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MENSTRUATION – VIEW FROM A CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVE

Has Allah stopped women from praying/fasting/establishing contact with Allah during a (lot of days) of their lives, i.e.: 4-7 days every month?

 

A human being, not being allowed to call upon Allah for even a second of his/her life would be unfair on the part of the creator. During menstruation, it would be too many days having to live without the remembrance of Allah. It is just not logical to a conscious mind. In fact Allah has not asked the women anywhere in the Quran, to keep away from salat or fasting or establishing contact with Allah or touching the Quran during their periods. The only Ayat mentioning menstruation, tells the men to keep away from the women during the “HAIZ” (periods) as it is “AZA” (painful/hurt) for the women. The Quranic ayah of the ‘pure ones’ does not refer to menstruating women, but to any person in a state of impurity whether male or female.

 

 

CULTURAL CONSIDERATIONS

In many societies, menstruation is perceived as unclean or embarrassing, even extending to the mention of menstruation in public or private. Many traditional religions consider menstruation spiritually unclean.

 

Different cultures view menstruation differently. The relationship between culture and menstruation is expressed in many ways. One group of authors has even theorized that menstruation may have played a key role in the development of symbolic and ritual based culture in early human society.

 

Bahá’í: Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas abolished all forms of ritual impurity of people and things and stressed the importance of cleanliness and spiritual purity. Menstruating women are obliged to pray and fast, but have the (voluntary) alternative of reciting a verse instead.

 

Hinduism: In the Hindu faith, women are prohibited from participating in normal life while menstruating. Women must be “purified” before they are allowed to return to her family and normal life. Strong beliefs are held that menstrual blood is extremely toxic and can cause all sorts of illnesses, and being the primary “rationalized” reason for the women were kept aloof in the Hindu culture. Of course there is no medical basis to this view. in orthodox or Brahmin Hindu families, menstruating women are asked to stay away from domestic activities for a period of 4 days, and even physical intimacy is prohibited. In very conservative Brahmin households, women have a separate room to stay in, separate plates and cutlery, and do not enter the kitchen or any sacred section of the house. Brahmin women who are into activities such as singing, tailoring or art, do not touch their tools for these three days. Any festival or occasion that comes during the woman’s time out of the house, is negotiated discretely. On the third day, after the Brahmin woman takes a ritual bath, she is considered cleansed and may resume her normal routine. This often described as a spiritual practice, but is usually only found in Brahmin families – most other subcultures require the women to carry on as normal.

 

Sikhism: In Sikhism, a woman is given equal status to man and is regarded as pure as man is. The Gurus teach that one cannot be pure by washing his body but purity of mind is the real pureness. They are not called pure, who sit down after merely washing their bodies. Guru Nānak, the founder of Sikhism, condemned the practice of treating women as impure while menstruating. In Sikhism, the menstrual cycle is not considered impure. Certainly, it does have a physical and physiological effect on the woman. Nonetheless, this is not considered a hindrance to her wanting to pray or accomplish her religious duties fully. Within Sikhism, it is very clear that the menstrual cycle is a God given process. The blood of a woman is required for the creation of any human being. The requirement of the mother’s blood is fundamental for life. Thus, the menstrual cycle is certainly an essential and God given biological process.

 

Christianity/Judaism: According to the Bible’s Book of Leviticus, a menstruating woman was regarded as ritually unclean among ancient Hebrews (15:19-30). The taboo was so great that not only the woman herself suffers uncleanness, but even “anyone who touches her will be unclean until evening” (New International Version). However, Jesus allowed himself to be touched by a haemorrhaging woman and cured her (Mark 5:25-24). Some theologian defended the exclusion of women from ministry based on a notion of uncleanness, other have held that purity laws should be discarded as part of the Old Covenant. I need to stipulated that there has never been any official teaching that menstruation makes women unclean in any major Christian denomination.

 

In Judaism, a ritual exclusion called Niddah applies to a woman while menstruating and for about a week thereafter, until she immerses herself in a Mikvah (ritual bath which is basically intended only for married women. During this time, a married couple must avoid sexual intercourse and physical intimacy. Orthodox Judaism forbids women and men from even touching or passing things to each other during this period. While Orthodox Jews follow this exclusion, many Jews in other branches of the religion do not.

 

 

Buddhism: Menstruation is viewed as “a natural physical excretion that women have to go through on a monthly basis, nothing more or less”. However, in Japanese Buddhism menstruating women are banned from attending temples.

 

Pre Islamic Cultures: Before Islam, Arabia was clearly a patriarchal society where women’s sole purpose was to serve man. In fact, the importance of producing male offspring to perpetuate their superiority and ability to fight was paramount. There are many assumptions about Pre- Islamic laws and customs, about their family structure and about issues relating to infanticide. It is important to recognize that much of the scholarly debate on the status of Pre-Islamic women during the age of Jahilya, where there was an absence of reliable historical sources and factual information.

 

Others: Allegedly, menstrual impurity was traditionally recognized by Mongols, who did not wish women in this impure state to visit their shrines during menstruation.

 

Mayan mythology explains the origin of menstruation as a punishment for violating the social rules governing marital alliance. The menstrual blood turns into snakes and insects used in black sorcery, before the Maya moon goddess is reborn from it.

 

MEDICAL ANALYSIS: Medically-speaking it is impossible for a woman to become pregnant if she cannot menstruate, which is the case for young children and post-menopausal women. The blessing of being able to menstruate is quite clear for the one who reflects. In fact, only by the occurrence of menstruation is a woman given the opportunity to begin and nurture a righteous family. Periods are natural and normal for women. Menstrual fluid is just a harmless mixture of blood and tissue. The myth of toxic menstrual fluid is often used as a reason to stop women, who are having their periods, from taking part in various social events and in particular religious events.

 

MENSTRUATION AND THE QURAN

Where does it say in the Qur’an that women cannot perform salat during her period or touch the Quran?

 

The only Ayat mentioning menstruation, tells the men to keep away from the women during the “HAIZ” (periods) as it is “AZA” (painful/hurt) for the women.

 

033:041-O you who believe! You shall remember Allah frequently.

 

033:042-You shall glorify Him day and night.

 

070:023- Those, who are constant in their salat.

 

Above verses nullify the concept of menstruated women cannot pray. Everybody is allowed to pray, exception being intoxication.

 

 

Quran says that you cannot miss any prayers. Even if you had sex with your wife and there isnt any water to clean yourself, you still have to offer prayers by tayummum. On the other hand, getting a period, which is a natural and unstoppable thing, muftis have made it HARAM on women to offer prayers and even touching the Quran.Since when did getting closer to Allah in ways in which he prescribed us to do became haram?

 

Allah says in Quran : 016:116 And do not say about what your tongues assert of untruth, “This is lawful and this is unlawful,” to invent falsehood about Allah . Indeed, those who invent falsehood about Allah will not succeed.

 

Everything that is supposed to be haram for people is mentioned in the Quran.

Islam does not consider a menstruating woman to possess any kind of “contagious uncleanness”. She is neither “untouchable” nor “cursed.” She practises her normal life with only one restriction: a married couple is not allowed to have sexual intercourse during the period of menstruation. A menstruating woman is not exempted from any form of connection with Allah.

 

02:222 They ask you about menstruation. Say: this is an Adha (a harmful thing that may damage the process of the new egg), so keep away from women during menstruation and approach them not until they are cleansed (gotten rid of the previous egg). And when they have cleansed themselves (gotten rid of the previous egg), then approach them in the manner designed for you by as Allah Indeed, Allah loves those who turn to Him in repentance and He loves those who purify themselves (psychologically).

 

MUTTATAHAROON: Those who are clean = Clean of mind as in 56:79

 

A woman is totally purified during menstruation. It is the man who needs to be purified (psychologically). A woman goes through a cycle every month. This cycle is a cleaning process of the previous egg and regeneration of the new one. Now during this process there must not be any disturbance. So Allah is only asking the man not to disturb the whole process before completion.

 

The only thing forbidden by the Qur’an during menstruation is intimate husband-wife relationship.

 

MUTAHARIKA = PURIFY/CLEANSE/CLEAR/GET RID OF

 

003:055 Allah said: “O Eesa! Indeed I will fulfill your mission and exalt you in stature in My Sight and clear you of the slander (MUTAHARRIKA) of the rejecters. And I will make those who follow your teachings superior to those who reject until the Day of Resurrection. Eventually, all of you will return to Me. Then I will judge among you about that wherein you used to differ.”

 

In the above verse we read about Prophet Essa, when Allah saved him from the rejecters and the word “MUTAHIRUKA” has been used. “Mutahiruka” translated as “cleanse or purify” doesn’t make any sense at all. In fact both words in 3:55 and 2:222 mean “CLEAR OF/GET RID OF”. Therefore 2:222 is not classifying the menstruated women as “unclean or unpurified”, but in fact it is pointing out to us that once “they get rid/they are clear of their menstruation”.

 

 

 

 

CONDITIONS IN WHICH PRAYING IS FORBIDDEN

 

04:043 O! you who believe! Do not approach prayers while your mind is befogged until you know what you are saying or in a state of “JUNUBA”, except those passing through, until you have washed. And if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and find no water, then take clean sand and wipe your faces and your hands [with it]. Indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Forgiving.

 

Whenever Allah is commanding, His commandments are for both men and women.

“Junuba” is a state from which both men and women go through but menstruation is exclusive for women. Most translators translate the word “Junuba” as menstruation. The word for menstruation in Arabic is “Haiz” and not junuba. The word “Junuba” is used for “Sexual discharge” and not “Menstruation”. Junuban is a state of total impurity like, “sexual discharge or leakage of urine or stool”. Menstruation has nothing to do with it.

 

If in the State of “JUNUBAN” then purify by washing.

 

Can women purify themselves by washing themselves during their menstruation?

 

Junuban cannot be menstruation due to the fact that it cannot be ‘washed’. It is an ongoing condition for 4-7 days. Allah clearly tells us in 4:43 that if you are in the state of junuban, then wash yourself AND pray. This must refer to something which can be cleansed immediately. E.g. “Impurities from which both women and men go through”.

 

The only condition in which we cannot approach salat is when intoxicated. In the condition of Junuban we can wash, get cleansed and pray without any hindrance.

 

 

 

 

APPLICATION TO BOTH WOMEN AND MEN:

“O you who believe, when you observe the Salat, you shall: (1) wash your faces, (2) wash your arms to the elbows, (3) wipe your heads, and (4) wash your feet to the ankles. If you were unclean due to sexual orgasm, you shall bathe. If you are ill, or traveling, 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. Allah 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 thankful.”(5:6)

 

This verse explain what nullifies ablution are applicable to both men and women. It is a command of Allah regardless of sex applied to both men and women. If salat was not allowed to women in her menstruation period then Allah would have addressed “men” only in this particular ayah. On the contrary Allah addressed the “believers”.

 

 

FASTING

002:184 “Fixed number of days. So whosoever is sick from you or on a journey, then he may make up the same number of other days later. And on those who have enough means, there is an alternative: Feeding of a poor. But the one who voluntarily does well so it is better for him and that you fast is better for you, if you know. “

 

To leave fasting is justifiable only in:

•              Sickness

•              Travelling

 

Nowhere in the whole Quran is it mentioned that:

 

•              Those who are not purified should not fast.

•              Or women who are menstruating should not fast.

 

 

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL PURIFICATION

 

056:079 “None can grasp it (the essence of Quran,) except those who are purified/cleansed (from the rijz of shaitan—with pure mind).”

 

•              Those who approach the Qur’an with minds contaminated with preconceived notions and extrinsic material, will never understand it.

  • Mutahharoon = those who rid their minds of blind following and false dogmas. (2:222). It is a commonly perceived that men cannot touch it without wudu (ablution) and women cannot touch it during menstruation. Why would Allah place hurdles in the way of approaching His guidance?

 

032:042 And when the malaika said: “O Mariam! Indeed Allah has chosen you (for guidance), purified you (purity of character: cleared you mind from the rijz of shaitan) and chosen you above the women of the worlds.”

 

033:033 And stay in the vicinity of Islam and do not display yourselves as the display of the ignorant. And establish connection and contribute to purification and obey Allah and His Messenger. Indeed Allah intends only to remove from you the impurity (of shaitan), O members of the System (of Allah) to purify you to utmost purity (of character).

 

•              In the above Ayats, the act of purification is not physical, but psychological. This purification is the same by which when Allah orders to Ibrahim (pbuh) to purify the House for the believers. How can Ibrahim (pbuh) purify the believers or the House physically? By washing perhaps or is it the psyclogical purification?

 

It is understandable why these types of feelings may develop, especially if one is not familiar with Islam’s position on menstruation. Islam does not consider menstruation to be a punishment towards women, and it would be a grave error to compare this great religion to other faiths who do view menstruation in this horrible, derogatory manner. Islam’s perspective is that menstruation is normal and it is natural.

 

 

CONCLUSION

There is nothing in Quran that says menstruating women are ‘dirty.’ Rather, menstruation is viewed as a natural process that normal, healthy women experience throughout their lifetime.

 

We do not need to seek guidance from anywhere else. Allah’s book is fully detailed (6:114), and He left nothing out of it (6:38). Nor did Allah run out of words (18:109).

 

Everything we need to know with regards to Islam is contained within the Quran. Allah does not stop a woman from performing her religious duties just because she is menstruating. I would just like to end up with 2 verses from the Quran that we should always remember.

 

Say: “If all the sea were ink for my Nourisher/Sustainer’s Words, the sea would be exhausted before my Sustainer’s Words are exhausted! And thus it would be if We were to add to it sea upon sea.”(18:109)

 

And if all the trees on earth were pens, and the sea were ink, with seven more seas yet added, the Words of Allah would not be exhausted. Allah is Almighty, The Wise. (31:27)

 

By A. Waseem

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