How to turn Sex into Sadaqa
Women 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." (2:216)
They do indeed! This passage of the Holy Qur'an 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 (P.B.U.H) stated that in one's sexual intimacy with one's life- partner there is sadaqa:
God's Messenger (P.B.U.H) said: 'In the sexual act of each of you there is a sadaqa. The Companions replied: 'O 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 self-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 his wife, and vice versa.
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.
'Of 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' (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 excuse.
Now, it is fairly easy for a woman to satisfy a man and make her-self 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.
In fact, according to a hadith:
Three 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' (2:223). The imagery is that of a farmer taking care of his fields. According to Mawlana Abul-Ala Mawdudi:
The 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, Qur'anic Sciences, London 1981, p. 285)
Likewise, in the case of husband and wife, the husband should not just.
'take hold of his wife and drop the seed and finish the business of procreation. The damage in this case could sometimes be irreparable, because the woman, unlike a farm, is very sensitive and has emotions, feelings and strong passions which need full satisfaction and attention in a proper and appropriate manner. (Afzalur Rahman, p. 286.)
If this is not take 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.
Allah created male and female from a single soul in order that man might live with her in serenity (7:189), and not in unhappiness, frustration and strife. If your mar- riage 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:
'Not 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 her-self 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.
As Imam 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 the Islamic practice is to neglect or deny the way Allah has created women.
INSULTING A WIFE WITH BAD MARITAL MANNERS
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 Sunnah, 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!
A modest upbringing is part of good character. The Prophet (P.B.U.H) 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.
"If the woman is halal for him, he may look at all parts of her body.' (Zabidi, Ithaf al-Sada al-Muttaqin, V, 331) A 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 Qur'an which says: "If you take a dislike to them, it may be that you dislike something through which Allah is bringing about much good." (4:19)
Anyone who finds his wife's sexual equipment distasteful is insulting her Creator, and ignoring His plan and wise reasons.
Sex is not dirty if the couples 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 ungrateful and 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 life time. It is a complete waste of tin me 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.
O 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 dispute the decree of He Who is the Lord of the High Throne. (Imam al-Haddad)
Nevertheless, loving people realise that those they love are often very sensitive about certain things. Having stated that husbands should pay their wives the compli- ment 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 AND SATISFIED?
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 sensitive.
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 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'ishah: '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 counselled kindness and consideration to all creatures.
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 this.
He may not realise that real sex is not like the films, and that it could take between 15-30 minutes to fully arouse his wife; and that it is gross cruelty to make no attempt to do this at all, or to start off and then finish abruptly. If a husband has rushed to climax before his wife, he should not abandon his efforts, but continue his caresses until she is satisfied. If you love your wife, is she not worth those few minutes of your day?
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 wither away.
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 fulfil 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 Chisthi'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 Sad, the Prophet (P.B.U.H) once rebuked the wife of Safwan Ibn al-Mu'attal for being over pious to the detriment of her marriage. She used to read two long surahs 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 surah, 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 Sunnah 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 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.
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.)
CONCLUSION of sexual relationship
Once sex has become a chore and a duty, the marriage is well on its way to being dead. If the man's efforts actually cause the woman pain or distaste, she will soon avoid any intimacy at all, and will use any excuse to get out of it. Headaches, weak heart, rheumatism-you name it, she'll have it.
In fact, a real sexual relationship is so good for you it would help to heal all these conditions, since it is good healthy activity that raises the heart rate and stimulates the lungs, and takes the mina off disturbing problems and brings spiritual wholeness, serenity and contentment. The considerate Muslim man soon learns how to make his wife happy, and in doing so, refuses to get anxious and overwrought about his own performance. A good Muslim wife will never despise a husband for his physical equipment or lack of expertise, so long as he is loving and considerate towards her. And if they married as virgins, there will be no unfavourable comparisons for either of them to make!
If a good Muslim marriage is to be sadaqa for the spouse and pleasing in the eyes of God, it is no use one partner seething with frustration and then finally cracking up. Both of them should try to find gentle ways of supplying 'feedback' to the other-not to be interpreted as criticism, dissatisfaction or hostility (which is what it becomes if left to ferment for too long), but as the only way to learn and grow together, as sanctioned and willed for us by Allah.
May Allah forgive this author for raising topics that are sensitive and private, and discussing them in a way that some might think incorrect and distasteful. But we know that many Muslims nowadays are asking about these matters, and it is the Sunnah to make useful knowledge known, whatever it might be.
Allah ta'ala decreed that creation should be set up in pairs complementing each other in harmony, and wished only happiness and peace for us. Therefore, we should all make it our jihad to create happy and fulfilled marriages, in the sight of Him in Whose 'hand' lie our souls. May everything we do be pleasing to Him, and may He bless us and bring us to fulfillment, serenity and completion. Amin.
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