Indeed, women are distinguished with several specific rulings [in Islamic law]. That is because the Shari’ah rulings are built on consideration of differences between individuals, kindness and gentleness. Allah [The Exalted] says:
“He [Allah] did not place upon you, in the religion [Islam], any hardship.”
The 7 mushaqa [hardships]:
There is a universal maxim, from the major maxims of Shari’ah, which states “Hardship brings ease.” Thus, if somethingcauses difficulties for people, then Allah [The Exalted] lifts the obligation of its observance and removes its hardship. For that reason, the scholars mentioned the precepts of hardship [meaning the applicability of this maxim] as: sickness, weakness, insufficiency, abundance, traveling, indecisiveness and fear. These precepts [if present] will lead to hardship.Thus, if any one of them presents themselves, the Shari’ah takes it into consideration [by assigning it a ruling that relieves its burden].
Women are presented with a number of issues that meet the requirements of hardship [as designated by the precepts above] such as pregnancy, nursing, menstruation and irregular vaginal blood flow [menorrhagia]. If one of these four issues presents itself, it influences the rulings related to purity, prayer and fasting. We plan, Inshallah, to spend some time discussing these issues and the relevant rulings related to them and fasting in light of these precepts.
The first issue menstruation:
If a woman menstruates before the commencement of Ramadan [meaning she enters into the month on her menses] then she must not fast until she is absolutely certain that she is pure. This purity is ascertained by two means: dryness in the place of her menses, or a clear white liquid which comes at the end of her cycle. If she becomes certain that her menses have stopped during the night then she is obligated to fast the next day.
However, if she has doubts [regarding the end of her cycle], then the consideration is given to her established state, menstruation, and fasting is not an obligation upon her until she is sure of its cessation. On the other hand, if the opposite holds true, she is pure and has doubts about her cycle starting, then such a doubt is not taken into consideration because it is a doubt related to something which prevents [in this case fasting]. Thus, consideration is given to the established ruling that it is obligatory for her to fast, since her purity is what is certain.
If a woman menstruates during the day time, and she is sure of her menses, then the ruling [that allows her to break her fast] is applied because menstruation breaks the fast and prevents its observance. However, it is an obligation for her to make up [the days she missed from fasting due to her menses]. Thus, the menstruating woman is obliged to make up the days of fasting [that she missed] but not the prayers. This is established by the sound narration of ‘Aisha who said, “We were ordered to make up the fast [of Ramadan] but not the prayers.” This [report] makes clear that it is an obligation to make up the fasting days in which a menstruating woman breaks her fast and that it is not obligatory upon her to make up the prayers she missed [due to her menses]. The difference between the two is that prayers are a common occurrence [five times a day] where as fasting is not [once a year for 29 or 30 days]. This profusion related to prayers is considered from one of the precepts mentioned earlier, abundance, and since the number of prayers, that are obligatory upon her and which she missed are so many then, it is not an obligation upon her to make them up, because of the hardship incurred due to their large quantity unlike fasting.
The nature of women is different when it comes to the strength of their menses. The Prophet [May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him] made clear that the longest normal time period for a woman’s menses is either six, or seven, days, and that there are some women whose menses will be less, and some whose menses will be longer. If it is the first time a woman has experienced menstruation, then her purity is established by either her becoming dry, or the appearance of a white fluid that comes at the end of her menses. And if the woman has menstruated before, then she is considered as one who has developed a natural pattern regarding her cycle. However, it must be noted that there is a difference amongst the scholars regarding how many times she should have menstruated before her cycle is considered a means to measure her menses. Some of the scholars hold that she should have menstruated at least three times. Thus, if she menstruates three times consecutively within a three month span, then she will know the strength of her menses because of her experience. However, if she menstruates once, or twice, without reaching three consecutive times, then according to those scholars the measurement of her cycle cannot be known. It is said that it is sufficient for her to menstruate only once. Meaning, if she menstruates and discovers that the norm of her cycle is seven days or six days and that her purity comes in the morning or the evening, then this measurement is taken into consideration.
It is possible that a woman’s cycle could start at anytime during the day. However, it is not obligatory for her to check her menses at night before sleeping. However, when she awakes in the morning if she checks and finds that the area of her menses is dry, then it is obligatory for her to fast. And if she still sees some discharge then she is considered on her cycle and she will stay in that condition until she is absolutely sure that her cycle has ceased. However, if her habit is to end her menses with a white clear discharge, then she should wait for it because it is the sign of her purity and considered more accurate then dryness [this was the opinion of Abdu al-Rahman bin Qasim see Hashiyat al-‘Adawi ‘ala Risalah Abi Zaid al-Qayrawani. SDW]. With that in mind, it is possible that she could rely upon dryness regarding fasting. Thus, if she discovers that she is dry and the white discharge [that signifies the end of her menses] has not come before dawn, then it is possible for her to fast and, after that, if she experiences the white discharge, it will not damage her fasting. And if her menses stops during the night, and she fasts and experiences discharge after the evening prayer, then her fast, for that day, was sound as it was considered a day free of menses. However if she awakes pure, begins her fast and then experiences her menses again during the day, then she must break her fast and make up that day.