Rulings on Ramadan for Women

Since 2012-12-23
This is an extract of the rulings related to Ramadan for women from Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih Aal ‘Uthaymeen’s rulings on female bleeding entitled Ithnaani wa Khamsoona Su’aalan ‘an Ahkaam il-Hayd (Fifty-Two Questions on the Laws Concerning Menstruation) translated by Dr. Bilal Philips.

Some questions from a collection of Islamic rulings on women’s issues, Fataawaa al-Mar’ah, were also added in order to increase the benefit of this work. Footnotes indicating the name of the scholar who made the ruling and the source (i.e. Fataawaa al-Mar’ah) were also added to distinguish between the rulings from Shaykh Ibn ‘Aal ‘Uthaymeen’s booklet and those from Fataawaa al-Mar’ah

Q1. Should a woman whose menses ends immediately after the Athaan [1] of Fajr [2] refrain from eating and fast the remainder of that day? And would that day be counted or would she have to make it up?

Ans. The most correct opinion is that she should not fast on that day, because a condition for fasting to be acceptable is that woman must not be menstruating from the beginning of Fajr until sunset. Consequently, there is no benefit in her fasting on a day in which fasting is not acceptable. Furthermore, since it was Haraam (prohibited) for her to fast at the beginning of the day while she was menstruating, the day of fasting would be incomplete and could not possibly be counted. [3]

Q2. Must a woman fast and pray after giving birth if her post-natal bleeding stops before the forty-day period [4] has elapsed?

Ans. Yes, she must fast and pray. For women to perform formal prayer and fast they must be free from discharges of blood. Once the condition of purity is fulfilled, sexual intercourse with her husband becomes permissible and formal prayer and fasting become obligatory. [5]

Q3. Is a woman’s fast legitimate if she experiences continuous spotting [6] during Ramadan?

Ans. Yes her fast is legitimate because these drops of blood are not menstrual blood. ‘Alee ibn Abee Taalib was reported to have said, “These drops [of blood] are similar to a nosebleed and are not [considered] menses.” [7]

Q4. If a woman’s menses ceased before dawn, but she did not make her ghusl [8] until after dawn, is her fast legitimate or not?

Ans. Her fast is correct and so is the fast of a woman bleeding after childbirth whose bleeding ceases before dawn, because in both cases, fasting became obligatory on them at the time that the bleeding ceased. Their cases are similar to a person in a state of janaabah [9] who does not make the ghusl before the break of dawn. Such a person’s fast is correct based on Allah’s statement:

“So now have sexual relations with them and seek that which Allah has ordained for you (offspring), and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night)” [al Baqarah 2:187]

{...فَالْآنَ بَاشِرُوهُنَّ وَابْتَغُوا مَا كَتَبَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ ۚ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ الْخَيْطُ الْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ الْخَيْطِ الْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ الْفَجْرِ...}
البقرة: 187

Transliteration: faalana bashiroohunna waibtaghoo ma kataba Allahu lakum wakuloo waishraboo hatta yatabayyana lakumu alkhaytu alabyadu mina alkhayti alaswadi mina alfajri

In this verse, Allaah has made sexual relations allowable until dawn rises. This permission, if acted upon, would necessitate ghusl after dawn. Evidence may also be found in the hadeeth reported by ‘Aa’ishah in which she stated that “the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) used to arise at dawn in Ramadaan in a state of janaabah from intercourse with his wives.” [10]

«أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يدركه الفجر ، وهو جنب من أهله ، ثم يغتسل ويصوم»
رواه البخاري

This statement indicates that he did not make ghusl until after the rise of dawn.

Q5. Is her fast valid, if a woman senses that her menses has started or she experiences menstrual cramps, but does not see any blood before sunset, or is she required to make up that day later?

Ans. As long as blood is not discharged until after sunset, her fast is valid if it was a compulsory fast, and its reward is not affected in any way if was a voluntary fast.

Q6. Can a woman fast on a day in which she sees blood, but she is not sure if it her menses or not?

Ans. Her fast is valid, because blood is not legally regarded as menstrual, until she is sure it is menstrual.

Q7. What is the law regarding the fast of a woman who sees occasional drops of blood during the days when her menses are expected, but menstrual blood does not begin to flow?

Ans. If the spotting is during the expected days and she is sure that it is menstrual blood, it then means that her period has started and her fast would be invalid if the spotting occurred before sunset.

Q8. Can a menstruating woman or one experiencing post-natal bleeding eat and drink during the daytime in the month of Ramadan?

Ans. Yes, but it should be done secretly if there are young children in the home in order not to confuse them.

Q9. What is the Islamic ruling regarding the fast of a woman who has a miscarriage followed by bleeding?

Ans. If the miscarriage occurs before the embryo is developed, the bleeding which comes with it is not considered nifaas (post-natal bleeding) so her fast is valid and she should continue to pray and fast. But if the miscarriage occurs after the embryo has developed, the bleeding is considered the same as post-natal bleeding and her fast is invalidated. She must discontinue formal prayers and fasting until the bleeding ceases.

Q10. If a pregnant woman bleeds during the fasting hours of Ramadan does this break her fast?

Ans. Our view [11] is that pregnant women do not have menses as stated by Imam Ahmad [12], for it is by the cessation of menses that women determine pregnancy. However, some women may continue to bleed at regular times, as they did before pregnancy. According to the most correct opinion, this type of continual bleeding at the time of menses is considered to be true menses and is governed by all the laws concerning menstrual blood. [13] However, if the bleeding of the pregnant woman stops and starts again and it does not resemble menstrual blood, it will not affect her fast in any way because it is not menses. Such bleeding may be the result of an accident, or the strain of lifting something heavy, or falling down, etc. Therefore, if a pregnant woman bleeds menstrual blood, it breaks her fast according to the Prophet’s statement, “Is it not the case that when you have menses, you do not pray formal prayers or fast?” [14] If it is not menstrual blood, it does not invalidate her fast.

Q11. Should a pregnant woman who begins to bleed one our two days before delivery, break her fast and discontinue formal prayers?

Ans. If the bleeding is accompanied by contractions, it should be considered as nifaas, due to which fasting should be stopped and prayer discontinued. On the other hand, if there are no contractions, it is considered blood due to illness and she must continue praying and fasting.

Q12. A pregnant woman discharges blood five days prior to her delivery during the fasting hours of Ramadan. Is it considered menstrual blood or nifaas?

Ans. If blood is seen five days prior to delivery unaccompanied by contractions, it is not considered either menses or nifaas. It is abnormal bleeding (istihaadah) according to the most correct opinion. Therefore, she should not stop praying and fasting. However, if the bleeding is accompanied by the signs of delivery, it is considered as nifaas and she must stop formal prayer and fasting. After delivery, when her postnatal bleeding stops, she must make up her missed days of fasting, but not her missed formal prayer. [15]

Q13.What is Islamic ruling regarding the fasting and praying of woman whose menses sometimes either stops for one or two days or they bleed on alternate days?

Ans The one or two day cessation of menses, as well as bleeding on alternate days, during the usual time period of their menses is considered part of their menses. Some scholars hold that the minimum period between menses is thirteen days so that the blood which a woman sees after two or three days is not menstrual blood. Other scholars hold that whenever she sees blood it is menses and whenever it stops she is pure, even if the time period between two menses is less than thirteen days. However, when a woman’s menses stop completely, the scholars all agree she has to make ghusl, then resume fasting and praying. [16]

Q14. Is it allowed for a woman to begin fasting on a day when her blood flow stops, even though it is before she sees the white discharge?

Ans. If she is not used to seeing a white discharge at the end of her menses, she should fast. However, if she usually sees the discharge, as is common among most women, she should not fast until she sees it.

Q15.What is required of women who begin fasting Ramadan without making up days missed from their previous Ramadan?

Ans. They are required to turn to Allaah in sincere repentance for what they have done because it is not permissible to delay making up missed days until after the following Ramadan without a valid excuse. ’Aa’ishah said, “Sometimes I would not be able to make up for days missed in Ramadan until the month of Sha’baan [17][18]

«سمعت عائشة رضي الله عنها تقول: كان يكون علي الصوم من رمضان ، فما أستطيع أن أقضي إلا في شعبان»
رواه البخاري ومسلم وابو داود

This indicates that it is not allowable to delay making up missed days until after the following Ramadan. Those who have done so should repent, make up the missed days after Ramadan and not repeat this prohibited practice.

Q16. Seven years ago, when I was thirteen years old, I fasted Ramadan and broke fast for four days because of my menses. However, I was too shy to inform anyone and never made them up. What should I do now?

Ans. You made a mistake by not making up the missed days over these past seven years. Menses is something destined by Allaah for woman and shyness has no place when it comes to knowledge about religious matters. You should make up the missed days immediately, and as atonement (kaffaarah), feed a poor person for each day you missed from the staple food of your country. [19]

Q17. What is your opinion about women taking birth-control pills (in order) to prevent the early arrival of their menses and thereby permitting them to complete the fast along with everyone else?

Ans. I advise against this practice because these tablets contain grave harm as this has been proven to me by professional doctors. [20] Women must understand that menses were destined by God for them. Therefore, they should happily accept Allah’s decision in this matter. [21]

Q18. Is it better for women to pray at home during the nights of Ramadan or to go to the mosque, especially if there are Islamic lectures and guidance for women who pray there?

Ans. It is better for Muslim women to pray at home. This is generally implied in the Prophet’s statement, “...but their homes are better for them.” [22]

«لا تمنعوا نساءكم المساجد وبيوتهن خير لهن»
رواه ابو داود وصححه الألباني

[The reasoning behind this view is that] women who go out frequently may create some temptation in society. It is also better for women to stay in their homes [even though there are lectures in the mosque] as these lectures and instructions can easily be obtained through Islamic cassettes. But for those women who do go out to pray in the mosques, my advice is to dress Islamically and avoid wearing perfume and make up [on their way to the mosques, as well as in them]. [23]

Q19.What is the Islamic ruling on a fasting woman tasting food while cooking during the daylight hours of Ramadan?

Ans. It is okay since there is a need for her to know about the taste of what she is preparing. However the sampled food should be spat out without swallowing any of it. [24]

Q20. What is the Islamic ruling regarding the prayer and the fast of a pregnant woman who has an accident and her miscarriage is followed by heavy bleeding?

Ans. If the features of the miscarried fetus are clearly human, the bleeding is considered post-natal bleeding which requires her to discontinue her fast and formal prayer, and avoid sexual intercourse until the bleeding ceases. If, on the other hand, the features of the fetus are not developed, the bleeding would not be considered nifaas and she should continue to pray and fast. According to the scholars, the shortest period in which the fetus may develop human features is eighty-one days. Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood’s hadeeth is the basis for this opinion. He reported that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) said, ’’Verily your creation is combined in your mother’s womb for forty days in the form of an oily fluid, then as a leech-like clot for a similar period and then as a clump of flesh for another similar period. After [the last] period, an angel is sent to blow the spirit into it...’’ [25]

«إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما . ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك . ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك . ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح...»
متفق عليه

It is impossible for the human features to become evident before this point. However, the most common situation is for human features to be developed after ninety days as stated by some scholars.

Q21. A woman has not made up any missed days of her Ramadan fasts since the time fasting became compulsory on her. What should she do now, especially since ignorance was her excuse and she has no idea of the total number of days she did not fast?

Ans. It makes me very sad to hear that a Muslim woman could make such serious mistakes. This negligence is either due to ignorance or to carelessness, and both are disastrous. The cure for ignorance is knowledge and questioning, and for carelessness it is fear of Allaah and consciousness of him. The woman who has not made up any missed days is first required to sincerely repent to Allaah for what she has done and ask His forgiveness. She should then estimate the number of days she has missed and make them up. In that way she can absolve herself, and we hope that Allah will accept her repentance.

Q22. Can a sixty-five year old woman pray and fast who has not had any children for the past nineteen years but has been bleeding continuously for three years now?

Ans. In a case like this, the woman must abstain from formal prayer and abandon fasting for the length of time her periods used to occur. [26] When the time is complete, she should make a ghusl, then pray and fast. In order to pray whenever the time for a compulsory prayer enters, she should wash her genitals thoroughly, wear a sanitary napkin and make wudoo before praying. She must also do the same to make voluntary prayer. Due to the difficulty involved, she is allowed to pray Thuhr and ‘Asr together in the time of Thuhr or in the time of ‘Asr, and the prayers of Maghrib and ‘Ishaa together in the time of the former or the latter. [27]

Q.23. Is it permissible for a woman who fears that her menses will come during Hajj to use pills which prevent or delay her menses only during the Hajj period?

Ans. It is permissible for a woman to use pills which prevent menses during Hajj after she has confirmed the safety of their usage from a gynecologist. She may also do so during Ramadan in order to complete the fast along with the rest of the community. [28]

[1] The call to prayer which is normally made at the beginning of the time period for each of the five daily formal prayers.
[2] The dawn prayer whose time period begins with the break of dawn and ends with the rising of the sun.
[3] The most commonly held opinion in the Hambalee school of Islaamic law, to which the Shaykh belongs, is that she should fast for the remainder of the day, but the day is not counted and has to be made up after Ramadaan.
[4] Umm Salamah said, “During the lifetime of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam), the post-childbirth woman would remain in confinement for forty days.” Collected in Sunan Abu Dawud, vol.1, p.80, no. 311.
[5] After recording Umm Salamah’s narration on the post-childbirth confinement term of forty days, at Tirmithee stated, “The knowledgeable companions, the following generation and those that came later agreed that a woman bleeding after childbirth had to stop praying for forty days unless her bleeding stopped. If the bleeding stopped before that time, she should make a ghusl (Islaamic bath) and start praying. If the bleeding continues after forty days, most scholars say that she must (make a ghusl and) resume praying.”
[6] small drops of blood.
[7] The full narration of ‘Alee’s statement is quoted by al-Husayn al Baghawee in Sharh as-Sunnah, vo.2, p.156 “If a woman’s menses ceases and she sees something similar which causes her doubt, it is only a kick from Satan in her womb. If she sees something similar to a nosebleed, a drop of blood or bloody water from washing meat, she should make a wudoo like her wudoo for prayer and then pray. If it is heavy odorous blood about which there is no doubt, she should stop praying.”
[8] Major ablution consisting of a complete ritual bath.
[9] The state of ritual impurity caused by sexual intercourse or wet dreams.
[10] Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol.3, p.81, no. 148, from ‘Aa’ishah and Umm Salamah
[11] That is, the official view of the Hambalee school of Islamic law to which Shaykh Aal ‘Uthaymeen belongs.
[12] Ahmad ibn Hambal (778-855 CE) was the compiler of one of the largest collection of Hadeeths, known as Musnad Ahmad, and founder of the Hambalee school of Islamic jurisprudence.
[13] The position that pregnant women do not menstruate is the most correct because it is supported by the findings of modern science. Menstruation is medically defined as shedding of endometrium (the moist mucous membrane lining the uterine cavity) which as been stimulated by estrogen or estrogen and progesterone which are subsequently withdrawn (Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment, 1982, p.720). Biologically, it is explained as the normal cyclic bleeding that occurs when the egg has been released from the ovary and fertilization has not occurred (Encyclopedia Britannica, vol.12, p.218). Pregnancy is complete when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the endometrium. If the endometrium is shed, the fetus would be aborted. In any case, biologically speaking, menstruation is a sign that fertilization has not occurred. Consequently, it is not possible for a woman to menstruate during pregnancy. Uterine bleeding at 6-8 weeks of pregnancy is among the usual signs of hydatidiform mole (a degenerative disorder of the chorion). Third trimester vaginal bleeding occurs to 10% of women. It may be a result of premature separation of the placenta, systemic disease or disorders of the lower genital tract. Over 90% of patients with third trimester bleeding will stop bleeding in 24 hours on bed rest alone, although the bleeding may recur at a later time (Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment, 1982, p.474-5)
[14] Reported by Aboo Sa’eed al-Khudree and collected in Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol.1, pp. 181-2, no. 301.
[15] Shaykh Ibn Baaz, Fataawa al-Mar’ah, pp146-3-4. Shaykh Ibn ‘Aal ‘Uthaymeen holds the opposite view, that a pregnant woman can have menses. See question 10 for his argument
[16] The most popular position in the Hambalee Mathhab is that for fifteen days the alternate days of bleeding are considered menses and the alternate days of cessation are considered days of tuhr (ritual purity). Bleeding which occurs after fifteen days is then considered istihaadah (bleeding resulting from sickness and not menses or postnatal bleeding), in which case formal prayers and fasting would have to be resumed.
[17] The month before Ramadaan.
[18] Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol.3, p.98, no. 171, Sahih Muslim, vol.2, p.556, no. 2549, and Abu Dawud
[19] Shaykh Ibn Jibreen, Fataawa al-Mar’ah, p.22.
[29] See the answer to question 23 for another Scholar’s view
[21] In his book, ad-Dimaa at-Tabee’eeyah lin-Nisaa. pp.57-8. Shaykh Ibn Aal ‘Uthaymeen wrote, “ A woman may use things which prevent her menses under two conditions: 1. If there is no fear of harm coming to her. If there is fear of harm, it is not permissible according to Allaah’s statements, “And do not, by your own hands, throw yourselves into destruction.” (2:195) and “And do not kill yourselves. Surely Allaah is merciful to you.” (4:29) 2. If her husband’s permission is given in cases where the delayal may directly affect him. For example, if she is in a period of ‘iddah during which he is obliged to provide maintenance for her, her use of pills to delay her menses would increase the period of maintenance. In such a case she is not permitted to use pills without his permission. Also, if the delayal of menses prevents pregnancy, she must obtain her husband’s permission. In cases where the conditions for permissibility are met, it is still preferable to avoid it except where a real necessity exists, because, allowing nature to take its course is safer and healthier.
[22] The whole text of the hadeeth is as follows: “Do not prevent your women from going to the mosques, but their homes are better for them.” It is reported by Ibn ‘Umar, collected in Sunan Abu Dawud, vol.1, p.149, no.567 and authenticated in Saheeh Sunan Abee Daawood, vol.1, p.113, no.530.
[23] The wives of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) and many of the women of Madeenah used to attend Fajr and ‘Ishaa prayers in the mosque during the lifetime of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam).
[24] The basic principle being applied here by Shaykh Ibn Aal ‘Uthaymeen is that eating and drinking are prohibited while fasting. Therefore, as long as the food or drink is not swallowed, but is immediately spat out after tasting, no eating or drinking has taken place. As the Shaykh has stated, this form of sampling should only be done where there is a legitimate need, and not to be taken as a common practice by everyone at anytime because such a practice increases the temptation to actually swallow the food or drink.
[25] Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol.4, pp.290-1, no.430 and Sahih Muslim, vol.4, p.1391, no.6390.
[26] Women enter menopause around the age of 48 but it may begin as early as 40 or as late as the early fifties (Encyclopedia Britannica, vol.8, p.19) indicated by the cessation of menstruation. If, as in this case she begins to bleed at the age of 62 this cannot be menses. It is known medically as “postmenopausal vaginal bleeding”. Cancer of the cervix or endometrium accounts for about 35-50% of cases. Other causes include atrophic vaginitis, trauma, polyps, hypertensive cardiovascular disease, trophic ulcers of the cervix, etc. Uterine bleeding is usually painless, but pain will be present if the cervix is stenotic, if bleeding is severe and rapid, or if infection or extrusion of a tumor is present. Bleeding varies from a bright ooze or brown discharge to frank hemorrhage. It may be a single episode of spotting or profuse bleeding for days or months. (Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment, 1982, p.430)
[27] The four unit prayers are not shortened to two, but prayed completely.
[28] The Standing Committee, Fataawa al-Mar’ah, p.137


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