Dr. Muhammad Al-Bahiyy, in his book منهج القرآن في تطوير المجتمع, pages 53-55, explains his interpretation of the two verses and concludes that neither one abrogated the other. He makes it clear that the subject and addressee are different in the two verses (see our validation rule
#12). The subject in 2:234 is accommodation period
and the addressees are the decedent husband's family with whom the widow is mourning, while the subject in 2:240 is mourning period
and the addressee is the widow.
Indeed, and that is a very important distinction that has escaped several scholars who saw abrogation in this pair of verses. Ali's opinion, which was later shared by Mujaadid and Ibn Taymiya, was closest to that understanding, as he opined that the widow may choose either of the two periods.
There's no disagreement between scholars that the four-month-and-ten-days period is a mourning period. The problem is that many thought that the one year was also a mourning period that got reduced. The question which was probably on their minds was: What happens after four months and ten days have passed? Those who believe in abrogation implied that the widow should then leave her husband's house!
Dr. Al-Bahiyy says that the verses order the following,
- A widow must mourn the death of her husband for four months and ten days. She cannot, for example, marry again until that mourning period has elapsed.
- The in-laws of the widow are advised to provide residence and pay expenses of his widow for a year. That was Al-Bahiyy's interpretation of 2:234! IMHO, the advice is clearly to her husband to state that in his will. Either way, this is important, because some scholars, e.g., `Ataa' opined that inheritance verses abrogated the expenses provision of 2:234, presumably thinking that since the widow has money now, she no longer needs financial support from her in-laws.
But that argument is easily refuted by the fact that sons are still required to take care of their parent's financial needs even if they inherited money.
- The widow can leave her husband's house, any time after the mourning period, and do whatever she wishes, e.g., go to her own family's house, marry again, etc. And she can opt to stay the whole year.
It is important to notice that the order in 2:234 is a recommendation, while the order in 2:240 is a mandate. Because they are not in conflict, they can both be complied with. If Al-Bahiyy's interpretation of 2:234 is correct, then the in-laws are under no obligation to accommodate the widow after the mourning period. If the more straightforward interpretation is the correct one, then a man is not obligated to leave such instructions in his will. But if he does, his heirs are now obligated to carry them out.