Question: How do I pray with abnormal vaginal bleeding (istihada)?
Bismi Llahir Rahmanir Rahim
Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuhu
A woman who is experiencing abnormal vaginal bleeding (istihada) is still required to pray with ablution (wudu).
The blood is ruled as filthy (najas), and its presence on the body or clothes could impact the validity of a woman’s prayers if it exceeds the excused amount.
Every woman’s istihada situation will be unique. Some women may see occasional spotting, while others may see a constant flow of blood.
Thus, the rulings related to how a woman will pray are dependent upon:
- if blood continues to exit her vagina while she is making ablution (wudu) or praying the obligatory prayer;
- and if it is possible for her to stop the blood flow for this duration.
Spotting in this context means that the bleeding is not a constant flow. Rather, the exiting of vaginal blood happens occasionally. A woman could see sporadic bleeding within the prayer time, or the day, or the month.
Because the bleeding is light and not constant, a woman who sees spotting should be able to wipe away the blood, wash her front private part, make wudu, and pray the obligatory prayer of the time without any bleeding exiting.
If this is the case – that she can successfully complete her wudu and pray the obligatory prayer without blood exiting – then what she has done is sufficient for her prayer to count.
There is no need for her to resort to the excused person’s rulings (ma’dhur), make wudu for every prayer time, and the like. Every time she makes wudu, she keeps the status of ritual purity – unless blood exits her vagina or another wudu nullifier occurs.
Thus, she is treated as a normal person with the rulings related to ritual purity and prayer.
Constant flow is defined as not having the ability to make wudu and pray the obligatory prayer of the current time without vaginal blood exiting. If this is the case, then the rulings will differ for a virgin and non-virgin.
Women who have never been married will always resort to the excused person’s rulings, providing that they fulfill the conditions for establishing the excuse. For details of how to establish the excuse and what are the excused person’s rulings, click here.
Women who are non-virgins must first try to block the blood flow from exiting the vagina. This is wajib according to many scholars and it is the position of our teachers. There are certain women who may be exempt from this ruling, and their cases are mentioned later in this article.
How To Block Blood Flow
Any manageable action that can be taken to stop the blood flow for the prayer’s validity must be attempted. Past scholars wrote about women doing ‘hashu’ – stuffing – when they experienced istihada. In today’s times, this can easily be achieved with the use of tampons, moon cups, tissue, and the like. Based on her body and circumstance, a woman should choose what is feasible for her situation.
The goal is to stop the blood from exiting in order to maintain ritual purity while she makes wudu and prays. She is only required to block for the duration of her wudu and prayer, and she is not obliged to keep anything inserted in her vagina for the entire day – unless she finds it easier.
If she can successfully complete her wudu and obligatory prayer without bleeding exiting the vagina, then this is sufficient for her prayer to count. Every time she makes wudu, she keeps the status of ritual purity – unless blood exits her vagina or another wudu nullifier occurs.
If bleeding exits while she makes wudu or prays, her wudu is nullified and the prayer is not valid. Additionally, any colored discharge that leaks down the string of a tampon nullifies wudu if the blood reaches the edge of the vaginal opening or beyond it.
How-To: A non-virgin woman with istihada should first wash her front private part and dry herself. Then she inserts a tampon, moon cup, or the like to prevent the flow from exiting.
There are different levels of absorbency for tampons, such as light, normal, and super. A woman should choose whatever works best for her situation. Choosing the right size will ensure better protection from leakage.
It may be helpful to research tips of how to insert tampons or mooncups, as doing it the wrong way may cause unnecessary discomfort. For example, a tampon should be pushed towards the woman’s back because the vaginal canal is slanted, and it should not be pushed upward towards the sky. It helps to sit on a toilet or to squat when inserting. It is also best to insert a tampon while the vaginal canal is wet with blood and not dry.
If despite taking the means to block, a woman’s flow is very heavy such that the bleeding cannot be stopped from exiting during her entire wudu and obligatory prayer, then she will resort to the excused person’s rulings.
Exceptions To Blocking
The following scenarios are examples of when a woman is not required to block her vaginal blood from exiting. Instead, she must resort to the excused person’s rulings for praying, providing that she meets all the conditions for establishing the excuse.
1) A virgin girl or woman. Some scholars believe that it is sinful for a virgin to insert anything inside of the vagina. This has nothing to do with breaking her virginity. The argument revolves around potentially and purposely inflicting harm upon her by breaking her hymen or causing unnecessary discomfort because she is not sexually active. Consequently, these women will automatically resort to the excused person’s rulings.
2) For a non-virgin, if blocking the blood flow is deemed harmful or causes undue hardship, then she will resort to the excused person’s rulings.
Being ‘harmful’ or causing ‘undue hardship’ is determined through clear signs, past experience, or the opinion of an upright, expert Muslim doctor.
For example, a pregnant woman who is experiencing vaginal bleeding. This blood is ruled as istihada and she must continue to pray. However, it is not normal to bleed during pregnancy, and a doctor will most likely advise her against inserting anything into her vagina for fear of harming the baby.
3) According to the laws of fasting, inserting an object into the vagina such that it completely disappears into the vagina would break the fast. As such, a non-virgin woman cannot insert a mooncup while she is fasting because the mooncup is inserted entirely into the vaginal canal and no part of it remains outside of the body.
Similarly, inserting anything wet or lubricated into the vagina breaks the fast – even if the object does not completely disappear inside the vagina. Thus, a non-virgin woman experiencing istihada should dry her private parts properly and only insert dry materials to block the flow, while taking care to leave part of the object outside of the body. Tampons can be an option if she leaves the string hanging outside of the vaginal hole.
If this is not possible, then she would use the excused person’s rulings during the fasting day and block from Maghrib to Fajr.
Please note that it is vital for women to record the days and times that they see istihada, as it may impact several rulings related to their habit and worship.
Please read these related articles:
Istihada: What Is It? And Examples
The Excused Person’s Rulings: A Complete Breakdown
Am I obliged to wash away the istihada blood on my clothes before praying?
Check out our menstruation guides and courses for more details about the general rulings of worship and menstruation.
Jazak Allah khayran
- Imam ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar
- Imam ibn Abidin, Manhal al-Waridin
- Imam Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah
- Imam Tahtawi, Hashiyya al-Tahtawi
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