BĪNAMĀZĪ, NPers. “the state of being without prayer,” term for the state of a menstruant woman.
All bodily discharges are regarded by Zoroastrians as violations of the wholeness of the person, therefore the result of evil and ritually unclean; bloodshed is worse still, and menses, called a “mark” or “stain” (Av. čiθravaitī-, daxštā- “menstruant”; Pahl. daštān, Arm. daštan) is regarded as a periodic illness caused by Ahriman (Bundahišn , TD2, p. 40.12-14; text and tr. in Zaehner, pp. 355-59). In Zādspram 34.31, Jēh-dēw, the demon Whore, is appointed by Ahriman for the defilement of females (āhōgēnīdan ī mādagān; see Zaehner, pp. 350-51). A woman in menses is subject to severe restrictions.
In the traditional Zoroastrian community of Šarīfābād-e Yazd, Iran, the bīnamāz woman is so called because she must remove sudra and kustī and may not pray. This is in contradiction to the Persian Rivayats (tr. Dhabhar, p. 214), which require that she tie the kustī seven times a day. She must withdraw to a place, usually a small, dark hut (Pahl. daštānistān, Arm. daštanatun) where her glance cannot strike, and thereby pollute, the seven sacred creations of Ahura Mazdā. It must be fifteen paces from fire, water, and places of prayer; and three from places frequented by men. To have sex with a menstruant woman is one of the gravest sins a man can commit (Vd. 18 sets out terms of expiation). Despite the grim exactions of the observance, a girl’s first menses is celebrated by her family as marking her entrance into womanhood; and there is no sense of guilt or original sin attaching to women, who are regarded as afflicted by Ahriman, as are even all the righteous in this age of Mixture (Gumēzišn).
The bīnamāz wears old, plain clothes and removes all adornments as soon as her period begins, lest they become permanently impure. She is allowed less food than usual—and no delicacies—and this is served in metal plates and taken with a metal spoon: other materials are porous and subject to pollution. She should wash with nīrang (consecrated bull’s urine)
before eating, and is enjoined to wear special gloves. Any work she does while in confinement is washed with gōmēz (unconsecrated bull’s urine) or with water from a bowl (not a running stream) before it can be used; so, also, are her garments for the period cleansed. Although Iranians wash thrice with water, the Rivayats forbid touching water for washing or letting even raindrops touch one in bīnamāzī.
The least period of bīnamāzī is three days, after which Iranians relax the rules of isolation somewhat. The period ends after a maximum of nine days, but normally seven. The menstrual flow must not be artificially stopped, and if it continues beyond nine days medical help is to be sought. One day after the day of the cessation of issue, the bīnamāz woman should wash with gōmēz and water over three magas (holes, from the barašnom ritual). If a woman has violated the rules of confinement, she is to pay for the performance of the ritual dvāzdah hamāst (twelve recitations of the Vīdēvdād, the Avestan text which treats of menstruation and purification in the greatest detail). Observance of the rules of bīnamāzī take precedence over other religious obligations: even if the menses begins when a woman is about to prepare a communal religious feast (gāhāmbār), she must withdraw, leaving the task to friends and neighbors. Iranian women sometimes forego traveling to a shrine of pilgrimage, lest their menses begin there and a grave sin of defilement be committed, thereby. But at the age when menstruation ends, some women will undergo the barašnom-e nō šab and spend the rest of their lives in absolute ritual purity, sometimes being appointed the caretakers of minor shrines.
In Bombay, pious Parsi Zoroastrian women of this writer’s acquaintance will sleep on a metal cot apart from the family when menstruating; they eat out of metal vessels, sit on a special metal stool, and do not go to work. One remarked to me that the time was a rest from her hard life as a mother and housewife with a job downtown besides. Many urban Parsis have greatly reduced or abandoned the restrictions of menses.
Boyce, Stronghold, pp. 100-07.
J. J. Modi, The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees, 2nd ed., Bombay, 1937, pp. 161-66.
Persian Rivayats, tr. Dhabhar, pp. 211ff.
Šāyest nē šāyest, tr. Tavadia, chap. 3. Vīdēvdād, chaps, 16, 18.
R. C. Zaehner, Zurvan. A Zoroastrian Dilemma, Oxford, 1955.
(James R. Russell)
In Islam the performance of ritual prayer (namāz) and certain other devotional acts are forbidden during bīnamāzī, the state or period of menstrual discharge (Ar. ḥayż). The only Koranic reference to the subject is found in 2:222, where menstruation is described as aḏan (lit. “harm”), a word understood to mean impurity in this context, and men are forbidden intercourse with their menstruating wives.
Under the general rubric of ritual purity (ṭahāra) Islamic jurisprudence has given considerable attention to various aspects of menstruation, usually in conjunction with two other types of discharge—esteḥāża (all forms of metrorrhagia other than menstruation) and nefās (lochial bleeding)—the three together being known as al-demāʾ al-ṯalāṯa (the three bloods).
The different schools of Islamic law are in broad agreement on most matters pertaining to menstruation. The earliest age at which menstruation can begin is generally held to be nine, and some Shiʿite authorities (e.g., Ḵomeynī, 1359, p. 46) even specify that if a girl thought to be younger experiences a discharge exhibiting the characteristics of menstruation she must in fact have passed her ninth birthday. Shafeʿites allow for the possibility that menstruation may begin as early as seven. The age of menopause is set by Hanafites at 55 and left judiciously undetermined by Shafeʿites. Certain Shiʿite scholars (e.g., Ḵomeynī, 1359, p. 46) make a curious distinction between women that are sayyeds (descendants of the Prophet) and those that are not, fixing menopause for the former at sixty and for the latter at fifty (for a similar distinction between Qorayšī and non-Qorayšī women see Ḥellī, I, p. 29). The minimum length of menstrual discharge is said to be three consecutive days and the maximum, ten days; any metrorrhagia lasting between three and ten days is presumed to be menstrual, except in the case of a prepubescent girl or a woman (known technically as āʾesa or yāʾesa) who has reached menopause. Bleeding that persists beyond ten days is reclassified on the eleventh day as esteḥāża. Despite the apparent rigidity, not to say artificiality, of these attempts at legally defining a biological phenomenon, some provision is made for irregularities in the beginning and duration of the menstrual period.
Menstruating women cannot perform any ritual prayers that require ablution, and the onset of menstruation while performing a prayer invalidates it. They may, however, engage in prayers, such as the funerary prayer (namāz-e janāza), that do not require ablution. Shiʿite writers recommend that at the time of prayer a menstruating woman should cleanse herself of blood, perform the minor ablution (wożūʾ), and sit where she customarily performs her prayers, facing the qebla and reciting various forms of supplication (monājāt) and petitionary prayer (doʿā; Ḥellī, I, p. 30). Her recitations must not, however, include any Koranic verses or even fragments thereof, because—as all schools agree—a menstruating woman must not touch a written copy of the Koran or recite any part of it. She is similarly barred from fasting; all days of the obligatory fast of Ramażān missed during menstruation must be made up later. Finally, a menstruating woman is forbidden to enter a mosque or to engage in ṭawāf (circumambulation of the Kaʿba),
Vaginal intercourse with a menstruating woman is forbidden; violation of this prohibition necessitates atonement on the part of the husband through an act of charity. Shiʿite feqh designates anal intercourse with a menstruating woman as extremely reprehensible but stops short of prohibiting it and does not call for atonement by the one who engages in it (Ḵomeynī, 1359, pp. 47-48). At the end of the menstrual period, the woman must perform a complete ablution (ḡosl) identical to that necessitated by sexual intercourse; it must, however, be preceded by a minor ablution, which is not the case with the ḡosl that follows intercourse. The complete ablution is mandatory for the resumption of prayer and other ritual acts, but not for the renewal of marital relations.
Finally, the end of the menstrual period marks the beginning of the waiting time (ʿedda) that must elapse before a divorced or widowed woman can remarry.
For a summary of Sunni regulations, see ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jazīrī, al-Feqh ʿala’l-maḏāheb al-arbaʿa, Cairo, n.d., I, pp. 123-30.
Shiʿite sources: Shaikh Jaʿfar b. Ḥasan Moḥaqqeq Ḥellī, Šarāʾeʿ al-Eslām fī masāʾel al-ḥalāl wa’l-ḥarām, Najaf, 1389/1969; Ṣādeq Ḵalḵālī, al-Demāʾ al-ṯalāṯa, Qom, 1403/1983, pp. 1-239 (based on lectures given by Ayatollah Ḵomeynī in October, 1956); Shaikh Jaʿfar Najafī Kāšef al-Ḡeṭāʾ, Kašf al-eltebās bayn at-ḥayż wa’l-esteḥāża, ms. University Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles, M 93/1; Ayatollah Rūḥ-Allah Ḵomeynī, Resāla-ye aḥkām, ed. Ayatollah Reżwānī, Qom, 1359 Š./1980; idem, Taḥrīr al-wasīla, 2nd ed., Najaf, 1390/1970, I, pp. 44-56; Shaikh Moḥammad-Kāẓem Ḵorāsānī, “Resāla fi’l-demāʾ al-ṯalāṯa,” in Qaṭarāt men yarāʿ baḥr al-ʿolūm aw šaḏarāt men ʿeqdehā al-manẓūm, Baghdad, 1331/1913; Shaikh Moḥammad-Kāẓem Ṭabāṭabāʾī Yazdī, al-ʿOrwa al-woṯqā, 2nd ed., Tehran, 1392/1972, pp. 99-109.
(James R. Russell, Hamid Algar)
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: December 15, 1989
This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 3, pp. 262-263