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Published on November 9th, 2015 | by Dar as-Sunnah Publishers | Views: 4426


The Wisdom & (Sexual) Etiquettes of Marriage

Excerpt from ‘Saydil Khatir’ of Imam Ibn al-Jawzi

This is an excerpt taken from excellent works of Imam ibn al-Jawzi from the period 510 AH – 12 Ramadan, 597 AH/ 1116 AD – 14 June 1201 AD. The Imam has made incredible observations that surpasses what was scientifically possible for his time; that can also derive lessons for our time in relation to the wisdom and etiquettes of marriage.

“Upon contemplating the benefits, meanings and nature of marriage, I found out that the main reason for its existence is to bring forth offspring because naturally the living constantly undergoes a process of decomposition from which a part transforms into nutrition while the rest comes to an end. Thus, should this worldly life be intended to last for a certain time and such bodies are created mortal, then the feature of offspring was originated to replace the source [i.e. ensure continuity of human life]. However, since the process of sexual intercourse and intimacy requires and entails uncovering body parts and exposure to what a human despises per se, which are acts that honourable innate natures disdain, Allah implanted lust in people to encourage them to accept and embrace such acts, and hence achieve the purpose of marriage.

If a person desires to have an intelligent and healthy child, and at the same time enjoy himself, he should carefully select the female he allows himself to have intimate (marital) relation with.

Aside from the main purpose, I also noticed another purpose that is found in performing sexual intercourses [within marriage] – that is the discharging of the sperm [from the male organ] which otherwise becomes harmful should it be congested within the body for a long time. This is because sperm is dispatched from the fourth stage of digestion, thus its essence is the most nutritious and best of quality. Then it gathers and accumulates, for the body saves blood and semen as well as saliva, being one of the main pillars of the body, to maintain its strength and survival as if it fears its vanishing. Whenever sperm accumulates above normal levels it will disturb the body in a similar way to what urine congestion does to the body. In the case of semen, its intangible negative effect is more disturbing than that of the tangible effect of urine congestion, since semen congestion leads to severe diseases affecting the function of the brain, and can also be toxic.

When a person enjoys healthy functional organs, the body will naturally urge the need for semen to be released whenever it accumulates exactly as how one has the urge to urinate whenever urine accumulates in the body. However, since the healthiness of people’s sex organs and desires differ from one person to another [i.e. some people may have less concentration of semen and so the urge for releasing it will be lesser], it should be noted that I am addressing those who have healthy sex organs when discussing this subject matter. That being said, as I have previously explained; when semen accumulates in the body, its congestion will cause diseases and bring forth filthy ideas into the mind, as well as entice heated emotions and confusion etc. On the other hand, we may also find a person whose sex organs and desire are in a healthy state, yet still urges for more though he relieved himself from semen, and so he becomes like a person who eats yet never becomes replete.

I have investigated the reasons for this event and came to the conclusion that the problem, in such a case, lies with whom sexual intercourse is conducted [i.e. unattractiveness, ugliness, physical defect, or even being undesired], which causes only some of the semen to be released and not all of it.  If you want to verify this info, try to compare the quantity of semen you would release when it is in the place you desire and the quantity when you release it in a less desired place. For example, compare and see the difference between actual copulation and the process without penetration, and the difference between having sexual intercourse with a virgin and having sexual intercourse with a non-virgin woman. This explains that selecting the right partner will ensure the release of all accumulated semen and hence ultimate pleasure will be enjoyed accordingly. This issue may affect the quality of a person’s offspring too; the child resulting from two young persons who saved themselves for marriage is stronger than others, and most often, especially those who experience sexual intercourse frequently. For this reason, it was disliked for relatives to marry each other because marrying a relative is less attractive to the self as it gives the person the feeling he is interacting with a part of himself. Thus, marrying non-blood related women is encouraged and praised.

From this art (of relationships), a person can ensure averting the harm of his surplus semen by marrying another one, even if the new one is unpleasant to the eye, as that may give results that are not achieved normally. The example of this is like a person who is eating bread and meat until no space is left in his stomach for another bite. If desert however was served, he will eat from it and if new items are presented he will still eat from them too. This is because the idea of ‘desiring the new’ is eye-inspiring where  the ‘self’ is not attracted to what it is used to, but rather seeks what it hasn’t experienced assuming a new joy will be gained from it. And, if the ‘self’ does not receive the pleasure it is after from the new object, it will search for it in another object assuming that such pure pleasure exists elsewhere – and that is something it imagines in every newly sought object. In the paradigm of this understanding there is hidden evidence on the existence of resurrection because to create humans with endeavours and desires to attain the ultimate pleasure, though such pleasure does not exist in this life will be futile and in vain, thus heed this meaning!

So long the ‘self’ finds defects and flaws of what it experiences in this worldly life, it will keep searching for the [ideally perfect] new. On this account, wise men have said aforetime, “Extreme love is to be too blind to see the shortcomings and defects of the one you love, and whoever busies himself with his own flaws will find no time to find flaws in others”. For this reason it is liked for the wife to neither keep her husband away from her to the point he forgets her, nor to draw him close to her to the point that he becomes bored with her. The same applies to the husband too so that he doesn’t become tired with her or know the details of her defects. Moreover, the wife should endeavour that her husband does not see her genitals (except occasionally) and ensure to smell good for him [when he is around her] and to ensure to do all similar acts that wise women do [to impress, attract and keep their men attentive]. Women are naturally aware of such methods and practices and don’t need to receive any advice or education about it. As for the ignorant women who do not pay attention to these details, their husbands, in not much time, will start seeking other women and turn away from them.

If a person desires to have an intelligent and healthy child, and at the same time enjoy himself, he should carefully select the female he allows himself to have intimate (marital) relation with. If he is after a wife, he should look at her and if he feels there is chemistry between him and her, then he can proceed with marriage. Not only that, but he then should find out the effect she will have on him because the sign of [ultimate] love is that he isn’t able to take his eyes away from her and that whenever she is away from his sight; his heart becomes troubled and distressed until he sees her again; that is the pinnacle level of love. There are many levels below this too; each level brings forth different results and effects.

If he is after buying a female concubine, then he should look more than he would look normally! And, if one is able to speak with the woman he intends to marry or encourage her to talk so that he has an idea about how she converses, he should do so and then to look at her [face] for the beauty of women lies in their eyes and mouths. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal stated that it is permissible for a man proposing to a woman to see of her more than her face.

Having said that, it is better if a person can wait for some time before finalising the marriage or buying the female-slave in order to test the longing of his heart for her because as every sensible person knows, the ‘self’ longs and yearns for a matter either because it is untried or because of love. If it was the latter, he should proceed so long he is sure that his yearning for her is because of his love. ‘Ataa Al-Kharasani said, “It is written in the Torah that marriage without love is a regret and misery until the Day of Judgement.” The second step is to investigate the character of the chosen individual because manners are from the hidden aspect of the person – if it doesn’t exist will make the woman look pretty, but one grew up in an unruly house, and since having well raised children is also a purpose of marriage, then the good character of one who will bear the child is vital.

Having one’s desires fulfilled [lawfully] in order to free the heart and mind from such distractions is a cardinal pillar as it will devote the heart towards minding one’s other important matters. When a person finishes from subsequent side tasks will he then be able to focus on his original major tasks. This is why the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said,

“A judge should never rule between two persons when he is angry” [1] and he صلى الله عليه وسلم also said,

“When dinner is served at the time of Isha Prayer, eat your dinner first.” [2]

That being said, when a person finds a woman whose image is as good as her character (i.e. a well-mannered woman with a pleasant look), he should overlook her flaws and shortcomings, and she should try her best to please him without being too distant so he does not forget her, or being too close so he does not get bored with her. Furthermore, she should beautify herself in the manner he likes so she maintains and fulfils the sexual needs of both of them, leading to her pregnancy and providing a child. Following the precautions I have outlined previously, such relationships last and suffice each partner without the need for them to look for other options. However, if the man can afford having another woman [in a lawful manner], and knows that will help him to relieve his heart from all distractions and make him focused on fulfilling his other duties, it would better for him in such a case. Yet, should he fear jealousy between the two women adding more distraction to his heart, which we are so concerned to maintain its focus, or should he fear the new woman will distract him from remembering his Hereafter or require him to compromise his piety, then he should suffice with one wife.

From the things I also advise to take into account is that a person should understand that chastity is unlikely to be one of the qualities of women with pleasant looks; therefore if a person is in love with a woman of this kind he should maintain her and guard her chastity excessively. If he, however, finds in her [character] what he dislikes, he should not wait to replace her so that he does not remain attached to her and quickly overcome his feelings for her, so he doesn’t slide in to state of distraction. And, if he could suffice with one woman then that would be better because should one be sufficient, then he will be content and if she was not, then he divorces her and looks for another one instead.

When a person marries a woman he loves, this will make him ultimately release all his accumulated semen, which assures the brightness and healthiness of the child, as well as fulfilling the sexual needs perfectly. As for those who fear for the jealousy of wives, should opt for female servants for they have less jealousy over him and pleasing them is easier and more effectual than pleasing the wives.

There were many people before who managed to have more than one woman, and women were patient and handled the situations well. For example, Prophet Da’wud (peace of Allah be upon him) had 100 women, and Prophet Sulayman (peace of Allah be upon him) had 1000 women, and our Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and his companions had many women, and the chief of believers; Ali ibn Abi Talib (May Allah be pleased with him) had 4 wives and 17 slaves and his son, al-Hasan, married 400 women etc.

Having said all of that, if you could grasp a sound understanding of what I have just mentioned above, you will be a winner, by the permission of Allah.”

[1] Sahih Bukhari (7158) and Sahih Muslim (1717)

[2] Sahih Bukhari (673) and Sahih Muslim (559)

Source: Dar as-Sunnah Publishers
Experts in translating classical texts.

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