Menopause is a time of great change in a woman’s life. Unlike puberty, it isn’t openly discussed nor are women educated about what changes to expect. When it starts, anywhere from 45-55 years of age, and lasting between 5-7 years, women are often caught off guard. After going through menopause, many women feel relieved that they don’t have to worry about tracking their menstrual cycle or having a gap in their ritual worship.
Biologically, menopause is when a woman’s menstrual cycle ends, and she can no longer conceive. The ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone and women experience a host of unpleasant symptoms, such as bone loss, hot flushes, insomnia, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and weight gain. Women also describe ups and downs in their emotional well-being, having to cope with anxiety, depression, an inability to concentrate, and a lack of motivation. While menopause can be a challenging time, these symptoms are temporary. A woman shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to her doctor with any concerns or questions she has.
The Fiqh of It
In Islamic law (Shari’ah) a woman is menopausal when she reaches 55 lunar years (53 solar years and 4 months). Prior to this age, any colour of blood that exits the body is considered menstruation (hayd) (Al-Muhit al-Burhani 212/1). Many women will notice a reduction in the number of days they bleed – as long as they have not reached the age of menopause and the bleeding lasts between 3-10 days, it will be hayd. Essentially, the rulings of hayd apply in their entirety until she reaches 55 lunar years.
Once she reaches this age, vaginal blood will only be considered hayd if it is her regular menstrual colour, or if the blood is black or red and continues for a minimum of three days (Manhal al-Waridin p.166). Any other colour will be considered irregular bleeding (istihada), in which she continues her prayers and fasts, keeping in mind the rulings of istihada for purity before prayer.