Most women experience some bloating, cramps, and moodiness or even mood swings before or during their menstrual period. The severity of these symptoms varies from one woman to another. Properly speaking, the term “Premenstrual Syndrome” (PMS) does not refer to these normal symptoms, but only to severe, disruptive symptoms that are the result of hormonal changes. (Insufficient calcium intake can also make pre-menstrual symptoms worse.) However, the term has become popular to refer to normal symptoms related to the menstrual cycle.
Likewise, the term “menopause” is misused. Menopause is the time when a woman has ceased to menstruate, but the term is commonly used to refer to the period before the cessation of the menses. This time, which can last several years, is often marked by hormonal imbalances that cause physical symptoms (such as hot flashes) and mood swings in some women.
Cross-cultural studies have shown that women’s complaints of symptoms during this pre-menopause period vary from country to country, demonstrating that symptoms may be affected by attitude, diet, stress, or other factors.
There is no reference in Islam to PMS in its correct usage, but husbands are advised to be gentle and caring with their wives and aware of their vulnerability during their pre-menstrual time.
As far as husbands are concerned, they are urged to treat their wives with due gentleness and compassion. It is no wonder to know that the relations between the spouses should be based on tranquility, love and mercy. Allah says, “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.” (Al-Rum 30:21)
Thus, husbands should treat their wives with extra care and gentleness in all times, especially during the pre-menstrual time, as the wife passes through a difficult stage of occasional mood swings during this time, and hence men are required to be considerate of this.
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a Senior Lecturer and Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states the following: “Human nature essentially has remained unchanged throughout the course of history, and pain, suffering, afflictions, stress, etc. are all part of such nature. Nevertheless, one cannot deny the fact that the capacity of human beings to tolerate or cope with pain and suffering has varied in different periods, in accordance with various factors such as faith, attitude to life, food, life-style, etc.
Upon a cursory glance over the sources of Islam, we find no specific references in them to experiences or conditions such as pre-menstrual symptoms or menopause in the same specificity as we find them commonly referred to in the media and literature nowadays.
This is not to say that these experiences were totally unknown in the past; we can definitely surmise that it was absolutely not the case. Thus in reference to the question that the Companions had asked the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon) about menses, we find the Qur’an stating that “…it is a kind of hurt, and so leave women alone during menses; then when they have bathed themselves (after the expiration of the period), approach them in ways that God has prescribed for you.” (Al-Baqarah: 222)
The word ‘adha, as used in the above verse, in Arabic means hurt, affliction, hardship, inconvenience, etc. all of which are indicative of the conditions associated with premenstrual symtoms.
Consistent with this understanding of the nature of women and their vulnerability to mood swings during menses, Islam has relaxed the rigors of religious discipline for them during menses; hence women during menses are completely excused from the duty of prayers well as fasting (although they are required to make up for fasting later). Women while menstruating are to skip fasting because of the need of their bodies for extra nourishment in order to cope with such ‘adha.
Islam did not merely relax the rules for women during menses; it went a step further in insisting that men should take these factors into account in dealing with their wives. Thus the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered men, “Be gentle in dealing with fragile bottles!” He was thus referring to the vulnerability of women to occasional mood swings because of menses, etc.
What I said above, however, does not take away from the fact that women during the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) were endowed with a greater sense of conviction and faith than we are in
This day and age. Men and women around the Prophet were indeed more conscious of Allah and His Will than we are, and, consequently, had a greater capacity and resilience to cope with afflictions and adverse circumstances in life.
Having said this, we must still remember that the main spring from which the Companions — men and women — drank deep is still with us, namely, the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an, “Empower yourselves through patience and Prayer. It is indeed hard, except for those who are truly conscious.” (Al-Baqarah: 45)