Question: Why can’t a menstruating woman touch the Qur’an? It bothers me that she’s considered impure.
Bismi Llahir Rahmanir Rahim
Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuhu
It is understandable why these types of feelings may develop, especially if one is not familiar with Islam’s position on menstruation.
1. Islam does not consider menstruation to be a punishment towards women. Islam’s perspective is that menstruation is normal and it is natural.
2. 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 to stop certain forms of worship, and every second that she obeys these commands, it is worship if done for Allah’s sake.
3. The Quran is revelation. It deserves to be exalted and Allah Most High teaches us how to do so. The Quranic 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.
4. 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, one will never feel far from Him inshaAllah.
Allah says in the Quran: “And when My servants question thee concerning Me, then surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he crieth unto Me. So let them hear My call and let them trust in Me, in order that they may be led aright.” [al-Baqara: 186]
This article will discuss the aforementioned points in greater detail.
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 once wrote a letter to his young daughter clarifying the details of menstruation to her. He gently explained to her, “…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….Verily, the uterus is preparing itself to welcome (the ability for) pregnancy with this blood and whenever pregnancy does not occur, this blood exits from the uterus to the vagina…” [Fathi Ahmad Safi; Ahkam al-Hayd wa al-Nifas]
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 Most High 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.
There are many examples in the Prophet’s life ﷺ instructing the believers of how to treat menstruating women. Please refer to this article for details.
Menstruating Women & Lifting Ritual Impurity
Legally speaking, ritual impurity is a state that prevents one from performing certain acts of worship until the state is lifted by either ablution (wudu), the purificatory bath (ghusl), or dry ablution (tayammum). 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 (wudu), 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 and his Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
Based on sound scholarship and clear evidences from the Quran and hadiths, a menstruating woman is of those who fall into the latter category. Thus, 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. She will need to refrain from a handful of actions until her time comes to take a ghusl.
Who Can Touch the Quran
Undeniably, the Quran is revelation. It deserves to be exalted. If Allah and His Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) teach the believers that the Quran cannot be touched unless one is in a specific ritual state, then a true servant of Allah only has one thing on their mind: obeying their Master.
Allah says in the Quran, “That (this) is indeed a noble Qur’an. In a Book kept hidden. Which none toucheth save the purified. A revelation from the Lord of the Worlds.” [al-Waqi’ah: 77-80]
There is a difference of opinion of what is meant by ‘save the purified.’ Some scholars declare that Allah is referring to the angels because they are free from all sins unlike humans. But most tafsir scholars agree that it is referring to someone who is free from ritual impurity.
There are other supporting evidences. For example, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Only a pure person may touch the Quran.” [Abu Dawud; al-Bayhaqi] In another narration he said, “Do not touch the Quran unless you are a pure person.” [al-Tabarani] The phrase ‘pure person’ means someone who is ritually pure. [al-Munawi; Fayd al-Qadir]
Therefore, in terms of touching the Quran, 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 Quran 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 has willed menstruation for her, alhamduLlilah, and He appoints its number of days for each woman. Glory be to Allah, every second that the menstruating woman obeys His command, she is rewarded if she does so for His sake. The Most Generous is never cheap with His generosity.
Being of the Pure During Menstruation
Feeling ‘left out’ is an obvious result of not striving to continue with other forms of devotion while in this state. Indeed, there are many acts of worship that a menstruating woman can perform. Menstruation is not an excuse that justifies vacation time from worship.
Allah says in the Quran, “I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me.” [al-Dhariyat: 56]
In the Hanafi madhhab, it is an overall recommendation that a menstruating woman make ablution (wudu) for each prayer time, sit in her usual place of worship, and make dhikr for the time it takes for her to normally pray so that she does not lose her habit of worship while in this state. [ibn Abidin, Manhal al-Waridin]
Thus, menstruation is a prime time to establish good habits and demonstrate the strength of one’s faith to one’s Creator. Please refer to this article for suggestions.
No one knows how Allah will weigh one’s works on the Day of Judgment. Surely, a deed that is done with an open heart and presence of mind for WHO one is worshipping is most deserving of reward.
May Allah make us of those who are constant in worship and obedience to Him.
Check out our courses for more details on menstruation.
Jazak Allah khayran
References included within article.
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