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)
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.