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Ruling Related to Nifās (Postpartum Bleeding)

Imām Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn

A description of what is meant by Nifās, how to identify it, and what is necessary upon the woman experiencing it.

The Definition of Nifās

Nifās refers to the blood that is discharged from a woman following childbirth. It may also be discharged during delivery, or up to two or three days before, occurring in conjunction with labour pains.

Is Blood that Is Discharged Before Delivery Considered Nifās?

If, however, this blood is discharged three days before delivery and unaccompanied by labour pains, it is termed damm fasād or a type of ‘irregular bleeding’ and does not belong to the classification of nifās.

[Q]: How would we know whether it has occurred before delivery by two or three days? For example, there may be a woman who begins to feel labour pains and blood is discharged from her, but we do not actually know whether she will give birth in two or three days.

[A]: We do not know that assuredly. Fundamentally, she would not refrain from prayer during that period. However, we have an associated factor that should be used to overcome the strength of this foundation which is the fact that she is experiencing labour pains. This acts as an indication that the blood being discharged is that of nifās. Considering this, she should refrain from performing ṣalāh during this period. If the blood continues to be discharged for more than two days [without her giving birth], she should pray the ṣalāh of those extra days. This is because it would then have been clarified that the blood being discharged after this two-day period is not that of nifās. Rather, it is a form of irregular bleeding.

Other scholars have adopted the opinion that there is no nifās except during the delivery or thereafter. As for the blood that is observed before the delivery, even if accompanied by labour pains, it is not the blood of nifās.

Based on this opinion, women will find ease. This is because she would be able to pray and fast even in the presence of blood accompanied by labour pains. Such a thing represents no detriment to her. This is the opinion adopted by the Shāfiʿī madh`hab. I have brought attention to it due to its strength. Its reasoning is linked to the fact that she has yet to be granted relief from pregnancy, and nifās is linked to this relief.

The Types of Delivery and the Rulings of the Blood Discharged After Each

[Q]: Should all blood that is discharged following childbirth be considered the blood of nifās?

[A]: This situation has several scenarios:

  1. The blood is discharged as a drop. This will be termed the irregular bleeding, not nifās.
  2. A preterm delivery that has completed the period of at least four months. This is unanimously termed nifās, as the soul of life would have been breathed into it, and we are assured regarding it being a human being.

These two circumstances are agreed upon by the scholars. It is the situations that occur between them in which there is a difference of opinion.

  1. The delivery of a thick coagulated clot of blood. There is a difference of opinion concerning this and, according to the most famous opinion of the Ḥanbalī madh`hab, it is not considered to be menstruation or nifās.Other scholars have adopted the opinion that it should be considered nifās. Their reasoning is that the drop of semen has clearly changed its form into that which is the origin of the human being and taken on the form of blood. Thus, what has been delivered is a form of a human being.
  2. Delivery of an unformed lump of flesh. According to the most famous opinion of the Ḥanbalī madh`hab, this is not considered nifās while others claim it to be nifās. The reasoning [of this second opinion] is that blood, even when formed, may become corrupted preventing the development of a complete human being. Here, a lump of flesh has formed which gives us certainty that it is definitely a human being. Thus, this blood should be considered nifās.
  3. Delivery of a formed lump of flesh to the extent that its head, hands and legs are discernible. Most of the scholars have adopted the opinion that the blood that is discharged after this is considered nifās. This is also the most famous opinion of the Ḥanbalī madh`hab. Their reasoning is that if that which is delivered is an unformed lump, there is a possibility that it is actually coagulated blood, or a lump of flesh that is not the origin of a complete human being. Due to this possibility, the blood that is discharged after it should not be considered nifās. As nifās has specific rulings including refraining from ṣalāh and fasting, and abstaining from marital relations. These rulings should only be issued in conjunction with that which is assured. We cannot be assured in the current situation until we see that which is clearly a formed human.

The shortest period in which the creation of a human being is discernible is eighty-one days. The evidence of this is the ḥadīth of Ibn Masʿūd (رضي الله عنه): “The [foetus] spends forty days as a drop, then as a clot for a period equal to that.”1 This is eighty days, then he said: “then it becomes a lump of flesh” also for the period of forty days. The period [that represents its form as a lump of flesh], therefore, begins from eighty-one days. Hence, if delivery occurs before eighty-one days, there will be no nifās. Instead, any blood that is discharged in such a situation is considered the blood of istiḥāḍah.2

If delivery has occurred at eighty-one days, then evaluation is required to assess whether it is a formed lump or unformed. As Allāh has divided the lumps of flesh [formed during pregnancy] into formed and unformed in His saying:

مُّضْغَةٍ مُّخَلَّقَةٍ وَغَيْرِ مُخَلَّقَةٍ

“Little lump of flesh, some formed and some unformed (miscarriage).”
(Al-Ḥajj, 22:5)

Thus, it is possible for the lump of flesh to be in an unformed state.

In the majority of cases, pregnancy terms that have completed ninety days produce foetuses in which the human form is discernible. Considering this, if delivery occurs after the period of ninety days, then the blood that is discharged afterwards is considered nifās in most cases. That which is delivered after ninety days should still be assessed as to whether it has taken the form of a child and that the blood is that of nifās. As for that which is before ninety days, it requires confirmation as to its state.

Not Observing Blood During The Period of Nifās

A woman may also experience the period of nifās without the discharge of any blood, which is exceedingly rare. Should this occur, she should not refrain from ṣalāh during this period. If, for example, she gives birth at sunrise and the time for ẓuhr arrives and she is still unable to see blood, then she does not need to perform ghusl. Rather, she should simply perform wuḍūʾ and pray.

The Longest Period of Nifās

If she observes the blood of nifās lasting for a day, or two, or ten, twenty, thirty, or forty days, then it is all considered nifās. Should it exceed forty days, then it is not considered nifās according to the Ḥanbalī madh`hab. This is because, according to them, the longest period of nifās is forty days. Their evidence for this is what has been narrated from Umm Salamah (رضي الله عنها) who said: “Women experiencing nifās would refrain from ṣalāh during the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) for a period of forty days.”3 Some of the scholars have graded this ḥadīth weak, while others have graded it ḥasan, and some have graded it authentic. It is a narration that is corroborated by others which raises its grade to that of ḥasan.

There is a possibility that the meaning of this ḥadīth is that forty days is the longest period of nifās, or its meaning is that this is simply the most common.

If we consider the first interpretation, after forty days if blood is still present the woman should perform ghusl and resume praying and fasting. The only exception to this is if the ending of the forty day period coincides with the normal time for her menstruation. This is based on the opinion that the period of nifās cannot exceed forty days.

If we consider the second interpretation, the period of nifās shall continue until it reaches sixty days. This is the opinion of Mālik and al-Shāfiʿī, and a narration from Imām Aḥmad narrated by Ibn ʿAqīl. Their reasoning is that the existence of women with prolonged periods of nifās should be what is primarily considered. There are definitely women whose period of nifās extends to sixty days. This is based on the interpretation of the ḥadīth of Umm Salamah as referring to the most frequent cases. This view is supported by the fact that there are women whose nifās period extends past forty days, the nature of the blood is consistent [past the forty-day period], with the same smell, and a consistent appearance.

How could it be sensible to say, for example, a woman gives birth at twelve o’clock in the afternoon and the blood of nifās continues until twelve o’clock forty days later. Could we say: At eleven fifty-five on that fortieth day, her blood was that of nifās. Then, just ten minutes later at five after twelve on the same day the very same blood is pure? The Sunnah would not differentiate between the two without the existence of a clear, plainly evident difference.

[Q]: Could we not make a similar claim regarding the specification of sixty days as well?

[A]: This is the longest period specified by the scholars whose opinions should be considered. It has also been said: Its longest period is seventy days. However, this opinion is weak, and obscure.

The Opinion of Shaykh Ibn ʿUthaymīn (رحمه الله)

I see the correct opinion to be: If the blood continues while possessing consistent, unchanging characteristics, the period of nifās shall extend until sixty days, but should not exceed that.

Also, whichever period we adopt as being the longest—forty or sixty days—if its end coincides with the normal time of the month wherein menstruation occurs, it will be considered menstruation. For example, the end of a woman’s nifās period coincides with the start of the month. Before she became pregnant, she would normally experience her menses at the start of every month, her period lasting for six days. So, if at the end of her nifās period, she continues bleeding for six extra days we will term these six days as being menstruation rather than nifās. This is because those days have coincided with her regular cycle. Otherwise, that which exceeds the normal period of nifās should take the ruling of istiḥāḍah. As for the woman who regularly experiences istiḥāḍah, she should revert to her normal cycle to differentiate menstruation from istiḥāḍah.

So if the end of the nifās period does not coincide with the normal time for menstruation, but blood is still seen, this blood is considered irregular bleeding. As such, this woman should not leave either ṣalāh or fasting because of it.

Shortest Period of Nifās

As for the shortest possible period of nifās, it is undefined. In this way, nifās is differentiated from menstruation. This is because, according to the jurists, the shortest period of menstruation is a day and a night while nifās has no predefined shortest period.

Thus, whenever, a woman becomes pure from nifās by her no longer seeing blood post-delivery. She, then, may perform ghusl, and resume praying whether obligatory or supererogatory prayers.

Endnotes:

[1] Authentic: narrated by al-Bukhārī: 3208 and Muslim: 2643
[2] Istīāḍah: Non-menstrual bleeding whose characteristics and time differ from that of normal menstruation. See articles: Rulings Related to Istiḥāḍah (Non-Menstrual Bleeding and How Does a Woman Afflicted With Non-Menstrual Bleeding Know When to Resume Praying
[3] Ḥasan: narrated by Aḥmad: 310, Abū Dāwūd: 311 and others. Graded Ḥasan by Shaykh al-Albānī in Ṣaḥīḥ Abī Dāwūd: 329 and by Shaykh Ibn ʿUthaymīn here.

Source: Al-Sharḥ al-Mumtiʿ 1:507-512
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: July 26, 2023
Edited: July 26, 2023

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