Assalamualaikum ustaz. Is it permissible for a mourning woman in ‘iddah to go out to vote?
Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,
Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.
‘Iddah literal meaning is a calculation, measurement or total number. The reason is it includes the total number of the purity state from menstruation and also the number of months.
The terminology ‘iddah is a name for a certain duration for a woman to wait, enslaving herself to Allah (ta’abbudi) or as a sign of mourning for the loss of her husband, or ensuring that her womb is free from any pregnancy. 
The wisdom behind iddah for the death of a husband is sanctioned is so that:
- Showcasing her loyalty towards her newly passed away husband. Thus, Allah SWT obligates her to respect, stay loyal and treat him well. Thus, it is inappropriate for the wife to act the opposite after the death of her husband.
- Replacing the custom of the jahiliyyah who obligates a widow to lock herself away in a dark place for a year after her husband’s death.
Iddah of a menstruating woman whose husband passed away: 4 months and 10 days. This is as stated by Allah SWT:
وَالَّذِينَ يُتَوَفَّوْنَ مِنْكُمْ وَيَذَرُونَ أَزْوَاجًا يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنْفُسِهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْرًا
“And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind – they, [the wives, shall] wait four months and ten [days].” 
‘Iddah due to the death of her husband is the ‘iddah obligated for a wife whose husband passed away:
- If the woman is pregnant when her husband died, then her ‘iddah will end with the birth of her child regardless of whether the ‘iddah is long or short.
- If the wife isn’t pregnant or is pregnant but not from the husband’s seed (the husband who died). It is the same as a wife who is pregnant, when the husband has yet to reach maturity or her husband has been missing for more than four years whether he has had intercourse with his wife or otherwise, then the ‘iddah will end after 4 months and ten days. 
A woman in ‘iddah due to the death of her husband is obligated to do the following matters:
- Mourn the death of her husband by not adorning or perfuming herself by wearing make-up, bright-coloured clothing, jewellery and others.
This follows the hadith narrated by Ummu Habibah R.Anha:
يَحِلُّ لاِمْرَأَةٍ مُسْلِمَةٍ تُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ أَنْ تُحِدَّ فَوْقَ ثَلاَثَةِ أَيَّامٍ، إِلاَّ عَلَى زَوْجِهَا أَرْبَعَةَ أَشْهُرٍ وَعَشْرًا
“It is not lawful for a Muslim woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to mourn for more than three days, except for her husband, for whom she should mourn for four months and ten days.” 
It is obligatory for her to stay at her house for the whole duration of her ‘iddah. The wife isn’t allowed to go out except for her necessities and needs. For example, if she wants to go out to buy food or if she has to go out to work because her work doesn’t allow her to stay at home throughout her ‘iddah or if she needs to go out to talk with her neighbours to avoid loneliness. 
- It is permissible to go out of her house for her needs as stated in a hadith narrated by jabir RA:
طُلِّقَتْ خَالَتِي فَأَرَادَتْ أَنْ تَجُدَّ نَخْلَهَا فَزَجَرَهَا رَجُلٌ أَنْ تَخْرُجَ فَأَتَتِ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ: بَلَى فَجُدِّي نَخْلَكِ فَإِنَّكِ عَسَى أَنْ تَصَدَّقِي أَوْ تَفْعَلِي مَعْرُوفًا
“My maternal aunt was divorced by three utterances of the divorce and wanted to cut down fruit from her palm-trees, but a man forbade her to go out, so she went to the Prophet and he said, “Certainly, cut down fruit from your palm-trees, for perhaps you may give sadaqa or do an act of kindness.” 
Imam al-Nawawi stated in his syarah: “This hadith is evidence that a woman going through her ‘iddah bain is permissible to go out to fulfil her needs. The opinion of madhhab Malik, al-Tsauri, al-Laits, al-Syafie, Ahmad permit a woman undergoing her ‘iddah bain to go out of her house during the day to fulfil her needs. They also ruled it permissible for a woman whose husband just died and this is agreed by Abu Hanifah although, for the case of talaq bain, he stated that she is impermissible to go out, regardless of whether it is during the day or night. This hadith is also evidence that it is encouraged to give charity during the harvest season of dates, the same for giving the dates as gifts. It is also encouraged for the owner himself to do so and reminding towards makruf and good.” 
Imam Romli in his book stated this permissibility is bound with the condition that the woman can only go out during the day and must return and stay the night at her house (place of her ‘iddah). 
Moreover, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia has issued a guideline for a woman in ‘iddah  as the following:
- Prohibited against accepting the proposal of another man.
- Prohibited to marry another ajnabi man. If marriage happened during the ‘iddah duration, the marriage is invalid and the couple must be separated.
- It is impermissible for her to travel, except for the necessary limitations. Among important matters that permit her to go out is to go to work, seeking medical treatment, buying her necessities (if there are no one from her family or trustworthy people that can buy them for her) and other exigent needs on the condition that she follow the rules and manners sanctioned in Islam. This permissibility is also bound to only during the day and not at night. However, exceptions are given for individuals who don’t have any choice and have to work at night for example a doctor, nurse and others. The prohibition against travel includes the prohibition against performing the worships of hajj and umrah.
- Moving out of the house where she usually stays throughout her marriage. However, if there is a danger of harm that threatens her life such as flood, landslide, earthquake and others, she is permissible to go out and leave her house until the danger of harm is no longer an issue.
- She is obligated to mourn throughout the ‘iddah. “Thus, during this duration, she is obligated to leave all matters that have an element of adorning or beautifying herself whether in terms of her clothing or herself. This prohibition includes:
- Wearing bright-coloured or colorful clothing that attracts others.
- Wearing jewellery even if it is just a ring, bracelet, necklace and other adornments made from gold, silver and diamonds;
- Wearing perfumes or fragrances on her body, hair and clothing and
- Wearing make-up, kohl, henna and hair oil and other acts that are considered as adorning herself according to the local customs.
Among the meaning of ihdad lexically is restriction. From this, a woman is restricted from adorning herself which lead to the meaning of showcasing her sadness. 
While the terminology is used to describe a woman who is restricted from adorning herself which leads to the meaning of in certain duration and situations. Hence, it also restricts her from staying the night at a place other than her house. 
While voting according to the 4th Edition of Kamus Dewan  is defined as:
- Determining (choosing) by casting a vote;
- Voting decides something by counting votes (voting etc.), choosing (determining etc.) something by casting votes.
According to the above question, in our opinion, it is permissible for her to go out to vote on the following conditions and guidelines:
- Impermissible to go out recklessly without any necessity and not go out for sinful purposes and she should cover her aurah outside her house.
- If only she can send a representative from her family members such as her children or friends.
- Be mindful of the manners and rules during ihdad (mourning).
- Distance herself from anything that could lead to fitnah.
- Do not adorn herself with gold, silver, diamonds by wearing bracelets and necklaces.
- Do not wear any perfumes or fragrances which also includes bukhur and perfumes.
- She should go out and settle all her needs and important affairs during the day and return to stay the night at her house.
Thus, it could be concluded that it is permissible for a woman during her ‘iddah to go out and vote. The reason is voting is an obligation that should be done by the person herself and cannot be represented by another. Furthermore, it is categorized as wajib mudayyaq (an obligation that must be done in a certain amount of time) considering that voting can only be done in a set limited amount of time and cannot be postponed to another time.
May Allah SWT grant us all understanding in this religion. Amin.