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Fatima is Fatima

by : Dr. Ali Shari'ati

Back You are here: Home Books Family The Ritual Ablutions for Women (Taharatu 'N-Nisa')

The Ritual Ablutions for Women (Taharatu 'N-Nisa') - Part 1 : Introduction

Article Index



Menstruation is a natural process which takes place in woman's body every month. Before explaining the laws of the shari'ah about menstruation, it seems ap­propriate to discuss, in short, that why does this take place?

Allah has created the woman such that she plays the major role in the perpetuation of the human race. The primary reproductive organs of a woman are her ovaries. When a girl is born, her ovaries already con­tain about 400,000 immature eggs (which are known as ova). At puberty, the eggs start maturing, usually one ovum each month. The maturing of the ovum takes place roughly halfway between two menstrual cycles. After maturing, it finds its way from the ovary to the fallopian tube and ends up in the womb.

Meanwhile the womb (while preparing for the possi­ble arrival of a fertilized egg) develops a thick, soft, velvety lining which is made up mostly of blood vessels.

This thick, soft lining in the womb is called endometrium.

If an egg is fertilized, it will be embedded in en­dometrium and continues its growth. But if no egg is fer­tilized, the endometrium (i.e. the lining of the womb) is no longer needed and is shed or discarded. This pro­cess of discarding the endometrium is known as menstruation.

From this biological explanation it is clear that menstruation is neither "the curse" on woman nor a result of the so-called original sin of Eve. Rather it is a very normal biological process that ensures the perpetuation of the human race.

Of course, some women feel uncomfortable a few days before and during menstruation. This discomfort is caused by some of the biological changes which take place in the woman's body. Allah says, They ask you about menstruation. (O Muhammad), tell them that menstruation is a discomfort for the women, (it is a period when they pass through physical and emotional tension.) (2:222)

In this part of the book I intend, by putting my trust in Allah, to explain the Islamic laws (shari'ah) regarding the women who are in their monthly periods. First the definition of menstruation, its signs and its duration will be discussed; then comes the different categories of women who are in menstruation; followed by four chapters on the laws about the women in each category; and finally the acts which are forbidden to a woman dur­ing her periods and the manner of ghusl are explained.

2. DEFINITION OF HAYZ

There are four possible causes for discharge of blood from women:

1. Menstruation.
2. Loss of virginity.
3. Post-natal bleeding.
4. Internal injury.

As mentioned above, menstruation is different from the blood of group 2, 3, and 4. In the Islamic legal ter­minology, menstruation is known as hayz. And a woman who is having her period is known as haiz. 1

According to Islamic laws, menstruation is the pro­cess of discarding the endometrium which normally takes place once a month in women from the day they attain puberty until they reach the age of menopause. (Menopause = final cessation of menstruation.)

From the shari'ah point of view, a girl attains puberty at the age of nine lunar years, 2 and she reaches menopause at the age of fifty. Imam Ja'far as-Sddiq (upon whom be peace) said, "The age when a woman ceases to have menstruation is fifty years." 3

So, if a girl sees blood before she becomes nine years old by lunar calendar, that blood is not considered menstruation (even if it may be regarded menstruation from the biological point of view). In the same way, if a woman sees blood after the age of fifty that blood will not be considered menstruation.

If a girl who does not know whether she has become nine years old sees blood on herself, then that blood can­not be considered menstruation even if it has all its three signs. (See below for the three signs of menstruation.) On the other hand, if a woman who doubts whether or not she has reached the age of menopause sees blood, then she should consider it as menstruation.

If a woman who has reached the age of menopause (i.e., fifty years) sees blood on herself with the three signs of menstruation or at the fixed time of her mon­thly periods, then what should she do? For such a woman, it is precautionarily wajib to act on precaution up to the age of sixty. Any blood seen after the age of sixty will be considered istihazah. (See part II for istihazah.)

"Acting on precaution" means to refrain from those things which are forbidden to a ha'iz and perform those things which are required of a woman in istihazah.

According to the shari'ah, it is possible for a preg­nant woman and a nursing mother to have menstruation.

The Signs: If a woman is not sure about the nature of her discharge, then she should look for the follow­ing three signs of the menstrual blood: (a) warmth; (b) dark red or black colour; (c) pressure and slight burning in the discharge. If these three signs are found together, then it is menstruation.

These signs have been taken from a hadith of Im­am Ja'far as-Sddiq (peace be upon him). A woman came to him and asked, "What should a woman do who sees blood on herself but does not know whether it is menstruation or some other type (of blood)?" The Im­am said, "The blood of menstruation is warm ...black (or dark-coloured), and it has pressure and burning sensation..." The woman said, "By Allah! If he had been a woman, he could not have added anything further in this (description)!" 4

3. DURATION OF HAYZ

The beginning of menstruation is determined when blood leaves the uterus and enters the vagina. It is necessary for the commencement of menstruation that the blood should be seen outside the vagina.

In another hadith, Imam as-Sadiq said, "The minimum duration of menstruation is three days, and the maximum is ten days.” 5

By "three days" we mean three days and the two nights between the first and the third day. For exam­ple, if blood starts on Monday morning and stops on Wednesday evening, then it is menstruation. And by "ten days" we mean ten days and the nine nights bet­ween the first and the tenth day.

So, if a woman sees blood for less than three days, it is not considered hayz. If the blood is seen for more than ten days, the ten days will be counted as menstrua­tion and the blood seen after that will be regarded as istihazah.

The same Imam said, "The minimum duration of purity (between two menstrual cycles) must be (at least) ten days." 6 So if a woman sees blood during the ten days after her period had ended, it will not be considered hayz.

Although it is normal to say that menstruation takes place once "a month", but it should be clarified that menstrual cycles take place every 28 days - so, in the present context "a month" means a period of 28 days, not 29, 30 or 31 days.

4. DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF HA'IZ

According to the shari'ah, all the women are not same as far as the rules of menstruation are concerned. By taking into consideration the difference in regulari­ty of time and days of monthly periods and their ir­regularity, women can be divided into three main groups:

1. Mubtadi'ah:literally, a beginner; in the present context it means a girl who sees menstruation for the first time.

2. Zatu 'l-'adah:a woman who has menstruation regularly at a fixed time or for a fixed number of days or both. If a woman has two consequent periods with regularity in time of their occurance and duration, then she is a zatu 'l-'adah = a woman who has formed a fix­ed pattern for her monthly periods.

On the other hand, if a zatu 'l-'adah woman discovers that her fixed pattern for menstruation has changed and this happens for two consequent months, then she should follow the new pattern.

The zatu 'l-'adah women can be of three types:

(a) a woman whose periods occur at a fixed time and for a fixed number of days. For example, on 1st of every month and lasts for 7 days con­tinuously or with a pause on the fourth day.

(b) a woman whose periods occur at a fixed time but not for a fixed number of days. For exam­ple, on 1st of every month but sometimes for 4 days and at other times for 5 days.

(c) a woman whose periods occur for a fixed number of days but not at a fixed time. For ex­ample, she has her periods for 4 days but not at a fixed time, sometimes on 1st and sometimes on 4th of every month.

3. Muztaribah:a woman who does not have her periods with regularity. For example, a woman has her one period on the 1st of the month for five days and her second on the 5th of the month for three days and her third period on the 10th of the month for four days. Muztaribah here means a woman who has an irregular pattern for her monthly periods.