Bismi Llahir Rahmanir Rahim
by Naielah Ackbarali
It was the tenth year after the hijra, the last year of the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) life. Yet, no one knew that his (peace be upon him) demise was to come. The Prophet (peace be upon him) intended to undertake hajj during this year. It was the only hajj that the Prophet (peace be upon him) performed after it became compulsory. Less than three months later, he (peace be upon him) would suddenly fall sick and pass away.
Thousands of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them) came from various parts of the Arabian Peninsula to complete the hajj with the Prophet (peace be upon him). As for his wives (Allah be pleased with them), all of them accompanied him to Makkah during his final pilgrimage.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions (Allah be pleased with them) left Madina when there were only five days remaining of the month of Dhuʾl Qaʿda. They entered into a state of pilgrim sanctity (ihram) just a few miles outside of Madina at Dhul Hulayfah, which is known as Masjid ash-Shajara in today’s times.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered those with him to intend what they wanted. There are different intentions that a pilgrim can make for hajj. A pilgrim can intend to do hajj only (ifrad), or a hajj and an ʿumra together with the same intention (qiran), or an ʿumra by itself and a hajj by itself (tamattuʿ). The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) beloved wife Lady ʿAʾisha (Allah be pleased with her) intended to do the latter type, which is an ʿumra and a hajj with separate intentions.
The Companions (Allah be pleased with them) were so excited to perform the hajj. They chanted the talbiya throughout their trip down to Makkah. One can only dream of how elated their spirits were and the immense honor that they must have felt to be part of the Prophet’s pilgrimage (peace be upon him).
The Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions (Allah be pleased with them) entered Makkah on the fourth of Dhuʾl Hijjah, prepared to complete the sacred rites due upon them. However, Lady ʿAʾisha (Allah be pleased with her) started to menstruate before that at Sarif, a location that is approximately ten miles outside of Makkah.
She was already in the state of pilgrim sanctity, and not knowing what was to come, she became deeply saddened by the thought that she could not do hajj at all.
In her own narration, she describes what happened and says:
“We set out with the Prophet (peace be upon him) for hajj, and we were not making mention of anything except hajj. When we reached Sarif, I got my menses. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) came to me, I was crying. He (peace be upon him) asked, ‘Why are you weeping?’ I said, ‘I wish – by Allah! – that I had not performed hajj this year.’ He asked, ‘Perhaps you got your menses?’ I replied, ‘Yes.’ He then said, ‘This is a thing which Allah has written for the daughters of Adam.So do what all the pilgrims do except that you do not perform the tawaf around the Kaʿba until you are (ritually) pure.’”
Lady ʿAʾisha (Allah be pleased with her) was crying out of disappointment. She did not want to miss the momentous experience of hajj, but what could she do? In those days, there were no hormonal medications that existed to stop her menstrual flow.
She had to submit to Allah Most High’s will, but it was nevertheless a heartbreaking moment for her – even to the extent that she wished that she had not performed hajj that year! Little did she know that this would be the only hajj that her beloved husband (peace be upon him) would perform, and he (peace be upon him) would die only a few months later in her own arms.
The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) response to Lady ʿAʾisha’s crying was exemplary in many ways. Firstly, he (peace be upon him) knew why she was crying. This is the type of loving relationship that they had with each other. He (peace be upon him) could sense his wife’s emotional state.
Secondly, he was gentle in his approach. He (peace be upon him) saw that she was in pain and reached out to her in a caring way. His words comforted and consoled her worries. And what were his words? That women are the daughters of Prophet Adam (peace be upon him).
Sometimes people think that menstruation is dirty and disgusting, but the Prophet (peace be upon him) elevated women to the lofty status of being the progeny of the first Prophet to mankind because of their monthly cycles.
This hadith also proves that menstruation is not a punishment. Rather, menstruation is natural and normal – something which Allah Most High has ordained for all women until the end of time.
In fact, Allah Most High honored women with their monthly cycles. If it were not for menstruation, Muslim women could not get pregnant, have children, and continue to uphold the lifeline of the ummah.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) informed Lady ʿAʾisha (Allah be pleased with her) that she could perform hajj, but she could not do the tawaf. This is the only hajj ritual that a menstruating women must avoid until her menstruation ceases.
She can do everything else: camp at Mina, stand at ʿArafat, sleep at Muzdalifa, stone the jamarat, carry out the slaughtering, make dhikr, supplicate, engage in repentance, make ṣalawat, and much more.
Lady ʿAʾisha (Allah be pleased with her) followed through with the Prophetic instruction. She exited her pilgrim state for ʿumra and entered into a new pilgrim state for hajj. She completed the standing at ʿArafat, and when her menstruation ended she performed the tawaf on ʿId day.
She accepted that this is what Allah Most High had willed for her. Furthermore, she was still able to benefit and have a spiritual experience despite her circumstance.
In another narration, Lady ʿAʾisha (Allah be pleased with her) told the Prophet (peace be upon him) that everyone else had completed a hajj and an ʿumra but she had only done a hajj. The Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered her brother, ʿAbdur Rahman ibn Abi Bakr (Allah be pleased with him), to take her to Tanʿim so that she could enter into a state of pilgrim sanctity for ʿumra. (Muslim, 1213)
In today’s times, this location is demarcated by a mosque known as Masjid ʿAʾisha. It is where everyone goes nowadays to enter into pilgrim sanctity(ihram) for ʿumra once they are in Makkah.
Because of Lady ʿAʾisha’s situation (Allah be pleased with her), Muslim women know what to do when they experience menstruation during hajj. More than this, all Muslims know where to go if they want to perform another ʿumra. Her trial, her pain, and her worry over her menstruation became a symbol of Islam – landmarked by a masjid that people will use until the end of time.
Excerpt from A Muslim Woman’s Guide to Menstruation Rulings
© Naielah Ackbarali, All Rights Reserved.