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Muslim Vignettes on Female Sexuality | NewlyWeds

Continuing on from Sex MashaAllah Role-Playing and VulnerbilityCommon Myths & Misconceptions, Tropes & Notions about Female Sexuality, Spirituality in the Bedroom, and Single & Looking.
Disclaimer: Mature Audience Only

Married 5 years, Live Your Fantasy

Raised in the 90s, before the internet, with an Eastern, conservative, immigrant upbringing in the US, I was clueless about sex. The only exception was the “Sex Ed” class in middle school, which briefly covered the anatomy and physiology of the body parts and then jumped right into STDs, methods of birth control, and attempted to convince hormone raging teenagers, who had no boundaries, to practice abstinence for the majority of the program. Even this class, my parents only angrily allowed me to partake in.

My mother NEVER spoke to me about this subject, [read Parenting series] and I dared not ask; we just didn’t have that kind of relationship. I don’t blame her; she was raised in a different society. When I got my period, she told me what a shameful thing it was, [read Muslimah’s Guide to Puberty: How to talk to your daughter about Adolescence] and how I had to hide it from my whole family.  To the point that I even woke up with my family for suḥūr while on my period, and essentially wouldn’t eat while at home, afraid to get caught by them. I was so shy, or a “prude” as some people would like to call it, I refused to get a Pap smear done because I just couldn’t imagine laying in such a position in front of ANYONE.

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And then came the pre-marriage years, when my parents wanted me to like the guy, marry him, and move in with him – all in one weekend. My thoughts… “Over my dead body will I be stuck in the same room with a guy I don’t really know that well emotionally.” And so, I came up with this crazy idea to have the nikāḥ first and then, a couple of months down the line, move in with him. So, we agreed. Still clueless on the ‘birds and the bees’ issue, I was petrified of that magical night.  My expectations… none. As long as his needs are satisfied, I’m successful, right? Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen?

After our nikāḥ, in preparation for our wedding reception months later, my husband and I talked about this subject.  I attempted to educate myself about sex from the Islamic perspective, but well, there wasn’t much out there. I was too cautious – scared to look within other sources because I was afraid I’d come across “inappropriate information”.  A friend of mine gave me the sage advice to just use lubrication, and everything else would be fine. Wow, thanks.

So, here’s what I have learned:

In an article by Ruqayyah Waris Maqsood she writes:

God’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: `In the sexual act of each of you there is a sadaqa.’ The Companions replied: `O Messenger of God! When one of us fulfils his sexual desire, will he be given a reward for that?’ And he said, `Do you not think that were he to act upon it unlawfully, he would be sinning? Likewise, if he acts upon it lawfully he will be rewarded.’

This hadith only makes sense if the sexual act is raised above the mere animal level. What is the magic ingredient that turns sex into sadaqa and that makes it a matter of reward or punishment from Allah? It is by making one’s sex life more than simple physical gratification; it is the thought of pleasing Allah by unselfish care for one’s partner. A husband that cannot understand this will never be fully respected by his wife.

The beauty of being newlyweds is that you have no baggage, barriers, or walls. You are bare-naked in terms of emotions. Bring that into the bedroom.  A principle that we hoped would ground our relationship is being open, communicating with each other about everything, so there is no room for misinterpretation. So, with every step of intimacy, every subtle or not so subtle move, he would ask me, “Is this ok? Does this feel good?”

“Wow,” I thought, “He loves me so much that even in an act that he desires and lusts for, he is concerned about my thoughts and my feelings.”

And, in turn, I asked him with my every intimate action, “Is this right?”

This unselfish care from him is what empowered me to fulfill his fantasies. Does that mean we never disappointed one another? Of course not, we were just open about the disappointment afterwards.

Alhamdulillah, 5+ roller coaster-years later that open communication, regardless of the consequences, is what has gotten us through and helped us develop a deep, meaningful understanding of one another.

I explained my upbringing to him, and of course, being from the same upbringing, he understood.  I told him that, ironically, when I said I do, because I was so terrified of sex and not wanting to appear amateur, I simply “x-ed” out the fact that he was male. In fact, I spoke to him as if it was a platonic relationship.  However, I was willing to learn, willing to do what pleased him, while allowing him to explore with me as well. That willingness came with, during, and after the love and confidence I felt after he pleased me. Go beyond the stereotype.  Have both expectations, to gain pleasure through intimacy, and to be a part of your spouse seeking pleasure from you.

And specifically to the men: if she is from a conservative background realize that it might not be that she doesn’t want it, it might be that she doesn’t know that this world of intimacy exists. So, it’s in your interest to educate yourself on giving your wife pleasure. You will see that when you show her how important it is that she is pleased with you, then she, too, out of love, will fulfill your fantasies.

Newly Married, On Performance Anxiety

Some women are unable to or have difficulty in reaching climax via penetration but they can experience a ‘clitoral’ orgasm, or they need adequate clitoral stimulation before they are ready for intercourse. Some men do not know this and they do not stimulate their wives at the right place, and the women are ashamed or shy to bring this up, thinking that they are the problem.

This creates sexual frustration for both partners. Women may feel under pressure to have an orgasm and men also feel under pressure to give their partner an orgasm during penetration. As a result, instead of thinking erotically, you start to worry on what your partner will think of you, how less feminine you are, and how terrible it will be if you fail to perform. This sexual performance anxiety will inhibit a woman’s arousal, as it is tied to emotions and a state of mind. Sex will be difficult to enjoy and no longer a pleasurable experience.  It becomes worse when it leads to a perpetual cycle: you are unable to perform because you are anxious, and it leads to even more performance anxiety.

Like other forms of anxiety, getting over sexual performance anxiety needs work and dedication. The tips below may be helpful in overcoming this issue:

1. Talk to your partner about it

Discussing it with your partner can ease some worries. Understanding and reassurance by your partner will make you less anxious and more comfortable. Finding solutions together might actually bring you emotionally closer as a couple, and improve your sexual relationship. Express gratitude and compliment each other after you have had sex. Tell your partner that you had a good experience and acknowledge your partner’s improvement in performance as it gets better and better. This is important to boost her self-confidence and inspire her to perform better next time.

2. Increase intimacy in other areas

Being intimate is not just about sex. Doing non-sexual activities together can bring you closer and increase your intimacy.  Being more emotionally connected to your partner will definitely make you more comfortable in bed. In order to have good sexual life, you need to be vulnerable and let your defenses down.  This is difficult to achieve if you are not feeling safe or you don’t give yourself wholeheartedly.

3. Practice makes perfect

With more experience, trial and error, and patience, you will slowly learn to get it right and be ‘in sync’ with your partner.

4. Exercise

It will make you feel better about your body and increase your stamina in bed.

5. Love yourself more

-Stop defining yourself with orgasm.

-Stop worrying about what others are going to think of you.

-Focus on what you can control – your erotic thoughts, fantasies, sensations, and feelings.

-It is OK not to achieve orgasm once in a while. Appreciate whatever pleasure you have.

-Stop obsessing about rating your sexual experience. Take it easy on yourself, but be brave enough to admit if there is a problem and seek help.

6. See a doctor or a therapist

This is to make sure that your anxiety is not caused by a health condition or medication. A professional sex therapist can help you to explore and understand more about your issues.

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It is often heard that the Prophet said that if a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses him, that the angels will curse her until the morning. There are a lot of ways that people understand this, but what is the right way of understanding this Hadith?

Join us with Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jandga to talk about this commonly mistranslated, misunderstood narration.

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Gender Relations

Loving Muslim Marriage Episode 9#: Islamic Validation of the Female Orgasm

There is a cultural misconception that pious Muslim women are somehow disassociated from sex, that sex is a Muslim man’s right, but a Muslim woman’s obligation. Where does Islam actually stand on the sexual rights of women in marriage?

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#Islam

A Primer On Intimacy And Fulfillment Of A Wife’s Desires Based On The Writings Of Scholars Of The Past

*For mature audiences only

This short piece is intended to provide insight on the troubling and detrimental lack of understanding among Muslim men for the necessity and virtue of the female orgasm during sexual intercourse in married couples.  The importance of the female orgasm is substantiated by naṣṣ of Qurʾān, corroborated by the ḥadīth of Rasūlullāh ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) , and has been elaborated upon by the fuqahāʾ throughout the centuries.

Many Muslim sisters have taken it upon themselves to tackle the issue online and anyone who has love and concern for the Muslim community should praise their efforts.  In initiating conversation on this matter, they have shown concern, initiative and courage worthy of the followers of Rasūlullāh .  The benefit which their writings, webinars, round-table talks have provided is obvious to anyone who ponders.  It is a known principle among the fuqahāʾ that knowledge is to be imparted to the masses by order of its need and prevalence of troubles within the masses.

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The anonymous testimonies of our Muslim sisters are undoubtedly a justification for drawing the attention of our Muslim brothers to what authentic Islām teaches us on the subject.  It is also known among the fuqahāʾ that women are the only legitimate source of information for matters specific to them; such as the different patterns of menstruation and post-natal bleeding.  Consequently, the only legitimate source for determining whether and to which magnitude the issue of reaching orgasm during intercourse is pertinent to Muslim women is the Muslim women themselves.

A synopsis of the most striking among those anonymous testimonials follows:

Testimonial 1: “Being married for 10+ years Alhamdulillah with 3 kids it’s a journey of pain and frustration in terms of sexual life.  I never knew till some 4 years of marriage that there is something called ‘orgasm’ for females.  I simply cannot explain the emptiness it leaves when he just sleeps calmly leaving me aroused once he is done. He feels hurt when I say I too want to be satisfied.  But my requests to all the brothers out there: don’t be selfish no matter how tired you are. If you want to be satisfied every single time of making love, make sure so does your wife too. Your wife will never be emotionally attached to you if you do not satisfy her with your own love and willingness in bed.”

Testimonial 2: “I am 2 years in this marriage and I’m highly dissatisfied. Because I’m outspoken I have told my husband clearly many times that even if he doesn’t want I do. But it only led to fights and more dissatisfaction. He tried to improve but after it had done enough damage already. He loves me, he kisses and cuddles a lot but his appetite for love making is very poor. I don’t feel desired.  We so often hear [sic] that we should not deny intimacy to the husband but why is it not the other way round too?”

Testimonial 3 “In [my first] 5 years of marriage, I’ve orgasmed once with him though I love him with all my heart. I cannot stress on the importance of a female climaxing and reaching an orgasm with her husband because this has saved our marriage [after he realized how important it was]. It brings a couple so much closer. To all you ladies who think sex is a chore, I can guarantee none of you have ever had an orgasm. Had you had a true orgasm you would be pulling him to bed. It’s the best physical feeling ever and melts away the stress.”

These testimonials speak for themselves, and the verses of Qurʾān, aḥādīth and sayings of the fuqahāʾ below will demonstrate their legitimacy.

The Qurʾān unambiguously affirms the presence of lust in both men and women, without distinction:

“Tell the believing men that they must lower their gazes and guard their private parts; it is more decent for them. Surely Allāh is All-Aware of what they do.  And tell the believing women that they must lower their gazes and guard their private parts” (s. 24, v. 30-31).

In Aḥkāmul-Qurʾān, Qāḍī Abū-Bakr Ibn al-ʿArabī (passed away 543 A.H/1148) comments on this verse as follows: “Just as it is not permissible for a man to gaze at a woman, it is likewise not permissible for a woman to gaze at a man; the man’s attachment to her is no different than her attachment to him.  His [lustful] intent from her is likewise identical to her [lustful] intent from him”.  It is noteworthy that Al-Qurṭubī also relays this statement of Ibn al-ʿArabī in his tafsīr.  This then raises the question: if lust is set to be fulfilled through marriage, then what is the purpose and benefit of such fulfillment?

The Qurʾān provides clear guidance as to the importance of a loving marital relationship.  “And it is among His signs that He has created for you wives from among yourselves, so that you may find tranquility in them, and He has created love and kindness between you” (s. 30 v, 21).  The greatest mufassir among the Ṣaḥāba, ʿAbdullāh b. ʿAbbās, contends that “love is intercourse (jimāʿ)” i.e a loving relationship stems from the act of intercourse. It is simply inconceivable for the relationship to be a loving one, if one of the parties to intercourse is dissatisfied.  Mujāhid and al-Ḥassan al-Baṣrī ascribe the same meaning to love as Ibn-ʿAbbās.

The Qurʾān does not detail the requirements of the act of intercourse. That responsibility is carried out by Rasūlullāh .  While commenting on the verse “And We sent down the Reminder (The Qur’ān) to you, so that you explain to the people what has been revealed for them, and so that they may ponder.” (s. 16, v. 44), Al-Qurṭubī explains: “The Rasūl  explains on behalf of Allāh that which He intends in the rules of ṣalāt and zakāt as well as other commands, by detailing such intent where Allāh has provided  statements which are general in nature”.  This leads us to the aḥādīth below for the guidance of men on how to satisfy their spouses during intercourse.

إذا جامع أحدكم أهله فليصدقها فإن سبقها فلا يعجلها خرجه أبو يعلى عن أنس

“When one of you has intercourse with his spouse, then let him be truthful towards her.  If he happens to precede her then he should not rush her” .

Al-Manāwī comments on this ḥadīth as follows: “He should be truthful in his love and his display of good will towards her.  This means that it is commendable for him to make love to her with strength, resolve and make fine love to her”.

إذا جامع أحدكم أهله فليصدقها ثم إذا قضى حاجته قبل أن تقضي حاجتها فلا يعجلها حتى تقضي حاجتها خرجه عبد الرزاق وأبو يعلى عن أنس

“When one of you has intercourse with his spouse, then let him be truthful towards her.  Then if he fulfills his need before her need is fulfilled, let him not rush her until it is fulfilled”

Al-Manāwī comments as follows: “When he has fulfilled his need from her by reaching climax, then-as a matter of merit-he should not impel her to separate from him.  Rather he should carry on with her until her need from him is likewise fulfilled.  This will only occur by her reaching climax and her lust settling.”.

The next ḥadīth praising a woman whose appetite for intimacy is strong, should therefore not come as a surprise.

خيرُ نسائِكم العفيفةُ الغَلِمَةُ ، عفيفةٌ في فرجِها ، غَلِمَةٌ علَى زوجِها

“The best of your women is the one who is modest yet lustful.  She is modest with regards to her private parts (towards strange men) while she is lustful towards her husband”.

Al Manāwī comments as follows: “The modest woman refrains from the ḥarām. For her to be lustful means that her carnal desire is restless. However, such restlessness is not praiseworthy in an absolute sense, as explained by the ensuing part of the ḥadīth i.e she is modest towards strange men”.

The above references in ḥadith literature are not meant to be exhaustive. Other references exist, and the commentators have been consistent in their explanations.

The fuqahāʾ(jurists) in the Ummah have, from very early on, also unapologetically touched on the subject in the most emphatic and direct manner. Some are quoted below to demonstrate such.

In his commentary of Al-Naṣīḥa al-Kāfiya Ibn-Zukrī, a Moroccan scholar who passed away 400 yrs ago (1133 A.H) quotes from Ibn al-Ḥājj (passed away 737 A.H/1336), Imam al-Ghazālī (passed away 505 A.H/1111) and al-Manāwī (passed away 1031 A.H/1621). The quotations below are directly taken from his commentary on al-Naṣiha of Shaykh Aḥmad Zarrūq (passed away 899 A.H/1493). These dates are quoted here to stress on the fact that this subject is not a contemporary one, it is rather a subject that has existed from the very time Muslim scholarship has. What is most pertinent here is the unambiguous language the fuqahāʾ use to get their point across.

“And softness towards the woman, until her fluid mixes with the fluid of the man, is certain to induce love for her and for him as well”.

Ibn-ʿArdūn explains: ‘The author of al-īdāḥ explains: whenever their two fluids blend together at the same moment, it is the utmost form of reaching pleasure, love, affection as well as cementing love. The amount of pleasure and love will be commensurate with how closely in time they blend together’.

The author of al-Iḥyāʾ mentions: ‘And once he has fulfilled his need let him take his time with his spouse until she likewise fulfills her need because her climax may be delayed and to withdraw from her while her lust has been agitated would cause her harm. Differences in patterns of climax inevitably lead to repulsion and discord whenever the husband should reach climax first. It is more gratifying and pleasurable for the woman that she and her husband reach climax simultaneously because  he will be engaged and absorbed alongside her, accommodating thereby her likely shyness [she will enjoy her orgasm without bashfulness]’

In al-Madkhal [Ibn al-Ḥājj] explains: ‘It is fitting for him, when he has fulfilled his need, not to rush to rise because it is among the things which will upset and perturb her.  Rather he should remain agreeable and engaged until he ascertains that her need has been fulfilled.  The intent is to have consideration for her matter because the Nabī  used to advice [men] regarding women just as he used to encourage kindness towards them. At this juncture, it is not possible to show kindness to her without it [the fulfillment of her need]. The man should therefore thoroughly exert himself to achieve that goal, and Allāh will certainly forgive any incapacity’.

Ibn Zukrī then goes on to quote al-Manāwī’s commentary of the two first ḥadiths quoted above.

The author of the Naṣīḥa then goes on to explain, and Ibn Zukrī’s commentary follows:

“And whoever wishes to accomplish that, then let him not come close to her until her breathing becomes intense and her eyes hollow, and that she seeks to remain attached to him; those are signs of her lust having been awakened”

Ibn Zukrī : it is explained in the commentary of al-Waghlisiyya : part of the etiquette of intimacy is to engage in foreplay so that the wife’s heart becomes cheerful and that the attainment of her desire becomes easy. This should be done until the point that her breathing becomes intense, her agitation increases, and she seeks to remain attached to the man, only then should he come close to her [for the act of intercourse].

He continues to say: “Those preliminaries consists in abundant foreplay with her, fondling her breasts and rubbing his penis with her labia”.  Ibn Zukrī explains: the author of the Madkhal explains: ‘When one decides to intimately engage with his spouse, it is befitting for him to refrain from the prohibited behavior which some of the common folk adopt, which consists in approaching their spouses hurriedly. Rather he should not do so until he has played and bantered with her in permissible ways. That includes cuddling, kissing and similar actions, until he sees that she has aroused herself to what he is seeking from her, feels relaxed and takes interest in it. Only then should he approach her. The wisdom of the religious code in this matter is obvious, and it is that the woman desires from the man what he desires from her. If he were to come to her abruptly, he may very well fulfill his need while she would remain upset and her dīn and chastity may be compromised as a result.  If he however does as stipulated, then the matter will be eased for her and her dīn and chastity will be protected’.

End of quotes from Ibn-Zukrī. 

It is clear from the above that the fuqahāʾ have kept within the confines of the Qurʾān and the Sunna and, as is their responsibility, lucidly relayed the information contained therein to the masses, with a full understanding of the pertinence of the subject in society.

This article cannot be complete without mentioning what some of the people of ḥaqīqa i.e taṣawwuf have said on the subject.

Ahmad Ibn Ajība explains, regarding ḥaqīqa: ‘It is derived from the Qurʾān and the Sunna, as well as from the inspirations of the ṣāliḥīn [pious ones] and the spiritual unfoldings [futūḥāt] of the ʿārifīn [gnostics]. The subtle understanding of the Quran and the Sunnah is predominantly found among the ṣālihīn.  Their statements clearly show that.

In his book on the etiquettes of marriage, Muhammad alTihāmī Kanūn (passed away 1915) explains: Abul ʿAbbas Aḥmad b. Yaḥya alWansharīsī says in his abridgment of the nawāzil of alBurzulī: ‘The pious Shaykh AbuBakr alWarraq states: every worldly passion hardens the heart, except the passion of intercourse which in fact softens the heart, which is why the Anbiyāʾused to engage in it’.  It is also mentioned in hadith:

Three things have been made beloved to me among your worldly matters: perfume, women and the coolness of my eyes has been placed in salat’.

In fact, alQurtubi relates the statement from alWarrāq with a prelude explaining how it is said that the desire for intercourse is commensurate with one’s taqwa

Note: We will state the obvious here, that this is true for both men and women, in accordance with what has been stated above regarding their equivalency in the search for carnal satisfaction from one another.

Finally, the author of marginal notes on Tafsīr alJalālayn Aḥmad alṢāwī states: ‘One of the gnostics [ʿārifīn] has mentioned that intercourse is one of the avenues towards reaching [the ma’rifa of] Allāh’.

These last statements from the ṣālihīn should serve as an admonition as well as an encouragement to the Muslim brothers who are lacking in being mindful of their spouse’s sexual needs. They may beg the question: is it a deficiency in taqwā which causes a man to not be mindful of this? It clearly makes the case for an opportunity for spiritual development through the act of intimacy

There are many related subjects which have not been discussed here, as the intent was very specific. However, our brothers and sisters should certainly take it upon themselves to contribute in educating the Muslims on those issues. Issues such as: the need and importance of marriage counseling; how to nurture a good relationship outside of the bedroom; how to address psychological and/or medical issues related to intimacy; how to educate Muslim adolescents (girls and boys alike) on sexuality, etc. There are, alḥamdulillāh, many competent and articulate brothers and sisters who specialize in different fields, and/or have valuable life experience which can be put to the profit of the Muslim Ummah

And we all ask Allāh for tawfīq.

PDF of sources in Arabic with references

  1. Aḥkāmul-Qurʾān, Vol. 3 p. 380
  2. Tafsīr al-Qurṭubī, Vol. 16 p. 412
  3. Idem.
  4. Tafsīr al-Qurṭubī, Vol. 12 p. 329
  5.  Faidhul-qadīr, Vol. 1 p. 325. Ḥadīth n. 548. 
  6.  Faidhul-qadīr, Vol. 1 p. 325. Ḥadīth n. 549.
  7.  Al-Manāwi mentions that this is mustahab, and he is correct.  However, the statement of istiḥbāb is only to encourage this action, in order to avoid harm to the woman.  If she is being harmed by the lack of satisfaction, then it becomes wājib.  
  8.  Faidhul-qadīr, Vol. 3 p. 493. Ḥadīth n. 4093.
  9.  Sharḥ al-Naṣīḥa, Ibn-Zukrī Al-Fāsī, p. 651.
  10.  Reference from Hikam.
  11.  Qurratul-ʿuyūn bi-sharḥ naẓm ibn-Yaʾmūn, p. 48. 
  12. It is worthy to mention here that the commentators of hadith have determined that “three things” is an addition from the narrator as opposed to being the speech of the Nabi SAW.  Salat is not part of worldly matters. The hadith should therefore be: ‘Among your worldly matters perfume and women have been made beloved to me and the coolness of my eyes has been placed in salat’.
  13.  Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol. 6 p. 419.
  14.  Ḥāshiya al-Ṣāwī, Vol. 3 p. 204.

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