Sexual Ethics

Sex is the ultimate expression of love and is a total physical and emotional encounter. In a brief but beautiful expression the Quran refers, to this relation between husbands and wives saying:

"They are your garments and you are their garments." (2:187)

The sexual unison between husband and wife is more than seeking a relief from the urge of desire. Indeed the prophet taught that it is one of the charities in Islam. He said to his companions, enumerating examples of charitable deeds :

"And when the one of you makes love (has sex) it is a rewardable charity. "

His companions were surprised and asked him' 'How come the one of us answers the urge of his desire and out of this gets the reward of a charity. To which the prophet answered:

Don't you see that if he does the same but in a forbidden situation it would be counted against him as a sin? And so if he does it in legitimacy it is counted for him as a charity." (Muslim)

The sexual relation is a very special relation between consorts, and should be accorded the privacy it deserves. It is not befitting that either of them divulges this aspect of their life to anyone. The prophet peace be upon him emphasizes this ethic in the strongest terms. He said:

"Amongst the lowest grades of people before God on the day of judgement, is the man going to his wife (and making sex) and she going to him: then either of them divulging their common secret."  (Abu Said)

Addressing a gathering of men and women the prophet looked to the men and said: "Would it be that the one of you locks his door and draws his curtains and seeks his need (sex) from his consort: and later when he goes out he talks to his friends about it?"   He then turned to the women and said' 'Would it be that the one of you locks her door and draws her curtains and seeks her need from her consort: and later when she goes out she talks to her women friends about it? There was an air of admitting silence and a woman said It happens apostle of God. The prophet said: 'Never do that Or it would be like a male devil who encountered a female devil and copulated with her out in the middle of the road and then left her and went away. (Abu Said)

In order to maintain the bliss and pleasantness of the relation, both husband and wife should aquire the hygienic and esthetic habits that keep them attractive to one another. It does not behove the woman only to beautify herself for her husband, but this is a reciprocal right. The prophet is reported to have rebuked a man who looked shabby and neglected to tidy his hair and clothing, stating that it was his wife's right that he looks at his best to her, as she to him. Ibn Abbas, a notable scholar of the first Islamic century, stated: Most certainly I am keen on making myself handsome to my wife, just as I like her to beautify herself for me in keeping with God's saying in the Quran that: "Women have rights even as they have obligations in an equitable way." (2:228)

It is not only a woman's duty, but indeed also her privilege to look at her best in her husband's sight. Husbands away on a journey should announce their coming back rather than taking their wives by surprise, so that the wife has time to beautify herself before meeting her husband. Whenever the prophet's caravan arrived back at Madina, they would camp in the suburbs, send a messenger to announce their arrival, and go to their homes after suitable notice. One of his traditions says:

"If you are in a journey do not enter your home all of a sudden so that the tuggy haired would comb and the unprepared get ready". (The five except Nissa'i)
In modern times sexology has become a science by itself, and modern western societies almost congratulate themselves for at last recognizing woman's right to attain sexual satiety out of sexual intercourse. The 'right to orgasm' is amongst the latest in the inventory of rights claimed by the "Women's Lib." and other feminist movements. Fourteen centuries ago, Islam recognized that right, as evidenced by the saying of the prophet:

"If any of you has sex with his wife let he be true to her. If he attains his pleasure before her then he shouldn't hurry her away until she also attains her pleasure." (Anas )  Standard writings in sexology over the past few decades have described the physiological human sexual response and classified it into the four phases of excitation, plateau, orgasm and resolution. Ideally these phases should coincide in both partners, otherwise there will be sexual dysharmony, often due to the man getting his orgasm while the woman is still eagerly awaiting, with inflamed desire, to also achieve her orgasm. As orgasm is followed by resolution where the male organ gets flacid and the man enters into a refractory period after his sexual desire has been satiated through orgasm, the conclusion of the act at that stage would be unfair to the woman having been aroused but not satisfied, and that is what the prophet warns against. The man should not just turn his back and go away or go to sleep, leaving his wife frustrated. The coital exercise should proceed until she is satisfied. An effective method of correcting this form of dyshan:nony is to spend time enjoying their intimacy and helping themselves to one another's bodies in totality, before moving on to genital intercourse. The pleasures of sex spread themselves over a much wider area than the genital region, as manifest in kissing, embracing and caressing the body especially over the erogenous zones of the female physique. This indeed is the normal and commendable approach to sex. It adds to the mechanistic element of sex, the emotional dimension of tender love and mutual affection beautifully portrayed in the Quran as: "They are your garments, and they are yours. " It also ensures that by the time the couple move on to genital introduction, the woman would have been aroused over a sufficient period of time and become so excited that she is already quite near her orgasm. In modern medical jargon this prelude is called the' 'foreplay', but again long before it was dreamt in the rest of the world of such women's rights, the prophet of Islam gave the same guidance, politely referring to foreplay as the "messenger", in his saying:

"Let-not the one of you fall upon his wife like a beast (camel) falls.  It is more appropriate to set a messenger afore the act"

Amongst good sexual ethics also is that the couple should be sensitive to each others needs and limitations, and ups and downs. Even a virtuous excuse like deep involvement in worship is not accepted if the man forgets or ignores his wife's rights. In such a case it is the woman's right to protest. History reports the woman who went to Umar ibn al Khat tab (second caliph) consulting him: My husband fasts by day and prays all night. and I feel embarassed to complain seeing that he spends his time worshipping God. The man was summoned for a hearing. The final verdict was to have three nights for his own worship and to heed the needs of his wife during the rest of the week. Umar also asked his daughter Hafsa how long a woman should stand being away from her husband, Upon which he decreed that fighting troops should be given leave to come back home every six months.

Similarly a woman should be responsive to her husband's call. Seeing that men are more prone to sexual arousal by a variety of visual stimuli as they move about all day, the prophet's advice was that the wife should always answer her husband's call:

"The right of the husband is that when he calls his wife to sex she should not deny him herself." (Tialissi)

The prophet also advised that whenever a man sees something that arouses his sexual desire, he should go and have sex with his wife.


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