Many know that sex in the Islamic faith is impermissible while a woman is menstruating. But Muslims aren’t the only ones to observe this practice. In Judaism and Hinduism, women do not engage in sexual intercourse while menstruating. In some Judaic and Hindu practices, women are not even allowed to sleep in the same bed with their husbands while on their cycle. While we ponder on that bit of trivia, let’s explore what the wisdom is behind the rule of “no sex while on your period” in Islam.
Medical Science and Quran Agree when It Comes to Periods and Sex
The Quran states:
“And they ask you about menstruation. Say, ‘It is harmful, so keep away from wives during menstruation.’ And do not approach them until they are pure. And when they have purified themselves, come to them from where Allah (SWT) has ordained for you. Indeed, Allah (SWT) loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.” (Quran 2:222)
Allah (SWT) forbids sex while women have their periods. Interestingly, there is research that indicates that women are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, as well as endometriosis if they have vaginal sex during their menses. It can also increase the flow of blood and thus the discomfort associated with a woman’s period. (Mazokopakis, 2020)
Kitab al-haid is the “Book of Menstruation” that many hadiths are shared. The writings permit a woman to share a bed with her husband despite her period and, moreover, foreplay and other sexual acts are allowed.
Rulings on Menses are a mercy
In the Kitab Al-Haid, the hadith include the fact that the Prophet (PBUH) rested his head on his wife’s lap and recited Quran while she was menstruating. So it is not that she is dirty in any all consuming way. She can still be near the recitation of the Quran, or be intimate with her husband.
The hadith also narrates the story of a time when our Prophet (PBUH) asked his wife to go into the masjid and get a mat for him. She told him that she was on her period, and he replied, “Your period is not in your hand.” So, it is permissible to enter the masjid according to the hadith.
Judaism and Christianity
This is particularly interesting because it shows how merciful Islamic rulings on menstruation are. In Judaism, the rules for women who were menstruating can be very restrictive. For some sects of Judaism, women cannot touch a man when they have their period. In fact, for Orthodox Jews, it is said that women must perform a ritual bath seven days after the completion of her period before she is able to have physical contact with her husband. This includes even indirect contact such as passing a dish to a man at the dinner table. Thus, it is clear – the permissions in Islam are merciful relative to Judaism.
On the other hand, Christians have almost no restrictions about women having sex while on their period. Given the problems women face with sexually transmitted infections in premodern society, women are at significant risk if their husbands are infected with an STI. Thus the restrictions are merciful relative to Christianity as well.
Guarding ourselves and being dutiful to Allah’s (SWT) commands can protect us in many ways, and the prohibition on vaginal sex during menstruation is no exception. It can guard us from physical problems, as well as marital problems.
And Allah (SWT) knows best.