By Prof. Hassan Hathout During the menstrual period a woman should cease to carry out her prayers. After cessation of menstruation she will perform the "tuhr" bath and resume her prayers again. She is in no debt for the prayers she has missed and need not repeat them later. Fasting also is not permissible during menstruation, whether it is the obligatory Ramadan fasting or voluntary fasting. The woman, however, is required to make for the days obligatory fasting was broken and she will later fast for an equal number of days. Sexual intercourse is prohibited during the menstrual period. The Quran says: "They ask you concerning menstruation. Say it is a hurt and a pollution, so keep away from women during their periods and do not approach them until they become clean. But when they have purified themselves you may approach them in any manner, time or place ordained for you by God. For God loves those who repent to Him constantly and He loves thosc who keep themselves pure and clean." (2:222) but intercourse." (Muslim-Termizi) The prohibition applies to actual vaginal intercourse. Other forms of sexual play are permitted. When his companions asked him, the prophet said: "You may do everything It is reported that on occasion the prophet covered the genital area of his menstruating wif'e with a cloth (Abu-Dawood) and became intimate with her. Aisha, wife of the prophet, was once asked about how free a husband was, concerning his menstruating wife, and she answered : "Everything but intercourse" (Al-Bukhari). Medical literature concerning intercourse during menstruation has been divergent. Various authors reported that it plays an aetiological role in male urethritis, introduction or flare up of infection in the female genetical tract and increased uterine bleeding. Other literature claims that it bears no harms whatsoever, but this comes from quarters that also exonerated homosexuality and anal coitus from having any harm. And the inside goings on in the sphere of medical research over the past few decades have introduced an element of justifiable suspicion or at least reserve in unconditional acceptance of published data as all who see that sphere from inside feel. Whether esthetic or medical reasons testify for or against intercourse during menstruation, the fact remains that it is prohibited by Islam (as it is by Judaism, with many more restrictions). During Hajj (pilgrimage) or umra (ritual visit to Kaaba) menstruation prohibits a woman from the Tawaf (circumnavigation or walking around the Kaaba for seven turns) which is an integral part of the proceedings. The prophet was reported to say: "Tawaf is prayer except that God permitted talking during it so if you talk say only good words." (Termizi, Darokotny) Aisha, the wife of the prophet, is reported to have said: The prophet came in one day and found me crying (because her period had started before she made her tawat). The prophet said: "This is something that God has written on the daughters of Adam. Proceed with all the rituals and tinish them except that you will not make tawaf until you took your (postmenstrual) bath." (Muslim) It is for this reason that women tried since the early days of Islam to have some control over the time of onset of the period, and if possible to be able to postpone it until they have comfortably made their tawaf. A concoction made from the leaves of the Arak tree was tried, as well as other plant preparations. This need is much more pressing nowadays, since Hajj and umra are performed by large groups of people bound by a fixed schedule and flight bookings that limit the ability of women to manoevre their time. Now that we have at our disposal safe, easy and reliable means of postponing the onset of menstruation, this problem is nearly solved. Female hormone-containing pills such as contraceptive pills are given daily by mouth so that they preserve the integrity of the lining of the uterus at the time when the woman's own natural hormones are waning and thus can no more support this lining with the result that it bleeds, breaks and fragments and is discharged as menstruation. The prescription of such pills for this purpose (or for the purpose of completion of the fasting of Ramadan) is now common practice unless of course there is a medical contraindication. The best chance of success is to start the pill early enough usually on the fifth day of the period preceding Hajj or umra. A late start carries less promise, and for the purpose of contraception is certainly nonreliable. The doctor has to fore-warn the woman that while on the pill she might have some blood spotting, and that to cure it she should not stop taking the pill. As a matter of fact she should take a higher dose (two or more pills daily) in order to stop this spotting. This blood spotting is called breakthrough bleeding, and denotes that more hormone is needed to preserve the lining of the uterus and prevent it from breaking up. This bleeding is also NOT menstruation and should not ban her from tawaf or prayer. Technically such women belong in the group called "Mustahad" that will be described shortly. There is no religious basis to blemish this practice of willfull postponement of menstruation. The legal dictum maintains that originally all things are permitted except those that are specifically prohibited. The practice fulfills one of the goals of jurisprudence, which is to make things easier for people.