Islam’s Stance on Physical Intimacy and Sex | Facts about the Muslims & the Religion of Islam

Islam’s attitude towards physical intimacy and sex is that both are a natural part of human life. Contrary to common misconceptions, Islam does not view sexuality as something inherently shameful or sinful. Similar to other lifestyle practices, such as eating food and managing finances, sexual interactions are subject to Islamic law, which is rooted in divine guidance.

Islam’s Attitude About Sex

Unlike some other faiths, Islam does not value celibacy as a spiritual practice. As a matter of fact, intentional celibacy as an act of devotion to God, in the manner nuns and some monks practice, is not allowed in Islam. The only time lawful sexual interactions are limited for observing holy rituals are during daytime fasts in Ramadan every year and the few days of the Hajj pilgrimage every Muslim performs once in a lifetime. Otherwise, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, highly encouraged being married, and therefore sexually active, as a way to follow his divinely guided lifestyle. Being intimate with one’s spouse is actually considered a good deed that Muslims can be rewarded for. In a Prophetic teaching, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) listed different actions that could be considered charity, stating, “Commanding the good is a charity, and forbidding an evil is a charity, and in the sexual act of each one of you there is a charity.”

Marriage and Basic Rules about Intimacy

Central to Islamic teachings on physical intimacy is the institution of marriage. In Islam, marriage is not merely a social contract but a sacred bond established by God, uniting a man and a woman in a lifelong commitment to love and support one another. Within the context of marriage, sexual relations are not only permissible but encouraged as a means of fostering intimacy and companionship, as well as a practical method of procreation. It should be noted that since forms of contraception are permitted in Islam, the sexual relationship between a husband and wife can be purely for enjoyment without any intention of producing children. Limiting lawful sexual interactions between married individuals is a foolproof measure to protect family and social structure. For further discussion on the rules against premarital and extramarital sex, see this resource.

Just like there are rules for eating and drinking in Islam, there are also some broad guidelines meant to protect human dignity when it comes to physical intimacy. Firstly, a husband and wife should give consent freely and willfully. Interactions that are forced or cause harm to either one or both individuals are strictly prohibited. Secondly, intimate encounters are meant to be private moments shared by two individuals and should not be spoken about with others unless there is a therapeutic or legal need to disclose information to rectify an issue. Thirdly, marriage and physical intimacy are not allowed in homosexual contexts, transgender pairings, or between more than two individuals. Fourthly, some basic rules consider personal hygiene, such as cleaning certain bodily fluids. Other than these few guiding principles, partners are free to explore and enjoy themselves in nearly all imaginable ways, with the exceptions of anal intercourse and sexual intercourse when a woman is menstruating.

Satisfaction and Pleasure

Sexual satisfaction and mutual enjoyment are something that Islam also encourages for both spouses. Both partners should experience love, pleasure, and intimacy. As long as they do so within the bounds of marriage and follow the handful of Islamic rules that govern sexual interactions, Muslims are considered perfectly chaste and modest from a spiritual perspective. Thus, married individuals who are sexually active exclusively with each other are living pure lives. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, emphasized the importance of satisfying one’s partner’s emotional and physical needs, thereby promoting harmony and happiness within the marital bond. He did not treat sexuality as a taboo subject and was recorded to have advised a newly married companion about foreplay with his wife. Some scholars describe sexual relationships in this earthly life as a divine gift and teaser of the pleasures believers will enjoy in Paradise. Islam’s balanced approach to mutual satisfaction equally values the pleasure and satisfaction of both men and women.

Family Planning: Contraception, Abortion, and Fertility Treatments

What is Islam’s attitude about contraception and abortion? Although many may have the impression that contraception and abortion are strictly prohibited in Islam, as in some other religions, this is far from the truth! The most crucial underlying reality that all Muslims should accept, however they approach family planning, is that God is in control of who He “blesses with daughters,” “sons,” “both,” or  who is unable to have children because they are “infertile” [Quran, 42: 49-50.]

The use of contraceptive methods in Islam is permissible and was even allowed at the time of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. The popular method at the time was withdrawal. Based on the permissibility of this method of birth control, most modern methods are allowed today. The methods of contraception that are not allowed are those that involve irreversible sterilization in which a man or woman loses their fertility completely. It should be noted that in cases where pregnancies may be dangerous, individuals can seek individual permission to receive medical treatment that allows for permanent birth control. One important caveat to using birth control is mentioned in a Prophetic teaching–it is that those using contraception should ultimately understand that God decrees whether or not women become pregnant regardless of the use of birth control methods. For example, the Quran mentions the virgin birth of Prophet Jesus, which is an example of a miraculous pregnancy that Mary experienced. Overall, most common birth control methods people use today are permissible, and Muslims who use them should accept that God is in true control of their efficacy.

When it comes to abortion, Islam shuns a black-and-white approach to its permissibility. There is a broad spectrum of legal opinions from Islamic scholars on when and how abortions can be conducted. The majority of legal opinions deem abortions permissible up to 40 days into the pregnancy for a variety of reasons ranging from an unplanned pregnancy outside of wedlock to health risks. Other legal opinions allow for abortions until 120 days.  However, it should be noted that abortions after the first trimester can be allowed for mothers whose health is in danger because the health and well-being of the mother and baby are of utmost importance. (For more details, check out this resource.) In summary, getting an abortion is something that Islam allows but within specific guidelines.

On the other hand, there are situations in which women want to become pregnant but struggle to conceive or carry a pregnancy without fertility treatments. Fertility treatments are generally allowed for couples as long as the treatments honor the family structure that the marriage establishes between the married man and woman. Because fertility treatments are relatively new and constantly advancing in the medical field, Islamic scholars are still learning about various procedures and determining whether or not they may be permissible. It should be noted that whether or not fertility treatments produce a desired pregnancy is considered to be in God’s control, just as is the case with the efficacy of contraceptive methods.


In conclusion, Islam views human sexuality as a natural part of life that Muslims can enjoy if they observe a few Islamic guidelines. Fulfilling one’s sexual needs within the boundaries of marriage is a practice Islam encourages and even celebrates. Islam also takes a flexible approach to family planning.


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