Menstruation in Islam (Quick Clarification on Last Post)

So sometimes I forget that when I go on a reckless rant not everyone knows what I’m talking about. =P I’ve had a couple of questions from non-Muslims in regards to what this nailpolish thing is all about, and I suspect some were secretly wondering why I seemed to be on the verge of psychotic rage. Someone asked me in a private message why women can’t pray while they’re on their periods.

Actually, many Muslim women hold that you can pray while you’re menstruating, because the Qur’an says to pray all the time unless you are sick or certain times during pregnancy (so basically when you’re sick) and the idea is that no one can excuse you from prayer except God. But there are hadith of women coming to the Prophet and telling him that they are menstruating and the Prophet responding that they are excused from prayer. Because hadith is all we know of ritualistic prayer and it is one of the only things the Prophet actually meant to be passed down, I believe that we’re not obligated to pray during our periods. Whether or not the Prophet was correct in doing this is a subject of great debate. I don’t think he’d have messed with something this serious if he wasn’t supposed to. Either that, or the women who came to him weren’t feeling well because they were on their periods and the Prophet excused them under the blanket of illness. One of the problems with hadith is that they only record dialogue, and rarely emotion or expressions.

But (male) scholars have interpreted from this information that women who menstruate are dirty.

I suspect it must come from misinterpretation of this verse:

They will question thee concerning the monthly course. Say: ‘It is a vulnerable condition; so go apart [sexually] from women during the monthly course, and do not approach them till they are clean. When they have cleansed themselves, then come unto them as God has commanded you.’ Truly, God loves those who repent, and God loves those who cleanse themselves. (Qur’an 2:222)

Some translators choose to use “impurity” rather than “vulnerable condition” (yes, the language is that flexible.) One justification for this preference is that the verse clearly speaks of “cleansing.” (But Nahida, why don’t they realize that just because you’re cleaning something off doesn’t mean it’s dirty? Good question, imaginary person! I am glad you have better reading comprehension than these asshats!)

But note that even if it is translated as “impurity” the verse does not excuse women from prayer. As a matter of fact, the verse isn’t even about prayer–it’s only telling men to not have sex with women while they are menstruating.

I’ve been told to leave the prayer area during my period because I was “contaminating” it and “ruining everyone else’s prayers.” (Of course, I did not move.) They claim this even while there are multiple hadith of the Prophet interacting with menstruating women just as he always would if they hadn’t been menstruating. As a matter of fact, one of his wives (Umm Salama) left his bed once because she was menstruating and feared she would “contaminate” him, and he called her back. Another one (Aisha) narrated that when she was on her period the Prophet would still touch her vaginally with his fingers–if THAT doesn’t emphasize that menstruating women aren’t dirty or contaminating I don’t know what does.

Narrated ‘Aisha: The Prophet used to lean on my lap and recite Qur’an while I was in menses. (Bukhari 296)

Narrated Umm Salama: While I was laying with the Prophet under a single woolen sheet, I got the menses. I slipped away and put on the clothes for menses. He said, “Have you got nifas (menses)?” I replied, “Yes.” He then called me and made me lie with him under the same sheet. Umm Salama further said, “The Prophet used to kiss me while he was fasting. The Prophet and I used to take the bath of Janaba from a single pot.” (Bukhari 319)

Narrated ‘Aisha: The Prophet and I used to take a bath from a single pot while we were junub. During the menses, he used to ask me to put on an izar (dress worn below the waist) and used to fondle me. While in Itikaf, he used to bring his head near me and I would wash it while I used to be in my menses. (Buhkari 298)

I want to stop and appreciate the significance of that last one for a minute. The Prophet and his wife are bathing in the same bathwater while she is menstruating. And not just any bath–being in a state of junub is, in English, a state of impurity by either intercourse or sexual discharge. This is a ritualistic bath to spiritually cleanse the impurity in order to return to prayer, and he is taking it to purify himself with the same water used by his menstruating wife.


And yet here we are. Dirty. Contaminated. These scholars have even twisted the concept so that “you don’t have to pray on your period” furthered to “it is forbidden and a SIN to pray on your period.” My mother grew up believing not that she didn’t have to pray on her menses, but that she was forbidden.

In addition, she was taught that once the menses were over she needed to clean everything she ever touched. This is nowhere in the Qur’an, and hadith state the exact opposite.

Narrated Asma’ bint Abi Bakr: A woman asked God’s Apostle, “O Prophet! What should we do, if the blood of menses falls on our clothes?” God’s Apostle replied, “If the blood of menses falls on the garment of anyone of you, she must take hold of the blood spot, rub it, and wash it with water and then pray in (with it).” (Bukhari 304)

Only the part that has blood, people! You don’t need to run around lighting things on fire because you touched them. And even this doesn’t imply that the blood is spiritual contamination–unless you want to force a patriarchal interpretation on it. Objectively all it says is that you should clean off the blood from your clothes, which–if you ask me–is freakin common sense. Yes, if your clothes are stained, do clean them by all means.

And the one to knock ’em all down:

Narrated Maimuna: (the wife of the Prophet) During my menses, I never prayed, but used to sit on the mat beside the mosque of God’s Apostle. He used to offer the prayer on his sheet and in prostration some of his clothes used to touch me.” (Bukhari, 329)

So no, you may not send women away from the prayer area because they are menstruating.

It’s ridiculous and outrageous. And that, dear readers who were a little lost, is why I was so passionate. Menstruation is falsely used as an excuse to keep women out of the mosque, and to brand them as filthy. And that is why I will proudly “announce” I’m menstruating with nailpolish.

(hadith disclaimer)

44 thoughts on “Menstruation in Islam (Quick Clarification on Last Post)

  1. Thank you for this post, I feel like I'm learning a lot from your blog about Islam. I think your interpretation makes perfect sense. It's like when girls get out of gym class with cramps. I know that's probably a terrible oversimplification but hell, some people feel really shitty on their periods and it makes sense to say "Okay, you're feeling like ass, you can sit out your prayers if you need to."

  2. In addition, she was taught that once the menses were over she needed to clean everything she ever touchedEVERYTHING she touched? EVERYTHING? This sounds awesome! Could you use this as an excuse to, I don't know, grab a big soapy sponge and start trying to clean off the religious leaders who told you this like a car wash? Get a hose and start spraying it all over really inappropriate public settings? IT'S THE ONLY WAY TO BE SURE.

  3. @Flint has possibly made the best.comment.ever.I've heard stories that menstruating women cannot even walk upon the ground where a mosque is planned on being built. And stories of women bleeding through their clothes while sitting in front of the Ka'abah.

  4. I've heard stories that menstruating women cannot even walk upon the ground where a mosque is planned on being built. Wow. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse.

  5. well it is very useful post specially women as they learn much about the confusion regarding they can touch the quran or not in the periods days. thanks for sharing Allah will give you the immense reward inshaAllah.

  6. Assalam alikum, sister =)Thank you for this very informative post. It's a shame how some Muslims twist things to suit their own desires. Sothank you so much for speaking up about an issue most people tend to shy away from. Jazak Allahu Khairan. =)However there's one point, if you don't mind, that i'd like to comment on:"Another one (Aisha) narrated that when she was on her period the Prophet would still enter her vaginally with his fingers–if THAT doesn't emphasize that menstruating women aren't dirty or contaminating I don't know what does."With all due respect, I believe that this hadith/narration is incorrect. Or at the very least translated incorrectly. Because physical sexual contact between men and women while women are on their menses is very much haram. Men aren't allowed to approach a woman's vaginal area at all while she's on her period. This is for the woman's safety as much as the man. Because women can get infected by this kind of contact during their period, just like men shouldn't touch "bad blood" because the blood itself is harmful during this period. It has nothing to do with a woman being "dirty". It's just that this kind of contact can prove to be harmful to both sides because, as I said, the blood itself is unclean during this period. But it's just like you said, and just like the hadiths you posted state, any other kind of contact between men and women is halal. Thanks again for this post =)

  7. Wa'Alaiykum Asalaam lumosnox44,Thank you for your comment.In regards to the hadith, many define sex as contact through which the woman can become impregnated. The argument for this is that the Qur'an makes several different references to fertility. That is one interpretation (though not mine, because I believe oral sex still counts as sex; my interpretation is not whether she can become pregnant but that the "fertility" factor refers to the general exchange of fluids through the [generally] fertile vaginal entrance as opposed to orifices that are infertile.) It is through this argument that many have concluded that anal sex is haraam, because the Qur'an defines sex as vaginal only and does not specify that anal sex is prohibited during menstruation, which implies that anal sex had always been prohibited through the lack of specification. By these standards, what the Prophet did was not intercourse, especially as the hadith itself uses the word "fondle"–in other words there may have not been penetration. I did write "enter"; I will fix it.I'd also like to point out that while God inarguably has forbidden intercourse during menstruation, I don't believe any speculations of why God has forbade it that I've heard so far are correct. That's fine, I don't really personally need a reason–it's not something that bothers me–but anything can give you an infection; you can get an infection from sex when you're not on your period as well.

    1. Rifq

      Yes, you can get an infection from sex any time during your cycle, but it can be MUCH more problematic–even life-threatening–if you get it during your period. During the rest of the cycle (when you aren’t bleeding) there is a mucus plug covering the cervix, making it much more difficult for organisms to get farther than the vagina, i.e., into the uterus. This is important, because the uterus is the one place in the human body where there is direct access to the bloodstream without having to cross a membrane. So infection that gets that far can be very serious, or at least, much worse.

      When you bleed, that mucus plug isn’t there–the blood has to have some way to get out–so organisms would have much easier access to the uterus. By the way, this same problem exists with IUDs–the string hangs through the cervix, providing a microbial super-highway through the otherwise pretty good barrier. That’s why IUDs have such high rates of PID (pelvic inflammatory disease).

  8. Thanks for your reply =)What I understood from that hadith (and what my mother told me from her understanding of the Arabic text of the hadith and the interpretation that she heard) is that the Prophet (pbuh) didn't even come near the vaginal area. An "izar" is, like you said, a sort of covering that women used to wrap around the lower half of their bodies. I heard that what was meant by "fondling" in this context was touching or lovingly caressing, but all that happened above the lower half of the body. Maybe some things get lost in translation?I just thought i'd share this. But of course I agree with all of the other hadiths that you posted.Thanks for taking the time to read this =)

  9. When I'm on my period I feel somehow more spiritual, and more likely to read Qur'an, and I never let myself because of this issue. I enjoy the break in fasting during Ramadan, but I know I'm supposed to make up for it by fasting another time, which never seems to happen :( When I learned we can't fast during our periods, I was relieved, but learning that we also can't pray made me feel annoyed; suddenly it wasn't about comfort or illness but about how we women are dirty icky things. I'm really glad you addressed this – you have a knack for talking about all the subjects I've wished people would talk about, but most Muslims avoid….which of course makes me even more curious. Thanks Nahida! Oh, and about the nail polish, I assume it's the same rule for toenail polish, as far as wudu? I did not know about the nail polish thing before you addressed it. My husband and I are pretty much the only Muslims in town, so my knowledge of women-specific issues is limited, which is another reason I'm so glad I found you! I feel like you're my sister, hope you don't mind!

  10. Not at all! You're more than welcome! And yes, if you go by the widely accepted interpretation, the same is true for toenail polish. Also, while you are excused from ritualistic prayer according to this interpretation, you are still free to pray in your own way/talk to God whenever you want.

  11. Hey Nahida. I love your blog as it makes me go back to the Quran and really read it without getting annoyed by the alleged translations.I was taught that as defecating/urinating/farting break wudu, the constant leakage factor in periods makes it impossible to keep wudu to pray.

  12. chiya

    1.Narrated Umm Salama: While I was laying with the Prophet under a single woolen sheet, I got the menses. … Umm Salama further said, 1.“The Prophet used to kiss me while he was fasting. 3.The Prophet and I used to ….!!!!
    Its kind of obvious that 1,2 n 3 are separate incidents
    Oh my God, God forgive…
    its really very surprising that you dint interpret the above to mean that it is ok to have sex while fasting!! SubhanAllah!!!

  13. Irena

    I am just pasting something that I read to know what you think of it
    The report narrated by al-Bukhaari (974) and Muslim (890) from Umm ‘Atiyyah who said: “He (the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)) commanded us on the two Eids to bring out the virgins and those who usually stayed in seclusion, but he told the menstruating women to keep away from the prayer-place of the Muslims.”
    The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) told menstruating women to stay away from the Eid prayer-place, because it comes under the same ruling as a mosque. This indicates that menstruating women are not allowed to enter the mosque.
    They also quoted other ahaadeeth as evidence, but they are da’eef (weak) and are not valid to be quoted as evidence, such as the hadeeth in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is reported to have said, “The mosque is not permitted for menstruating women or anyone who is junub.” This hadeeth was classed as da’eef by al-Albaani in Da’eef Abi Dawood, 232.

    1. Considering that the wife of the Prophet sat beside him as he prayed, and that his clothes touched her, I would interpret that menstruating women are allowed in the mosque. I don’t believe the hadith you’ve pasted is valid, as it is a single hadith (compared to multiple hadith of the Prophet interacting with menstruating women) and other hadith that support it are weak. The hadith also specifies that it was during Eid.

      1. Irena

        Yes, the other hadith it mentions it already says is daeef and should not be taken into serious consideration. This hadith specifically talks about women praying in mosques because there is another hadith which says that the Prophet sent Aisha to get something from the mosque while she was menstruating. It implies that if necessary or if a menstruating woman has to pass through, she can. As for the Prophet’s interactions with his wives during their menstrual cycles, those have nothing to do with mosque. I believe nobody says that menstruating women are to be ostracized or locked in the room until they are cleansed. The hadith above just talks about mosques and an excuse from fasting and prayer because it is impure blood just like it says for post-coital man or woman.
        When the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) told ‘Aa’ishah to hand him a small mat — referring to a prayer mat made of papyrus on which he (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) used to pray — she told him that she was menstruating, and he said to her: “Your menstruation is not in your hand.”

  14. rifka

    Habibtii wat about the hadith that says women are deficient in deen because of their menses. Have u heard of that one??also what about veing in mosque durin menses

    and do u know anything abiut women leading a nation??
    and how about the hadith where men get two wives feom the dunya in jannah
    and how about womens testimony

  15. Pingback: Reblogged: I’m coming out of the purity closet | AntiDogmaSpray

  16. Ida

    So now, I’m directed here from your past nail polish post. I would like to know if you are planning to be a scholar? Cause I think we need a lot of women scholars.
    Regarding this post, do we need to wash the dirty pads? Because that’s the ritual here, where I’m from. I’m supposing that, its been handed down by past generations where they used to wear cloths hence constantly need to clean them. But now, can I just dispose dirty pads, and not clean them because its going to be eaten by jinns and what nots? I know it sounds silly, but I think that’s what’s been told by my ancestors to girls so that they clean those cloths. Is it traditions or prerequisite in law? I was actually reminded by a friend when I was 14, and I am sure she heard it from her grandmother, who heard it from her grandmother and so forth.

    And lastly, did they Prophet (pbuh) really fondled Aisha (ra), during her period or junub? I’m sorry, but I had a really not too nice pornographic imagery of it, or am I being conservative? Furthermore, they bathe together in her blood, in one bath tub? Or did I just read that all wrong?
    Sorry for my ignorance, its an interesting and informative post.

    1. Hi Ida.

      I’m not planning (at least not seriously) to be a scholar, but I’m so flattered.

      The point of washing pads stained by blood is so that they can be reused without maintaining the impurity (or an infection!) If you are disposing of them, and can’t continue to be in a state of ritual impurity because of they’ve been disposed, there isn’t really a point in washing them because you’re not wearing them, unless you want to wash them just to be super nice to anyone who handles the trash.

      And yes, according to hadith he did, through a cloth. And yes, the same bathwater (as they were both cleansing themselves a single pot.) If she was using the pot of water to pour over herself, then there wasn’t blood. If they were both in water (hadith doesn’t specify the size of the pot), then there’s a chance there was blood in the water (though most women pause their bleeding when they are in water.)

      You are not being “too conservative.” If something sexual makes you uncomfortable, that is your right to feel, and no one is to tell you otherwise.

  17. WinmeonE

    At what point in history did Hadiths become scripture. Bakahri was not even born during the prophets time, so how accurate is any hadith? Chinese whispers, he said – she said (recorded by whom) and we are supposed to trust what these people said. The prophet did have enemies during that time and after including now. I believe when the Qur’an says follow Allah and his messenger it is speaking about those people during his time that were following him. Guidance from Allah(swt) through prayer and Qur’an is all we need. Allah(swt) has done it for me so I’m pretty sure he will do it for you. And why are all the scholars we follow are males – where are the learned female scholars? Why can’t I be my own scholar? Oh, yeah – I am with Allah(swt) guidance.

  18. Santos

    I’m surprised that you suggest that the prophet pbuh may have erred in his ruling regarding this issue. Can you clarify your position

  19. truebeliever14

    Aslm…
    Forgive me if I’m wrong but I am trying, this issue has confused me before..I have heard that when a woman gets her period, what ever she touches with her sweat, she must wash it. That could be everything !! As to normal human nature to sweat, it seems strange TO ME that one now has to wash everything she touches..so I asked my mum what she tought, she said that there was no such thing and some ppl are being paranoid and taking it too far. Again, I was confused..Nabee (saw) tought woman abt their periods and what to do and what not to do , but from what I know didn’t say anything abt their sweat.. Even the Quraan doesn’t say anything abt sweat.. I was tought that only if the blood messes on ur clothes, bed ,body ect to clean it with water soap disinfectant and so forth.I even cheaked my old madrasah book for woman and their periods, it says nothing abt sweat..I think some things are going too far as well.the Quraan,Nabee (saw) and my kitaab all say that the only thing we must stay away from is namaaz,reading quraan,s** ect… Woman are pure humans, only wen on their periods they are suppost to be carefull.. That is what I think, please forgive me if I am wrong and if I don’t agree with others.
    Jazakalah, may Allah help and bless us all ameen..

  20. Haleema

    Assalamualaykum sister.
    The are clear sahih ahadeeth where you are told not to pray your salah during your menses. However, the ruling is that if you the period of your menstrution go over 10 days and nights you have to pray. This is called ‘istihaadhah’. Now these are the ahaadeeth which say that you should pray during that period!
    Having a bath in the same pot.. this means that the pot had water in it and they both used the same clean water to pour over themselves with jugs.
    I could go on and on theres alot to say but I advice you sister that ask an ulama about things like this.

  21. Pingback: Hypocritical Expectations of Women: how patriarchy devalues women’s private parts – menstruation and public breastfeeding | Freedom from the Forbidden

  22. Curious

    Question: if you were to wear a tampon the bleed would be absorbed internally therefore would not cause a mess to you externally. To have an external bleed, much like cutting your finger male or female invalidates your wudu. So that’s unclean state therefore cannot do wudu nor pray.

    Basis of wudu is purity and declaring yourself before Allah swt.

    So… If you were clean wearing a tampon with just a string hanging out..even on a heavy flow day but theres no leakage…. Why can’t you pray? Wouldn’t this be acceptable or permissible?!

  23. aisha

    ?I have heard something about women’s prayers not counting if they don’t wash all over their body including their hair after their periods? (Which I think is a load of rubbish.) Anyway, after reading your blog I am now really confused… so you can pray on your period?!?

  24. Tehniyat Ahmed

    Thank you for the information on menstruation and a spouses relationship. I do have a question though, and that because I was just told something to which neither me or my husband seem to agree and believe. We were told when a woman is in the state of nifas that is post natal bleeding – the couple isn’t supposed to share their bed and the woman is supposed to sleep on a hay bed for 40 days.
    We don’t mean sex by sharing the bed, I just literally mean sharing the same bed and sleeping on it. Like room mates or friends.
    We dislike staying away and found it funny when we were told this and are really concerned since I am pregnant and I was told to stay at my mother’s house for 40 days. Also this was repeated to us when my husband said he would stay over at my mother’s during the 40 day period since my parents are pretty old and I may need help.

  25. Tehniyat Ahmed

    I would be really obliged if someone could respond to my question with appropriate details as I am really concerned and haven’t found a suitable response so far. I know the detail of sleeping on hay sounds crappy since I haven’t ever heard of something like this ever. However my in laws seem to call this a ritual. Along with telling my husband that he won’t be clean and able to perform his salah if we share the same bed. Or rather that his salah won’t be accepted if he shares the same bed as me.

  26. Sister Tehniyat, I typically try to find other supporting sites than the one I will reference because it’s a little hit or miss, but this would seem to answer your question: It was a Jewish custom to separate from women who were menstruating or bleeding post-childbirth, and the Prophet (pbuh) specifically spoke out against alienating women who were such. Therefore, it would not be Islamic to make you go to a different house because you are bleeding post-childbirth. Just because it’s a cultural tradition doesn’t make it right. http://islamqa.info/en/36722

  27. Noor

    Assalamualaikum,

    This post really helped but I have one lingering question. It is not related to prayer/fasting but it is related to menstruation. Are Muslim women allowed to shower while on their period?

    Thank you,
    Noor

  28. Assalamu alikum nahida baji.thanw for information.but can u please tell me can we wear abaya cotinue used in menses without washing it..can i offer sallah in it.please tell me

  29. Omaima

    Assalamu alaykum dear sister Nahida, I’m sure you have the best of intentions in clearing up misunderstandings concerning menses, and I appreciate your efforts. However as your fellow sister in his Deen it is an obligation upon me to let you and all the sisters who read this know that many of the ahadith you stated are incorrect or misinterpreted. Praying during menstruation is Haraam, there is no doubt about it. And scholars of Islam who interpet the Quran and ahadith have been studying these texts their entire lives. The amount of knowledge they possess is a mountain compared with what we know and we must respect them for it. Our noble scholars are, after all, the light of our Ummah.
    My sincere advice to you my sister is that you ask an Alim (or a female Alimah if your more comfortable) your questions before posting your personal interpretations of such sensitive topics online, lest a soul be misguided because of your careless mistakes.
    May Allah guide us. Ameen <3

    1. “as your fellow sister in his Deen”

      OK really, unless that’s your preferred pronoun try harder when you come to my blog as a man masquerading as a woman.

  30. Khadijah

    I fully agree with @Omaima! Be very careful sister Nahida. Whilst I do not have the knowledge of a Hafiz, when it comes to hadith I am well aware of the repercussions of misquoting them and misguiding others. If you are as passionate as you come across in your blog, I strongly suggest you complete an Aalima course or at the very least differentiate between what is your personal opinion, and what is the actual agreed interpretation according to the scholars who have dedicated years and even lifetimes to study the various sciences. On a side note, I really don’t think there’s any masquerading going on here. No doubt there are others who share the same opinion as Omaima and I and who are only trying to give you some sisterly advice. There’s no need for the attitude, particularly when someone gives you dua. I too pray that we are all guided to the truth. 1 💚

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