these two fingers in the Garden.” (Bukhari)

 

So, it seems that there is a virtue and a great reward in concentrating on nurturing and fulfilling the rights of one’s children, who are after all considered orphans after the death of their father.

 

Yet we are not all brave and strong enough to endure all of life’s trials alone. Nor does Allah (SWT) expect us to. We were created in pairs alongside all of Allah’s Creation and so it is not natural for us to persevere alone, especially if we are reverts, or sisters with little or no family support. So re-marriage is a perfectly viable and understandable choice to make.

 

However, like Umm Salamah (RA), I overwhelmingly feel that my late husband is simply irreplaceable. I can relate to her story in this regard, particularly her reluctance to recite the last six words of the du’a she was encouraged to say after her beloved Abu Salamah (RA) died: ‘To Allah we belong, to Allah is our return. O Allah recompense me for my affliction and replace it with something better.’
On completing her iddah, first Abu Bakr (RA) and then ‘Umar (RA) proposed to Umm Salamah (RA), yet she declined. When the Prophet (SAW) approached her for marriage she replied: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I have three characteristics. I am a woman who is extremely jealous, and I am afraid that you will see in me something that will anger you and cause Allah to punish me. I am a woman who is already advanced in age, and I am a woman who has a young family.’

 

The Prophet (SAW) replied: ‘Regarding the jealousy you mentioned, I pray to Allah the Almighty to let it go away from you. Regarding the question of age you have mentioned, I am afflicted with the same problem as you. Regarding the dependent family you have mentioned, your family is my family.’
This beautiful conversation highlights some of the present day dilemmas widowed sisters may face: quandaries surrounding remarriage if one still has small children and issues of confidence and the reluctance to share one’s life with another man – one who may not be able to live up to the good character of one’s late husband.

 

Umm Salamah’s story helps us widowed sisters to understand and to have hope in the fact that Allah (SWT) can replace something that we hold so dear with something even better if we ask and expect Him to.

 

My husband actually encouraged me towards remarriage many times during his illness, giving me his ‘blessing’ as it were, so I would not shoulder any guilt as some widows may when considering this step. A pressing question for me is, presuming I did remarry, who then would be my husband in Jannah, insha Allah?

 

Al-Albaani authenticated a hadith, which states that our Prophet (SAW) said: “The woman will be for her last husband in Paradise.”

 

Knowing this would heavily influence any remarrying decisions for me as I often ponder on the hope and pray for the day that my late husband and I will be reunited insha Allah.

 

Imaam ‘Abdul-‘ Aziz bin ‘Abdillah bin Baz has mentioned other hadiths, in which the chains of narration are weak and debated, that state that if a woman was married more than once, she may choose the husband with the best character in Jannah. However, Imaam ‘Abdul-‘ Aziz bin ‘Abdillah bin Baz states that it is of course ultimately up to Allah (SWT) to determine this issue. He I knows best what will happen on the Day of Judgement and in the life hereafter.

 

Many myths and misconceptions surround the question of whether or not widows are allowed to remarry. The aforementioned quote from Surat Al-Baqarah (2:234) dispels those myths in one fell swoop, as does the fact that we know that our Prophet’s (SAW) first wife Khadija (RA) was a widow when she proposed to him (SAW). So not only is it definitely permissible in Islam for a widowed woman to remarry, but she may take the initiative and actually be the one to propose!

 

We can see then, from an Islamic perspective, that should a widow one day choose to remarry, there is nothing wrong with fulfilling that need, and we are well within our rights to do so. Yet if we are able to cope alone and choose not to remarry, there is great virtue and reward in that.

 

As in all situations and dilemmas we face in life, Islam serves only to make things easier for us, giving us choices and catering for our individual circumstances and needs. Alhamdulillah.

 

 

It has been almost 18 years since Umm ‘Umar embraced Islam. Recently widowed, she currently lives in West London with some of her lovely children masha Allah.