What are the limits of sexual behavior between a man and his wife? When I say limits, I mean are there any restrictions with respect to conduct in an intercourse, e.g. is only the missionary position considered acceptable? Is oral sex acceptable? How about the restrictions on other kinds of sex, e.g. anal sex? Can one have sex for the purpose of enjoyment or can its only allowable purpose be to plan an offspring?
In my opinion, the only limitation (besides prohibition of sexual relations during menstruation) placed by Islam on the act of sex between a husband and wife is that it should not entail any such act, which is against the physical nature of man. The Qur’an says:
When [their menstruation period is over and] they have cleansed themselves come to them from where Allah has guided you (Al-Baqarah 2:222)
The phrase “… from where Allah has guided you” refers to the correct way of sexual intercourse keeping in view the natural makeup and the physiological structure of the human body. We eat through our mouth as that is the natural way of eating; no person in his right state of mind can imagine putting food in his nostrils or eyes. This is so because the natural make up and the physiological structure of the human body requires that to satisfy our hunger, food should only be put in the mouth. The natural requirements and the natural methods of fulfilling these basic requirements can thus be called a part of the Divine guidance given to mankind. The sexual act is no exception. In my opinion, therefore the basic guiding principle regarding the sexual relationship between a husband and wife is that the sexual need should be satisfied in a way, which is in congruence with the natural make up and the physiological structure of the human body.
Keeping this basic principle in perspective, it is my opinion that the Qur’an has imposed absolutely no restrictions on the relationship between a husband and wife. The Qur’an says;
They (i.e. your wives) are [like] a dress for you and you [like] a dress for them. (Al-Baqarah 2:187)
These words of the Qur’an are an indication of the kind of relationship that is required between a husband and a wife. One of the important aspects of calling this relationship a dress is that a dress provides a covering for our private parts from the world. In the same way, the relationship between a husband and wife should be such that it provides them the mutual satisfaction and pleasure the result of which normally should be that they safeguard their private parts from the rest of the world. Our creator, Who has kept in us the strong drive of sex does not require of us to suppress our drive unnaturally. Allah wants us to live a life that is in conformity with the teachings of the Shari`ah, the ultimate object of which is to gain the level of purification that shall make us eligible to enter the everlasting bliss of our Lord. To achieve this goal, in my opinion, one of the things of utmost importance is to have a very pleasurable and gratifying relationship with one’s spouse. Such a relationship, in turn is likely to provide us with the control and ability to safeguard ourselves from breaking the laws of God.
Islam does not give any specific directions regarding the allowance or otherwise of oral sex. Nevertheless, Islam does not only give a list of do’s and don’ts; in addition to the legal structure of Islam, it also guides man toward a path, which elevates his sense and his tastes of mental, physical and spiritual purity and cleanliness. Thus, it seems that even though one of the things that is required of the relationship between a husband and wife is that it should provide them with the mutual pleasure and gratification that helps them in removing all their frustrations and thereby allows them to live a purified life, yet even in seeking his/her complete sexual gratification, a Muslim cannot feel comfortable in indulging into something, which is against his sense of mental, physical and spiritual purity and cleanness.
Anal sex, in my opinion, is against the natural make-up and physiological structure of the human body. It is, therefore, that I believe that even though the Shari`ah does not expressly prohibit it, yet it would be in accordance with the teachings of the Shari`ah to consider it prohibited.
Sexual relationship between a husband and wife can be solely for the purpose of satisfying the sexual drive/need, pleasure and gratification. It would have been unnatural to restrict the allowance of sex only to making babies. Sex is a strong drive/need in the human body. The Shari`ah, thus imposes no undue restrictions on it. The Qur’an has recognized this fact. It says:
And from among His (i.e. God’s) signs is that He created for you your pairs, of your own kind so that you may get satisfaction and gratification from them and He has therefore kept in you love and mercy for the other. (Al-Room 30:21)
31st May 1998