Sep 19, 2012

The merits and pitfalls of discussing sex

By Sabina Giado


Sex is discussed in multiple arenas and in multiple contexts. Sex is discussed among friends, female and male, either as a means of entertainment, increasing their bond, or simply as a means of deciphering the opposite sex. Sex is discussed among children coming to terms with their changing bodies. Sex is discussed with doctors, scholars and parents.

In this article, inshAllah, we will discuss which of these contexts these conversations may fall into the forbidden and what would be more constructive ways of discussing the act of intimacy.

Note that I am not by any means giving fatwas. I have no authority to do so. My intention with this article is to encourage healthy discourse about sex following the example set by our beloved Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and staying within the bounds of the Shari’ah in this case.

1. Talking about sex with friends.
As always, the Muslim should be very aware of his or her intentions. There are a couple of reasons why a Muslim may talk about sex with his or her friends.

Both men and women are prone to boasting about their intimate life with their spouses, directly or indirectly. Men are inclined to wink and nudge and inquire after the man’s increased “happiness” after his wedded life. Women are inclined to complain/boast about how late they are sleeping or how tired they have become or how their husbands are ‘a lot of work’, all with a wry smile playing on their lips. These comments are usually made in front of single friends and often smack of arrogance, which compounds the sin.

It Is narrated on the authority of Abdullah b. Mas'ud that the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him), observed: He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enter Paradise. (Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Number 164).

What happens between spouses in the bedroom is a sacred trust. To share and to perhaps laugh about the mistakes or joys of one’s sexual encounters is to betray that trust.

Abu Sa'id al-Khudri radhiallahu anhu reported that Allah's Messenger sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said: The most wicked among the people in the eye of Allah on the Day of Judgment is the man who goes to his wife and she comes to him, and then he divulges her secret. 
(Sahih Muslim, Book 8, Number 3369)

Trying to find a solution to a genuine problem
Often, due to physical or psychological pressures, one or the other spouse might find their sexuality diminished and their ability to satisfy their partner diminishes with it. This can be a trying and frustrating problem for both spouses.

In this situation, rather than break the sacred trust of marriage by discussing the problem with friends, it would be wiser and more constructive to unburden to a qualified sex therapist. Doctors do not often deal with the emotional and psychological aspects of sex, whereas therapists do. In this way, we can not only share our problem thus getting it off our chests, but also get some expert advice on how to deal with it.

2. Asking questions from your parents
It is no secret that we are living in an over-sexualized cultural atmosphere. Children are likely to have many questions, fears and misunderstandings based on what they have unwittingly seen on the TV, billboards, in magazines, etc. Moreover as puberty hits, the confusion and pressure will mount for a young Muslim or Muslimah, especially as their peer group will often tend to be just as clueless and misinformed.

Secular sex education are likely to elucidate the mechanics of sex, how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Even if a Muslim family chooses to allow their child to attend sex education, schools are likely to avoid the emotional and psychological consequences of early sex.

Our children deserve a complete account of sex. They deserve honest, Deen-based answers from someone they feel comfortable talking to. They should not be frightened by the act; rather they should view it as something natural and sacred to be acted upon at the right time and place, as with all things in Islam.

For pre-pubescent children, a mentor to guide them through the changes that are occurring in their bodies would be a gift from Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala. InshaAllah, let us strive to be that gift for our young brothers and sisters.

There is no harm in educating our children about their bodies and sex in a frank manner, while avoiding crudeness, following the example of our beloved Messenger sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

Jabir b. 'Abdullah radhiallahu anhu reported: 'Abdullah died and he left (behind him) 
nine or seven daughters. I married a woman who had been previously married. 
Allah's Messenger sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said to me: Jabir, have you married? I said: Yes. He (again) said: A virgin or one previously married? 
I said: Messenger of Allah, with one who was previously married, 
whereupon he said: Why didn't you marry a young girl so that you could sport with her 
and she could sport with you, or you could amuse with her and she could amuse with you? 
I said to him: 'Abdullah died (he fell as martyr in Uhud) and left nine or seven daughters behind him; I, therefore, did not approve of the idea that I should bring a (girl) like them, 
but I preferred to bring a woman who should look after them and teach them good manners, whereupon he (Allah's Messenger) said: 
May Allah bless you, or he supplicated (for the) good (to be) conferred on me (by Allah).  
(Sahih Muslim, Book 8, Number 3462)

Of the many lessons that can be gleaned from this beautiful Hadith, we notice the Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam took it upon himself to educate Jabir radhiallahu anhu as his own father had passed away in the Battle of Uhud. If the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam could be a mentor in sexual matters, then parents, trusted older family members, teachers and other mentor figures may also take a lead in this matter, if there is no fear of abuse or other misconduct.

Notice also the language used by the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. It is clear that playfulness and good humour is encouraged before sexual activity. While never mincing words, the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam also never descends into vulgarity. The softness of his tone communicates his concern for the welfare of his companion.

3. Talking about intimacy with your spouse.
Pleasurable sex is not restricted, as the media would have us believe, to only a few blessed young men and women. It is a skill that can be learned. However, intimacy requires open communication, trust and real comfort. A couple would do well to work on those areas for the benefit of their marriage in general, not just their intimate lives.

4. Talking about intimacy with doctors or therapists.
A dysfunctional sex life can seriously sour a happily married life. As discussed before, in seeking a solution for a problem which may have medical or psychological roots, it is not forbidden to seek help from licensed professionals.

5. Talking about intimacy with an Imam or scholar.

'A'isha reported: Asma (daughter of Shakal) asked the Apostle of Allah 
sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam about washing after menstruation. 
He said: Everyone amongst you should use water (mixed with the leaves of) the lote-tree 
and cleanse herself well, and then pour water on her head and rub it vigorously 
till it reaches the roots of the hair. Then she should pour water on it. 
Afterwards she should take a piece of cotton smeared with musk and cleanse herself with it. 
Asma' said: How should she cleanse herself with the help of that? 
Upon this, he (the Apostle of Allah) observed: Praise be to Allah, she should cleanse herself. 'A'isha said in a subdued tone that she should apply it to the trace of blood. 
She (Asma) then further asked about bathing after sexual intercourse. 
He (the Holy Prophet) said: She should take water and cleanse herself well or 
complete the ablution and then (pour water) on her head and rub it 
till it reaches the roots of the hair (of her) head and then pour water on her. 
'A'isha said: How good are the women of Ansar (helpers) that their shyness 
does not prevent them from learning religion. 
(Sahih Muslim, Book 3, Number 0649)

In this case, Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam’s natural delicacy prevented him from telling this young lady that she could cleanse her private area. ‘Aisha radhiallahu anha however filled in the gap and praised this lady for her desire to gain knowledge.

Islam has sent us guidelines for every area of our lives even our intimate lives. We should be clear and firm on the correctness of our acts so that we know that we are gaining the pleasure of Allah subhaana wa ta'aala. If embarrassment prevents us from speaking directly, inshAllah we can go through our husbands. If we are as yet unmarried, inshAllah we can seek a female scholar or ask a male scholar via email or another less direct form of communication, as the scholar’s duty is to guide!

Subhanallah, Islam only disallows talking about sex for the purpose of titillation, entertainment or laughter among friends. Educating your children, seeking knowledge about the fiqh of the intimate act and readdressing marital issues are inshAllah allowed, if not encouraged.

We should strive to create healthy environments for the discussion of sex and body image, as sex is a gift from Allah subhaana wa ta'aala. Imam al-Ghazali even called the act of intimacy a taste of the pleasures of the afterlife, a place where pleasure is not transitory, unlike the pleasures of this world.

Whatever is wrong in this article is from me and whatever is right is from Allah subhaana wa ta'aala.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :) 


One of the best articles by far at Habibi Halaqas!!
So proud of you sabina! <3
May loads of sisters benefit from this article - ameen ya rabbul alameen

this was very well-organized mashaAllah! all the points you addressed were so important and I'm glad you decided to write this...

Great and practical advice on a very relevant issue. MA

Salams sisters and jzk for the comments!

Salams sisters and jzk for the comments!

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