I would like to first address the issue of purity, as it seems to be
central to your feeling ‘second class’. Muslim jurists have divided impurity
into two types: ‘actual impurity’ which connotes physical impurity, and
‘technical’ impurity which connotes ritual impurity. Menstruation falls into
the category of ritual impurity. Bearing this in mind, it should be clear
that there is nothing inherently impure about the menstruating woman that
should evoke any feelings of inferiority nor does this place her in a
‘less-pure’ status when compared to men. Similar leniency is also shown
towards menstruating women with regard to exemption from fasting.
Furthermore, certain tribes during the time of the Prophet (sws) would not
eat or reside in the same houses as women who were menstruating. To counter
these notions of impurity, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said
regarding interactions with menstruating wives:
[You can] do everything [with your wives] except [for having] intercourse. (Mu’attā,
With regard to the specific issue of praying while menstruating, there is
general agreement among scholars that this is prohibited. Subsequently, the
question that arises is why one cannot simply bathe to remove the impurities
associated with menses. Part of the explanation is that unlike other forms
of impurity that are temporal, menstruation extends over a period of time.
Even in Arabic, the word for menstruation (hayd) literally means ‘running’.
Purification of a ritually impure state requires the cessation of whatever
is ‘causing’ the impurity. Hence, in this case, prayer begins again when
the menstrual flow stops.
It is also important to keep in mind that the menstruation cycle is
indicative of the blessed capacity within women for childbirth. Hence, if in
the state of menses a woman may become ritually impure, one can consider her
relative ‘purity’, in comparison to men, at the time of childbirth to be
many times greater.