A Menstruating Woman Reciting the Qur’an: The Maliki Position, Sticking to One School, and the Path of Taqwa

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: What can a menstruating women do in terms of reading the Qur’an? Can one choose the Maliki position on the issue?

Answer: Walaikum assalam,

In the Hanafi school, she can listen to the Qur’an and “read” (in her mind) without “reciting” (with her tongue) while memorizing during menstruation.

As for choosing the Maliki opinion, this is a matter of personal choice, at the end of the day. The scholars generally have two ways of dealing with the issue of following another madhhab than one’s own:

1. It is permitted to do so, but without making it a habit to always “seek out” dispensations;

2. One may not do so without a genuine hardship and need, for otherwise it is “following one’s whims,” which the Shariah has interdicted.

Generally, my Syrian Hanafi teachers took the former position, though the Indian and Pakistani scholars are firm on the second position. They are both valid ‘ways’ of acting. One should stick to the second way, though, as much as possible, for it is the way of taqwa. (This is something that everyone would agree on.)

The scholars of the sunni way agree, though, that the four schools, are all valid to follow, and each represents a sound operationalization of the Qur’an and Sunna, based on the interpretative principles laid down by its mujtahids. As such, a person who follows a position of any one of the four schools cannot be considered to be “going against” the Qur’an or Sunna. A well-versed scholar who understands the primary texts, fiqh, and usul, may disagree with another school, but the agreed-upon principle of sunni fuqaha is: “My position is correct with the possibility of being wrong. The position of others is wrong, with the possibility of being right,” because such differences only arose because of the probabilistic nature of the primary evidences.

In the case you mention, it is true that what they mentioned is the position of Imam Malik (Allah be pleased with him), though the majority of the mujtahid imams, including Abu Hanifa and his students, did not agree, because of the primary evidence that points to the contrary. (The Malikis were aware of this evidence, but understood it differently.) Therefore, according to the first understanding (above), you could follow it and there would be nothing wrong with it. Just beware of making it a habit to seek out dispensations, and beware of those who have a habit of handing out fatwas from different schools: it is hard enough for true fuqaha to master one school, let alone four (or more). I specifically asked Shaykh Hassaan al-Hindi, in Damascus, about a sister taking the Maliki dispensation on this issue, and he said that there is nothing wrong with it. I asked, “Sidi, but what if she wants to stick to her madhhab?” He said, “Well, that is her choice.”

However, if you don’t feel comfortable or prefer to stick to the second approach, this is being cautious in religion. Just beware, though, of not creating fitna or ‘discussing’ with teachers or students why you are not reciting…

This was something posted a while back on the Hanafi fiqh list:

Sticking to One School

It is not religiously binding on the Muslim to stick to one school on all matters, without exception, as both al-Tahtawi and Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on them), the two leading late authorities for fatwa in the Hanafi school, both explain. Rather, there is nothing wrong with taking a dispensation if there is a need; what is impermissible is to make it a habit to seek out dispensations [i.e. even if there is no hardship or need].

The Path of Taqwa

The path of taqwa, as the scholars and sufis explain, is to avoid taking dispensations unless there is genuine hardship in following one’s own school. In fact, they say that those who have learned their own school should seek out the strictest positions from other school whenever reasonably possible, so that one’s worship and practice is sound without argument.

May Allah grant us beneficial knowledge, and the success to act according to it, on the footsteps of the His Beloved (Allah bless him and give him peace), with the secret of sincerity, without which actions are but lifeless forms.

And Allah knows best.


Faraz Rabbani