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A Muslim Perspective on Sexuality

Basma Elshayyal's picture

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Islam considers sex as one of the essential human needs that must be properly satisfied, as a unique, sacred concept which should be accorded the respect and sanctity it deserves.


Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet:
women and sons...



For Muslims, the first and the foremost and the most reliable and highest form of religious law would be the Qur'an. The Prophetic Traditions (also known as Hadith, which are the sayings and doings and tacit approval of things said or done in the presence of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh) are a second source of law.


Sex outside marriage


Based on these teachings, sexual relations or any other form of physical contact outside the framework of marriage are declared unlawful:


Nor come nigh to adultery for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils).



A grievously heinous sin in the estimation of God is to commit adultery with a woman living in one's neighbourhood.

(Bukhari & Muslim)


He or she who casts a lewd glance at another and allows himself or herself to be attracted likewise, both meet the displeasure of God.



Sex within marriage


However, if one were to enjoy a relationship with their own wife (or husband), it would be an act of piety and devotion, meriting the pleasure and reward from God as the Prophet observed. This is what has been described as spiritualising temporal duties.



On the authority of Abu Dharr: Some of the companions of the messenger of Allah said: 'O Messenger of Allah, the affluent have made off with the rewards, they pray as we pray they fast as we fast, and they give away in charity the superfluity of their wealth.' He said: 'Has not Allah made things for you to give away in charity ? Every tasbihah is a charity, every takbirah is a charity, every tahmidah is a charity, and every tahlilah is a charity, to enjoin a good action is a charity, to forbid an evil action is a charity, and in the sexual act of each of you there is a charity.' They said: 'O Messenger of Allah, when one of us fulfils his sexual desire will he have some reward for that?' He said: 'Do you not think that were he to act upon it unlawfully he would be sinning? Likewise, if he has acted upon it lawfully he will have a reward.' (Muslim)




According to Islam, procreation is not the sole and only purpose of marriage. While procreation is a primary purpose (to increase humanity in order to serve God; parents hope to leave behind children who will pray for them – or a child who will pray for their parents in Paradise, should they die before), companionship and enjoyment of the spouse along with avoidance of unlawful or sinful relationships are also secondary purposes. These secondary purposes play their own important roles in the Islamic teachings which govern sexual relations. In other words, although procreation is definitely an aim, it is not an exclusive aim. Procreation is a major purpose, but nonetheless enjoyment and other purposes also play significant roles in married life as evidenced by the Islamic teachings which relate to sexual relations.


And those who pray, 'Our Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous.'



Your wives are a tilth unto you; so go to your tilth when or how you will.



Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and ye are their garments.



And Allah has made for you mates (and companions) of your own nature, and made for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and provided for you sustenance of the best: will they then believe in vain things...


Marriage is also recommended to satisfy 'lust' and hence protect the private parts. The Prophet said: 'If a man marries, half of his religion is saved. Fear God for the remaining half.' The Prophet said: 'Whoever among you is able to marry, should marry, and whoever is not able to marry, is recommended to fast, for fasting diminishes his sexual power.'


Islam also teaches that marriage brings peace of mind as love grows between the couple. Peace of mind is said to be necessary for divine service.


It is He Who has created you from a single person (Adam), and (then) He has created from him his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], in order that he might enjoy the pleasure of living with her . . .'



And among His Signs is this: that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts). Verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.





'The Proper Conduct of Marriage in Islam' (Chapter 'Adab-an-Nikah') from Book 12 of Ihya'ulum ad-din by Imam al-Ghazzali



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