A woman may be in a state of:
1. Purity (not menstruating).
2. Menstruation (experiencing menstruation during its regular time and conditions).
3. Istihada (bleeding that exceeds the normal duration of a woman's menstrual cycle and whose characteristics are different from menstrual bleeding).
4. Dysfunctional bleeding such as premenarchal bleeding.
The distinguishing factor between menstrual blood and the blood of istihada is the time of its occurrence and its characteristic features.
Evidence from the sunnah
- Describing menstrual blood, the Prophetsaid, "Menstrual blood is black and odorous.
If it is this [kind of] blood, do not pray and if it is another, perform ablution and pray" [Narrated by Fatima Bint Hubaysh through 'A`isha].
- The Prophetsaid, "Menstrual blood is thick and reddish-black while the blood of istihada is yellow and thin" [Recorded by Al-Darqatni, al-Baihaqi and al-Tabarani from a raised chain hadith narrated by Abu Umama].
- In another version of the hadith, hesaid, "Menstrual blood is always thick and reddish and non-menstrual blood is always thin and yellowish."
- "If it is menstrual blood, it is recognized from its dark color and you must refrain from praying. If it is another, perform ablution as it is venous bleeding" [Recorded by Al-Nisa`i and Abu Dawud from a raised chain hadith narrated by 'A`isha].
- Ibn 'Abbas said, "As for the woman who sees blood that is intense red, she must abstain from praying." He further said, "By Allah! A woman will see the color of blood after her menstrual cycle as the color of water after rinsing meat."
- Imam Al-Nawawi described the color of menstrual blood as black i.e dark red that is almost black. Al-Qani` is very dark red blood but that is not as dark as that described in the hadith mentioning black menstrual blood. Rather, it refers to very dark red blood that is almost black due to the concentration of the red color.
- Scholars are unanimous that a woman in a state of istihada is to perform a fresh ablution at the time of each obligatory prayer and any voluntary prayers she may wish to pray.
- Some scholars permit a woman to perform her missed prayers with the same ablution. She may also touch and carry the mus-haf (copy of the Qur`an) and make the prostration of recitation or gratitude.
- She is obliged to pray and fast and observe any other obligatory act of worship upon which purity is contingent.
- Ibn Jarir cited the scholars' unanimous agreement on the permissibility of a woman in a state of istihada to recite the Qur`an.
- Ibrahim Al-Nakh'i reported that a woman experiencing istihada is not to touch the mus-haf and this is likewise the opinion of Abu Hanifa and the preponderant opinion of his school. They have likewise maintained that she is not to touch anything containing one complete Qur`anic verse.
- The ablution of a woman in a state of istihada becomes invalid when the time of the prayer for which she performed it elapses. If, for instance, she performed ablution for the noon prayer during its time, she is not to pray the mid-afternoon prayer with the same ablution. Apart from the reasons which require her to repeat the ablution, she must repeat the ablution when the time of the mid-afternoon prayer enters.
We are inclined to favor the opinion of those who maintain that a when a woman in a state of istihada has made ablution for a particular obligatory prayer, it is permissible for her to perform all acts of worship that are permissible for a person in a state of ablution. These include reciting the Qur`an, touching and carrying the mus-haf, praying voluntary prayers and making the prostration of recitation and gratitude.
Allah the Almighty knows best.