Menstruation Restrictions make me Feel Second Class
Social Issues
Question asked by .
Answered by Adnan Zulfiqar

My husband says that during my menses I should not do the formal prayer because I am impure. This makes me feel second class. My response to that is I could shower before each prayer – but I know this seems unreasonable as I work more than full time and literally have neither the time nor resources to do so. Please advise.


I would like to first address the issue of purity, as it seems to be central to your feeling ‘second class’. Muslim jurists have divided impurity into two types: ‘actual impurity’ which connotes physical impurity, and ‘technical’ impurity which connotes ritual impurity. Menstruation falls into the category of ritual impurity. Bearing this in mind, it should be clear that there is nothing inherently impure about the menstruating woman that should evoke any feelings of inferiority nor does this place her in a ‘less-pure’ status when compared to men. Similar leniency is also shown towards menstruating women with regard to exemption from fasting. Furthermore, certain tribes during the time of the Prophet (sws) would not eat or reside in the same houses as women who were menstruating.  To counter these notions of impurity, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said regarding interactions with menstruating wives:

[You can] do everything [with your wives] except [for having] intercourse. (Mu’attā, No. 138)

With regard to the specific issue of praying while menstruating, there is general agreement among scholars that this is prohibited. Subsequently, the question that arises is why one cannot simply bathe to remove the impurities associated with menses. Part of the explanation is that unlike other forms of impurity that are temporal, menstruation extends over a period of time. Even in Arabic, the word for menstruation (hayd) literally means ‘running’. Purification of a ritually impure state requires the cessation of whatever is ‘causing’ the impurity.  Hence, in this case, prayer begins again when the menstrual flow stops.

It is also important to keep in mind that the menstruation cycle is indicative of the blessed capacity within women for childbirth. Hence, if in the state of menses a woman may become ritually impure, one can consider her relative ‘purity’, in comparison to men, at the time of childbirth to be many times greater.

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