Pearl of Wisdom

'Guard yourself against Iblis [Satan] with true dread.'

Imam Muhammad ibn Ali al-Baqir [as]
Ibid. p. 164, no. 1

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Library » Marriage & Morals in Islam » Sexual Techniques
Sexual Techniques E-mail

Before I start writing anything about sexual techniques, it is necessary to say that no rules and laws exist either in foreplay or in intercourse. The only laws and rules are the ones reached by the lovers by mutual and often unspoken understanding. Whatever is pleasing and satisfying to both the husband and the wife is right and proper; and whatever is mutually displeasing is wrong. The only I imitation to this general rule would be any shari'ah rule which goes against the wishes of the husband or the wife.

(A) Foreplay:

Man often forgets that woman also has been created with the same desires as himself. Asbagh bin Nubatah quotes Imam 'Ali that, "Almighty God created sexual desires in ten parts; then He gave nine parts to women and one to men." But then Allah also gave them "equal parts of shyness.'' (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 40) Many times this shyness makes the man ignore the desires of his wife.

Based on this reality, Islam emphasizes on foreplay. Imam 'Ali says, "When you intend to have sex with your wife, do not rush because the woman (also) has needs (which should be fulfilled)." (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 40) Sex without foreplay has been equated to cruelty. The Prophet said, "Three people are cruel: . ..a person who has sex with his wife before foreplay.'' (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 40) Another hadith equates sex without foreplay to animal behavior: "When anyone of you has sex with his wife, then he should not go to them like birds; instead he should be slow and delaying." (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 82) The Prophet said, "No one among you should have sex with his wife like animals; rather there should be a messenger between them." When asked about the messenger, he said, "It means kissing and talking." (Tahzibu'l-Ihya, vol. 3, p. 110) Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq has been quoted as follows, "...there should be mutual foreplay between them because it is better for sex." (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 82) The Prophet said, "...every play of a believer is void except in three cases: horse-riding, archery and mutual foreplay with his wife these are haqq." (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 83)

As for the role of a woman in sexual foreplay, the Imams have praised a wife who discards shyness when she is with her husband. A hadith was quoted earlier from Imam 'Ali which said that women have been given nine-tenths of the sexual desire but Allah has also given them nine-tenths of shyness. (See p. 32) I had promised in Chapter Two to explain the rationale behind this hadith. There might seem to be a contradiction in this act of God, but it is not so. Both the sexual desire and the shyness have been placed for very specific purpose. The sexual desire is to be unleashed, yes unleashed, when a woman is with her husband, but it must be shielded with shyness when she is with other people. This has been very eloquently explained by Imam Muhammad al-Baqir when he said, "The best woman among you is the one who discards the armor of shyness when she undresses for her husband, and puts on the armor of shyness when she dresses up again." (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 14-15) After all, modesty and chastity in public is the hallmark of a Muslim lady.

These sayings clearly show that the husband and the wife should feel completely free when they are engaged in mutual stimulation which is known as foreplay. There is nothing wrong, according to Islam, for a woman to be active and responsive during sex. This is diametrically opposed to the sexual morality of the Christian Western world before the sexual revolution. Russell says, "Western women of a generation or two ago can recall being warned by their mothers that sexual intercourse was an unpleasant duty which they owed to their husbands, and that they were 'to lie still and think of England'. (As quoted in Sex and Destiny, p. 94) What else but a sexual revolt could such a morality breed?

As for the Islamic shari'ah, all the mujtahids are unanimous in saying that the act of sexual foreplay in itself is mustahab (recommended). Likewise, it is recommended not to rush into sexual intercourse. (Al-'Urwah, p. 625) The operative word is mutual pleasure and satisfaction.

(B) Techniques of Foreplay:

As far as the methods of mutual stimulation in foreplay are concerned, the shari'ah allows the husband and the wife to see, kiss, touch, smell and stimulate any part of each other's body. Therefore, oral sex, as it is known in this part of the world is allowed. Imam Musa al-Kazim was once asked, "Can a person kiss his wife's vagina?" The Imam said, "No problem." (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 77; for similar views of present mujtahids see al-'Urwah, p. 625) The only restriction is that no foreign object should be used. And this restriction is quite understandable: nothing can really substitute the things Allah has created in our bodies!

The restriction I am placing on the use of foreign objects is based on the following hadith. 'Ubaydullah bin Zurarah says that he had an old neighbor who owned a young slave-girl. Because of his old age, he could not fully satisfy the young slave-girl during sexual intercourse. She would therefore ask him to place his fingers in her vagina as she liked it. The old man complied with her wishes even though he did not like this idea. So he requested 'Ubaydullah to ask Imam ' Ali ar-Riza (a. s.) about it. When 'Ubaydullah asked the Imam about it, the Imam said, "There is no problem as long as he uses any part of his own body upon her, but he should not use any thing other than his body on her." (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 77)

In an earlier discussion, we said that masturbation (i.e., self-stimulation of one's own sexual organ till emission of semen or orgasm) is not allowed. However, in the case of married persons, there is no problem if the wife stimulates her husband's penis till the emission of semen or the husband stimulates his wife's vagina till orgasm. (This issue has also been clearly mentioned by the late Ayatullah al-Khu'i in answer to some questions sent by an 'alim from London) This is allowed because it does not come under "self-stimulation;" it is stimulation by a lawful partner. The Qur'an clearly says that, "The believers are.. . those who protect their sexual organs except from their spouses." (23: 5-6) And stimulation of sexual organs by a lawful partner surely comes under the definition of protecting one's organ s "except from their spouses."

(C) Sexual Intercourse:

Is there any particular position for sexual intercourse which is forbidden in Islam? No! As far as the basic coital positions are concerned, there are no restrictions. I am using the term 'basic coital positions' for the positions known as the man above, face to face, woman above face to face; side position, face to face; rear-entry position in which the husband penetrates the vagina from the rear. Actually, the shari'ah has left it on the husband and the wife to explore and experiment as they wish.

In the early Islamic period, an event took place which clarified this issue for all. The people of Medina, influenced by the Jews, used man-above face to face position during sexual intercourse; whereas the Meccans liked to experiment various positions. After the migration of Muslims to Medina, a Meccan married a Medinan woman and wanted to have sex with her in his own way. The woman refused and said that he can have sex with her only in one position. The case was reported to the Prophet; so Allah revealed the verse saying "Your women are a tilth for you, so go in to your tilth as you like." (2:223) That is, in any position. (At-Tabataba'i, al-Mizan, vol. 3 (English translation) p. 319)

However, it is makruh to adopt a standing position, or to face the qiblah or keep it on the backside during the intercourse. It is advisable to refrain from the acrobatic positions given by some sexologists of the East and the West which might even cause physical harm. Remember, the basic rule is mutual pleasure and flexibility. If one partner does not like a particular position, then the other should yield to his or her feelings.

(D) Anal Intercourse:

The opinions of our mujtahids vary on the permissibility of anal intercourse. Before mentioning the preferred and correct view, I would like to explain why the mujtahids have differed in their opinions.

This variance in fatwas is because of the difference in the ahadith we have on this issue. There is a hadith, for example, from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq quoting the Prophet that "The anus of women is haram for my community." (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 104) Now this hadith categorically forbids anal intercourse. But, according to 'Allamah al-Hilli and ash-Shahid ath-Thani, the chain of narrators of this hadith is not completely flawless. (See Hilli's Tazkiratu'l-Fuqaha, vol. 2, p. 576-7; Shahid's Masalik, vol. 2, p. 303) On the other hand for example, we have a hadith from 'Abdullah bin Abi Ya'fur whose chain of narrators is authentic in which Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq was questioned about a man who had had intercourse in the anus of his wife. The Imam said, "There is no problem in it if she agrees." (Wasa'il 'sh-Shi'ah, vol. 14, p. 103)

When faced which such conflicting ahadith, most mujtahids have tried to bring them together by taking the apparently more authentic hadith (which approves anal intercourse) as a qualifier for the ahadith which totally forbid such sex. And in conclusion, they say that the prohibition in such ahadith is not on the level of haram, instead it is on the level of makruh. (See ash-Shahid ath-Thani, Sharh Lum'ah, vol. 2, p. 68 and Masalik, vol. 1, p. 438-9)

This conclusion of theirs is supported by a third category of ahadith on this subject in which the Imams have clearly and strongly discouraged their followers from anal intercourse. An example can be found in the question asked by Safwan al-Jammal to Imam 'Ali ar-Riza (a.s.) in which the latter clearly expressed his personal dislike for such act. (Wasa'ilu 'sh-Shi'ah, vol. 14, p. 102-103)

Therefore the majority of the Shi'ah mujtahids have derived two conclusions: (l) that anal intercourse is not haram but strongly disliked (karahatan shadidah) provided the wife agrees to it. (2) and if she does not agree to it, then all mujtahids say that it is precautionarily wajib to refrain from it. (See the fatawa of all contemporary mujtahids in their annotations to al-'Urwatu'l-Wuthqa, p. 628)

With all due respect to the great mujtahids who hold the above opinion, I would like to present the preferred opinion. It is true that we have conflicting ahadith from our Imams on anal intercourse, but the ahadith which approve anal intercourse are not suitable for deriving an opinion. Why? Because, in the case of conflicting ahadith, the mujtahid has to contrast them with the Sunni view prevalent at the time when the ahadith were issued by the Imams. And, then, those which agree with the Sunni view are to be considered as statements issued under taqiyyah and, therefore, not suitable for use in ijtihad. (For this methodology, the specialist reader may refer to Shaykh Murtaza al-Ansari, Rasa'il, p. 464-468) Using this method of solving the conflicting ahadith gives strength to the prohibitive ahadith and brings us to the preferred view that anal intercourse is not allowed. (For further details on this view, the specialist reader may refer to the late Ayatullah Syed Rahat Husayn al-Golalpuri, al-Intisar fi hurmati'l-adbar, Lucknow, al-Wa'iz Safdar Press, 1354 AH. To know the views of some prominent Sunnis of the Early Islamic period who approved anal intercourse, the English readers can refer to at-Tabataba'i, al-Mizan vol. 3 (English translation) pp. 320-321) Probably, it was such a consideration which caused the late Ayatullah al-Khu'i to change his view on this issue. During the last decade of his life, Ayatullah al-Khu'i departed from the majority view and gave the ruling that it was precautionarily wajib to abstain from anal intercourse no matter whether the wife agrees to it or not. (See al-Khu'i, Minhaju 's-Salihiyn, vol. 1 (Beirut: 22nd edition) p. 64)

I would strongly advise against anal intercourse, and would like to end this section with the saying of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq and Imam 'Ali ar-Riza about anal intercourse: "Woman is a means of your pleasure, therefore do not harm her." (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 101-102)

(E) Decency & Privacy

There was a time when people need not be reminded of some of the basic moral and ethical values, but now we are living in an era where moral values are changing like worn-out car tires!

One such issue is decency of dress at home and privacy at the time of sexual intercourse or intimate contact between husband and wife. There are some people in the West (of course, a minority) who think that it is okay, nay healthy, to stay naked in presence of their children! On a collective basis, they also organize nude camps. Why? So that the children will not think negatively about their own sexuality. Such parents also feel that there is nothing wrong in sexual intercourse in the presence of their children. This behavior is an example of the extreme reaction to the rigid Christian morality. To protect their children from associating sex with evil, some of these parents go to the extent of completely opening up to their children!

Such behavior is not only condemned by those who still abide by religious moral systems, it is equally condemned by those who are familiar with child psychology. A sexual manual read by millions of Westerners says, "Never involve children in adult sexual activities: militant and exhibitionist liberals who try to acclimatize children to the naturalness of sex by letting them in any level of their own sex lives probably do at least as much harm as was ever done by the prohibitive sex-is-dirty generation."

We have quite a few ahadith in which the Prophet and the Imams have emphasized that when you engage in sexual intercourse, make sure that no child (or, for that matter, any other person) sees you or hears you. Abu Basir quotes Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq as follows, "Be careful not to have sex with your wife while a child can see you. The Prophet used to dislike this (attitude) very strongly." (Wasa'il, vol. 14, p. 94-95) If a child sees and hears the parents engaged in sexual intercourse, he might go through a shocking psychological experience. It might also create a problem in his own adult life. The manual quoted earlier says, "Most young children are biologically programmed to interpret the sight or sound of adult coition as evidence of a violent assault (they are aware of it earlier than you would expect, so don't keep babies in the bedroom), and the awareness of mother-father sexual relations is on all counts far too explosive a matter to be monkeyed with in the interest of Reichian experiments."

Islam has laid down clear guide-lines about the privacy of adults. Referring to the children who have not yet reached the age of puberty (bulugh), the Qur'an says:

O you who believe! ... Those of you who have not yet reached puberty should ask you for permission (before entering your bedroom during) three times: before the dawn prayer, when you put off your garments at midday (for siesta), and after the night prayer these are three times of privacy for you. Besides (these three times), there is no blame on you or them if you go to one another (without announcing yourselves). Thus God makes clear to you the signs, and God is All-Knowing, Wise. (24:58)

Then referring to the children who have reached the age of puberty, the Qur'an says:

    When your children reach puberty, they should ask your permission (at all times before entering your bedrooms) just as those who were before them had asked permission. Thus God makes clear to you the signs, and God is All-Knowing, Wise. (24:59)

These two verses give us the following rules about privacy within and without the family circles:

1. There are three times in a day night, early morning and afternoon which are considered as times of privacy.

2. The minor children should be taught that during times of privacy they are not allowed to enter the bedroom of their parents or adults without first asking their permission. Obviously, by minor we do not mean infants; we mean the children who can understand what is right and what is wrong. I would put that at age five and above. The parents will have to ingrain this teaching to their minor children gradually.

3. At other times, the children are free to come and go into the bedroom of their parents without asking for their permission. In retrospect, this means that the parents should be decently dressed at those other times.

4. As for the mature children and adults, the Qur'an is clear that they may enter the bedroom of their parents or other adults at all times only after asking their permission.

 
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