The Role of Intimacy in Marriage

[Notes from Sheikh Yasir Qadhi’s ‘Like A Garment’ series. All errors are mine.]

Turning to the Qur’an and  the Sunnah:

Surah Ruum, v. 21:

21. and among his signs is this, that He created for You wives from among yourselves, that You may find repose In them, and He has put between You affection and Mercy. Verily, In that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.

So dwelling in peace, finding comfort in each other is what the Qur’an says about the marital relationship. And nothing brings more tranquility between a couple than the act of sex.

Surah Baqarah, v. 187:

v. 187 It is made lawful for You to have sexual relations with Your wives on the night of As-Saum (the fasts). they are like a garment [i.e. body cover, or screen, or Sakan, (i.e. You enjoy the pleasure of living with her – as In Verse 7:189) Tafsir At-Tabarî], for You and You are the same for them.

Realize that this is the month of Ramadhan where many of the Sahaba thought being sexual was unholy, here Allah ta’ala is saying that being sexual is not at all evil, even in the month of Ramadhan. This shows us that the Islamic view of sexuality is very different from other religions and cultures where it encourages intimacy between marriage. Medieval Christians viewed the act of sex even within marriage as a necessary evil. This is why so many priests and nuns take vows of celibacy. One of the most famous theologians of Christianity, St. Augustine, said that even the urge to have sex is evil and that even when you are married, the only reason you should engage in intimacy is to procreate. In Islam, the urge to have sex is considered halal, and sexual intimacy and satisfaction is encouraged in marriage and prohibited outside it.

What does ‘Like A Garment’ mean?

A very profound phrase:

The act of sex is so intimate, it is literally as if one of the spouses covers the other just like his or her clothing. Another phrase that the Qur’an uses to gently refer to this act is ‘Ghashyah’ which means to cover up, to envelope. One of the profunditites of this phrase is: that just like a garment covers up one’s nakedness, one’s embarrassment, a spouse must cover up the other’s faults, her embarrassments. A spouse therefore covers up the spiritual Awrah.

Just like clothes cover us from external elements, similarly the spouse protects us from external lusts and desires, all of the problems of society are kept away by fulfilling the spouse’s desires within marriage.

Also clothing is meant to beautify ourselves. Without clothing we’re naked. Similarly, spouses complete and beautify us. When we’re not married, we haven’t really reached our full potential, it’s through marriage that we raise our level of maturity, of emotion, of being a full human being. Because only marriage brings out certain qualities that are dormant within us when we’re single.

The only person you can discard your garments in front of without any reservations is your spouse, that is why Allah ta’ala says ‘Both of you are like a garment to one another’.

Clothes are the closest thing to our body, nothing comes between us and our clothes. Similarly the closest person to our heart must be our spouse, must be our confidante.

The Prophet Muhammad said that world is full of enjoyments and the best enjoyment is the righteous wife and the righteous husband for a woman [Sahih Muslim]. This shows us that having a good spouse is one of the biggest blessings from Allah ta’ala. Note the mention of enjoyment, this means the purest way to have a good time, which is rewarded by Allah and even healthy activity is to have a good relationship with your spouse.

The Prophet Muhammad said ‘Two things are beloved to me: 1 Perfurme and 2. Women”.

These bring comfort and pleasure in a permissible manner, and the act of sex is obviously one of the most pleasurable activities.

We know that all actions are rewarded on intentions, so even the act of intimacy or romance can be rewarded if it’s done with the right intentions.

The Prophet (s) stated that in one’s sexual intimacy with one’s life partner there is sadaqa (worship through giving):

God’s Messenger(s) said: “In the sexual act of each of you there is a sadaqa.” The Companions replied: “0 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.” (Muslim)

Having the right intention 

So being romantic and being intimate actually gets you good deeds! So how can you have the right intention?

1. That you’re conscious that Allah has blessed you to fulfil your desires in a halal manner and you thank Allah for it.

2. Approach the act of sexuality with the intention of fulfilling your spouse’s needs

3.  To want children from this relationship

So the intention is not to be holy and sombre, it is to thank Allah ta’ala for his blessings that He has given us. We should follow through by implementing the right etiquette to sexual intimacy which is (briefly):

1. Make sure you’re in a private area and no one is watching

2. That you say the right adhkaar, you say bismillah before you take your clothes off, the right dua (will come later) and Allah’s blessings will come down upon you insha’allah.

The famous scholar, Ibn Al Jawzi says, “Sometimes sex results in producing children the likes of Imam Shafi’ and Imam Ahmed. This sex that results in such Imams is better in the eyes of Allah than a thousand years of worship”. So the scholar may be being a little funny here but it does have an element of truth. So make the right niyyah and follow the right etiquette.

How Men and Women View Intimacy Differently

[Notes from Sheikh Yasir Qadhi’s “Like A Garment” series. All goodness is from Allah ta’ala, all errors are mine]

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Primary differences between men and women when it comes to intimacy:

1. Allah says in the Qur’an: The man is not like the woman. They’re different in every way: physically, psychologically, intellectually, biologically, and also sexually.

2. Men want and crave the physical act of sex. Women want and crave the attention and emotional aspect of being in a relationship, also known as romance. Generally speaking men want to show their love by taking care of the woman and wants to receive the love in terms of sex. Woman want to receive that love primarily through quality time while they want to return it by household activities.

The Islamic Shariah guarantees that the woman must have the stability of having the security of being taken care of financially while it guarantees that the man must have his sexual needs met through his wife.

There are so many hadith of the Prophet where the wife must never say no to the husband’s request for sexual intimacy. “If a man tells his wife to come for the act and he remains angry, then even the angels in the skies curse her because she refused without a legitimate reason”.

Quick overview of the differences:

1. Arousal: For men, arousal is visual, i.e. seeing nakedness. For women, arousal is emotional. So this is why the pornography industry is geared towards men, while the romance novels and movies are geared towards women.

2. A man needs sex in order to open up his heart for love. A woman needs to be loved to open up for sex. Many times a man will feel like bringing flowers for his wife the night after a passionate encounter. For women, had he done all of this before the intimacy, he would have had a better time.

Based on this, if a man is continually is rejected for sex, the man will feel she doesn’t love him. In contrast, if a woman is always called upon for sex without her emotional needs being met, she will feel misused and abused.

3. Men can generally be aroused at any time of the day, testosterone is generally pretty consistent. Main factor for arousal for a man is how long it has been since he has climaxed. Women are very different, women’s arousal has not been understood very well, and can be affected by their cycles, their hormones, the biological clock, emotional issues. One night the woman may be extremely passionate because it’s that time of the month and easily aroused and the next night she couldn’t care less. The man has to realize that it’s not his fault or hers, it’s outside their control. Men need to realize and accept this.

4. For men, sex is all about climaxing, the release. So they’re not concerned about the buildup, they just want to get to the end. For women, it’s all about the buildup, which is something that men need to understand. They feel happy without necessarily climaxing. So for women it’s mainly the foreplay.

5. Men, generally speaking, can climax within 2-7 minutes of actual intercourse. Women will not even get aroused in less than 20 minutes. “Men are microwaves and women are ovens”.

6. When a man comes to his wife for sex, he’s already interested so it’ll probably take him a couple of minutes to climax while a woman won’t even be aroused. So it’s the man’s job to create the ambience to make it happen. If you want a good evening, have a good day with your wife, talk with her, help her out.

7. Men’s sexual desires are concentrated on one body part, i.e. their private part. For women, they want their entire bodies to be appreciated, this is because of oxytocin. So women prefer gradual stimulation and any sudden groping will only turn her off even though it is a gesture of intimacy on the husband’s part.

8. Men measure success in sex by the climax while women measure success in feeling fulfilled. One of the biggest mistakes that men fall into is they try too hard to make the woman climax, but the most important thing to a woman is to have a good time romantically.

Therefore, both of them are different fundamentally: one (usually) focuses on the ending while the other (usually) focuses on the journey.