In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
You should differentiate between the menstrual blood (which is dark, thick, and has a strong odor) and the non-menstrual vaginal bleeding (istihadah) which is bright red, thin, and less disagreeable in smell. Seeing the first one, you are in the menstruation period. But, as for the second, you only need to make ablution (wudu) for each prayer.
Answering your question, Dr. Wael Shehab, PhD in Islamic Studies from Al-Azhar University and currently the Imam of the Downtown Toronto Masjid in Canada, states:
A woman with regular menstruation period could easily distinguish between menstrual blood and other vaginal discharges. Menstrual blood is dark, thick, and has a strong odor, while istihadah (non-menstrual vaginal bleeding) is bright red, thin, and less disagreeable in smell.
Given this, if the questioner is correctly able to distinguish between the kinds of flows she may experience, she should act accordingly; otherwise she may visit a, preferably female, doctor for professional counseling and medical advice.
For more elaboration, I would quote for the following:
“Menstruation is a natural type of blood that flows at regular intervals from a woman’s uterus after puberty. Allah has laid down certain rules in connection with this, as a concession to the woman, in consideration of her condition.
Menstruation usually lasts 3 to 10 days and nights, varying from a woman to another. Most women have a regular number of days for their monthly menstrual period. The number of days may fluctuate and the period might come a little early or a little late.
So when a woman sees menstrual blood, she should consider herself to be menstruating. When it stops, she should consider herself clean. If more blood appears after her menstrual period has ended, but does not have the same color as menstrual blood, it should not be considered as menstruation.
When a menstruating woman stops bleeding, she must perform a complete ghusl (major ablution). After this, she must resume praying and fasting, etc. She must make up the fasting days that she missed during Ramadan, but not the prayers.
Istihadah (Non-menstrual Vaginal Bleeding):
In some cases, bleeding never stops; in others, it continues for longer than normal. This blood is called istihadah. Likewise, any blood coming before puberty and after menopause is also considered istihadah.
A woman with this condition should calculate when her period would normally end, and then stop praying during the days of her calculated period and follow all of the other menstruation-related rules. For the rest of the days, her bleeding should be treated as istihadah.
If she does not have a regular period or does not remember when it used to occur, but can distinguish between the two kinds of blood based on color, thickness, and smell (i.e., menstrual blood is dark, thick, and has a strong odor, while istihadah is bright red, thin, and less disagreeable in smell), she must act accordingly. If she does not have a regular period and cannot distinguish between the two types of blood, she must consider the blood coming for 3 to 10 days every month as menstruation and calculate it from the time she first noticed her vaginal bleeding.
There is no difference between a woman beset by istihadah and one who has a complete cessation of menstrual flow, except as follows:
1- If the first woman wants to perform wudu (ritual ablution), she should wash the blood from her vaginal area and then apply a menstrual pad or wrap the area with a clean rag on top of a wad of cotton to catch the blood. Any blood coming out after that is of no account.
2- She must perform wudu for every obligatory prayer.”
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.