Answered by Ustadha Shaista Maqbool
Question: Assalamu alaikum. Although my periods are regular, for several years now they have been quite long, lasting between 8 – 12 days (usually the longer end of the spectrum). The first 3-6 days consist of a brown discharge which is initially light but then it becomes heavier. I am often unsure at the beginning whether or not I should pray(and more recently whether to break my fast). This is followed by 5-6 days of “normal” bleeding which has a definite end-point.
I have previously consulted a doctor who says I should consider the whole thing as menstruation but have recently read various opinions on Islamic websites that have left me confused. These include:
1. Islamically a period does not last more than 10 days.
2. A period can last up to 15 days.
3. A woman should look at her normal cycle and decide for herself.
Although I tend to follow the 3rd opinion, I am worried that I may be missing more prayers than necessary at the beginning of what I have up untill now presumed is the start of menstruation.
I would be grateful for your advice.
Answer: Wa’alaikum assalaam warahmatu Allah,
The differences you have found regarding what to consider menstruation are due to the difference of opinion within the four schools of jurisprudence.
The first opinion is of the Hanafi school, that a period does not last longer than 10 days.
The second, that a period may last up to 15 days, is the opinion in the Shafii’ school.
The third, that a woman determines her own period, is most likely referring to an opinion in the Hanbali school when a woman guesses her own period – however, this is not a general rule; rather it is for a specific situation with several conditions and rules. Therefore, it is misleading to state this without mentioning its conditions/rules.
If you have been following the last opinion, I advise you to stop doing so and rather regard everything – even the brown discharge – as your menses, according to the Shafi’I school. In this way, as long as your period is less than 15 days, you will not have a problem. Though originally one would determine her period based on which school she follows, I recommend the latter because of your situation.
You should try to learn about a particular school that you have the most access to, and follow it. If you don’t have qualified scholars in your area, there are books available that can assist you; e.g. the Reliance of the Traveler, a text of law in the Shafi’I school.
May Allah ta’ala give you the best.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani