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 "Muslim Sex"

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Muslim Sex

A curious religious debate is raging in Egypt. The question is: should you keep your clothes on when having sex?

It began when Dr Rashad Khalil, an expert on Islamic law from al-Azhar university in Cairo warned that being completely naked during intercourse invalidates a marriage. His ruling was promptly dismissed by other scholars, including one who argued that "anything that can bring spouses closer to each other" should be permitted.

Another religious scholar suggested it was OK for married couples to see each other naked as long as they don't look at the genitals. To avoid problems in that area, he recommended having sex under a blanket.

Muslim Sex Views

It's not entirely clear whether Dr Khalil has considered the full implications of his edict. Doesn't the prospect of all those virile baton-wielding Egyptian riot policemen (for example) doing it in their boots and black uniforms sound just a little bit kinky? But we'll let that pass.

Unlike Christianity, which tends to be squeamish about sex, Islam has a long tradition of talking about it openly. Up to a point, this is much more healthy. While Catholic priests are enjoined to remain celibate, Muslim clerics are expected to marry and indulge heartily with their wives in the pleasures of the flesh. In many parts of the Muslim world, especially where folk are poor and uneducated, the local imam is the person many turn to for guidance on matters relating to sex and marriage.

Over the last few years, hundreds of Islamic "fatwa" websites have also sprung up on which clerics - often with uncertain qualifications - answer all manner of questions that have been sent to them by email, including questions about sex. Some of their answers about what "good Muslims" should or shouldn't do in bed are very explicit, so readers under 18 should stop here. While some of the advice is sensible, a lot of it is completely daft, so remaining readers over the age of 18 may wish to get a second opinion before putting it into practice.

Actually, it had never occurred to me that Muslims might be required to keep their clothes on during their most intimate moments until a few months ago when I was browsing through IslamOnline, the website supervised by the prominent (and controversial) Qatar-based cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Delivering a fatwa on oral sex, 79-year-old Dr Qaradawi describes it as a disgusting western practice, resulting from westerners' habit of "stripping naked during sexual intercourse". But he continues: "Muslim jurists are of the opinion that it is lawful for the husband to perform cunnilingus on his wife, or a wife to perform the similar act for her husband (fellatio) and there is no wrong in doing so. But if sucking leads to releasing semen, then it is makruh (blameworthy), but there is no decisive evidence (to forbid it) ... especially if the wife agrees with it or achieves orgasm by practising it."

On this issue, Dr Qaradawi's views are more permissive than those of several other clerics on the internet. One states that oral sex is definitely forbidden, adding that "this hideous practice will draw the anger of Allah". Another, asked if oral sex is permitted, replies: "I don't know what is oral sex, please define it."

Muslim Masturbation Views

Masturbation is generally frowned upon by Islamic scholars, though they disagree about how sinful it is. The Inter-Islam website describes it as an indecent practice that has "crept into the youngsters of today". Masturbation has become prevalent, the website says, because of the modern tendency for young people to marry later (contrary to the advice of the Prophet). As a result, they feel a need "to fulfil their carnal desires but ... cannot do so in the normal way, ie sexual intercourse". Islamic Voice describes masturbation as an "abominable and wicked act" which is forbidden in Islam.

Other scholars argue that masturbation is basically forbidden but may be permitted if the person is unmarried or masturbates in order to avoid a more serious sin such as adultery, or if the masturbation is to release "sexual tension" rather than to fulfil "sexual desire".

In a fatwa for IslamOnline, Sheikh Mustafa al-Zarqa says: "I conclude that the general principles of sharia [Islamic law] go against this habit, because it is not the normal way of fulfilling sexual desire ... it is a deviation - and that is enough to condemn it, even though this act does not fall under the category of absolute prohibition."

Sam Fields

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