A (Spiritual) Pondering
What is the spiritual purpose of your period? Have you ever thought about that? What about getting a regular course of abstinence from spiritual daily practice could possibly enhance your spiritual life? I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and I don’t feel like I started to have any ideas about it until I became a mother.
For a lot of my mature life, getting my period felt like a spiritual punishment of sorts. I remember vividly, one Ramadan when I was extremely stressed out studying for final exams, and anticipating their end so I could finally get to participate in the night long prayers everyone else was enjoying. Lo and behold, days prior to its expected arrival, my period arrives. I remember crying to my mother and feeling so much that Allah didn’t want me. He didn’t want me to pray with everyone else because I wasn’t good enough. Because, instead of trying to worship in these past days, I had been wasting time. I kept telling myself, oh later when exams are over I will make time for worship. It felt like Allah was telling me, if I wasn’t prepared to pray when it was hard, I didn’t deserve to pray when it was easy. My tears flowed heavily.
But, as my mother kept consoling me, a punishment is not the only way to see your period. She kept saying things like: you were really stressed, you really needed a break; your body was overwhelmed, this was its way of sorting itself out. She kept trying to assure me that it wasn’t some sort of terrible omen, but rather a planned Mercy from Allah.
And more recently I’ve heard other voices echoing this same idea. In recent lectures, speakers1Check these video out for a short explanation of how a period doesn’t mean impurity here and here have been trying to combat the idea of menstruation being linked to inherent female impurity. They speak about it as a time when a woman needs rest. Because of that reason, Allah excuses women from their religious obligations and gives them a pass. Further, because the strains on women can be heavy while many juggle responsibilities to so many, having a rest from religious obligations shows that while others might not let up in their requests, Allah, the most Merciful, will always be understanding in what He asks of His female slave.
These explanations go a long way in debunking the idea that menstruation is a punishment or sign of inherent uncleanliness. It doesn’t however, answer the question posed initially: how does menstruation facilitate a better spiritual life. Allah swt, our Creator, created us in the best fashion. As part of His divine Wisdom, He knew to create in us, women, this cycle. He also tells us that He created us so that we may worship Him2Quran 51:56: ‘And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.’. We show our devotion to Him through these acts of worship and grow our longing to meet Him in the afterlife. Most prominently, He asks to call out to Him and stand in His presence 5 times daily , but then asks us to stop doing so during this menstrual cycle which He created in us. This means, that in addition to menstruation functioning as a sign of Allah’s perfect wisdom in our physical creation, it also should reflect His wisdom in our spiritual creation.