Women: Prolonged discharge and prayer

Q695 :Could you please explain the position with regard to exemption from prayer for women during their period, especially if it is prolonged.

A695 : Some scholars mention a number of days for the minimum duration of a woman's period and they also quote a figure to indicate the maximum days of such a period. There is no Hadith to indicate a minimum span of time when a woman is in menstruation. What we can say is that the minimum is a single flow. Nor is there a maximum period for menstruation. We do not have any reliable report to estimate its duration. I say this knowing that some scholars mention one full day, i.e. twenty-four hours, for the minimum period of menstruation and ten or fifteen days for its maximum. None of these figures relies on a specific and authentic Hadith. Menses is recognized by its color. The Prophet is quoted to have said: "The blood of menses is dark, easily recognized." During a woman's period, her discharge may have different colors, ranging from almost black, to red, to yellow or a dark color between white and black. Normally, a woman can distinguish whether her discharge is menses or not. Some women may have a prolonged discharge, but that does not mean that they have a prolonged menstruation. If a woman has such a prolonged discharge, then she has to distinguish between her menses and a discharge that does not stop her from offering prayers or fasting. There are three situations: i) A woman with a regular period. This is the case of a woman who used to have her menstruation lasting for six, seven or eight days on a regular basis. If she happens to have prolonged discharges afterward, then she should take count of her normal period, then she takes a bath and begins prayer. This is understood from a Hadith when, Umm Salamah, one of the Prophet's wives, asked him about a woman who was having a continuous discharge. He said: "Let her consider the number of days and nights for which she used to have her period every month. She need not pray during those days. Afterward, she should take a bath, use a piece of cloth or cotton, and offer her prayers." (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others). This Hadith applies to a woman who used to have a regular period before she developed this disorder. ii) A woman who does not have a regular period and cannot distinguish her menses from ordinary bleeding. The Prophet's sister-in-law, a young woman, had this trouble when she had just attained puberty. She told the Prophet that her discharge had prevented her from praying and fasting. The Prophet said to her: "I suggest that you use cotton because it absorbs blood." She told him that her discharge was too strong for that. He suggested that she should tie herself properly, but she again said that her discharge was too strong. He said to her: "I will describe to you two courses of action and you may choose either of them." He then explained her condition and told her: "You count your period six or seven days, as God knows, then have a bath until you feel that you have purified and cleansed yourself. You offer your prayers for twenty-four or twenty-three days and nights, and fast as usual. Your action is sufficient for that. You may repeat this every month as other women have their normal periods and cleanse themselves in accordance with their regular time of menses and cleanliness. Alternatively, you may choose to delay offering Dhuhr prayer and bring Asr prayer forward: You have a shower then pray Dhuhr and Asr together; then you delay Maghrib and bring Isha forward and combine the two prayers together. Then you have another shower for Fajr prayer and offer it. You may do like this and fast and pray if you can." The Prophet then added: "This last course is the one I would prefer." (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawood and At-Tirmithi). Al-Bukhari commented that this is an authentic Hadith. iii) If she does not have a regular period but can distinguish menses from other discharge. In this case, she relies on distinguishing one from the other. The Prophet said to a woman named Fatimah who had the trouble of prolonged discharge: "Menses is dark and can be distinguished. If your discharge is such, then refrain from praying. If it is of the other type, then have ablution and offer prayer."

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )