Assalamualaikum ustaz. Is sustenance during ‘iddah obligatory according to syarak?
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 lexically means calculation, count or number. The reason is it includes the number of pure from menstruation and also the number of months.
The ‘iddah terminology is named for certain periods of time for a woman to wait, solely obeying the commandment of Allah (ta’abbudi) or as a sign of mourning for the loss of one’s husband or ensuring her womb is clean from pregnancy. 
According to Syeikh Wahbah al-Zuhaili, iddah lexically means the calculation taken from the word (adad) which means the number, for it contains the period of pure or the number of months. According to jurists the terminology iddah is a certain period where a woman waits to know that her womb is empty or to devote herself to Allah SWT or to mourn for the loss of her husband, hence it is the waiting itself. 
The wisdoms of ‘iddah for a woman whose husband died is sanctioned is for the following purposes:
- Showcasing her loyalty for her dead husband. Thus, Allah SWT obligates the wife to respect, be loyal, and serve him. Hence, it is inappropriate for the wife to act as the consequence after her husband’s death.
- Replace the custom during the time of jahiliyyah that obligates a wife to seclude and lock herself in a dark place for a year after the death of her husband.
Iddah is a certain determined period of time to remove any effects from the marriage. When separation happens between a man and his wife, then the relationship between the wife and husband isn’t completely severed just with the separation, rather, the wife has to stop herself from marrying another man until the period set by syarak and sanctioned because originally in a divorce of talak raj’ie (first and second), hence surely, the opportunity for the man to reconcile with his wife exists.
Allah SWT states:
وَالْمُطَلَّقَاتُ يَتَرَبَّصْنَ بِأَنْفُسِهِنَّ ثَلَاثَةَ قُرُوءٍ ۚ
“Divorced women remain in waiting for three periods,” 
Sustenance according to the 4th Edition of Kamus Dewan is cash or food and other material needs for one’s livelihood as well as expenses and others obligated on the husband for his wife. 
Sustenance lexically means a person’s financial provision for his family. According to syara’ it means food, clothing and a place to live. The common meaning according to Islam’s ruling experts (jurists) is only food. 
Sustenance lexically can also mean give, which means a person gives or provide for the expenses of his family members. While according to syarak it means food, clothing and a place to live. It is named nafaqah for it is given to be used for this need. 
Allah SWT states:
وَعَلَى الْمَوْلُودِ لَهُ رِزْقُهُنَّ وَكِسْوَتُهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ ۚ
“Upon the father is the mothers’ provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable.” 
In sunnah, there is a hadith narrated from Mu’awiyah bin al-Qusyairi RA, he asked the Prophet PBUH: Messenger of Allah, what is the right of the wife of one of us over him? He replied:
أن تُطْعِمَها إذا طَعِمتَ ، وتَكْسوها إذا اكتسَيتَ ، أوِ اكتسَبتَ ، ولا تضربِ الوَجهَ ، ولا تُقَبِّح ، ولا تَهْجُرْ إلَّا في البَيتِ
“That you should give her food when you eat, clothe her when you clothe yourself, do not strike her on the face, do not revile her or separate yourself from her except in the house.” 
Syeikh Wahbah al-Zuhaili stated that the majority of scholars said the sustenance that is obligatory to be given to one’s wife is seven matters, which are: food, groceries, clothing, house, personal hygiene utensils, household items, helper for the wife if it is usual for the wife to have a helper. 
The Ruling of Sustenance During ‘Iddah
The ruling for sustenance is obligatory according to al-Quran and Sunnah. In the Quran, sustenance during ‘iddah is explained in Allah SWT’s statement:
أَسْكِنُوهُنَّ مِنْ حَيْثُ سَكَنْتُمْ مِنْ وُجْدِكُمْ وَلَا تُضَارُّوهُنَّ لِتُضَيِّقُوا عَلَيْهِنَّ ۚ
“Lodge them [in a section] of where you dwell out of your means and do not harm them in order to oppress them.” 
Syeikh Wahbah al-Zuhaili stated: Sustenance is something that is originally obligated on a husband to his wife. However, if the wife agreed to let her right which is obligated on her husband go, then it isn’t an issue. The sustenance then automatically is no longer an obligation on him. If the wife doesn’t agree to let it go, then it is considered as debt on the husband according to the jumhur if the husband refuses to pay it. It will not be abrogated except with its payment or cancellation the same way other debts are cancelled.
Furthermore, sustenance will not be abrogated even after the iddah has ended without paying for it. The evidence from the jumhur is that sustenance is a replacement not a gift without replacement. Indeed, sustenance is obligatory according to syara’ with the pronouncement of aqad, a return for the position of a wife and it is the right of the wife from her husband in marriage. When sustenance is solely a replacement, then it is the same just like any other debts that are obligatory to be paid. 
To conclude, sustenance is originally the obligation on the husband for his wife during iddah. However, if the wife agrees to let it go, then it is considered settled. But if the husband refuses to pay the sustenance, then the wife can demand her rights in court. However, we advise to first refer to the shariah court and religious office for further information.
May Allah SWT grant us all the correct understanding in religion. Amin.