Yes, I’m bringing up THAT topic. The one that makes feminists clench their teeth in rage. The one that causes usually learned male scholars to say the most boneheaded nonsense. The one that makes the brothers feel queasy.
I’m talking about menstruation and salaah (mandatory worship of Allah, often translated as prayer but that’s not quite what it means).
Someone posted on Tumblr recently that she had spent all this time thinking about menstruation and salaah through the wrong perspective (sorry I can’t remember who you are but send me an ask and I’ll give you credit), and it twisted my perspective just enough so that I was able to see the problem with the argument that menstruating women are oppressed because they can’t read salaah.
Does anyone find it unfair that a woman who just gave birth is excused from her salaah?
Does anyone think that a woman who just gave birth should find this ruling oppressing? Should she be expected to stop and read her salaah at the designated times, five times a day? After all, she needs this time to both care for her new infant and allow her body to recover, even by liberal American standards.*
The issue here is that the feminist view, while sometimes very useful, is a negative one. It sees the lack of what a woman has in comparison to men. So the fact that women have to wear more clothing than men and not read salaah while menstruating is an “oppression” because women aren’t afforded the same rulings as men.
But the Qur’an is quite clear about this kind of attitude. Allah says,
And do not wish for that by which Allah has made some of you exceed others. For men is a share of what they have earned, and for women is a share of what they have earned. And ask Allah of his bounty. Indeed Allah is ever, of all things, Knowing.
We’re not supposed to compete with the opposite sex, and this goes for both men and women. We are supposed to recognise that we are different yet complementary in our roles together, and not desire that which the opposite sex has.
So let’s take away the feminist mindset for just a moment. What we have here is not a prohibition forbidding women from reading salaah while menstruating. No, this is a mercy, a rahmah from Allah. Rahmah is the Arabic word for mercy, for my non-Arabic speaking audience, but it is much deeper linguistically than just that.
You see, rahmah is related to the same root where the Arabic word for “womb” originates (rahm). Rahmah is a feminisation (+ah ending) of a feminine word (rahm), which makes it incredibly descriptive and actually in its essence an extremely female word.
With that in mind, we can see that we are not chained during these times of bleeding because we are prohibited from reading salaah. No, actually we are temporarily relieved from our responsibilities because menstruation and childbirth are not necessarily easy but are more likely to be a burden on women.
We’re talking about Allah here. He knows best what we women have to endure, just as He knows best what men also have to endure. Allah says specifically in the Qur’an that the male is not like the female.
So instead of spending all this time and energy lamenting over what we do not have in comparison to our brothers in Islam, let’s instead give thanks that He is so perfectly kind to ease our burdens for us with rulings that release us just a little from our bondage to Him.
*Most states recognise that a woman should receive six weeks of maternity leave, which is 36 days. The maximum amount of time a woman can go without reading salaah after giving birth is 40 days, so this isn’t some “ehrmahhgawd the patriarchy is oppressing me by forcing me to care for this helpless human I just shot out my vagina” situation. It’s a pretty fair comparison to the modern concept of maternity leave. I won’t go so far as to say “Islam gave us the concept of maternity leave” because, well, that’s just asinine. But the similarity in modern maternity leave and “ancient, Barbaric, bronze-age Moozlamic law” is rather striking anyway.