Thursday, August 25, 2011

Only Women Bleed: Menstruation And Prayer In Islam

*I found an interersting piece @ wood turtle while blog-surfing. The excerpts below really got my attention and the entire article can be found back at her blog. 

Despite being the spiritual equals of men, women are forbidden to pray during menstruation — and a woman who decides to pray is told she is sinning and committing sacrilege. The way in which this religious law is dealt with by many scholars, online literature, pamphlet Islam, multimedia lecture series, discussion forums and conferences, directly affects how women understand and relate to their bodies and is also used by men to help remove women from active worship and participation in the community.

Ask any woman why she can’t pray during her period and she will most likely tell you that because menstruation is painful, God has lifted the requirement to pray as a kind of concession. She might even follow that up with the argument that the blood flows freely, without end until the period is over, and is an impurity.

Now, it’s very true that many women have horrendous experiences with their menstrual periods. Migraines, pelvic pain, cramping, back pain, blood clots, fever, joint aches, and nausea are just some of the symptoms that can drive any woman into bed with a hot water bottle and her preferred method of pain relief. And this is exactly what many sources reference when producing literature on menstruation and prayer. Women are weakened by blood loss. Women are emotionally fragile. Women suffer in their biological pain. Women are naturally unclean. Therefore compassion towards women’s “condition” is required, and they have been granted a boon not to pray. We’re not even required to perform any make-up prayers.

The problem with this reasoning is that every person with physical capacity is required to perform the ritual movements for prayer. If you have mobility issues, you may use assistance like a chair, shorten the length of your prayer, or lessen the extent of the ritual movements. If you are severely incapacitated by illness or disability, you may use your pinky finger to perform the motions. If you cannot even do that, you may move your eyes. Failing that, you gain reward for your intention to pray. Reasonably, if I am bedridden due to my cramps, I am still physically able to pray.

The second argument relates to the potential impurity of blood. Ritual purity is required for prayer. From a worship standpoint, prayer is held within a sacred space, and ritual washing helps prepare a person mentally and physically by washing off the profane. For minor breakages, purity is gained through the light washing of certain body parts (wudhu) after a person farts, urinates, defecates, sleeps, or loses consciousness; and is gained through a full bath (ghusul) for major breakages after a person has an orgasm (self administered or otherwise) has sexual intercourse, or for women specifically, after menstruating.

**Thanx to wood turtle for allowing the repost!

No comments: