However, before we begin, some might question whether we as Muslims are allowed to benefit from Western sources regarding these topics (of intimacy and love). The response is that our religion encourages us to take wisdom from all peoples and cultures. The Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Wisdom is the lost item of the believer – wherever he finds it, he takes it.” [Tirmidhee, Ibn Maajah]
Just as we take from all societies their knowledge of medicine, engineering, and chemistry, so too there is no problem in taking good and beneficial knowledge regarding intimacy from different cultures as well. In fact, even our Prophet salla Allahu alahyi wa sallam did so. He said, “I was about to forbid you from having intercourse with your wives while they are breastfeeding children, but I saw that the Romans and Persians did that and it did not harm their children” [Reported by al-Bukhari].
Therefore, the fact that the Romans and Persians engaged in intimacy while the mother was breastfeeding, and it did not harm the child, was used by our Prophet to allow intercourse during this time.
Love has many languages. By this, we mean that there are different ways that people express love and recognize it. Many times, the way that a person expresses love is not the same way that their partner wants to hear it.
Imagine, if you will, two people who are speaking different languages to one another – say, Chinese and Swahili. Even though one of them might be saying ‘I love you’ in her language, the other person simply has no clue that this is a message of love. They are not communicating in the same wavelength.
Many times, a person feels unloved by his or her spouse because the expected language to hear that love never materializes. Yet, if the spouse were asked about his or her feelings, it would become clear that true love does actually exist. It’s just a matter of not communicating the feeling of love properly to the other party.
For example, some people express their love by wanting to spend quality time with their beloved. This is generally more common amongst women. If a wife does not get to spend quality time with her husband, she might feel unloved, even if he is showing his love to her in other ways (by spending his money on her, for example). On the other hand, other people express love by physical acts, such as kissing and sexual activity. This is more common amongst men. When a man regularly approaches his wife, he is showing that he loves her. Yet, the wife is not ‘hearing’ this love because in her vocabulary, love must be expressed in a different language – that of time. Unless and until she sees this aspect, she will find it difficult to understand that her husband loves her.
A man’s fulfilling his sexual desire with his wife may often happen as the result of stimulation, by looking or touching etc. Hence fulfilling his desire when it is provoked in such situations is a means of keeping himself chaste and lowering his gaze [from looking at other women].
This is what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) taught us to do, according to the hadeeth narrated by Muslim (1403) from Jaabir, who says that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saw a woman and he came to his wife Zaynab, whilst she was tanning a skin and preparing it for dyeing, and he fulfilled his need. Then he went out to his companions and said: “Woman comes and goes in the shape of a devil [i.e., she causes temptation], so if any one of you sees a woman, let him go and have intercourse with his wife, for that will take away what he feels in his heart.”
This was also narrated by Ahmad, 19403; Ibn Maajah, 1853.
Ibn Hibbaan narrated in his Saheeh, 4171, that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Abi Awfa said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘No woman fulfils all her duties towards Allaah until she fulfils all her duties towards her husband. If he asks her [for his conjugal rights] even when she is on the back of a camel, she should respond to him.’”