Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas
Question: Assalam aleykum
I have read in Behishti Zewar that if a women is on her period when starting, or during, a journey she will need to pray full prayers (not shortened) upon attaining purity (doing ghusl) until she goes beyond the traveling distance from the location where she did her ghusl. Is this true? Is there any circumstances where she can shorten prayer? For example I travel from my home in Los Angeles on my period to New York. I take my ghusl in New York. However I plan to travel from New York back to Los Angeles within 1 week so doesn’t that make me a traveler the whole time?
Answer: assalamu alaykum
The position related in Behishti Zewar is mentioned in a number of authoritative Hanafi legal texts although there is also a strong alternative position on the matter that one can follow.
In your case, you will not be a deemed a traveler according to the view you mention when you leave your home in a state of menstruation to go to New York. Thus, upon your arrival in New York and subsequent state of purity, you will continue to be considered a resident in the city so long as you do not initiate another journey of the minimal travel distance. [al-Haskafi, Durr al-Mukhtar (106); Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar (2:135)]
An Alternative View on the Issue
Another view in the school states that a menstruating woman would shorten her prayers in the case you describe. [al-Shurunbulali, Hashiya al-Durar (1:132)]
The main reason for this difference of opinion is the fact that one of the conditions to be considered a traveler in legal terms is having the resolve/intent (qasd) to undertake a journey of three days/nights (or 48 miles). Consequently, if a child were to travel from his home in Los Angeles to New York and attain puberty after arriving at the latter, such a person would pray in full because a child is not deemed to have a valid and effective intent prior to puberty. In other words, this person would not be described as a “traveler” in a legal sense during his or her journey from Los Angeles to New York.
This is in contrast to an adult non-Muslim who travels from his home in Los Angeles to New York and accepts Islam when arriving at his destination. According to most scholars, such a person would shorten his prayers in New York as an adult non-Muslim does have a valid and effective intent that allows us to consider him a “traveler” in a legal sense.
In the case of a menstruating woman, the scholars differed over whether her intent is akin to a child in this scenario or to the scenario involving an adult non-Muslim. A number of scholars stated that a menstruating woman is not morally-responsible for prayer and lacks a valid intent when it relates to the legal consideration of who is deemed a traveler as is the case with a child.
However, other scholars indicate that a menstruating woman is akin to an adult non-Muslim in this case. This is because:
(i) A menstruating woman as a sane adult is not analogous to a child who on a general level possesses no considered or effective intent and lacks legal capacity, while a state of menstruation does not negate one’s legal capacity (ahliyya).
(ii) The resolve here does not relate to prayer or an intrinsic act of worship but resolving to travel a specified distance, which is the cause for shortening prayers and is not an act of worship in itself. A menstruating woman has the mental and legal capacity to intend such travel.
(iii) An adult non-Muslim is also not morally-responsible for the performance of the laws of the shari`ah related to worship, such as prayer, but this does not render his intent to travel invalid. As Imam al-Kasani states, “the resolve to undertake a journey is valid from a non-Muslim except that he does not pray due to his disbelief and so when he accepts Islam this preventer [of prayer] is removed.” [al-Bada`i (1:103)] This is plausibly analogous to a menstruating woman.
(Note for (iii): Some made a distinction that the thing preventing a non-Muslim from prayer is something he can willingly remove i.e. his disbelief, while menses is a natural preventer not in a woman’s control, but why this would effect her legal capacity and ability to intend an act not considered worship, namely travel, remains open for question and requires a much more detailed analysis of the issue.)
[See: al-Kasani, al-Bada`i (1:103); Ibn Maza, al-Muhit al-Burhani (2:396-97); Ibn Amir Hajj, Halba al-Mujalli (2:524); Shaykhizada, Majma` al-Anhur (1:160); Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar (2:135); al-Bazdawi, Usul (724-25, 734-35)]
In conclusion, the opinion you mention in your question was held and deemed correct by a number of scholars. However, an alternative view exists that was also forwarded by authoritative scholars in the school and has a very reasonable basis. As such, both positions are followable.
[Ustadh] Salman Younas
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Salman Younas graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman where he spent five years studying Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford and continues his traditional studies with scholars in the United Kingdom.