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Laws of Religion

Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men

 

15.  Menstruation Restrictions

 

from the Qur’an, major hadith collections and Islamic jurisprudence

 

 

Menstruation Restrictions

        From the Qur’an

 

The Qur’an (2:222) says to stay away from women during their menstrual periods. Once they have been purified, then one is to go to them as Allah has commanded.[1]

 

 

Menstruation Restrictions

From the hadith compilations of al-Bukhari and Muslim

 

The hadiths say that a menstruating woman is forbidden from praying.[2] Muhammad said that a woman must have a bath after the completion of her menstrual period.[3] He said that a woman must cease praying while she is menstruating. When her menstrual period is over, she is to bathe and then she may pray again.[4] She may, however, continue to pray if she is bleeding for a reason other than menstruation.[5] If blood flows beyond the time of menstruation, Muhammad said that a woman should remain away from prayer for a time equal to a normal menstrual period and then take a bath and, following that, pray.[6]

 

One woman, recalling the practice of the Muslims during the time Muhammad was alive, said that menstruating women would come out and say takbir (“Allah-u Akbar” – God is most great) standing behind the men on the day of ’Id [7] (’Id ul-Fitr and ’Id al-Adha [8]) but were required to stay away from the place of prayer (musalla).[9]

 

A menstruating woman is prohibited from fasting.[10]

 

According to the hadiths, Muhammad said that a menstruating woman is permitted to participate in the Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca except that she may not participate in the ritual of walking in a circle (tawaf - circumambulation) around the Ka’ba.[11]

 

The Qur’an (2:222, cited above) says to stay away from women during their menstrual periods. Once they have been purified, then one is to go to them as Allah has commanded.[12] However, a hadith reports that Muhammad said that the only thing that is prohibited with a menstruating woman is to have sexual intercourse. The lenient rulings concerning contact with menstruating women are contrasted with those of the Jews who, it says, will not eat or live in the same house with a menstruating woman. The Jews objected to Muhammad’s deviation from their views on this matter.[13] (Editor’s note: The restrictions concerning menstruating women in Judaism are discussed in a separate section of this website on ritual purity in Judaism.)

 

Hadiths say that Muhammad’s wife Aisha reported many instances of close contact with her husband when she was having her menstrual periods. She said that she would comb his hair[14] and wash his head[15] while she was menstruating, even when he was in the mosque.[16] Muhammad sent Aisha to retrieve something from the mosque. When she indicated that she thought that this would not be appropriate because she was menstruating, he replied that her menstruation is not in her hand so she could proceed to the mosque to do what he had asked her to do.[17]

 

When Aisha was menstruating, Muhammad would lean with his head in her lap and recite the Qur’an.[18]  He would lie under the same sheet with his menstruating wives Aisha,[19] Umm Salama,[20] or Maimuna; Maimuna said that there would be a cloth between the two of them.[21] Muhammad would drink from a cup or bite meat from a bone putting his mouth on the same spot where Aisha had done the same, even though she was menstruating at the time.[22]

 

Muhammad would embrace his wife Aisha when she was menstruating.[23] Aisha said that Muhammad would have her clothe herself below her waist (in a waist-wrapper called an izar) when she was menstruating and then he would embrace and fondle her;[24] she noted in recounting this that he was superior at controlling his sexual urges.[25] He would similarly embrace and fondle his other wives, izar-clad, when they were menstruating.[26]

 

Hadiths report that when Muhammad prayed, he was sometimes so close to his menstruating wife Maimuna that his clothing would touch her when he prostrated himself.[27] Aisha also reported that she was by Muhammad’s side when he prayed, even though she was menstruating, and that part of the sheet that was covering her was over on his side.[28]

 

 

Menstruation Restrictions

From Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh/sharia§):  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer of Ibn Rushd, the Risala of al-Shafi‛i and Reliance of the Traveller

 

The scholars* agree that it is forbidden to have sexual intercourse with a menstruating woman,[29] though a man may have access to and touch her unclothed body above the waist.[30] Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) specifies that a menstruating woman is forbidden from having sexual pleasure between her navel and her knees.[31] Among the scholars, both Malik and al-Shafi‛i say that sexual intercourse is only permitted after a woman has had a bath of purification (ghusl) following the cessation of her menstrual period.[32] Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) says that before having sexual intercourse following a woman’s menstrual period, her husband may insist that she take the necessary bath of purification.[33] However, Abu Hanifa says that sexual intercourse is permitted before the bath of purification if more than ten days have elapsed since the start of her menstrual period[34] – ten days being the maximum duration of a menstrual period according to Abu Hanifa[35].

 

Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) says that a man may have sexual intercourse with his wife if he does not believe her assertion that she is having her menstrual period.[36] Abu Hanifa, Malik and al-Shafi‛i agree that a man is not to be punished for having sexual intercourse with a menstruating woman, but he should ask Allah (God) for forgiveness. Ahmad ibn Hanbal says that in addition to asking Allah for forgiveness, he is to make a contribution to charity of one-half dinar or one dinar.[37]

 

In addition to being prohibited from reciting the usually obligatory prayers, a menstruating woman may not perform the ritual of walking around (circumambulating) the Ka’ba when on pilgrimage to Mecca.[38] While Ibn Rushd says that the scholars agree that fasting is not permitted for menstruating women,[39] and Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) also prohibits fasting during menstruation,[40] al-Shafi‛i says that scholars agree that menstruating women should fast.[41]

 

In addition to the restrictions mentioned above, Reliance of the Traveller (Shafi‛i school) says a menstruating woman is also prohibited from: carrying or touching a Qur’an, prostrating either when reciting the Qur’an or in expressing thanks[42], reciting the Qur’an, remaining in a mosque (though passing through a mosque is permitted as long as she is sure none of her blood will contaminate the mosque)[43], getting divorced or performing ritual purification. Once her menstrual period or postnatal bleeding has ceased, she may immediately resume these activities except for sexual intercourse, which must be preceded by a bath of purification.[44]

 

________________

 

*Islamic scholars disagree on certain points of law based on different methodologies used in deriving the law from the Qur’an and the traditions (sunna) concerning the life of Muhammad and his closest companions, particularly as expressed in the compiled hadiths. There are four major schools of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam: the Maliki, the Hanafi, the Shafi‛i and the Hanbali. These names are derived from the individual scholars considered to have been the founders of each school: Malik, Abu Hanifa, al-Shafi‛i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, respectively. The source texts we have used to prepare our summaries of Islamic jurisprudence contain the legal views of these different founders and schools, as described at Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.

 

§The specific derived laws of fiqh summarized here are often referred to by the more general term sharia law.

 

 

Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.

 

Updated October 12, 2016

 

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Abbreviations used in footnotes:

QR:   Qur’an, with surahs (chapters) and ayahs (verses) numbered as in most modern translations, including those found here, here and here.

BK:    Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.

ML:    Hadith collection of Muslim as found here and here.

DJP:  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Limited preview is available here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2). Full text online and download for Volume 1 is here and here and for Volume 2 is here and here.

RT:    Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from various websites such as this one.

SR:    al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society. It can be downloaded here.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.



[1] QR 2:222

[2] BK 1:4:228, BK 1:6:301, BK 1:6:303, BK 1:6:317, BK 1:6:318, BK 1:6:321, BK 1:6:322, BK 1:6:327, BK 1:6:329, BK 1:8:347, BK 3:31:172, ML 3:652-653, ML 3:658, ML 3:659, ML 3:660, ML 3:661, ML 3:662

[3] BK 9:92:455-456, ML 3:644, ML 3:647-648, ML 3:649-650-651

[4] BK 1:4:228, BK 1:6:303, BK 1:6:317, BK 1:6:322, BK 1:6:327, ML 3:652-653, ML 3:658, ML 3:659

[5] BK 1:4:228, BK 1:6:303, BK 1:6:317, BK 1:6:322, BK 1:6:327, ML 3:652-653, ML 3:658, ML 3:659

[6] ML 3:658, ML 3:659

[7] BK 2:15:88, ML 4:1933

[8] ML 4:1934

[9] BK 2:15:91, BK 2:15:96, BK 2:15:97, BK 2:26:714, ML 4:1932, ML 4:1933, ML 4:1934

[10] BK 1:6:301, BK 3:31:172, ML 3:662, ML 6:2552

[11] BK 1:6:293, BK 1:6:302, BK 2:26:627, BK 2:26:631, BK 2:26:632, BK 2:26:712, BK 2:26:713, BK 2:26:810, BK 2:26:815, BK 3:27:13, BK 5:59:678, BK 7:68:456, BK 7:68:466, BK 9:90:336, ML 7:2764, ML 7:2772, ML 7:2773-2774, ML 7:2783-2784, ML 7:2787, ML 7:2791-2792-2793, ML 7:3058, ML 7:3059

[12] QR 2:222

[13] ML 3:592

[14] BK 1:6:294, BK 1:6:295, BK 3:33:245, BK 3:33:262, BK 7:72:808-809, ML 3:585

[15] BK 1:6:298, BK 3:33:247, ML 3:584, ML 3:586

[16] BK 1:6:295, BK 1:6:298, BK 3:33:245, BK 3:33:247, BK 3:33:262, ML 3:584, ML 3:585

[17] ML 3:587, ML 3:588, ML 3:589

[18] BK 1:6:296, BK 9:93:639, ML 3:591

[19] BK 1:6:297, BK 1:6:319, BK 1:6:320

[20] ML 3:581

[21] ML 3:580

[22] ML 3:590

[23] BK 3:33:247

[24] BK 1:6:298, BK 1:6:299, ML 3:577, ML 3:578

[25] BK 1:6:299, ML 3:578

[26] BK 1:6:300, ML 3:579

[27] BK 1:6:329, BK 1:8:376, BK 1:9:497, ML 4:1041

[28] ML 4:1042

[29] DJP 1.2.3.2.3 (Volume 1, pages 58-59)

[30] DJP 1.2.3.2.3.1 (Volume 1, pages 59-60)

[31] RT e13.4 (pages 93-94)

[32] DJP 1.2.3.2.3.2 (Volume 1, pages 60-62)

[33] RT m5.6 (page 526)

[34] DJP 1.2.3.2.3.2 (Volume 1, pages 60-62)

[35] DJP 1.2.3.2.2.1 (Volume 1, pages 51-53)

[36] RT e13.5 (page 94)

[37] DJP 1.2.3.2.3.3 (Volume 1, pages 62-63)

[38] DJP 1.2.3.2.3 (Volume 1, pages 58-59)

[39] DJP 1.2.3.2.3 (Volume 1, pages 58-59)

[40] RT e13.4 (pages 93-94), RT i1.1 (pages 278-279), RT i1.3 (pages 279-280)

[41] SR 114 (page 132)

[42] RT e8.1 (page 74), RT e10.7 (page 81), RT e13.4 (pages 93-94)

[43] RT e10.7 (page 81), RT e13.4 (pages 93-94)

[44] RT e13.4 (pages 93-94)