Ruling permitting menstruating women to recite Quran and enter a mosque

Fatwa, posted 4.22.2010, from Saudi Arabia, in:
Religious Authority: 
Saud al-Funaysan
Fatwa Question or Essay Title: 
Ruling permitting menstruating women to recite Quran and enter a mosque:

[Excerpt of a religious opinion given by Sheik Saud al-Funaysan, former dean of Islamic law, al-Imam Islamic University in his Hukm Dukhûl al-Hâ’id wal-Junub al-Masjid li-Simâ` al-Durûs wal-Muhâdarât (Rules Governing the Menstruating Woman and the Sexually Defiled Entering a Mosque to Hear Lessons and Lectures).]

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 [due to sexual ejaculation] cannot read the Quran. 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 they had 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 Prophet’s wives joined him in i`tikâf and she used to see blood and yellow spots. She had a bowl under her 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.

We have already discussed the error of the assumption that their staying away from the place of prayer meant keeping away from where the prayer was being conducted to avoid messing the area. Ibn Rajab says: “The obvious meaning is that the menstruating women had to clear the place where the prayer was conducted to make room for the women who were not menstruating to conduct their prayer, and then all the women would mix together to listen to the sermon.” [Commentary of Sahîh al-Bukhârî]

The reason for their attendance is clearly to: “witness the good and the supplications of the Muslims”, which includes the sermon and exhortation and their saying “âmîn” to the supplication. These are the same benefits to be gotten from the classes and lectures given at the mosques.

In brief, after reviewing the texts and the statements of the scholars, I maintain that it is permissible for a menstruating woman to enter the mosques as long as there is no danger of the carpets and floors of the mosque becoming soiled. There is no need that is greater or more important than attending gatherings where Allah is remembered, the gatherings for learning and for imparting knowledge that are held at times in the mosques.

[Note: For other opinions on this topic search: menstruation.]