To organise this holistic presentation of Islamic sexual teachings, we break the book chiefly into three sections to correspond with Islamic aqidah, syariah, and akhlaq; with the second having two chapters. Chapter 1 discusses the sexual connection with aqidah, 2 and 3 with syariah, and 4 with akhlaq. The preface introduces and the epilogue sums up their interconnections.
The preface explains the need for this book very much like in “Why we wrote the book”, albeit with elaborations. It then orientates the reader to its structure. Namely, it explains that the three sections would start with brief introductions to aqidah, syariah and akhlaq respectively, for the benefit of readers who are not familiar with these concepts yet, as well as providing the necessary background to explore their respective connections with sex; which we do as follows:
Chapter One: The element of sex in our aqidah
This chapter illustrates where, how and why the sexual phenomenon figures prominently in the Islamic worldview of existence. It goes on to substantiate how the extent of its centrality and cruciality justifies its revered position in Islamic thought based on relevant Quranic verses.
A possibly new contribution to contemporary understanding of Islamic sexual mores is this chapter’s explanation as to why this conceptual reverence does not translate into licentious standards of sexual practices but a regulated approach towards sexual indulgence instead. We first used anthropological findings and theories to illustrate the Islamically recognised mismatch between the instinctive demands of the human body and the growth needs of its resident soul. Islam’s approach of regulated sexual indulgence is then explained in terms of its prioritisation of the latter over the former, even as it harnesses the formative qualities found in the former.
The bulk of the chapter discusses this “harnessing” which entails the creation of exclusive sexual zones, of which marriage is one. Within these regulated zones, sexual indulgence induces surprisingly spiritual experiences like faith, love of God and foretasting of eternal bliss; other than fostering mystic bonds between humans within marriages, throughout society and across generations. All of which are conducive for the cultivation and transmission of values and meaning, satisfying the growth needs of human souls.
Coming back to their inter-connections, the chapter ends by illustrating how syariah translates the revered position of sex in aqidah into reality using two rulings at opposite ends of the syariah’s spectrum of severity. First is hijab – which is actually a comprehensive code for inter-gender interaction, not strictly confined to women’s dressing. Second, is that infamous Islamic punishment of stoning for illicit sex. We explain how these two complement the institution of marriage in practically upholding the sanctity of sex. In doing so, we needed to dwell into the interplay between sex and soul in the human self, leading to an anthropologically supported explanation on the soul’s need for a culture of sexual purity for its growth.
All these discussions lead to a one-sentence conclusion of marriage in terms of its harnessing of sex for spiritual, cultural and civilizational growth of the human species; albeit a very long one.
Chapter Two: What’s the deal with conjugal rights
The chapter starts with defining Islamic syariah leading to munakahat, a subject most pertinent to sexual rights and responsibilities in marriage. We put to readers straight away our observation of the mismatch between the ideals of munakahat and the reality of Muslim abuses which had led to a disturbingly prevalent male serving sexual norms and values among Muslims. We explain that we will substantiate this assertion, offer our analysis of its root cause and propose how the mismatch can be corrected. We do this in five sections, with one being a necessary digression to address one big issue infamously blamed on Islam.
The first is a cursory study of sexual history, contemporary global headline stories and our own marital counselling experience to establish that this situation really exists. Contemporary manifestations range from the normalcy of one-way male-serving humdrum perfunctory sex in many marriages to sexual coercion by husbands upon wives to the defence of marital rape by very influential opinion makers in Islamic circles. This section is to pre-empt pious denials of this issue so we can address it willingly and openly.
The second section demonstrates that the prevalent male chauvinistic sexual ethos is due to an inordinate obsession over the better-known collection of hadiths advising women to be responsive to their husbands’ sexual advances. For some reasons, these are more popularly circulated in Islamic circles than the collection of hadiths specifically directed to men to be emphatic to women’s non-physical reasons for sexual arousal.
The third section calls for a balanced reading of both collections of hadiths and specifically for the respective genders to give more attention to those directed to them and less fussing over those directed to the other gender.
The fourth section is a necessary digression from the central subject to specifically address a related issue of marital rape and wife-beating viz-a-viz a much-abused verse, an-Nisa 4:34.
The fifth section acknowledges contemporary online advocacies for greater equity in sexual practices among Muslims. This section commends the effort but notes that it is actually not good enough to engender mutual bliss in sex. There is a need to re-understand the concept of conjugal rights, to go beyond its syariah which ensures rights to sex; to embrace its akhlaq which is about doing it right. Hence, after proposing this refreshed look at “conjugal rights”, the chapter adjourns the discussions to Chapter 4 where relational issues regarding sex is deliberated.
Chapter Three: Rulings and Etiquettes of Sex
This chapter discusses the permissibility and morality of some specific sex-related practices ranging from the classically discussed ones to the latest new-fangled trends, fetishes and genres of sexual adventurism which Muslims today are increasingly exposed to. Although this pertains to the aspect of syariah, they are too practice-oriented. Hence, we dedicate an entire chapter for this so as not to complicate the conceptual inter-connection between the sexual phenomenon and the aqidah, syariah, akhlaq framework.
Chapter Four: The Sexual Experience
Chapter 4 starts from where Chapter 2 left by first establishing that like conceptual ideals behind many other Islamic laws, ultimately its embodiment in a Muslim person or couple requires hands-on, continual, life-long process of nurturing. This is done in the introduction: the meaning of akhlaq.
The chapter then dwells into this process. To achieve this, we juxtapose modern scientific findings viz-a-viz the Prophet’s insights on sex to arrive at an overarching principle for good sex. This is done in four sections. The first is a cursory study of over fifty years of modern research on the physiological and psycho-emotional elements of the sexual experience. The second section juxtaposes this with the Prophet’s and other Islamic luminaries’ insights on the sexual experience with their differentiation of human lovemaking from animal mating reflecting the modern physio-psycho-emotional model of sex. It goes on to discuss the Prophet’s s.a.w famous sexual advice contained in the “messenger hadith”:
“Let none of you fall suddenly upon his wife like an animal. Let there be a messenger between the two. Someone asked: ‘What is the messenger, O Prophet?’ He said: ‘Kissing and words of love’.” (Hadith reported by Dailami)
A feature discussion in this section is our proposition that this hadith is not advocating “foreplay” as most modern commentators would have it. We also share leading sexual therapists’ views on the damaging effect of the “foreplay, core-play, after-play” concept of sex. After which we propose that the “messenger” in the hadith actually refers to an approach towards sexual intercourse as an extension of holistic mutual pleasuring involving all physical senses, emotions, and imagination of lovers.
The third section lays out how this Prophetic outlook towards sex can be sustained throughout marriage from the first night to the busiest days of mid-marriage to the meno-andropausal days of our sex life in three sub-sections respectively. And to complete our understanding on the workings of sex on our relationship and vice-versa, the fourth section discusses some common sexual myths about lovemaking which we encounter in counselling.
The Epilogue ties up the three different sexual connections to the Islamic message as a holistic sexual sunnah which transforms a potentially destructive tussle between the carnal and spiritual into a potent alliance in the soul’s quest for eternal success in the Hereafter.
All hadiths used in this book has been personally verified by an Azhar graduate Ustaz and confirmed as either sahih or hassan. The occasions where dhaif hadiths are knowingly used, we highlight them and explain that these are for additional corroboration, correcting a misconception and putting a popular practice into perspective. We have put our utmost effort at ensuring no maudhu hadiths are used.