Bismi Llahir Rahmanir Rahim
by Naielah Ackbarali
Abnormal vaginal bleeding (istihada) is invalid blood. Practically speaking, it is any colored vaginal discharge that is not ruled as menstruation (hayd) or lochia (nifas).
Contrary to popular thought, istihada is not a specific color, consistency, or flow. In the Hanafi madhhab, istihada can be any color and any type of flow – even red, heavy bleeding.
The days that a woman experiences istihada are also known as legal purity (ṭuhr hukmi). This means that even though she is seeing blood, she must act like a woman in a state of purity.
PURITY RULINGS RELATED TO ISTIHADA
The prohibitions that apply to a woman in a state of menstruation and lochia do not apply to a woman who is experiencing istihada.
Thus, a woman with istihada is still required to carry out her obligatory worship despite her vaginal bleeding.
This means that:
- She must pray her daily obligatory (fard) and witr prayers with ablution (wudu). The blood from istihada is deemed filthy (najas), and its presence on a woman’s clothing could impact the validity of her prayer. For more information on how to pray with istihada, read this article.
- She must fast if it is Ramadan.
- She is permitted to recite the Qur’an, touch the Qur’an directly with ablution (wudu), enter a mosque, and perform tawaf with wudu.
- She is permitted to engage in marital relations – no matter how heavy the flow.
EXAMPLES OF ISTIHADA
There are various ways that a woman could experience istihada, such as the following:
1) Blood From A Girl Younger Than 9 Lunar Years Old
The definition of menstruation stipulates that a girl must be at least 9 lunar years old (approximately 8 solar years and 9 months) for vaginal bleeding to be deemed menstrual blood. Consequently, any bleeding seen beforehand is ruled as invalid blood. If a girl younger than 9 lunar years experiences vaginal bleeding, then it is not menstruation and she did not reach puberty.
2) Blood That Exceeds The Menstrual Maximum For Beginners
A menstrual beginner is a girl who is experiencing menstruation for the first time in her life. Any blood that is seen during the ten possible days of menstruation is ruled as menstruation, and any bleeding that exceeds the menstrual maximum of ten complete days (240 hours) is ruled as istihada.
For example, a ten-year old girl sees vaginal bleeding for the first time in her life and it lasts for eleven days. When the bleeding exceeds the menstrual maximum, the first ten days will be ruled as menstruation and day 11 will be ruled as istihada. Furthermore, because she reached puberty with invalid blood, she is given a menstrual habit of 10 complete days and a tuhr habit of 20 complete days.
Exceeding the menstrual maximum can happen in various ways. Parents are advised to contact a fiqh teacher to double check how the rulings are applied for their daughter’s situation.
3) Blood That Is Less Than The Menstrual Minimum
Any bleeding that does not reach 3 complete days (72 hours) during the possible days of menstruation is ruled as istihada. This is because the bleeding did not reach the menstrual minimum, and consequently, menstruation is not confirmed. However, the blood being ruled as istihada can only be known in hindsight when the bleeding stops.
For example, a woman’s tuhr habit finishes and she begins to bleed. She assumes that it is menstruation and acts like a menstruating woman. On day 2, the bleeding ceases and it does not return. In retrospect, these two days are no longer considered menstruation and are ruled as istihada.
Moreover, if bleeding stops before 72 hours during the ten possible days of menstruation, a woman is required to resume her obligatory worship with wudu and make up any missed prayers for the duration that she assumed was menstruation.
4) Blood That Exceeds The Menstrual Habit And The Maximum
This type only applies to a woman with a menstrual habit – meaning that she is not a menstrual beginner.
In this situation, a woman’s menstrual bleeding reaches the menstrual minimum of 3 complete days (72 hours), and as a result, menstruation is confirmed.
However, the bleeding also exceeds the menstrual maximum of ten complete days (240 hours). Menstruation cannot be more than 240 hours. Thus, some of the days will be ruled as menstruation and some days will be ruled as istihada.
In order to determine which days are ruled as menstruation or istihada, a woman must return to her menstrual and tuhr habits. The bleeding that exceeds the menstrual habit and the menstrual maximum of ten complete days (240 hours) is ruled as istihada.
For example, a woman has a menstrual habit of 8 days and a tuhr habit of 20 days. After 20 days of tuhr, her bleeding starts and lasts for 11 days. When the bleeding exceeds the menstrual maximum, in hindsight, days 1 to 8 will be ruled as menstruation and days 9, 10, and 11 are istihada.
There are various ways that bleeding can exceed the habit and maximum. A woman should double check with a fiqh teacher to make sure that she is applying the rulings properly.
5) Blood From A Menopausal Woman
A woman is ruled as menopausal at the age of 55 lunar years (53 solar years and 4 months) in the Hanafi madhhab. Therefore, any colored vaginal discharge from a woman over the age of 55 lunar years is considered istihada.
There are exceptions to this ruling. If the color of the blood is black, red, or like her pre-menopausal period, then the bleeding will be ruled as menstruation if a complete ṭuhr precedes it and the blood reaches the menstrual minimum of 3 complete days (72 hours).
An example for istihada is that a woman who only used to see red blood during her menstruation reaches the legal age of menopause. Thereafter, she experiences brown discharge that lasts for 8 days. This blood is ruled as istihada because it is not black or red.
According to the Sacred Law, if a woman goes through menopause medically before reaching the required age of 55 lunar years, then she is not legally classified as being menopausal. Consequently, she will adhere to the same rulings of a non-menopausal woman.
6) Blood During Pregnancy
Any colored discharge seen during pregnancy is istihada, and a pregnant woman is obliged to perform her obligatory worship despite the bleeding that she sees.
However, bleeding during pregnancy is not normal, and a pregnant woman should keep a record of any blood that she sees during pregnancy due to the possibility of miscarrying. Depending on the type of miscarriage, in hindsight, this ruling could change, and the blood could be ruled as menstruation.
A woman should also notify a doctor of the bleeding that she is seeing as it may indicate a bigger problem, such as an ectopic pregnancy which can be life-threatening.
7) Blood During Labor
Any vaginal bleeding during labor is ruled as istihada until most of the baby exits. Thus, a woman in labor must continue to pray until she delivers her baby. This is the ruling even if her water breaks or her mucus plug is dislodged.
8) Blood That Exceeds The Lohicial Maximum For Beginners
A lochial beginner is a woman who is experiencing post-natal bleeding for the first time in her life. This may occur through the delivery of a baby or the miscarriage of a developed fetus. If she continues to bleed beyond forty days, then any blood that exceeds the lochial maximum of 40 complete days (960 hours) is deemed istihada.
For example, a woman gives birth and bleeds for 41 days. When the bleeding exceeds the menstrual maximum, days 1 to 40 are ruled as lochia and day 41 is istihada. Her lochial habit is 40 complete days (960 hours).
9) Blood That Exceeds The Lochial Habit And The Maximum
This type only applies to a woman with a lochial habit – meaning that she is not a lochial beginner.
If the bleeding continues beyond forty days, then any blood that exceeds the lochial habit and also exceeds the lochial maximum of 960 hours is deemed istihada.
For example, a woman with a lochial habit of 38 days gives birth and bleeds for 41 days. When the bleeding exceeds the maximum, in hindsight, days 1 to 38 are ruled as lochia and days 39, 40, and 41 are istihada. Her lochial habit remains 38 days.
There are various ways that exceeding the lochial maximum can occur. A woman should double check with a teacher to make sure that she is applying the rulings properly.
10) Experiencing An Invalid Tuhr
Linguistically, a tuhr is any time period free of blood. An invalid tuhr is any tuhr that does not meet all the conditions stipulated for a valid tuhr.
A few examples of an invalid tuhr are:
- A tuhr of less than 15 complete days (360 hours).
- A tuhr that is at least 15 complete days (360 hours) but istihada is seen in its beginning, middle, or end.
- A tuhr that occurs between two shows of blood during the possible days of lochia.
The consequences for each of these tuhrs will be different, and the rulings are dependent upon the details of the woman’s unique situation. A woman should double check with a fiqh teacher to make sure that she is applying the rulings properly.
Check out these articles related to istihada:
Check out our courses for more details about the general rulings of worship and menstruation.
- Imam ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar
- Imam ibn Abidin, Manhal al-Waridin
- Imam Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah
- Imam Ala al-Din Abidin, al-Hadiyya al-Alaiyya