Physical Intimacy

According to Islam, marriage and sexual fulfillment through marriage is considered an essential requirement for human beings. Celibacy is not advocated as it goes against the nature of the human being as created by the Almighty. The Islamic approach is thus different from that of other religions that ascribe an evil connotation to sex. Their belief that spiritual status can only be achieved through abstaining from fulfilling physical desires, is rejected by Islam. In fact, Islam gives rules and guidelines to cover this aspect of human life. Ayatullah Mutahhari in his book Sexual Ethics in Islam says:
..it is true that from the Islamic point of view sexual desire is not only compatible with human intellectuality or spirituality, but is evidenced as part of the nature and temperament of the Prophets. . . human sexuality in itself neither represents any inborn wickedness, nor it invariably signifies evil consequences.
A fulfilling sexual life is a very important part of marriage. Intimacy helps bond the couple together, and the pleasure achieved from that is an antidote to the pressures of daily life. The early days and months of marriage are usually a time of intense sexual excitement. Sometimes inhibitions and sexual anxieties prevent the couple from enjoying this period. They will have to learn the needs and desires of each other, to be patient and gentle with one another. Each person’s sexual needs are individual, and it requires delicacy and sensitivity to ensure that each gets the maximum pleasure from the relationship. Time and a willingness to accommodate the other person’s needs are important factors in achieving a happy sexual life. The sexual relationship helps draw the couple close to one another, and it can often be helpful in diffusing marital tension. Physical intimacy can be used to heal rifts created through conflicts and arguments. Some couples may use it negatively. A conflict will cause them to avoid sexual intimacy, and this creates even wider rifts between them. It is wrong to deny one’s spouse sex, or to avoid showing interest in it, because of differences. Although it is inevitable that sexual intimacy is affected by the type of relationship between the spouses, a vicious negative cycle must not be started. When a couple loses physical closeness, anger increases and the tension mounts. This makes them reluctant to initiate any loving relationship, and in turn creates more resentment. To avoid all this, the couple must try not to let differences affect their sexual life too drastically. They should, on the contrary, use it to heal their differences and bring them closer together. Islam recommends sensitivity to the needs and desires of the spouse. Hadith tells us that among the recommended times for sex is the time when the wife desires to have it. Also, the wife who disregards the desire of the husband, and denies him sexual pleasure, is displeasing Allah.

Sexual Etiquettes of Islam

1. Sex only within marriage Sexual relationship is only allowed within marriage. Premarital sex is forbidden and abhorred. The Islamic term for it is zina (fornication), one of the major sins. The Holy Qur’an says:
Do not approach adultery, surely it is an indecency, and an evil way [ of fulfilling desire]. (17:32)
2. Privacy must be maintained Islamic etiquette maintains that sex must never be performed in a place where anyone, even a young child, can see or hear anything from the couple. A Hadith of Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq(a) says: Be careful not to have sex where a child can see you. The Prophet disliked that very strongly. In fact, the Holy Qur’an recommends that children seek permission before entering the bedroom of the parents. Allah says in Sura an-Nur, verse 58:
O you who believe! . . . those of you who have not yet reached puberty should ask you for permission (before entering your bedroom during) three times: before the dawn prayer, when you put off your garments at midday (for siesta) and after the night prayer – these are three times of privacy for you.
In the next verse, Allah continues:
When your children reach puberty, they should ask your permission (at all times before entering your bedrooms) just as those who were before them had asked permission. Thus God makes clear to you the signs, and Allah is all-Knowing, Wise.
3. Foreplay Islam emphasizes on foreplay before marriage. Imam Ali (a) says: When you intend to have sex with your wife, do not rush because the woman (also) has needs. Another Hadith from Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq (a) says: … there should be mutual foreplay between them because it is better for sex. Both partners should derive pleasure and satisfaction from sex, and an important way to attain that is through sexual foreplay. 4. Haram (Forbidden) actions It is forbidden to engage in sex during menstruation. The Holy Qur’an says:
They ask you about menstruation. Say: Menstruation is a discomfort (for women). Do not establish sexual relations with them during the menses and do not approach them (sexually) until it stops. (2:222)
5. Makruh (disliked) actions It is better to avoid talking during intercourse. It is disliked to have sex during the following days and times:
  1. during frightful natural occurrences such as eclipse, earthquake etc.
  2. from sunset to Maghrib
  3. from dawn to sunrise
  4. during the last three nights of the lunar month
  5. the night of the 15th of every lunar month
  6. night of 10th of Dhil Hijja
  7. after becoming junub i.e. najis due to intercourse
It is possible that many of these times are disliked because of the chances of deformity in a child who could be conceived. It could thus apply only for those couples who are not practicing birth control. 6. Mustahab (recommended) actions It is mustahab to do wudhu before intercourse. Good scent and perfume should also be used. The following times are among the recommended times:
  1. First night of Ramadhan
  2. Sunday night
  3. Monday night
  4. Wednesday night
  5. Thursday noon
  6. Thursday night
  7. Friday evening
7. Ghusl of Janabat It is wajib for both partners to do ghusl after sex. This ghusl is done with the intention of ghusl al-Janabah, and is performed like any other ghusl. It is wajib before namaz, as the partners are in a state of najasat. If a couple has sex a couple of times before namaz time, only one ghusl before namaz is necessary. It is not required to do a ghusl for each act. However it is musthab to do wudhu after each time. If ghusl is not performed immediately after sex, it is mustahab to do wudhu before carrying out other actions like eating, drinking, working etc.