A lost person is the one whose news are not known, so the people do not know whether he is alive or not and whether the interruption of the news was due to a travel, a fight, the drown of a ship, or falling a captive in the hand of enemies during war.
If a husband has gone away from his wife, there are two cases:
The first case is: An uninterrupted absence whereas his news are known and there is a connection with him, it is not permissible for the wife of that person to marry according to all scholars except in one condition which is: If the husband does not spend on her or it is feared that she maybe deviated from the right course. In such a case, she has the right to ask for the annulment of the marriage contract, and likewise the wife of the captive and the detained after making sure that the husband has died.
The second case is: To be lost and his news are not known, in this case he has two cases:
1- His absence surely because of a certain death such as the one who is lost suddenly or lost in war or drowned. The correct view is that his wife should wait for four years then wait another four months and ten days then she may marry. This is the view of `Umar, `Uthman, `Ali, Ibn `Abbas, and Ibn Az-Zubayr. Ahmad said: Five of the Prophet's Companions held the same view in addition to Malik, Al Shafi`y, and Ahmad.
`Ubayd ibn `Umayr narrated that a man was lost during the time of `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) and his wife came to `Umar and mentioned that to him. He said: Go and wait for four years. She did and came back to him. He said: Wait for four months and ten days. She did and came back to him. He said: Where is the guardian of that man? He commanded him to divorce the wife then `Umar said to her: Go and marry whomever you want. The woman got married then her first husband came back. `Umar asked him: Where were you? He said: O Emir of the believers, I was hijacked by devils and I went to a group of them as a slave until Muslims Jinns conquered their country and released me saying: You are a human what brought you here? I told them the story and they said: Where do you like to be? I said: Medina which is my homeland. So, in the morning, I was looking to Medina. Then `Umar gave him the choice whether he would choose to take his wife back in marriage or taking his dower, and he chose dower. He said also: She has become pregnant, so I do not need her. (2)
Imam Ahmad said: That narration was reported from `Umar from three different ways and none of the Companions objected to that.
Al Jawzajany and others reported with their chain of narration from Ali concerning the case of the wife of a lost person: She should wait for four years then the guardian of the husband divorces her and she waits for another four months and ten days. If her lost husband shows up after all, he shall be given the choice of taking his wife back in marriage or to take the dower. `Uthman also issued the same verdict as well as Ibn Az-Zubayr. These narrations were reported from some Companions and there was no objection from the Companions.
This series written by
Dr. Ilham Al Jabry
(1) Al Bahr Ar-Ra'iq 5/176, Al `Inayah Sharh Al Hidayah 8/230, Al Istidhkar 6/130, Al Mudawwanah 2/30, I`anat At-Talibin 4/83, Al Umm 5/240, Al Majmu` Sharh Al Muhadhdhab 18/268, Rawdat At-Talibin 8/400, Al Iqna` on the Fiqh of Imam Ahmad 4/113, Al Mughny 9/131, Hashiyat Ar-Rawd Al Murbi` 7/66, and I`lam Al Muwaqi`in 2/55.
(2) Ibn Hajar said in Fathul-Bary 9/431: Reported by `Abdur-Razzaq Sa`id ibn Mansur and ibn Abu Shaybah with authentic chain of transmission from `Umar.