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Menstruation and Religious Duties

According to Muslim scholars, a woman is not allowed to perform her religious duties if she is menstruating. A woman has been disallowed from performing her Salat (prayers performed to get closer to God) if she happens to be menstruating. Worse still, woman are also told that they are not allowed to fast either if they are menstruating. The logic behind the prohibition is that women are in a state of impurity and are unclean when menstruating.

The question is, when God is all knowing and He is fully aware of how women are physiologically different from men, why would He forbid women from performing not only their Salat but also fasting as well.

First of all let us examine the verses concerning Salat which give the conditions under which we are allowed to perform Salat.

“O you who believe, when you observe the Contact Prayers (Salat ), you shall:

wash your faces,

wash your arms to the elbows,

wipe your heads, and your feet to the ankles.

If you were unclean due to sexual orgasm, you shall bathe. If you are ill, or traveling, or had any excretion, or had (sexual ) contact with the women, and you cannot find water, you shall observe the dry ablution (Tayammum) by touching clean dry soil, then rubbing your faces and hands. GOD does not wish to make the religion difficult for you; He wishes to cleanse you and to perfect His blessing upon you, that you may be appreciative.” 5:6

In the above verse God has listed many things which can make us impure before performing Salat. Yet for some reason a woman having her period (menstruating) is not given a mention. Let us look at another verse which is a little more specific:

“O you who believe, do not come near the Contact Prayers (Salat) while unclear, until you know what you are saying. Nor after sexual intercourse unless you wash, except if you are traveling through the land. If you are ill or traveling, or you had any excretion, or sexually contacted the women, and you cannot find water, you shall observe dry ablution (Tayamum) by touching clean dry soil, then wiping your faces and hands therewith. GOD is Pardoner, Forgiver.” (4/43)

This verse tells us not to perform Salat if we are unclean, however the condition of menstruation is not such a condition that prevents a woman from performing Salat.

I think it is clear enough that women are nowhere prohibited in the Quran from performing Salat while menstruating.

Now let us take a look at the verses regarding fasting.

“O you who believe, fasting is decreed for you, as it was decreed for those before you, that you may attain salvation. Ramadan is the month during which the Quran was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein. Those who are ill or traveling may substitute the same number of other days. GOD wishes for you convenience, not hardship, that you may fulfill your obligations, and to glorify GOD for guiding you, and to express your appreciation.” 2:184-185

As we can see from the above passages of the Quran fasting is prescribed for us as it was for those before us. God also mentions things which can get in the way of our fasting such as illness or travels and says that we can substitute those days when we are not ill or traveling yet there is no mention of menstruation getting in the way of a woman fasting.

This leads us to beg the question if menstruation is mentioned at all in the Quran. There is one verse that does talk about menstruation:

“”And they ask you about menstruation: say, “It is harmful; you shall abstain from the women during menstruation and do not approach them until they are cleansed. Once they are cleansed, you may approach them in the manner ordained by GOD. GOD loves the repenters, and He loves those who are pure.” 2:222

The only verse that deals with the issue of menstruation tells men not to approach their wives in a sexual manner nor have sex with them when they are menstruating. God’s book is fully detailed (refer Quran 6:114), and He left nothing out of it (refer Quran 6:38). Nor did God run out of words (refer Quran 18:109). Everything we need to know with regards to Islam is contained within the Quran. As we can clearly see God does not stop a woman from performing her religious duties just because she is menstruating.

I would just like to end with a verse from the Quran that we should always remember.

`Say, “If the ocean were ink for the words of my Lord, the ocean would run out, before the words of my Lord run out, even if we double the ink supply.” 18:109

 

By Haroon (haroon.harry@gmail.com)

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