Whatever you choose to call it, periods are dreadful. During 5th grade, I remember hearing whispers from my classmates about the horrors of getting your period and learning about all the wonders of puberty. However, for a long time, talking about something that was a natural occurrence in the human body was considered taboo. At first, I didn’t understand why my mother or anyone older than myself would refuse to answer my questions. It wasn’t until my brother started to complain about why I didn’t pray or when my father yelled at me asking why I wasn’t praying that I had the strongest urge to just yell, “I’m on my period!” but instead I would desperately look at my mother to make an excuse for me. That was when I started to feel ashamed about going through something that most women go through.
Then about three years ago, someone approached me asking what Islam says about menstruation. My only response to this issue was learning that I couldn’t pray or fast while I was on it. I couldn’t touch the Qur’an either. But I didn’t really know why these restrictions were put on women their periods. After countless hours of research of my own, I stumbled upon this verse from the Qur’an in Surah Al-Baqarah.
“And they ask you about menstruation. Say: It is harm; therefore keep aloof from the women during the menstrual discharge and do not go near them until they have become clean; then when they have cleansed themselves, go in to them as Allah has commanded you; surely Allah loves those who turn much (to Him), and He loves those who purify themselves. “
–2:222, Surat Al-Baqarah
This verse can be seen as very sexist in terms of the behavior they describe when dealing with women on their periods or a wife on her period. But when speaking about periods being “a harm” it is actually saying that it is harmful for the WOMEN, not the men. We all know how painful periods can be, am I right? The headaches, nausea, cramps, bloating and all that fun stuff. But my friend, Safaa B. puts it very eloquently.
I realized I’ve been asking the wrong question this whole time. I wondered “Why are we denied prayer?” when I should have been asking “Why are we given a break from prayer?”
Travelers are allowed to shorten their prayers and yet we never view that as a denial. We never see it as “You only deserve half a prayer, you’re not worthy of the whole thing!”. Instead to us this exemption is a gift from Allah to someone who is having a hard time or experiencing a difficult situation because “Travelling is hard and tiring man!”
Now let’s apply that to menstruation. What if making period blood najis is God’s way of saying “Go ahead take a break, you have no excuse now!”? Like my example with days off, what if this is Allah giving us what no boss or headmaster will for this situation: a break. Not just any break, a break from the most important responsibility of all. More important than all the classes and paperwork in the world. Just like in the case of the traveler I have come to the belief that the exemption is a gift. It’s a reduction of responsibility in times of hardships. This is incredibly and beautifully fair. The essence of my conclusion is the very thing that raised questions in my mind. God is fair.
We see that Islam’s perspective is that menstruation is normal and it is natural, it is not considered as a “punishment” on women. There is nothing in Islam that says menstruating women are ‘dirty.’ Rather, menstruation is viewed as a natural process women experience throughout their lifetime. Verse 2:222 of Surat Al-Baqarah is not implying women can’t “pray” when they’re menstruating; they can still ask things of God, make du’a, and do dhikr. The motions of prayer, which is entirely different, are not permitted, because in order to pray Salaat, you need wudhu (ablution), and blood invalidates wudhu. So bleeding from anywhere continuously invalidates it, even from a wound or a cut. So in theory, blood is considered impure, not menstruation itself.
Now, what can you do to help yourself during this time of the month?
- Drink lots of water! Keep yourself hydrated.
- Use a heating pad to help with the cramps!
- If you don’t have a heating pad, fill a sock with rice, then tie the end with a rubber band and heat it in the microwave for 10-20 seconds! It will retain heat and easy to place on your body!
- Stock up on advil/midol to relieve your pain!
- Stay active if you can!
- Bananas have been known to help with cramps!
- Always remember to clean yourself to avoid any messes and keep good hygiene!
Since we are excused from praying, what can we do to stay close to God?
- Do Dhikr! Bust out those prayer beads.
- Listen to the Qur’an!
- Read up on your Islamic history!
- Give some charity/sadaqah
- Learn some everyday duas!
- Listen to lectures from scholars
What tips and advice do you have to offer? Share in the comments!