I am still hiccupping over the issue of menstruation and worship. I know I’ve been through it a lot before, but I still can’t seem to arrive at an opinion. It’s an issue that exemplifies my struggles with religion in general and begs the general question: WHY IS IT NOT IN THE QURAN?
Firstly, it bothers me that women might have to miss out on praying and also potentially on things like the last 10 days of Ramadan and Eid prayers etc. Why does the Quran bend over backwards to allow people to pray even when they can’t find water to wash with? Presumably because it is important. So why should it be OK for women to miss out on this? If you say that women can maintain a connection to God through dhikr and dua, my question would be, what’s the difference then? What is it about salaah that requires cleanliness? Why is salaah important anyway if we can have a connection to God through dhikr and dua? Perhaps it isn’t important… after all, from the Quranic perspective, people of other faiths can go to heaven and they don’t do salaah the same way. A connection to God seems to be important.
Secondly, and onto my main question, for me to believe salaah is out during menstruation, I have to understand why it’s not in the Quran. This ties in with the question about why it’s addressed mostly to men, although I will not address that in this post. I suppose you could say that the Quran doesn’t specify everything, for example it doesn’t say you must clean yourself with water when going to the toilet. After all the whole premise behind the menstruation thing – notwithstanding some people who try to say that it is about “hardship” – is that such waste makes you unclean, which ostensibly includes menstrual blood. Actually I agree that it is unclean, but I’m not entirely convinced that washing with water after using the toilet is necessary anyway.
Is it possible that all of the hadiths about cleanliness and menstruation are inauthentic? Along with all the other hadiths involving things that aren’t in the Quran, like the evil eye? I know it is only a small minority of Muslims that would be willing to consider the possibility that these things did not really happen. And I don’t know the history of hadiths well enough to know whether I think it is a possibility. But if these things did happen – if there were concepts and rules established beyond the scope of the Quran – I find this very perplexing. Presumably Muhammad’s sayings were not revelation experiences otherwise they would have gone into the Quran. So how could he be sure that he was right? Either the hadiths are painting an inaccurate picture, or he really was (rightfully or wrongfully) confident about making extra-revelatory judgments. If he was wrongfully confident, then this would seem to suggest he wasn’t really a prophet and so even the Quran is not from God. But if that were the case and he was making the whole thing up, probably he would have put those extra rules in the Quran too. The only possibilities left, if one accepts the Quran, are: (1) the hadiths giving extra rulings beyond the scope of the Quran are inauthentic, or (2) he was rightfully confident about making those extra rulings; perhaps they were revelations of a different kind. Even if (2) is true, I have some doubt about whether God would want to subject important messages to the hadith transmission mechanism which is undeniably flawed. It could only work in the form of verbatim oral recitations (or written scriptures) that were viewed as the words of God and so would be respected and transmitted with the utmost fidelity. For example I don’t think all the details of salaah are laid out in the Quran because I don’t think they matter. I don’t think there is just one way to do it.
Or perhaps the things that come from hadiths are things that were pre-existing. Ritual uncleanliness during menstruation is an example off the top of my head of things that were pre-existing and are not specified in Quran. Maybe they were pre-existing things that were allowed to continue. Or maybe they didn’t happen but they later spuriously found their way into hadiths because they were long-standing traditions.
In summary, I can’t seem to even practise the pillars of Islam without getting stuck on the question: why do we have hadiths that add rules on top of what’s in the Quran. Believing such rules are not that important, through one argument or another, seems to be the way I’m going. I am fully aware that this is a lonely road to take.