Short Answer: Though the husband’s right is more pronounced in Islamic writings, both partners have the right to sexual pleasure. Beyond that requirement, Islam is flexible and allows for varying sex drives and circumstances. Both partners must work together to find an arrangement that meets both their needs, and this arrangement will change from time to time, so flexibility is key.
Asalaamu alaykum, and thank you for sending in your question to our website.
The beauty of Islam as a practical way of life is that its laws and rules are timeless and all-encompassing in nature.
A Muslim hailing from any era in time, geographical location around the world, or cultural background can act upon Islam to the fullest and still stick to their particular tastes and preferences.
In the realm of marriage, particularly, Islam offers much flexibility.
After defining the basic roles and responsibilities of each spouse, Islam is neutral about many secondary marital matters.
A couple can adapt the logistics of their married life according to their own wishes.
When you get down to it, the literal meaning of the Arabic word “nikah”, is sexual intercourse.
Having one’s sexual urges satisfied in a permissible manner is the basic right of each spouse in an Islamic marriage.
Nevertheless, the husband’s right to sexual intercourse is a notch greater than the wife’s, indicated by the hadith that you mentioned, which prohibits a wife from refusing her husband’s call for intimacy without a valid reason.
The husband’s greater right to have his sexual urges promptly satisfied without delay, is mainly related to his higher degree of authority in the relationship.
That being said, a Muslim husband is also prohibited to neglect his wife’s sexual needs.
If she needs sexual gratification, he should not intentionally neglect her, else he will also be sinning and disobeying Allah.
Ibn Qudamah said, “Intercourse is obligatory upon the man if he has no excuse.” This was also the view of Malik.
Ibn Taymiyah said,
The husband should have intercourse with his wife according to what satisfies her, so long as that does not harm him physically, or keep him from earning a living; it is not limited to four months. [Al-Ikhtiyarat Al Fiqhiyyah, page 246]
The couple have to reach an optimum state of equilibrium in which each partner remains sexually satisfied, perennially.
Admittedly, this will involve some degree of sacrifice and compromise on the part of both spouses.
The dynamics and frequency of sexual intimacy will vary for each couple.
Flexibility & Patience is Key
Both spouses should care about each other’s needs, and fear Allah regarding their role and responsibility in an Islamic marriage.
Neither should be selfish, nor burden the other more than the latter can bear.
Furthermore, the husband-wife relationship (including the sexual aspect) constantly evolves with time.
Adjustments are needed again and again, due to cyclical or random events, such as births of children, relocation, job change, familial visits/involvement, finances, illness, traveling, etc.
Patience, flexibility, and hope is key during trying circumstances.
When both partners care about the other for the sake of Allah, their relationship can successfully survive life’s recurring challenges, insha’Allah.
And Allah knows best. I hope that this answers your questions.
Salam. Please stay in touch.