A woman who suffers from prolonged bleeding (istiḥāḍah) and cannot tell when she is menstruating (ḥayḍ). What is she to do?
Ḥamnah bint Jaḥsh (radiyallāhu ‘anhā) said, “I used to have prolonged bleeding (istiḥāḍah), such that it was abundant and severe bleeding. So I came to the Prophet (ﷺ) seeking a ruling (fatwā). He (ﷺ) said, “This bleeding is a strike from shayṭān, so observe the days of menses as six or seven days, then take a bath (ghusl) and when you see that you are quite clean, pray for twenty-three or twenty-four days — so fast and pray, and that is sufficient for you. Do the same every month just like normal menstruating women. But if you are strong enough to delay the Ẓuhr prayer and advance the ʿAṣr prayer, then perform ghusl and combine Ẓuhr and ʿAṣr.
And if you can then, delay Maghrib prayer and advance the ʿIshāʾ prayer, take a bath and combine the two prayers. Then take a bath at Fajr and pray it.” He said, “This option of the two is more appealing to me (the three baths).” (Reported by Abū Dāwūd 287, Al-Tirmidhī 128, Ibn Mājah 622, Aḥmad 27144, Al-Bukhāri declaring it ḥasan was reported by Al-Tirmidhī in Al-‘Ilal Al-Kabīr 2/187)
The daughters of Jaḥsh were three:
First: Zaynab bint Jaḥsh, the wife of the Prophet (ﷺ) and the mother of the believers.
Second: Umm Ḥabībah bint Jaḥsh, the wife of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ibn ʿAwf (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhumā).
Third: Ḥamnah bint Jaḥsh, the wife of Ṭalḥa Ibn ʿUbaydillāh (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhumā).
It has been reported that all three suffered from istiḥāḍah. In this ḥadīth, Ḥamnah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhā) came to Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ) when she bled profusely, and it became difficult for her. She came to him seeking a ruling. This is how the female Companions were — they would ask concerning matters connected to their religion, and shyness would not prevent them from this. This was due to their desire to fulfil the obligations and free themselves from blame. There is nothing wrong with that, and it is not blameworthy.
So he (ﷺ) said to her, “This bleeding is a strike from the shayṭān” meaning the istiḥāḍah. The scholars have two explanations regarding this saying:
The first explanation: The shayṭān wishes to dominate the woman through the affliction of this bleeding — so he whispers to her, making this affair very difficult for her. He throws hardships in her path so as to make her sad, anxious and feeling down.
Furthermore, the shayṭān uses this illness as a means to constrict her life through whisperings and doubts.
The second explanation: That which the Messenger (ﷺ) mentioned in another ḥadīth; istiḥāḍah is a result of a ruptured vein. This ḥadīth states, “It is a strike from shayṭān.” We can harmonise between the two narrations by saying that the shayṭān (may the curse of Allāh be upon him) strikes this vein and stirs it such that it bleeds for the purpose of causing mischief to the Muslim woman. Therefore, the cause of istiḥāḍah is from shaytān even if its source is this actual vein because the one who strikes it and agitates it is the shayṭān. And we know that the shayṭān flows through the children of Ādam just like the flowing of blood. He afflicts people with his harm so it is a must that people guard themselves through remembrance (dhikr) and seeking refuge with Allāh. So there is no contradiction between the Prophet (ﷺ) stating that the bleeding is due to a ruptured vein and his saying that it is a strike from the shayṭān since both meanings are correct.
He (ﷺ) said to her, “Observe your menses for six days.” Meaning cease praying and fasting and consider yourself on your menstrual period for six days or seven days. That is because that is the usual length of the menstrual period of women, referred to as the monthly cycle. The fact that he (ﷺ) mentioned ‘six or seven days’ is not due to any doubts from himself, but rather it is known that some women bleed for six days and others for seven days in most cases. So each woman (who suffers from istiḥāḍah) follows the habits of the women around her and her relatives.
He (ﷺ) said to her, “Then take a bath (ghusl).” A menstruating woman must take a bath when her menstrual period comes to an end.
He (ﷺ) then said to her, “And when you see you are quite clean, pray for twenty-three or twenty-four days — so fast and pray, and that is sufficient for you.” Meaning: when you have taken this bath, you will be pure from menstrual bleeding. Thereafter, she is to pray for twenty-four days if she took her period to be six days, or she prays for twenty-three days if she took her period to be seven days. These two lengths of time are the most common amongst normal menstruating women. And likewise, it would be obligatory upon her to fast (if it was Ramaḍān or if she had fasts to make up).
He (ﷺ) then said to her, “And do this every month just as normal menstruating women do.” Meaning: It is obligatory for you to do this each month. And the intent here is the Hijrī months because, for most women, their menstrual period repeats itself monthly.
He (ﷺ) then said to her, “But if you are strong enough to delay the Ẓuhr prayer and advance the ʿAṣr, prayer then perform ghusl and combine Ẓuhr and ʿAṣr. And if you can, delay Maghrib prayer and advance the ʿIshāʾ prayer, take a bath and combine the two prayers. Then take a bath at Fajr and pray it.”
He said after that, “This option of the two is more appealing to me (the three baths).” There are two matters to be discussed here:
Firstly: That she limits herself to wuḍūʾ without making ghusl (for the prayers).
Secondly: That she combines between wuḍūʾ and ghusl – and that was more preferable of the two to the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ).
“This option [of a bath for each of the prayers] is more appealing to me of the two” are the words of Ḥamnah bint Jaḥsh (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhā) and not the Messenger (ﷺ) as stated by some of the scholars.
However, what is apparent is that they are the words of the Messenger (ﷺ) not Ḥamnah.
The two options refer to:
Firstly, wuḍūʾ for each prayer.
Secondly, wuḍūʾ and ghusl for each prayer.
So, this ḥadīth has within it various rulings (aḥkām):
The first ruling: The menstruating woman is governed by different rulings compared to the non-menstruating woman. The menstruating woman cannot touch the Qurʾān and remain in the Masjid (according to a group of scholars). It is forbidden for her to pray, fast and have sexual relations – and if she fasts or prays, they are invalid. It is also not allowed for a man to divorce his wife during her menstrual period, due to the saying of Allāh: “O Prophet if you (Muslims) divorce your wives, then divorce them in their periods (of purity).” (Al-Ṭalāq: 1).
Meaning: when she is pure from menses and has had no sexual relations. Divorcing a woman during her menses is forbidden by consensus (ijmāʾ) and it is an innovated divorce. The scholars differ as to the validity of a divorce that is pronounced on a woman whilst she is menstruating. [The more correct opinion is that it is valid, though sinful].
As for the non-menstruating woman then these matters are not forbidden for her.
Indeed, the prayer and fasting in Ramaḍān are obligatory for her. She can have sexual relations with her husband, and he can also divorce her.
The second ruling: This ḥadīth shows that there are differences between the blood of menses (ḥayḍ) and the blood of prolonged bleeding (istiḥāḍah) that distinguish one from the other. Menstrual blood is blackish dark, while the blood of istiḥāḍah is red. Menstrual blood is thick and viscous, while the blood of istiḥāḍah is thin. Menstrual blood has a foul smell, while the blood of istiḥāḍah has no smell.
The third ruling: There are differences between the woman on her menstrual period and a woman suffering from prolonged bleeding. So the menstruating woman is forbidden from the affairs previously discussed whereas the woman suffering from istiḥāḍah has the rulings applied to her as the non-menstruating woman who is pure from bleeding – even though some scholars dislike that a man should have sexual intercourse with her while she bleeds due to prolonged bleeding; however, it is not forbidden.
The fourth ruling: It is obligatory on the woman in istiḥāḍah to perform wuḍūʾ for each prayer because she carries the ruling as a person who suffers from a continual discharge of urine, continually breaking his/her wuḍūʾ. For this reason, it is obligatory for her to make wuḍūʾ for each prayer. The Prophet (ﷺ) commanded the woman suffering from istiḥāḍah to wash her private area from where the blood issues and then apply some material over it (such as a cotton cloth or a sanitary towel) to prevent soiling with blood (just as the one who suffers from urine discharge). Then she is to perform wuḍūʾ and pray. She does this for each prayer. If she was to do that, then her prayer is correct even if some blood is discharged during her prayer since that is beyond her control. This is due to the saying of Allāh, “Be dutiful to Allāh as much as you are able.” (Al-Taghābun: 16).
This is just like the person who suffers from the discharge of urine that he cannot control. He makes wuḍūʾ before praying each prayer, then he prays, and his prayer is correct even if some urine issues from him during the prayer because he is unable to stop that.
The fifth ruling: It is obligatory on both the menstruating woman and the woman suffering from istiḥāḍah to take a bath at the end of their respective menstrual periods so as to exit them from major ritual impurity. This is a point of consensus (ijmāʾ) of the scholars.
The sixth ruling: Is it obligatory upon the woman who has prolonged bleeding (istiḥāḍah) to take a bath for each prayer?
The aḥadīth indicate that she is to take a bath for each prayer. However, the scholars differed in this issue and there are three opinions:
The first opinion: It is necessary to take a bath (ghusl) for each prayer because the Prophet (ﷺ) commanded with that – however he (ﷺ) allowed her to limit that to three baths through the day and night. One ghusl for Ẓuhr and ʿAṣr, one ghusl for Maghrib and ʿIshāʾ, and one ghusl for Fajr. And she is allowed to combine those prayers such that one prayer is at the end of its time and the other is at the beginning of its time. So, this resembles combining but it is not actual combining. Actual combining is to delay a prayer beyond its time and to pray it in the time of the next prayer or to bring the second prayer into the time of the earlier prayer and pray it then.
The second opinion: It is not obligatory for her to take a bath for each prayer – rather it is sufficient that she takes one bath at the end of her period. That is because the repeated performance of ghusl entails difficulty and hardship – and the religion did not come with difficulty and hardship. Added to that is the fact that all of the narrations that mention the performance of ghusl for each of the prayer (or for each of the combined prayers) have some defect in them. And all the narrations that are authentic mention only wuḍūʾ. There is no doubt that in the presence of contradiction between the narrations, precedence is given to the narrations that are authentic over those that are weak or have some defect.
There are also some scholars who hold that the command to make wuḍūʾ abrogated the aḥadīth that mention the performance of ghusl. Regardless, this opinion holds that the ghusl is not obligatory.
The third saying: This is the opinion that Al-Ṣanʿānī leans to, the author of ‘Subulus-Salām’ who said, “The ghusl is recommended for her and not obligatory.” He was from those who did not obligate ghusl, nor did he hold the opinion that it was unlegislated. So he took the middle approach and that is that the ghusl is recommended (not obligatory) for each of the combined prayers.
The strongest of these sayings and Allāh knows best is the second saying: it is not legislated to perform the ghusl for each of the combined prayers. The ghusl for these prayers are neither obligatory nor recommended for the woman suffering from istiḥāḍah. That is because of the hardship that it entails upon the woman as well as the fact that the evidence for it is not authentic. In addition, there are scholars who mention that Asmāʾ and Ḥamnah (raḍi Allāhu ʿanhumā) made ghusl based upon their own juristic understanding (ijtihād) and not because they were specifically commanded by the Prophet (ﷺ).
The seventh ruling: The Prophet (ﷺ) characterised the woman suffering from istiḥāḍah (prolonged bleeding) with three signs, and we have discussed two of them:
The first sign: The one who menstruated with a fixed cycle (before she suffered from istiḥāḍah). This shall be discussed in the next part of this series, and we’ll explain the ḥadīth where the Messenger (ﷺ) said to Umm Ḥabībah bint Jaḥsh (raḍi Allāhu ʿanhā), “Keep away from the prayer for the time that your menses used to prevent you, then take a bath (ghusl).”
The second sign: Being able to distinguish between the menstrual blood and the istiḥāḍah blood. Menstrual blood is blackish, thick and carries a foul odour. So, when this appears, she stops praying, fasting and sexual relations. And when its colour changes, she takes a ghusl and starts praying etc. She knows it has changed by sitting in a bath (or tub) and by pouring water on herself, if a yellowish colour rises to the surface, then this shows that the blood has changed from menstrual to istiḥāḍah. That is because had the blood not changed she would have noticed a blackish blood (instead of yellow) and smelt a foul odour.
The third: So if she did have a fixed monthly cycle, and she could not distinguish between the menstrual blood and prolonged bleeding blood (istiḥāḍah) – then she follows what most of the women around her do, and she takes their monthly cycle as hers, and copies them, either six days or seven days as the other women do.
This is a summary of what these aḥadīth prove regarding the regulations of the menstruating and istiḥāḍah-bleeding woman. There is no doubt that menstruation and prolonged bleeding cause great hardship for a woman. Women in our times suffer confusion and distress over these matters. Sometimes the bleeding starts, then stops, then changes and so on – and this is due to pharmaceutical medicines, or food and drink of different types, and due to illnesses and diseases that have appeared, and due to a sedentary lifestyle that involves no moving around (or exercise). So, whoever is aware of the principles we have mentioned, then the ruling concerning her bleeding will be easy for her. And Allāh knows best.
End of Part 3.
Taken from Shaikh Sālih al-Fawzān’s explanation of Buloogh al-Marām min Adillatil-Ahkām of Al-Hāfidh Ahmad Ibn ‘Alee Ibn Hajr al-Asqalānee (Born 773H, Died 852H). Shaikh Al-Fawzān’s tremendous explanation is entitled Tas-heel al-Ilmām bi-fiqhil-Ahādeeth min Bulooghil-Marām and is printed in seven volumes. The above is a translation of this important and very enlightening chapter (from volume 1), adapted slightly in places, and more detail added to ease understanding.