shall have rights similar to the rights upon them; according to what is
equitable and just; and men have a degree of advantage over them.' (Quran,
They do indeed! This passage of
the Holy Quran was revealed in connection with the rights of women following a
divorce, but it also has a general sense. One basic right of every person taking
on a contract never to have sex other than with their own legitimate partner is
that each spouse should therefore provide sexual fulfillment (imta') to the
other, as part of the bargain.
Now, every man knows what sexual
things please him - but some men, particularly those who have not been married
before and are therefore lacking experience, don't seem to know much about how
to give the same pleasure to the woman; even worse, some men do know but they
can't be bothered to make the effort. Yet this is vital if a marriage is to
succeed and not just be a disappointing burden for the woman, and it is a vital
part of one's Islamic duty. it is not acceptable for a Muslim man just to
satisfy himself while ignoring his wife's needs. Experts agree that the basic
psychological need of a man is respect, while that of a woman is love. Neither
respect nor love are things that can be forced - they have to be worked for, and
earned. The Prophet (s) stated that in one's sexual
intimacy with one's life partner there is sadaqa:
Messenger (s) said: `In the sexual act of each of you there is a sadaqa. 'The
Companions replied: `0 Messenger of God! When one of us fulfils his sexual
desire, will he be given a reward for that?' And he said, `Do you not think that
were he to act upon it unlawfully, he would be sinning? Likewise, if he acts
upon it lawfully he will be rewarded.' (Muslim)
This hadith only makes sense if
the sexual act is raised above the mere animal level. What is the magic
ingredient that turns sex into sadaqa, that makes it a matter of reward or
punishment from Allah? It is by making one's sex life more than simple physical
gratification; it is by thought for pleasing Allah by unselfish care for one's
partner. A husband that cannot understand this will never be fully respected by
Neither spouse should ever act
in a manner that would be injurious or harmful to their conjugal life. Nikah is
the sacred tie between husband and wife, that sincere and devoted love without
which they cannot attain happiness and peace of mind.
His signs is this: that He created for you spouses that you might find rest in
them, and He ordained between you love and mercy.' (Quran, 30:21)
Now, every Muslim knows that a
man has a right on his wife. However, because nikah is a contract never to seek
sexual satisfaction outside the marriage bond, Islam commands not only the women
but the men in this respect, and makes it clear that if a husband is not aware
of the urges and needs of his wife, he will be committing a sin by depriving her
of her rights.
According to all four orthodox
jurists, it is incumbent upon the husband to keep his wife happy and pleased in
this respect. Likewise, it is essential for the wife to satisfy the desire of
the husband. Neither should reject the other, unless there is some lawful
Now, it is fairly easy for a
woman to satisfy a man and make herself available to him, even if she is not
really in the mood. It is far harder for a man to satisfy a woman if he is not
in the mood, and this is where an important aspect of male responsibility needs
to be brought to every Muslim man's attention, and stressed strongly.
The jurists believed that a
woman's private parts needed `protecting' (tahsin). What they meant was that it
was important for a Muslim husband to satisfy his wife's sexual needs so that
she would not be tempted to commit zina out of despair or frustration.
A Muslim wife is
not merely a lump of flesh without emotions or feelings, just there to satisfy a
man's natural urges. On the contrary, her body contains a soul no less important
in God's sight than her husband's. Her heart is very tender and delicate, and
crude or rough manners would hurt her feelings and drive away love. The husband
would be both foolish and immoral to act in any way unpalatable to her natural
temperament, and a man selfishly seeking his own satisfaction without
considering that of his wife is a selfish boor.
according to a hadith:
things are counted inadequacies in a man. Firstly, meeting someone he would like
to get to know, and taking leave of him before learning his name and his family.
Secondly, rebuffing the generosity that another shows to him. And thirdly, going
to his wife and having intercourse with her before talking to her and gaining
her intimacy, satisfying his need from her before she has satisfied her need
from him.' (Daylami)
This is another of the things
implied by the saying that one's wife is `a tilth unto you' (Quran, 2:223). The
imagery is that of a farmer taking care of his fields.
According to Mawlana Abul-Ala Mawdudi:
farmer sows the seed in order to reap the harvest, but he does not sow it out of
season or cultivate it in a manner which will injure or exhaust the soil. He is
wise and considerate, and does not run riot.' (Afzalur Rahman, Quranic
Sciences, London 1981, p.285)
Likewise, in the case of
husband and wife, the husband should not just
If this is not taken into
consideration, and the wife is not properly prepared to start lovemaking, or is
unsatisfied when it is finished, there could be many psychological and
physiological complications leading to frigidity and other abnormalities.
Indeed, many husbands eventually become disappointed with their wives, believing
them to be frigid or unable to respond to their activities (unlike the sirens on
the film or TV screen), and they wonder what is wrong with them. A possible
explanation will follow in a moment.
created male and female from a single soul in order that man might live with her
in serenity (Quran, 7:189), and not in unhappiness, frustration and
strife. If your marriage is frankly awful, then you must ask yourself how such a
desperate and tragic scenario could be regarded by anyone as `half the Faith'.
According to a hadith:
one of you should fall upon his wife like an animal; but let there first be a
messenger between you.' `And what is that messenger?' they asked, and he
replied: `Kisses and words.' (Daylami)
These `kisses and words' do not
just include foreplay once intimacy has commenced. To set the right mood, little
signals should begin well in advance, so that the wife has a clue as to what is
coming, and is pleasantly expectant, and also has adequate time to make herself
clean, attractive and ready.
As regards intimacy itself, all
men know that they cannot achieve sexual fulfillment if they are not aroused.
They should also realise that it is actually harmful and painful for the female
organs to be used for sex without proper preparation. In simple biological
terms, the woman's private parts need a kind of natural lubrication before the
sexual act takes place. For this, Allah has created special glands, known to
modern doctors as the Bartholin glands, which provide the necessary `oils'.
It is still possible to read
old-fashioned advice to husbands that a desirable wife should be `dry' - which
is remarkable ignorance and makes one really grieve for the poor wives of such
inconsiderate men. Just as no one would dream of trying to run an engine without
the correct lubricating fluids, it is the same, through the creative will of
Allah, with the parts of the female body designed for sexual intimacy. A husband
should know how to stimulate the production of these `oils' in his wife, or at
the very least allow her to use some artificial `oils'. This lack of knowledge
or consideration is where so many marital problems frequently arise.
al-Ghazali says: `Sex should begin with gentle words and kissing', and Imam
al-Zabidi adds: `This should include not only the cheeks and lips; and then he
should caress the breasts and nipples, and every part of her body.' (Zabidi,
Ithaf al-Sada al Muttaqin, V 372.)
Most men will not need telling this; but it should be remembered that failure to
observe this Islamic practice is to neglect or deny the way Allah has created
Insulting a wife with bad
Firstly, a husband must overcome
his shyness enough to actually look at his wife, and pay attention to her. If he
cannot bring himself to follow this sunna, it is an insult to her, and extremely
hurtful. Personal intimacy is a minefield of opportunities to hurt each other -
glancing at the watch, a yawn at the wrong moment, appearing bored, and so on. A
husband's duty is to convince his wife that he does love her - and this can only
be done by word (constantly repeated word, I might add - such is the irritating
nature of women!), and by looking and touching.
Many people believe that the
expression in the eyes reveals much of the human soul. Certainly the lover's
gaze is a most endearing and treasured thing. Many wives yearn for that gaze of
love, even after they have been married for years.
If you cannot bring yourself to
look at her while paying attention to her, she can only interpret this as a sign
that you do not really love her. And even though it may be irritating to you,
and seem quite superfluous, most women are deeply moved when a man actually
tells her that he loves her.
Sex is clean!
modest upbringing is part of good character. The Prophet (s) himself said:
`Modesty brings nothing but good'. (Bukhari and Muslim.) But another,
also important part of Islamic teaching says that all of Allah's creation is
beautiful and pure, particularly when it is part of the body of human beings,
who are designed as His deputies upon the earth, In some religions, people
traditionally believed that the woman's private parts are in some way unclean,
or dirty, or even evil. In the Islamic view this is nonsense - they are simply
part of the way Allah created women. To criticise or to dislike this is to
criticise our Maker himself, who out of His kindness gave women this equipment
and opportunity for the physical expression of love and union.
the woman is halal for him, he may look at all parts of her body,' (Zabidi,
Ithaf al-Sada al-Muttaqin, V, 331)
husband is permitted to look at the private parts of his wife.' (Khurashi,
Sharh Mukhtasar Khalil, III, 4)
There is a
very relevant ayah in the Quran which says: `If you take a dislike to them,
it may be that you dislike something through which Allah is bringing about much
Anyone who finds his wife's
sexual equipment distasteful is insulting her Creator, and ignoring His plan and
Sex is not dirty if the couple
are not dirty, either physically or in harbouring `dirty' thoughts of
self-gratification and the abuse of the spouse. This should not be a problem for
Muslims, who have such clear guidance on personal hygiene that their private
parts are washed several times a day, which is not the case in any other
religion. But in addition to the usual Muslim hygiene, if a man does feel that
his wife is dirty, it is a simple matter to exert a husband's right as the boss
and give her the order to wash. At the same time, the man has the duty to make
sure he is clean himself!
Some women feel exactly the same
qualms about the cleanliness of a man's private parts as he might do for hers.
Don't forget that a man actually does urinate and spend his seed from the same
orifice, which is not true for the woman! Her urine comes from quite a different
place than the one intended for physical intimacy. It is perfectly possible for
a husband to touch a woman's vagina and clitoris, and not touch the part from
which urine comes at all.
The Blessed Prophet actually
recommended regularly removing the pubic hairs- a tricky operation for the
woman, but preferable for a clean and stimulating attitude to sexual coupling.
If, after taking a shower before
sex, and perhaps using a favourite perfume, the man still thinks the woman is
dirty or unclean, then he is being ignorant, and unrighteously critical of
Allah's creation and intentions, and is neglecting his own duty.
What about those wrinkles?
A good Muslim does not waste
time complaining to the Creator about the physical `bag of tricks' he or she has
been given for this lifetime. It is a complete waste of time for a man as thin
as a stick to wish that he were a rugby player; or someone with blue eyes
wishing they had brown; or someone with ginger hair trying to dye it another
colour; or a short person trying desperately to be tall; or an ageing person
wishing to be young again, and so on. Although we can sometimes make marginal
improvements with great effort; basically we are as we are, warts and all.
The amazing thing is that it is
not the appearance of our physical bodies that makes our partner love us.
Certainly it is true that human beings probably cannot help an instant reaction
when they look at another human being for the first time. But even in very
materialistic societies, people's looks are often not the reason why they fall
in love. They need have little to do with a happy marriage. `A man who marries a
woman for her wealth and beauty will be deprived of that wealth and beauty;
while the man who marries her for her religion shall receive from God her wealth
and beauty too.' (Hadith in Tabarani.)
Being unduly concerned about any
aspect of one's looks can have a very detrimental effect on a marriage,
especially if the person's desire to change something or other in their body
overwhelms them and becomes their chief concern. It is the duty of all of us to
make the best of what we have; but it is a subtle form of shirk to live in an
attitude of complaint to our Creator for what we have been given.
friend, friend! Be neither anguished nor distressed, Surrender to God's Decrees,
and you will be praised and rewarded. Be content with what He has ordained and
disposed, Do not despise the decree of He Who is the Lord of the High Throne.
Nevertheless, loving people
realise that those they love are often very sensitive about certain things.
Having stated that husbands should pay their wives the compliment of actually
looking at them, particularly during intimate moments, it also needs to be
stated that many women appreciate the cover of darkness, and only feel
comfortable being intimate in the dark, when all their `warts and all become
invisible. Women are sensitive things - signs of ageing or physical
`imperfections', little defects like double chins, rolls of unwanted spare tyre
round the belly, all sorts of spots and blemishes, these are just as upsetting
to a woman as flapping ears, pimples, the inability to grow hair, being too thin
or too short are to the male ego. Sometimes the darkness is kind to us, and
loosens up our inhibitions.
How can I make my woman happy
It is important for men to
realise that women are not all the same, but are actually individual living
beings. They do not have automatic response mechanisms, but their responses are
subtle and are triggered by all sorts of things.
Contrary to a very common male
myth, the love of a woman for a man has nothing to do with the size or shape of
his private parts. Most women do not find the common male fixation with his size
at all endearing, and might even be frightened by something they thought was too
much for them (even though we all know that babies, some with heads the size of
a grapefruit, have to come out of that same channel!). In any case, unless the
erect member is less than three inches long it will still be perfectly capable
of bringing her to orgasm, since the deeper parts of the vagina are not very
As regards the man's body,
unexpected things like the shape of his arm, the fineness of his hands, the way
he stands or walks, his hips, the strength of his legs, the nape of his neck,
the fine hairs on his cheek- all these things stir a woman's longing response
far more than contemplation of his actual sexual equipment.
Basically, what attracts a woman
most is a man's manliness. It may even be his awkward shyness, or his cussed
determination, or his ability to take command. Certainly, if the man is a good
leader and dominant partner, the most wonderful thing about marriage with him
will be his ability to `descend from his lofty heights' and actually do and say
things for no other reason than to please his wife.
The little gift, the bunch of
flowers, is a prime example. The woman doesn't actually care tuppence for the
flowers - what gives her such wonderful pleasure is the thought that her man has
actually taken the time and trouble to think about her. That is certainly one
thing that would make her love him, so long as it is done in a Muslim way, and
not as a bribe or other sweetener. `Give gifts to each
other, and you will love each other.' (Bukhari.)
There is a
lovely story of the Blessed Prophet listening to eleven women. They all
complained about their husbands, but the eleventh one, Umm Zar'a, said: `I have
no words enough to praise my husband. He has covered my ears with ornaments, and
fed me so well that my lean and thin arms have become plump. In short, he has
provided me with everything to keep me happy, and I am happy. I am very lucky
... I talk to him freely and frankly, but he never objects. I sleep comfortably
until the morning, and I eat delicious food.' Then the Blessed Prophet said to
A'isha: `I am like Abu Zar'a for you!'
The importance of kindness
to your woman
A person embarking on a journey across strange territory will be well advised to
consult a map. Similarly, it is a good idea for anyone embarking on marriage for
the first time to have a rough idea of what to do and how long to do it for. For
a Muslim man contracting nikah, this is a duty. A man getting married can
probably already imagine what pleases him, and what it is necessary for him to
do or experience, and for how long, for him to achieve satisfaction and a good,
restful night's sleep to follow.
He already knows that if he is
turned on by something, and then is forced to `cool it down', `turn it off', and
not be fulfilled, this takes a considerable effort of will, and is not a
pleasant business at all.
Imagine a hungry cat being shown
a plateful of food. Once the food is seen and smelt, the cat goes crazy to have
it. You hold the cat back, but the instant you let go, it leaps upon the food.
It is perfectly natural for it to do so. Can you imagine how unjust it would be
to a female cat if the male was always allowed to finish the meal and eat just
as much as he liked, while the female always had the plate snatched away from
her after she had just taken a bite at it?
Nobody who kept a pet cat would
ever dream of making this distinction between their male and female animals.
They would see and agree straight away that it was gross cruelty, and totally in
opposition to the will of Allah, Who has counseled kindness and consideration to
But sometimes men do this to
their women, and it is a gross dereliction of their duty. Sometimes human beings
develop one particular blindness - they forget that they also have a biological
nature, male and female, and that all their needs and urges and intuitions are
implanted in them by their dear Lord, the Benevolent Creator.
As regards sexual fulfillment,
if a man knows that he is not going to be able to achieve it, he is likely to
make a considerable effort not to let his body become aroused in the first
place, or if it is he will probably have worked out some means acceptable to
himself of satisfying the urge aroused, even though he may feel unhappy about
Allah created the sexual urge in
us, and it is probably the strongest of all the urges He created. He intended it
to be used, and He intended us to form a happy marriage bond with a life
partner; so there is nothing wrong whatsoever in thinking through ways of
achieving the best in marital happiness.
A happy and fulfilled night life
leads to better sleep, contentment, a better work routine during the day,
confidence, and a whole range of other benefits. It should be obvious that a
happy sex life is as much a part of Islam as prayers or fasting!
How to help a wife achieve
satisfaction, peace and love
It is all too easy for a man to
be aroused and to charge into sexual intimacy, and, because of his excitement,
for it all to be over in a matter of moments. If this is the case, the woman is
likely to be frustrated and unhappy, even if she has not the courage or is too
polite or shy to say so.
If you are a man, and have just
read the preceding paragraph, and it suddenly occurs to you that this is indeed
what you do, but of course it doesn't apply to your wife - she is perfectly
happy - then you would be well advised to stop and scrutinise the evidence. How
often does she smile and show her contentment? How often does she hurry to
please you in all sorts of little ways? How ungrudgingly does she do the boring
and unpleasant chores of family life on your behalf?
Given a good, attentive lover,
she will do the most menial of tasks for him, cheerfully! But if he lacks
attention, she will gradually be worn down by disappointment and resentment, and
the whole pleasure of family life intended by God in His mercy towards us will
Some men mistakenly believe
that they cannot help being the way they are. In fact, they may have thought it
a compliment to their wives that they are able to rouse themselves and fulfill
their urges so speedily. This is nonsense. If you read any medical manual on the
subject, you will discover that if a male reaches climax in less than three
minutes after entering his woman, this is counted as `premature ejaculation' and
is thought of as something that one has to make an effort to cure.
On the medical level, there are
some useful countermeasures for this common problem. Take a look, for instance,
at the Islamic herbal remedies listed in Chishti's The Traditional Healer, pages
276 (for impotence), and 278 (for premature ejaculation).
Another useful way of solving
the problem is to raise the significance of your intimacy by setting aside more
time for it, rather than leaving it until last thing at night when you are
exhausted. It is worth remembering that the traditional time for sex in many
Muslim societies is not the night, but the afternoon siesta. This is not so easy
if you are at work on a 9 to 5 job! But perhaps, occasionally, you could go to
bed an hour earlier. It is highly insulting to a wife if the only attention she
ever gets is an abrupt announcement of her husband's urges, perhaps after he has
sat up late watching TV, after which he rolls into bed to get the whole business
over with as quickly as possible before he drops off to sleep
Similarly, there is no
justification for using one's religious devotions as an excuse to deprive a
loving partner. According to Abu Sa'd, the Prophet (s)
once rebuked the wife of Safwan ibn alMu' attal for being over pious to the
detriment of her marriage. She used to read two long suras during her night
prayer, keeping her husband waiting; and she fasted frequently without his
permission, which made her tired and prevented any opportunity for sex during
the day (sexual activity being forbidden while fasting). The Blessed Prophet
ruled in favour of the husband, recommending that she limit her recitation to
one sura, and only fasted with her husband's permission. Similarly, when the
Prophet heard that an ascetic Companion, Abdallah ibn `Amr, was in the habit of
praying all night and fasting all day, he told him to moderate his devotions,
pointing out that `Your eye has a right over you, your guests have a right over
you, and your wife has a right over you.' (Bukhari.)
This hadith should be taken
seriously. Many Muslim wives in nuclear families know only too well the long
hours of loneliness while their husbands are away at the mosque, and how
frequently they dawdle with their friends (even if the last prayer is very
late), and sometimes fail to come to bed until the wife is already asleep, or is
so tired that she is no longer interested!
The Blessed Prophet's own
practice was not to remain in the mosque or with others after the last prayer of
the day, but to leave the mosque and return home. It is a Sunna to sleep quite
early, and to rise early as well.
If some of the above reads like
a comment on your own attitude or activities, then you would do well to examine
your conscience! Nobody is suggesting that a normal marriage has to be a
constant round of physical gymnastics at every moment of the day - merely that
the legitimate needs of both partners must be taken into consideration.
A good Muslim woman will do her
best to see that her man is happy and content. The good Muslim man must know
that he has exactly the same duty towards his wife.
Sometimes he fails in this duty
simply because he is a selfish man and a poor Muslim (even though he may find
time for his five prayers). Sometimes, tragically, Muslim men can fail out of
simple ignorance of what their responsibilities entail, and make themselves
suffer as well as their wives, quite needlessly. This is not what Allah intended
for either of them in their marriage - and with a little effort and knowledge,
it could so easily be put right. This is what this final part of my book is all
If a man is consistently
refusing to provide the answer to his wife's du'a for his kind attention he must
realise that he will find some awkward questions to answer when he eventually
faces Judgment, and the books are opened to reveal all - no matter how shaming!
He may have thought of himself as the `best of Muslims', without realising the
truth of the words of the Prophet: `the best of you are those who are kindest to
their wives and families.' Imagine the shock, at the end of a pious lifetime of
prayer and charity, of discovering that you had actually been guilty of cruelty
towards your wife all those years, and were now called to account for it!
Thankfully, every day is a new
day, and it is never too late to make a fresh start and put things right.
`A Muslim's repentance is accepted until he gives the
death rattle.' (Hadith in al-Hakim, Mustadrak. )
Writen by Ruqayyah Waris Maqsood