Sex For Procreation
Having children and starting a family is a common reason for marriage. And the yearning for children was encouraged by the Prophet:
"Marry loving and prolific women since I shall be the most proud among all the prophets with your numbers." (Hadith reported by Ahmad)
Likewise, the desire for children is reflected in the Quranic stories of prophets who yearned for descendants, like the Prophets Ibrahim and Zakaria. However, their yearning for descendants was not for the fulfillment of a personal benefit. Rather, it was driven by their wish for their descendants to continue their life long service to Allah, as exemplified in the words of the mother of Mary:
”Behold! A woman of lmran said: O my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service." ...” (Quran 3:35)
Likewise, the yearning for children should rightfully be complemented by the attention and care given in their upbringing so that they in turn will be an asset to Islam.
Sex For Enhancement Of Relations
In our relationship with others, we do not confine ourselves to verbal communication. We also use bodily gestures, artistic symbols, even gifts to communicate ideas and emotions to enhance our relationship. At times, these gestures are more powerful than verbal communication.
When the Prophet said, Every good deed is charity, and it is a good deed that you meet your brother with a cheerful face,” he referred to a different kind of giving. A smile is a gift as it relieves a burden in times of difficulty or enhances joy in times of happiness. Likewise, other senses may also be used as a gift such as when we hug our mother to show how much we miss her, fill our living room with the fragrance of freshly plucked jasmine to welcome our guests or sing a lullaby to induce a child to sleep.
The sexual activity evokes our senses of touch, sight, smell and hearing to achieve ecstasy and fulfillment. If the intention behind a touch or a ’motion’ is to evoke these senses for our partner’s pleasure, then it is a type of gift, just like in a smile. And, in this sense, the greatest sensual gift must surely be the pleasure of orgasm. Thus, love-making can become the giving and receiving exquisite sensations, thereby enhancing the feelings of "love and mercy" each partner holds for the other.
Sex For Recreation
Sex may also be for the sheer fun of it, pure enjoyment of the sensations or simply to release stress. But even for such recreational purposes, love-making can have a spiritual significance, very much like the enjoyment of other favors from Allah such as food or a breath- taking view.
For example, when we take the time to savor the myriad tastes in our food, rather than gulping it down in haste, we actually experience the pleasures of Allah’s creation. Similarly, we experience visual pleasure when we stop to admire a flower or climb a mountain solely for the view at the peak.
Likewise, we may have a ’glimpse’ of a divine attribute in such an earthly act when we savor each delightful moment of love-making. The exquisite sensations of sex are testimony to the Infinite Ingenuity of Allah s.w.t. in His Act of creation and His Mercy in sharing with us His Limitless Pleasures.
Thus, having sex for recreation or for fun has a spiritual value provided the fun is not limited to sensual enjoyment but instead generates a higher understanding of the attributes of the Divine and increases our awe, affection and devotion for our Creator.
Sex is not an end in itself, but its purposes are varied and wide-ranging, from fulfilling a social need in procreating to appreciating Divine Attributes through the richness of sensations experienced in love-making. When it is practiced within the limits set by Allah and His Prophet saw, its value to our Islamic development is bound only by our imagination.
Excerpted from "Tranquil Hearts" by Enon Mansor, Fatimah Eunos & Osman Sidek. Published by Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura and The Muslim Converts' Association of Singapore.