By Dr. Salih Al-Fawzan
Istihadah is an irregular vaginal bleeding other than menstruation. It is caused by a vein called in Arabic ‘Al-‘Adhil’. The case of mustahadah[i] is so confusing, for the blood of menstruation resembles that of Istihadah.
The question here is: Since the mustahadah is legally considered pure, how can she distinguish between menstruation and bleeding of istihadah when her bleeding continues all the time?
In fact, there are three cases of the mustahadah:
1. Regular Period
When a woman used to have a stable, regular menstrual period (i.e. having certain duration of menstrual period) before she had istihadah. In such a case, a woman can distinguish between both states relying on her stable menstrual period, (i.e. the bleeding that contradicts the duration of her menstrual period is regarded as that of istihadah).
Thus, such a woman can wait until her usual period ends, then deem any other bleeding as istihadah, as the Prophet (PBUH) said to Umm Habibah in this regard:
“Remain away (from prayer) equal (to the length of time) that your menstrual period used to prevent you. After that (after the period of usual courses), bathe yourself and perform prayer.” (Muslim)
Moreover, the Prophet (PBUH) said to Fatimah Bint Abu Hubaysh:
“This (i.e. istihadah) is from a blood vein, not (usual) menstruation. So, when your real menstrual period begins, give up performing prayer.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
2. Distinguishable Blood
When a woman does not have a regular menstrual period, but her bleeding is always distinguishable; sometimes she bleeds malodorous, thick, and black blood (i.e. having the characteristics of menstruation blood), and some other times she bleeds red blood which is neither thick nor malodorous.
Such a woman is to consider the former kind of blood as that of her menstrual period, during which she gives up prayer and fasting, regards the other kind of blood as that of istihadah, the period in which she can perform prayer and observe fasting, for she is considered ritually pure in this case.
3. The Perplexed Woman
When a woman has neither a regular menstrual period nor a distinguishable kind of blood (e.g. the perplexed woman).
Such a woman must follow the prevalent womanly menstrual period (i.e. average of six or seven days a month) and deem whatever discharge after this period as istihadah.
To sum up, we can say:
- A woman with a stable, regular menstrual period distinguishes istihadah according to her habit.
- A woman with a distinguishable blood depends on her own judgment and her ability to distinguish between her menstruation and istihadah.
- A woman that has neither (a regular period nor distinguishable blood) is to consider six or seven days a month and then take a ritual path.
Obligatory Acts to Be Observed by a Mustahddah in Case She Is Deemed Ritually Pure
- She has to take a ritual bath when her estimated period for menstruation ends, as mentioned above.
- She has to wash her vulva upon every performance of prayer, put a piece of cotton or the like in there to prevent bleeding, tie it well so as not to fall, and perform ablution for every prayer. Narrated `Aisha:
Fatima bint Abi Hubaish asked the Prophet, “I got persistent bleeding (in between the periods) and do not become clean. Shall I give up prayers?” He replied, “No, this is from a blood vessel. Give up the prayers only for the days on which you usually get the menses and then take a bath and offer your prayers.” (Al-Bukhari)
Women also can use the sanitary napkins available nowadays.
The ruling on a woman in a state of postnatal bleeding is like that of a menstruating one concerning the permissibility of the husband to enjoy her without sexual intercourse.
They also have the same rulings regarding the prohibition of sexual intercourse, observing Fast, performing prayer, divorce, performing tawaf, and staying in a mosque.
Moreover, the rulings on both cases are the same regarding the obligation of taking a ritual bath when bleeding stops, and making up for the missed days of Fast, but not the missed prayers, just like the menstruating women.
The womb of a woman in a state of postnatal bleeding discharges blood during and after giving birth, and this is the blood accumulated during pregnancy. The maximum period of postnatal bleeding is forty days, according to the majority of scholars. At-Tirmidhi slates:
“People of religious knowledge among the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) and their successors uniformly agree that a woman in a state of postnatal bleeding must give up prayer for forty days unless her bleeding stops before that; in this case, she has to take a ritual bath and perform prayer.”
So, if the bleeding of a woman in a state of postnatal bleeding stops before the fortieth day, her period of postnatal bleeding ends, and she must have a ritual bath, perform prayer, and practice all acts of worship that have been prohibited for her during her postnatal bleeding period.
If a pregnant woman miscarries and starts discharging, and the stillborn has reached a distinctively recognizable form, she is considered a woman in a state of postnatal bleeding. An embryo takes about eighty-one days to three months in order to have a distinctively recognizable shape.
If the embryo is a mere lump of flesh or a clinging clot (without a distinctively recognizable form), the woman is not considered in a state of postnatal bleeding, even if she starts discharging; she is not to give up prayer or fasting, and none of the rulings on postnatal bleeding is applicable in this case.
Taking Medicine to Delay Your Period
It seems suitable to thoroughly complete our discussion at this point by mentioning that some women may take some kinds of medicine that prevents menstrual bleeding in order to observe fasting in the month of Ramadan, or to perform Hajj (Pilgrimage).
Such medications are permissible if they prevent blood only for a period of time, not forever. If this medicine prevents menstruation forever, a woman is not permitted to take it without her husband’s permission, since her ability to give birth is also prevented as a result of taking this medicine.
[i] Mustahadah: A woman in a state of istihadah (i.e. a woman having vaginal bleeding other than menstruation)
The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “A Summary of Islamic Jurisprudence” with some modifications.
Dr. Salih Al-Fawzan is a Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence, Member of the Board of Senior Ulema & Member of the Permanent Committee for Fatwa and Research.