Wa ’Alaikum Salaam dear brother in Islam,
Thank you for asking us and seeking to do the right thing. You are suffering, and instead of assuming that you can just leave your marriage, which is causing you so much suffering, you are trying to find out if that is right. I respect you so much for that!
There are things humans do which are due to our”human nature”, and others we”learn” to do. Examples of things we learn are how we respond to our human nature, i.e., cultural practices, religious practices, and ways of reacting to our feelings. For example, in some families, when they feel angry, they shut down, get quiet. In other families, when angry, they become aggressive and shout. A friend of mine told me that, when touring Europe, she could not understand why everyone in Italy was always angry at each other; they were always yelling at each other. She thought they were fighting. But in reality, they weren’t fighting. That was just the passionate that Italians express themselves. People in other European countries she visited did not express themselves that way.
Human nature is different. It is the things we feel. In other words, we all feel angry, but we have learned different ways of expressing it. We also all have physical needs. Those needs are directly hinged to feelings which protect us from not getting our survival needs met. It is called our survival mechanism. If we don’t get air, food, clothing, shelter, sleep, elimination, and protection from the elements and from other humans (who are violent, or thieves, or rapists, etc.) and protection from predators and poisonous bugs and bacteria, we feel it and those feelings drive us to act to protect our essential, universal needs. If we are not allowed to respond to the feelings which protect our survival, we can go insane, and, of course, eventually die.
One of our survival mechanisms is our sexual drive; it protects the continuation of the human race. However, it is linked to a certain class of feelings which we don’t normally associate with survival, like love. The way we know that we are loved is that our self-expressions are responded to. Self-expression is an essential human need because only Allah is One and we are social creatures, i.e., we need Allah and other human beings to survive. A newborn baby will die even if it is feed, but is not held or if its cries are not responded to. It is called failure to thrive. Humans need to be responded to. That is how we know we live—when our expressions are responded to.
Marriage is for self-expression and the receiving of another’s self expression. There is no other realm that Allah provides for us which allows for the full, intimate expression of ourselves as marriage provides, i.e., sexual, physical union, so much so that a new person, who is the combination of the two people, is realized.
Now, our sexual drive is the next strongest drive we have to our survival mechanism (that which you feel when you cannot breath, or are starving, or are afraid you are going to die). So, do not feel bad about having a sexual drive; it is 100% completely natural and healthy, and if you did not have it, that would be a problem, not the other way around! Your wife is making a very serious mistake in denying your right to sexual interaction in marriage. Furthermore, it is a sin in Islam for a woman to deny her husband when he wants sex.
HOWEVER, before I blame her, we need to find out why she is not allowing you to have sex with her. She may have emotional problems with which she needs help. Maybe she was the victim of sexual abuse as a child or some war crime which caused her to have emotional problems associated with sex. Or maybe you are not doing things right (do you know how to satisfy her before you cum?) If you need help understanding female sexuality, please seek out that help from Muslims. There is a hadith that says a husband should not leave the bed of his wife without satisfying her. Many men do not do this, because to do it they have to serve the wife’s needs, and they don’t think of their wife in those terms. They think their wife is supposed to serve their needs. This is a huge problem among Muslim men and needs to be addressed if we are ever to have healthy and strong families.
If you answer to the above questions and resolve those problems FIRST (maybe by involving a professional marriage counselor as well who can assist you), then, if she still refuses you sex, you have every right to divorce her and remarry someone else – someone who loves you and who you love. If your wife’s feelings are hurt by that, so be it. She does not have the right to deny you your basic rights in marriage. Regarding having a second wife, please write to our ‘Ask the Scholar’ section as I am not qualified to answer that question.
Of course, the best course is to solve your marital problems, if you can in sha’ Allah. May Allah make it easy for you!
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