Author Topic: "Marital rape" and Islam !  (Read 2319 times)

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"Marital rape" and Islam !
« on: March 29, 2020, 01:28:54 PM »
Marital rape is forbidden in Islam
written by Kevin Abdullah Karim

Assalamu-alaikum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu. Does Islam allow marital rape ? In this paperwork we shall discuss the meaning of a hadith which is often used by polemics against Isam to argue that Islam allows marital rap [ or grants permission to husbands to force their wifes into sexual relationships ]. Is such a claim really suppored by Islamic law [ the qur'an and the authentic sunnah ] and the text of the hadith itself ? Let us take a close look at the hadith in question:

Sayyiduna Abu Huraira [ Allah be pleased with him ] narrates that the Messenger of Allah [ Allah bless him & give him peace ] said: If a man calls his wife to his bed  [ i.e. to have sexual relations ] ; and she refuses and causes him to sleep the night in anger, the angels will curse her till morning  1

First off al the hadeeth only considers a wife's rejection which results in anger on behalf of the husband as sinful. What appears in this hadith [ narration ] is the case of a wife who deliberatly rejects her husband's request for intimicy [ without any valid reason ] in a rough and rude manner "which will anger him". The expression "and causes him to sleep the night in anger" confirms this meaning of the text. The hadith [ narration ] lays emphasize on the importance of fullfilling one's sexual needs in marriage. If a wife declines her husband's desire to make love with her, he may be psychologically affected and experience physical ailments related to this [ e.g. stimulation excitation, congestion and sexual suppression due to the lack of ejaculation ]. In the same vein, the wife may go through similar problems and experience the same sufferings if her man declined to meet her sexual needs. Therefore it is of the wisdom of the Shari`ah [ Islamic Law ] that it calls both parties to understand and respond to the natural need of each other. This also one of the main reasons why Allah Allmighty describes spouses as garments or clothing for each other [ Qu'ran 2:187 ] . If both husband and wife respond to each other, they will maintain each other's love, care and affection [ just like a garment or clothing brings comfort and dignity to the body ]. Clothing also conveys the meaning of covering and concealment. A husband and wife screen each other from falling into sin by fulfilling one another's needs in a lawful manner. Conversely, if they often or constantly refuse each other [ or refuse one's request for intimicy in a  rude way ] , the relationship can deteriorate. This may also lead one of them to deviate from the right path and look for pleasure outside the marriage. This will eventually lead to the breakdown of the family and the disintegration of the society at large. For this reason the hadith in question considers it a serious sin for a woman to  reject her husband's request for intimicy without any valid reason in a rough or rude manner which "will cause him to sleep the night in anger." The hadith therefor also indicates that a wife should respond positively to her husband's request. She should show no arrogance or hatred or denial when it comes to her appreciation and respect of her husband. Her denial to intimacy usually should give a hint to the husband that she is not physically or emotionally ready for that. The husband should be of good reason and understand her situation in the light of Allah's command to live just and fair with one's wife [ Qu'ran 4:19 ]. The husband moreover should realize that any form of injustice towards his wife is forbidden in Islam. Allah says in a Qudsi Hadith: "My servants, I have forbidden injustice and have made injustice forbidden to you. Do not be unjust to one another." [ Muslim 16 / 132 ]. If it is forbidden to be unjust to a person whom we do not know, it is far more strongly forbidden to be unjust to the closest relative, one's wife to whom the Prophet has urged us to be very kind. A husband therefor should be just and fair in all his relationships [ including sexual ] with his wife. For this reason a husband should not get angry at his wife when she offers him a valid or reasonable explenation for not being able [ or in the mood ] to have sexual relationships with him. If the husbands is unjust towards his wife and still gets angry at her despite her resufal with valid reason to his request , then there is no blame worhty on the women and the hadith in question does not refer or apply to her. However if the wife constantly deliberately [ without any valid reason ] refuses her husbands request for intimicay or responds negative to his request in a rude or arrogant way [ which will cause him to sleep the night anger ] , then she would be guitly of a serious sin. The hadith refers to these type of women. Ustadha Zaynab Ansari 2  in her online fatwa [ at ] moreover points out that the hadith in question refers to women who use sex as a weapon against their husbands:

It is in this light that we should interpret the hadith mentioned above. This hadith is an admonition to women who use sex as a weapon against their husbands. It is not a blanket condemnation of every woman who has ever refused her husband. In fact, Islamic law does give women the right to refuse sexual intercourse when engaging in sexual activity will be detrimental to their well-being. What women must exercise in this regard is compassion, patience, and tact. It is one thing to refuse one's husband every now and then because one is tired. However, it is another altogether to make it a habit. This is what women must guard against. Sex is one of the most fundamental ingredients of a happy marriage, and this is what the hadith was referring to.

Now, in terms of how often a couple should have sex, this is a decision that should be reached mutually. Having sex everyday can be exhausting and it is not unreasonable for you to ask your husband for a little respite. Ustadha Hedaya Hartford, in her work entitled Islamic Marriage: Starting Out on the Right Foot, advises couples to establish a golden mean in their sex life. While recognizing that each spouse has a different libido, couples can successfully negotiate what is an achievable goal for them in terms of sexual activity. If the husband's libido is very high, while the wife's is moderate to low, then that's just a further incentive for the couple to settle on a level of sexual intimacy that is mutually satisfactory. 3

Imam al-Nawawi states in his commentary on the Hadith of Abu Huraira stated above:

This Hadith indicates that it is unlawful for the wife to refuse her husband for sexual intimacy without a valid reason. 4

However, this does not in any way mean that the husband may force himself over her for sexual gratification. The hadith mentions that, "the husband spends the night in anger or being displeased," which clearly shows that he must restrain himself from forcing himself over her. Had this not been the case, the Messenger of Allah would have advised the husband to gain his right in a forceful manner. Moreover if the wife is ill, fears physical harm or she is emotionally drained, etc; she will not be obliged to comply with her husband's request for sexual intimacy. Rather, the husband would be required to show her consideration. Allah Most High says: "On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear" [ al-Baqarah, 286 ]. Many times it is observed that the husband demands from his wife to fulfil his sexual needs no matter what state she is in, and uses the hadith in question to impose himself over her. If the wife is not in a state to engage in sexual activities and has a genuine and valid reason, and the husband forces her, then he will be sinful. Muslim husbands should realize that their wives are also humans and not some type of machines that can be switched on whenever they desire ! In this context, the late Sheikh Ibn al-`Uthaymin, the well-known Saudi scholar, adds:

If she is psychologically ill and is not able to actively respond to his call or if she has a physical illness, then in such cases it is not allowed for the husband to call upon her. This is because the Prophet [ sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam ] said: "There is to be no harm done or reciprocation of harm" [ Ibn Maajah 2340 and classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Irwa' al-Ghaleel 896 ]  He should either refrain or enjoy her company in such a way that does not harm her.  5 

Marital rape is forbidden in Islam. A husband is in no case allowed to force himself over his wife. Sexual relationship between husbands and wives should be based on mutual love and respect. A husband is not allowed to harm his wife in any way [ see Ibn Majaah 2340 ]. The relations between the spouses should be based on tranquility, love and mercy. Allah says, "And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts : verily in that are Signs for those who reflect." [ Qu'ran 30:21 ]  Tranquility, love and mercy: these are very important concepts in Islam. These three summarize the ideals of Islamic marriage. It is the duty of the husband and wife to see that they are a source of comfort and tranquility for each other. They should do everything physically, emotionally and spiritually to make each other feel happy and comfortable. They must care for each other. They should not inflict any harm or injury, neither physically nor verbally, to each other. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad has also said:

Whoever wishes to be delivered from the fire and enter the garden should die with faith in Allah and the Last Day and should treat the people as he wishes to be treated by them   6

The importance of this is even greater in a marital relationship. In other words husbands who fear Allah Almighty should treat their wifes in the same as they want to be treated by them [ no one wants to be treated bad, rude or harsch ]. In another narration the Prophet said: "The servant does not reach the reality of faith until he loves for others what he loves for himself." Man's treatment of his wife is also a measure for the perfecttion of his faith as in the hadith were the Prophet said:

The most perfect of the believers in their belief are those with the best manners, and the best of you are those who are best with their wives   7

The hadith in question [ discussed in this paperwork ] should be understood in the context of these general rulings, for affirming one matter does not entail negating another. In the light of all these before mentioned facts, acts like marital rape or abuse have no support in Islam whatsoever. A husband must exercise intercourse within the Qur'anic paradigm of love and mercy [ Qu'ran 30:21]. He should pay heed to the commands [ instructions ] of the Messenger of Allah in this regard. Imam al-Daylami records a narration on the authority of Anas ibn Malik that the Messenger of Allah [ peace and blessings be upon him ] is reported to have said:

One of you should not fulfil one's [ sexual ] need from one's wife like an animal, rather there should be between them foreplay of kissing and words.  8

Imam Ibn al-Qayyim also reports in his famous "Tibb al-Nabawi" that the Messenger of Allah forbade from engaging in sexual intercourse before foreplay [ See: "al-Tibb al-Nabawi" , 183, from Jabir ibn Abd Allah ]. In other words the husband should sexually arouse his wife before having sex. It is indeed selfish on the husband's part that he fulfils his sexual needs and desires, whilst his wife remains unsatisfied and discontented. Failure in satisfying the wife can have terrible consequences on one's marriage. For this reason the Prophet forbade sexual intercouse without foreplay, to guarantee and to protect the sexual pleasures and rights of the wife in bed. Nothing near such respect for the feelings of one's wife near is found even at the peak of Judeo-Christian civilization. A wife's right for sexual pleasure from her husband is moreover confirmed in a hadith narrated by Ibn Hibban. In this hadith the wife of Uthman ibn Madh'oon complained to the Prophet that her husband was praying all night. And during the day she would approach him for pleasure and he would refuse and say I'm fasting. Ibn Hibban narrated:

the wife of 'Uthman ibn Madh'oon complained to the Messenger of Allah [ peace and blessings be upon him ] that her husband had no need for women. During the days he would fast and at night he would pray. The Prophet asked him: "Am I not the best example for you to follow?" He answered: "Certainly, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you." The Prophet then told him: "As for you, you pray during the night and you fast during the day. Certainly, your wife has a right upon you and your body has a right upon you so pray and sleep and fast and break your fast."  9

The expression "your wife has a right upon you" unanimously means cohabitation. The wife has a right on her husband's body and company. The hadith in question tells us that a husband should not exhaust himself in worship to the extent that he becomes too weak to fulfil her right of having intercourse with him. A wife's right to marital association is denied as the continuous fasting decreases the sexual desire [ -"whoever is not able to marry, should fast, as fasting diminishes his sexual power" -  Bukhari, vol. 7, book 62, nr. 4 ]. Scholars unanimously agree that a wife has the same right for sexual pleasure as her husband. Shayk Ibn Taymiyya said:

It is obligatory for the husband to have intercourse with his wife as much as is needed to satisfy her, so long as this does not exhaust him physically or keep him away from earning a living  10

Ibn Qudaamah al-Hanbali said:

Intercourse is a duty on the man - i.e., the husband should have intercourse with his wife - so long as he has no excuse. This is also the opinion of Maalik. 11

Sharee'ah also requires that a wife be protected from immorality by means of her husband having intercourse with her, as much as is needed to satisfy her and to provide this protection. The hadith in question [ discussed in this paperwork ] should therefor also be read with keeping in mind that women have the same rights as men in regard to sexual intercourse and pleasure. And again it should be noted that the hadith in question only refers to women who use sex as a weapon against their husbands, or refuse their husband's request for intimacy [ without any valid reason ] in a rude manner [ which causes him to spend the night anger ]. In the same way a husband who rejects his wife's request for intimacy [ without any valid reason ] in a rough or rude way, or constantly refuses her request for sexual pleasure without any valid reason is as sinful as a wife who does the same. Both should try their best to satisfy their marriage partner. And Allah knows best.


References and Notes:


Sahih Bukhari [  Bad' al-khalq 7 ] ; Abu Dawud [ Nikah 41 ]


Biography of Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, see - -


Fatwa by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, see - -


Imam Nawawi: "Sharh Sahih Muslim" , p. 1084


Sheikh Ibn al-`Uthaymin: "Fataawa az-Zawaaj wa 'Ishratun-Nisaa", p. 103


Sahih Muslim; Book 020, Number 4546


Imam Nawawi: "Riyad as-Salihin" , chapter 34, nr. 278


Imam al-Daylami: "Musnad al-Firdaws" , 2 / 55


Sahih ibn Hibban, vol.2 , p. 19  [ Mu'assasah al-Risalah edition ]


Shaykh Ibn Taymiyah: "Al-Ikhtiyaaraat al-Fiqhiyyah" , p. 246


Ibn Qudaamah al-Hanbali: "al-Mughni", 7 / 30


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