I was reminded last month that I never explained a blog post of mine Sheikh Up. Post divorce, I have been trying to learn more about my faith and better my knowledge on certain matters. As it happens, one of the topics covered last month was marriage and a question was posed to the Sheikh (religious teacher) about iddah. I suppose iddah can be defined as the waiting time before a woman can get married again however within this, a number of other restrictions apply; namely staying in the house and not socialising outwith.
The question itself was: “What happens if a woman works but she has to complete iddah”. A fair enough answer was given, financial circumstances, she may need to support herself etc. All good. Then there was a slight off the cuff remark at the end which grated me. “If she can, she should take the time off work. At the end of the day, people take time off work for personal problems all the time”. Yes, granted, normal people do take the odd day off for delhi belly or perhaps a few weeks for a cracked body part but not months to mourn a marriage?!
So here comes the “P” word…….flee while you can men….run!! Unbeknown to me before I had to do it, the waiting time is calculated in accordance with a woman’s period. Three menstrual cycles and hip hip hooray; you’re not pregnant, essentially mourned your marriage and you can leave iddah to begin your new life.
I never spoke of it at the time but there was a slight snag for me. The whole finding out your ex had been sleeping with someone else, abusive messages, filing legal matters proved to be an eensy bit stressful and my period stopped. Using common sense, I decided to wait it out three months, take a pregnancy test and release myself. Sounds logical, no? Apparently it doesn’t work that way.
Infact, I approached the same sheikh whose class this question came up in. Perhaps that’s why I felt such a sense of anger at his earlier response as it brought to mind how flippantly I felt my own issue had been dealt with. I was told that unless my period started back up then I would have to be in iddah for a year. I should take a form of the pill to try to restart it. My answer, I can’t take that as I have an allergy. The reply back, in that case your iddah will be a year. To someone else reading this who hasn’t done iddah, you may be thinking, what’s the big deal? To me, I can only describe that email as devastating. I was nearing the end of my iddah by days and suddenly I am being told that’s not actually the case.
I can understand Sheikh’s have to deal with awful stories and I have no doubt that somewhere along the way, their souls just harden/die to people’s woes. However there should be some sort of empathy that comes with the job. I was told to find a Sheikh from a different school of thought (other than my own one which is Hanafi) and maybe they could help me. In the end, that’s what I did and in the end it brought me to someone who didn’t know me from Adam, was travelling around Africa when I contacted him and he made a point to ask Hanafi scholars (rather than give me a different school of thought’s opinion) around his countries of travel what the position was. He emailed me back a week later, telling me that the opinion he received said I should come out of iddah and it was over. I was advised that if I wanted to get married, I should wait until I get three periods (to be safe). To this day, I feel a sense of loyalty towards this Sheikh and kept his email to remind me that there are learned people out there who care enough to help someone in distress.
Ironically, I got my period a few weeks after coming out of iddah. This is the case I’m trying to make. If you’re a woman, you will know that stress affects our cycles. We won’t think much of it if we’ve had a pretty pissy month and our period is late. Divorce leads to quite a few pissy months. You’re telling me nobody has a a solid answer of what a woman should do if she doesn’t get her period during iddah, except wait it out a year or shove chemicals into your body?
No, that’s really not the answer and it’s really not good enough. I don’t blame the male Sheikhs for not knowing, why would they care, they won’t ever have to go through it. This is something that we as woman are going to have to tackle ourselves.