Marital Rape OK within Islamic Marriage?!

09 August, 2017
Q Dear Respected Scholar, I have a few questions about a very sensitive topic. I have been exploring the role of women in Islam as a non-Muslim. One of the most important roles of a woman is to be a wife and to behave properly and to fulfill certain duties. One of the duties that I have been constantly observing is that of fulfilling the husband’s sexual needs. I have found several references within essays, books, and the Quran that pertain to this principle. For example, in Surah 2, verse 223:*{Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will...}*I interpret this as the wife being the husband’s “property” and he may utilize it whenever he pleases. I find this a bit disturbing, because if a woman is not feeling well or is “not in the mood,” does she still have to submit to her husband? Or, is the husband expected to respect his wife’s position and dismiss his desire? Unfortunately, this reminds me too much of marital rape, which I have studied in a sociology class. Even though it may be a very controversial issue for any religion, I wonder, is marital rape not considered an offense in Islam? I would very much appreciate your scholarly perspective and knowledge on this subject.

Answer

Salam Dear Bethany,

Thank you for your interesting question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Context: Sexual Pleasure for Both Parties

First, the Quranic verse that you mentioned has a completely different interpretation than the one you thought of. It doesn’t mean any sense of sexual exploitation.

Actually, it was revealed on the occasion that some of the prophet’s companions asked him about how to approach their wives sexually.

This was because their Jewish neighbors used to tell them that a sexual intercourse should only be made in one particular position.

The verse was then revealed to inform believers that they are free to approach their women in any position they like.

Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) added to its interpretation that one is free to have sexual intercourse with his wife in any position, as long as it is vaginal—for anal intercourse is prohibited in Islam.

It is clear that such permission aimed at adding more pleasure to both husband and wife. This is by avoiding the monotony of such a relationship.

Mutual Satisfaction is Paramount

As for “marital rape“, Islam teaches both husband and wife the understanding of having to minimize the times when they are reluctant to respond to their spouses’ sexual demand.

Unless there are really serious reasons concerning, for example, health or mental difficulties, neither of them should refuse such a demand.

This is not because any side is a “property” of the other or because Islam approves what is called “marital rape”. On the contrary, this is because Islam prohibits adultery and marital infidelity.

This, in fact, is prohibited for both parties.

Therefore, Islam urges both parties to be always welcoming to meet the other party’s sexual needs.

Both parties are also obliged to make sure that this affair has ended with full satisfaction for ones’ partner.

It seems you have read about this part, which focuses on the rule of submitting to the spouse as “obligatory” to women.

However, it seems you haven’t read about the Islamic teaching that also made it obligatory for husbands to offer sex to their wives.

A Wife’s Rights to Foreplay & Satisfaction

This is due to the fact that the woman might be shy or embarrassed to ask it for herself, every four days. According to Imam Ghazali and other scholars, this is even if the husband does not feel like doing it:

It is desirable that he should have intimate relations with her once every four nights; that is more just, for the [maximum] number of wives is four which justifies this span. It is true that intimate relations should be more or less frequent in accordance to her need to remain chaste, for to satisfy her is his duty. If seeking intimate relations [by the woman] is not established, it causes the same difficulty in the same demand and the fulfill­ment thereof.

In addition, a ruler should not send soldiers in an army – even if it is wartime – for more than four months, just for this reason!

You need to know, dear Bethany, that the Prophet (peace be upon him) warned husbands against what he called: “falling onto women like animals.”

“Let none of you come upon his wife like an animal, and let there be an emissary between them.” He was asked, “What is this emissary, 0 Messenger of God?” He said, “The kiss and [sweet] words.”

Also, Ibn Magah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) has commanded husbands not to start a sexual intercourse, unless they start by ‘flirting, talking and kissing the wife’ till she becomes ‘in the mood’ and capable of sharing the pleasure of these moments:

There are three qualities which are considered deficiencies in a man: one, that he should meet someone whose acquaintance he wishes to make but parts from him before learning his name and lineage; second, that he should be treated kindly and reject the kindness’ done unto him; and third, that he should approach his wife and have sexual contact with her before exchanging tender words and caresses, consequently, he sleeps with her and fulfills his needs before she fulfills hers.

Thus, he also drew men’s attention to the fact that women tend to reach orgasm, a short time after husbands do.

Because of this fact, a husband should wait till she is fully satisfied to end their exchange.

We believe that this prescription of sexual relations in Islam is the furthest it can be from rape!

A Husband’s Equal Rights

Simultaneously, Islam urges the Muslim woman that – however busy she may be – she should leave whatever is keeping her busy if her husband asks her.

Here, if the woman refuses to submit to her husband’s desire, for no serious reason, she would be exposed to God’s displeasure. Thus, Islam directs both parties and not men only to observe this rule.

In fact, the wisdom behind such elucidation in describing spouses’ sexual relations and the ideal way to reach full satisfaction – either in quantity or quality – was meant to close the door for any body to find an excuse to commit the major sin of adultery.

It is a sin, which is not accepted in Islam under any circumstances.

I really appreciate your interest in Islam. Still, I advise you to read it from its original sources. These are now available through the Internet and many other ways.

This is rather than discovering Islam through sources, which deliberately distort its beautiful and comprehensive message.

The message of Islam, dear Bethany, touches every aspect of people’s lives, even their sexual life!

Some simply misinterpret this message by focusing on “choosing” specific Quranic verses or taking parts of the rulings, that serves their interpretations, and leaving the other parts.

I hope this helps answer your question. Thank you and wish to hear from you again.

Salam.


This is from AboutIslam’s archives and was originally published in August 2016.

Satisfy your curiosity and check these other helpful links:

I Almost Feel I’m Raping My Husband

 

Is a Wife Entitled for Sexual Intercourse?

 

Husband Leaves Me Unsatisfied in Bed, Yet Wants Another Wife

 

Why Do I Have to Beg My Wife for Sex?

 

Husband Doesn’t Like Having Sex with Me