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Menstruating Women Attending the Mosques

[Being an abridged translation of the research article: Hukm Dukhûl al-Hâ’id wal-Junub al-Masjid li-Simâ` al-Durûs wal-Muhâdarât]

`Â’ishah relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him said: “I do not permit a woman in her menses or a person in a state of major ritual impurity into the mosque.” [Sunan Abî Dâwûd, Sunan Ibn Mâjah, Sunan al-Bayhaqî, and Sahîh Ibn Khuzaymah]

There is a context for this hadîth. The Prophet (peace be upon him) observed that some of the homes of his Companions opened up onto the mosque. He said: “Reorient these homes so that they do not face the mosque.” He then entered the mosques without doing anything, hoping that a concession would be revealed to him. Later, he went out to them and said: “Reorient these homes so that they do not face the mosque, for I do not permit a woman in her menses or a person in a state of major ritual impurity into the mosque.”

Since this hadîth is the primary piece of evidence cited by those who prohibit a menstruating woman and people in a state of major ritual impurity from entering the mosque, it behooves us to assess its level of authenticity and its acceptability as evidence in matters of Islamic Law. It turns out that the chain of transmission of this hadîth is weak, even if we take all of its various narrations together. The hadîth is not suitable as evidence.

One of the narrators is Jasrah bint Dajâjah, about whom al-Bukharî says: “She relates some strange things.”

Al-Bayhaqî says about this narrator: “She is questionable.”

The chain of transmission also contains the narrator al-Aflat b. Khalîfah. He is a narrator of unknown status, as asserted by Ibn Abî Hâtim in al-Jarh wa al-Ta`dîl.

In Sunan Ibn Mâjah, the hadîth comes to us with the following chain of transmission:

Abû al-Khattâb al-Bahrî from Mahdûj al-Dhahlî from Jasrah bint Dajâjah from Umm Salamah instead of `Â’ishah. This is a mistake. The attribution here should be to `Â’ishah. Both Abû al-Khattâb and Mahdûj are unknown narrators.

Al-Bukhârî says about Mahdûj al-Dhahlî: “He is questionable.”

Ibn Hazm says about him: “His narrations are of no ranking. He relates confused narrations from Jasrah.”

As for Abû al-Khattâb al-Bahrî, al-Bukhârî says about him: “He is an unknown narrator.”

Al-Dhahabî says: “He is a mediocre narrator (who cannot be relied upon on his own). Ibn Hajar declared him weak.”

What has preceded concerns the narrators of the hadîth itself, it has been declared weak by al-Khattâbî in Ma`âlim al-Sunan, Ibn al-Qayyim in Tahdhîb al-Sunan, al-Nawawî in al-Majmû`, and Ibn Hazm in al-Muhallâ, where he describes it as “false and rejected”.

Al-Albânî, in Irwâ’ al-Ghalîl, concurs with Ibn Hazm’s assessment.

In the Qur’ân, Allah says: “O ye who believe! Draw not near unto prayer when you are drunken until you know that which you utter, nor when in a state of major ritual impurity, save for those traversing a path, until you have bathed.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 43]

This verse states directly that if a person – male or female – who is in a state of major ritual impurity (janâbah), is on a journey somewhere and has to pass through the mosque, then the person may do so if necessary.

Ibn `Abbâs had said: “It is not permissible for anyone to approach prayer – and by implication, the mosque – while he is in a state of major ritual impurity without taking a bath except for a traveler who can make tayammum.” This is the view held by Abû Hanîfah, al-Shâfi`î, Ibn Râhawayh, and al-Nawawî. It s also one of the views narrated from Ahmad.

However, if a person in a state of major ritual impurity needs only to enter the mosque, he must simply make tayammum. The majority of scholars assert that it is permitted for a person in a state of major ritual impurity to enter the mosque if he has a need to do so. They cite as evidence the hadîth narrated by Abû Hurayrah when he explained to the Prophet (peace be upon him) his reason for avoiding him, saying: “I was impure. I had fallen into a state of major ritual impurity.” To this the Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “A Muslim does not become impure.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]

Ibn al-Mundhir comments on this, saying: “This is what we assert. He criticized Abû Hurayrah for avoiding the mosque and the general gathering on account of his being in a state of major ritual impurity and explained to him that a Muslim does not become impure.”

It is well-known that a polytheist can enter any mosque except for the Haram in Mecca. Allahs says: “Indeed the polytheists are impure, so they shall not approach the Haram mosque after this year of theirs.”

Al-Bukhârî gives a chapter of his Sahîh the following title: “Unbelievers Entering the Mosque”. In this chapter, he cites the hadîth where the Prophet (peace be upon him) confined Thumâmah b. Athâl in the mosque.

It is impossible for anyone to overlook the fact that the polytheists would enter the mosque in order to accept Islam or to hear the Message from the Prophet (peace be upon him) or to argue or for some need, as was the case with the Christian delegation from Najrân. They spent a good number of days camped out in a corner of the mosque. Also, the Christian Ethiopians engaged in spear play in the mosque in the presence of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions.

If the presence of a non-Muslim is allowed in the mosque, people whose state of impurity is not alleviated by a ritual bath or by any manner of purification, then how can it not be allowed for a Muslim who has not yet bathed from his state of major ritual impurity or for a Muslim woman who is menstruating, so that they can listen to the sermons, attend lessons, and hear the Qur’ân being read?

If it is the case that a person in a state of major ritual impurity – and similarly a menstruating woman – can pass through the mosque out of need, because of sleep, or to seek shade or rest, then that person’s entering the mosque to seek Islamic knowledge is even more appropriate.

A person in a state of major ritual impurity differs in certain rulings from a woman in her menstrual cycle. For one thing, a person in a state of major ritual impurity cannot read the Qur’ân. By contrast, the strongest view regarding a menstruating woman is that she can read the Qur’ân on sight or recite it from memorization. This is the official ruling issued by the permanent Committee for fatwa and Research in Saudi Arabia under the chairmanship of Sheikh Ibn Bâz. As for the hadîth prohibiting a menstruating woman from reading the Qur’ân, it is unauthentic. Ibn Hajar discusses all the chains of transmission for this hadîth in al-Talkhis al-Habîr and determines them to be weak. Ibn al-Qayyim does likewise in I`lâm al-Muwaqqi`în.

Another point of difference is that a person in a state of major ritual impurity can fast while in that state, while a menstruating woman cannot fast.

Finally, a person in a state of major ritual impurity can bathe and dispel that state at will. This is not the case for a menstruating woman. She has no control over when her menstruation begins and the period of her menstrual cycle can be protracted.

On the basis of what we have discussed, it is not right to prohibit menstruating women from entering the mosque to hear sermons and to attend lectures and classes and thereby receiving benefit. To prevent women from doing so means that they will be likely to forget what they have memorized of the Qur’ân. They will be prevented from seeking Islamic knowledge. Many talented women will be frustrated, disheartened and lose enthusiasm.

If a person who is in a state of major ritual impurity can enter the mosque out of necessity, then a menstruating woman has even more right to be able to do so. The legal axiom is that: “a need takes the legal status of a necessity when it is not fulfilled.” If we do not regard a woman’s seeking Islamic knowledge in the mosque to be a singular obligation upon her, then we must at least view it as a necessity in order to keep alive the message of the mosque for all Muslims. It is, at the very least, a legitimate need that takes the ruling same ruling as a necessity in Islamic Law.

If those who prohibit a menstruating woman from entering the mosque wish to argue that there is a danger of the mosque becoming soiled by menstrual blood, we would say that women today have far better means of keeping clean than theyhad at the time of the prophet (peace be upon him). They protect themselves so perfectly at home, not to mention the mosque, that no matter how heavy the bleeding might be, their clothing never gets stained.

Nevertheless, since the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) women suffering from incessant vaginal bleeding have been attending the mosques, even though they were not so perfectly protected from dripping blood.

This is according to the hadîth of `Âishah where she said: “One of the Prophets’s wives joined him in i`tikâf and she used to see blood and yellow spots. She had a bowl under here and would pray.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî]

Ibn Hajar comments on this hadîth saying: “It indicates the permissibility of a woman suffering from perpetual vaginal bleeding to stay in the mosque and the validity of her i`tikâf and prayer and the permissibility of her being in the mosque with the impurity as long as long as she is secure from soiling the mosque. The same applies to any person with a perpetual condition of breaking his state of purity and a person with a bleeding wound.” [Fath al-Bârî]

Therefore, if the reason for preventing a menstruating woman from entering the mosque is to prevent the mosque from being soiled, then the same would have to apply to incessant vaginal bleeding. Our mosques today are not better than the mosque of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). Indeed, the need of women today to seek Islamic knowledge and have means made available for them to do so is more pressing today than it was for the women among the Companions and the Mothers of the Believers.

We have the hadîth of Umm `Atiyyah who related that: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) commanded us during the two `Îd prayers – including those who were menstruating to witness the good and the supplications of the Muslims, and that the menstruating women should stay away from the place of prayer.

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