Muslim women are not required to pray when experiencing three types of vaginal bleeding, nor are they required to make up the prayers missed during this time.
Aside: Women are also exempt from fasting the obligatory Ramadan fasts when menstruating, but are required to make up missed fasts.
Women can experience 3 types of vaginal bleeding:
1. Menstruation bleeding: the natural blood that flows from the womb of a healthy body monthly once a woman has reached puberty.
Note: The “age of puberty” in Islam is 9, so if a girl bleeds before this age that blood is NOT considered menses.
Aside: If a girl does not go through puberty and has reached the age of 15, she is considered an “adult” in terms of religious accountability, which begins at puberty for boys and girls.
2. Post-natal bleeding: the natural blood that flows from the womb post-natally. Meaning, after you give birth. This blood can flow up to 40 days without preforming Salah, but anything passed that period is considered “Istihad,” which is the third category.
Note: Vaginal discharge and blood following a miscarriage falls under the category of “post-natal bleeding” and a woman is not required to pray during this time (up to 40 days).
3. Istihad (sounds like: is-tee-haud), is the blood released from a vein that is not from the womb which some women can experience intermittently. This blood is not your menstrual cycle or post-natal bleeding. Types of Istihad could include any sort of intermittent spotting including spotting between periods or spotting while pregnant.
For starters it’s important to note that women who are menstruating or bleeding post-natally are not considered unpure in Islam. A lot of cultures shun women during this time and it is important to know that if you see and/or hear of these types of practices happening in your Muslim community you need to talk to a person of sound religious knowledge to discuss how this behavior can be immediately corrected and prevented.
Next, there are some things that you can’t do while menstruating and also bleeding post-natally, but can do outside of these times. These things include: having sexual intercourse with our spouse, getting divorced, preforming Salah, preforming tawaf, holding the Qur’an in Arabic text or siting in the prayer area of the mosque.
Note: You can go to the mosque while on your period, but should not enter the actual area where prayers are preformed. This means you can pretty much hang out on the bench by the shoe racks, the water cooler or where the 8 year olds hang out and try to do flips on the railings outside. So yeah, not too many exciting options. Ha!
Note: You can recite the Qur’an while menstruating and experiencing post-natal bleeding. To hold the book, you should use a cloth or gloves (super thin latex gloves are a good option though they make your hands a little sweaty), or a better option (I think) is to just find a Qur’an that is half Arabic and half translated in another language because you can hold that version of the Qur’an while bleeding and not wearing gloves.
For most women there is some spotting before the blood “flow” during menstruation, which can be determined by a change in the amount of blood and possibly even the color and texture. Before the “flow” changes many women will spot and guess what? You are still required to pray even if/when you start spotting leading up to your period.
So, let’s say you have a regular period that runs from the 3rd to 7th of each month. Chances are you’ll see some spotting on the 3rd, but your period “flow” won’t change until the 4th or maybe even the 5th. So you will pray on the 3rd while you’re spotting, but will not pray once your flow has changed. Basically, you only stop praying once you’ve got a regular amount of blood flow and not just spotting.
Also, if your period is blue you might want to contact your doctor. Just saying.
Next, let’s say your cycle should end on the 7th as it usually does. On the 6th you see spotting, but the “flow” has ended. So now what? Do you pray while you’re still spotting at the end of your period since you were able to pray while you were spotting at the beginning of the period?
You guys, I’m teasing your brain like math!
The answer is NO!
You can only start praying again once any vaginal discharge is colorless. That means clear; not red, not brown, not burgundy, not green, not yellow, not rainbow, nothing.
So you already know Muslims are required to pray 5 times during the day. The prayer timings are as follows:
1. Fajr (before sunrise)
2. Dhur (early afternoon)
3. Asr (mid-afternoon)
4. Maghrib (at sunset)
5. Isha (at night, roughly 2 hours after sunset)
Note: For exact prayer times in your area you can check online (I like Islamic Finder.org) or swing by your local mosque and pick up a handout with the specific monthly times listed.
Okay, so this next part can feel a little tricky at first because even though you don’t pray while you’re menstruating, if your period ends at either of the following times (before sunset, or before Fajr) you will have prayers to make up.
Here’s how this works:
If you stop bleeding (clear or no discharge) BEFORE SUNSET then you have to take a shower and make up your Dhur and Asr prayers from that day.
If you stop bleeding (clear or no discharge) BEFORE FAJR you have to take a shower and make up your Maghrib and Isha prayers from that day.
Note: the prayers you make up are from that day only. You don’t need to start making up prayers from the middle of the week when you were on your period.
Most people sleep from Isha (night prayer) to Fajr (before sunrise prayer), which is probably why there is so much reward in getting up between those prayers to engage in voluntary worship. So now you might be all, “Uh, how would I know if my period ended BEFORE Fajr?”
Well, Internet friends, you tell me! (Alright, alright. You twisted my elbow skin. I’ll keep giving you all the answers).
If you slept through the night then check your status in the morning. If you’re good to go, shower and then start praying regularly as soon as you can, but don’t rush into praying when you’re unsure. But also don’t delay prayer and be all, “I’m not going to shower or pray for 9 days even though my period ended after 5!”
In regards to post-natal bleeding you won’t pray while your bleeding up to 40 days. So let’s say you just had a baby and are still bleeding on day 41. Since you’re past the 40-day mark you will pray even if you’re still having some post-natal discharge. So, it’s time to do “ghusl” and start praying again.
But, what if you have a baby and then stop bleeding 26 days after you give birth? In that case you take a shower and start praying. You do not wait to reach the 40-day mark to start praying if you’ve stopped bleeding.
If you spot between periods or while you’re pregnant or at any other time during the month then this type of bleeding falls into the third category mentioned above: Istihad. You are required to pray during this time but the prep work that goes into praying changes a bit. Instead of preforming wudu (the ritual ablution) and praying again, bleeding between periods requires that you first clean your genitals with your left hand using any sort of mild soap/wash and water. If you’re sensitive to soap (or the like) clean water is fine. After you clean yourself preform the ritual ablution and then pray.
Note: If your bleeding falls under “Istihad” you must wash yourself and do wudu before each prayer even if you haven’t done anything that “breaks” your ablution. For a summarized list of things that invalidate your ablution read more here.