Fiqh Summary of the School of the Maliki Masters

(Muhammad al-'Arabi al-Qarawi)

Menstruation and Lochia

129. What is menstruation? What are the different types of menstrual fluid?

Menstruation refers to the period in which blood (or the like) emerges, of its own accord, from the vagina of a woman who is of an age in which women are normally capable of becoming pregnant (in other words, not below the age of puberty or above the age of menopause. (This is usually considered to be between the ages of 9 and 70). There are three different types of menstrual fluid:

1. Blood, which is the basic form of menstruation.

2. A yellow fluid, (resembling yellowy pus).

3. A dirty brown fluid, (resembling muddy water).

Bleeding from the vagina that has an immediate cause - such as the blood that emerges as a result of the process of giving birth, or the blood that emerges after the hymen is ruptured (when a virgin is deflowered), or the blood that flows from a cut or wound (in the vagina), or the blood that emerges due to illness and imbalance in the body - is not considered to be menstruation. Similarly, bleeding from the vagina that occurs outside the normal menstruating period of a woman, even if it emerges of its own accord, is not considered to be menstruation and is known as the blood of istihada, or "false menstruation". Additionally, the blood that emerges from the anus of a woman (even during the time of the menstrual period), the blood that emerges from the vagina of a young girl under the age of nine, and the blood that emerges from the vagina of an old woman over the age of seventy, are all considered to be different from the blood of menstruation.

130. What is the shortest length of time that the menstrual period can last, and what is the longest length of time that the menstrual period can last?

For the purposes of 'ibada, the shortest period of menstrual bleeding is considered to be the time it takes for a single gush of blood to emerge from the vagina (even if it lasts less than a minute). In other words, what is taken into account for the purposes of acts of worship are the times in which the blood is actually emerging and not the full length of the period, for some women bleed constantly during menstruation while others only bleed on one or two occasions during each day*. It is obligatory for a woman to perform ghusl and perform the prayer if the bleeding stops after (only) a single gush of blood has emerged from her vagina, even if she knows that the bleeding will return to her later in the day or on the next day. (However, if she knows or thinks it highly likely that the bleeding will return within the same prayer time, then it is not obligatory for her to perform ghusl. So, if the bleeding stopped at the beginning of the time of Dhuhr, for example, and she knew from previous experience that it would start flowing again before the end of the time of Dhuhr, she is not obliged to purify herself.) If this single gush of menstrual blood emerges while she is fasting an obligatory fast, then her fast is rendered invalid and she must make that day up.

*[NOTE: Because it is only the times in which the blood is actually emerging that are taken into account in terms of acts of worship, theoretically it is possible for a menstruating woman, if the bleeding only occurs at night and stops before Fajr, to not miss a single prayer or a single day of fasting during her menstrual period.]

For the purposes of 'idda and istibra'*, the full length of the menstrual period is taken into account, not only the times when the blood is emerging. A single gush of blood that only lasts a very short time is not considered to be sufficient to be termed a menstrual period (because a very short period of bleeding is not considered to be a strong enough indication that the woman is not pregnant). The minimum length of time that the blood must flow is determined by consulting the women of a particular locale who are familiar with that information. (The reason for this is because the minimum length of menstruation varies depending on the climate and diet of a particular country, along with other factors, and so it is impossible for there to be a single ruling on this issue. The people most likely to know about the shortest length of a menstrual period in a particular country are the women of that country who are in the know, such as nurses and the like.)

*['Idda here refers to the waiting-period a divorced woman must undergo before she can re-marry. Istibra' here refers to the period in which a person who has bought a slave-girl must wait before it becomes permissible for him to sleep with her; its purpose is to ascertain that she is not pregnant.]

As for the longest length of time that a period can last, the ruling varies depending on whether the woman is having her first menstrual period, has an established length of period or is pregnant.

131. What is the longest length of time that a menstrual period can last for a woman on her first period, for a woman who has an established length of period and for a woman who is pregnant? What is the minimum period of purity?

The maximum number of days that menstruation can last for the woman on her first period, if the bleeding does not stop, is fifteen days. If she continues bleeding after that, then that blood is considered to be the blood of istihada (false menstruation which comes about because of an illness or imbalance in the body). It does not carry the ruling of menstrual blood and she should discount it. She must make ghusl, perform the prayer and fast, and it is permitted for her husband to have sexual intercourse with her.

The minimum period of purity for all women is fifteen days. If blood emerges from a woman's vagina after the full fifteen days have passed, then that blood is considered to be the start of a new menstrual period. If blood emerges from her vagina before the full fifteen days have passed, then the ruling depends on whether she had completed all of the days of her previous menstrual period (along with the days of istidhhar*) or not:

If she has completed the full number of days of her previous regular menstrual period (along with the days of istidhhar), then that blood is considered to be istihada and the woman ignores its emergence and continues to pray and fast, and may engage in sexual intercourse. It is not obligatory for her to perform ghusl in this instance. [So, for example, if a woman has a normal menstrual period of three days, and had bled for the full three days in her previous period and the three days of istidhhar, but then started bleeding again after, say, ten days had passed, then that new blood would be istihada (blood of false menstruation.]

If she had not completed the full number of days of her previous menstrual period, or had completed the full number of days of the period but not the days of istidhhar, then the new blood is considered to be menstruation and the days in which it emerges are added to the days of her previous menstrual period until the full complement of days is reached. [So, for example, if a woman has a normal menstrual period of three days, but had bled for only two days during her previous period, and then started bleeding again after, say, five days had passed, she would then add one day of the new bleeding in order to complete the total length of her normal period and then three more days to complete the three days of istidhhar. If the blood continues to flow after that, it is istihada. As soon as she completes her full complement of days, it becomes incumbent upon her to perform ghusl, to pray and to fast.]

*[What is meant by the "days of istidhhar" is the period within which a woman checks to see whether the bleeding is going to stop or not and whether she is going to become pure or not. The reason for adding the days of istidhhar on top of the normal days of her period is because it is possible that the extra days of bleeding are because her menstrual period has lengthened. It is not always the case that the extra days are because of illness or imbalance.]

The longest period of time that a menstrual period can last in the case of a woman who has an established length of period, is the usual length of her menstrual period plus three days of istidhhar, so long as, by adding the days of istidhhar on top of her normal period, she is not caused to exceed fifteen days. It is obligatory for a woman to observe the three days of istidhhar, even if she knows that the blood is not menstruation (in that its texture, colour or smell has changed). One occasion is sufficient to establish a normative length for the period. For the purposes of istidhhar, a woman should always build on the longest established period that she has had. So, for example, if the normal period length of a menstruating woman is both four days and five days, she should build on the five days, even if her period had only extended to five days on a single occasion. If the normal length of her period is thirteen days, then she only observes two days of istidhhar, as fifteen days is the maximum length of a menstrual period and she may not go over that. Similarly, if her period is fourteen days, she observes one day of istidhhar and if her period is fifteen days, she has no days of istidhhar. Any blood that continues to flow after those fifteen days is istihada and she discounts it. She prays, fasts and is permitted to engage in sexual intercourse.

The longest length of time that a menstrual period can last in the case of a pregnant woman depends on how much of the pregnancy has passed. If fewer than two months have passed, then the maximum length of her menstrual period is the same as it would have been if she had not been pregnant. If between two and six months have passed, then the greatest period of time that menstruation can last is twenty days. If more than six months have passed, then the maximum duration of a menstrual period is increased to thirty days. These rulings (regarding menstrual periods during pregnancy) are for that small minority of women who experience bleeding while they are pregnant. The norm for most women is that they do not menstruate while they are pregnant, as the blood of menstruation is normally a sign that the woman is not pregnant and that her womb is empty (of a foetus).

132. What is the ruling if the days of menstruation are interspersed by periods of purity and what is the ruling on patching days together?

If the days of bleeding are not consecutive, but rather are interspersed by periods of purity - such as, for example, when a woman bleeds on the first day, then does not bleed on the second day, then bleeds on the third day, then does not bleed on the fourth day, then bleeds on the fifth day, and so forth - then that woman, in order to judge the length of her period, adds together the days in which she bled and ignores the days in which she did not bleed. If the bleeding stops for a period of fifteen consecutive days or more, then her period has come to an end and any bleeding which occurs after that is considered to be the start of a new period. So, in the example above, the woman would add together the first, third and fifth days and would ignore the second and fourth days and the length of her period would be three days (if the fifth day was the last day of bleeding).

A woman on her first period and the woman who has a normal menstrual period length of half a month should patch together fifteen days*, which is the longest length of time that a menstrual period may last. Thus a single period could take a full month to complete or longer. So, for example, a woman whose tendency is to bleed for one day and then be pure for the next three days; bleed on the fifth day, and then be pure for three more days; then bleed on the ninth day and so forth, would take approximately two months to complete her fifteen days (as only the days of bleeding, not the days of purity, are added together).

*[NOTE: Even if a woman only bleeds once in the whole day or night, that day is considered to be a full day of bleeding when it comes to adding together the days of her period. So, for example, if she were to bleed for only one minute on the first day, one minute on the second day and one minute on the third day, that would be counted as three full days of bleeding.]

As for a woman whose normal period lasts for fewer than fifteen days, she should add together the number of days that her period normally lasts and, if the bleeding does not stop, the days of istidhhar. If no new blood emerges for a period of fifteen days or more, then the blood which flows after that is the beginning of a new menstrual period.

As for a pregnant woman, if the days of her menstruation are interspersed by days of purity, she patches together twenty days if her pregnancy is between two and six months old, and thirty days if it is more than six months old.

Any blood that emerges after any one of the women in these three categories (a woman on her first period, a woman who has had periods before and a pregnant woman) has completed her full complement of days, is considered to be istihada, i.e. not menstruation. Each of the women in this section must perform ghusl whenever the bleeding stops, and must pray (and fast) and may engage in sexual intercourse during the periods in which she is pure, even though her full menstrual period has not yet ended (for, as is mentioned earlier in this chapter, it is the times in which the blood is flowing that are taken into account in terms of acts of worship, and not the full length of the period).

133. What are the signs that indicate that the menstrual period has come to an end? Which sign is considered to be the stronger?

There are two signs that indicate that menstruation has come to an end:

1. Dryness. What is meant by dryness is the dryness of the vagina from blood, not the customary moistness of the vagina. If a woman inserts a piece of cloth or the like into her vagina and it emerges free of any trace of blood, then that is a sign that menstruation has ended, even if that cloth is moist with the moisture of the vagina.

2. A form of discharge: This discharge is a white fluid that resembles semen or flour water.

Of the two signs, the discharge is the stronger indication that the womb is free of the blood of menstruation. Consequently, it is recommended for both the woman who normally sees both signs and the woman who normally only sees the discharge, if they see dryness first, to wait for the discharge until the end of the ikhtiyari time (by the end of the ikhtiyari time, what is meant is that there is enough time left in the ikhtiyari time for her to make ghusl and perform at least one rak'at of the prayer before the time ends). If they see the discharge first, then they do not wait for dryness, but perform ghusl there and then. As for the woman who normally only sees dryness, either of the two signs suffice in making her pure and she does not wait for the other. Therefore she performs ghusl as soon as she sees dryness (if she sees dryness first), and she performs ghusl as soon as she sees the discharge (if she sees the discharge first). The woman on her first period takes the same ruling as the woman who normally only sees dryness. In other words, as soon as she sees one of the two signs, regardless of whether it is dryness or the discharge, she becomes pure and is required to perform ghusl.

[NOTE: A woman who is menstruating or experiencing post-natal bleeding should check for the signs of purity before going to sleep every night and at the end of every prayer time (when enough time remains for her to perform ghusl and pray if she discovers that she is pure). For if her period ends within a particular prayer's time, she is required to pray that prayer (if there is enough time remaining for her to perform ghusl and still catch a full rak'at of that prayer before its time ends).]

134. What is the blood of lochia and what is the longest period of time that it can last? When is it considered to have ended?

The blood of lochia, also known as post-natal bleeding, is the blood which emerges from a woman's vagina when she gives birth, regardless of whether it emerges with the birth or after it. As for blood which emerges before the birth, that blood is considered to be the blood of menstruation, not lochia. Blood which emerges from the woman's vagina after the birth of the first of twins and before the birth of the second is, however, considered to be the blood of lochia.

The longest period of time that lochia can last is sixty days.* If the bleeding continues after those sixty days are up, then that bleeding is considered to be istihada (the blood of false menstruation). Like the woman who is menstruating, if the days of bleeding are interspersed by periods of purity, she should patch together the days of bleeding, and pray (and fast) in the days of purity. If, at any point during those sixty days, she remains pure for at least fifteen consecutive days, then her period of lochia has come to an end. Any blood which emerges after those fifteen days are complete is considered to be the blood of menstruation.

As with the blood of menstruation, there are two signs that the bleeding has come to an end, dryness and a white discharge. The stronger indication is the discharge.

*[NOTE: There is no limit on the shortest length of time that lochia can last. In fact, it is possible for a woman to give birth without there being any post-natal bleeding. However, it is still obligatory for her to perform ghusl.]

135. What things are prohibited by the onset of menstruation and lochia?

There are eight things that are prohibited by the onset of menstruation or lochia:

1. Tawaf (circumambulation) of the Ka‘ba. It is prohibited for a menstruating woman (or a woman bleeding after childbirth) to perform tawaf and any tawaf she performs is invalid. (Additionally, it is not permissible for her to be in the Masjid al-Haram while she is undergoing menstruation or lochia, as it is a mosque.)

2. I'tikaf, which is the act of spending at least a day and night in a mosque for the purposes of dhikr and worship. It is prohibited for a menstruating woman (or a woman bleeding after childbirth) to perform i'tikaf and any i'tikaf she performs is invalid.

3. The prayer. A menstruating woman (or a woman undergoing post-natal bleeding) may not perform the prayer (even a voluntary prayer) and any prayer she performs is invalid. Moreover, the prayer is not considered to be an obligation on her during the period of bleeding, so she does not have to make up any of the prayers that she missed.

4. Fasting. A menstruating woman (or a woman undergoing post-natal bleeding) may not fast (even a voluntary fast) and any fast she does is invalid. However, if she misses an obligatory fast (such as when a woman has her period during Ramadan), then she must make up all those days that she missed.

5. Divorce. It is forbidden for a man to divorce his wife while she is menstruating* or bleeding after childbirth. If he does divorce her, and the divorce is revocable, then he is compelled to take her back.

6. Sexual intercourse. It is forbidden for a husband to have sexual intercourse with his wife while she is menstruating or bleeding after childbirth and it is forbidden for her to facilitate that or enable him to do so. It is agreed that it is permissible for her to masturbate him with her hand, breasts and calves and for them to kiss and engage in foreplay, so long as it does not involve what is between her knees and navel. When it comes to what is between the knees and navel, there is a difference of opinion. The commonly-accepted position today is that it is permitted for the man to look at and touch what is between the navel and knees, but that he may not insert his penis into that region (so it is forbidden for her to masturbate him with her thighs or buttocks or any other part of her body in that region). The prohibition on sexual intercourse continues until the woman performs ghusl, after the bleeding has stopped. If she cannot find any water and so performs tayammum as a substitute for ghusl, it is not permitted for him to have sexual intercourse with her, unless he fears that refraining from sexual intercourse will cause him great harm.

7. Entering the mosque. It is prohibited for a menstruating woman (or a woman bleeding after childbirth) to enter any mosque, even if it is not a mosque in which Jumu'a is performed. [NOTE: It is permitted for a menstruating woman to enter a mosque in an emergency, such as when she fears for her life or safety from something outside the mosque and enters for her protection.]

8. Touching a copy of the Qur'an. It is prohibited for a menstruating woman (or a woman bleeding after childbirth) to touch a copy of the Qur'an, except if she herself is a student or teacher of the Qur'an. As for reciting the Qur'an during the period of bleeding, it is permissible for her to do so, even if she is also in a state of janaba. As soon as the bleeding stops, it becomes impermissible for her to even recite Qur'an until she performs a ghusl (if she finds no water and is frightened that she will forget some of the Qur'an she has memorised, she is permitted to perform tayammum and recite.)

*[NOTE: The reason it is forbidden for a man to divorce his wife during menstruation is because it prolongs her 'idda. In the case of the divorce of a pregnant woman who is undergoing menstruation, and the divorce of a menstruating woman which occurs in a marriage that has not yet been consummated, there is no prolonging of the 'idda and so divorce is permissible. This is because a divorced woman in a marriage that has not yet been consummated has no 'idda and a pregnant woman's 'idda is until she gives birth.]


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