How to Deal with Irregular Cycles as a Result of Birth Control Use?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Question: Assalamu alaykum

My question concerns menstruation and irregular cycles as a result of birth control use. It usually takes about three months for a woman’s cycle to adjust to birth control, which often results in spotting earlier than a woman’s proper time for her cycle. What is the Islamic ruling on whether or not a woman can pray or be intimate with her spouse during this time? Does the ruling depend on when this spotting occurs?

Answer: Wa ‘alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh

Thank you for your questions.

The Basics

Any bleeding or spotting seen whilst one is taking some for of birth control would have to be classified as menses (ḥayḍ) or dysfunctional bleeding (istiḥāḍa) if it meets their criteria. A menstrual cycle is at least 72 hours and, at its maximum, 240 hours (3-10 days); and between one cycle and the next there has to be at least fifteen days of purity. It is not necessary that the bleeding is constant in order for it to be considered a period it is sufficient that the bleeding occurs for the minimum three day period – even intermittently. During this time one does not pray, fast or having intimate relations with one’s spouse.

Dysfunctional bleeding is any bleeding which occurs outside of one’s normal menstrual habit. It’s colour and texture are of no consequence. It does not prevent one from praying, fasting or intimate relations. It is necessary, therefore, for believing women to document their menstrual cycles – the number of days in the period, and the days of purity, and where they occur during the month. This helps determine what is dysfunctional bleeding if a problem arises.

Birth Control

Knowing one’s menstrual habit is essential if one uses some form of birth control. There are various ways in which birth control prevent pregnancy, but the most common forms, the pill and the intrauterine device – also known as ‘the coil’ – usually work by thickening the cervical mucus to prevent the sperm reaching the uterus, preventing the sperm from reaching of fertilising the egg, thinning the uterine lining or a combination of the above. This means that when the uterine lining breaks down the blood/spotting that is consequently seen will be considered menstrual blood if it lasts for three to ten days. This may not happen for everyone, so one would need to consult with a scholar regarding a particular scenario.

One should also take the means to study these rulings in detail in order to be able to recognise when there is a problem, and then seek clarification form a scholar about the scenario.

Allah knows best.

May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.

[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time.

Over the following eighteen months he studied a traditional curriculum, studying with scholars such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.

In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years, in Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l-Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.

His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.

When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul-Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.