The Qur’an emphasizes the spiritual objectives of marriage, making them the foundations of marital life. These objectives are realized in the peace of mind which comes through wholesome sexual experience with the spouse whom one loves, in the enlargement of the circle of love and affection between the two families united through marriage, and in the nurturing of affection and tenderness among the children under the loving care of their parents. These are the objectives mentioned by Allah Ta’ala: And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell with them in tranquility, and He has put love and mercy between you. Indeed, in this are signs for those who reflect. (30:21)
The Sexual Relationship
At the same time, the Qur’an does not neglect the sensual aspect and the physical relationship between husband and wife. It guides human beings to the best path, fulfilling the demands of the sexual urge while avoiding harmful or deviant practices.
It is reported that the Jews and Zoroastrians used to go to extremes in avoiding any physical contact with menstruating women, while the Christians continue to have sexual relations with them without regard to the flow of blood. The Arabs of the period of jahiliyyah would not eat, drink, or sit with women who were menstruating and would send them to separate dwelling just as the Jews and Zoroastrians did.
Accordingly, some Muslims asked the Prophet (peace be on him) about what is permitted and what is forbidden in relation to menstruating women. The following verse was then revealed: And they ask thee about menstruation. Say: It is a hurt, so refrain from women during their menstruation and do not approach them until they are cleansed. And when they have cleansed themselves you may go in to them in the manner ordained by Allah; indeed, Allah loves those who turn to Him and He loves those who are clean. (2:222)
Some people understood the phrase, “Refrain from women,” as meaning that they should not live together in the same house during the menstrual periods. The Prophet (peace be on him) then explained the correct meaning of this verse, saying, I ordered you only to refrain from having intercourse with menstruating women and did not tell you to send them out of the house as the foreigners do.
Thus the Muslim can fondle and enjoy his menstruating wife, avoiding only the place of hurt. The Islamic position in this regard is, as always, a middle one, between the one extreme of expelling the menstruating woman from the house and the other extreme of having intercourse with her.
Recent medical researchers have discovered that the menstrual flow contains a toxic substance which, if undischarged, may be harmful to the body. Likewise, they have discovered the reason why intercourse should be avoided during this time. The reproductive organs become highly congested and the nerves very sensitive due to the secretion of the internal glands; consequently, intercourse may irritate them, possibly impeding the menstma1 flow and causing inflammation of the sexual organs.(See Al-Islam wal-Tibb al-Hadith (Islam and Modern Medicine) by the late ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Isma’il.)
Concerning the sensual relationship, these words of Allah Ta’ala were revealed: Your wives are a tillage to you, so go in to your tillage as you will, and send (ahead something) for your souls; and fear Allah and know that you will (one day) meet Him, and give glad tidings to the Believers. (2:223)
The Indian scholar, Waliullah Dehlavi, in explaining the Occasion of the revelation of this ayah and its significance says: The Jews had unnecessarily restricted the postures of sexual intercourse without any divine authority. The Ansar (of Madinah) being their friends, followed their practice and used to say, ‘If a man has intercourse with his wife through the vagina while he is on her back, the child will have a squint.’ Thus the verse, ‘So go in to your tillage as you will’ was revealed; that is, it is immaterial whether the husband is on top of his wife or on her back as long as intercourse is through the vagina, which constitutes the tillage. This is so because these matters have nothing to do with religious or social policy but are entirely a matter of personal taste. Such sayings were among the absurdities of the Jews and Allah Ta’ala abolished them. (Hujjat Allah al-Baligah, vol. 2, p. 134. )
It is not a function of religion to define the postures of sexual intercourse. However, a Muslim who fears Allah in his relationship with his wife and possesses the certainty that he will meet Him avoids the anus because the Prophet (peace be on him) said, “Do not approach women from the anus.” (Reported by Ahmad, al-Tirmidhi, al-Nisai, and Ibn Majah.)
Again, he referred to such an act as “minor sodomy.” (Reported by Ahmad and al-Nisai.) A woman of the Ansar asked him concerning vaginal intercourse from the back; he then recited to her, ‘Your wives are a filth to you, so go in to your tilthas you will,’ but with only one receptacle. (Reported by Ahmad.)
‘Umar came to him one day saying, “O Messenger of Allah, I am ruined!” “What has ruined you?” asked the Prophet (peace be on him). He replied, “Last night I turned my wife over,” meaning that he had had vaginal intercourse with her from the back. The Prophet (peace be on him) did not say anything to him until the verse cited above was revealed. Then he told him, “From the front or the back, but avoid the anus and intercourse during menstruation.” (Reported by Ahmad and al-Tirmidhi.)
Guarding the Secrets Between the Husband and Wife
The Qur’an praises virtuous wives, …Who are obedient, guarding in secret what Allah has guarded….(4:34)
Among those secrets which must be guarded is the intimate relationship with the spouse which it would be wrong to discuss in a gathering or speak about to friends. The Prophet (peace be on him) said: Among those who will occupy the worst position in the sight of Allah on the Day of Resurrection is the man who has intercourse with his wife and she with him, and then he spreads her secret. (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Daoud, and al-Bazzar.)
Abu Hurairah narrated, Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him) led us in prayer, and when he had finished he turned toward us and said, ‘Remain seated. Is there among you the man who comes to his wife, closes the door, and draws the curtain, and then goes out and speaks about it, saying, “I did this and I did that with my wife?” They remained silent. Then he turned toward the women and asked, ‘Is there among you one who tells about such things?’ A girl raised herself on her knees so that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) could see her and listen to what she said. She said, ‘Yes, by Allah, the men talk about it and the women do, too.’ Then the Prophet (peace be on him) said, ‘Do you know what those who do this are like? The ones who do this are like a male and female devil who meet each other in the road and satisfy their desire while the people look on. (Reported by the compilers of Sunan.)
This emphatic way of expressing the matter should be sufficient to turn the Muslim away from such ill-considered and degraded behavior, which would make him or her resemble a devil!