Can a Menstruating Woman Touch the Qur'an?

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from Why Can’t a Menstruating Woman Touch the Qur’an?  Islam’s Perspective on Menstruation on 9th October, 2010 by Ustadzah Naielah Ackbarali.  The question is why a menstruating woman is not allowed to touch a Qur’an or why a menstruating woman is deemed impure.

It is understandable why these types of feelings may develop, especially if one is not familiar with Islam’s position on menstruation.  Islam does not consider menstruation to be a punishment towards women, and it would be a grave error to compare this great religion to other faiths who do view menstruation in a horrible, derogatory manner.  Islam’s perspective is that menstruation is normal and it is natural.

Additionally, a menstruating woman is not dirty, but rather from a legal perspective, she is ritually impure for the duration that she is menstruating.  This has legal consequences and not spiritual consequences.  As such, she is Instructed by Allah (s.w.t.) to stop certain forms of worship, and every second that she obeys these Commands, it is worship if done for Allah’s (s.w.t.) Sake.

Furthermore, the Qur’an is Revelation; it deserves to be exalted and Allah (s.w.t.) Teaches us how to do so.  The Qur’anic ayah of the “pure ones” does not only refer to menstruating women, but to any person in a state of ritual impurity, whether minor or major, male or female.

Finally, women must work hard at establishing good habits of worship during their menstruation, as well as maintaining them when ritually pure.  There are many acts of worship that a menstruating woman can perform that will gain her the Pleasure of her Lord.  These emotions of feeling left out are an obvious result of not persisting to engage in habitual practices of devotion while menstruating.  Most certainly, if one is in a constant state of remembering Allah (s.w.t.), one will never feel far from Him.

Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Qur’an:

When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed Close (to them); I Listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me; let them also with a will listen to My Call and believe in Me; that they may walk in the right way. (Surah al-Baqarah:186)

With regards Islam’s perspective on menstruation, there is nothing in Islam that says menstruating women are “dirty.”  Rather, menstruation is viewed as a natural process that normal, healthy women experience throughout their lifetime.  A Syrian scholar, Shaykh Fathi Ahmad Swafi (r.a.) once wrote a letter to his young daughter, Ahkam al-Haydh wa an-Nifas, clarifying the details of menstruation to her.  He gently explained to her that, “it is a healthy blood.  Indeed, menstruation has a natural, physical connection with a woman’s body to enable pregnancy.  Allah is Most Exalted in His Wisdom.  He Made menstruation a means for pregnancy.”  H continued, “Verily, the uterus is preparing itself to welcome pregnancy with this blood and whenever pregnancy does not occur, this blood exits from the uterus to the vagina.”

Medically-speaking, it is impossible for a woman to become pregnant if she cannot menstruate, which is the case for young children and post-menopausal women.  The blessing of being able to menstruate is quite clear for the one who reflects.  The first time a girl sees menstrual blood in her life her body is signaling to her that she is growing into a young woman.  She is now physically able to start conceiving.  In fact, only by the occurrence of menstruation is a woman given the opportunity to begin and nurture a righteous family.  For most women, Allah (s.w.t.) Gives them this chance once a month for a series of years to attempt conception and enjoy the blessing of raising pious children.  Surely, the wondrous joys experienced during parenthood would never be possible without first encountering menstruation.

The following are examples from the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) life on how to treat menstruating women.  There are many examples in the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) life instructing the believers of how to behave with menstruating women.  He told the companions to interact with menstruating women in their usual manner, with the exception of engaging in sexual intercourse which is prohibited in Islam by consensus.  These are a few examples from the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) life.

As recorded in Swahih al-Bukhari, ‘Aishah (r.a.) said, “We left with the Prophet (s.a.w.) for the pilgrimage.  When we were in Sarif, I began to menstruate.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) approached me and I was crying.  He asked, ‘Did you get your period?’

I replied, ‘Yes.’

He said, ‘Verily this is a matter Allah has Written upon the girls of Prophet Adam (a.s.).  Do all the actions of the pilgrimage except the thawaf.’”  Sarif is a place close to Makkah.  From this narration, it is quite clear that Allah (s.w.t.) did not Will menstruation for specific individuals, but rather, He Chose it to be for all women until the end of time.  No healthy woman experiences life without menstrual blood.  It is normal and it is natural.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) also comforted ‘Aishah (r.a.) by telling her that it is a matter Allah (s.w.t.) has Written for women, which completely refutes the idea that menstruation is a curse, a punishment, or anything else demeaning.  This is a clear distinction between Islam and many other faiths.  The conservative Jews at the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.) would not go near their menstruating wives.  They did not eat with them, drink with them, or remain in the same house as them during their periods.  The companions asked the Prophet (s.a.w.) about these mannerisms and how should they behave with their menstruating wives.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Do everything with her except for sexual intercourse.”  This is recorded in Swahih Muslim and Imam ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani’s (r.a.) Fath al-Bari.

In another incident, the companions asked the Prophet (s.a.w.) about what was permissible to do with a menstruating woman.  He responded, “For you is what is above the izar (lower garment).”  This was recorded by Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.).

These narrations demonstrate that a husband must still act favourably and lovingly towards his wife regardless if she is menstruating.  A man should not ignore his menstruating wife but continue to live with her as companions for the sake of Allah (s.w.t.).  Additionally, the given responses indicate that it is permissible to touch her, and even to sexually stimulate her, as long as the husband does not directly touch the skin between her navel and knee.  Shaykh ibn ‘Abidin (r.a.) in his Radd al-Muhtar says the Hanafis allow the husband to touch the area between her navel and her knee upon the condition that there is a barrier covering this specific place, like with the use of a sheet or trousers.

From Swahih al-Bukhari, ‘Aishah (r.a.) said, “The Prophet (s.a.w.) would recline on my lap while I was menstruating and he would read the Qur’an.”  She also said in another narration from Swahih Muslim., “I would drink while menstruating, then pass the vessel to the Prophet (s.a.w.).  He would place his mouth on the same place as my mouth and drink.”  Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari (r.a.) in Mirqat al-Mafatih says these narrations prove that a menstruating woman is pure, thahirah, and not filthy, aside from her being in a state of ritual impurity.

As recorded in Swahih al-Bukhari, Umm Salamah (r.a.) said, “I was lying down with the Prophet (s.a.w.) under a black, wool cover and I started to menstruate.  I left quietly to put on clothing worn for menstruation.  He asked, ‘Did you get your period?’

I replied, ‘Yes.’  He called to me to lie down again with him under the cover.”

Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.) noted that this narration illustrates the permissibility of sleeping next to a menstruating woman in her clothing and lying with her under the same cover.  Women wore different clothing during menstruation in order to avoid affecting their everyday garments with filth, which is similar to what women do in today’s times.

As recorded in Swahih Muslim ‘Aishah (r.a.) said, “The Messenger of God (s.a.w.) said to me, ‘Get me the prayer mat from the prayer area.’

I replied, ‘I am menstruating.’

He said, ‘Verily, your menstruation is not in your hand.’”

Imam an-Nawawi (r.a.) said in Sharh Swahih Muslim, the meaning of the phrase “not in your hand” is that there was no filth present on her hand, like blood, that would defile the prayer area.  This narration further indicates that a menstruating woman’s limbs are not filthy but pure.  She is only ritually impure.  This is affirmed by Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari (r.a.) in Sharh Musnad Abi Hanifah and Shaykh an-Namari (r.a.) in al-Istidhkar.

As recorded by Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.), Maymunah (r.a.) related that she would be menstruating and not praying.  She would lie next to the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) prayer area while he would be praying on a prayer mat.  She said, “When he prostrated, some of his clothing would touch me.”  It is written in Sharh ibn Bathal that similar to the narrations previously mentioned, this hadits ascertains that a menstruating woman is not filthy.

Legally speaking, ritual impurity is a state that prevents one from performing certain acts of worship until the state is lifted by either ablution, wudhu; the purificatory bath, ghusl; or dry ablution, tayammum.  This is by Imam Shurunbulali (r.a.) in Maraqi al-Falah and Imam ath-Thahthawi (r.a.) in Hashiyat at-Thahthawi.  This criterion has legal consequences and not spiritual consequences.

There are two types of ritual impurity: minor and major.  Minor ritual impurity is when one is in a state that necessitates ablution, wudhu; whereas major ritual impurity is a state that necessitates the purificatory bath, ghusl.  These are both ritual acts of cleanliness that were taught to us by Allah (s.w.t.) and His Prophet (s.a.w.).

Imam Shurunbulali (r.a.) in Maraqi al-Falah said that based on sound scholarship and clear evidences from the Qur’an and ahadits, a menstruating woman is of those who fall into the latter category.  Shaykh ath-Thahthawi (r.a.) in Hashiyat ath-Thahthawi said the only way a menstruating woman can lift her state of ritual impurity is by performing the purificatory bath.  However, the purificatory bath is not valid until she stops menstruating within the possible days of menses or her bleeding reaches the menstrual maximum.

Undeniably, the Qur’an is Revelation.  It deserves to be exalted.  If Allah (s.w.t.) and His Prophet (s.a.w.) Teach the believers that the Qur’an cannot be touched unless one is in a specific ritual state, then a true servant of Allah (s.w.t.) only has one thing on their mind: obeying their Master.

Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Qur’an:

That this is indeed a Qur'an Most Honourable, in a Book Well-Guarded, which none shall touch but those who are clean: A Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds. (Surah al-Waqi’ah:77-80)

There is a difference of opinion of what is meant by “save the purified.”  Some scholars declare that Allah (s.w.t.) is Referring to the angels because they are free from all sins unlike humans.  Imam ibn ‘Abidin (r.a.) in his Radd al-Muhtar said most tafsir scholars agree that it is referring to someone who is free from ritual impurity.

There are other supporting evidences.  For example, Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.) and Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.) narrated the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Only a pure person may touch the Qur’an.”  In another narration, according to Imam ath-Thabarani (r.a.), the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Do not touch the Qur’an unless you are a pure person.”  Imam al-Munawi (r.a.), in Faydh al-Qadir, wrote the phrase “pure person” means someone who is ritually pure.

Therefore, in terms of touching the Qur’an, the same ruling applies for a man and a woman in a state of minor or major ritual impurity.  Namely, neither of them can touch the Qur’an without first removing this state.  However, lifting the state of ritual impurity may be done quicker for some than for others.  For example, a woman who merely needs to perform ablution will relieve this state quicker than a menstruating woman.  Yet, there is nothing wrong with her if she takes a longer time.  Allah (s.w.t.) has Willed menstruation for her and He Appoints its number of days for each woman.  Every second that the menstruating woman obeys His Command, she is Rewarded if she does so for His Sake.

There are many acts of worship that a menstruating woman can perform. Menstruation is not an excuse that justifies vacation time from worship.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Qur’an:

I have only Created jinn and men, that they may serve Me. (Surah adz-Dzariyat:56)

In the Hanafi madzhab, Imam ibn ‘Abidin (r.a.), in his Manhal al-Waridin, stated it is an overall recommendation that a menstruating woman make ablution, wudhu’, for each prayer time, sit in her usual place of worship, and make dzikr for the time it takes for her to normally pray so that she does not lose her habit of worship while in this state.  Thus, menstruation is a prime time to establish good habits and demonstrate the strength of one’s faith to one’s Creator.


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