The Muslim Woman & Certain Marital Practices-Contemporary Issues Related to Women Outside the Lands of Islam

Author: Dr. Muwaffak Al Ghaylany Ph.D
| Category: AMJA Bridge

10th Annual AMJA Conference – Kuwait
Contemporary Issues Related to Women Outside the Lands of Islam
The Muslim Woman & Certain Marital Practices[1]
Dr Muhammad Muwaffaq al-Ghalayeni
AMJA Member, VP of Board of Trustees of Mishkâh University

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Grantor of Mercy


All praise is due to Allah who completed the religion and perfected His bounty, and may salutations and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad who left us on clear guidance, and none departs from it without being destroyed.

So much continues to be said about Islam and its stance on women, sometimes due to curiosity, but usually seeking to demonize Islam by casting endless accusations in the face of its callers and those sincerely seeking the path to God. Thus we find increasing numbers of questions arising – despite the ocean of answers – about a man’s leadership and its limitations in family life, the whereabouts of a woman’s freedom to abort pregnancy or undergo cosmetic surgery, and even the limitations of how spouses can interact sexually in private. We many a times forget amidst our blind imitation of the dominant modern culture that many of the trends of our modern times sprout from a hedonistic, God-rejecting outlook on life. As for the Muslim, he/ she [Ha1] lives for a much loftier purpose and does not limit himself/ herself to serving their carnal desires, and thus binds himself/ herself to the regulations of Allah in order to actualize this aim.

This research focuses on the following four points:

1 – The primary objectives of marriage in Islam
2 – The ruling on a husband forcing his wife to abort a pregnancy
3 – The ruling on forcing a wife to have sexual intercourse
4 – The rulings on certain marital practices during intimacy

I – The Primary Objectives of Marriage in Islam

The point here is to merely remind of some central objectives the family should be founded upon in Islam, for it is clear that the avalanche of modern ideas and culture has caused most of us to lose sight of why marriage was legislated in order to actualize comfort, affection, mercy, and offspring.

  1. Chastity for both spouses

‘Abdullâh ibn Mas‘ood (ra) reported that the Prophet (saws) said, “O youth, whoever of you possesses the desire, then he should marry, for that is more enabling to lower the gaze and guard the private parts. And whoever is incapable, then upon him is fasting, for that will be an inhibitor for him [from such desires].”[2]

It was for this reason that stipulating no intimacy in a marriage contract invalidates it, as the jurists mention, because the permissibility of such relations is the very point of this contract. Likewise, Islam prohibits a man from shunning his wife without justification, even to the degree that had he sworn he would not be intimate with her (known in the Qur’an as eelâ’), he must break his oath and expiate for it because this violates the wife’s right to chastity. And just the same, the Sharia makes it unlawful for the wife to abstain from intimacy with her husband, as we will soon explain.

  1. Seeking righteous children

A Muslim’s intention should never end at gratifying his lusts, but rather should seek righteous children as Allah, the Most High, encourages him to (2:187). And if the man becomes disinterested in marriage, the offspring dwindles and their fruitful replenishment of the generations – which is the desire of the Divine – is not actualized. And thus our Prophet (saws) also said, “Marry the loving and fertile, for I will take pride [Ha2] in outnumbering the nations because of you.”[3]

II – The Ruling on a Husband Forcing his Wife to Abort her Pregnancy

Birth control as a cultural trend is another [Ha3] global trend, and has dubious beginnings in terms of the entities that promoted it and the ulterior motives of those who campaign for it, and it was this element that spearheaded the heightened opposition of many scholars and thinkers to it.

It is appalling that a Muslim husband [Ha4] would force his wife to abort her pregnancy, when ‘Umar (ra) said, “The Prophet (saws) prohibited that a man practice ‘azl (withdrawal before ejaculation) with a free woman without her consent.”[4] As the scholars mentioned, ‘azl deprives the woman of her right to progeny, which is a shared right between the spouses, and her right to enjoying the intercourse. And clearly, such harm is far more intensified when it comes to abortion because of the increased emotional attachment that a woman develops during pregnancy. For that reason, abortion is impermissible except in specific cases, atop which is jeopardizing the mother’s life by the pregnancy or labor – as determined by a committee of trustworthy physicians. It should also not happen after four months, or when the soul is blown, by scholarly agreement, unless the pregnancy constitutes a threat to the mother’s wellbeing[Ha5] . And it should never happen under the premise of fearing poverty, for just as the lifespans are in the hands of Allah, so are the provisions.

III – The Ruling on Forcing a Wife to have Sexual Intercourse

In Islam, marital life should be founded on comfort, love, and mercy, and understanding that on a practical level is by learning the Islamic directives for marital interaction. Each spouse must learn what rights they are entitled to, and what responsibilities they are liable for. At the forefront of these rights is that of intimacy for both of them, and this must be extended unless there exists a legitimate excuse such as illness, exhaustion, or their like. But in ordinary circumstances, a woman cannot abstain from her husband’s bed, just as a husband cannot shun his wife, unless she has become rebellious and only according to the guidelines set by the Sharia. The Messenger of Allah (saws) said, “If a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses [and does not come], and he spends the night angry with her, the angels will curse her until morning.”[5]As for the husband shunning his wife for over four months, this will either subject him to either an automatic or a judicially enforced divorce.

Since the marital relationship is based on affection and mercy, then forcing a wife to have sexual intercourse should never be.[Ha6]  She must be educated regarding the aforementioned objectives of marriage in Islam, which includes protecting the chastity of her husband, and the Muslim husband should also be taught to live with her honorably, which certainly entails being intimate with her in a reasonable fashion.

Perhaps it is suitable here to remind that the Messenger of Allah (saws) taught a certain etiquette with regards to intimacy, such as engaging in foreplay with the wife to emotionally prepare her for the experience. The wife must not be treated as solely an object of male satisfaction, but rather one that has her own right to pleasure in this interaction that must never be ignored.

All that which has been said above is referring to ordinary conditions, and does not apply to exceptional circumstances of sickness or otherwise, whenever they should arise. And all that may be stumbled across in the books of the jurists about emphasizing that a wife should never refrain from the invite of her husband to intimacy must be understand in this light. It was intended to stress the gravity of not upholding this right, which we can now see from those who adopt an imbalanced sense of freedom and individualism, born of a culture that destroys homes and sends those without religiosity into immorality when deprived of these marital rights.

4 – The Rulings on Certain Marital Practices during Intimacy (Oral Sex)

Islam permitted the spouses to enjoy one another within specific parameters. The Most High said, “Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish.” [al-Baqarah: 223] This verse, along with the reasons for its revelation, dictate that the sexual desire is to be engaged through the woman’s vagina and nowhere else. Allah (st) did not create the mouth for this, but rather for the gift of articulation, for eating and drinking, and as part of the human head which is the hallmark of his honorable creation. Those who made a woman’s mouth a source of sexual pleasure have opposed sound human nature, the implications of the previous verse, and subjected her to swallowing pre-seminal fluid which is impure according to the Hanafis, Mâlikis, and Shâfi’is. We also cannot forget that many women may be disgusted by this, in which case permitting this would be opening a door to hatred and eventual marital collapse.[Ha7] 

[1] This paper has been summarized, then rendered into English from the Arabic original.

[2] Agreed Upon

[3] Abu Dawud and an-Nasâ’i, and deemed authentic by al-Albâni

[4] Ahmad, and deemed authentic by Ahmad Shâkir

[5] Agreed Upon


Dr. Muwaffak Al Ghaylany Ph.D

Imam of the Islamic Center in Grand Blank City in the state of Michigan; faculty member at Mishkah University in America; President of the League of Imams in North America, AMJA Fatwa Committee member
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