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What is the ‘iddat’, ‘un-Islamic’ marriage, that led to conviction of Imran Khan and wife Bushra Bibi?

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A Pakistan court on Saturday imposed a seven-year sentence on both Imran Khan, the former Prime Minister, and his spouse in a case that challenged the legitimacy of their marriage, labeling it as “un-Islamic.”
The couple had previously received individual 14-year sentences in a separate corruption case, the Toshakhana case, for illicitly disposing of state gifts.
The recent judgment, delivered on a Saturday, pertains to the “un-Islamic marriage case,” initiated by the ex-husband of Bushra Bibi. This marks the third conviction for Khan within a week, all while he is detained in Rawalpindi prison since August, facing over a hundred charges.
Khan, after his conviction in the “iddat” case, criticized the case as an attempt to “humiliate and disgrace” him and his wife. He remarked, “This marks the first instance in history where a case related to iddat has been initiated.”
The complaint against the marriage was raised in November last year by Khawar Maneka, Bibi’s ex-husband.
According to Maneka, Bushra Bibi divorced him on September 25, 2017, and married Imran Khan on January 1, 2018, without completing the required iddat period of three months. He claimed that this was against the Sharia law and the Muslim Personal Law, and that it caused him and his family humiliation and disgrace.
However, the court did not accept their arguments and found them guilty of violating the iddat rules and the Muslim Personal Law. The court sentenced them to seven years imprisonment each and fined them Rs 500,000 each. The court also declared their marriage null and void and against the Sharia law.
“The divorce deed presented by Khawar Maneka is a fabricated document,” the Nation newspaper reported Bibi as saying in a statement Friday to a special court session at Adiala jail, where Khan is being held.
“Khawar Maneka gave me a triple divorce in April 2017,” it quoted Bibi’s statement as saying.
“Imran Khan and I solemnised our marriage on January 1, 2018.”
The newspaper said the couple questioned why Maneka had waited so long to make his complaint, arguing he only raised the issue last year after being detained in a graft case.
Observers note the timing of these three convictions, occurring just before the general elections on 8 February, where Khan, despite being banned, retains significant voter support.
The verdict has drawn criticism from various quarters. Hamid Mir, a prominent journalist, termed the verdict as “disgraceful for the judiciary.” Reema Umer, a legal expert, expressed her dismay on X, highlighting the case as a “damning blot on our justice system” and condemning the state’s actions as a ploy to demean Khan and Bushra Bibi.
Meanwhile, here is an explainer on what is Iddat
In Islamic tradition, ‘iddah or iddat represents a mandatory waiting period for a woman following her husband’s demise or post-divorce, during which she is prohibited from marrying another man. This period primarily serves to clarify the lineage of any child born subsequent to the husband’s death or the divorce.
The duration of ‘iddah varies based on specific conditions. Typically, a divorced woman observes an ‘iddah of three lunar months (approximately 89 days), but if the marriage was unconsummated, the ‘iddah is not required. In the case of a widow, the ‘iddah extends to four lunar months and ten days (around 128 days) after her husband’s passing, regardless of whether the marriage was consummated or not. Should a woman be pregnant at the time of her husband’s death or her divorce, the ‘iddah continues until the birth of the child.
Islamic scholars view this rule as a means to balance the mourning period for a deceased husband and to shield the widow from potential societal scrutiny for remarrying swiftly after her spouse’s death. It also serves to confirm the pregnancy status of the woman, as four and a half months approximately equates to half the duration of a standard pregnancy.
(With inputs from agencies)

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