Question: Can a Person in Major Ritual impurity (hadath Al-Akbar), meaning here in the states of janabah (sexual defilement), and for women, menstruation, recite the Qur’an?
Imam An-Nawawi stated in his Tibyan,
“It is unlawful for a person in a state of major ritual impurity or during menstruation to recite the Qur’an, whether it is a verse or even less. It is permissible for them to [silently] peruse the Quran in their hearts without uttering it, and to look in the actual written text of the Qur’an [mushaf] and go over it in the heart.” (Ettiquette with the Qur’an translated by Musa Furber published by Starlatch press and can be purchased here )
As for dhikr that is from the Qur’an then Imam An-Nawawi stated,
“The Muslims have consensus that it is permissible for a person in a state of major ritual impurity or during menstruation to say “Subhan Allah”, “La ilaha illa Allah”, “Al-Hamduli Llah”, “Allahu Akbar” etc…” (ibid. )
He said in his Minhaj,
“And it is permissible to recite the adhkar of the Qur’an, though having the intention of dhikr and not the intention of reciting the Qur’an.”
Ibn Naqib Al-Misri states in ‘Umdat As-Salik, using here the work Reliance of the Traveller as a translation,
“All things unlawful for someone in minor ritual impurity are also unlawful for someone in a state of major ritual impurity (Shaykh Nuh Ali Salman: or menstruation ). In addition, it is likewise unlawful for such a person:
(1) to remain in a mosque;
(2) or to recite any of the Koran, even part of a single verse, though it is permissible to use its invocations (dhikr) when the intention is not Koran recital (Shaykh Omar Barakat: such as saying in disasters, “Surely we are Allah’s, and unto Him we will return,” [Inna li Llahi wa inna Ilayhi raji’un] and the like). If one intends Koran recital, it is disobedience, but if one intends it primarily as invocation (dhikr), or as nothing in particular, it is permissible.
It is permissible to pass through a mosque (Shaykh Abdul Wakil Ad-Durubi: though not to enter and leave by the same door (Ar. taraddud), which is unlawful) when one is in a state of major ritual impurity, but this is offensive when there is no need.”
Discussion of the Proofs for this Opinion
The proofs used for the Shafi’i view that the one in major ritual impurity (hadath al-akbar), which includes here janabah (sexual defilement) and menstruation is the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad reported from Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (radiya Allahu anh):
لَا تَقْرَأْ الْحَائِضُ وَلَا الْجُنُبُ شَيْئًا مِنْ الْقُرْآنِ
“The menstruating woman and the junub (one in sexual defilement) are not to recite anything from the Qur’an.”
Reported by Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah in their Sunans. In its chain is Isma’il ibn ‘Ayyash who is honest, though made mistakes when reporting from the people of the Hijaz (See Ibn Hajr’s Tahthib At-Tahthib ), and here he is reporting from Musa ibn ‘Uqbah who is from the people of the Hijaz. Imam Al-Bayhaqi declared this hadith da’if in his Ma’rifat as-Sunan wa’l-Athar. Taqiyud-Din Al-Hisni Al-Husayni also deems it weak in his Kifayat Al-Akhyar page 118, Dar Al-Minhaj. Imam Khatib Ash-Shirbini mentions in his Mughni al-Muhtaj, “It was narrated in the Majmu’ [of Imam an-Nawawi] who declared it weak, however, there are supporting reports that strengthen its weakness.” (Mughni Al Muhtaj, page 123, Darl Ihyah At-Turath ) Imam Khatib Ash-Shirbini is correct that it does have follow up narrations which we will report after what follows.
Ibn Abi Hatim said:
سَمِعْت أَبِي وَذَكَرَ حَدِيثَ إِسْمَاعِيلَ بْنِ عَيَّاشٍ هَذَا فَقَالَ أَخْطَأَ إِنَّمَا هُوَ مِنْ قَوْلِ اِبْنِ عُمَرَ
“I heard my father [i.e. Abu Hatim] mentioning this narration from Isma’il ibn ‘Ayyash and he said that it was a mistake, rather it is a statement from Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (radiya Allahu anhum) [not from the Prophet Muhammad].”
The follow up narration comes from Abdul Malik ibn Maslamah from Al-Mughirah ibn Abdur-Rahman from Musa ibn ‘Uqbah. Abdul Malik ibn Maslamah is criticized in hadith by many of the Huffath [hadith scholars] such as Abu Zura’ah who says that he is not strong [in reporting], Abu Hatim who said that he mingled hadith, and others. However Abdul Malik ibn Maslamah is not the only one who narrates it from Al Mughirah ibn Abdur Rahman: another chain from a man named Abu Ma’shar in the Sunan Ad-Daraqutni, however he is criticized as being weak, and there is an unknown individual in the chain. It seems Khatib Ash-Shirbini took these as collective witness to the hadith reported through Isma’il ibn ‘Ayyash and deemed them supporting evidence; however none of them appear strong transmissions. [See Sunan Ad-Daraqutni :413-418]
Another evidence is the narration of Imam ‘Ali (alayhi salam, radiya Allahu ‘anhu, karrama Allahu wajhahu) who said,
كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يُقْرِئُنَا الْقُرْآنَ عَلَى كُلِّ حَالٍ مَا لَمْ يَكُنْ جُنُبًا
“The Messenger of Allah (saws) would recite the Qur’an in all situations as long as he was not junub.”
This narration is reported by Tirmidhi who declared it hasan-sahih (in his particular grading), Ibn Majah, Abu Dawud, Ahmad in his Musnad, An-Nasa’i in his Sunan, Al-Bazzar, Ad-Daraqutni, Imam Al-Bayhaqi, and declared sahih by Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Hibban and others. Al-Hakim in his Mustadarak who declared it sahih and Imam Adh-Dhahabi agreed, also declared sahih by Imam Al-Baghawi in his Sharh As-Sunnah 2/41, Ibn As-Sakan, and Abdul-Haqq. It was declared hasan by Hafith Ibn Hajr in his Fath al-Bari 1/324. Some criticized this chain because of Abdullah ibn Salamah in the chain who is said to have become confused in his reports. Imam Al-Bayhaqi, however, states that ‘Amru ibn Murrah- the one reporting from Abdullah ibn Salamah – is known to have taken from him prior to his confusion. This was stated by Imam Shu’bah. [See Shawkani’s Nayl Al-Awtar 1/321 Dar Al-Wafa]
Another proof for its prohibition is by way of analogy (qiyas) between sexual defilement (janabah) and menstruation to support that the same ruling would apply to both. Imam An-Nawawi states in his Minhaj,
“And the prohibited acts in janaba are also prohibited in [menstruation]…”
[See Khatib’s Mughni for commentary Vol. 1 page 185 Dar Ihya At-Turath, where he states that hayd (menstruation) is more severe in its restrictions as more things are forbidden in it than in janaba (see page 123 re: ruling for the junub, nifas, and menstruation being the same; also Ibn Hajar’s Tuhfa V1 page 386 and Ramli in Nihaya V1 page 327: wording near identical to Khatib.]
Evidence also comes by way of the Sahabah who by consensus prohibited reciting the Qur’an in janaba. As authentically reported from Imam ‘Ali (Karram Allahhu wajhuh):
حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو بَكْرٍ النَّيْسَابُورِيُّ ، وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ الصَّفَّارُ ، قَالا : نا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْمَلِكِ الدَّقِيقِيُّ , نا يَزِيدُ بْنُ هَارُونَ , نا عَامِرُ بْنُ السِّمْطِ , نا أَبُو الْغَرِيفِ الْهَمْدَانِيُّ ، قَالَ : كُنَّا مَعَ عَلِيٍّ فِي الرَّحَبَةِ , فَخَرَجَ إِلَى أَقْصَى الرَّحَبَةِ , فَوَاللَّهِ مَا أَدْرِي أَبَوْلا أَحْدَثَ أَوْ غَائِطًا , ثُمَّ جَاءَ فَدَعَا بِكُوزٍ مِنْ مَاءٍ , فَغَسَلَ كَفَّيْهِ ثُمَّ قَبَضَهُمَا إِلَيْهِ , ثُمَّ قَرَأَ صَدْرًا مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ , ثُمَّ قَالَ : ” اقْرَؤُوا الْقُرْآنَ مَا لَمْ يُصِبْ أَحَدَكُمْ جَنَابَةٌ , فَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ جَنَابَةٌ فَلا وَلا حَرْفًا وَاحِدًا ” . هُوَ صَحِيحٌ عَنْ عَلِيٍّ
“Recite the Qur’an as long as you have not entered janaba (sexual defilement), and when you are in the state of janaba, do not, not even a single letter!”
Reported by Ad-Daraqutni who said, “This is sahih upon ‘Ali (‘alayhis salam).” It is also reported in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad in marfu’ form, as well as by Abu Ya’ala from ‘Ali from the Prophet Muhammad (i.e. in Marfu’ form) with the following wording:
حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو خَيْثَمَةَ ، حَدَّثَنَا عَائِذُ بْنُ حَبِيبٍ ، حَدَّثَنِي عَامِرُ بْنُ السِّمْطِ ، عَنْ أَبِي الْغَرِيفِ ، قَالَ : أُتِيَ عَلِيٌّ ، بِالْوَضُوءِ ، فَمَضْمَضَ وَاسْتَنْشَقَ ثَلاثًا ، ثُمَّ غَسَلَ وَجْهَهُ ثَلاثًا ، وَغَسَلَ يَدَيْهِ وَذِرَاعَيْهِ ثَلاثًا ثَلاثًا ، ثُمَّ مَسَحَ بِرَأْسِهِ ، وَغَسَلَ رِجْلَيْهِ ، ثُمَّ قَالَ : هَكَذَا رَأَيْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ تَوَضَّأَ ، ثُمَّ قَرَأَ شَيْئًا مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ ، ثُمَّ قَالَ : ” هَكَذَا لِمَنْ لَيْسَ بِجُنُبٍ ، فَأَمَّا الْجُنُبُ فَلا وَلا آيَةً” .
“Abil Gharīf who said ‘Alī (‘alayhis salām) made wuḍu’ by rinsing the mouth and cleaning out the nose with water three times each, then he washed his face three times, then he washed his hands and his forearms three times each, then he wiped his head and then washed his feet then he said, “This is how I saw Rasūlullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam) making wuḍu’. Then he recited some [verses] from the Qur’an and then said, “This is to be done [i.e. the recitation] for the one who is not Junub, but as for the one who is Junub then he is not to do it, not even a verse!” [Al-Haythami reports this in his Majma’ az-zawa’id commenting “And the men of this chain are all impeccably trustworthy!]
It is also authentically reported from Imam Umar ibn Al-Khattab (radiya Allahu anhu) that he hated reciting Qur’an while in the state of janabah. This is reported by Imam Al-Bayhaqi in his Khilafiyyat with a Sahih (rigorously authentic) chain. It is also reported from Jabir ibn Abdullah (radiya Allahu ‘anhu), Abdullah ibn Rawaha and others. This is the view of the majority of the scholars, with the exception of a report from Imam Malik (radiya Allahu Anhu) and his companions who hold that a menstruating woman can recite the Qur’an [Majmu’ of Imam An-Nawawi Vol 2 387].
We should mention a minor opinion within our school that could be taken with proper consultation regarding the issue of menstruating women reciting the Qur’an. Imam An-Nawawi states in his Majmu’ after mentioning the proofs we have mentioned above,
“…and this is what has been mentioned regarding the prohibition (tahrim) of a menstruating woman reciting the Qur’an, and it is the correct (sahih) and well known opinion. It is held by the ‘Iraqi branch of the school as well as a group of the Khurasanis. The Khurasanis report from Imam al-Shafi’i the view of his old-school (qadim) that it is permissible for the menstruating woman to recite the Qur’an. The asl (foundation, premise) of this opinion comes by way of Abu Thawr (Rahimahullah) who said: “Abu Abdullah said ‘It is permissible for the menstruating woman to recite the Qur’an.’ So there is disagreement as to whom was meant by Abu Thawr as “Abu Abdullah”, and so some of the Companions said that he meant by Abu Abdullah [Imam Malik], this was the chosen view of Imam al-Haramayn [al-Juwayni] and Imam Al-Ghazzali in his Al-Basit. The majority of the Khurasanis said that he meant Imam al-Shafi’i by the usage of “Abu Abdullah” and that he established this as his old opinion. Shaykh Abu Muhammad said, ‘I found Abu Thawr mentioning them both in a place and he would say, ‘Abu Abdullah [i.e. Imam al-Shafi’i] and Malik.’ ” [Al-Majmu’ vol. 2 page 387 , Maktabat al-Irshad]
Both Imams Malik and al-Shafi’i had the kunya “Abu Abdullah”: some argued that Abu Thawr made reference to Malik and not al-Shafi’i. However the Khurasani branch of the Shafi’is determined that al-Shafi’i is meant and so they held that this was his “old-school’s” opinion. This leads us to have within our school minor dissent, though considered weak by the majority of the fuquha of our school, and not the relied upon verdict, that women could recite the Qur’an while menstruating.
Question: What about carrying it or touching it?
Imam An-Nawawi states in his Majmu‘ that it is haram for the menstruating woman or the one in nifas (post-partum bleeding) to touch or carry the Qur’an. He states, “This is agreed upon according to what is with us.” [Majmu’ vol. 2 pg 388] In fact it is haram for someone in minor hadath [state of ritual impurity liftable through wudu’] to carry or touch the Qur’an in our school as well.
We also find in ‘Umdat As-Salik (Reliance of the Traveller):
The following are unlawful for someone in a state of minor ritual impurity:
…(5) or to carry a Koran, even by a strap or in a box, or touch it, whether its writing, the spaces between its lines, its margins, binding, the carrying strap attached to it, or the bag or box it is in.
e8.2 It is also unlawful (n: when without ablution) to touch or carry any of the Koran written for the purpose of study, even a single verse or part of one, as when written on a slate or the like. (Shaykh Omar Barakat: But this is permissible for nonstudy purposes such as when the Koran is intended to be an amulet (def:w17). It is not prohibited to touch or carry such an amulet even if it contains whole suras, or even, as Sheikh (N:Shirbini) al-Khatib has said, if it contains the whole Koran.) It is permissible to carry a Koran in one’s baggage and to carry money, rings, or clothes on which Koran is written. It is permissible to carry books of Sacred Law, hadith, or Koranic exegesis which contain Koran, provided that most of their text is not Koran (Shaykh Omar:because the non-Koranic part is the purpose, though this is unlawful if half or more is Koran). Boys who have reached the age of discrimination may touch or carry the Koran while in a state of minor ritual impurity (Shaykh Omar:because of the need to learn it and the hardship of their keeping ablution, and likewise for young girls, though this is for study alone, as opposed to nonstudy, when it is unlawful. As for children under this age, their guardian may not give a Koran to them) (Shaykh Abdul Wakeel Ad-Durubi: as this is an insult to it. Also, teachers should remind children that it is unlawful to moisten one’s fingers with saliva to turn its pages). Someone in a state of minor or major impurity may write Koran if he does not touch or carry what he has written. [See e8.1-8.4]
The proofs from the Shafi’i school:
إِنَّهُ لَقُرْآنٌ كَرِيمٌ
فِي كِتَابٍ مَّكْنُونٍ
لَّا يَمَسُّهُ إِلَّا الْمُطَهَّرُونَ
“Indeed it is a Noble Qur’an! In a book preserved, None touch it [the Quran] except the purified!” [56:77-79]
The consensus of the Companions, and the majority of Islam including the four Imams and their schools, is that those who are not in a state of purity (Taharah) are not to touch the Qur’an.
حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مَخْلَدٍ ، نا الصَّغَانِيُّ ، ثنا شُجَاعُ بْنُ الْوَلِيدِ , ثنا الأَعْمَشُ ، وَثنا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مَخْلَدٍ , نا إِبْرَاهِيمُ الْحَرْبِيُّ , نا ابْنُ نُمَيْرٍ , ثنا أَبُو مُعَاوِيَةَ ، ثنا الأَعْمَشُ ، عَنْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ , عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ يَزِيدَ , عَنْ سَلْمَانَ , قَالَ : ” كُنَّا مَعَهُ فِي سَفَرٍ فَانْطَلَقَ فَقَضَى حَاجَتَهُ ثُمَّ جَاءَ , فَقُلْتُ : أَيْ أَبَا عَبْدِ اللَّهِ تَوَضَّأْ لَعَلَّنَا نَسْأَلُكَ عَنْ آيِ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ , فَقَالَ : سَلُونِي فَإِنِّي لا أَمَسُّهُ إِنَّهُ لا يَمَسُّهُ إِلا الْمُطَهَّرُونَ ” , فَسَأَلْنَاهُ , فَقَرَأَ عَلَيْنَا قَبْلَ أَنْ يَتَوَضَّأَ
It is narrated authentically from Abdur-Rahman ibn Yazeed who said we were with Salman Al-Faarisi (radiya Allahu anhu) and he left us to relieve himself, then upon his return we said to him, ‘Oh Abu Abdullah! Make wudu’ as there are verses of the Qur’an we have questions about [and we want you to answer].’ He said, “Ask me! For Verily I am not [going to] touch it, for none touch it except those who are Purified [quoting 56:79]. So we asked him, and he recited to us before he made wudu’.”
[Reported by by Imam Al-Bayhaqi in his Sunan and by Imam Ad-Daraqutni in his Sunan who says that its men are all impeccably trustworthy and he declares it sahih.]
From the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad,
حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مَخْلَدٍ ، نا الْحَسَنُ بْنُ أَبِي الرَّبِيعِ , نا عَبْدُ الرَّزَّاقِ , أَخْبَرَنَا مَعْمَرٌ , عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ أَبِي بَكْرٍ , عَنْ أَبِيهِ , قَالَ : كَانَ فِي كِتَابِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لِعَمْرِو بْنِ حَزْمٍ : ” أَلا تَمَسَّ الْقُرْآنَ إِلا عَلَى طُهْرٍ ” . مُرْسَلٌ ، وَرُوَاتُهُ ثِقَاتٌ . حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ مَخْلَدٍ , نا حُمَيْدُ بْنُ الرَّبِيعِ , نا ابْنُ إِدْرِيسَ , نا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عُمَارَةَ , عَنْ أَبِي بَكْرِ بْنِ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عَمْرِو بْنِ حَزْمٍ ، قَالَ : كَانَ فِي كِتَابِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لِعَمْرِو بْنِ حَزْمٍ حِينَ بَعَثَهُ إِلَى نَجْرَانَ , مِثْلَهُ سَوَاءً
Imam Ad-Dāraquṭnī reports in his Sunan the following,
The Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had written to ‘Amru ibn Hazm that none should touch the Qur’an except while they are in the ritual state of purity. [This was a letter to the people of Yemen] Ibn Abdul Barr said, “The state of this narration is similar to mutawatir (mass-transmitted) as the people have met it with acceptance.”
Imām Ad-Dāraquṭnī states, “This is a Mursal report, and its narrators are all impeccably trustworthy!” Imām Mālik also reports this in Mursal form in his Muwaṭṭā’, An-Nasā’ī and Abū Dāwūd in his Marāsīl.
There is also the hadith of Hizam ibn Hakim that states that the Prophet Muhammad told him that none should touch the Qur’an except those who are purified. [Sunan Ad-Daraqutni, Tabarani in his Al-Kabir, and Al-Hakim in his Mustadarak]. In the chain is Suwayd Abu Hatim who is judged as weak. Al-Haythami states in his Majma’ az-Zawa’id, “In its chain is Suwayd Abu Hatim, he was declared weak by An-Nasa’i and Ibn Ma’in, and declared thiqah in another report from Ibn Ma’in.] An-Nawawi declared this hadith Da’if (weak) in the Majmu’ as did Ibn Kathir in his Irshaad.
Another proof is the story of ‘Umar’s acceptance of Islam by hearing the recitation of Surat Taha. He reached to grab the tablet of the Qur’an and his sister told him, ‘You are rijs (impure)! And none can touch it except the mutahhirun (purified)’ So he stood and made wudu’ (and in one wording it says ‘bathed or washed’), then he took the book and recited [surat] Taha!’
Imam Ad-Daraqutni comments upon this narration, “[in its chain is] Al-Qasim ibn ‘Uthman, and he is not strong [in narrating].” Therefore he deemed this story weak, and Allah knows best! [hadith 435 of the Sunan Ad-Daraqutni, Imam Al-Bayhaqi reports it with a different chain up to Al-Qasim ibn Uthman 1/88] Hafith ibn Hajr said of this chain, “Its chain is defective (maqaal).” He also declared it weak in his lisaan Al-Mizaan 4/463.
حَدَّثَنَا أَحْمَدُ بْنُ الْحُبَابِ الْحِمْيَرِيُّ ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو صَالِحٍ الْحَكَمُ بْنُ الْمُبَارَكِ الْخَاشِتِيُّ ، حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ رَاشِدٍ ، عَنْ إِسْمَاعِيلَ الْمَكِّيِّ ، عَنِ الْقَاسِمِ بْنِ أَبِي بَزَّةَ ، عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ أَبِي الْعَاصِ , قَالَ : كَانَ فِيمَا عَهِدَ إِلَيَّ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ” لا تَمَسَّ الْمُصْحَفَ وَأَنْتَ غَيْرُ طَاهِرٍ “
‘Uthman ibn Abi Al-’As (radiya Allahu anhu) reports that Rasulullah (‘alayhi salam) agreed that “None was to touch the Qur’an while unpurified.” [Reported by Ibn Abi Dawud in his Masahif [hadith 647] and At-Tabarani in his Kabir. Haythami comments on the chain of Tabarani, “In its chain is Isma’il ibn Rafi’ who was weakened by Ibn Ma’in and An-Nasa’i whereas Imam Al-Bukhari said, “He is trustworthy, muqarib hadith.” Hafith Ibn Hajr states in his Talkhis, “In its chain is disconnection (inqita’), and in the report of At-Tabarani is one unknown.” The disconnection is that Al-Qasim did not see ‘Uthman. Ad-Daraqutni also reports from Ibn ‘Umar that he held the same opinion. Ibn Hajr states in Talkhis, “It is reported by Ad-Daraqutni and At-Tabarani. There is nothing wrong with its chain. Al-Athram said, ‘Imam Ahmad used to seek support in this narration.’”
We ask Allah to make us companions of the Qur’an. We ask Allah to bless our beloved Sayyid Muhammad, his family, and his followers Amin!
And Allah Knows Best
Shafiifiqh.com Fatwa Dept.
This answer was collected from Shafiifiqh.com which was a repository of Islamic answers as per the Shafi’i madhhab. The website no longer functions. At its peak, many ‘ulama were involved with the site including Shaykh Mawlana Taha Karaan, Shaykh Abdul-Fattah ibn Abdullah, and Shaykh AbdurRagman Khan.