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Etiquette of Sexual Intimacy
Social Issues
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنْ الْمَحِيضِ قُلْ هُوَ أَذًى فَاعْتَزِلُوا النِّسَاءَ فِي الْمَحِيضِ وَلَا تَقْرَبُوهُنَّ حَتَّى يَطْهُرْنَ فَإِذَا تَطَهَّرْنَ فَأْتُوهُنَّ مِنْ حَيْثُ أَمَرَكُمْ اللَّهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِينَ وَيُحِبُّ الْمُتَطَهِّرِينَ نِسَاؤُكُمْ حَرْثٌ لَكُمْ فَأْتُوا حَرْثَكُمْ أَنَّى شِئْتُمْ وَقَدِّمُوا لِأَنفُسِكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّكُمْ مُلَاقُوهُ وَبَشِّرْ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (٢٢٢-٣)

And they ask you about menstruation. Tell them: It is a kind of impurity. So keep away from women during their menstrual periods and do not approach them until they are in a state of purity. Then when they are clean after having  bathed, go to them from where God has enjoined you. Indeed, God loves those who constantly repent and keep themselves clean. These women of yours are your cultivated land; go, then, into your lands in any manner you please [and through this] plan for the future1 [of both this and the next world] and remain fearful of God. Bear in mind that you shall meet Him [one day]. And [O Prophet] Give good tidings [of success and salvation] to the believers [on that Day]. (222-3)

Sexual relations between a man and a woman stem from their instincts and they do not need any external guidance in this matter. However, can a husband and wife have sexual intercourse when the wife is passing through her menstrual or puerperal cycle. It is evident that the answer to this question should be in the negative because the very objective of religion is Tadhkiyah (purification). Consequently, all divine religions prohibit sexual relations during this period. Under the influence of the religion of Abraham (sws), the Arabs of pre-Qur’ānic times also considered this relationship to be prohibited. Their poetry mentions this relationship covering a number of aspects. There was no difference of opinion in this matter. However, there were lots of extremes regarding the limits of physical interaction during the time a lady was passing through her menstrual cycle. When people started asking about these limits, the Qur’ān answered the question in the above quoted verses of Sūrah Baqarah. While explaining these verses, Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī writes:

The extent to which a husband has been stopped from going near his wife in this period is evident from the Qur’ānic words mentioned subsequently ‘وَلَا تَقْرَبُوهُنَّ حَتَّى يَطْهُرْنَ فَإِذَا تَطَهَّرْنَ فَأْتُوهُنَّ مِنْ حَيْثُ أَمَرَكُمْ اللَّهُ’ (and do not approach them until they are in a state of purity; then when they are clean after having bathed, go to them from where God has enjoined you). Only sexual intercourse is prohibited with the wife during this period. It should certainly not be the case that a woman be considered untouchable in this period, as was the case in certain other religions. Some A%hadīth also elucidate this fact.2

It is narrated about Ai’shah (rta) that during her menstrual cycle she would comb the hair of the Prophet (sws) when he would be offering A‘tikāf in the mosque.3

It is further narrated from her that the Prophet (sws) would read the Qur’ān while placing a pillow in her lap.4

In another Hadīth narrated from her she says that when any of the wives of the Prophet (sws) would be undergoing her menstrual cycle and the Prophet (sws) wanted to be intimate with her, he would direct her to tie a loin cloth on the lower part of the body and he would then approach her.5

She further narrates that when she would drink water in her menstrual cycle and then give the same water to the Prophet (sws), he would put his lips on the same place [on the vessel] from which she had drunk. Similarly, when she would chew and suck on a bone and then give it to the Prophet (sws), he would place his lips on the same part of the bone where she had placed them.6


Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī writes:

طُهْر’ (tuhr) means the end of the state of impurity and the termination of blood while ‘تَطَهُّر’ (tatahhur) means the state of purity a lady enters into after the ceremonial bath. The verse regards ‘طُهْر’ (tuhr) as a condition for intercourse with the wife and it also says that once a lady has entered the state of purity only then should the husband approach her for this purpose. It emanates from this that though the basic reason for this prohibition is blood and once the blood stops this prohibition is lifted, however the appropriate way in this regard is to have intercourse after she has bathed.7

It is also explained in the above quoted verses that after the ceremonial bath, sexual intercourse with the wife should be done in the way prescribed by the Almighty. The words are: ‘فَأْتُوهُنَّ مِنْ حَيْثُ أَمَرَكُمْ اللَّهُ’ (go to them from where God has enjoined you). This guidance is ingrained in human nature and from this aspect it, no doubt, is a directive of the Almighty. If a person violates this directive he in fact violates a very obvious directive of the Almighty, and, as a result, will have to face punishment from Him.

The metaphor of ‘cultivated land’ is employed by the Qur’ān to explain what is stated in the previous verses. Imām Amīn Ahsan Islāhī comments on this in the following words:

One very apparent reason for using this metaphor is the fact that just as for a cultivated land it is essential on the part of the harvester that seeds be sown in the appropriate season at the right time and that they be sown within the fields and not scattered outside them, similarly it is a norm of human instinct that one should not approach a lady for sexual intercourse during the menstrual cycle or from the anal side because the period of menses is a time during which women are sexually cold and not inclined, while anal intercourse is a painful and wasteful activity. Therefore, people who have not perverted their nature cannot indulge in such an activity.8

While explaining the expression ‘أَنَّى شِئْتُمْ فَأْتُوا حَرْثَكُمْ’ (go then, into your lands in any manner you please), Islāhī goes on to write:

[This] alludes simultaneously to two things: On the one hand, it refers to the liberty, freedom and free manner with which a farmer approaches his land, and on the other hand refers to the responsibility, caution and care which he must exercise in approaching his land. The word ‘حَرْثٌ’ refers to the former and the word ‘أَنَّى شِئْتُمْ’ to the latter. It is both this liberty and caution which ascertain the correct behavior of a husband with his wife in this regard.

Every one knows that the real bliss of married life is the freedom a person has in intimate affairs barring a few broad restrictions. The feeling of this freedom has a great amount of euphoria around it. When a person is with his wife in intimate moments, Divine will seems to be that he be overcome with emotions but at the same time it is pointed out to him that he has come into a field and an orchard; it is no wasteland or a forest. He may come to it in whatever manner and in whatever way whenever he pleases, but he must not forget that he has landed in his orchard. The Qur’ān has no objection on the discretion, choice and majesty with which he approaches his field if he knows full well where he is going and in no way is oblivious of this reality.9

The importance of all these directives is pointed to by the Qur’ān in the words ‘إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِينَ وَيُحِبُّ الْمُتَطَهِّرِينَ’. While explaining the importance of these words in the eyes of the Almighty, Islāhī writes:

If one deliberates on the essence of tawbah and tatahhur, one comes to the conclusion that while the former means to cleanse one’s inner self from sins, the latter means to cleanse one’s outer self from filth and dirt. Viewed thus, both are similar in their essence and the Almighty holds both these traits in great admiration. On the other hand, people who lack these traits are disliked by the Almighty. It is evident from the context of this verse that those who do not refrain from intercourse with their wives during their periods of impurity and violate the limits ingrained in human nature in satisfying their sexual urge are detestable in the eyes of the Almighty.10

(Translated from ‘Mīzān’ by Shehzad Saleem)




1. The implication being raising children that become an asset for their parents in this world and in the Hereafter. The reason for this directive is to create awareness among parents of the great responsibility of a new child that they may plan properly.

2. Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 526

3. Bukhārī, No: 296

4. Bukhārī, No: 297

5. Bukhārī, No: 302

6. Bukhārī, No: 300

7. Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 526

8. Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 527

9. Islāhī, Amīn Ahsan, Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 527

10. Ibid., p. 526

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