Sexuality In Islam | What Does Islam Say About Sex?

In Islam, sexuality is considered a sensitive matter, and the Quran and Hadiths provide specific guidelines regarding intimate relations between married couples. Every Muslim should know the rules (Sharia) about sexuality in Islam.

Sexual relations between a man and a woman outside the bounds of marriage are strictly forbidden (haram). There are specific guidelines about who can marry whom, emphasizing mutual consent, free will, and just treatment among multiple wives.

Islam teaches etiquette regarding intimate relations, emphasizing love, care, respect, and tenderness. Within married couples, certain aspects of intimacy are forbidden, such as anal intercourse and sexual relations during menstruation.

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We will explore in-depth Islam’s views on sexuality, including what is permitted and forbidden based on the Quran and Hadiths.

Pre-Conditions of Muslim Sex

As marriage is the pillar of permissible sexuality in Islam, understanding the principles of permissible and prohibited marriages is crucial for Muslims.

Permissible Marriages in Islam

Sexuality In Islam

Marriage is considered a virtuous deed in Islam. Quranic verse (24:32) encourages the marriage of free and righteous individuals.

Allah said: “Marry off the ˹free˺ singles among you and the righteous of your bondmen and bondwomen. If they are poor, Allah will enrich them out of His bounty. For Allah is All-Bountiful, All-Knowing.”

There is a Hadith that encourages marriage, narrated by ‘Abdullah: “The Messenger of Allah said to us: ‘O young men, whoever among you can afford it, let him get married, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and guarding chastity, and whoever cannot then he should fast, for it will be a restraint (wija’) for him.'” (Sunan an-Nasa’i 3209).

Furthermore, Islam permits polygyny, which is the practice of having more than one wife, but only under specific conditions. Quranic verse (4:3) permits men to marry two, three, or four women, provided they can deal justly with them.

The Quran advises fair treatment among multiple wives and warns that a man should only marry one if they fear they cannot deal justly with them. Therefore, marrying multiple wives should not be taken lightly, and fair treatment is essential.

Islam also recognizes interfaith marriages, but again, under specific conditions. Muslim men can marry women who are from the People of the Book (Jews and Christians), and both parties should respect each other’s religious practices.

Although Muslim women are generally advised against marrying non-Muslim men, there are certain cases where it may be permissible.

Consent and free will are of utmost importance in Islam regarding marriage. The presence of a Wali (guardian) and witnesses (either two men or one man and two women) during the marriage ceremony ensures that both parties have given their consent willingly and without coercion.

Also, for a valid marriage in Islam, Mahar (dower) plays a crucial role. It is an obligatory gift from the groom to the bride, symbolizing financial security and commitment.

Prohibited Marriages in Islam

For legal sexuality, Muslims should be aware of prohibited marriages in Islam, safeguarding the boundaries set by Islamic principles. According to the Quran, there are certain close relatives, known as ‘Mahram’, with whom marriage is forbidden.

In (Quran 4:23) Allah says, “˹Also˺ forbidden to you for marriage are your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your paternal and maternal aunts, your brother’s daughters, your sister’s daughters, your foster-mothers, your foster-sisters, your mothers-in-law, your stepdaughters under your guardianship if you have consummated marriage with their mothers – but if you have not, then you can marry them – nor the wives of your own sons, nor two sisters together at the same time – except what was done previously. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

Additionally, temporary or Mut’a marriages, where the duration and conditions are specified in advance, are explicitly prohibited in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) forbade such unions, emphasizing the importance of permanent and committed marriages.

Etiquette Regarding Sexuality In Islam

Maintaining the sanctity of intimate relations, Islam prescribes a set of etiquettes and guidelines to guide Muslims in their approach to sexual intimacy. Below are some etiquette regarding sex in Islam that are derived from the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah.

1. Approaching Intimate Relations With Love and Care

Approaching Intimate Relations With Love and Care

Intimate relationships are highly emphasized in Islam, and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) set an example for Muslim couples by treating his wives with tenderness and consideration.

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) stated, “The believers who show the most perfect Faith are those who have the best behaviour, and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives”. (Riyad as-Salihin 278)

It is essential to approach intimate relations with love and mutual respect. Respectful communication, showing appreciation, and being physically affectionate are all key ingredients of a loving and healthy relationship.

2. Reciting Dua (Prayer) Before Sex

Reciting a dua (prayer) before engaging in sexual relations is an important etiquette in Islam, emphasizing the spiritual aspect and protecting against the devil (Satan). This supplication reinforces the sacredness of the act and the need to involve Allah in this intimate moment.

By starting with the phrase ‘Bismillah’ (In the name of Allah), Muslims acknowledge that this act is being performed with the blessing and permission of Allah. The prayer also seeks protection from Satan, who may try to influence the act in a negative or harmful way.

A Hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari 6388 tells us that our Prophet (SAW) taught us a Dua.  As the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “If anyone of you, when intending to have a sexual intercourse with his wife, says: ‘Bismillah, Allahumma jannibna-sh-shaitan, wa jannibi-sh-shaitan ma razaqtana,’ and if the couple are destined to have a child (out of that very sexual relation), then Satan will never be able to harm that child.”

3. Permitted Intercourse Only in the Vagina

Permitted Intercourse Only in the Vagina

Sexual intercourse in Islam is restricted to the vagina, emphasizing the importance of adhering to the Allah-ordained order. This guideline reflects the belief that sexual relations should only take place within the boundaries of marriage and serve the purpose of procreation.

By confining intercourse to the vagina, Islam upholds the sanctity of marriage and promotes the stability of the family unit. This restriction also ensures the protection of individuals from the physical and emotional harm that may arise from engaging in sexual acts outside of the marital bond.

Moreover, by emphasizing the natural order, Islam encourages individuals to appreciate the beauty and purpose of sexual relationships as defined by Allah.

This guideline serves as a reminder of the spiritual and moral aspects associated with sexual intimacy, fostering a sense of responsibility and respect within the marital relationship.

4. Performing Ghusl (Ritual Washing) After Sexual Relations

After engaging in physical intimacy together, Muslims are required to perform ghusl, a form of ritual washing (bath). This practice is necessary to achieve ritual purity before engaging in acts of worship.

According to the hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah, the Messenger of Allah Muhammad (SAW) stated that the ritual bath becomes obligatory even if one doesn’t ejaculate during sexual intercourse.

It’s permissible to delay performing the ghusl until before the time of prayer, but if it is delayed, performing wudu (ablution) before sleeping is recommended.

5. Privacy and Not Sharing Intimate Details

Privacy and Not Sharing Intimate Details

Maintaining privacy in marital relationships is of utmost importance in Islam. Spreading the secrets of private marital life is forbidden and considered among the most evil deeds.

According to a hadith found in Sahih Muslim, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) stated that “The most evil of the people to Allah on the Day of Resurrection will be the man who consorts with his wife and then publicizes her secret”.

This highlights the significance of privacy and the prohibition of sharing intimate details. Islam promotes a respectful and dignified approach towards sexuality.

It encourages individuals to keep their private matters within the confines of their relationship. This etiquette regarding sex in Islam not only protects the sanctity and integrity of the marital bond but also safeguards the honor and reputation of both partners.

Forbidden Sexual Interactions Within Married Couples in Islam

Though legal sexual relations in Islam are confined to marriage, certain restrictions and prohibitions govern intimate aspects of married life. To uphold Islamic principles, Muslims must understand these limitations, including:

Forbidden Sexual Interactions Within Married Couples in Islam

1. Engaging in Anal Intercourse

According to Islamic Sharia, engaging in sexual relations through the anus is a forbidden act. This is because it goes against the natural order established by Allah and is considered an unnatural act.

Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah bless him) quoted the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) saying, “Allah will not look at a man who has intercourse with a woman in her back passage.” (Al-Tirmidhi, 1165).

This prohibition serves as a reminder to couples that sexual relations should be respectful and uphold the dignity of both partners.

Any act that diminishes the status and worthiness of human beings is strictly forbidden in Islam. Moreover, engaging in anal intercourse can lead to serious health problems, which can jeopardize the physical and emotional well-being of both partners.

2. Sexual Relations During Menstruation

Islamic Sharia also prohibits sexual relations during the menstrual cycle. However, alternative forms of intimacy, such as kissing and holding hands, are allowed.

As stated in Surah Al-Baqarah 2:222, Allah states, “They ask you ˹O Prophet˺ about menstruation. Say, “Beware of its harm! So keep away, and do not have intercourse with your wives during their monthly cycles until they are purified. When they purify themselves, then you may approach them in the manner specified by Allah. Surely Allah loves those who always turn to Him in repentance and those who purify themselves.”.

This commandment underscores the importance of respecting the natural purification cycle and emphasizes the concept of cleanliness and purity in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) reinforced the prohibition of sexual intercourse during menstruation and highlighted the need to observe cleanliness and hygiene.

3. Avoiding Intimacy During Fasting Hours

Muslim married couples need to abstain from intimacy during fasting hours, as it’s considered forbidden. Engaging in sexual relations during the daylight hours of Ramadan while fasting goes against the spiritual focus and discipline required during the holy month.

Islam strongly emphasizes self-control and devotion to Allah during this time, so physical intimacy is considered distracting. By refraining from intimacy during fasting hours, couples can fully dedicate themselves to their religious obligations and connect with their faith on a deeper level.

This practice serves as a reminder of the importance of self-restraint and prioritizing spiritual growth over physical desires.

4. Prohibition of Public Exposure

Engaging in public exposure of one’s private parts is strictly prohibited within married couples in Islam. Modesty and privacy are highly valued in Islamic teachings, especially regarding intimate matters.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) emphasized the importance of maintaining privacy and avoiding actions that could lead to public exposure. This prohibition extends to all aspects of intimate relations, including sexual acts and nudity.

What is the Islamic perspective on Homosexuality?

What is the Islamic perspective on Homosexuality?

In Islam, homosexual acts are considered sinful and prohibited. These teachings are based on the story of the people of Lot (Lut in Arabic), where their immoral behavior, including homosexuality, is condemned in the Quran.

Verses from Surah Al-A’raf (7:80-84) and Surah Hud (11:77-83) explicitly mention the punishment received by the people of Lot for engaging in homosexual acts.

Islamic scholars and jurists generally agree that homosexual acts are forbidden in Islam, emphasizing the necessity of adhering to the Quran’s and hadith’s guidelines.

Is oral sex permissible in Islam?

Oral sex, as a sexual practice, is a topic of debate within the Islamic faith. From a moral standpoint, concerns arise due to the significance of the mouth in sacred activities such as reciting the Quran.

However, from a legal perspective, scholars have differing opinions. Some view the act of inserting the penis into the wife’s mouth as disliked (makruh), while others permit it. The use of a condom to prevent the entry of sexual fluids into the mouth is mentioned as a potentially permissible practice, although it’s also disliked. 

It’s important to approach this matter with cultural and personal sensitivity, as oral sex isn’t the norm for devout Muslims due to cultural reasons and individual preferences.

Is it allowed for a husband to practice withdrawal (azl) during sexual intercourse in Islam?

In Islam, a husband is allowed to practice withdrawal or azl during sexual intercourse under certain conditions. Azl refers to the act of withdrawing the penis from the vagina before ejaculation.

If the wife consents, ‘azl is permissible, since one of her rights is full enjoyment, while another is the right to have children, which are both lost when ‘azl is practiced.

Historical practices of companions during the time of the Prophet Muhammad and hadiths found in Sahih Muslim (1440) support the permissibility of azl.

Temporary family planning methods, including azl, are permissible as long as both spouses agree and do not harm the woman. However, Islam emphasizes the importance of having children within marriage, and any family planning should be temporary.

Is watching sexually explicit material together permissible (halal) for a married couple in Islam?

It is not allowed or halal for a married couple to watch sexually explicit material together. Islam strongly emphasizes modesty, dignity, and the preservation of haya’ (shyness) in all aspects of life, including intimate relations between spouses.

Sexual activity within marriage is encouraged, but sexually explicit material is discouraged since it’s degrading and corrupting. Islam promotes a healthy and fulfilling sexual relationship between husband and wife but within the boundaries of Islamic ethics and morality. 

What is the prescribed penalty for engaging in prohibited sexual acts in Islam?

Engaging in forbidden sexual acts in Islam carries severe penalties, as outlined in Islamic scriptures and teachings. According to the Quran, the punishment for unmarried individuals involved in Zina, which includes premarital sex and adultery, is 100 lashes. This is stated in Surah An-Nur 24:2.

However, for married individuals, the prescribed punishment is even more severe: death by stoning. This punishment is mentioned in Hadiths, such as the reference in Sahih Muslim Book 17, Hadith Number 4191.

It’s important to note that these penalties apply to both men and women and are based on the teachings of Islam.

For married couples engaging in prohibited sexual acts, such as having sexual relations during specific forbidden times (e.g., during menstruation or fasting hours of Ramadan), the penalties specified in Islamic scriptures are not as severe as those for Zina.

Instead, these actions are considered violations of specific rules and are addressed through guidance on appropriate conduct rather than severe legal punishments.

In such cases, the emphasis is often on seeking repentance, purification rituals (such as Ghusl or ritual washing), and adhering to the prescribed rules of intimacy within the bounds set by Islamic teachings.

Follow the Guidelines of Islam for a Fulfilling and Virtuous Marital Life

The guidelines and principles regarding sexuality in Islam provide a comprehensive framework rooted in Quranic teachings and Hadiths. From permissible marriages to intimate etiquettes and prohibitions, Islam emphasizes the sanctity of marital relations and the importance of mutual respect.

A balanced approach to sexual matters is achieved by emphasizing consent, privacy, and adherence to prescribed rules. The severity of penalties for prohibited acts underscores the gravity of violating these principles.

It is now clear what Islam says about sex, urging individuals to navigate the realm of sexuality with mindfulness, modesty, and a commitment to the principles that guide a successful and fulfilling marriage life.

Talha Ubaidullah
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