Islamic Sources

Marnia's picture
Submitted by Marnia on
Printer-friendly version

The Qur’an

"God made man and woman to complete each other, as the day completes the night."--The Prophet

The goal is not physical pleasure; but a psycho-spiritual union where both man and woman become 'garments' for each other as the Holy Quran states. Become One; and know thy Lord. "Marriage is half of your religion." "According to the God’s Messenger sex between married couple is not any lecherous attitude but is a ’sadaqa’ - worship through giving. This is something which raises human beings above the animal level. Instead of treating sex life as a means to satisfy one’s physical gratification, it is regarded as an act of pleasing the Almighty by unselfish care for one’s life partner. Marriage is something sacred, which requires sincerity, respect and true love between a husband and wife so as to attain happiness and mental peace."--Bhawana Negi

Excerpt from "Bezels of Wisdom"

(Collection of Sufi wisdom by mystic Ibn al-`Arabi, 1165-1240 C.E.)[1]

Man/Woman Love

Sufi symbol The Greatest Spiritual Master of Sufism, met his earthly Venus in the person of his teacher's daughter, Nizam.

When a man loves a woman, he seeks union with her, that is to say the most complete union possible in love, and there is in the elemental sphere no greater union than that between the sexes. [Man's] contemplation of the Reality in woman is the most complete and perfect. . . . Contemplation of the Reality without formal support is not possible. . . . Since, therefore, some form of support is necessary, the best and most perfect kind is the contemplation of God in woman. The greatest union is that between man and woman (Ibn al-`Arabi, 1980: 274-5).

Here is some commentary by John Ryan Haule:

God appears in the objects that he has created, and erotic love provides us the most powerful vision we can attain, enabling us to see through the fleshly object that attracts our eye to the Ultimate Reality lying beyond. Sufism calls this fana', passing away, annihilation. We pass away from the ego's reality in the persona field and pass through our beloved to realize God. This is not God "in Himself," Who is beyond all direct knowing, but God perceived in and through a created being. We need the "support" of a perceptible being in order to gain access to the transcendent realm. The highest form of this, for Ibn al-`Arabi, is the union between a man and a woman in erotic trance.

Also by Ibn al-`Arabi

The divine lover is spirit without body; The physical lover is body without spirit; The spiritual lover possesses spirit and body.


Excerpt from "The Cradle of Erotica"

(by Allen Edwardes and Robert E. L. Masters) The celebrated Arabian traditionist Jabir bin 'Abdallah, a disciple of Muhammed, sets forth the following tradition:

When the Most Manifest Book El-Quran was being revealed to our Apostle by the archangel Gabriel, Muhammed abstained, during sexual commerce with his wife, from the spermatic ejaculation into the genital organs of Lady Khedijeh..

Muhammed, rather than practicing coitus interruptus ('azil or "withdrawal"), never ejaculated at all (coitus reservatus, imsak or "withholding"), but purposed in saving his semen to preserve his vital strength and have it flow into his bloodstream for aiding and invigorating mental power. Jabir adds that the Prophet practiced "keeping it in" or "holding back the sperm" for several hours. Feeling refreshed, he would then retire to his mountain retreat for inspiration.

Excerpt from "Disciplining the Soul: Breaking the Two Desires"

(Collection of spirtual techniques adopted by classical Islam, by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali 1058-1111 C.E.)[2] It is clear that Al-Ghazali had no insight into sexual alchemy, believing, as he did, that "women are half of Satan's army." He did, however, leave behind some colorful descriptions of the problems with passion:

It has been said that 'an erection results in the loss of two-thirds of the intelligence.'... The desire for women...may become so extreme in some cases that two foul habits are acquired. Firstly, [a man] may partake of something which makes him desire to have intercourse more often, just as some people take certain drugs which strengthen the stomach and allow them to eat more of the things which they desire. This resembles nothing so much as a man tormented by savage beasts and snakes which sleep from time to time, but which he find methods of awakening and arousing, and then has to make his peace with. For the desires for food and intercourse are in reality pains, which a man would rather be free of so as to gain another form of delight.... The second thing is that in the case of some misguided people this desire may end in amorous passion, which constitutes utter ignorance of the intended purpose of sexual congress, and a descent to a level lower than that of the animals. For such people are not content merely to gratify their lust, which is the unsightliest of all desires and the one of which a man should most be embarrassed, but instead believe that their lust can only be satisfied by one person.....Amorous passion is nothing but a wellspring of excessive sexual desire, and is the disease of an empty and unconcerned heart.....To break the power of amorous passion in its early stages is like pulling at the reins of a riding-beast when it heads for a gate it would like to enter; to rein it back is a very easy thing, whereas to treat such a passion after it has taken hold of one is like letting the beast go in, and then catching it by its tail and pulling it from behind: a much more difficult task. One should therefore take precautions at the onset of these things, for later they can only be treated with an effort so intense as almost to lead to death.

Excerpt from "The Perfumed Garden"

(of the Shaykh Nefwazi, translated by Sir Richard Burton) Remember that a prudent man will beware of abusing the enjoyment of coition. The sperm is the water of life; if you use it economically you will always be ready for love's pleasures; it is the light of your eye; do not be lavish with it at all times and whenever you have a fancy for enjoyment, for if you are not sparing with it you will expose yourself to many ills. Wise medical men say, 'A robust constitution is indispensable for copulation, and he who is endowed with it may give himself up to the pleasure without danger; but it is otherwise with the weakly man; he runs into danger by indulging freely with women. The sage, Es Sakli, has thus determined the limits to be observed by man as to the indulgence of the pleasures of coition: Man, be he phlegmatic or sanguine, should not make love more than twice or thrice a month; bilious or hypochondriac men only once or twice a month. It is nevertheless a well-established fact that nowadays men of any of these four temperaments are insatiable as to coition, and give themselves up to it day and night, taking no heed how they expose themselves to numerous ills, both internal and external. Women are more favoured than men in indulging their passion for coition. it is in fact their speciality; and for them it is all pleasure; while men run many risks in abandoning themselves without reserve to the pleasures of love.

Essay by Hazrat Inayat Khan (Sufi)

The man who has never had an ideal may hope to find one. He is in a better state than the man who allows the circumstances of life to break his ideal. To fall beneath one’s ideal is to lose one’s track in life. Then confusion rises in the mind, and that light which one should hold high becomes covered and obscured, so that it cannot shine out to light one’s path. The fall of Napoleon may be dated from the day that he abandoned Josephine. With the breaking of the ideal, the whole life cracks and dissolves. As soon as a man begins to think, ‘I have done wrong by such and such a person, or such and such a principle,’ he ceases to be a king within, and cannot be a king without. This does not mean to say that the good succeed in life and that the evil fail; but rather that man only progresses through sincerity in his ideals. For the good of each man is indeed peculiar to himself. Religion is the school that has developed man. And the ideals that religion presents form a path that leads upward to perfection, that innate and yearning desire of every soul. The difficulty arises when man sees his principles as his goal, and not simply as a means to his goal. For when he begins to worship his own principles he becomes simply an idolater, and he destroys the essence and the life of his ideal. Can anyone point to a date in history when man first gained wisdom? Wisdom is the property of humanity. The expressions of this wisdom differ at different times to suit different peoples. It is the differences that have always been noticed, and not the similarities. Artist or workman, philosopher or scientist, wherever found, arrives by his individual path at the same knowledge of the laws of nature, and thus learns those fundamental laws of ethics, which do not change from country to country, nor from age to age, nor do they contradict each other. And the wise of all ages, have taught that it is the knowledge of the Divine Being that is life, and the only reality. Although a human activity may have a number of complicated motives, some of which are base and gross, it is the aspiration towards divinity, the desire towards beauty, which is its soul, its life, and its reality. And it is in proportion to the degree of strength or weakness of his aspiration towards beauty that man’s ideal is great or small, and his religion is great or small. There exists an affinity between the negative and the positive, which inclines the one towards the other, and towards union, which results in a fresh conception of beauty. Ancient mythology has expressed this beautifully in the figure of Cupid, whose wings show that he is a spirit, and who, coming in the guise of a child, represents childhood. Cupid, the spirit of affinity, draws two of the opposite sex together for the purpose of a birth of beauty. Thus it happens that the human kind is strongly attracted to its opposite. And when the expressive and responsive tendencies awaken through love and passion, a third being is created and a ray finds its abode in the mother’s womb. Thus it is seen that it is the spirit that possesses the sexes in order to bring them together for its own purpose of manifestation. Therefore, many religions and philosophies have considered the sex relationship to be most sacred, since it is thus that the spirit manifests itself. For the same reason the sex relationship may become most sinful, if this purpose of the spirit is lost to view. For to disregard this purpose of the spirit is a defiance of the law of the whole mechanism, which inevitably drags the structure to ruins. There is nothing of this earth more valuable than the seed of man, the source of further manifestation. By its loss every door of happiness in life is closed. But man is usually so careful with his money and property and jewels, and desires so earnestly to increase them, that he sacrifices everything to them. And he becomes regardless of the jewel of life which is his own life, character, and personality, and which is more precious than any property. Again, every religion prohibits marriage between blood relations, though the rules vary somewhat, as, for instance, in the West, marriage between an uncle and his niece is sometimes permitted, a union usually considered unlawful in the East, as by some other Western religions. However, certain modern social revolutionaries are now questioning the laws, which make blood relationship a bar to marriage. These laws are nevertheless rooted in truth; for where there is no expansion, there is no progress. Expansion is necessary for physical reasons. Between blood relations the negative and positive forces are not contrary enough. When the battery, which depends upon the strength and the contrast of these forces becomes weaker, its issue becomes correspondingly weaker, or else there is no issue. Morally, also progress demands expansion. Has not the whole of creation been gradually built by expansion? The vigor of the Western nations is, to a great extent, due to the intermixture of innumerable tribes and races. Even now, before our eyes, a young and promising nation of extraordinary vitality is developing in the United States of America, formed of the many elements of all the European nations. There are certainly disadvantages in interracial and international marriages, but these are small in comparison with the advantages. Pride of birth and of rank, and also of community and religion, have always kept humanity back by forming barriers that prevent natural expansion. The Western aristocracies have suffered incalculable loss thereby. But this is most clearly seen in the history of the East, where the Hindu castes, by limiting themselves to their own circle, have brought ruin to their race. The Eastern custom of child marriage is a product of family pride, since each family has wished that the wife of their son should be brought up in the traditions of their own family. The conservative ideas of the Parsis, that most exclusive community, operating through many generations, have produced notable physical alterations in their people, among whom, to instance one point, only a small percentage have normal eyesight. The national ideal, which unites human beings in a desire to uphold certain social laws and certain ideals of civilization, is necessary to human life. But to make these ideals barriers that separate humanity into distinct sections must effectively prevent the progress of humanity as one whole. And this progress is the basic idea of religion. Nations endeavor to progress as nations, and races as races. Each race and nation is prepared to hinder the progress of any other. Thus, through wars and conflicts of every kind, the patriotism of each race has become so individual and distinct, that an interracial marriage means that one or other of the contracting parties must renounce his or her patriotism, a renunciation that is sometimes almost a death. It is the young people who are most often drawn to an interracial marriage, the young, generous, and idealistic. But it is not often that they meet their corresponding social class. It is not often that aristocratic or educated aliens meet the aristocratic or educated natives of any country. Yes, it is true that there is a great similarity between the corresponding social and intellectual classes of all civilizations. People marry for various reasons: some because it is the custom, some for the sake of home life, because man is a dependent creature, and desires a companion in the joy and sorrow of life, or because marriage carries weight in the social world. For generally a house where a couple live is a home. Others again, are tempted by rank, birth, position, and wealth; and these marry the thing desired, and not the human being. Others have a wish to leave children, so that their name may not pass from the earth or the property they have collected fall into the hands of strangers; and some other few marry for love. There is a tendency in husband or wife to own his or her mate. And the stronger of the two will often attempt to do this by the right of marriage itself, having forgotten the reason for which he or she contracted the marriage. This tendency to ownership makes many a marriage a captivity. Zafar wrote, ‘O Zafar, you cannot call him a man, though he be in human form, who is without thought in anger or counsel in passion.’ The human being is supposed to take counsel with his own principles of modesty, of chivalry, and of shame, and therein to differ from the animals. And that expansion of his sexual passion, which has no regard for these principles, may be called adultery. Adultery is in fact that which, done under the spell of passion and in the blindness of the moment, brings afterwards repentance and shame, with remorse for the consequences. A drunken man does in his intoxication what he would never have done when sober; and so laws are framed to control drunken madness and folly. To resist evil, however, usually means to participate in and be guilty of the same evil. There is a story told of Mohammad, that a man who had always maligned him and behaved as a bitter and treacherous enemy, came to see him. His disciples, hoping for revenge, were disappointed and indignant to find that Mohammad treated his despicable enemy with courtesy, even deference, granting his request. "Did you not see the gray in his heart?’ asked Mohammad after the man had gone. ‘The man is old, and his age at least called for my courtesy.’ It is forgiveness and that forbearance which is a recognition of the freedom and dignity of the human being, that consume all ugliness and burn up all unworthiness, leaving only beauty there.

Return to Source Materials outline


  1. Bezels of Wisdom were given to Ibn-al-Arabi in a dream: "I saw the Apostle of God in a visitation He had in his hand a book and he said to me, 'This is the book of the bezels of Wisdom; take it and bring it to men that they might benefit from it.'" The book portrays the wisdom of love through Abraham, of the unseen through Job, of light through Joseph, of intimacy through Elias and so on. In one of his poems he stated, "Love is the creed I hold: wherever turns His camels, Love is still my creed and faith."
  2. Disciplining the Soul: Breaking the Two Desires by Al-Ghazali, the Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge (1995)