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A Guide to Sexual Intercourse and Its Rulings in Islam

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Lawful sexual intercourse in Islam is an extremely important subject that every Muslim must carefully consider. We all have an innate attraction toward the opposite sex. Allah placed this desire within us to ensure the continuation of our generation and prevent extinction. Sexual intercourse is one of the, if not the most pleasurable activity in life.  Islam teaches that sex is a sacred act that should be engaged only within the confines of marriage. Extramarital sex is strictly forbidden. In this article featured on Islam4u, we will delve into the Islamic perspectives surrounding sexual intercourse, its regulations, and the associated guidelines.

With Whom Can One Have Sexual Relations?

As Muslims, it is quite clear with whom one can have intimate relations. The only person with whom one can have intimate relations is one’s spouse. One is not allowed to have any form of sexual relations with anyone else. Therefore, sex outside marriage is forbidden in Islam. By no means can one have intercourse or any other form of sexual relations with anyone other than one’s spouse. That is, it is haram to engage in sexual activities with all the other mahram and non-mahram individuals to whom one is not married. In the Quran, verses one to seven of Surah Mu’minun, which are about the believers and their characteristics, make a clear and direct allusion to this ruling:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ ‎﴿١﴾‏ ٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ فِى صَلَاتِهِمْ خَٰشِعُونَ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ ٱللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ ‎﴿٣﴾‏ وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِلزَّكَوٰةِ فَٰعِلُونَ ‎﴿٤﴾‏ وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَٰفِظُونَ ‎﴿٥﴾‏ إِلَّا عَلَىٰٓ أَزْوَٰجِهِمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَٰنُهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ غَيْرُ مَلُومِينَ ‎﴿٦﴾‏ فَمَنِ ٱبْتَغَىٰ وَرَآءَ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْعَادُونَ ‎﴿٧﴾

Certainly, the faithful have attained salvation (1) —those who are humble in their prayers, (2) avoid vain talk, (3) carry out their [duty of] zakat, (4) guard their private parts, (5) (except from their spouses or their slave women, for then they are not blameworthy; (6) but whoever seeks [anything] beyond that—it is they who are transgressors). (7)

Verse four to seven of Surah Mu’minun clearly states that one must guard one’s private parts against everyone except one’s spouse. Anyone who seeks anything beyond that is a transgressor. By anything beyond that, Allah means any other forbidden form of sexual activity including fornication, adultery, masturbation, and incest.

Whom Can We Marry and Not Marry According to the Quran?

It is important to know the laws of marriage in Islam. Some of these laws have been mentioned in the Noble Quran. For example, verse 50 of Surah Ahzab explains to us whom we can marry. This verse addresses Prophet Muhammad (s) directly but also includes us because we are the followers of the Prophet (s). Of course, there is one part of the verse that is exclusive to the Prophet (s) where Allah says that if a faithful woman submits herself to the Prophet and the Prophet accepts to marry her, they become lawful for each other. Other than that, the laws of marriage in this verse apply to other Muslims as well. The verse reads:

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّبِىُّ إِنَّآ أَحْلَلْنَا لَكَ أَزْوَٰجَكَ ٱلَّٰتِىٓ ءَاتَيْتَ أُجُورَهُنَّ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ يَمِينُكَ مِمَّآ أَفَآءَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيْكَ وَبَنَاتِ عَمِّكَ وَبَنَاتِ عَمَّٰتِكَ وَبَنَاتِ خَالِكَ وَبَنَاتِ خَٰلَٰتِكَ ٱلَّٰتِى هَاجَرْنَ مَعَكَ وَٱمْرَأَةً مُّؤْمِنَةً إِن وَهَبَتْ نَفْسَهَا لِلنَّبِىِّ إِنْ أَرَادَ ٱلنَّبِىُّ أَن يَسْتَنكِحَهَا خَالِصَةً لَّكَ مِن دُونِ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۗ قَدْ عَلِمْنَا مَا فَرَضْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ فِىٓ أَزْوَٰجِهِمْ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَٰنُهُمْ لِكَيْلَا يَكُونَ عَلَيْكَ حَرَجٌ ۗ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا ‎﴿٥٠﴾‏

O Prophet! Indeed We have made lawful to you your wives whom you have given their dowries, and those whom your right hand owns, of those whom Allah gave you as spoils of war, and the daughters of your paternal uncle, and the daughters of your paternal aunts, and the daughters of your maternal uncle, and the daughters of your maternal aunts who migrated with you, and a faithful woman if she offers herself to the Prophet and the Prophet desires to take her in marriage (a privilege exclusively for you, not for [the rest of] the faithful; We know what We have made lawful for them with respect to their wives and those whom their right hands own, so that there may be no blame on you), and Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful.

The verse says it all. Men are allowed to marry women who are not related to them. They are also allowed to marry their cousins, meaning the daughters of their paternal or maternal uncles and aunts. There are also some other women whom men can marry, such as slave women, and those who are captives of war. However, this ruling mostly pertains to the time of the Prophet (s) because they are no longer slave women and captives nowadays.

Whom One Cannot Marry

Just as the verse previously mentioned explains whom one can marry, another verse tells us whom we cannot marry. Verse 23 of Surah Nisa reads:

حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمْ أُمَّهَٰتُكُمْ وَبَنَاتُكُمْ وَأَخَوَٰتُكُمْ وَعَمَّٰتُكُمْ وَخَٰلَٰتُكُمْ وَبَنَاتُ ٱلْأَخِ وَبَنَاتُ ٱلْأُخْتِ وَأُمَّهَٰتُكُمُ ٱلَّٰتِىٓ أَرْضَعْنَكُمْ وَأَخَوَٰتُكُم مِّنَ ٱلرَّضَٰعَةِ وَأُمَّهَٰتُ نِسَآئِكُمْ وَرَبَٰٓئِبُكُمُ ٱلَّٰتِى فِى حُجُورِكُم مِّن نِّسَآئِكُمُ ٱلَّٰتِى دَخَلْتُم بِهِنَّ فَإِن لَّمْ تَكُونُوا۟ دَخَلْتُم بِهِنَّ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَحَلَٰٓئِلُ أَبْنَآئِكُمُ ٱلَّذِينَ مِنْ أَصْلَٰبِكُمْ وَأَن تَجْمَعُوا۟ بَيْنَ ٱلْأُخْتَيْنِ إِلَّا مَا قَدْ سَلَفَ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا ‎﴿٢٣﴾

Forbidden to you are your mothers, your daughters and your sisters, your paternal aunts and your maternal aunts, your brother’s daughters and your sister’s daughters, your [foster-]mothers who have suckled you and your sisters through fosterage, your wives’ mothers, and your stepdaughters who are under your care [born] of the wives whom you have gone into—but if you have not gone into them there is no sin upon you—and the wives of your sons who are from your own loins, and that you should marry two sisters at one time—excluding what is already past; indeed Allah is all-forgiving, all-merciful.

This verse addresses believing men, but also indicates whom women cannot marry. The list includes those to whom one is related, such as one’s parents, siblings, children, aunts, and uncles.

When Is Intercourse Haram?

There is no specific date in the calendar in which one is not allowed to enjoy intimacy with one’s spouse. Of course, one cannot have intercourse while being a pilgrim at hajj or when one is staying in a mosque for i‘tikaf. Other than that, the only time intercourse is prohibited is during a woman’s menstrual period. If a man and woman have intimacy during a woman’s period, both have committed a sin of which they must repent. Most jurists say that it is recommended that the husband pay an expiation for such a sin, which is an amount of gold depending on what day of her cycle the act was committed. We will not go into that matter as it is beyond the scope of this article. Therefore, we should only know that having intercourse during the time a woman menstruates is haram. Other than those days, intercourse is permitted, as the verse of the Quran states:

نِسَآؤُكُمْ حَرْثٌ لَّكُمْ فَأْتُوا۟ حَرْثَكُمْ أَنَّىٰ شِئْتُمْ ۖ وَقَدِّمُوا۟ لِأَنفُسِكُمْ ۚ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَٱعْلَمُوٓا۟ أَنَّكُم مُّلَٰقُوهُ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ‎﴿٢٢٣﴾

Your women are a tillage for you, so come to your tillage whenever you like, and send ahead for your souls, and be Godwary, and know that you will encounter Him; and give good news to the faithful. (2:223)

Days on Which Intercourse Is Makruh (Disliked)

There are certain hours of the day, days of the week, and dates in a month when intercourse is makruh (disliked). Having intercourse is makruh at the following times and on the following days:

  • The beginning hours of the night
  • At the time of a solar or lunar eclipse
  • On the eve of the beginning, middle, or end of a lunar month except the eve of the first day of the month of Ramadan
  • On the eve of the fifteenth of Sha‘ban, the eve of Eid al-Fitr, and the eve of Eid al-Adha
  • On the eve of Wednesday
  • Between the dawn adhan and sunrise
  • Between sunset and the Maghrib adhan
  • On the night before going on a trip
  • During the moon in Scorpio

It is said that one should not try to conceive during the aforementioned times, as it will have negative effects on the child. Nevertheless, if one has intercourse at one of these times either intentionally or unintentionally, it is good that one gives sadaqah because sadaqah wards off evil. However, those who are aware of these times must try their best not to engage in intercourse at these times.

Days on Which Intercourse Is Mustahabb

In general, having intercourse with one’s spouse in Islam is one of the recommended and sacred acts that Allah has made permissible for couples to enjoy. Just as intercourse is makruh at certain times, it is mustahabb (recommended) at certain times.

It is mustahabb to have intercourse at the following times and on the following days:

  • The first eve of the month of Ramadan
  • The eve of Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday
  • On Thursday at noon and Friday afternoon

According to our narrations, these are the best times for conception.

Does Islam Allow the Use of Contraceptives?

Islam is in no way against preventing conception. Therefore, the use of contraceptives, such as condoms, birth control pills, and IUDs is permitted. However, it is important to mention that only temporary birth control methods are allowed in Islam. Permanent birth control methods, such as having a vasectomy or tubectomy are disallowed in Islam based on the fatwa of almost all jurists. Of course, other methods, such as coitus interruptus (withdrawal method) and the rhythm method (i.e., tracking fertile and infertile days based on ovulation) are also permissible.  

Does Islam Allow All Positions?

Islam allows couples to engage in whichever position they desire, so long as they are observing the laws of Sharia. However, some narrations say that one should not emit semen from behind into the womb of one’s wife because their child may become cross-eyed. In other words, the best positions for conceiving are ones where the husband and wife are face-to-face.

What About Non-Penetrative Sexual Activities?

It is permissible in Islam for a married couple to derive any sort of pleasure from each other. This means they can use other parts of their bodies, such as their hands to stimulate each other. As long as the other person is doing it, it is halal. However, if a person stimulates themself, it is considered a form of masturbation and is thus haram. Even if one is sexually gratified (orgasms) just by seeing, touching, or even hearing one’s spouse, it is permissible.

Sexual Intercourse Based on Narrations From the Prophet (s) and the Ahlul Bait (a)

We have been told in our narrations when and how one must have intercourse. For example, it is stated that a man must not be in a rush when having sexual intercourse with his wife. Instead, he must engage in foreplay and speak words of love until his partner is thoroughly aroused and ready for intercourse. Let us go over some narrations about intercourse that have been narrated to us from the Prophet (s) and the Ahlul Bait (a).

The Importance of Sexual Intercourse in Islam

There was a man named ‘Uthman ibn Maz‘un who was the foster brother of the Prophet (s). His wife went to the Prophet (s) and complained to him saying, “Uthman fasts during the day and is always busy in worship. He does not attend to my needs.” Upon hearing this, the Prophet (s) gathered the Muslims in the mosque and said, “Allah has not sent me to promote monasticism. I have been sent to uphold a religion of ease and comfort. It is a religion that is rooted in man’s innate nature. I am your prophet, and as such, I pray, fast, and have intimate relations with my wife. Whoever likes my religion must act upon my sunnah (way of life). One of my sunnahs is marriage and having lawful intercourse with my spouse.”[1]

Can Men and Women Look at Each Other’s Bare Body?

One of the companions of Imam al-Sadiq (a) asked him whether a person could look at all the bare body parts of their spouse to which the Imam replied, “Yes, there is no pleasure better than this.”[2]

The Most Pleasurable Act in This World and the Next

Imam al-Sadiq (a) has been quoted as saying, “The world and its enjoyments have been created for you. The most pleasurable of acts in this world is having intercourse with one’s spouse, just as it is in paradise.”[3]

Angels Hold You in an Embrace

The Noble Prophet (s) said, “When you go toward your spouses, the angels hold you in an embrace. When you have intercourse, your sins fall as the leaves of trees fall [in the fall season]. When you do ghusl and wash yourselves, you will be cleansed of your sins.”[4]

Do Not Mate Like Birds

Imam Ali (a) said, “While having sexual intercourse, do not rush things like birds. Be patient. Women need more time. So engage in foreplay for some time. Make your spouse fully prepared. Mutual preparedness makes intercourse delightful and complete.”[5]

The Importance of Privacy

The Noble Prophet said (s):

Learn three things from crows:

1. Mating in secrecy

2. Seeking sustenance by waking early in the morning

3. Being cautious

His holiness also said, “I swear by the one who my life is in His hands, if a person has intimacy with their spouse while a child is awake in the room and sees them and hears them, that child will never prosper. If he is a boy, he will become a fornicator, and if she is a girl, she will become a fornicatress.”

The Importance of Satisfying Women’s Sexual Desire

Islam emphasizes the importance of the sexual satisfaction of women by their husbands. Women’s sexual physiology is different from that of men. They need more time to be aroused and ready for intercourse. Besides that, one must make sure that they derive complete sexual satisfaction from intercourse. This is something that most men overlook. This issue has been highlighted in our narrations as well, to the point that one should not be surprised if they are inclined toward adultery should their sexual needs not be fulfilled. Mutual sexual satisfaction is what cements a marital relationship and wards off divorce. We have a narration from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that states:

“Some of you finish having intercourse with your wives such that [because your wives have not been sexually satisfied] if they could get hold of a slave [who is lower than a free man] they would do so [so that they could satisfy their lust].”

The Importance of Satisfying Men’s Sexual Desire

A woman must always fulfill her husband’s sexual needs and never refuse to have intercourse with him (unless she is menstruating). In fact, it is one of the most important duties that a woman has toward her husband and an inalienable right of a man over his wife. Women should note that if they distance themselves sexually from their husbands, their husbands will come to hate them. Consequently, they may fall in love with another woman. If such a thing happens, they should reproach no one but themselves. The Messenger of Mercy, Prophet Muhammad (s) has said:

“Men have a right over their wives. Women should not refuse to have intimacy with their husbands and should not disobey them.”

In a similar hadith, Imam al-Sadiq (a) said:

“A woman went to the Prophet (s) and asked, ‘What is a man’s right over his wife?’ His Holiness replied, ‘His wife must fulfill his sexual need, even if he is driving a vehicle.’ ”

Of course, this is a way of saying that a woman must always satisfy her husband’s sexual desire whenever possible.

Saying Bismillah and A‘udhubillah Before Intercourse

One of the rules of sexual etiquette in Islam is saying Bismillah and A‘udhubillah before engaging in sexual intercourse. Imam Ali (a) says in this regard, “Satan himself has wanted to be a partner of the children of Adam and this is quite alarming. Worry not! While having intercourse, remember Allah, say Bismillah and seek refuge in Allah from Satan. If you do not do this, it may be that your children will not have the love for the Ahlul Bait (a) in their hearts.[6]

Post-Coital Care

Certain acts need to be performed after sexual intercourse. They are the following:

Lying to One’s Right Side

Imam al-Rida (a) has said:

“Do not have intimacy with your wives until they have become pure [from menstruation]. After you are done having intercourse, do not immediately stand up or sit. Rather, lie to your right side for some time first.”

Although this act is not obligatory, it is highly recommended.

Urinating

It is recommended for men to urinate after intercourse. The Noble Prophet (s) says in this regard:

“If a man had intercourse with his wife, he must not do ghusl before urinating, lest the remaining drops of semen leak and cause him a serious ailment.”

Likewise, Imam al-Rida (a) said:

“After intercourse, go and urinate! This will, by Allah’s leave, prevent bladder stones.”

Washing the Genitals

The Prophet (s) said, “If any of you have intimacy with your spouse and wish to do it again, you should wash your genitals first.”

Once again, this is a highly recommended act.

Ghusl of Janabah

Ghusl of janabah becomes obligatory for both the husband and wife if a man’s reproductive organ goes inside a woman’s reproductive organ so much so that the entire glans is inside. Therefore, even if there is no ejaculation or orgasm, the ghusl of janabah must still be performed.

How Is Ghusl of Janabah Performed?

Here is a step-by-step approach to performing ghusl of janabah:

1. One must make the intention of ghusl of janabah. Uttering it is not required. Just knowing what you are doing is enough.

2. The head and neck must be completely washed, including the hair, face, and ears.

3. The right side of the whole body starting with the right side of the neck, shoulders, chest, abdomen, genitals, legs, all the way up to the tip of the toes must be washed. While washing the right side of the body, it is better to also wash some parts of the left side of the body to make sure the right side is completely washed.

4. Step number three is repeated for the left side of the body.  

There is also another way of doing ghusl of janabah, which is immersing one’s entire body from head to toe in the water. This way of doing ghusl can be done in swimming pools and bodies of water.

A Few Other Rulings of Intercourse

Almost all that needed to be said about the circumstances of intercourse was discussed. Here, we will go over a few other items that need to be considered:

1. Not having intercourse when one’s bare body is completely exposed without a blanket or piece of cloth covering it

Spouses should cover their bodies with a blanket or piece of cloth when having intercourse, otherwise, according to some narrations, the angels will go away.

2. One should try not to have intercourse when one is already in the state of janabah. So one should first do ghusl, and then engage in intercourse. If one fails to do so, one’s child may become crazy.

3. One should try not to face the qibla or turn one’s back to the qibla while having intercourse, as it is extremely disrespectful. One should respect the house of Allah and not make Him and the angels upset.

4. One should not have intercourse while thinking about another person because this will have a negative effect should one conceive a child.

5. Anal intercourse, although not haram, is quite despicable in Islam because it is uncomfortable for the woman, unhealthy, and unhygienic.

Conclusion

These were only some of the teachings within Islam regarding sexual intercourse. The Quran has mentioned with whom one can and cannot have intercourse. Additionally, our narrations offer further clarification on the rules surrounding this subject. Allah emphasizes that engaging in lawful intercourse with one’s spouse is not only encouraged but also a sacred act. Islam also places a great emphasis on the importance of modesty and privacy in matters of sex. Couples must be discreet about their sexual relations, and they should not engage in public displays of affection. Islam also teaches that sex should be a mutually pleasurable experience for both partners. By adhering to these principles, we can lay the foundation for a fulfilling life in both this world and the hereafter.

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References

[1] Wasa’il al-Shi‘a, vol. 14, p. 74.

[2] Ibid, vol. 14, p. 85.

[3] Al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 321.

[4] Ibid, vol. 5, p. 496.

[5] Wasa’il al-Shi‘a, vol. 14, p. 83.

[6] Ibid, p. 96.

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3 Comments
  1. Talha Ubaidullah says

    Jazakallah. This article provides a well-researched exploration of Islamic perspectives on sexual intimacy, backed by Quranic verses and narrations from the Prophet and the Ahlul Bait. It offers valuable guidance on various aspects of marital relations, emphasizing the importance of mutual satisfaction, privacy, and adherence to Islamic principles.

  2. Anonymous says

    5. Anal intercourse, although not haram, is quite despicable in Islam because it is uncomfortable for the woman, unhealthy, and unhygienic.

    Anal intercourse is haram. There are hadiths written on this. Why spread misinformation like this?

    1. Abu Mahdi says

      It’s not misinformation, it’s the ruling of some if not most Shia scholars. Of course, some of them do say it’s haram. But most say it is extremely disliked. Any hadith where the Prophet says don’t do such and such a thing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s haram. It could mean it’s makruh by comparing it with other ahadith. If the Prophet has said don’t get a divorce, it doesn’t mean getting one is haram. It could be a word of advice.

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