Marriage and Sex
What is Marriage in Islam?
I’m sure we all know what marriage is, but just to make it clear, from an Islamic perspective, marriage is “the condition of a man and a woman legally united for the purpose of living together and usually having children.” In Islam, marriage is for life… no question about it. You go into it with the intention of maintaining the relationship for the rest of your life (with a few exceptions). But it is NOT compulsory!
So, how important is it to marry? And how important is it to choose your future husband or wife carefully? Very Important. After all, you’ll (ideally) be spending the rest of your life with this guy or girl, and maybe even having kids together. Just imagine the joy…
Muslims believe in Fate (taqdeer or qadr). This is the belief that Allah knows exactly what will happen, despite whatever choice you make in life. Allah knows your final destination; so similarly, Allah knows your future husband or wife.
“And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.” (Al-Rum 30:21)
This verse is referring to the mystery of Sex. When the two sexes unite as one, they may produce offspring, and in that both the man and woman play equal roles. The relationship is shown through the phrase “that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them.” There should be a certain bond of love and tenderness between man and woman, which should stay constant throughout their lives together.
Marriage is Recommended, but it is not compulsory:
Marriage has been described as being half of a Muslim’s faith. Intercourse should only take place between a man and a woman who are married. In fact, the rewards for this are tremendous, as can be seen in the following Hadeeth:
The Prophet (s) once said, “A man will be rewarded for his physical relations with his wife.” His listeners, somewhat surprised, asked, “Will a person be rewarded for satisfying his passions?” The Prophet (s) replied, “Do you not see that if he were to satisfy his passions in a forbidden manner he would be committing a sin? So if he satisfies himself in a lawful manner, he will be rewarded.” (Ibid)
Marriage is recommended, as can be seen in the following Hadeeth:
The Prophet (s) has advised Muslims: “Whoever is able to marry, should marry, for that will help him lower his gaze and guard his modesty.”
One of the key principles of Islam is modesty (hayaa). Both men and women (Note: BOTH men and women) are constantly advised in the Quran to “lower their gazes” and to prevent themselves from thinking of the opposite sex in an ‘unlawful’ manner. This may seem too dictatorial or controlling to some people, but like everything else in Islam, there is a reason for this.
“Tell the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do... And tell the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty…” (Quran 24:30-31)
Islam constantly looks at the whole community, along with individual human rights, and is always looking at ways in which to develop and improve social conditions. Attraction always starts off with the first glance or word… then the second… then admiration and eventually attraction. People feel attracted to others which is why most tend to do something about it, like go on a date, have sex or eventually ask for someone’s hand in marriage. But along with that, it is attraction that leads a person to also commit adultery or have affairs while they are already married. It’s attraction to someone else, which can also lead to the collapse of marriages and the consequence of Divorce.
Divorce or adultery can have disastrous consequences for not only the people involved, but also for children and other family members. I acknowledge that the consequences are not always a tragedy and sometimes, the outcome is for the best but, the fact is that sometimes people get hurt, and sometimes, they are scarred to the extent, that they seek revenge and have to live with having their heart broken, the feelings of rejection, isolation and sometimes develop a negative outlook towards life.
Therefore, although it seems almost impossible to do in this day and age, ‘lowering the gaze’ is advisable for Muslims. This is part of the principle of Modesty.
It is an acknowledged fact that every human being has certain desires. These desires have to express themselves in one way or another, but according to Islam, there is only one legitimate channel in which these desires should be expressed. Marriage.
It is a fact that males have a stronger sex drive than females – generally speaking. This is explained in a book: Purdah and the Status of Woman in Islam, by Syed Abul Ala Maududi.
“That is why the heart of man had been infused with an unusual urge for sexual love and attachment which demands not only physical union and mating but also an enduring and sincere spiritual fellowship. This is why man has been endowed with sexual inclination in a degree greater than what is requisite for the purpose of mating.”
“…That is why woman has been endowed, besides sexual desire and appeal, with modesty, resistance and escape more or less generally.”
If the above two quotes are considered, a balance can be reached. The man has a high sexual drive, whereas a woman has the ability to resist and control herself more – generally.
The author of the above-named book states about males: “The sexual urge and appeal in him is so great that if he begins to gratify it in the sexual act even in the ratio of 1:10, he will soon ruin his health and exhaust his energies prematurely.”
If the fact that the above quote demonstrates is considered, then if mankind continuously satisfies his/her sexual desires by just increasing the amount of time intercourse takes place, man will eventually get ill. As the author so nicely puts it, “…that the great measure in which sexual urge and appeal has been placed in man is not meant to enable him to perform the sexual act more often than animals, but is meant to unite man and woman in a lifelong companionship.”
Role of Offspring:
This leads on to the explanation of the role of offspring in maintaining the relationship between a man and woman. A human baby is the tenderest and weakest from all offspring in the animal kingdom and therefore, requires greater care, protection and looking-after. “Animals tend to nurse their young ones for a brief period only, and then break all relations of love and blood with them, so much so that they do not even recognise each other.”
In contrast, the parents of a human baby tend to remain emotionally attached to their offspring for a long period of time. The love between them brings about personal sacrifices and wanting the best for your child, which leads to a long-existing relationship between the Mum and Dad. As Syed Abul Ala Maududi says, “The existence of this intense sentiment of love in the human heart clearly shows that nature wants the sexual urge between man and woman to bind them in an enduring fellowship…to lay foundation for co-operation and mutual dealings by common loves, and finally to create a society and system of community life.”
Conclusion: In Islam...
So basically, sex plays an important role in developing a close knit family life and keeping the love between parents and offspring alive for a long period of time. By only having sex with someone you are married to, creates a bond of responsibility and commitment and further strengthens the relationship. This, in turn, contributes to maintaining a society where family bonding plays an extremely important role in the bringing up of offspring, and eventually, their contribution to the community in helping to maintain a good sense of responsibility and spiritually healthy way of life.