As-Salamu `alaykum. I am middle aged and approaching menopause. My periods are very irregular in every way— when they come, how long they last, how heavy the flow is, the color of the blood. Sometimes, I start to have bleeding and it appears to be menstrual (brown or pink) so I stop praying and fasting. Then nothing more comes. A few times when this happened, it was 48 hours before more blood appeared. So last month when some blood appeared, I waited 48 hours before I made ghusl and prayed again, though nothing had come out during that time. Then again on the first day of Ramadan, at Zhuhr time it looked like I was starting a period so I broke my fast and didn’t pray. I also didn’t fast the second day, thinking that I had started a period and more would come, but there was nothing. I didn’t want to wait 48 hours again, so I made ghusl and prayed `Isha’. The things I have read on fiqh don’t seem to quite answer my questions: How long should I wait before I start to pray (and fast) again when I have some menstrual-looking bleeding (if nothing more appears)? Do I have to make up the missed prayers when I wait to see if I’m “really” having a period?
It is clear that you are experiencing a menopausal stage, and in this case you can simply refrain from Prayer and fasting only when you experience menstruation. After the menstrual blood stops, you should resume Prayer and fasting after making ghusl.
In responding to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
The general principle in Fiqh is to go by the regular pattern you had in your early days unless it is the same in color and texture as menses, in which case, you are to observe a maximum of fifteen days as days of menses.
But it seems in your case that you are in a menopausal stage and the pattern is all disrupted, you simply refrain from Prayer and fasting only when you experience menstruation; as soon as it stops, you should resume Prayer and fasting after proper ghusl.
If, on the other hand, your bleeding has nothing to do with menses, then it is considered istihadah (which is abnormal bleeding).
The rules of istihadah are different from that of hayd (menstruation). In the case of istihadah, you must stay away from Prayer and fasting only during the days of menses (your pattern of six or seven days as you had experienced prior to the start of this abnormal bleeding will be taken as the standard) and then bathe yourself and start Prayer and fasting, but you must wash yourself for each Prayer and perform ablutions (wudu) for each one. You must resume your fast, as well, soon afterwards.
In deciding whether the blood is menstrual or not, you must also refer to your family physician.
Finally, you need not be overly distressed on this fact, for as you have done the best based on sound judgment, following proper procedures, you are excused if you happen to slip up. Allah is forgiving and He does not take us to task for what is beyond our strength to bear.
Allah Almighty knows best.