A Menstruating Pilgrim Circumambulating the Ka`bah
  • Wed, 11/21/2007
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The overarching consideration of making things easy for the pilgrims is what led scholars in the 8th century A.H. to make concessions for a menstruating woman to perform her tawâf. It was in this century that this issue began posing great difficulties for the pilgrims.

The following is the text of Sheikh Ibn Taymiyah’s verdict given at that time, quoted in full from al-Baladî’s record of it in his work Dalîl al-Sâlik. We will see in this ruling how perceptively Islamic scholars of the past have taken the pilgrims’ difficulties into consideration:
Every year during the Hajj, numerous women form the ranks of the scholars and the laity fall into difficulty on account of their menstrual periods setting in before they have the chance to offer the Tawâf of Hajj – Tawâf al-Ifâdah. Then they are forced to leave with their travel groups before their menstruation subsides.

In the year 707 A.H., in particular, this happened to a considerable number of women, some of whom were quite prominent. There were essentially four different situations:

[1] There were those women whose periods were interrupted for a day or more due to medication.

[2] There were others whose periods stopped without their taking any medication. Thinking that the bleeding would not resume, they carried on with their Hajj in the same manner as the women who had taken medication. However, their bleeding resumed again thereafter.

[3] There were still other women who offered their tawâf before their menstrual periods were over and before taking a bath.

[4] There were still others who departed with their travel groups before offering tawâf, though they had already offered their tawâf of arrival and a sa`y when they first came to Mecca.

In the face of all this confusion, many women were beset with fear – returning, as they assumed, without properly completing the Hajj. The worried about whether it was allowed for them to get married, or, if they were already married, wondered if it was lawful for them to have relations with their husbands. These women came from far away lands and had to undergo great hardships on their journey, not to mention the costs they incurred.

Because of this, the number of questions that were asked about this issue increased greatly. Some of the women were close to losing their sanity over it. They wanted to know: Is there any way out for us? Is there any ease after all this hardship?

After beseeching Allah to guide me in this matter to a solution that will make things easy upon His worshippers, I looked into the rulings of the scholars of Islamic Law, whose disagreements are mercy to the Muslims, and the following answer came to me – and Allah knows best:

It is permissible to follow any of the four imams, even to the extent of following one of them for a particular ruling and another for a ruling on a different matter. In this way, the Hajj of all four groups of women described above will be deemed valid.

The pilgrimage of the first two groups of women is valid according to one of the views expressed by the Shâfi`î school of law. This is based on the ruling that the days without bleeding are times of purity.

This opinion is the correct one according to our [Hanbalî] school of law as well. It is the opinion asserted by the authors of many Hanbalî legal texts, including the books al-Muntahâ and al-Iqnâ`.

As for the third group of women, their Hajj is sound on the basis of the Hanafî school of law, which does not consider being free of ritual defilement or from physical impurities to be a condition of tawâf in the first place.

This opinion had also been expressed by Ahmad b. Hanbal, though the correct opinion in the Hanbalî school of law is that purity is a requirement.

As for the fourth group of women – those who did not offer Tawâf al-Ifâdah at all – their Hajj would be deemed valid on the basis of one of the two opinions narrated from Mâlik. This opinion is that whoever offered the tawâf of arrival and then offered a sa`y, and then returns to his country without performing Tawâf al-Ifâdah – whether out of ignorance or due to forgetfulness – then the tawâf of arrival will suffice him for the missed Tawâf al-Ifâdah.

Without doubt, the excuse of a menstruating woman is more acute and more justifiable than that of someone acting out of forgetfulness or ignorance.

Even if we do not wish to base the ruling for the women in the fourth category on this narration from Mâlik, or deem it inapplicable to a menstruating women, we can still turn to the Shâfi`î school of law for at least a way out of ihrâm for them.

According to the Shâfi`î school of law, if a person leaves Mecca by a day’s journey or more and is unable to return to Mecca due to a concern for personal safety or property, then that person assumes the legal status of one who was prevented from making Hajj. The person should take the steps to emerge from ihrâm where she is, slaughter a sheep, and cut her hair. She thus emerges from ihrâm, though without having a Hajj to her credit.
Elsewhere in his writings, Ibn Taymiyah says:
The most that can be said about ritual purity for tawâf is that it is a condition for it. However, it is a known fact that the condition of purity is more clearly asserted for prayer. In spite of this, most scholars agree that prayer without purity is valid when the worshipper has an excuse…
Ibn Taymiyah then – in a very lengthy discourse that we do not have room to reproduce here – comes out strongly in support of the needs of menstruating women when it comes to their performing the Hajj. He propounds the evidence for the validity of their Hajj, and demonstrates that they do not even have to slaughter an animal in compensation.

He concludes by saying:
This is what I have arrived at in this matter, taking into consideration of the necessity brought on by the circumstances and the dire needs of the people. I have thoroughly surveyed what the people have said on the matter, and I have found that no one before me has really addressed this matter. This is, therefore, a case of exercising legal judgment in the face of necessity, which is something that Allah has commanded. If what I have said is correct, then it is from Allah and His Messenger. If it is mistaken, then it is from Satan, and Allah and His Messenger are innocent of it.
Let us now look at how an eminent Mâlikî scholar – al-Zarqânî – deals with the difficult contingencies of his own school of thought on the matter of a menstruating woman’s pilgrimage.

Al-Khalîl, in his essential treatise on Mâlikî law, states quite clearly: “The transport service and the guardian of the woman are to be detained and they must wait for the woman who is menstruating or experiencing post-natal bleeding for the time that these conditions normally persist. They are to be so detained unless it is unsafe.”

Al-Zarqâni in his definitive commentary on Khalîl’s treatise, writes:
This ruling, as must be obvious to everyone, brings about an inordinate level of difficulty for people, especially those who come from distant countries. The ease that our religion holds as a foundational principle dictates that the woman should rather follow the opinion of our Mâlikî scholars from Basra, who say that the tawâf of greeting and the sa`y that is performed after it suffice for Tawâf al-Ifâdah if it is left out due to ignorance or forgetfulness. She should not follow this ruling from our Baghdadi scholars who say that her Hajj is incomplete – even if it is their view that has been adopted as the official position of the Mâlikî school of law.

We should not doubt that a menstruating woman has a better excuse than that of someone acting out of ignorance or forgetfulness.

When we look to Abû Hanîfah, we see that he says a woman can perform tawâf when she is menstruating. This is because, according to him, being in a state of purity from ritual defilement or physical impurities is not a condition of tawâf in the first place.

This is also one of the two opinions that had been expressed by Ahmad b. Hanbal, whereby she must slaughter a camel and continue her Hajj, on the strength of her tawâf being valid. This is in spite of her sinfulness – according to Ahmad if not also to Abû Hanîfah – for entering the Sacred Mosque while menstruating.

And Allah knows best.
We must realize that the circumstances of people today are more restricted and complicated then they were back then. This is only more acute with the loss of life that takes place during the Hajj. We need more than ever to adopt the easier of rulings in the face of such circumstances. I would go so far to say that it has become our religious duty to do so.