There are countless Hadiths that say that if a man calls upon his wife for a sexual encounter, she is discouraged from refusing.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle (Pbuh) said, ” If a husband calls his wife to his bed (i.e. to have sexual relations) and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari Vol. 4 Hadith No. 460 & Sahih Muslim Vol. 2 Hadith No. 3368)
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Messenger of Allah (swt) said: By him in whose hand is my life, when a man calls his wife to his bed, and she does not respond, the One Who is in the heaven is displeased with her untill he (her husband) is pleased with her. (Sahih Muslim Vol. 2 Hadith No. 3367)
Narrated Taiq ibn Ali:
Allah’s Messenger (Pbuh) said, ” When a man calls his wife to satisfy his desire she must go to him even if she is occupied at the oven.” (Al Tirmidhi Hadith No. 1160 & Ibn Ma’jah Hadith No. 4165)
“Softening the Blow”
Muslim apologists use the following Quranic verses to dilute the dangerous messages of these Hadiths:
- And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. (Quran 30:21)
- They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. (Quran 2:187)
They use these verses to soften the problematic stances of the Hadith by saying that marriage was essentially made for happiness, therefore marital rape is not allowed.
Interpreting the verses
As I’ve mentioned before, these verses are used as a desperate ploy to lessen the harshness of the Hadiths. However, notable tafsirs (exegesis/interpretation) throughout Islamic history have all been consistent on what these verses are intended for. And once we understand the varying interpretations and what they have in common, we will see that they do not necessarily negate these Hadiths.
- All of the classical tafsirs throughout history (cited above) describe this as a verse that discusses how male and female humans were made to complement each other with their differentiating sex organs and they should live with one another in harmony.
- This verse was giving permission to Muslim couples to have sexual intimacy during the nights of Ramadan when they are not fasting.
- “They are clothing/garment for you and you are clothing/garment for them” was interpreted unanimously in all of the listed tafsirs as an emphasis of the sexual intimacy between the husbands and wives that guards (clothes) them from illicit sex.
These verses aren’t negative verses. They are positive ones that discuss the complement of male and female (though that’s heteronormative) and prevented guilt around sexual intimacy between husband and wife on Ramadan nights. However, they do not negate the status of the Hadiths. There is one verse that complements the Hadiths however.
The Controversial 4:34
The Muslims’ worst nightmare in the Quran and one they have to do mental backflips to defend, is Quran 4:34:
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.
Here is a summarized form of the varying interpretations throughout history of these verses:
- Men are in charge of women and have to put them in their place
- When the Prophet’s followers wanted retaliation against a husband for beating his wife (who were their daughters, sisters etc.) this revelation came as an assurance of the husband’s ownership of their wife.
- The scholars suggest the “beat them” phrase as meant for disciplining and not malice.
- Beating them implied “beat them lightly” according to these classic interpretations.
These Hadiths are causing issues and debates on Islam condoning marital rape in Muslim societies today. The Malaysian government has not criminalized marital rape to this day because Islamic scholars in Malaysia claim it is an Islamic right. Scholars who defend this principle state that marital rape is a western-based construct that has no place in Islamic values.
There are even Muslim women who internalize the notion of this duty imposed by Islam and defend it. They state that rape in Islamic definition is forced sex outside of marriage, and by that definition marital rape does not exist.
The Hadiths all state that it is a sin for a wife to refuse her sexual duties to her husband. Quran 4:34 call for obedience of wives to their husbands and allows husbands to beat them if they are disobedient.
Imagine a man named Abdul who is a devout Muslim and believes the entire Hadith and Quran are literal words of God and the ultimate authority. Expose him to these Hadiths and Verses, and combine that with the Quranic narrative of women being possessions of men, and you leave room for sexual entitlement on Abdul’s part. Abdul will then have these verses on his side to manipulate any spouse of his into sex, considering she too is a devout practicing Muslim.
Where is her say in these Hadiths? Can she say no to sexual advances without believing she is committing a sin?
And of course you have these women whose Islams are sheltered:
One might wonder if Islamic scriptures were cherry picked to fit her specific needs, or if she’s a feminist at all.
Islam is feminist you say?