Disclaimer- this post is meant for a mature audience only as it contains sexually explicit material.
Many men and women in our communities live under the illusion that only men feel desire or have an interest in being sexual, and that women should not or cannot feel attraction, do not experience sexual pleasure, and can live healthy intimate lives without sexual satisfaction for lengthy periods of time. This leads to misunderstandings and disappointments about wanting sex, initiating intimacy, and/or feeling excitement when sexual stimulation occurs.
This series of articles contains the perspectives of several Muslim women at different stages of life who have grown up and lived in different parts of the world, East and West, and want to share some insights with Muslim men – both married and unmarried – who don’t want sexually repressed, bitter spouses and failing marriages. This is a look behind the scenes to aid understanding of a universal social issue. For the sake of privacy, each writer is identified only by her marital status. May Allah bless all of us with loving, passionate, and fulfilling intimate lives.
Married 20 Years, On Learning and Teaching Female Sexuality
With all due respect to my beloved and respected shuyukh, to whom I owe much of the knowledge I have gained about my religion, and for inspiring me to higher spiritual goals in my life, I firmly believe teaching female sexuality should be primarily handled by females – especially those who counsel on marital issues, psychologically or spiritually, and are familiar with the extended intimacy problems amongst women.
We already have issues with Muslim women not being sexually satisfied in their marriages, and these issues are exacerbated when women hesitate before approaching a male scholar to discuss their sexual challenges. It is time for us to acknowledge a serious problem we are facing in our Ummah: the issue of female sexuality.
Married 17 years, From the View of a Therapy Couch
Female sexuality is a source of confusion and frustration for many men due to misinformation. As a therapist, I have come across a number of issues faced by couples. Some men believe that women are not interested in sex because they are somehow disgusted by it. Others think that women are not capable of being fulfilled sexually. Due to a lack of knowledge, experience and know-how, a multitude of men are not fulfilling their wives. As a result, many women experience painful sex without climax. The majority of the clients I have done therapy with have expressed that sex is either painful or uneventful.
The reason that women are experiencing this level of disappointment is NOT because they are incapable of having fulfilling sexual experiences, rather it is because some men are detached emotionally from their wives and not fulfilling their needs outside the bedroom which prevents women from opening up in the bedroom. Other men have corrupted themselves through over exposure to pornography and seductive pictures of surgically enhanced, air brushed women which as a result causes them to be overly critical of their wives who in turn feel inadequate and unattractive. When women don’t feel attractive or confident they will not allow themselves to be vulnerable and perform sexually. When men take the time to bond with their wives, nurture their relationship and familiarize themselves with sexual needs of their wives, they can be successful in fulfilling them on a regular basis.
There are Muslim women that report having fulfilling sexual experiences with their husbands. It is evident that individuals who have these experiences usually have a very strong friendship with their spouse. There is mutual love and respect with open communication. The men have taken the time and effort to learn the techniques (not from porn, but from proper educational sources) while investing in the relationship and making their wives feel like a valuable gem. This form of consistent affirmation allows the wives to feel nurtured and to open up sexually to their husbands.
In this vicious cycle of confusion and frustration with female sexuality there is hope! In order to improve the sexual experience for both husbands and wives, there needs to be a great effort put forth towards improving the marital relationship. When a couple has good communication, conflict resolution and commitment to excellence on a personal and marital level, then the environment is created which is conducive to romance, fulfillment and joy. Our Muslim brothers and sisters need to focus on increasing their knowledge, skills & emotional know-how in having the best marriage in order to increase their chances of a mutually enjoyable sexual experience.
Married 15 Years, On the Importance of Arousal
“On the authority of Jaabir bin Abdullah and Jaabir bin Umar, both reported that the Prophet said:“All things in which there is no mention of Allah are frivolity, absent-mindedness and idle play, except for four things: a man being playful with his wife, training his horse, walking between two purposeful goals and teaching another man to swim.” [An-Nisa’ee in al-Ishrah and at-Tabaree] 
As someone who has been married for several years and has counseled women about intimacy, I see some core issues that frequently come up amongst those seeking counseling that I would like to share with both, husbands and husbands-to-be.
A lot of people (even women) don’t realize that when men and women become sexually aroused, their genitals become prepared for sex. In women this normally results in an enlargement of the clitoris and surrounding tissues (comparable to a male erection) and secretion of vaginal lubrication (i.e. she becomes wet).
Why is foreplay so important?
Imam Ibn Qudama [ra] the Hanbali Jurist narrates a hadith that the Messenger of Allah said, “Do not begin intercourse until she has experienced desire, like the desire you experience, lest you fulfill your desires before she does.” (AlMughni 8:136)
I cannot stress the importance of foreplay enough. Men who cuddle and kiss their wives and know how to enjoy sensitive foreplay will often find that their spouses will not only enjoy sexual intercourse more, but will also reach orgasm easier. The method varies from person to person – flirting outside the bedroom, talking, kissing, massage, touching, hugging, fondling, undressing, French kissing (which is from the sunnah ), petting – anything to get in the mood and more importantly to reach full arousal and enrich the sexual experience. Most women need prolonged stimulation in order to reach a state of complete arousal, and foreplay will provide them with the required stimulation (some don’t, and only a loving open relationship will let you know what your spouse needs and wants) and she will love you more for it.
Using lubricant is amazing as an aid but cannot be a substitute for natural arousal.
Dear brothers, giving pleasure to one’s spouse is an act of virtue with immense rewards. Ask her what makes her feel good and tell her what gives you pleasure. Listen to her voice, look into her eyes, watch her body – they all give clues even if she is too shy to say anything. Lest someone thinks that these are all novel, 21st century ideas, many ahadith, classical Islamic books and our pious predecessors paid a lot of attention to the needs of women.
Narrated by Sayyidna Anas that the Messenger of Allah said “Not one of you should fall upon his wife like an animal; but let there first be a messenger between you.” “And what is that messenger?” they asked, and he replied: “Kisses and words.” (Musnad Al Firdaus- Imam Daylami)
“If you would have pleasant coition, which ought to give an equal share of happiness to the two combatants and be satisfactory to both, you must first of all toy with the woman, excite her with kisses, by nibbling and sucking her lips, by caressing her neck and cheeks….Then when you observe the lips of a woman to tremble and get red, and her eyes to become languishing, and her sighs to become quicker, know that she is ready.”Shaykh Muhammad Umar Nefwazi in The Perfumed Garden
Don’t be selfish; it will harm your lovemaking in the long run. Investing in foreplay makes the whole lovemaking experience much more enjoyable. Most women want to please their man. Seeing him reach his climax is very satisfying and gives her a boost, but it is not enough. “Many women need a transition period between dealing with the stress of everyday life and feeling sexual,” Dr. Ian Kerner, Ph.D and certified sex therapist says, “a few minutes of foreplay usually isn’t enough.”
Inadequate or ineffective foreplay (as well as depression, poor self-esteem, sexual abuse, feelings of shame or guilt about sex, stress, fatigue and illness) can impede arousal. Your wife may desire sex but if her genital area fails to respond normally, it makes sex painful and sometimes impossible.
In a healthy relationship, sex is only 10 percent of a marriage, meaning the focus of the marriage doesn’t revolve around the quantity or issues, but when something is wrong, sex becomes 90 percent of the marriage. Couples start arguing about it and it causes fractures in marriage.
Married 20 Years, The Woman Behind The Big O
As a community doyen who often hears women’s complaints, is familiar with their struggles with regards to sexuality, feels their sexual dissatisfaction, and listens to their sexual fantasies, let me be very clear: if a woman is not having an orgasm for 1-2 years, she should seek counseling with her husband.
 Sayyida A’isha narrates that the Messenger of Allah would kiss her whilst he was fasting (m, refer to the fiqh of kissing during fast) and he would suck her tongue.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, no. 2378)
 One day while” Umar May Allah be pleased with him) was walking in Madinah during the night, he heard a woman saying: “What a long night! I do not have a lover with whom I can play. By Allah! Unless Allah watches me, there will be someone to make love with me. Accordingly, ‘Umar asked about that woman. He was told that her husband was away from her for fighting in the cause of Allah. Then, he ordered that they must gather together. He sent for the husband to return. He entered upon Hafsa and asked, O daughter! How long can a woman stay away from her husband? She said, Five or six months. Therefore, he issued a command that warriors in the cause of Allah should not be taken away from their wives more than six months.
 In another version: Every thing that does not pertain to the remembrance of Allah is amusement except the following four things: 1- Caressing one’s wife, taming one’s horse, shooting arrows, learning how to swim. [Reported by Al-Nisa’i] [Tuhfatul Aroos]
Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure
How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?
If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.
My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.
On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.
I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.
When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand. Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?
I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.
That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.
I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:
Host an open house
Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.
Expand your circle
Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.
You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.
Outsource Eid Fun
If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.
It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend. If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.
The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.
Get out of your comfort zone
If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.
Try, try, try again…
Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.
While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.
Broken Light: The Opacity of Muslim Led Institutions
Habib Abd al-Qadir al-Saqqaf (may Allah have mercy on him and benefit us by him) explains how we are affected by the spiritual state of those around us.
Every person has rays which emanate from their soul. You receive these rays when you come close to them or sit in their presence. Each person’s rays differ in strength according to the state of their soul. This explains how you become affected by sitting in the presence of great people. They are people who follow the way of the Prophets in their religious and worldly affairs. When they speak, they counsel people. Their actions guide people. When they are silent they are like signposts which guide people along the path, or like lighthouses whose rays guide ships. Many of them speak very little, but when you see them or visit them you are affected by them. You leave their gatherings having been enveloped in their tranquillity. Their silence has more effect than the eloquent speech of others. This is because the rays of their souls enter you.
The Organizational Light
As a Muslim organizational psychologist, I know that organizations and institutions are a collective of these souls too. Like a glass container, they are filled colored by whatever is within them. So often Muslim organizations have presumed clarity in their organizational light and looked on with wonder as children, families, and the community wandered. The lighthouse keepers standing in front of the beacon wondering, “Where have the ships gone?”have
Our Muslim led institutions will reflect our state, actions, and decisions. I do believe that most of our institutional origins are rooted in goodness, but those moments remain small and fade. Our challenge as a community is to have this light of origin be fixed so that it can pulsate and extend itself beyond itself.
Reference is not being made regarding any specific type of institution and this is not a pointed critique, but rather a theory on perhaps why the effect our variety of institutional work wanes and dissipates. Any type of organization or institution — whether for profit or nonprofit, whether capital focused or socially conscious — that is occupied by the heart of a Muslim(s), must reflect light.
Our organizational light is known by an ego-less assessment of intentions, actions, and results. We must move our ‘self’ or ‘selves’ out of the way and then measure our lumens. If the light increases when we move out of the way, then it is possible that we — our ego, personality, objectives, intentions, degree of sacrifice, level of commitment, and possibly even our sincerity — may be the obstructions to our organizational lights.
The Personal Imperative
What will become of our institutions and their role for posterity if we neglect to evaluate where we stand in relation to the noble courses they mean to take? We may currently be seeing the beginning what this may look and feel like.
When was the last time you walked into a Muslim led institution and felt a living space that drew you in because of the custodians, leadership, individuals, and community that made up its parts? It was probably the last time you and I looked deeply inward at our lives — our intellect, our relationships, our purpose, our spiritual state, our work, our decisions, and our intentions. If we cleanse our hearts so infrequently the dust which settles can become thick making them opaque. And perhaps this individual and collective state is what limits the reach and impact of our communal work thus, resulting in the opacity of Muslim led institutions. Note: Lighthouse keepers clean the lens of the beacon every day.
We must consistently assess the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual loci of our individual and organizational states. They are not fixed givens. Rather, they are capricious states that necessitate vigilance and wara’. Being aware of this will help in our organizational design and work.
The Collective Affect
When we are prepared to evaluate the efficacy of Muslim led institutions with the inclusion of some form of spiritual assessment, we will give ourselves a better opportunity to determine where, how, and why we may be missing the mark. The inefficiencies and inattentiveness we have on an individual level can permeate our relationships, our work, and our organizations. As organizational leaders, we must critically assess the amount of light our work emanates to illuminate the lives of the people we serve.
These inward evaluations should be in the form of active and ongoing discussions we have internally with our teams and colleagues, and ourselves. If done with prudence and sincerity it will not only strengthen our organizations but our teams and us God-willing. This collective effort can lead to a collective effect for those we serve that inspires and guides. We — and our institutions — can then return to the Prophetic example of being beacons of light that help ourselves and others arrive to a place of sanctuary.
And Allah always knows best.
Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware
“Remember that God knows what is in your souls, so be mindful of Him.”
[Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:235]
Mindful or Mind-full?
Ever felt frustrated when you were trying to talk to your spouse, your children, your students, or your youth group and they would just not pay attention? This is a prime example of being on autopilot and getting carried away without actually being aware of what is most important in the present moment.
A recent Harvard study shows that our minds are not present in the moment and wander about 47% of the time1. In a world of technology and continuous sensory overload, the lines between work and home, friends and family, necessity vs. purpose, world-centric vs. Allah-centric have become blurred. We are either living in the past or ruminating about the future, and in the process, we are forgetting to live, enjoy, cherish, and make the most of our present moments.
For parents, teachers, youth leaders, and anyone in the beautiful role of guiding, teaching, coaching, or mentoring others, we can make a huge difference by modeling Mindfulness ourselves. But where do we start? The answer is to go from autopilot to becoming aware.
Autopilot to Aware
Being on autopilot is when you are distracted in the present moment, where your mind is wandering into the past or the future, and you are less aware of yourself, surroundings, or others. Autopilot can actually be pretty helpful for your regular habits. Waking up, brushing your teeth, getting ready for your day, going to school or work – many of the things we do habitually every day can be done more seamlessly without having to think, and that is a good thing. But there are times when you have to learn to turn off your autopilot to become aware. But how?
Here is a Mindfulness tool that can be done in just a minute or two for you to become more aware.
Step 1: Breath as a Tool. Say Bismillah. Focus on your breath. See where you experience the breath – the breathing in and breathing out of your body. Is your breath stemming from your nostrils, your chest, or your stomach? Just bring your attention to your breath and relax and stay with it there for a few moments.
Step 2: Body as a Tool. Relax your body. We carry so many emotions in our bodies2. Our stress from the past or anticipation for the future sometimes finds its way into our necks, other times in our chest muscles or our backs. Pay attention to what emotions and sensations do you feel, and try to relax all parts of your body.
Step 3: Intention as a Tool. As you have centered your thoughts to the present moment through your breath and your body, ask yourself: “What is most important now? In this present moment?”
Just simply being aware makes us more mindful parents, teachers, youth and professionals – being aware makes us more Mindful of Allah SWT. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your mind and body and bring your attention to the present moment.
Real Life in the Present Moment
You are an on-the-go parent: It has been a long day and you have to pick up the kids from school, but work is still pending. You’re picking up the kids from school, feeding them, and then shuffling everyone to their afterschool activities, be it Qur’an, softball, soccer, swimming, or the million other things that kids seem to have these days. You squeeze pending work in between drop-offs and pick-ups, and you function by living from one task to the next.
The Autopilot Impact: You’re getting a lot done, but are so engrossed in quickly moving your children along from one thing to another that you are unable to really cherish your time together.
The Mindfulness Suggestion: You can try to go from autopilot to awareness by focusing on your breath, paying attention to your emotions, and relaxing your body. As you do so, ask yourself: “What is most important now?” Make the intention to slow down, listen to the children more mindfully, and cherish and enjoy your time together.
You are a busy teacher: Last night you had to take all the grading home and spent two hours poring over students’ work. This morning, you woke up early to pick up some classroom supplies after dropping off your own kids to school. You’ve already had two cups of coffee and are trying to think through everything you have to do today. You like the idea of Mindfulness, living life in the present moment, and enjoying every day to its fullest, but your mind is not free to even enjoy the beautiful morning sunrise as you drive to school.
The Autopilot Impact: You want to listen and pay attention to every child’s needs, and enjoy the rewards of their growth, but you can’t. What’s more, you judge yourself for just trying to get through your activities for the day. You wish you could connect with your students better.
The Mindfulness Suggestion: Whenever you are stressed with an unpleasant parent or student interaction, think about breathing, relaxing your body, and asking what you need to focus on now. Try to do one thing at a time, and relax into what you’re doing.
You are an overstretched youth director: You are a role model. You have this major weekend event you are planning with the youth. Your budget is still pending from the board, you have to call all these people, have to get the graphics and remind everyone about the event, you have to visit all these masjids and MSAs to announce and remind people about the weekend.
This weekend’s theme is Living a Life of Purpose and you are super passionate about it. However, the whole week you have had a hard time remembering to even pray one Salah with focus. Instead, your mind has been preoccupied with all the endless planning for this weekend. You love what you do but you wonder how to also be mindful in your everyday worship while you are always prepping and planning engaging activities for the youth.
The Autopilot Impact: You enjoy shaping the youth but you are losing steam. You are always planning the next program and unable to focus on your own personal and spiritual development. It is difficult for you to pray even one salah without thinking about all the events and activities planned for that week.
The Mindfulness Suggestion: Get serious about taking some time for yourself. Know that becoming more mindful about your own prayers and self-development will also make you a better role model. Take a minute or two before every Salah to practice the simple, 3-Step Mindfulness Tool. You say Bismillah and breathe, focus your mind, and then relax your body. Empty your mind from everything else – what has past and what’s to come – and ask “What’s most important now?” to develop better focus in your Salah.
In Conclusion: Practice Simple but Solid Steps towards becoming more Mindful Muslims
Mindfulness is to open a window to let the Divine light in.
[Imam Al Ghazali]
Mindfulness gives us the ability to be aware. We can use Mindfulness tools to remember Allah , refocus, renew our intentions, and engage with the present moment in a more effective and enjoyable way. Mindfulness also invites awareness of our potential negligence in being our best selves with both Allah and His creation. To put it simply, being more aware of our selves can help us be better versions of our selves.
Mindfulness is both an art and a science, with brain and behavioral science research validating the importance of Mindfulness in improving our health, managing our stress, navigating our emotions, and positively impacting our lives3. In today’s modern and distracted world, let us treasure every tool that helps us center our attention on what matters the most.
- Bradt, Steve (2010). Wandering mind not a happy mind. Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/wandering-mind-not-a-happy-mind/
- Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, Jari K. Hietanen (2013). Bodily maps of emotions. National Academy of Sciences. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/12/26/1321664111
- “What are the benefits of mindfulness,” American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx
To learn more about how to become mindful take the Define Course on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence.
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