By : Nur Ahmad, M.A.

In Islam, talking about health, cleanliness, purity, safety, and human reproductive sustainability, including talking about sexuality is actually not a strange thing. That is the conclusion after reading some Quranic verses and also studying the books of Hadith, tafsir, and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). One of them can be traced from the verses which expound about the most central issue related to reproductive health that is menstruation and anything surrounds it, also explanation about the domestic ethics and Allah’s praise to His servants who maintain the cleanliness / health of the heart with repentance and the cleanliness / physical purity with purification. Those verses are: 

Meaning:  

And they ask you (Muhammad) about menstruation. Say, “It is harm, so keep away from wives (from sexual intercourse with her) during menstruation. And do not approach them until they are pure And when they have purified themselves (taking obligatory bath)., then come to them from where Allah has ordained for you. Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves. Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves. And fear Allah and know that you will meet Him. And give good tidings to the believers”. (QS. Al-Baqarah, 2: 222-223). 

The context of the above verse is answering the question of the companions of the Prophet about what is permissible and what is not when a female has menstruation and also the condition experienced by menstrual woman. From that verse, it can be understood that the men (husbands) should play an active role in maintaining the cleanliness / purity, health, and comfort of the women (especially in active menstrual age) so that the experience of menstruation will not become a burden, both physically and psychologically, and also sexually, rather it becomes a benefit or brings a wisdom for life in its various forms. Through the revelation of the above verse, the view of the Jews that the menstrual wife should be avoided is corrected (Kathir, 2003). Also the verse straightens that sexual intercourse from behind (anal sex) in the view of the Jews would cause the born baby has cockeyed (ahwal) at that time. The debate among the women of Anshar (Medinan citizens) happened responding this issue and they behaved incorrectly when their husbands were going to come o them from behind based on that wrong view so that this verse was revealed to straighten it. (al-Wahidi 2009) .

Dealing with the above verse narrated by Imam Ahmad from Anas bin Malik that the wives of the Jews when as they were menstruating, were not invited to eat and to communicate or to gather in the house. So the above verse was revealed giving wise guidance. The verse also explains about the permissibility of having pleasure (mubasharat) between husband and wife, as long as not having sexual intercourse that is avoiding it (until the wife has been pure by taking obligatory bathing) as said by the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, .. “Ishna’u kulla syai’in illa al-nikah” [do everything, for husband and wife, except sexual intercourse] (HR. Muslim). Even in the narration of ‘Aishah R.A., she said: “Kana Rasulullahi ya’muruni fa’attaziru fa yubaasyirunii wa ana ha’idhun (the Prophet told me to cover myself with cloth then he pleasured me by touching his body to my body, when I was menstruating). HR. Muttafaq ‘alaih (Bukhari and Muslim). 

Similarly, Allah The Almighty makes criteria for His servants who believe and want to achieve successful (al-muflihun)—besides those who are during their prayer humbly submissive (khushu’), those who turn away from ill speech—are those who are observant of zakah, who guard the cleanliness / purity of private parts (from impure thing and impure action), and those who keep their trust, oath and pledge. Those are who will inherit the al-Firdaus (see QS. al-Mukminun, 23: 1-11). Clearly and firmly, Allah mentions the word “furuj” which is often interpreted as genitals or sex, either for women or men. Thereby, the Qur’an obviously puts big attention to the cleanliness and purity.  

Not only the Quran, such explanation also can be found in the book of Sahih Muslim by Imam Muslim (d. 261 AH), the Book firstly talks about the Faith and then about purification [ablution, bathing, menstruation, tayammum, and so on] (al-Naisaburi 2003). A little different from the previous book, the Book of Sahih al-Bukhari by Imam al-Bukhari (d. 256 AH) starts explaining about the revelation, faith, knowledge, and then about purification (al-Bukhari 2004). The more obvious one is the Kitab Bulugh al-Maram min Jam’i Adillati al-Ahkam written by Imam Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852 H) which becomes the main reference in studying the Hadith of Islamic law. Interestingly, the Book starts explaining about Kitab al-Thaharah (purification) before discussing about prayer, corpse, zakat, fasting, pilgrimage, and so on (al-‘Asqalani 2002). Similarly, it can be found in the books of fiqh, such as al-Fiqh ‘ala al-Madzahib al-Arba’ah the works of Abdurrahman al-Jaziri, Kitab Fiqhus-Sunnah by Sayyid Sabiq.

All the above explanations show that anything related to ablution, purification, and sanctification is considered as the main principle in Islam before implementing other obligatory (mahdhah) religious practices. At least purification is studied after discussing about faith and knowledge in general, before learning about prayer, fasting, and so on. It is because prayer which becomes the main pillar of religion will not be accepted by God, as it is conducted by anyone who does not purify himself yet (by taking self-purification practices when they are impure (hadath); those are istinjak / cleaning oneself with water, washing, ablution, obligatory bathing, and tayammum / ablution using sand or dust correctly). 

Therefore, it seems to be strange if there is anyone who says that talking about something related to reproductive health (although in reasonable proportion and context) is considered as taboo, which is not worth to be talked. Often, a communication between parents and children will be cut off when the conversation has pertained the matters related to the reproductive organs. The same thing happens in formal educational institutions, schools and such. Whereas the discussion or talks (read: education) about health and reproductive rights is actually very human and very necessary for the goodness or benefit of human beings themselves, both at the level of individual, family, or social. It is inherent in human life since birth, infant, kid, adult, and so on. Yet, it should be in accordance with measure and context. Principally, talking about reproductive health (and something related to it) is part of the benefit of religion or in order to achieve a higher benefit, both in religion and world affairs. In this context it is in accordance with the principle of jurisprudence that is maa laa yatimmu al-wujuub illaa bihi fa huwa waajibun (something which causes an obligation imperfect without it then it also becomes obligatory) and Maa laa yudraku kulluhu laa  yutraku kulluhu (whatever which cannot be entirely carried out are not supposed to be entirely abandoned). 

The following Hadiths can be used as the argument to confirm that talking about health and reproductive rights proportionately is permissible and justified. Those some traditions among others are:

  1. The Prophet taught us about the cleanliness / sexual and reproductive health with a smooth and polite language as well as measurable as stated in the following Hadith:

وَعَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ – رضي الله عنه – قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – إِذَا جَلَسَ بَيْنَ شُعَبِهَا اَلْأَرْبَعِ, ثُمَّ جَهَدَهَا, فَقَدْ وَجَبَ اَلْغُسْلُ – مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْه ِ  . زَادَ مُسْلِمٌ: “وَإِنْ لَمْ يُنْزِلْ “

Meaning

From Abu Hurairah R.A., narrated: that Rasulullah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “If someone plays over four branches (hands and feet) and has been serious on her, he has to take obligatory bathing.” (HR. Muttafaq alihi). Imam Muslim added: “although without seminal discharge”. (See Bulugh al-Maram, Hadith no. 116 and 117). 

  1. The Prophet would hear any questions or complaints of his companions, nephew and also his son in law regarding the man who always emits madhi.

وَعَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ أَبِي طَالِبٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ : كُنْت رَجُلًا مَذَّاءً فَأَمَرْت الْمِقْدَادَ أَنْ يَسْأَلَ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، فَسَأَلَهُ : فَقَالَ : فِيهِ الْوُضُوءُ . مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْهِ ، وَاللَّفْظُ لِلْبُخَارِيِّ .

Meaning

From Ali ibn Abi Talib R.A., said: I am the one who frequently emits my madhi and I asked al-Miqdad to ask the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, then he asked him, “is it required for someone to take ablution if he emits a madhi?”. The prophet replied: “It is necessary to take ablution”. (HR. Muttafaq ‘alaih with the words of al-Bukhari, see Ibn Hajar, Bulughul-maram, Hadith no. 63, p. 26; see also al-Shan’ani, Subulus-salam, Sharah Bulughul-maram, part 1, p. 89). 

Madhi is is a sticky white fluid that is emitted when a person is thinking of or desiring intercourse. Its emission is not accompanied by feelings of pleasure, it does not gush out in spurts, and it is not followed by exhaustion. This may happen to men and women alike, although it is more common among women.” (see Sayyid Sabiq, Fiqh Sunnah, part 1, p. 48).

  1. The Prophet SAW listened to the questions and complaints of women about sexual and reproductive health: 

وَعَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا قَالَتْ : { جَاءَتْ فَاطِمَةُ بِنْتُ أَبِي حُبَيْشٍ إلَى النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، فَقَالَتْ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ، إنِّي امْرَأَةٌ أُسْتَحَاضُ فَلَا أَطْهُرُ ، أَفَأَدَعُ الصَّلَاةَ ؟ قَالَ : لَا إنَّمَا ذَلِكِ عِرْقٌ ، وَلَيْسَ بِحَيْضٍ : فَإِذَا أَقْبَلَتْ حَيْضَتُك فَدَعِي الصَّلَاةَ ، وَإِذَا أَدْبَرَتْ فَاغْسِلِي عَنْك الدَّمَ ثُمَّ صَلِّي } – وَلِلْبُخَارِيِّ ” ثُمَّ تَوَضَّئِي لِكُلِّ صَلَاةٍ ” وَأَشَارَ مُسْلِمٌ إلَى أَنَّهُ حَذَفَهَا عَمْدًا .

Meaning

From ‘Aishah R.A., narrated: Fatimah bintu Abi Hubaisy came to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, then asked: “O Rasulallah, really I am a woman who has istihadhah [non-menstrual vaginal bleeding] so that I am not pure. Do I have to leave the prayer?”. The Prophet answered: No, (istihadhah) it is just a fluid like sweat, not menstruation. If your menstruation comes, leave the prayer. If it quits, wash your menstrual blood (take a bath till clean) then do a prayer”. And in the words of al-Bukhari: “Then take ablution (if the blood of istihadhah comes) for each prayer. (HR. Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and Nasa’i). 

  1. The Prophet answered the question of the companion about the law of touching genitals whether abrogating wudhu (ablution) or not . 

وَعَنْ طَلْقِ بْنِ عَلِيٍّ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ : { قَالَ رَجُلٌ مَسِسْت ذَكَرِي ، أَوْ قَالَ : الرَّجُلُ يَمَسُّ ذَكَرَهُ فِي الصَّلَاةِ ، أَعَلَيْهِ الْوُضُوءُ ؟ فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لَا ، إنَّمَا هُوَ بَضْعَةٌ مِنْك } أَخْرَجَهُ الْخَمْسَةُ ، وَصَحَّحَهُ ابْنُ حِبَّانَ ، وَقَالَ ابْنُ الْمَدِينِيِّ : هُوَ أَحْسَنُ مِنْ حَدِيثِ بُسْرَةَ .

Meaning

From Thalq ibn ‘Ali R.A., narrated: There was a man who said: “I have touched my genitals” or he said: “There is a man touching his genitals in prayer. Is it required for him to take ablution?”. Then the Prophet replied: “No, because it is only your own flesh”. (HR, the Five Imams of Hadith, those are Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and Ahmad), validated by Ibn Hibban. Ali ibn al-Madini said that this Hadith is better than the Hadith narrated by Busrah. (See al-‘Asqalani, Bulughul-Maram, Hadith no. 66). Imam al-Shan’ani explained that the Hadith was also narrated by Imam Ahmad, Imam al-Daruquthni. According to al-Thahawi, the chain of narration (sanad) is mustaqim ghaira mudhtarib (righteous without defect). Imam a-Thabrani and Imam Ibn Hazm appraised it Sahih. (see al-Shan’ani, part 1, p. 92)

Also the following Hadith: 

وَعَنْ بُسْرَةَ بِنْتِ صَفْوَانَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ : { مَنْ مَسَّ ذَكَرَهُ فَلْيَتَوَضَّأْ } أَخْرَجَهُ الْخَمْسَةُ ، وَصَحَّحَهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ وَابْنُ حِبَّانَ ، وَقَالَ الْبُخَارِيُّ : هُوَ أَصَحُّ شَيْءٍ فِي هَذَا الْبَابِ

Meaning

From Busrah binti Shafwan R.A., that Rasulullah, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Anyone who touches his genitals let him take ablution”. (HR, the five Imam, certified by al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Hibbaan, and Imam Bukhari said that this Hadith was the most authentic in this chapter). 

The last two mentioned Hadith above seem contradictory. The first Hadith does not command to take ablution, while the second Hadith commands it. Therefore there is someone who appraises that the Hadith of Busrah (the second Hadith) has been abrogated, mansukh or its law was abolished. However, some Ulama use the integration method (thariqatul-jam’i) between the two, so while the Ulama like Imam Malik concluded that touching genitals does not abrogate ablution, but it’s better to take ablution again. It means recommended (mandub) to take ablution, but not required. (See al-Shan’ani, p. 93-94).

  1. The Prophet explained about the obligation for women who dream to take obligatory bathing as stated in the following Hadith:

عَنْ أُمِّ سَلَمَةَ; أَنَّ أُمَّ سُلَيْمٍ -وَهِيَ اِمْرَأَةُ أَبِي طَلْحَةَ- قَالَتْ: – يَا رَسُولَ اَللَّهِ! إِنَّ اَللَّهَ لَا يَسْتَحِي مِنْ اَلْحَقِّ, فَهَلْ عَلَى اَلْمَرْأَةِ اَلْغُسْلُ إِذَا اِحْتَلَمَتْ? قَالَ: “نَعَمْ. إِذَا رَأَتِ الْمَاءَ” – اَلْحَدِيثَ. مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْه ِ .

Meaning

From Ummi Salamah that Ummu Sulaim, the wife of Abu Talhah, said: “O the Apostle of Allah, indeed Allah The Almighty is not embarrassed for the matters of truth. Is it obligatory to take a bath for women, if they dream (for seminal discharge)?”. Rasulullah replied:” Yes, if they see it (semen)”. (HR. Muttafaq ‘alaihi). 

The above Hadith is similar to the following Hadith: 

وَعَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ – رضي الله عنه – قَالَ: – قَالَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – فِي اَلْمَرْأَةِ تَرَى فِي مَنَامِهَا مَا يَرَى اَلرَّجُلُ- قَالَ: “تَغْتَسِلُ” – مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْه ِ  .زَادَ مُسْلِمٌ: فَقَالَتْ أُمُّ سُلَيْم ٍ – وَهَلْ يَكُونُ هَذَا? قَالَ: “نَعَمْ فَمِنْ أَيْنَ يَكُونُ اَلشَّبَهُ? –  .

Meaning

From Anas bin Malik R.A., narrated: Rasulullah, peace and blessings be upon him, said about woman who dreams in her sleep like the man’s dream, “She has to take obligatory bathing” (HR. Muttafaq ‘alaihi). Imam Muslim added that Ummu Sulaim said: “How could that happen?” The Prophet replied: “Yes, if not, then from where similarity occurs (a child with his mother). 

  1. The Prophet taught us about the procedure of bathing and then ‘Aishah R.A., the mother of believers, explained it to other companions as the following Hadith: 

وَعَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اَللَّهُ عَنْهَا قَالَتْ: – كَانَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – إِذَا اِغْتَسَلَ مِنْ اَلْجَنَابَةِ يَبْدَأُ فَيَغْسِلُ يَدَيْهِ, ثُمَّ يُفْرِغُ بِيَمِينِهِ عَلَى شِمَالِهِ, فَيَغْسِلُ فَرْجَهُ, ثُمَّ يَتَوَضَّأُ, ثُمَّ يَأْخُذُ اَلْمَاءَ, فَيُدْخِلُ أَصَابِعَهُ فِي أُصُولِ اَلشَّعْرِ, ثُمَّ حَفَنَ عَلَى رَأْسِهِ ثَلَاثَ حَفَنَاتٍ, ثُمَّ أَفَاضَ عَلَى سَائِرِ جَسَدِهِ, ثُمَّ غَسَلَ رِجْلَيْهِ – مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْهِ, وَاللَّفْظُ لِمُسْلِم ٍ .

Meaning

From ‘Aishah R.A., the Apostle of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said anyone who takes an obligatory bathing (janabat ) should start by washing his two hands, then pouring the water with his right hand to his left hand and then washing his genitals, then take ablution (as usual), then take the water and insert his fingers to the base of the hairs, then he pours over his head three times pouring, then he flushes his entire body (till clean) and then wash his feet. (HR. Muttafaq ‘alaih, Muslim’s words). 

  1. The Prophet explained about the procedure to purify the semen on clothing through ‘Aishah, his wife: 

وَعَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اَللَّهُ عَنْهَا, قَالَتْ: – كَانَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – يَغْسِلُ اَلْمَنِيَّ, ثُمَّ يَخْرُجُ إِلَى اَلصَّلَاةِ فِي ذَلِكَ اَلثَّوْبِ, وَأَنَا أَنْظُرُ إِلَى أَثَرِ اَلْغُسْلِ فِيهِ – مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْه ِ 

Meaning

From ‘Aishah R.A., said: “The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, washes semen (on clothes). Then he comes out to the place of prayer by wearing that clothes. And I see the trace of washing on that clothes. “(HR. Muttafaq ‘alaih).

  1. The Prophet explained about the procedure to purify the trace of menstrual blood to Asma’ bint Abi Bakr R.A., brother-in-law of the Prophet from ‘Aisha R.A., as stated as follows:

وَعَنْ أَسْمَاءَ بِنْتِ أَبِي بَكْرٍ رَضِيَ اَللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا; أَنَّ اَلنَّبِيَّ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – قَالَ -فِي دَمِ اَلْحَيْضِ يُصِيبُ اَلثَّوْبَ-: – “تَحُتُّهُ, ثُمَّ تَقْرُصُهُ بِالْمَاءِ, ثُمَّ تَنْضَحُهُ, ثُمَّ تُصَلِّي فِيهِ” – مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْه ِ (2) .

Meaning

From Asma’ bint Abi Bakar R.A., that indeed the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said about (purifying) menstrual blood on the clothes: “(Let) her wipes that blood, then she scrubs with water, then she washes it, then she takes a prayer by wearing that clothes”. (HR. Muttafaq ‘alaihi). 

From a numbers of companions’ experiences stated in the aforementioned Hadith, it can be understood that Rasulullah is the teacher and true learner for his wives, companions, sons in law, women who dare to ask or those who are shy. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, often shared his knowledge to all the people who want to get an explanation about something. He often asked to discuss lightly or made metaphor in order to be easily understood to clarify something. The model of education or learning carried out by the Prophet to his companions is considered as interactive education, dialogical, and based on one’s experience. It is then possibly regarded as the method of learning or adult education or learning with colleagues.  

At pesantren (Islamic boarding house) and madrasah or Majlis for teaching, indeed the learning about sexual and reproductive health could be conducted in the sense of thaharah learning and so on. Still, it must be ensured to be carried out wisely, by looking at whom we ask to learn, the context of the problem, and surely in accordance with the materials of learning. With dialogical method or telling story on experiences, and also discussing, it is expected that the issues of sexual and reproductive health can be taught properly and effectively. 

Spreading knowledge as an enlightenment of civilization can be realized. Yet it is supposed to avoid or prevent negative impacts / excesses, especially if the methods and materials are not appropriate. This issues should not only be understood among the people of Islamic boarding school / madrasah, even every father or mother needs to know this issue related to thaharah (purification) and also reproductive health in order that the children are able to consult and share this issue securely, including the students (before they get wrong information from irresponsible sources). 

That is a short writing as an opening discourse and dialogue on reproductive health education or learning. Hopefully it is useful. Allahu a’lam bish-shawab. {}

*) The writer is Board Member of the Association of Rahima and lecturer of Islamic Studies at STIE AD Jakarta 

 

 

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