Are non married Muslims allowed to have sex? “No,” yells the incensed reader, outraged that I would ask such an obvious question. Ok, I guess that was a pretty pointless question, but here’s another. Are married Muslims allowed to have sex? On the surface the answer seems just as easy as the first, but sometimes I’m not so sure. I know that Muslim couples are always having children and that the news of a new baby is always uplifting for the community, but to consider the extreme way we avoid the topic of—dare I say it—sex (gasp!), it wouldn’t be hard to conclude that Muslims are spontaneously generating, asexual beings.
Actually, now that I think of it, we don’t avoid the topic that much. Muslims are quick to tell you all the haraam aspects of sex: who shouldn’t be doing it, what should be done to those who are doing it, what to do to prevent yourself from doing it, etc. We’ll talk about that all day with the type of fiery passion that you only see in a worked up Muslim. And alhamdulliah for that. It’s important to know these things to protect us from Shaitan’s seductive call, but is that all we need to know? Is there no other side to this sex coin?
Lucky for all of us, there is another side. Just as sex outside of marriage is a sin, sex within marriage is a blessing, and what a necessary and wondrous blessing it is. Many wedding invitations and matrimony websites are decorated with this popular ayat: “It is He who created you from a single soul, And made its mate of like nature in order that you might dwell with her in love”(7:189). Sex is a big part of creating and maintaining that love. More than just some mechanical task that couples engage in solely to procreate, sex is (or at least should be) a highly-enjoyable, bonding activity that relieves stress and tension, builds emotional connections, strengthen romantic love, encourages trust and heightens overall marital enjoyment. More simply put, it just makes ya feel good, and we shouldn’t feel bad about that.
Though you wouldn’t know it from talking to some Muslims or reading some Islamic books, there are various sayings of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) regarding the importance of foreplay and sexual intimacy. For example:
Sa’id ibn al-Musayyib (RA) is said to report the Blessed Prophet’s opinion of a loving sexual relationship are as follows. “When a Muslim man intends to come to his wife, God writes for him 20 good deeds and erases from him 20 evil deeds. When he takes her by the hand, God writes for him 40 good deeds and erases from him 40 evil deeds. When he kisses her, God writes for him 60 good deeds and erases from him 60 evil deeds. When he comes into her, God writes for him 120 good deeds. When he stands up to make the ablution, God boasts of him to the angels and says: ”Look at My servant! He stands up on a cold night to wash himself of impurity (janaba) seeking the good pleasure of his Lord. I bear witness to you that I have forgiven him his sins.”
This is only one of many beautiful sayings regarding the benefits and, in my opinion, art of sexual intimacy. This is invaluable information that young Muslim couples should be learning. And some of them are, but not enough. Unfortunately, some books on Muslim marriage merely gloss over this topic with a vague and fleeting entry or, even worse, ignore it all together. I’ve even read marriage books that said nothing more than “Recite the following duas before intercourse,” or “Wives should be sure never to deny their husbands.” So, did someone rip out some pages or is that really all you got? Anxious and excited young believers turn to these books for guidance and reassurance and all they get is a sentence or two? No wonder so many women, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have problems with sexual intimacy.
Allah has blessed women with quite intricate reproductive systems. Aside from all the equipment necessary for child birth and other feminine functions, there is another organ (the clitoris) whose sole purpose is to provide sexual pleasure. I’m not saying this to be graphic, but to illustrate Allah’s mercy and plan for us. We are made to enjoy our sexual experiences. With that said, it comes as a shock that, according to WebMD, anywhere from 33 to 50% of women have trouble achieving orgasm. And while some of these women’s problems are organic in nature, most of them are psychological.
It makes sense. Our society floods us with sexual images of women that, 99.9% of the time, are degrading, not to mention inaccurate. Female sexuality is often reduced to nothing more than fodder for men’s unchecked lust and desires. Add to that an unfortunate lack of balanced information about sex from a religious stand point. The ugly result is a mass of sexually repressed women that feel ashamed of sex, even within the protective confines of marriage. I’m not advocating that Muslims become as foot loose and fancy feel with sexuality as the rest of the world, because I think our modesty is beautiful and absolutely necessary. I just wish that we could become more balanced and inclusive in our explanations of sex and all that it entails.