Sexual Practices and Islam: Oral Sex, Masturbation, Ghusl

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Dr. Heba G. Kotb wrote: The sexual function is in itself a sacred function. It is one of those signs (aya) by which the power of Allah may be recognized. To accept one’s sex is to accept being a witness to Allah. So the relation of the sexes was to be the object of very special attention on the part of the Allah: it must be regulated so that it may be used in the right way. The Allah does not itself lay down prohibitions; it merely regulates sexual practices. [Source: “Sexuality in Islam” by Heba G. Kotb M.D., A dissertation presented to Maimonides University, 2004]

Practicing sex in Allah is sometimes could be a rewarded worship (if within marriage), or a penalized sin (if outside marriage/adultery). The Qur’an offers the following verses on having fulfilling sex: “Your wives/women are tilth for you so you have to approach your polwings by any way you desire and introduce for yourselves and fear Allah and know that you are to meet Him (in the hereafter) and give good tidings to those who believe”(2:223)

By using the word “Tilth” Allah is confining the place of the sexual act between the man and the wife to the site of cultivation (which is putting a seed to obtain the a plant, the seed here being the sperms and the plant being the offspring); this is in the mean time denying every other place for mating but the vagina which fulfills the above-mentioned conditions, as well as confirming one of the main purposes of marriage which is giving rise to further generations of mankind… simply having kids.

The word “introduce” refers to a very important basic element for the sexual relationship in general and for a successful one in particular; this is the ‘introduction’ or…’the foreplay’. Yes, this is a divine order from Allah to men to introduce for the act; this is of course because Allah knows very well the importance of such a basis for the act being –again and again- the creator of men, women, their instincts, needs, requirements, as well as best ways available to perform this act in a way so as to achieve optimum outcomes possible; and this could never happen without a properly executed foreplay. The man being the main approacher and initiator, he is the one who has to be told to, or rather ordered to do it, in order to guarantee woman’s right to get her pleasure which could be ignored or neglected by the man,

Websites and Resources: Islam “Sexuality in Islam” by Heba G. Kotb M.D at Archive for Sexology IslamOnline ; Institute for Social Policy and Understanding; ; Islamic City ; BBC article ; University of Southern California Compendium of Muslim Texts

Muslim Circumcision

Muslim boys are supposed to be circumcised, but when is not specified. For most Muslims it is kind of coming of age right generally performed when a boy is six or seven, and is usually done at least before the onset of puberty. In a few Muslim communities it is done shortly before marriage.

Muslims circumcision ritually marks a boy’s prompt entrance the religious community. It is typically celebrated with a large party. Sometimes animist practices accompany the ritual.

Circumcision is pretty much universally practiced by Muslims even though the Shafi legal school is the only one that makes it obligatory. Circumcision was not mentioned in the Qur’an and Muslim tribe did not practice it but it has been practiced since early times by Muslims presumably to distinguish Muslims from Christians, Persians and Indians who did not practice it.

Importance of a Muslim Woman Being Sexually Satisfied

The Qur’an states: “Women shall have rights similar to the rights upon them; according to what is equitable and just.” (2:216) Dr. Heba G. Kotb wrote: It is not acceptable for a Muslim man just to satisfy himself while ignoring his wife’s needs. 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.” [Source: “Sexuality in Islam” by Heba G. Kotb M.D., A dissertation presented to Maimonides University, 2004]

What is the magic ingredient that turns sex into sadaqa, 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 by thought for pleasing Allah by unselfish care for one’s partner. A husband that cannot understand this will never be fully respected by his wife.

The Qur’an also says: “Of His signs is this: that He created for you spouses that you might find rest in them, and He ordained between you affection and mercy.” (30:21). Allah commands not only the women but the men in this respect, and makes it clear that if a husband is not aware of the urges and needs of his wife, he will be committing a sin by depriving her of her rights.

According to all four orthodox jurists, it is incumbent upon the husband to keep his wife happy and pleased in this respect. Likewise, it is essential for the wife to satisfy the desire of the husband. Neither should reject the other, unless there is some lawful excuse. The jurists believed that a woman’s private parts needed “protecting” (tahseen). What they meant was that it was important for a Muslim husband to satisfy his wife’s sexual needs so that she would not be tempted to commit adultery (zina) out of despair or frustration.

Ghusl — the Muslim Post-Sex Cleaning Ritual

Because Islam views sexuality as a part of life requiring rules that preserve social morality, the Qur’an and sunnah (example of the Prophet) provide guidelines for prayer before, as well as a ritual bath (ghusl) after, conjugal relations. Ghusl is an Arabic term referring to the full-body ritual purification — or ritual bath — mandatory before the performance of various rituals and prayers, for any adult Muslim after having sexual intercourse, ejaculation or completion of the menstrual cycle. Ghusl is often translated as "full ablution", as opposed to the "partial ablution", of wudu, that Muslims perform after lesser impurities such as urination, defecation, breaking wind, deep sleep, light bleeding, etc. [Source: Wikipedia]

Ghusl is obligatory for seven causes, and the ghusl for each of these different causes has different names: 1) Ghusl Janaba, performed after sexual intercourse or ejaculation; 2) Ghusl Hayd, following menstruation; 3) Ghusl Istihadad, for irregular bleeding (in women); 4) Ghusl Nifas, for post-partum bleeding; 5) Ghusl Mayyit, performed on a dead Muslim; 6) Ghusl Mase Mayyit, obligatory if one directly touches a dead body; and 7) Ghusl also becomes obligatory following a vow or oath to perform it.

The Quranic mandate for ghusl comes in surah an-Nisa: “O Believers, do not come near to prayer when you are drunk, until you know what you are saying; nor when sexually defiled, unless passing through, until you perform ablutions. If you are ill, or on a journey, or one of you comes from the toilet, or you had intercourse with women, and you do not find water, then use some clean earth and wipe your faces and hands. [Quran 4:42–43 (Translated by Tarif Khalidi)]

There are three fard (obligatory) acts. If one of these acts is omitted, it must be returned to and completed before the remaining acts. 1) Niyyah; 2) Rinsing the inner mouth; 3) Sniffing water and blowing it out; 4) To wash the entire body in a rigorous manner.

Sunnah of Ghusl (optional - practised by Muhammad according to Sunnah hadiths): 1) Washing both the hands up to the wrists; 2) Wash the private parts and remove dirt or filth from the body; 3) Perform wudu; 4) Water should be poured over the head three times so that it flows all over the body; 5) Pour water on the right shoulder three times; 6) Pour water on the left shoulder three times.

There are some differences in details between the Sunni and the Shia schools of thought. Sunnis: 1) Start by making niyyah (intention) to perform Ghusl, say Bismillah (in the name of Allah) and cleanse yourself of impurities. 2) Wash the right hand up to and including the wrist (and between the fingers) three times, then similarly for the left hand. 3) Wash the private parts and remove dirt or filth from the body. 4) Perform Wudu as if for prayer. Ensure that the mouth and nostrils are thoroughly rinsed three times. If sitting on a stool or stone while bathing then the feet should also be washed when performing Wudu. But if sitting in a muddy place, feet should not be washed at this stage. 5) Water should be poured over the head three times so that it flows all over the body, ensuring that the roots of hairs and parts not easily reached by water such as the backs of the knees are washed thoroughly. 6) Pour water over both the shoulders three times each. Hands should be passed all over the body when water is poured so that no part of the body is left dry. 7) Move to a clean spot and wash the feet if not washed during Wudu. 8) As at the end of Wudu, it is recommended to recite the Shahada.

The following hadith describes how ghusl should be performed by Sunni Muslims. A narration attributed to Aisha bint Abi Bakr reports: “When Allah's Messenger bathed because of sexual intercourse, he first washed his hands; he then poured water with his right hand on his left hand and washed his private parts. He then performed wudu as is done for prayer. He then took some water and ran his fingers in the roots of his hair. And when he found that it had been properly moistened, he poured three handfuls on his head and then poured water over his body and subsequently washed his feet.”

In another hadith, ibn Abbas stated that Maimuna said that The Messenger of Allah was given a towel (after ghusl), but he did not rub his body with it, but he did like this with water (i.e. he shook it off). In addition, ibn Abbas recorded the following hadith on the authority of his mother's sister. A narration attributed to Maymunah bint al-Harith reports: I placed water near The Messenger of Allah to take a bath because of sexual intercourse. He washed the palms of his hands twice or thrice and then put his hand in the basin and poured water over his body then struck hand against the earth and rubbed it with force and then performed ablution for the prayer and then poured three handfuls of water on his head and then washed his whole body after which he moved aside from that place and washed his feet, and then I brought a towel (so that he may wipe his body), but he returned it.

Islam and Shaving Pubic Hair

Many Arabs and Muslim women shave their pubic hair. This done more for hygienic reasons rather than sexual ones. Turkish women say they shave their pubic hair to rid themselves of hiding places for microbes and germs. A Scottish woman I know wanted to go to a salon in Istanbul to have her legs waxed. Before she went a friend warned her to tell the women at the salon to stop at the top of her legs or else "they'll take the whole lot off."

There are actually Muslims sunnahs (teachings, deeds and sayings of Muhammad) that address shaving pubic hair as well as plucking armpit hair. According to “The Sunnah indicates that it is prescribed to remove pubic hair and armpit hair. Al-Bukhaari (5889) and Muslim (257) narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “The fitrah [natural order] is five things – or five things are part of the fitrah – circumcision, shaving the pubes, cutting the nails, plucking the armpit hairs, and trimming the moustache.” The wisdom behind the prescription of removing the hair from these two places – and Allah knows best – is that removing it helps one to attain a perfect level of cleanliness and prevents what could emanate from them of bad smells if the hair was left without removing it. And there are other reasons and wisdom behind it. [Source:, December 3, 2016 ^|^]

“Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) said: These characteristics of the fitrah may serve some religious or worldly interests, that one may notice by reflecting upon the issue, such as: improving one’s physical well-being; cleansing the body thoroughly; taking precautions to ensure purity when doing ghusl or wudoo’; doing a favour to one’s friends and companions by avoiding unpleasant smells that may offend them; differing from the practices of the disbelievers such as the Magians, Jews, Christians and idol-worshippers; obeying the command of the Lawgiver; preserving that which is mentioned to in the verse in which Allah, may He be exalted, said (interpretation of the meaning), “and [Allah] has given you shape and made your shapes good (looking)” [Ghaafir 40:64], because by doing so one is preserving that beautiful image – it is as if the verse implies: I have given you beautiful shapes, so do not distort them with anything that may make them ugly, and take care of them so that they will continue to be beautiful, for taking care of them is a kind of adhering to dignity and maintaining harmony with others, because if a person appears handsome or beautiful, that makes others feel at ease with him, so people will listen to what he says and appreciate what he says, and vice versa. — Fath al-Baari. ^|^

“What was well known at the time of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) was that they would use a razor to shave their hair. Al-Bukhaari (5079) and Muslim (715) narrated that Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “We were with the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) on campaign, and when we approached Madinah, we wanted to enter the city straight away, but the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Delay it until we enter at night, so that the one who is dishevelled may tidy herself up and the one whose husband is absent may shave her pubic hair.” ^|^

“Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Fath al-Baari: “This refers to the woman whose husband is absent. What is meant is so that she may remove her pubic hair, and the word used in this hadith refers to shaving, because that is the usual method of removing hair, but that does not mean that it is not allowed to use something other than a razor.” Al-Bukhaari (3989) narrated the story of Khubayb ibn ‘Adiyy (may Allah be pleased with him), in which it says: “when they [the disbelievers who had captured him] decided to kill him, he asked to borrow a razor from one of the daughters of al-Haarith so that he could shave his pubic hair, and she lent it to him.” It says in Musnad al-Imam Ahmad (26705), in the hadith of Ma‘mar ibn ‘Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him): … When the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) had slaughtered his sacrifice in Mina, he instructed me to shave his head. So I picked up the razor and stood by his head. The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) looked me in the eye and said to me: “O Ma‘mar, the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) has let you take hold of his earlobe when you have a razor in your hand…” ^|^

“The Sunnah with regard to the removal of pubic hair is to shave it. In the case of armpit hair, the Sunnah is to pluck it, but if a person simply trims it, there is nothing wrong with that, but it is not what is best. Ibn Qudaamah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: Shaving the pubic hair is mustahabb and is part of the fitrah, and it is very inappropriate to leave it, so it is recommended to remove it, and whatever means one uses, there is nothing wrong with it, because the point is to remove it. It was said to Abu ‘Abdullah (i.e., Imam Ahmad): Is it acceptable for a man to cut his pubic hair with scissors, even if he does not cut all of it? He said: I hope it is acceptable, in sha Allah. — al-Mughni (1/65). ^|^

“An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: Shaving the pubic hair is called istihdaad in Arabic because iron (hadeed) is used, i.e., the razor. That is Sunnah, and the purpose behind it is to cleanse the area. The best is to shave it, but it is permissible to cut the hair, pluck it or remove it with a depilatory paste…. With regard to plucking the armpit hair, that is Sunnah according to consensus. The best is to pluck it for the one who can stand it, but it may also be done by shaving or using a depilatory paste. It was narrated that Yoonus ibn ‘Abd al-A‘laa said: I entered upon ash-Shaafa‘i (may Allah have mercy on him), and the barber was with him, shaving his armpits. Ash-Shaafa‘i said: I know that the Sunnah is to pluck it, but I cannot stand the pain. — an-Nawawi (3/149)” ^|^

Prohibited Sexual Acts in Islam

Sex While the Woman is Menstruating: According to Qur’an: “…so keep away from menstruating women and do not approach them until they have purified themselves (the after-period shower), but when they have purified themselves, you may approach him as ordained for you by Allah, for Allah loves the repentants, and those who keep themselves pure and clean”(2:222). [Source: “Sexuality in Islam” by Heba G. Kotb M.D., A dissertation presented to Maimonides University, 2004]

Among Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) statements on this issue are the followings: 1) A man asked God messenger (PBUH): “O God messenger; what is it the legitimate for me of my wife while she is menstruating”? So God messenger replied: “let her be wrapped properly and consider her upper body”. 2) Aisha (prophet’s wife) said: “if ever one of us (prophet wives) menstruated, and the prophet wanted her as a sex partner, he used to tell her to be wrapped properly and used to approach her”. 3) Abou Horaira narrated that while God messenger was in the mosque, he called Aisha (his wife) saying: “O Aisha; give me the dress” (in order to wear it for prayer), so she replied: “I am menstruating”, so he replied: “your menstruation is not in your hand”. 4) Aisha narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) used to lie on her legs while she was menstruating and recite the Allah. 5) Aisha said: “I used to drink while menstruating, then give the cup to the prophet, so he used to put his lips on the place of mine and drink”.

Eunuch at the door of the sultan's harem

Anal Intercourse: 1) Al-Tirmithi narrated that Allah messenger said: “Allah Almighty will not look at the man who commits sodomy with a man or a woman”. 2) Malik related to me that he asked Ibn Shihab about someone who committed sodomy. Ibn Shihab said, “He is to be stoned, whether or not he is muhsan (protected by being married).” 3) Ibin Maja reported that prophet Muhammad said: “He is cursed who has anal intercourse (with his wife)”. 4) Al-Tirmithi reported that prophet Muhammad said: “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a menstruating woman, or woman in her anus… has disbelieved in that which was revealed to Muhammad (PBUH).” 5) A man went to the prophet (PBUH) asking about approaching women from behind, so he said: “allowed”, and he re-explained saying: “from behind into before, and not from behind into behind”. And he added: “Allah is never ashamed of the right things, do not ever approach women into the anus”.

The Qur’an says: 1) “And when they have purified themselves, then go in unto them as Allah has ordained for you (go in unto them in any manner as long as it is in their vagina)…” (2:222) 2) “Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth (have sexual relations with your wives in any manner as long as it is in the vagina and not in the anus), when or how you will, and send (good deeds, or ask Allah to bestow you pious offspring) before you for your ownselves. And fear Allah, and know that you are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give good tidings to the believers (2:223). One hadith simply states: “Avoid the anus and the time of menstruation.” (reported by Ahmad and Abu Dawud).

Islamic View on Oral Sex

The prevailing Muslim view on sex seems to be as long as its not anal sex or sex during menstruation it is okay. There is a very well-known Islamic rule; this is: whatever was not prohibited by a divine word of Allah’s nor by a prophetic statement from Muhammad is to be allowed; as basically everything is allowed.

When asked if placing of the private parts to the mouth harmful, for boys and girls alike? The late Dr. Mahmood Abu Saud, a well-known Islamic scholar, said: “Oral sex is not forbidden in Islam as long as it is practiced between husband and wife. Shahid Athar, a well known Muslim American psychiatrist at the Islamic Center in Toledo, Ohio, said in 1992: “No, but only with your spouse. "Your women are your tilth for you, so go to your tilth as ye wish" (2:223). Thus, all sexual positions except anal intercourse are permitted between husband and wives. There may be some medical harm in oral sex if organs are not clean or have infection. In that case they should seek medical treatment first before engaging in sex. The best sex organ is said to be the brain; other organs are hand and mouth. [Source: “Sexuality in Islam” by Heba G. Kotb M.D., A dissertation presented to Maimonides University, 2004]

Dr. Heba G. Kotb wrote: Based on this principle, oral sex is an allowed act for Allah if ever they desire to do it, preconditioned of course that it would be confined to the spouse, same as every other sex practice. This is to say that a married couple has the right to enjoy each other in whatever way they wish, but to have intercourse in the place through which conception may occur, in any position he wishes, as Allah says: “Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth when or how you will . . .” (2:223) [Source: “Sexuality in Islam” by Heba G. Kotb M.D., A dissertation presented to Maimonides University, 2004]

The issue of oral sex is suspended –like any act ever- on two conditions: 1) It should not cause any harm; this precondition is fulfilled in the case of well being, i.e. when one is in good health and does not complain of sicknesses threatening the partner or to be transmitted to him/her. 2) It should not lead to any disgusting feeling; which is considered moral harm to the partner, which is why it is very advisable to guarantee that the spouse is approving the act in order to fulfill the maximum joy out of the act. And here I have a statement coming of my experience in this field, this is that almost all female spouses disagree with the act at the very beginning of their sex lives, but talking with them about considering it a prerequisite for their husbands’ sexual joy, and subsequently would increase their love to them and their desire towards them, the young ladies actually follow the instructions in the vast majority of cases, and things get better gradually afterwards.

Adulterous Husband and His Lover Butted by a Ram

Qadi Muhammad Ahmad Kan'an of Beirut in his book on marital etiquette Usul al-Mu'ashara al-Zawjiyya (“Principles of Marital Cohabitation”, gives the fatwa that oral sex between spouses is licit. As for the implicit fatwas to that effect they are countless. The basic ruling is licitness from head to toe except for anal intercourse, and also except genital intercourse at the time of menses, all provided harm is avoided, as spelled out in the “Reliance of the Traveller”.

1) Imam al-Shafi'Allah (may Allah bless his soul) said in “al-Umm”, book of Nikah, chapter on (the prohibition of anal sex), that apart from the prohibition of anal sex, “enjoyment of the whole body regardless of vaginal penetration (iblaagh al-faraj) is permissible.” 2) Imam al-Nawawi (may Allah bless his soul) said in the Rawda, book of Nikah, chapter on the rights of the husband in sexual enjoyment (istimta'): “He has the rights to all kinds of sexual enjoyment, except for anal intercourse, which is strictly prohibited.” Further down, discussing the absolute prohibition of masturbation after marriage, he says: “But it is permissible that he masturbate with the hand of his wife... just as he may enjoy her entire body.” 3) In his book called ‘Minhaj’, al-Nawawi states: “The husband may look at her entire body” without reservation. Al-Shirbini comments: and vice-versa including the genitals. He also says: “The saying of the Imam that enjoyment of the rear (dubur) without penetration (eelaaj) is licit, is explicit in that ‘looking is permissible’”.

4) On p. 142 al-Bija’Allah it says: We now turn to the permissibility of looking at the wife’s pudendum (farj)... The Malikis allow it stating that there is no harm in it and it is not makruh (hated act).’ He narrated from Malik that he said: ‘There is no harm in looking at the wife’s pudendum during intercourse.’ He added in his narration: ‘And there is no harm in licking it with his tongue!’ 5) As for the SPERM of the male, The Shafie madhabs says it is PURE, but the liquid before that which is called the MAZI LIQUID is NAJASA. Now before ejaculation is completed, surely the MAZI LIQUID is there, so the partners in fact might be licking the MAZI liquid which is NAJASA...hence it could be understood if this is the case then O.S. is MAKRUH!... but certainly NOT HARAM because there is no evidence to say so.

Sheikh Yusuf Abdullah Al-Qaradâwi wrote on I was asked about oral sex in America and Europe when I began to travel to these countries in the early 70s. We were not used to be asked these questions in our Muslim countries. Those Western people are accustomed to stripping naked during sexual intercourse. These are communities of nakedness, and from the licentiousness of the woman that she wears nothing to screen her body in her daily life. So they are in need of more excitements during copulation. However, men in our Muslim societies see nothing in the Muslim woman that can excite them on the basis of her wearing either Hijab (veil) or Niqab (face cover). But concerning whether being in complete nakedness during practicing copulation is lawful or not, the Prophet of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, is reported to have said, “Guard your private parts except from your wife or your slaves.” Muslim jurists are of the opinion that it is lawful for the husband to perform cunnilingus on his wife, or a wife to suck her husband’s penis (fellatio) and there is no wrong in doing so. But some say that if sucking leads to releasing semen, then it is Makrooh (blameworthy), but there is no decisive evidence (to forbid it). These parts are not dirty like anus, but it is normally disgusting to man. But there is no decisive evidence to make it unlawful, especially if the wife agrees with it or gets her ecstasy by practicing it. Allah, Exalted and Glorified be He, says: “And who guard their modesty, save from their wives or the slaves, that I heir right hands possess, for then they are not blameworthy, but Who so craveth beyond that, such are transgressors.” (23: 5-7) Allah Almighty knows best.

Islamic View on Masturbation

The general view on masturbation in Islam is that it is a bad thing but is justifiable if it keeps you from doing something worse — committing adultery. Shahid Athar said: Masturbation is considered makruh (detestable) in Islam; i.e., it is between unlawful and permitted. Some scholars of the past have permitted it to students and soldiers who are single in a non-Muslim society where temptation is high, in order to save them from adultery. The medical harms are not confirmed.

When asked about the Islamic rule concerning masturbation, Abu Saud said: “There is no authentic text prohibiting masturbation, although it is reprehensible on account of two main factors: It leads to sexual arousal and more desire, and it actually affects the health, especially for boys. Sex is like any other natural instinct, in that the more you think of, the more it is accentuated. Generally speaking, humans sublimate and administer their instincts. We want to possess, but we work and earn; we want to eat, but we control our eating habits: and we want to have sex, but we marry. [Source: “Sexuality in Islam” by Heba G. Kotb M.D., A dissertation presented to Maimonides University, 2004]

One young man who asked about masturbation on the Islamic web site got this response: “All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger. Dear brother, we would like to thank you for showing keenness on learning the teachings of Allah, and we appreciate the great confidence you have in us. We hope our efforts meet your expectations. With regard to your question, it is very important as it touches a problem most of Muslim youth, who are yet to get married, are facing due to the great deal of temptations surrounding them. As you know, masturbation is perfectly acceptable in non-Muslim societies and is practiced by large number of people: young, single, old, and even married. However, the situation is different in Allah. The ruling on masturbation is governed by some considerations that might change the ruling from one person to another. [Source: “Sexuality in Islam” by Heba G. Kotb M.D., A dissertation presented to Maimonides University, 2004]

The late prominent scholar Sheikh Mustafa Az-Zarqa, may Allah bless his soul, has analyzed the issue of masturbation in detail and, after discussing the different views of scholars and jurists regarding it, issued the following fatwa: The only legal text used as evidence for the prohibition of masturbation is Allah’s saying describing the believers: “Those who guard their sexual organs except with their spouses or those whom their right hands possess, for (with regard to them) they are without blame. But those who crave something beyond that are transgressors.” (23:5-7)

Commenting on this verse, some scholars hold the view that this habit (masturbation) falls under the category of those who seek fulfillment of their sexual desires outside the framework of marriage, and as such they are deemed transgressors. Those scholars put masturbation under the list of the forbidden categories of sexual fulfillment since it constitutes transgression of boundaries. This view is held by the Shafei (followers of the Shafi'Allah school of Fiqh). However, some other scholars believe that the transgression meant in the aforementioned verse refers to extra-marital relations and what falls under the category of Zina (adultery). According to this view, masturbation does not fall under the meaning of this verse. This view is very close to the opinion held by the Hanafites (followers of the Hanafi school), who maintain that masturbation is basically forbidden, but it may be permissible under the following conditions: 1) If the person is unmarried, 2) If he or she fears that without masturbation he/she will commit Zina (adultery), and 3) If the masturbation here is, rather than fulfilling a sexual desire, just to release the sexual tension resulting from stimulation.

I conclude that the general principles of Shariah go against this habit, because it is not the normal way of fulfilling sexual desire; however it is a deviation — and that is enough to condemn it, even though this act does not fall under the category of absolute prohibition like Zina. However, the law of necessity, which is one of the principles of Shariah, should also apply here. For example, if someone is afraid that he would commit a greater sin like Zina or he will be harmed by some psychological disorders, then the ban on masturbation would be relaxed just to remove the hardship, based on the Shariah principle that states that “necessity is judged according to the circumstances that warrant it.”

That means going to the extreme in masturbating is not permissible in all cases, for the following two reasons: 1) It would be resorted to not as a case of extreme necessity to release the tension and the pain resulting from sexual arousal, but to fulfill the sexual desire, and 2) It is harmful to one’s health, and whatever is physically harmful is not allowed in Sharah, according to the consensus of the Muslim scholars.

In addition to the two conditions stipulated by the Hanafites, I would add two more conditions based on the general rules of Shariah: 1) The difficulty of getting married, and 2) The inability to fast. As we know, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, has advised those who cannot afford marriage to fast, saying: “O youth, whoever of you is able to marry, let him marry, for it prevents forbidden stares or lapsing in adultery. And if he cannot marry, let him observe fasting, for it is a shield against evil.” This is the view I believe to be the most correct concerning this issue.”....Allah Almighty knows best.

Birth Control in the Muslim World

On the subject of birth control, Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet said “the fewer the children, the more peace of mind.” Even so, both Muslim clerics and rabbis have rejected "Safe sex" programs as endorsements of promiscuity. The only strategy they promote is abstention.

Muslims are generally more tolerant about the use of birth control than Catholics. The governments of some Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia and Egypt strongly support family planning. Iran and Malaysia have implemented strong birth-control policies that have lowered their birthrates to below-replacement levels, However, some Islamic leaders are opposed to family planning on the grounds that it is a Western plot to reduce the number of Muslim children being born.

Muslim groups approve of the use of contraceptives by married couples. The prophet himself reportedly used to practice coitus interruptus, which was the one of the few methods of family planning available in the 7th century. Since sterilization is permanent there has been some debate on whether or not it should be permitted.

Viagra — From the Islamic Point of View

Both Muslim clerics and rabbis have endorsed Viagra.Dr. Heba G. Kotb wrote: Sex to most Muslims is a dirty word, a word that they don't even want to talk about. On the other extreme, many Muslims' are obsessed with sex. This I can say from the questions about sex that I receive on E-mail from Muslims allover the world. The desire to have a better sexual performance for men is again, not a new preoccupation. Muslim Hakims (traditional physicians') have been working on medications for over one thousand years trying to achieve a magic love pill. Now that this "love pill" seemingly has arrived, wealthy Muslims' are ecstatic. Viagra, which is sold around $10 per pill in the U.S.A., was being sold at $100 per pill on the black market in other countries. The grand religious scholar of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Baaz has allowed it to be used by men if it does not cause any harm to the body. [Source: “Sexuality in Islam” by Heba G. Kotb M.D., A dissertation presented to Maimonides University, 2004]

Sexual desire is a gift from God, just like all other desires that He has built in us. It is not our fault that we get aroused at sexual thoughts. These are built in physiology. In order to have a legitimate outlet for this built in desire, God has created mates for us. Allah says, "He that created you mates from among yourselves that you can dwell in them in tranquility". (30:21)

Impotency is a disease and should be dealt with as any disease. To seek a cure for a disease is advised by Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) who said that "God has created no disease unless he created a cure for it as well, except old age".

I see several social problems in the use of Viagra indiscriminately. It may lead to more sexual promiscuity and infidelity. A few years ago, an old man in New York who used Viagra, left his wife and then went for a much younger lady. His wife sued the company. Many women are also complaining that they are being subject to Viagra attacks by their husbands and boyfriends even if they are not in a mood.

Sex is an expression and extension of love. In the absence of love, sex becomes a boring routine. Forced sex, even in marriage, is to be considered rape. Instead of trying to achieve potency, men should try to achieve love and respect for and from their wives. Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), who was ahead of his time, had encouraged foreplay before intercourse, saying "Do not attack your women like a wild beast, but send a message before". He also was known to have said, "Do not leave her before she is satisfied". Thus Islamic sexuality is based on nature and not attempting to achieve a quick result.

Viagra was made legal in Egypt in 2002. It sold very well. Many of those who bought were young men worried about their performance. One pharmacist told the Los Angeles Times, “Everybody is using it. They think they will be stronger if they take it.” Before it was legalized, Viagra was sold on the black market for as much as $22 a pill. There were reports of lawyers being paid in Viagra, construction inspectors being bribed with it and women having is slipped into their drinks. Counterfeit pills were sold. Smugglers brought in suitcases full of Viagra from Syria, China, Jordan and India. Customs officials arrested one man for smuggling 260,000 Viagra pills. Herbal remedies such as “Happy Life” are purported to have the same benefits.

Counterfeit Viagra is reportedly made in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, the main hashish-producing area of the Middle East. In the early 2000s, there were a lot of Viagra jokes circulating around. One went: A religious scholar took ten Viagra tablets and died when people found him there was only one thing standing.

20120510-Circumcission Map_of_Male_Circumcision_Prevalence_at_Country_Level.png
Map of Male Circumcision Prevalence at Country Level

Virginity Operations

In many places women can easily get operations to reconstitute their hymens and get medical certificates that state they are virgins. Hymenoplasty is the name of the surgical procedure that reconstructs the membranes of the hymen after it has been broken usually after sexual intercourse.

Whether or not the operations should be performed has become a matter of controversy. One French doctor told the Time of London, “We get more and more women coming in and saying their brothers and fathers will kill them if they found out they've slept with a man. But it's important to say no, because if we don't we're giving in to the fundamentalists." However he said that some doctors were ignoring his advice in hopes of protecting patients from violent beatings.

Isabell Levy, who wrote about the issue in France in her book Religion in the Hospital, told the Times, “One the one hand, young Muslim girls are born in France . They are modern and they have adventures like other Europeans---which never happened in the past. But on the other hand, fundamentalism is spreading and these girls are getting sent back to their countries of origin to marry. And they will be rejected if it is found out that they are not virgins."

One North African girl who wrote on an Internet forum and was quoted in the Times of London said she slept with her boyfriend because “he said he was made about me and wanted to marry me and I believed him because I was madly in love with him." Afterwards she got pregnant her boyfriend left her and she secretly got an abortion. Later her mother found a letter from the clinic that performed the abortion. The girl wrote her mother “fainted and afterwards I was total despair---tears, insults, blows, disappointment and finally a dressing down.. She has asked her gynaecologist to re'do my hymen because she says that if not it will ruin my future."

Some doctors refuse to sign virginity certificates or perform te hymen operations on the grounds that: 1) filling out the certificates if the girls is not a virgin is dishonest; 2) performing the operations is not a medical necessity; and 3) the state health care program should not pay for it. One doctor who does fill out the certificates told Le Monde, “I worked in Algeria as a junior doctor and I saw these young women whose throats had been slit because they were suspected of having lost their virginity. So if someone asks me, I sign the certificate."

Halal Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex

In 2017, Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri wrote in Even at a slender 65 pages, The Muslimah Sex Manual: A Halal Guide to Mind Blowing Sex packs comprehensiveness. A handbook for Muslim women seeking satisfying love lives, the book starts with the basics—lessons on kissing, sending dirty texts, and the importance of foreplay. After that come chapters on sex positions, shower sex, bondage, and masochism. “This is the best way to vary your sex life,” said the author, who writes under the pen name Umm Muladhat. [Source: Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri,, Quartz India, July 27, 2017]

The Muslimah Sex Manual, independently published in mid-July, has been variously described as groundbreaking and a welcome step. It busts the myth, parading as an Islamic belief, that a pure Muslim cannot be dirty in bed, while giving candid advice. Embedded in it is the message that Muslim women should enjoy a fulfilling sex life. “You can be pure as snow and still be dirty in bed,” says the manual. “What is amusing (in a sad way) is that many younger Muslims think that the practicing, masjid going, hijab/niqab wearing sisters have dull sex lives and never venture outside of the vanilla.”

It was a newlywed friend who motivated Muladhat, a practicing Muslim, to write. The friend protested that although she knew how to have sex, she didn’t really know sex. She didn’t know what her husband liked. And, more importantly, she didn’t know what she liked.

That was the beginning of Muladhat’s impromptu workshops. Everything she had learnt over the course of her marriage, she taught her friend, “fervently hoping that it would help her in her marital life”. A month later, when they met again, her friend was beaming. Muladhat was told: “Please, write this down and share it with other Muslim girls. No one teaches this. We’re thrown into marriage and only know the fiqh (laws taught according to the Quran) and the biology.”... So that’s what she did.

The manual details myriad ways to engage a partner, and lists around 100 positions—cowgirl, reverse cowgirl, final furlong, Amazon, among them. “Some couples never move beyond missionary position. If that’s what you two enjoy, that’s perfectly fine! However, not every couple wants to stay vanilla every time.”

According to Muladhat, halal sex has some key rules: avoid anal sex, penetrative sex during menstruation, and sex outside of marriage. Pornography too is forbidden—“porn is a lie,” she writes, “porn is one of the worst ways to learn about sex.”

Muladhat grew up in a practicing Muslim family but never was she taught to be guilty about sex. “It was never portrayed as something dirty, nor as something that I should feel ashamed about,” she said in an email interview with “Islam does not criticize sex, see it as dirty, or drum guilt into women. I was taught that sex is something between a husband and wife. Outside of marriage, yes, a person should feel guilty about indulging in it. Inside of marriage, however, it is something to enjoy.”

Since the publication of The Muslimah Sex Manual, Muladhat has received a few angry comments. Critics, the few there are, say the book fetishises Muslim women and encourages promiscuity. Muladhat expected this, which is why she chose to publish under a nom de plume. “I didn’t want to become forever associated with the book such that if any future employer would Google my name, they would find this book. My husband is aware I’ve authored the book and has helped me revise it. My friends are not aware, and I intend to keep it this way.”

Muladhat told the Huffington Post that she received a letter from a Muslim leader who plans to distribute copies of her book to couples undergoing premarital counselling at his mosque. “He specifically mentioned that he had long felt the need for a book which would talk frankly about sex in marriage without either being so explicit that it bordered on the profane or so bland that it became useless. His only criticism was that he wanted to know why the book was focused only on Muslim women and not Muslim men.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: “Sexuality in Islam” by Heba G. Kotb M.D at Archive for Sexology Arab News, Jeddah; “Islam, a Short History” by Karen Armstrong; “A History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art,, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Library of Congress and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2024

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