Praise be to Allah,
Medically, al-Istihadah is excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding. It is called menorrhagia. It can be because of several factors, such as hormonal imbalance, fibroids, certain drugs, birth control pills, or birth control devices.
Islamically, the Arabic term for menorrhagia is ‘istihadah’. From the hadith, we come to know that it is caused by blood or vein-related instability.[i]
The woman who has continuous blood flow throughout the month is called a ‘Mustahadah. There is a strong resemblance between this blood and normal menstrual blood. Consequently, it becomes very important to know the distinction so as not to leave prayer and fasting.
The distinction between Menstrual blood and al-Istihadah (prolonged blood)
- The blood of al-Haid (menses) has a specific time while the blood of al-Istihaadah is blood in general. It has no specific time limit.
- A woman inflicted with al-Istihaadah (prolonged abnormal bleeding) must perform prayers or other acts of worship that are not allowed during menstruation.
- It is not obligatory for the woman suffering from al-Istihaadah to repeat the Ghusl at every time of prayer.[ii]However, it is preferable to perform Ghusl every time wants to pray if this does not overburden her.
- The blood of menstruation is the normal blood unlike the blood of al-istihadah which is from some of the veins.[iii]
The prolonged vaginal bleeding of a woman may be such that:
- it may not stop or
- It may stop but for a short period say for a day or two in each month[iv].
Bleeding that does not stop: ‘Aisha (RAA) related that: “Fatimah bint Abi Hubaish said to the Prophet (SAAW): “I do not become clean (i.e., bleeding is not ending) and in one narration “I got persistent bleeding (in between the periods) and I do not become clean”.[v]
Bleeding that stops for a short period: Humnah bint Jahsh came to the Prophet (SAAW) and said: “My menstruation was great in quantity and severe”[vi]
How to distinguish between menstrual blood and istihada’
A woman inflicted with irregular bleeding can be one of the following types;
1- Past personal experience: A woman who is inflicted by istihadah should count the number of days of her regular cycle. For example, if she has a regular period of Five days or eight days at the beginning of each month or during the middle of each month, this is her normal menstrual cycle. All the rulings of menstrual will apply these days. She must take a ritual bath at the end of this period. Any bleeding beyond that would be considered istihadah. This is per the Hadeeth of ‘Aisha (RAA) who narrated that:
“Fatimah bint Abi Hubaish asked the Prophet (SAAW): “I got persistent bleeding (in between the periods) and do not become clean. Shall I give up prayers? He (SAAW) 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”. And in Saheeh Muslim, the Prophet (SAAW) told Umm Habeebah bint Jahsh who had a prolonged flow of blood to “refrain (from prayer) during your menstrual period, then wash and pray”[vii]
Another example will be of a woman who used to get normal bleeding for six days at the beginning of each month. She then started to have prolonged bleeding. For this woman, her Hayd (mense) period should be the “first six days of every month”[viii].
2- No Past regular menstrual cycle but blood is distinct: This is the case of a woman inflicted with irregular bleeding but does not have a known period of normal cycles of menstruation. She may distinguish between her blood from normal menses and her Istihadah blood by looking at some of the characteristics of these two types of blood. Menstrual blood is thick, dark, and has a distinct odor while the other blood does not have these characteristics. For example, Istihadah’s bleeding is red, odorless, and not thick[ix].
For example, a woman sees a continuous blood flow, but she sees it dark for the first ten days and red for the rest of the month. Or it looks thick for the first ten days and soft for the rest of the month, or the first ten days it has the characteristic odor of Haid blood and it becomes odorless for the rest of the month. So, her Haid period is the dark blood flow for the first example, the thick blood for the second, and the one with the distinct odor for the third. The bleeding that follows is considered Istihadah.[x]
It is related that the Prophet (SAAW) told Fatimah bint Abi Jahsh: “When the blood of menses comes, it is black and can be recognized; so when that comes, refrain from prayer, but when a different type of blood comes, perform ablution and pray, for it is (due only to) a vein.”[xi]
3- No known period of regular cycle and cannot differentiate bleeding based on characteristics of the blood: This is the case where a woman has neither a regular menstrual cycle nor distinguishable blood. The woman should consider this as bleeding of menstruation and must leave prayer and fasting for the most common prevalent duration of menstruation, which is six or seven days in a month. She should count the days starting from the time she sees the flowing blood. Other than this period, which is 6-7 days, the blood flow should be considered as Istihadah[xii].
This applies to a beginner or the one who forgot her habit and could not discern, then her hayd is six or seven days out of each month since that is the customary period for most women.[xiii]
An example of this would be a woman who sees her blood for the first time on the fifth day of the month and it continues to flow while she is unable to distinguish any difference in color, odor, or thickness of blood. Her Haid period should be six or seven days starting on the fifth day of each month. This is as per the Hadeeth of Hamnah bint Jahsh (RAA). She said:
“O Messenger of Allah I am a woman who menstruates in great quantity, and it is severe, so what do you think about it? It has prevented me from praying and fasting”. He said: “I recommend that you should use cotton, put it on your private part, for it absorbs the blood. She replied: “It is too copious for that…” In this Hadeeth, the Prophet (SAAW) said: “This is a stroke of the devil, so observe your menses for six or seven days, Allah alone knows which it should be then wash and when you see that you are purified, and quite clean, pray during twenty-three or twenty-four days and nights and fast, for that will be enough for you.”[xiv]
In another narration,
‘This (affliction) is (caused by) harm from the Shaytaan, so consider your menstruation to be six or seven days then wash. Then pray for twenty-four or twenty-three days, and fast. This is sufficient for you, so observe this (as your menstruation) just as the rest of the women menstruate.[xv]’
Sheik Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) further elaborates on this point as:
‘The saying of the Prophet (SAAW) “for six or seven days” is not meant to give Hamnah bint Jahsh the choice but just for her to examine and find out who (amongst other women) is closer to her in age, body structure, number of children, etc. the woman that mostly resembles her condition has a Haid period of six days, then she should consider this period as her reference. The same is true if the Haid period was seven days.’[xvi]
Shaykh ul Islam ibn Taymiya (may Allah have mercy on him) said,
The signs (by which false menstruation can be judged) that have been mentioned are six: The normal menstrual cycle, which is the strongest indication because it is the normal time for menstruation and no other types of blood. The second is by differentiation because the blood that is dark in color, and is thick, and has an odor is more likely to be menstrual blood than red blood. The third is by considering the normal period of menstruation experienced by most women because the general rule is to give the individual case the rule of the predominant majority. These three signs are proved by the Sunnah and through sound analogy. The most correct position is to consider the signs that have been proved by the Sunnah and disregard other than them.’[xvii]
What the woman afflicted with al-istihadah should do
The rulings of a woman suffering from Istihadah are the same as those applicable to a clean woman. This means that she must pray and fast. she can also read Quran. However, there are few exceptions as follows:
She must perform the ritual cleansing bath at the end of her actual menstruation period.
She must wash her private parts at every prayer time, to remove any traces of the blood and must place a piece of cotton in the opening to prevent further seepage and something over it that will keep it in place (in other words, use a lady’s pad with wings).
She should then perform wudu at the start of each prayer time to observe the prayer. The statement of the Prophet may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, ‘Leave the prayer during the days of your menses, and then wash, and make wudhu for every prayer,’ proves this.[xviii] .She should make ablution only when the prescribed time of Salat begins and not before it.
Although there is disagreement amongst the scholars about the permissibility of sexual intercourse during al-istihada, the correct opinion is that it is permissible because many women had their Istihadah at the time of the Prophet (SAAW). Allah and His Messenger did not prevent spouses from engaging in sexual intercourse. The saying of Allah,
“Keep away from women during menses”(Qur’an 2: 222),
is evidence that it is only obligatory to keep away from sexual intercourse with women only during menses. And since offering prayers are allowed while in Istihadah, then there should be no difficulty in having sexual intercourse[xix].
Allah Knows Best
[i] Regulations Of Worship During menses, 2nd Edition, Muhammad Mustafa al-Jibaly, page 8
[ii] Tayseer al-Allaam Sharh Umdatul-Ahkaam by Shaykh Abdullah ibn Abdur – Rahmaan Aal Bassaam. Page 80
[iii] Arousing the intellects with the explanation of Umdatul-Ahkam. The Book of Taharah. Allah Shaykh al-Uthaymeen. Page 106
[iv] NATURAL BLOOD OF WOMEN By Shaykh Muhammad bin Salih Al-Utheimeen. Second Edition. Translated & researched by Saleh-As. Saleh S.Dr. page- 29
[v] Grade:Sahih (Darussalam) Reference : Jami` at-Tirmidhi 125 In-book reference: Book 1, Hadith 125. English translation: Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 125
[vi] Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and at-Tirmizhi, who grades it as Hassan sahih. He says, “I asked al-Bukhari about it, and he called it Hassan.” Ahmad ibn Hanbal says it is Hassan sahih. Fiqh us sunnah, Sayid Sabiq, PDF Page-44
[vii] Saheeh Al-Bukhari (Arabic-English) V.1, P.194, Hadeeth # 322.
Saheeh Muslim (English), V. 1, P.189, Hadeeth # 654.
[viii] NATURAL BLOOD OF WOMEN By Shaykh Muhammad bin Salih Al-Utheimeen. Second Edition. Translated & researched by Saleh-As. Saleh S.Dr. page- 30
[ix] Rulings On Muslim Women Written by Dr. Saleh Fauzan Al-Fauzan. Page 40.
[x] NATURAL BLOOD OF WOMEN By Shaykh Muhammad bin Salih Al-Utheimeen. Second Edition. Translated & researched by Saleh-As. Saleh S.Dr. page- 30
[xi] Related by Abu Dawoud and An-Nassaa’ee, Ibn Habban and Al-Hakim said it is Saheeh.
[xii] NATURAL BLOOD OF WOMEN By Shaykh Muhammad bin Salih Al-Utheimeen. Second Edition. Translated & researched by Saleh-As. Saleh S.Dr. page- 31
[xiii] Fiqh of Worship, Commentary on ‘Umdat al-Fiqh (The Reliable Source of Fiqh), Commentary and translation by: Dr.Hatem al-Haj, page- 103
[xiv] Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and at-Tirmizhi, who grades it as Hassan sahih. He says, “I asked al-Bukhari about it, and he called it Hassan.” Ahmad ibn Hanbal says it is Hassan sahih. Fiqh us sunnah, Sayid Sabiq Page-44
[xv] Narrated by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasaa’i, and Ibn Maajah, and it was
authenticated by Tirmidhi. Rulings On Muslim Women Written by Dr. Saleh Fauzan Al-Fauzan. Page 42
[xvi] NATURAL BLOOD OF WOMEN By Shaykh Muhammad bin Salih Al-Utheimeen. Second Edition. Translated & researched by Saleh-As. Saleh S.Dr. page- 31
[xvii] See Ibn Taymiyyah Majmu al- fatawa [21/630], quoted in A Summary of Islamic Jurisprudence, Dr. Salih al- Fawzan. Volume 1, page 83
[xviii] Rulings On Muslim Women Written by Dr. Saleh Fauzan Al-Fauzan. Page 42
[xix] NATURAL BLOOD OF WOMEN By Shaykh Muhammad bin Salih Al-Utheimeen. Second Edition. Translated & researched by Saleh-As. Saleh S.Dr. page- 31