When giving birth, women will normally experience the what-so-called as nifas. Nifas is derived from the Arabic word ‘nafisa’ meaning childbirth. In a broader context, it means post-natal bleeding which can happen before or after giving birth along with pain. If expectant mother is bleeding and feel pain but not allowed with childbirth, then it’s not nifas.
There is no minimum duration of nifas. Whereas its maximum duration according to a hadith is 40 days, as what experienced by majority of women.
عَنْ أُمِّ سَلَمَةَ، قَالَتْ كَانَتِ النُّفَسَاءُ تَجْلِسُ عَلَى عَهْدِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَرْبَعِينَ يَوْمًا فَكُنَّا نَطْلِي وُجُوهَنَا بِالْوَرْسِ مِنَ الْكَلَفِ“Umm Salamah narrated, ‘The time of waiting for nifas during the time of Allah’s Messenger was forty days. We used to cover our faces with reddish-brown Wars.’” (Tirmidhi)
This maximum duration is used as the sign for women to do ghusl (mandatory bathing), since nifas is categorized as major impurity. When the bleeding already stops before the 40th day or right on day 40, postpartum women should perform ghusl.
However, there are some different cases rarely happen. For those who do not understand or have not gone through it before, it will make them confused, particularly in deciding when to perform ghusl.
- Women stop bleeding before day 40, but then the blood is discharged again still within the 40 days for uncertain duration. If it happens, women can perform ghusl and other observances in the interval between the first bleeding and the second bleeding. It means women can perform ghusl right after the blood stops discharging for the first time. And the second opinion, if the blood is discharged and stops and then continues discharging again, is that the interval between the first and second bleeding is still counted as nifas period. Of course both opinions are right, but it will be better to take the safest one, which is the second opinion as the form of precaution.
- Women stop bleeding before day 40 and the blood is not discharge anymore. If it happens, women do not need to wait until the 40th day to perform ghusl. Even if the case is bleeding only lasts for one or two days, women can perform ghusl as long as the blood really stops discharging.
- The blood is discharged more than 40 days. If it happens, there are some possibilities. Firstly, the bleeding after day 40 is menstrual blood if it coincides with the usual menstrual period. In this case, women certainly are not allowed to do observance. Second, it can be istihaza blood, the blood which is discharged because of illness. In this case, women still have to do observance (salah, fasting, etc.) provided that they cleanse the private part everytime they are going to do prayer. Thirdly, if it is not women’s first childbirth, and in the previous childbirth the bleeding lasted for more than 40 days, then there’s nothing to worry. Women can do ghusl after the bleeding has completely stopped.
As mentioned before that nifas is a kind of major impurity, in this period women cannot do salah, fasting, tawaf, learning Qur’an, or having sexual intercourse (ijma’). That’s why when the nifas period ends, women should perform ghusl.
Ghusl is defined as full body purification perfomed after experiencing the state of major impurities, such as haiz, istihaza, nifas, or janabah. It is one of the common types of purification in Islam besides purification of soul and purification from filth.
يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَا تَقْرَبُوا۟ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَٰرَىٰ حَتَّىٰ تَعْلَمُوا۟ مَا تَقُولُونَ وَلَا جُنُبًا إِلَّا عَابِرِى سَبِيلٍ حَتَّىٰ تَغْتَسِلُوا۟ ۚ وَإِن كُنتُم مَّرْضَىٰٓ أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَآءَ أَحَدٌ مِّنكُم مِّنَ ٱلْغَآئِطِ أَوْ لَٰمَسْتُمُ ٱلنِّسَآءَ فَلَمْ تَجِدُوا۟ مَآءً فَتَيَمَّمُوا۟ صَعِيدًا طَيِّبًا فَٱمْسَحُوا۟ بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَأَيْدِيكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَفُوًّا غَفُورًا“O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying or in a state of janabah, except those passing through [a place of prayer], until you have washed [your whole body]. And if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and find no water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and your hands [with it]. Indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Forgiving.” (An-Nisa: 43)
But, how to perform ghusl after nifas? Actually it is almost the same as performing other kinds of ghusl (e.g. ghusl after haiz). The difference only lies in its intention. There are two fard in ghusl. Fard means the obligatory things to complete. When these things are skipped or forgotten, the ghusl is not valid. And the incorrect way of ghusl is one of the things that nullify mandatory bathing.
Basically we can say our niyyat of performing ghusl after nifas only in our hearts. However, there is niyyat of performing ghusl that can be recited explicitly. It will give us more vibes that we are going to do the thing we are intending for.
نَوَيْتُ الْغُسْلَ لِرَفْعِ الْحَدَثِ اْلاَكْبَرِ فَرْضًا ِللهِ تَعَالَى“I intend to perform major ablution to get rid of major impurity because of Allah ta’ala.”
- Washing the Entire Body
As ghusl is full body and complete purification, it is required to cleanse all parts of our bodies using water, for water is the main element in ghusl. There’s no part left dry. Do it slowly and carefully as even the slightest part of our bodies which is not wet will make our ghusl not accepted.
In order to gain more rewards, we can also do sunnah (mustahab) things in ghusl as following.
- Saying Bismillaah
Reciting bismillah is recommended in every single thing we are going to do. By saying it, indirectly we are asking for Allah’s protection, as indeed it is the philosophy in Bismillah.
- Washing the Right Hands up to the Wrist
Do it for three times. And after the right part is finished, move to the left part, which is the left hand up to the wrist.
- Washing the Private Part and Dirt in the Body
This is done by using the left hand. Then, cleanse the left hand by rubbing it to the soil or using water and soap.
- Performing Wudu
Wudu here is of course the one we always does before praying. In this case, still we should mind the manners of wudu, such as reciting niyyah. Also, don’t forget to rinse mouth and nose three times.
- Pouring Water over the Head Three Times
When doing this part, we need to ensure that the roots of the hair are reached by water. It is recommended to cleanse the right part of our heads first.
- Washing and Rubbing the Entire Body
As done in the previous points, prioritize the right part in washing and rubbing the body. Rubbing is done to make sure that the water can reach the entire body.
- Reciting Shahada
Since ghusl is a kind of purification, the same as wudu, we are recommended to recite shahada at the end of our ghusl.
After having a state of major impurity, and in this case is nifas, ghusl is the way to purify ourselves before doing our worship to Allah. Therefore, we should do our ghusl in careful way so that the ghusl and other observances can be accepted. And according to the discussion about how to perform ghusl after nifas above, we have the chance to gain more rewards by doing the sunnah. It is due to the importance of sunnah in Muslim life, as long as we do not leave the fard.