Is Human Blood a Pure Substance?
  • Mon, 04/18/2005
Printer-friendly versionSend to friendPDF version
With respect to matters of purity, there are different types of blood. Some types, like menstrual blood, are impure according to the consensus of Muslim scholars. By contrast, other types of blood are pure according to the consensus of the scholars – like the blood of the liver and spleen of slaughtered food animals and the blood that remains within the flesh of those animals after they are properly slaughtered.

Then there are types of blood that scholars differ about, including human blood that flows out of the body from the blood vessels.

The majority of scholars consider this blood to be impure, except that they regard a small amount of such blood to be overlooked. The amount of blood that is considered to be a “small amount” is a matter of disagreement.

One opinion is that what constitutes a “small amount” or a “large amount” is defined by custom. Whatever people generally consider to be a large quantity will be considered as such, and whatever they generally regard as a small quantity will be considered as such. This is the opinion of the Hanbalî school of thought.

Another opinion is that a small amount of blood is that which does not exceed the size of a small coin and a large amount is anything in excess of that. This is the position of the Mâlikî school of thought.

A third opinion is that each person needs to make this determination for himself. If the person deems the blood to be copious, then it is. Other opinions have been ventured with regard to how to differentiate a small amount of blood that can be ignored from a large amount that must be washed off. However, those other opinions have no evidence or arguments to back them up.

In any event, evidence is needed to establish the two main claims: that blood is impure and that a small amount of it is overlooked.

Evidence for the impurity of human blood

Some of those who hold that human blood is impure claim that it is a matter of consensus (ijmâ`). This claim has been made by Ahmad b. Hanbal, by Ibn `Abd al-Barr in al-Tamhîd, and by al-Nawawî in al-Majmû`.

When Ahmad was asked about the purity of blood, he said: “Blood takes the same ruling as vomit.” He then went on to say: “Blood is a matter that people have not disagreed about, while vomit is something that they have disagreed about.” [Ibn Taymiyah, Sharh al-`Umdah (1/105)]

Ibn Hazm, in his book on matters of legal consensus, writes: “They are agreed that large amounts of blood are impure, regardless of what type of blood it is, with the exception of the blood of fish blood and the blood of animals whose blood does not flow.”

Al-Nawawî writes [al-Majmû` (2/511)]: “The evidences for blood’s impurity are quite obvious, and I do not know of any disagreement among Muslims about the matter, except what the author of al-Hâwî quoted from some of the scholastic theologians who claimed that blood was pure. However, the opinions of the scholastic theologians are not considered when determining whether there is consensus on a matter.”

Al-Qurtubî writes in his commentary on the Qur’ân: “Scholars are agreed that blood is unlawful, impure.”

Ibn Hajar writes in Fath al-Bârî (1/352): “There is agreement that blood is impure.”

Ibn al-Qayyim says the same in Badâ` al-Fawâ’id.

Those who hold this view cite as evidence the following verse of the Qur’ân: “Say: I do not find in that which has been revealed to me anything forbidden for an eater to eat of except that it be what has died of itself, or blood poured forth, or flesh of swine-- for that surely is unclean-- or that which is a transgression, other than (the name of) Allah having been invoked on it.” [Sûrah al-An`âm: 145]

However, in response to this evidence, it can be argued that the prohibition of eating something does not necessitate its impurity. The verse clearly says: “for an eater to eat”.

A third line of evidence advanced in support of the impurity of human blood is the hadîth where Asmâ’ came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and asked: “What must one of us do if her menstrual blood gets on her clothes?”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “Scratch it off, then rub it off with water, then sprinkle (the area) with water.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (227) and Sahîh Muslim (291)]

The argument given here is that this hadîth is absolutely unambiguous in demonstrating the impurity of menstrual blood and other blood takes the same ruling by way of analogy.

They also cite the hadîth where `A’ishah relates:
Fâtimah bint Abî Hubaysh went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: “O Messenger of Allah. I am a woman who has incessant vaginal bleeding, so I never become pure. Should I leave off prayer?”

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) replied: “No, that is merely a blood vessel and not menstrual blood. When the time for your menstrual period comes, leave off prayer. Then when your period is over, then wash the blood from yourself and start praying.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (228) and Sahîh Muslim (333)]
The argument here is that “wash the blood from yourself” is a command to wash off the blood, and it would not be obligatory to wash it off unless it was impure.

This line of argument can be countered by the fact that the washing is a cleansing from blood that the Prophet (peace be upon him) specified as menstrual blood and he made no mention of washing off the other blood that comes outside of the menstrual period.

The opinion that human blood is pure

Some later scholars like al-Shawkânî and Sadîq Hasan Khân (refer to: al-Rawdah al-Nadiyyah 1/81) as well as some contemporary scholars like Ibn `Uthaymîn (refer to: Sharh al-Mumti`) and al-Albânî (refer to: al-Silsilah al-Sahîhah and his comments on Fiqh al-Sunnah) consider human blood that flows from a blood vessel to be pure, regardless of how much blood there is.

They support their view with a considerable body of evidence.

They argue that the Companions engaged in jihad and were often wounded. However, they were never commanded to wash from the blood of their wounds. If human blood was impure, then we should have some clear and unequivocal evidence that it must be washed off. Since no such evidence is forthcoming, this is an indication that human blood is pure.

They also point out that a martyr is buried with the blood on his body. He is not bathed. If human blood was impure, it would be obligatory to wash it off. As for the reasons cited – that they will “be resurrected on the Day of Resurrection with the color of blood on them and the smell of musk” or that “the blood is the sign of their worship” – neither of these reasons is sufficient to leave something impure upon the body of a Muslim. The blood that will be seen on the Day of Resurrection will not be the same blood that was upon them at death, since Allah is going to bring people forth on that Day as a new creation. A “sign of worship” is not a sufficient justification to leave the body steeped in something impure. This shows us that human blood must be pure.

Another point of evidence is that the Prophet (peace be upon him) never discouraged wounded people or women who suffered from incessant vaginal bleeding from attending the mosque. With the wounds, there was a possibility that blood could be shed onto the floor of the mosque. If this blood was impure, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would have prevented such people from attending the mosque.

`A’ishah relates: “Sa`d was wounded during the Battle of the Trench and was bleeding from the vein in his arm. He Prophet (peace be upon him) had a tent set up in the mosque so he could attend to him conveniently. The people were not startled by a tent of Bânû Ghaffâr being in the mosque, but by the stream of blood streaming towards them. They said: ‘People in the tent, what is this coming to us from you?’ It was Sa`d’s wound that had reopened, causing Sa`d to die.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (463)]

`A’ishah also relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) observed the retreat in the mosque along with one of his wives who was suffering at the time from incessant vaginal bleeding, and perhaps she placed something under her on account of the blood. `Ikrimah claims that `A’ishah had seen some yellowish fluid and said: “It is as if this is something that so-and-so has.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (309)]

Another piece of evidence that they advance is the permissibility of the husband having intercourse with his wife who suffers from incessant vaginal bleeding. If that blood was impure, sexual relations would be unlawful just like it is when a woman is menstruating, for Allah says: “They ask thee concerning women's courses. Say: They are a hurt and a pollution: So keep away from women in their courses, and do not approach them until they are clean.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 222]

This means that incessant vaginal bleeding is not “a hurt and a pollution”, and this is why sexual intercourse is allowed for a woman suffering from it and it is not prohibited for it to stain her clothes.

Another argument is the fact that a human body remains pure after death. Since the human body remains pure, human blood must be pure, in the same way that the blood of fish is pure, since the bodies of fish also remain pure after death.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “A believer never becomes impure.”

Some of the Companions are known to have prayed with blood on them.

It is related in Musannaf Ibn Abî Shaybah with an authentic line of transmission that Bakr said: “I saw Ibn `Umar burst open a pimple on his face and some blood came out. He rubbed it ourt between his fingers then prayed without making fresh ablutions.” [Sunan al-Bayhaqî (1/141)]

Al-Thawrî relates from `Atâ’ b. al-Sâ’ib that he said said: “I saw `Abd Allah b Abî Awfâ and he was bleeding considerably. Then he stood up and prayed.” [Musannaf `Abd al-Razzâq (1/148)] It has a good line of transmission. Though `Atâ’ is a narrator who became prone to confusion in his later years, this narration is being reported from him by al-Thawrî, who only met him in his younger days when his narrations were precise.

Maymûn b. Mahrân said: “I saw Abû Hurayrah put his hand up to his nose and blood came out onto it. He rubbed out the blood between his fingers, and then he prayed without making fresh ablutions.” [Musannaf Ibn Abî Shaybah (1/128)] However, there is a break in its line of transmission.

It has been argued by those who say human blood is impure that in these cases, the amount of blood was small and therefore overlooked. However, this claim is itself the matter under contention, since our initial assumption has to be that the purity or impurity of blood is not affected by the quantity of blood, in the same way a small or large quantity makes no difference with respect to the invalidation of ritual purity.

This is a summary of the disagreement that exists with respect to the purity of human blood. We can see that all scholars are agreed that if a person has a small amount of human blood on his body or clothes, then his prayers are valid. The difference in opinion is only relevant when the amount of blood is substantial.

And Allah knows best.