There is a delicate tension in the state of iddah, the mourning period for a widow.


On the one hand, life continues, particularly if you have children or have to work to support your family. The pressures, demands and responsibilities are real and they won’t wait for four months and ten days to be over. In this space, you are forced to plan, to look forward, to move on, to face the world. It can be an exquisite distraction from the pain that lies buried deep under the school run, bedtime stories and endless paperwork and deadlines. But it is still a distraction.


On the other hand, your state of iddah restricts you; you cannot fully embrace life, even if you wanted to. You must pause. You must reflect. You must withdraw. You must face the reality, brave the darkness: the ache, the loneliness, the anger, the fear, the feeling of being bereft. You must face it because it will break you down, bring you to your knees, make you feel once again that vulnerability of his last days when you would have given anything for one last apology, one last kiss, one last promise. You must face the reality that this is Allah’s plan for you. And that, if this is so, there must be khair in it for you. It’s there. It’s there in the chance to ask for forgiveness, to pour your heart out, to cleanse, to rectify your soul, to purify your habits, to be ready to emerge from your iddah like a butterfly from a chrysalis: reborn, refashioned, beautiful.


For it is only through being tested that we realise our true selves.

© Na’ima B. Robert