When did marital intimacy become a household chore?

Aminah Jayne O’Rourke

When I see women on social media describe their most physically intimate moments with their husband’s, as them, almost regretfully ‘doing the Deed’, I often recoil into my chair, considering almost unanswerable questions regarding the general martial realities of some of my sisters in faith.  I ask myself, “what on earth is going on, if marital intimacy is so often described online in this way?!”.  The truth is, sadly, that many Muslim women regard and experience sexual intimacy as a chore, they see it as something they are obliged to do within the parameters of their relationship, not something that is supposed to be mutually enjoyable, and potentially spiritually elevating.  The age old colloquial term, ‘lie back and think of England’ comes to mind here, doing the deed ‘for Queen and country; an attitude that harks back a to 19th Century Victorian iteration of prudishness, a misinformed modesty  that rendered wives unhappy, frustrated and sexually unfulfilled; this is my take on it at least.

For some reason we seem to have difficulty talking about sexual intmacy, even in the 21st Century. As Muslim women, trying to do the right thing, by Allah (swt), and by our husbands, there can often seem to be more questions than answers: What should we expect from sex as women? Why does there seem to be such an enormous orgasm gap between men and women?  How do I protect my sexual health? Where does modesty fit into marital relations? What is actually deemed haram (forbidden) in the marital bedroom? The list is huge….

I recall as a new Muslim I read…and read…and read some more, on as many subjects related to Islam that i could get access to.  I vividly remember being taken aback by how well preserved and intricate the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was; it even contained details of his marriage dynamics and marital interactions, SunhanAllah!  Everything from affectionately touching his wife’s bosom while she menstruated (the time of the month when sexual intercourse is not allowed), may Allah be pleased with her, to him occasionally starting a day of fasting in a state of major impurity (Janaba). I used to wonder, “why do we need to know so much about the Prophet’s extremely private life”? Many years later I realised the  importance of such detail, as in order to live our faith to its potential, we need to attempt to emulate the lived example of the Prophet (saw) or at least understand what he sought to teach us from his blessed actions, approvals or disapprovals etc. 

I remember being sat in a Fiqh (Islamic Law) class early in my Muslim life.  A sister bashfully asked the Shaykh teaching us a question related to marital intimacy, she asked; “if your husband digitally (with fingers) penetrates you, does it break your wudu?” I was floored by this question and in awe of it at the same time, I could have fallen off my seat if I hadn’t already been sat on the floor! I actually wanted to ‘High 5’ the sister firstly, for posing such a sincere, yet intimate question to a male teacher; and secondly for asking the question in a room with men in the class, albeit on the other side of the room. We ALL need safe spaces to ask these vital questions… WE ALL NEED ANSWERS TO SUCH QUESTIONS! The desire to achieve sexual fulfilmet in marriage (and thus strengthen bonds of love) is nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of, it is one of the halal sweetnesses of this dunya! 

You may be wondering where I’m going with this? Well it’s quite simple, as Muslim women we need to be having much more of these conversations, we need to understand more of legal rulings so that we aware of the boundaries, and we also need to know how to skilfully compliment our understanding of the legal considerations with spirituality and empathy. The study of sexuality and erotology in the islamic society was well respected and this necessary knowledge was well documented up until the 14th Century, it became more scarce as a genre in the 17th and 18th Centuries, until it almost died out in the 19th Century (think Victorian era) when such studies became regarded as taboo or lacking modesty. The apparent break in this chain of beneficial knowledge is a travesty for the Ummah, and a knowledge revival is desperately needed. Women are in need of empowerment in this sphere, but where do we start?

The Hareem Membership aims to kickstart these vital conversations between women by hosting live  workshops each month. There is a need to reclaim this lost knowledge legacy, (especially in this hyper-sexualised world); through sacred  knowledge derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah. It seems that as a broad collective, we seem to have assimilated to some 19th Century European norms that sought to define modesty and sexual propriety.  This was never supposed to be the Muslim world view and shouldn’t be confused with modest speech / dress etc. Sincerely seeking knowledge, even in this regard can actually be an act of Ibadah (worship) on multiple levels.  It is unacceptable for two people to get married with little no education about sex.  It is unnecessary to anxious brides to be scared witless before their Nikkah with little to no education on sexual intimacy, how to prepare for it, how to enjoy it, or how to cultivate it within marriage. The opposite to having sound knowledge about sex and intimacy in this day and age is all too often misinformation and miseducation through porn. How horrific is that?

 So, what are going to do about this???

This month In the Hareem we will host two live sessions on the subject of physical, sexual intimacy.  To check those out click HERE.

Special Guest 

We are pleased have the esteemed Ustadah Iffet Rafique (Teacher of the Islamic Sciences and Sexology in Islam). Join us on June 9th to explore the subject further. She will cover a number of subjects inshaAllah:  Our God given right to pleasure, A hadith regarding intimacy, and her wonderful time, energy and passion on the subject. “Giving yourself permission for pleasure

I’ll be covering the emotional aspects of shame and how it shows up during intimacy. It’s quite often the case that we struggle to ‘get out of our heads’ and into our body’s if we’re anxious, nervous, in pain or simply had a physical few body changes etc. *(This session is live attendance only and will not be recorded). 

We REALLY do need to be the change we wish to see in our families, and with knowledge often being coupled with empowerment, we really do need to be the agents of change not only for ourselves but the young women that come after us.

***DISCLAIMER: It’s with the intention of modelling the utmost taqwah we are hosting these creative educational experiences. The content is for 18+ ladies only and suitable for those who aren’t married yet, newly married, or been married for a while and looking to reinvigorate this aspect of their relationship.  These sessions may be triggering for those with unresolved sexual trauma, my advice is always seek one to one support with a therapist for such support. These sessions are not suitable for processing significant trauma from childhood, abusive marriages or sexual violence of any kind. Feel free to email if you would like to explore their suitability further. ***

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