Last weekend I organized a workshop at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center on Islamic law and menstruation. If you know anything about this subject, you likely know that it’s complicated. The more I learn about it, the more I’ve learned how many mistakes I’ve been making…oy vey. Which reminds me, I love talking to Orthodox Jewish women about menstruation and religious law, because they totally get it. It ain’t easy living life according to religious rules, especially those that might seem strange to others outside of the faith, but I sincerely believe in their tangible and meaningful benefits.
I remember being in a birth two years ago where the woman asked me whether or not she should pray while in labor. I had no idea. It turns out that yes; while a menstruating woman is released from having to perform obligatory prayers, a pregnant woman is not, even while in labor (though she does not pray while experiencing postnatal bleeding). And if a woman can’t make prostrations, then she can stand. If she can’t stand, she can lean against something or sit, and if she can’t sit, she can pray laying down, and have someone help her to make ablutions. Prayer is that important. I remember another friend describing how, during prayer in labor, her contractions became distant and easier to bear, and knowing what I know about HypnoBirthing, stress, and refocusing our attention during labor, I believe it.
I stumbled across this recent article from Sheikha Tamara Gray on pregnancy and prayer where she breaks down the specific legal rulings around specific issues with prayer during labor. I recommend it for pregnant Muslim women and for their care providers.
And for others who are interested in learning more about menstruation and Islamic law, Qibla offers a fantastic five week introductory course with Sheikha Hedaya Hartford on menstruation in Hanafi fiqh, who is an expert on the subject. I’m in the course now and learning so much, all of it information that I confidently feel I wouldn’t find elsewhere. Yet another reminder of how important it is to support female scholars and scholarship!