After delivery of a child, women are exempted from praying for 40 days, how true is that? Also, does one have to make up for the prayers missed during menstruation?
Every female has to undergo three types of bleeding:
It is a bleeding that occurs from the age of puberty till she becomes old. It differs from woman to woman and extends from three days to even several days. Menses is considered unclean but this uncleanliness is not like it is considered in other social cultures. The Bani Israel did not allow women to sleep on the mattress nor allowed to sit with others. She was also banned from entering the kitchen or even cook. Life was made very difficult for them.
The situation was eased for them when the verses of Surah Al Baqarah were revealed. During these days, she is exempted from praying and fasting as well as performing Tawaf of Kabah and her husband is not allowed to have sexual relations with her. The rest of the life was to be normally lived with no such humiliation. Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) testified that during her menses, the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to shower his affection and love upon her and even shared the same mattress. The Christian community in those days allowed everything including sex during menses. In many Indian communities, women are not allowed to enter the kitchen during menses unless she takes a bath.
What about the missed prayers during Menses?
Allah has bestowed mercy upon the women by exempting them from the prayers which are missed during menses and they do not have to make it up even later. With regards to Ramadhan Fasts that are missed during menses, the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) has instructed to fast the missed ones before the arrival of next Ramadhan. Therefore, Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) used to say that they used to make up for the missed fasts in the month of Shaban because they did not get the chance to keep those fasts during the other months.
If she gets menses during Hajj or Umrah she cannot perform Tawaf of Kabah. But if her Hajj and Umrah are finished except for the Tawaf al Wida, then Allah has exempted her from performing Tawaf al Wida.
Nifas is the bleeding that occurs after delivery of a child and it is also considered to be impure. She is exempted from praying and allowed to fast after the Ramadhan and her husband is not allowed to have sexual relation with her during nifas. In Menses as well as Nifas, women are allowed to do Dhikr of Allah with Masnoon Duas and Tasbeeh as well.
To harbour a creed which fixes 40 days of abstaining from prayers is wrong
A very common Misconception about Nifas is that it lasts up to 40 days. This misconception needs to be clarified because it is related to haram and halal. To harbour a creed which fixes forty days of abstaining from prayers is wrong. Due to lack of understanding, many women miss out their prayers and fastings of Ramadhan. The correct ruling is that if the blood ceases after seven days then the woman is clean and she should take her bath, offer her prayers, keep fasts and besides this, her husband can have sexual relations with her as well. Thus the bleeding during Nifas may vary from woman to woman and once it stops, she has to start praying and fast if it is the month of Ramadhan otherwise if she waits for 40 days to complete the rituals of the bath then she is committing a sin.
Understanding the concept of Forty days
But if a woman undergoes bleeding which stretches more than forty days, then she is supposed to take a bath and begin her prayers and fastings after forty days, even if she has bleeding otherwise she is committing a sin. The blood that continues after forty days is due to illness and it should not prevent the woman from praying and fasting.
There are two terms to understand with regards to the bleeding during Nifas. Aqqal e Muddat and Aqsar e Muddat. Both the terms are found in the books of Fiqh. There is no minimum limit of Nifas. This is called Aqqal e Muddat. There are historical records which are also compiled in the books of Fiqh that there were certain women who delivered a baby in the morning and by evening their nifas had stopped. This applies to menses too. Some of the scholars of Hadith have noted about women whose cases were known to them that they did not have the Nifas even for a day after the delivery of a baby. Therefore the scholars of Fiqh and Hadith have concluded and agreed that there is no minimum limit for Aqqal e Muddat. It can be minimum one day or two days or three days or a week or two weeks.
The issue is about Aqsar e Muddat which means maximum days that nifas bleeding is counted. The fortieth day is the last day and it is termed as Aqsar e Muddat. There are hadith explaining it. There is a narration which speaks of Sittin e Youman, up to sixty days. The other narrations refer to forty days which are declared to be authentic by scholars like Daruqqatni and Bayhaqi along with other scholars too, but Fuqaha and Muhaddith have agreed that the Hadith about sixty days is not authentic. The grading of the Hadith about forty days reaches the category of Hasan. It is based on this hadith that scholars have agreed that Aqsar e Muddat will be forty days.
Therefore the maximum time a woman can or should wait after nifas is forty days. So during these forty days, she cannot pray nor fast nor can do Tawaf e Kabah. But if the bleeding continues after forty days, yet she will take a bath and continue with her prayers and fasting (if it is Ramadan) and it is agreed upon by the majority of noted scholars like Imam Ahmed, Imam Shafa’i, Imam Abu Hanifa etc. This is unanimously agreed and there is no dispute on this issue.
The issue becomes confusing for the women among the masses is because people from Indian sub-continent have titled this issue as Sawa Mahina ( Urdu term for 4o days). So what was maximum has been turned into minimum and it has become a norm for women in Indian sub-continent that they have to wait till forty days or ‘Sawa Mahina’.
But according to the rule, as we study above, forty days is the maximum a woman should wait after Nifas and not minimum or fixed. The bleeding that continues after forty days is called Istehada.
The two types of bleeding, Menses, and Nifas come from the womb. When a woman gets pregnant her menses stops and the blood gets collected. When she delivers the baby there is a bleeding which we call Nifas and this bleeding too comes from the womb. But the blood that flows out during Istehada, as per explained by the Prophet (peace be upon him) does not come from the womb.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that certain times Shatyan, punches a particular vein of a woman’s body which causes a continuous bleeding. Many women think that they are still unclean due to this bleeding and they miss their prayers and fasting. The Prophet(peace be upon him) said, “During Istihaada a woman is not unclean.” Thus she can pray, offer fasts, go to the Masjid and also have intimate relations with her husband. There were many women in the times of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who had this problem and they were allowed to pray and fast and even perform i’tikaaf in the Masjid.
Thus we conclude that only during Menses and Nifas, women are exempted from praying salah and fasting.