First it should be clarified that women are not unclean during their menstrual periods or post-partum bleeding. They do not have to stay in separate quarters or eat from separate dishes apart from their husbands, as was the case with the ancient Jews. They can retain their normal daily interactions and intimacies with the exception of sexual intercourse, as elaborated below.
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: “In Islam we are not allowed to engage in sexual intercourse with our wives during their monthly periods. Allah says in the Qur’an, “They ask you about menstruation; say, it is ‘a kind of hurt’; so abstain from sexual intercourse with them until (their period expires and) they have purified themselves.” (Al-Baqarah: 222). This interdict from Allah applies only to sexual intercourse; this has been clearly established in the authentic Sunnah as reported in the well-attested traditions from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was once asked by one of his companions, what was permissible for a husband in te
rms of conjugal relations with his wife during her period. His reply was, “Do everything except sexual intercourse.” In other words, couples are allowed to enjoy companionship including intimate relations so long as they stay away from sexual intercourse. Therefore, all forms of legitimate sexual satisfactions other than intercourse are considered permissible. `A’ishah, the beloved wife of the Prophet, and the mother of the faithful, said, “The Prophet used to cohabit with me while I was menstruating; he would abstain only from sexual intercourse.””
Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, a prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author, states: “The correct view is that the man may be intimate with his wife when she is menstruating in all ways apart from intercourse (based on the evidence in the above Fatwa).
Many of the scholars were of the view that it is haram for a man to be intimate with his wife during her menses with regard to the area between the navel and the knees, and they quoted evidence for that, but this view has some flaws. There is a Hadith to the effect that the husband is allowed to enjoy his menstruating wife regarding the area above the waist. Abu Dawud narrated from Haram ibn Hakim that his paternal uncle asked the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), “What is permissible for me to do with my wife when she is menstruating?” He said, “Whatever is above the waist.”
According to several scholars, the Hadith is regarded as weak or not authentic. Even if the Hadith is authentic, it does not constitute evidence that this is not permissible to engage in intimacy between the navel and the knees because of the following:
1. The hadith means that it is desirable to avoid the area, not that it is obligatory to do so.
2. It may be interpreted as applying to the one who is not able to control himself, because if he is allowed to be intimate with the area between the thighs, for example, he may not be able to control himself and may have intercourse in the vagina, so he would be doing something haram, either because he is lacking in religious commitment, or because his desire is too strong. So the Hadiths that indicate that it is permissible apply to the one who can control himself, and the Hadith that indicates that it is not allowed apply to the one who fears that he may fall into haram.”