Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article "Muhammad and Menstruation"


Bassam Zawadi


Sam Shamoun's article can be located here. We recommend our readers read Shamoun's article before proceeding to read this rebuttal.


Sam Shamoun said:


The hadith provides an example of how the foregoing directive was carried out:

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin:
When I menstruated, I left the bed and lay on the reed-mat and did not approach or come near the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) until we were purified. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 1, 
Number 0271)

My Response:


The above hadith is weak, as Shaykh Al-Albani states in hadith no. 271 of his examination of Sunan Abu Dawud. The narration contains Umm Dhurra, who is not known.


Sam Shamoun said:


It is obvious from the above that men were forbidden from approaching menstruating women altogether.


My Response:


First, the hadith is weak and cannot be used as proof.


Secondly, it isn't apparent that men were forbidden from approaching menstruating women altogether since it's possible that Aisha is speaking about a particular incident. It's not likely that Aisha contradicted herself when, at one point, she stated that she always left the bed during menstruation while mentioning instances else where this wasn't the case.


Sam Shamoun said:

Moreover, Muhammad went a step further by classifying menstruation as Satan's handiwork:

Narrated Grandfather of Adi ibn Thabit
Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: Sneezing, drowsing, yawning in prayer, also menstruation, vomiting and nose-bleeding are from (the acts of) Satan. Transmitted by Tirmidhi. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 315; ALIM CD-ROM Version)

Obviously a God-fearing person would want to stay clear and as far away possible from any act or work of Satan. For instance, the Quran warns Muslims to avoid idolatrous practices, gambling and intoxicants since they are the works of Satan:

O believers, wine and arrow-shuffling, idols and divining-arrows are an abomination, some of Satan's work; so avoid it; haply So you will prosper. Satan only desires to precipitate enmity and hatred between you in regard to wine and arrow-shuffling, and to bar you from the remembrance of God, and from prayer. Will you then desist? S. 5:90-91 Arberry

Thus, since true Muslims shun idolatrous rites, gambling and intoxicants altogether on the grounds that they are satanic in origin, it would seem rather obvious that they would also avoid all physical contact with their women until they are completely purified from their periods - seeing that menstruation is said to be an illness from Satan according to Muhammad.

My Response:


Shamoun isn't comparing apples with oranges, instead he is comparing apples with sharks. There is a big difference between what the Tirmidhi hadeeth is saying and what Surah 5:90-91 says. Surah 5:90-91 mentions the sinful handiwork of Satan and how we must stay away from them. Nose-bleeding, vomiting, menstruation, etc., aren't sinful acts to abstain from. A woman doesn't sin when she gets menstruation. Is Shamoun trying to say that sneezing is a sinful act in Islam?


Either way, the Tirmidhi narration is weak, just as Albani states in his Jaami' Al Tirmidhi, hadith no. 2748.


Sam Shamoun said:

Yet instead of avoiding women during their courses by not coming near them, Muhammad wasn't able to control his sexual desires since he would approach his wives to fondle them during their "illness":

Narrated 'Aisha:
The Prophet and I used to take a bath from a single pot while we were Junub. During the menses, he used to order me to put on an Izar (dress worn below the waist) and used to fondle me. While in Itikaf, he used to bring his head near me and I would wash it while I used to be in my periods (menses). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 6, 
Number 298)

Narrated 'Abdur-Rahman bin Al-Aswad:
(on the authority of his father) 'Aisha said: "Whenever Allah's Apostle wanted to fondle anyone of us during her periods (menses), he used to order her to put on an Izar and start fondling her." 'Aisha added, "None of you could control his sexual desires as the Prophet could." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 6, 
Number 299; see also Number 300)

My Response:


No proof has been put forth which suggests that the Prophet (peace be upon him) violated the teachings of the Qur'an. It seems pretty evident that the Prophet (peace be upon him) understood that the Qur'an was only restricting men from having sex with their wives during their menstrual periods. Otherwise, why would the Prophet (peace be upon him) tell Aisha to put on an izar? If the Prophet (peace be upon him) was willing to go the extra mile and disobey Allah's commands, then he could have just proceeded on to have sex instead of just fondling. The fact that the Prophet (peace be upon him) only fondled during the menstrual cycle of his wife makes it pretty evident that he understood what the Qur'an's actual limitations were. He made this point very explicit: 

Saheeh Muslim

Book 003, Number 0592:

Thabit narrated it from Anas: Among the Jews, when a woman menstruated, they did not dine with her, nor did they live with them in their houses; so the Companions of the Apostle (may peace be upon him) asked The Apostle (may peace be upon him), and Allah, the Exalted revealed:" And they ask you about menstruation; say it is a pollution, so keep away from woman during menstruation" to the end (Qur'an, ii. 222). The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Do everything except intercourse. The Jews heard of that and said: This man does not want to leave anything we do without opposing us in it. Usaid b. Hudair and Abbad b. Bishr came and said: Messenger of Allah, the Jews say such and such thing. We should not have, therefore, any contact with them (as the Jews do). The face of the Messenger of Allah (way peace be upon him) underwent such a change that we thought he was angry with them, but when they went out, they happened to receive a gift of milk which was sent to the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him). He (the Holy Prophet) called for them and gave them drink, whereby they knew that he was not angry with them

Sam Shamoun said:

As if this weren't bad enough Muhammad would even recite the Quran, the supposed eternal speech of Allah, while in the lap of his menstruating child bride!

Narrated 'Aisha:
The Prophet used to lean on my lap and recite Qur'an while I was in menses. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 6, 
Number 296)

Narrated 'Aisha:
The Prophet used to recite the Quran with his head in my lap while I used to be in my periods (having menses). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 639)

What makes this rather ironic is that faithful Muslims do not dare touch the Quran in a state of ritual impurity and will often wash their hands before touching their scripture, and yet their prophet had no qualms with reciting and mentioning his god's name while reclining on a cermonially impure child!

My Response:


Yes, it is correct that Muslims do not touch the Qur'an in a state of ritual impurity, however:


1) The narration doesn't show the Prophet (peace be upon him) touching the Qur'an but reciting it.


2) The Prophet (peace be upon him) wasn't in a state of ritual impurity; his wife was.


Sam Shamoun said:


Some Muslims get rather ingenious and claim that the Quran is not prohibiting all physical contact with women, but forbidding sexual intercourse, which is not the plain reading of the text.


My Response:


Shamoun should have said "literal reading, " not "plain reading." The literal reading is to force a literal interpretation of the text, which Shamoun is doing. Plain reading is the apparent meaning one gets from reading the text. The plain reading does not suggest in any way that one is to avoid all physical contact with menstruating women.


The verse states "keep away from women", yet what does "keep away" mean? Does it mean to keep away from the same bed, room, house, square mile, etc.? The "keep away" in the verse appears to be the opposite of "go in unto them" after the cycle. What does "go in unto them" mean in the verse? Well, it implies sexual intercourse. Hence, the plain reading of the text suggests that "keep away" refers to keeping away from having sexual intercourse with one's wife during the cycle.


Sam Shamoun said:

In fact, Muslims are told to avoid touching women at all before their prayers, because they fear they may be unclean:

O ye who believe! Draw not near unto prayer when ye are drunken, till ye know that which ye utter, nor when ye are polluted, save when journeying upon the road, till ye have bathed. And if ye be ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from the closet, or ye have TOUCHED women, and ye find not water, then go to high clean soil and rub your faces and your hands (therewith). Lo! Allah is Benign, Forgiving. S. 4:43 Pickthall; cf. 5:6

According to some Muslim scholars this refers to touching a woman with one's hand:

... or you have touched women (lamastum, a variant reading has lamastum: both mean lams, that is, 'TOUCHING WITH THE HAND', as stated by Ibn 'Umar; this is also the opinion of al-Shafi'i, and it extends to touching with other parts of the skin; according to Ibn 'Abbas, however, it is [referring to] sexual intercourse) . (Tafsir al-Jalalaynsource; capital emphasis ours)


Al-Shafi`i took the verse "Or if you have touched women" (4:43) literally, and considered that contact between the sexes, even accidental, nullified ablution. This is also the position of Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Umar, al-Sha`bi, al-Nakha`i, al-Zuhri, and al-Awza`i, which is confirmed by Ibn `Umar's report: "Whoever kisses OR TOUCHES HIS WIFE WITH HIS HAND must renew his wudû'." It is authentic and related in numerous places including Malik's Muwatta'. Al-Shafi`i said: "Something similar has reached us from Ibn Mas`ud." They all read the above verse literally, without interpreting "touch" to mean "sexual intercourse" as do the Hanafis, or "touch with pleasure" as do the Malikis. (Dr. G.F. Haddad, Imam Shafi'isource; capital emphasis ours)

This, perhaps, accounts for Muhammad refusing to shake women's hands:

Malik related to me from Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir that Umayma bint Ruqayqa said, "I went to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, with the women who took an oath of allegiance with him in Islam. They said, 'Messenger of Allah! We take a pledge with you not to associate anything with Allah, not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to kill our children, nor to produce any lie that we have devised between our hands and feet, and not to disobey you in what is known.' The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'In what you can do and are able.'"

Umayma continued, "They said, 'Allah and His Messenger are more merciful to us than ourselves. Come, let us give our hands to you, Messenger of Allah!' The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'I do not shake hands with women. My word to a hundred women is like my word to one woman.'" (Malik's Muwatta, Book 55, Number 55.1.2)

The above supports the interpretation that in Q. 2:222 mere touching was meant, not only intercourse.

My Response:


I am struggling to understand how Shamoun is connecting the dots here. How on earth is the topic of whether men touching women nullifies their ablution related in any way to the topic of whether men could feel their wives during menstruation? The two are entirely different subjects and are not related whatsoever!


Sam Shamoun said:

More importantly, it is not at all certain that Muhammad didn't actually engage in sexual intercourse with his wives during their menses. Certain narrations presuppose that he did have sex with them during their courses:

Maimuna (the wife of the Holy Prophet) reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) contacted and embraced his wives over the waist-wrapper when they were menstruating. (Sahih Muslim, Book 003, Number 0579)


'A'isha reported: When anyone amongst us (amongst the wives of the Holy Prophet) menstruated, the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) asked her to tie a waist-wrapper over her (body) and then embraced her. (Sahih Muslim, Book 003, Number 0577)

In his note to the above hadith of Aisha the translator of Sahih Muslim admits that the Arabic word for embraced, yubashira, is used in relation to sexual intercourse, even though he tries to explain it away:

499. This tradition has been the target of worst criticism by the hostile critics of the Hadith.(1). They assert that it contravenes the teachings of the Qur'an (ii. 222), in which has been commanded to keep aloof from women during menstrual period. But these critics little realise that it is the sexual intercourse with the menstruating women which is prohibited. The hadith gives no indication that the Holy Prophet acted against this injunction of the Qur'an. The very wording that he ordered to tie a waist-wrapper on the lower part of her body gives a clear indication that the Holy Prophet did not have sexual intercourse with his wives during this period of discharge; he simply embraced them. The verb . (yubashira) does not necessarily mean sexual intercourse. It denotes to have a contact, to touch (Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon). (Sahih Muslim by Imam Muslim, rendered into English by Abdul Hamid Siddiqui [Kitab Bhavan Exporters & Importers, New Delhi India, 11th reprinted edition 1995], Book III-Kitab Al-Haid (Menstruation), Chapter CXIX. Lying With One in Menstruation Above The Waist-Wrapper, Volumes I & II, p. 172; bold and underline emphasis ours)(1)

Nor is this the only Muslim to admit that the verb that is used here denotes sexual intercourse. This next source agrees that the word can refer to sexual relations:

c. Mubasharah in Arabic means either (i) having sex or (ii) simply embracing and caressing the wife. Here it is used in the latter sense [sic]. (English Translation of Sunan Ibn Majah - Compiled by Imam Muhammad Bin Yazeed Ibn Majah Al-Qazwini, From Hadith No. 01 to 802, Ahadith edited and referenced by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair 'Ali Za'i, translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab (Canada), final review by Abu Khaliyl (USA) [Darussalam Publications and Distributors, First Edition: June 2007], Volume 1, The Chapters on Dry Ablution, Chapter 121. What A Man May Do With His Wife When She is Menstruating, p. 423)

The translator of Sahih Muslim has indirectly provided corroboration for our assertion that the plain meaning of Q. 2:222, as even understood by certain Muslims (specifically those who reject the hadiths), is that men are forbidden from approaching women altogether during their menses.

My Response:


Is Shamoun blind? Can't he properly read the people he is citing? This is what the Muslim said:


The verb . (yubashira) does not necessarily mean sexual intercourse. It denotes to have a contact, to touch (Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon).


The Muslim is saying that the word does not necessarily mean sexual intercourse, even though it could mean it in certain contexts. The burden of proof is on Shamoun to show that, in this specific context, the word was used to denote sexual intercourse.


Sam Shamoun said:

Interestingly, this next report substantiates our explanation of the facts:

Umm Salama reported: While I was lying with the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) in a bed cover I menstruated, so I slipped away and I took up the clothes (which I wore) in menses. Upon this the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Have you menstruated? I said: Yes. He called me and I lay down with him in the bed cover. (And she further) said that she and the Messenger of Allah used to take bath from the same vessel after sexual intercourse. (Siddiqui, Sahih Muslim by Imam Muslim, Book 003, Number 0581, pp. 173-174; source)

The implication of Umm Salama's statements is that Muhammad and her would engage in sexual intimacy even during her menses and would bathe from the same vessel afterwards.

My Response:


The above doesn't make it clear that Umm Salama was referring to taking a bath after intercourse during the same time she had her cycles. Even when the narrator says "and she further said," it gives the impression that she is speaking about another matter. Umm Salama is first speaking about what happened during one of her menstrual cycles, and second, she is speaking about how she and the Prophet (peace be upon him) would bathe from the same vessel after sexual intercourse. It's common in hadiths to see narrators shift to another sub-topic when discussing a general topic.


Sam Shamoun said:

he also failed to do that which he claimed was better:

Narrated Mu'adh ibn Jabal:

I asked the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him): What is lawful for a man to do with his wife when she is menstruating? He replied: What is above the waist-wrapper, BUT IT IS BETTER FOR YOU TO ABSTAIN FROM IT, TOO.

Abu Dawud said: This (tradition) is not strong. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 1, Number 0212)

Although the tradition is said not to be strong, the point is still clear: Muhammad told his companion it is better not to touch women from the waist up during their menstruation, something that he was personally guilty of doing! Muhammad thereby failed to put into practice his own teachings of what was better or more appropriate.

My Response:


If the tradition is not strong, then why is Shamoun appealing to it?


Secondly, this recommendation is directed to us men because we are weak and find difficulty in maintaining our sexual urges, unlike the Prophet (peace be upon him), whom Aisha said:


"None of you could control his sexual desires as the Prophet could."


So since the Prophet (peace be upon him) could control himself, he did not need to abstain.


Thirdly, this narration refutes Shamoun since it clarifies that Islam doesn't teach that one must avoid all physical contact with one's wife during menstruation.


In summary, Shamoun has failed to point out any inconsistencies in the behavior of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).




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