Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is a once in a lifetime journey that brings a Muslim to the sacred city of Makkah and the House of Allah, yearning for an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. Before embarking, pilgrims will spend time preparing themselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually, so they are prepared for the monumental journey. For women planning to make the sacred journeys of Hajj or ‘Umrah, the intervention of their menstrual cycle can become very stressful. The question of whether it is legally permissible or even recommended to take the pill frequently comes up. According to scholars, a woman is permitted to take the pill or use other methods to delay menstruation for Hajj or ‘Umrah.
Types of Pills
There are different types of oral contraceptives available in pharmacies. One should consult a trusted medical professional for advice on which is best suited for them. They can give guidance on specific risk factors, in relation to age, existing medical conditions, and medical history.
If taken correctly, the pill can be effective in delaying the onset of menstruation (hayd) or in preventing menstrual bleeding altogether. However, there is also a strong possibility of irregularity, resulting in a woman bleeding or spotting outside of her place of habit (i.e. the days she is expected to bleed). In this situation, a woman has to be able to clearly discern whether the bleeding is hayd or irregular bleeding (istihada), as it directly impacts her ability to carry out the pilgrimage rites. It is paramount that she consult with a reliable scholar and that she have an accurate and detailed bleeding record that rulings can be based on.
Many scholars advise against the use of contraception as it interferes with a woman’s cycle and it can make it difficult to determine the correct course of action.
All of the pilgrimage rites can be performed while menstruating, except for tawaf, and in particular, the obligatory Tawaf al-Ifadah (Tawaf al-Ziyara). If a woman is unable to carry out this tawaf, her Hajj is incomplete and she must remain in the state of pilgrim sanctity (ihram). She should exert every effort to rearrange her travel so that she can fulfill the obligation of Tawaf al-Ifadah before departing from Makkah.
If her stay in Makkah cannot be extended until she becomes pure, she has the following options, in order of preference:
- Return to Makkah to offer Tawaf al-Ifadah when she can. The rules of ihram will continue to apply until this tawaf is complete.
- If returning to Makkah is not possible, she can use medication (if medically advisable) to prevent further bleeding. If taking medication, it is imperative that a woman has a firm understanding of her menstrual and purity habits as the ruling will depend on her bleeding record. If she is unsure, she should consult a scholar for guidance in this matter.
If a woman is consistent in tracking her hayd and purity (tuhr), she can use her bleeding record for planning her travel to accommodate her bleeding days even before departing for Hajj. This will ensure that she can discharge her obligatory duties before leaving Makkah.