Short Answer: Almighty Allah lifted the load of prayer and the burden of fasting from woman’s shoulders during this period. Menses is neither a funny nor a nice experience. There is an important maxim in Islam: “difficulty brings ease,” meaning that when a person is experiencing anything difficult, Islam will give him some concessions that make life easy for them.
Salam Dear Nagwa,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
I also thank you a lot for such an intriguing question that displays how our sisters are keen on knowing the wisdom behind religious ordinances.
Surely this is good, but still we cannot always grasp the wisdom behind everything.
Allah’s Wisdom Exceeds Ours
As Muslims and as sensible human beings who trust that this universe functions according to a fixed, well-designed system, we should believe that nothing happens haphazardly or aimlessly.
Rather, everything is well-planned and sorted out.
We read in the Quran what means:
Our Lord! You have not created this in vain. (Quran 3:191)
“This” here refers to Allah’s creation in general.
Because we have limited minds and limited spiritual abilities, we are not able to understand the wisdom behind everything in this universe.
This inability to understand sometimes proves to be very important because such things will constitute a test of our faith and submission to Allah, and our trust in His infinite knowledge.
Now, we come to your question: why are women not allowed to pray or fast while they are having their menses?
Basically, any mature woman who has experienced menses knows what type of physical suffering a woman goes through while she is experiencing her monthly period.
Due to such physical suffering, any woman will simply tell you that menses is neither a funny nor a nice experience.
Besides, being under such pains, women are usually not in a good mood.
Her changing hormones cause her to feel moody and irritable, as well.
Yet, it is important for the removal of any harmful material from the body of the woman since such harmful material comes out with this blood.
So, it is a healthy thing for women to have this, but not every healthy thing is nice or easy.
When you are ill, you have to take your medication, even if it’s bitter.
It is not a nice experience to take the medicine but still it is very important for you to recover and heal speedily.
When Allah decreed menstruation on the daughters of Adam, He — Glory be to Him — wanted it to be a sign of mercy to them, since this natural process relieves the body from the harmful materials that could be disastrous if they remain inside the body.
Taking all such physical and mental pain into consideration, Almighty Allah, Who takes care of His servants even more than their own parents, has lifted the load of prayer and the burden of fasting from woman’s shoulders during this period.
So, the point is not that women are “not allowed to” pray and fast but are rather exempted from observing prayer and fasting at such times, because these two duties are difficult and demand much effort.
Islam Aims To Remove Hardship
In this regard, we should bear in mind that one of the basic goals of Islamic Shari`ah is to remove harm and difficulty from people’s lives.
The many texts of the Quran and Sunnah serve as a support for this, giving one clear message that Almighty Allah does not intend to place any difficulty on the shoulders of His servants.
This has led many Muslim scholars to reach a very great maxim that summarizes a lot of things in this regard: “difficulty brings ease,” meaning that when a person is experiencing anything difficult, Islam will give him some concessions that make life easy for him.
Under this maxim, we can understand why a traveler is exempted from fasting, why a sick person is allowed not to fast, why a handicapped person is allowed to observe prayer while sitting down, and why a pregnant woman or a woman who is breast-feeding is entitled to break her fasting.
All this is meant to remove hardship and difficulty away from people, because this is one of the highest objectives of Islam.
“Impure” Does NOT Mean “Unclean”
Needless to mention here that there is a big difference between being in a state of “impurity” and being “unclean”.
While the former refers to an immaterial state that has nothing to do with the gender of the person and is by no means offensive, the latter is more linked with filth and dirty stuff.
Impurity is a temporary state, whereas uncleanliness is an choice to be unhygienic.
A person who washes his or her private parts but has not performed ghusl (ritual ablution) is clean but is still impure, Islamically.
This means that he or she does not qualify, while in this state, to pray or fast, simply because he or she needs to meet some basic standards.
Now, we see a balance in the religion of Islam which came to remove all difficulties and hardships from the lives of the servants of Allah and allow them celebrate His praise cheerfully and willfully.
Dr. Mohsen Haredy, a member of the Ask About Islam consultant team, would like to add the following:
It is worth mentioning that not praying and not observing fasting during the menses are considered in themselves an act of worship.
As in some acts of worship, there is a divine command that requires showing submission and surrender without questioning the reason behind it.
The significance of this command lies in our obedience to it: Showing obedience to Allah and His Messenger.
I hope this can answer your question.
(From Ask About Islam archive)