Are tampons permissible to use before marriage?
Menstrual blood is considered impure (najis), thus it is important that a woman makes sure her body and cloths remain free from impurities, as purity (taharah) is part of faith. Even in the time of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), women used various means in keeping themselves clean from the blood of menstruation.
In the modern era, the usage of tampons is one of the means in controlling the flow of blood to the cloths or body. A tampon is a (usually disposable) plug that a woman inserts into her vagina during her menstrual period to absorb the flow of blood. In industrial countries, some women choose not to use tampons, due to health and/or environmental concerns. Several alternate ways of absorbing menstrual fluids are available. Women in developing countries are less likely to have these choices (including tampons) available. Some women may choose not to use tampons because they fear damaging their hymen, regarded as a proof of virginity. In some cultures, the use of tampons by virgins is discouraged because of this.
As far as the Islamic perspective on using tampons for married and unmarried women is concerned, in principle it is considered to be disliked (makruh), for it is something that is inserted in the internal part of a woman’s vagina.
The renowned Hanafi jurist (faqih), Allama Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) mentions the following points in his commentary on Imam al-Barkawi’s treatise on the fiqh of menstruation, Manhal al-waridin min bihar al-faydh ala Zukhr al-muta’ahilin fi masa’il al-haydh:
1) Placing cotton (kursuf) (or anything that absorbs blood) on the opening of the vagina is recommended (mustahab),
2) Virgin women should place this at the time of menstrual periods and non-virgin women at all times, for non-virgins have discharge on a regular basis, so they should be precautions and have cotton placed there at all times,
3) It is a Sunnah for a woman to apply scent to the cotton or pad, so that the odour of the blood is removed,
4) It is offensive (makruh) to have this cotton (kursuf) inserted fully in the internal part of the vagina, because it resembles masturbation. (See: Majmu’a Rasa’il Ibn Abidin, 1/84-85)
Furthermore, two points are worth noting here:
Firstly, some experts are of the opinion that tampons have been shown to have a connection to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but sometimes fatal disease caused by bacterial infection. Hence, if that is the case, it would not be permitted for women, married or otherwise, to use tampons.
Allah Most High says:
“And make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction.” (Surah al-Baqarah, V: 195)
Based on the above verse of the Qur’an and many other evidences found in the Qur’an and Sunnah, it is prohibited for one to cause harm to one’s self or another person. Hence, if it is proven that using tampons cause harm to the woman, it would not be permitted for her to use them. This can be determined by enquiring from an expert.
Secondly, some people consider using tampons impermissible for unmarried and virgin women because they fear that the woman may not remain a virgin, which they believe to be a defect in the woman.
This, according to the Islamic understanding, is incorrect. The hymen of a woman may be broken in many ways: Injury, accident, playing sports, riding a bicycle, penetration of any sort such as a medical examination, use of tampons, or a douche. Thus, Islam commands the husband not to suspect any wrongdoing on behalf of his spouse if he were to see her not being a virgin. A woman must not be looked down upon because of having lost her virginity.
In fact, the jurists (fuqaha) state that a woman whose hymen is broken due to other than having actual sex is Islamically considered to be a virgin. Imam al-Mawsili (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“If a woman lost her virginity due to jumping, injury, becoming old or (strong) menstrual periods, then she will be considered a virgin.” (al-Ikhtiyar li ta’lil al-Mukhtar, 3/116)
Therefore, purely based on the fact that a woman may not remain a virgin, it would not be unlawful for a virgin woman to use tampons. In some cultures, women are greatly looked down upon or even harmed and oppressed by the husband if she lost her virginity. This is totally unIslamic and a major sin, from which we must abstain. We must also educate members of our communities that it is wrong and sinful to suspect any wrongdoing on behalf of the woman, for Islam orders us to always have good opinion about others. In fact, even if a woman lost her virginity through unlawful sexual intercourse and then repented, it would not be permitted to think low of her. After all, what guarantee is there that the man is a virgin?
Having said that, it may be better for unmarried women to avoid using tampons due to the negative implications it can bring about upon marriage. However, it cannot be considered unlawful purely based on this reason.
In conclusion, married and unmarried women should avoid using tampons, for firstly, it is something that is inserted internally, and secondly, using a tampon may be harmful to one’s health or at the least unhygienic, and thirdly, for unmarried women, using tampons and breaking of the hymen may (though unfortunate) cause problems after marriage. This is when it is not proven that tampons cause severe harm to the woman. However, as mentioned above, if it is proven that using tampons is harmful to the woman’s health, it would not be permitted to use them.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK