Stopping the Menstrual Flow During Ramadhan

Stopping the Menstrual Flow During Ramadhan

By Hwaa Irfan

It is an affectation of the mind, when a woman wants to take a pill to stop her menstrual flow during Ramadhan, even though the intention is to fast. Out of a past that deemed women’s menstrual flow as evil or dirty, women have learnt to take on this myth in varying ways, but all the ways leading to a dislike of her own body. Contemporary lifestyles have much to thank secularism for in this regard with a materialistic understanding of the body as something that can be “programmed” with replaceable parts. Doctors have helped in this regard by informing female patients that is alright to take the contraceptive pill to suppress the menstrual flow for important events without any regard for any harm caused in the long termed. We have learnt to subjugate nature, including the nature of our bodies because of the opinions of those. We all have our burdens to bear, just as we have that which have been blessed with.

    Narrated Al-Qasim: ‘Aisha said, “We set out with the sole intention of performing Hajj and when we reached Sarif, (a place six miles from Mecca) I got my menses. Allah’s Apostle came to me while I was weeping. He said ‘What is the matter with you? Have you got your menses?’ I replied, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is a thing which Allah has ordained for the daughters of Adam. So do what all the pilgrims do with the exception of the Taw-af (Circumambulation) round the Ka’ba.” ‘Aisha added, “Allah’s Apostle sacrificed cows on behalf of his wives” (Al Bukhari Volume 1, Book 6, Number 293)

And so it is written!

It is with narrow eyes that we get such interpretations of the Qur’an that lead women to believe the worst about themselves. We read of Surat Ul-Baqarah 2: 222:

YUSUF ‘ALI: They ask thee concerning women’s courses. Say: They are a hurt and a pollution: So keep away from women in their courses, and do not approach them until they are clean

PICKTHALL: They question thee (O Muhammad) concerning menstruation. Say: It is an illness, so let women alone at such times and go not in unto them till they are cleansed…

SHAKIR: And they ask you about menstruation. Say: It is a discomfort; therefore keep aloof from the women during the menstrual discharge and do not go near them until they have become clean…“…

hurt and a pollution” is not what is used in the Arabic, but “hurt” is i.e. adhaa (with the pronounciation a-dh(the)aa.

The use of language could be said to be influenced by the background of the author, in this case translation. It is argues by purists that the Qur’an can only be read in Arabic, or to be more precise classical Arabic. Note the first two translations are by Western converts to Islam from a Western culture, when women were regarded very much as 2nd class citizens and less. ‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali was born in India under British colonial rule in 1872 for whom religion was a personal matter, whilst his allegiance was to the Crown (of England). He married in the Church of England to an English woman, but had bad luck when it came to women. For him Islam was a solace. Marmaduke Pickthall was of a more sensitive and humble character who nursed his dying mother. Pickthall never really warmed to the harshness of 19th England, was propelled towards finding more fertile soil and found:

    “When I read The Arabian Nights I see the daily life of Damascus, Jerusalem, Aleppo, Cairo, and the other cities as I found it in the early nineties of last century. What struck me, even in its decay and poverty, was the joyousness of that life compared with anything that I had seen in Europe. The people seemed quite independent of our cares of life, our anxious clutching after wealth, our fear of death.”

His use of the word “illness” might have some bearing on the world from which he came, and the “predicament” of women in the country in which he was born and raised in, England.

Religious Basis

However, there are other reasons why women should not take artificial means to suppress what has been given to them by their Creator, Allah (SWT).

It has been considered as quite normal for women to take the contraceptive pill to offset the menstrual flow. It is believed that these pills maintain the lining of the uterus when the woman’s hormones are subsiding, and are therefore no longer able to support the lining of the uterus which would otherwise do what it normally does, and i.e. to breakdown and discharge as blood i.e. menstrual flow. This has become common practice on the basis that there is no religious basis to do otherwise. However, there is a religious base, and that is the concept of harm in Islam.

“There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.” An Nawawi #32

“…you should show courtesy and be cordial with each other, so that nobody should consider himself superior to another nor do him harm.” Riyadh-us-Saleheen. Hadith 602.

“Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded.” (Al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, #38)

– “…you should show courtesy and be cordial with each other, so that nobody should consider himself superior to another nor do him harm.” Riyadh-us-Saleheen. Hadith 602.

– “Anyone who believes in God and the Last Day (of Judgment) should not harm his neighbor. Anyone who believes in God and the Last Day should entertain his guest generously. And anyone who believes in God and the Last Day should say what is good or keep quiet.” (Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, # 47).

All the above are based on the concept of harm whether personal, individual or collective. For Imam Abu Dawud, the Islamic concept of harm underlies all Hadiths. From the Islamic legal viewpoint according to the Association of Muslim Lawyers:

    “Maxims such as “Harm must be eliminated” (Ad-dararu yuzal) and “Acts are judged by the intention behind them” (Al-umuru bi-maqasidiha) belong to this category of maxims [i.e. “al-qawa‘id al-fiqhiyyah al-asliyyah”, or the normative legal maxims”.

• “harm may neither be inflicted nor reciprocated in Islam” (la darara wa la dirara fil-Islam).

• “Harm must be eliminated but not by means of another harm” (Ad-dararu yuzalu wa lakin la bi-darar)

• “Harm is not eliminated by another harm” (Ad-dararu la yuzalu bid-darar)

• “A specific harm is tolerated in order to prevent a more general one” (Yutahammal ad-darar al-khaas li-daf’al-darar al ‘aam)

• “Harm is eliminated to the extent that is possible”(Ad-dararu yudfa‘u bi-qadr al-imkaan)

• “A greater harm is eliminated by means of a lesser harm” (Yuzal ad-darar al-ashaddu bid-darar al-akhaff).

Physiological Basis

In the endocrine system, the hypothalamus in the brain generates a hormone which stimulates the pituitary body to release two hormones a) the follicle stimulating hormone, FSH and b) the luteinizing hormone, LH, which in turn stimulates the ovaries to stimulate estrogen (estradiol), and androgens (testosterone). The estrogen stimulates the endometrium, the lining of the uterus to produce new tissue.

Delayed menses or amenorrhea is used here to analogize the problem of artificially suppressed menses. The medical reason for primary amenorrhea in the case of young women who have not ovulated before is:

• Malfunction of the hypothalamus/pituitary body/ovarian/other (endocrine).

In the case of secondary amenorrhea, women who have ovulated the cause is due to:

• The taking of certain drugs: antihypertensives/2ndgeneration

• Antipsychotics/cocaine/estrogens/hallucinogens/morphine/codeine/tricyclic antidepressants

• Obesity

• Hypothyroidism/hyperthyroidism

• Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

• Excess/deficient levels of estrogen

• Stress (emotional, environmental, nutritional)

• Others

From the holistic angle, there is a malfunction of the regulatory system in the body. That regulatory system is the hypothalamus which is affected by emotional and psychological factors. These stressors include negative feelings about being female according to renowned obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Christine Northrup. The more these negative feelings accumulate, the more likely there will problems with ovulation.
What happens when we take the pill whether to delay the menstrual flow, or to prevent pregnancy is that the body is being prevented from releasing eggs, there is a thickening of the cervical mucus to stop the sperm from fertilizing eggs, and a thinning of the uterus so the egg cannot implant itself.

The short term effect has yet to be looked into in terms of suppression of menses for fasting, but in the case of long term use, i.e. as a contraceptive, it has already been recognized that the following becomes increased risk factors:

• Cancer

• Fatal blood clots

• Thinner bones

• Impaired muscle gains

• Long-term sexual dysfunction

• Heart disease

• Early menopause

• Reduced fertility in the male and female children of women who take the Pill long term.

On the effects of aging please look at the “Related Topics” below. However, with the demand by women (both Muslim and non-Muslim) for such a drug, Seasonale was put on the market. Dr. Ingrid Johnston-Robledo, State University of New York in Fredonia who organized a conference on menstrual suppression said:

    “I am concerned about the release of Seasonale because I do not believe we have the data to argue that it is entirely safe, at the same time, it may be safer than manipulating one’s own birth control pills without guidance or endorsement from one’s health-care provider.”

Researcher at the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Christie Hitchcock commented:

    “There is a serious flaw in all of these studies,” said Hitchcock, namely that they don’t include a control group of women who aren’t on birth control pills.

    “There is also a selection bias in the studies because the majority of women were current users of [the Pill], which automatically means that they are people who are able to tolerate oral contraceptives,”

    “That doesn’t say anything about the changes a woman not currently taking any oral contraceptives can expect.”

And this is the sad reality today, that we struggle to live between the world of the Creator, and the world where man maybe unconsciously seeks to dismantle the world that He created our archetype of which is Nature. In doing so we harm our own inner nature, not realizing the consequences.There is plenty of evidence for the long term harm of taking the pill, to the extent that fertility is reduced amongst male and female offspring from women who take the pill. Can taking the pill be an act of worship, when their is risk of harming the gift of nature from Him?

When estrogen is ingested in artificial any form, it eventually will be released into the sewerage system, back into the soil, the waterways, feeding the food we will eventually eat, which has a proven negative impact on male species physiologically. Not all contemporary scholars support the suppression of menses for Ramadhan. The guidance given to women is that they can still be a part of Ramadhan by:

1. Make du’aa (supplications)

2. Listen to a recitation of the Qur’an, or silently recite it to herself

3. Celebrate the praises of Allah T’ala

4. Study Islamic texts, including Hadith

And I add, by supporting others in their acts of worship, in this way women are not excluded accept by the ignorance of others, and Ramadhan is not free from tests. Be mindful of turning a blessing into a curse!

    Narrated Abdullah ibn Sa’d al-Ansari: Abdullah asked the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him): “What is lawful for me to do with my wife when she is menstruating? He replied: What is above the waist-wrapper is lawful for you. The narrator also mentioned (the lawfulness of) eating with a woman in menstruation, and he transmitted the tradition in full”. (Abu Dawud Book #1, Hadith #0212)

Sources:

A Biography of Abdullah Yusaf Ali http://www.renaissance.com.pk/jabore96.html

Amenorrhea http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec18/ch244/ch244b.html

Davis, J, Segars, J, Glob. libr. women’s med., Menstruation and Menstrual Disorders: Anovulation.
(ISSN: 1756-2228) 2008; DOI 10.3843/GLOWM.10296 http://www.glowm.com/index.html?p=glowm.cml/section_view&articleid=295

Kemali, M. H. Qawa‘id Al-Fiqh: The Legal Maxims of Islamic Law. http://www.sunnah.org/fiqh/usul/Kamali_Qawaid_al-Fiqh.pdf

Marmaduke Pickthall. http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/bmh/BMM-AHM-pickthall_bio.htm

Menstruation http://www.islamset.com/bioethics/obstet/menstru.html

The Hadiths http://fortyhadith.iiu.edu.my/hadith32.htm

Related Topics:
The Pill, Our Bodies, and Ourselves
Menorrhagia (Heavy Periods)
Premenstrual Syndrome: The Natural Approach
Fasting and Pregnancy
Society’s Obligation to Mothers
GM Foods and Fertility
Prince Charles on Islam and the Environment

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