Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- Muslim spouses are required to fulfill each other’s sexual needs, so it is a religious duty on the part of both spouses to satisfy each other.
2- Therefore, a Muslim should strike a balance between his or her duties towards the spouse and religious lessons.
In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
Sexual fulfillment is undoubtedly one of the most crucial objectives of marriage in Islam. It is, therefore, considered a religious duty on the part of spouses to do everything within their means to satisfy their partner, the only restriction being that they must do so within the permissible bounds of the Shari`ah.
As a matter of fact, one of the stated purposes of marriage in Islam is to protect spouses against falling into sins. This is why marriage is called tahassun, which literally means “making an armor of protection.”
The idea implied here is that through marriage one gets the essential sexual fulfillment so that one is guarded against falling into temptation and sin.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “O young people, those of you who can afford to do so should get married, for it helps to safeguard against unlawful stares and preserve one’s chastity.” (An-Nasai)
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) further stressed the importance of spouses paying attention to this important area of their marital life. He said that when a wife refuses to cooperate with her husband in fulfilling his sexual needs, she is guilty of a major offense, whereby she may incur the wrath of Allah.
The Prophet’s statement is not intended to mean that sexual fulfillment is a one-way street, for Islam stresses the fact that a wife has the same right to sexual fulfillment as her husband; that is why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) granted women the right to leave a marriage that is sexually unfulfilling.
Furthermore, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also encouraged spouses to engage in foreplay before sexual intercourse. Thus he warned against the tendency of hopping into beds like some birds; by this he meant to remind us that as humans we ought to make our sexual activity as pleasurable and recreational as possible.
To strive to do so is a crucial aspect of one’s spousal duties, far more important than engaging in optional prayers or fasts or other activities, for fulfilling one’s partner’s sexual needs is at once a priority and hence a religious obligation.
If, therefore, her religious classes stand in the way of fulfilling essential spousal duties, then it becomes sinful on the part of your wife to attend them.
However, I do not see any possible conflict between attending Quranic classes and fulfilling one’s spousal duties. For no scholar or teacher of Islam worthy of the name would ever teach his or her students to sacrifice their spousal duties and engage in optional studies.
Coming to your desire for your wife to appear attractive before you, I must also state emphatically that it is also a legitimate one.
In fact, during the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) when married women were seen appearing in less-than-attractive ways, an explanation was asked for.
Once on seeing the wife of Uthman ibn Mazhun appearing in a shabby way, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) inquired what was happening to her, and, accordingly, when he was told that her husband had no interest in women as he had renounced the world, the Prophet cautioned him against such excesses.
Likewise, when the prominent Companion Salman Al-Farisi, upon visiting Abu Ad-Darda, saw the latter’s wife appearing before her husband dressed in a shabby manner, he asked her what was wrong with their marriage. On being told that Abu Ad-Dardaa had become disinclined towards women because of obsession with religious worship, Salman advised them that paying attention to spousal rights is integral to the practice of Islam.
All of these should help to remind us how Islam values healthy sexual relations between marriage partners even as they emphasize the need for spouses to pay attention to their appearances.
Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them) said, “I prepare myself for my wife even as she prepares herself for me!”
Aishah, the Prophet’s wife, once answered a woman who had asked her, “How far should a wife go in beautifying herself for her husband?” She told her, “Do everything humanly possible to beautify yourself for your husband!” No one can express this point better. It leaves no excuse for a wife for failing to take care of this vital aspect of her spousal duties.
In conclusion, let me state: According to the sound teachings of Islam, there is nothing more important for spouses than trying to fulfill the sexual and emotional needs of each other for companionship; it comes next to our duties towards Allah.
I pray to Allah to give you and your wife the wisdom to make your marriage work for the mutual satisfaction of both.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.