Dr Mufti Abdur-Rahman Mangera established Whitethread Institute with the express purpose of enhancing educational pathways for Muslim scholars. It now serves the important role of allowing scholars to synthesize between modern-day challenges and traditional texts. The Menstrual Matters Project is the latest initiative to emerge from Whitethread, with the objective of educating women on menstruation and post-natal bleeding, as well as other related subjects. Empowered with this knowledge, they will be able to execute their sacred devotions in accordance with the Shari‘ah.
The origin of the project dates to 2002 when Ustadha Umm Huzayfah, the wife of Mufti Abdur-Rahman, was invited to deliver a seminar on the laws of menstruation in Northern California. After searching the existing English-based books on the topic, they found them to be inadequate to deal with the myriad of questions women had on the topic. Recognizing this vacuum, they set out to write a new manual. Mufti Abdur-Rahman started by having his wife undertake a study with him of the “Chapter of Menstruation” (Kitab al-Hayd) from one of the most advanced fiqh and fatwa texts in the Hanafi school, Ibn ‘Abidin al-Shami’s Radd al-Muhtar. This study proved extremely beneficial and in 2005, they co-authored a short manual titled The Laws of Menstruation, Postnatal Bleeding, & Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding. This manual became the foundational teaching platform for seminars over the next several years.
In 2008, after moving back to the UK, Mufti Abdur-Rahman was increasingly concerned about the shortage of female scholarship on menstrual issues, as well as the lack of understanding regarding the rulings from women in general. Why was it that male scholars had to be consulted on such intimate and personal issues? Why could female scholars not be trained for this important role when they were mastering other subjects?
As others learned about Ustadha Umm Huzayfah’s detailed studies on menstruation, they requested that they also be brought into the learning process. Later that year, Mufti Abdur-Rahman taught the text online to approximately ten female ‘alimiyya graduates. As more and more female scholars learned of the classes, there was even greater interest. The next course focused on Imam Shami’s independent commentary on one of the most in-depth treatises on menstruation laws, Imam Birgivi’s Manhal al-Waridin (Birgivi’s Manual). This course was attended by a cohort of seventy women from around the world, and resulted in a group of at least a dozen of them who continued their training and developed competence in dealing with questions on all aspects of menstruation. They worked diligently, enhancing their knowledge of the subject, and honing their ability to work through the case studies that were sent to them. The next course was yet a more advanced text, the “Chapter of Menstruation” from Fatawa Tatarkhaniyya, which introduced the opinions of Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani on menstruation. The earlier texts had primarily dealt with Imam Abu Yusuf’s calculation-based opinions, which are considered easiest to implement by later jurists of the Hanafi school. Having gone through textual understandings of both methodologies, the group broadened their scope of the subject.
In 2018, Imam Shami’s entire commentary on Birgivi’s Manual was taught again to a class of over one hundred students, including the Whitethread Ifta’ Program cohort, as the Mastering The Fiqh of Menstruation . Since then, several hundred women, as well as men, have taken the advanced course through live sessions and recordings, allowing them to assist women in their local communities. Over the decade, Ustadha Umm Huzayfah has herself taught the basics of menstruation to several thousand women in various communities around the world.
In many ways, the Menstrual Matters project at Whitethread Institute is the culmination of years of courses and the intensive training of female scholars to answer questions proficiently. It is designed to be a central repository for all information related to menstruation. It includes detailed tutorials, moving the user through basic to advanced level concepts of menstruation, and offers resources for graduates to assist in teaching. It also incorporates a dedicated question and answer section where women submit their detailed questions regarding their cycles. Armed with this information and with access to female scholars, women will develop confidence in their purity, prayer, fasting, and general devotion.