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Sexual Etiquette according to Islamic Sources

Sexual intercourse and the sexual relationship with a legal spouse are governed by nature, and at the same time is a sunnah of the Prophets and the Ahlul Bayt (as).

It has even been referred to as the most pleasurable thing in life. A group of companions and Shīas of Imām as-Ŝādiq (as) narrate that the Imām asked us: “What is the most pleasurable thing?” We said: “There are many pleasurable things.” Imām said: “The most pleasurable thing is making love with (your) spouses.”

It is also narrated from Imām as-Ŝādiq (as): “Whether in this world or in the hereafter, one has not, and will not, perceived a pleasure more pleasurable than sexual relations with women, and certainly this is the commentary of the words of Allāh (SwT) in the Qur`an, in Surat Āli-’ Imrān, verse 14 where He states: “To mankind has been made to seem decorous the love of (worldly) desires, including women and children.” He then said: “Indeed, the people of heaven do not take delight in the pleasures of heaven more than Nikah; neither food nor drink has that much pleasure for them.”

As with every other aspect of our lives, Islam provides us with all the necessary information for the sexual lives of man and woman. The reason for this is simple; Islam recognizes the innate nature of man, and has ordained sexual relations for pleasure, and not just procreation. Sexual desires cannot, and should not be repressed, but rather regulated for one’s well-being in this world and the hereafter. If these rules are paid attention to and carried out with the intention of the pleasure and closeness of Allāh (SwT) and staying away from the evil of Satan, it is counted among the greatest of virtues.

Importance of Sexual Relations

There are many traditions relaying the importance of sexual relations. It has the station of worship and ŝadaqah, and has been called the sunnah of the Prophet (S).

Imām as-Ŝādiq (as) narrates that the Prophet (S) addressed one of his companions on the day of Friday and asked: “Are you fasting today?” (The companion) replied, “No.” The Prophet (S) asked: “Have you given anything as ŝadaqah today?” (The companion) replied, “No.” The Prophet (S) told him: “Go to your wife and that is your very ŝadaqah to her.”

In another tradition, Imām as-Ŝādiq (as) narrates that the Prophet (S) said to someone: “Are you fasting today?” He said, “No.” The Prophet (S) asked: “Have you gone to visit a sick person?” He replied, “No.” The Prophet (S) asked: “Have you been to escort a deceased person?” He replied, “No.” The Prophet (S) asked: “Have you given food to a poor person?” Again he gave a negative response. The Prophet (S) told him: “Go to your wife and going to your wife is ŝadaqah (Go to you to her so that you get all the reward for all these acts).”

Muĥammad bin Khalad narrates from Imām al-Riďā (as): “Three things are from the sunnah of the noble Prophets and the messengers of Allāh, and these are application of perfume, cutting of the hair and engaging in a lot of conjugal relations.”

Staying away from sexual relations with one’s wife is a result of Satan’s whisperings, and has many negative consequences such as arguments and rancour between husband and wife.

It is narrated from Imām as-Ŝādiq (as): Three ladies went to the Prophet (S) to complain. One of them said: “My husband does not eat meat.” The other said: “My husband does not smell perfurme and does not use perfume,” and the third lady said: “My husband does not come near the ladies (i.e. does not engage in sexual relations).” The Prophet (S) with unhappiness, in the manner that his blessed Aba (cloak) was dragging on the floor, left and went to the mosque and on to the minbar.

He praised Allāh (SwT) and then said: “What has happened, that a group from my followers don’t eat meat, or don’t apply perfume, or don’t go to their wives? Whilst I eat meat, I apply perfume and also go to my wife. This is my sunnah, and any person that turns away from this sunnah is not from me.”

Imām as-Ŝādiq (as) has also narrated: The wife of °Uthmān bin Ma°dhūn came to the Prophet (S) and said: “Oh messenger of Allāh (SwT), every day °Uthmān fasts and in the evenings engages in Ŝalāt.” The Prophet (S) picked his sandals and angrily went to °Uthmān (such that he did not wait to put his sandals on) and saw him in the state of Ŝalāt. Because °Uthmān saw the Prophet (S) he abandoned his prayer. The Prophet (S) addressed him and said: “Allāh (SwT) has not sent me to be a recluse, I swear by Allāh (SwT) that has instigated me to this pure, orthodox and easy religion, I fast, I pray and I go to my wife, and any one that likes my custom, must be bound by my sunnah and custom, and Nikah is from my sunnah.”

Importance of Satisfying your Wife

Satisfying one’s wife is an important issue in Islam, as demonstrated by the traditions below; indeed, lack of satisfaction over a long period of time can lead to frigidity and dislike towards the husband.

It is narrated from Imām °Alī (as): “When any of you wants to sleep with his wife, he must not rush her for indeed women have needs (too).”

It is important for the husband to be aware that a woman’s sexual desire takes longer to express itself, but once it is elicited, is very strong, whereas a man is quickly aroused and also can quickly be satisfied.

Lastly, it is interesting to note that the importance placed by Islam on the satisfaction of both man and woman, is a clear indicator of the justice and fairness of Allāh (SwT). Indeed, it is repeatedly stated in the Noble Qur`an that man and woman were created from a single soul, and this is just one example of this.

Recommended Acts

There are no specific rules for sexual intercourse; whatever is mutually pleasing is right, and likewise, whatever is mutually displeasing should be avoided; the only exception to this rule is what the Sharī°ah clearly forbids. However, there are several recommended acts that, if followed, will inevitably lead to a more pleasurable experience.

Before Intercourse

  1. Brush your teeth and chew pleasant-smelling things in order to remove any smells in the mouth. Likewise, try not to eat unpleasant smelling foods prior to intercourse either, such as onions and garlic.
  2. Ensure you smell pleasant – the freshest smell is the one after a shower or a quick wash, and the worst smell is that of sweat! Women in particular are sensitive to smell.

Use of perfumes, oils and the like are recommended, although it is important to note that it is better to use natural substances that have been recommended in Islam as they lack chemical ingredients that may cause damage to the body.

In particular, kohl has been recommended for women. It is narrated from Imām al-Bāqir (as): “To put collyrium (kohl) round the eyes gives the mouth a good smell, and makes the eye lashes strong and increases the power of sexual intercourse.”

It is also narrated from Imām as-Ŝādiq (as): “To put collyrium (kohl) in the evenings is beneficial to the eyes and during the day it is Sunnah.”
NOTE: Althought the traditions recommend the usage of kohl, they do not condone its usage in places where it can be seen by men and can be a source of attraction.

Foreplay

Importance of Foreplay

As highlighted earlier, satisfying one’s wife is very important and engaging in sexual intercourse quickly and hastily is not the correct way. There is an average difference of eight minutes between the time a man and a woman reach climax; a man usually takes two minutes to reach climax and a woman takes ten minutes to reach climax. Therefore, in order to fully satisfy his wife, a man should caress her and engage in foreplay so that both partners reach climax at the same time.

Islam greatly stresses the importance of foreplay, as indicated by the traditions below.
It is narrated from the Prophet (S): “Do not engage in sexual intercourse with your wife like hens; rather, firstly engage in foreplay with your wife and flirt with her and then make love to her.”

It is also narrated from the Prophet (S): “All play and games are futile except for three: Horse riding, archery and foreplay with your wife, and these three are correct.”

It is narrated from Imām °Alī (as): “Whoever wants to get close to his wife must not be hasty, because women before engaging in the act of love making must be engaged in foreplay so that they are ready for making love to.”

It is narrated from Imām as-Ŝādiq (as): “The Angels of Allāh and those who are witnesses over all the actions of man are watching them in every state except at the time of horse riding competitions and the time that a man engages in foreplay with his wife before engaging in sexual intercourse.”

Method of Foreplay

There are very few restrictions to the methods used in foreplay; kissing, cuddling, etc. are all allowed. Below are some tradition pertaining to specific methods:

A: Caressing the breasts

It is narrated from Imām al-Riďā (as): “Do not engage in sexual intercourse unless you engage in foreplay, and play with her a lot and caress her breasts, and if you do this she will be overcome by passion (and excited to the full pitch) and her water will collect. This is so that the emission of the watery juices shoots off from the breasts and passion becomes evident from her face and her eyes and that she desires you in the same way you desire her.”

B: Oral sex

Imām al-Kādhim (as) was asked: “Is there a problem if a person kisses the private part of his wife?” The Imām responded: “There is no problem.”

NOTE: Though masturbation (i.e., self-stimulation of one’s own sexual organ until emission of semen or orgasm) is not allowed, in the case of married persons there is no problem if the wife stimulates her husband’s penis until the emission of semen, or the husband stimulates his wife’s vagina until orgasm. This is allowed because it does not come under “self-stimulation”; it is stimulation by a lawful partner.

C: Other

It was asked of Imām as-Ŝādiq (as): “If someone undresses his wife (and makes her naked) and looks at her, is there a problem?” He replied: “There is no problem, is there any better pleasure than this that exists?” Again a question was asked: “Is there any problem if a husband plays with the private part of his wife?” The Imām replied: “There is no problem, provided that he doesn’t use anything other than his own body parts (i.e. nothing external).” Again it was asked: “Is there a problem performing sexual intercourse in water?” Imām replied: “There is no problem.”

NOTE: The above tradition highlights the restriction of use of foreign objects.

After Intercourse

  1. It is mustaĥab that Ghusl al-Janābat should be performed soon after sexual intercourse, and the sooner it is performed the better. Also, if one would like to have sexual intercourse more than once in one night, it is better that after every time, they perform Ghusl. However, if this is not feasible, it is recommended that one should do Wuďū before every act.
  2. Immediately after completing the act of intercourse, the husband should perform the Ghusl and at that very moment consume a portion of bee wax (reputed to heal all sorts of wounds especially fractures) mixed with honey and water or mixed with pure honey, as this will replace and compensate for the lost fluids.
  3. If a man’s virility strength quickly ceases after intercourse, he should keep himself warm and sleep.

4. The husband and wife should both use separate towels to clean that if only one towel7themselves. It is narrated from the Prophet (S) is used, this leads to enmity and separation between the two.

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