Islamic sexual jurisprudence

Islamic sexual jurisprudence

:"This is a sub-article of Islamic marital jurisprudence and human sexuality.Sexuality in Islam is largely described by the Qur'an, Islamic tradition, and religious leaders both past and present as being confined to marital relationships between men and women. While most traditions discourage celibacy, all encourage strict chastity and modesty with regards to any relationships across gender lines, holding forth that intimacy as perceived within Islam -- encompassing a swath of life more broad than strictly sex -- is largely to be reserved for marriage. This sensitivity to gender difference and modesty ("hijab") outside of marriage can be seen in current prominent aspects of Islam -- interpretations of Islamic dress and degrees of gender segregation, for example.

While prohibitions against adulterous relationships are strong, permissible sexual relationships are described in Islamic sources as great wells of love and closeness for the couple involved. Specific occasions -- most notably daytime fasting and menstruation -- are times forbidden for intercourse, though not for other ways of touching and being close to one another. Issues such as masturbation and homosexuality are frowned upon or outright forbidden; contraceptive use is permitted, as is abortion, though the latter often with great restriction.

Sex within marriage

To varying degrees Islamic law explicitly states that both men and women are entitled to sexual gratification in marriage; the failure or inability to provide this may be cited as grounds for divorce initiated by either the wife or husband. Throughout the history of Islamic exegetical traditions, philosophies, and law, much has been written to encourage, often in quite frank and explicit terms, believers in Islam to cultivate between themselves in their marriages both sexual passion and tenderness.

Aims of sex

Sex is viewed as both for procreational purpose, for strengthening the bonds between the couple and for reproduction.

PresentScholar|Yusuf al-Qaradawi|21st states:cquote|bgcolor=#F0FFF0|The preservation of the human species is unquestionably the primary objective of marriage, and such preservation of the species requires continued reproduction.

(comment by Hasan Muhammad Taqi al-Jawahiri)It is permitted to control one's birth (controlling the number of children one has by, for example, contraception, etc. for a certain period of time) since there is no frank rule that forbids this operation. However, the Shi'ah sect has always considered the bringing forth of children as mustahabb, as mentioned in the Prophetic tradion said before,'Get marry because I will be proud of your offspring tomorrow, on the Day of Resurrection, that even the miscarried fetus (the abortion) will come to the gate of Paradise and they will say to it/Go, enter the Paradise', and it will answer,'No, until my parents go first [321] '. Many narrations have confirmed that it is mustahabb to marry a fertile woman and that it is makrooh to marry a sterile woman, which clearly show the recommendation of offspring. [The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam [ page 310 - 311] ]

Islam obligates a married couple to try and have children. The theological understanding and reasons for this are varied, but this essentially means that a spouse is encouraged, religiously, to have sex with their partner on request. However, it is considered forbidden (Haram) for a woman to have sex during her period. This encouragement is on both partners, and while neither partner can force the other to comply, constant refusal to have sex (with a view to conceiving a child) has been recorded as a reason why many women choose to divorce their husband.

Also, while Islam does not teach the Catholic doctrine sometimes caricatured as "every sperm is sacred", it does consider that the consumption of sperm to be haram. As such many scholars consider orally stimulating the male sexual organ to be Haram or unlawful, whereas most see doing so to the female organ as acceptable. [Some Fatwas in this regard: [] [] [] [] [] [] ; [] ]

Rewards for sex

An oft-repeated hadith emphasize the granting of divine reward for sex within marriage:

PresentScholar|Ibn Abidin|19th|Sunni|Hanafi writes: [Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Dur al-Mukhtar Volume 3 page 3]


In Bukhari|7|62|16, Muhammad refers to the shaving of the pubic region:


In hadith, it is said that engaging in sexual intercourse without talking to or kissing one's wife is a sign of a husband's weakness. ["In three matters, the weakness of a male is disclosed. Firstly if a lover meets his beloved, and then they separate without enquiring into their mutual condition and health; secondly, rejecting the honour which someone wishes to pay him; "thirdly to engage in sexual intercourse with the wife or the female who is legally permitted, without talking to her or kissing her or by being unable to restrain the ejaculation of semen before that of his wife." Related by Daylami.]

exual techniques

Sex and purification

Islamic sexual hygienical jurisprudence is a prominent topic in Islamic jurisprudence istr|fiqh, due to its relevance to the issues prominent in everyday life.

Sex outside of marriage


Adultery is strictly, and repeatedly, forbidden in the Qur'an.

*And do not go anywhere near adultery: it is an outrage, and an evil path. (17:32)

*This is a sura (chapter) We have sent down and made obligatory: We have sent down clear revelation in it, so that you may take heed. Strike the adulteress and the adulterer one hundred times. Do not let compassion for them keep you from carrying out God's law -- if you believe in God and the last day -- and ensure that a group of believers witnesses the punishment. The adulterer is only [fit] to marry an adulteress or idolatress, and the adulteress is only [fit] to marry an adulterer or an idolater: such behavior is forbidden to believers. (24:1-3)

While harsh, modern commentators are often quick to note that the punishment prescribed for adultery is mitigated by the impracticality of meeting its requirement for being applied: the testimonies of four eye-witnesses to the act (24:13). Many today consider this to mean it is an almost purely symbolic way of denoting the severity of the offense, while others consider it a legally required punishment.

The Qur'an does additionally allow for sexual relations between a man and those whom "his right hand possesses," traditionally interpreted to mean slaves or prisoners of war, a point anachronistic to contemporary times. Again, some commentators differ as to what is the exact meaning of this term.

Pre-marital sex

While the strictest forms of Sharia law can prescribe the death penalty for adultery, pre-marital sex is considered a lesser offence and is punished by a maximum of 100 lashes to both the male and female; while married couples have their spouse who they should turn towards, for fulfillment.

As a result of the Islamic beliefs regarding extramarital and pre-marital sex, many modern Muslim societies highly value virginity and maintain high rates of abstinence until marriage. While this is true for both genders, often a higher premium is placed upon a girl's virginity, with the associated higher social consequences involved for losing it.Fact|date=February 2007.

Sex and fasting

Regarding sexual intercourse during the month of Ramadan: [Some muslims admitted to Muhammad that they had spoiled their fast by having sexual relations during the nights of Ramadan.]

Through emulation of the actions of Muhammad and interpretation, this same type of prohibition is extended to voluntary fasts (those which fall outside of Ramadan) as well. Select interpreters have held that the right to sexual gratification in marriage is strong enough that a married woman should seek her husband's approval before choosing days to fast; on this contemporary opinions and practices vary.

Sex and menstruation

Many hadith, however, relate stories of Muhammad sharing a bed with his wives while they were menstruating, "fondling" them, or lying with his head in their laps, so this verse should not be interpreted to mean that "to keep away" from women when they are menstruating means anything more than a particular sexual euphemism. Fact|date=February 2007The bottom line is a man may share the bed with wife but he is not allowed to have sexual relations with her in those days, because it is not good for both of them.

PresentScholar|Yusuf al-Qaradawi|21st states:cquote|bgcolor=#F0FFF0| is reported that the Jews and Zoroastrians used to go to extremes in avoiding any physical contact with menstruating women, while the Christians continue to have sexual relations with them without regard to the flow of blood. The Arabs of the period of jahiliyyah would not eat, drink, or sit with women who were menstruating and would send them to separate dwelling just as the Jews and Zoroastrians did. Accordingly, some Muslims asked the Prophet (peace be on him) about what is permitted and what is forbidden in relation to menstruating women. The following verse was then revealed:

(verse 2:222 quoted)

Some people understood the phrase, "Refrain from women, as meaning that they should not live together in the same house during the menstrual periods. The Prophet (peace be on him) then explained the correct meaning of this verse, saying,

I ordered you only to refrain from having intercourse with menstruating women and did not tell you to send them out of the house as the foreigners do.

When the Jews of Madinah heard this they said, "This man does not like to leave any part of what we do unchanged, but does the opposite." Thus the Muslim can fondle and enjoy his menstruating wife, avoiding only the place of hurt. The Islamic position in this regard is as always, a middle one, between the one extreme of spelling the menstruating woman from the house and the other extreme of having intercourse with her. Recent medical researchers have discovered that the menstrual flow contains a toxic substance which, if undischarged, may be harmful to the body. Likewise; they have discovered the reason why intercourse should be avoided during this time. The reproductive organs become highly congested and the nerves very sensitive due to the secretion of the internal glands; consequently, intercourse may irritate them, possibly impeding the menstrual flow and causing inflammation of the sexual organs. [The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam [ page 310 - 311] ]


Qur'an strictly prohibited homosexuality through the story of Lot (see Qur'an verses:7:80-84,11:69-83, 29:28-35), similarly rendered to the story as it appears in the Biblical book of Genesis, as well as through a verse addressed directly to Muhammad and his followers, which reads:

*If two men commit a lewd act, punish them both; if they repent and mend their ways, leave them alone -- God is always ready to accept repentance, He is full of mercy. (4:16)

It is not always clear whether or not the Qur'an specifically refers to female homosexuality. The verse prior to the one cited above, which begins "if any of your women commit a lewd act," has been interpreted to mean female homosexuality by way of its being paired with a verse regarding "two men among you," but it has also been interpreted to refer to a more general state of illegal sexual activity. Regardless, as sexual activity in Islam has in effect been restricted to marriage and marriage restricted to relationships between opposite sex partners, the correlation broadly drawn has been that all homosexual activity is forbidden, without respect to gender.



The Quran does not mention masturbation directly, yet it is strongly discouraged in most traditions of Islamic Jurisprudence. The Shi'a forbid masturbation outright; while some Sunni schools concur with the Shi'a, others take a weaker (though generally condemnatory) stance on the matter.


The primary method of birth control in Muhammad's time was coitus interruptus (Arabic: "al-'azl"), the withdrawal method. Numerous hadith are used to declare this an acceptable practice, some with stipulations that it is only so with the woman's consent. A minority of opinions instead uphold a saying attributed to Muhammad that it is "a minor infanticide," however the accuracy of this remark is generally considered weak and therefore "may" be disregarded.

By correlation this general acceptance of the withdrawal method is expanded to include most modern forms of birth control. However, their use is limited to family planning purposes and are generally considered makruh (things not explicitly forbidden but which should be avoided nonetheless) if intended to permanently prevent conception.

The above hadith makes it clear that intercourse for sole aim of sexual gratification allowed in Islam.


Islam does not traditionally hold that ensoulment occurs at the point of conception. Two passages in the Qur'an describe the fetal development process:

*...We created you from dust, then from a drop of fluid, then a clinging form, then a lump of flesh, both shaped and unshaped: We mean to make Our power clear to you. Whatever We choose We cause to remain in the womb for an appointed time, then We bring you forth as infants and then you grow and reach maturity. ... (22:5)

*We created man from an essence of clay, then We placed him as a drop of fluid in a safe place, then We made that drop into a clinging form, and We made that form into a lump of flesh, and We made that lump into bones, and We clothed those bones with flesh, and later We made him into other forms -- glory be to God, the best of creators! (23:12-14)

Traditional scholarship places the point of ensoulment nearer to the end of this process, naming it as anywhere between 40 and 120 days after conception, making abortion permissible until that point, though increasingly disliked as time passed.

Contemporary scholarship, however, is more likely to more strongly restrict or even forbid abortion, on the grounds that modern technology has permitted us to perceive life in the womb earlier than was previously possible. All schools of thought, traditional and modern, make allowances for circumstances threatening the health or life of the mother.

Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari in [ a lecture] stated that it was murder if done after three months and before that it was a crime, but not to the degree of murder.

ee also

*The Perfumed Garden
*Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Bedroom
*Mutah: the Shia fixed-term temporary marriage
*Misyar: the Sunni open-ended, negotiated, marriage contract of convenience
*Islam and sexual techniques
*Islamic sexual hygienical jurisprudence
*Zina (Arabic)


External links

* [ Article on Sexuality in Islam from the Muslim Women's League]
* [ Article, "Turning Sex into Sadaqa," from Islam for Today]
* [,_Birth_Control_and_Pregnancy Women's Health Project section on Sex, Birth Control, and Pregnancy]
* [ FSE Project section on Muslim Sexual Ethics]

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