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Last Updated: 2009/10/30
Summary of question
Can a woman refuse to comply with her husband’s request for sexual intercourse?
If a man requests sexual intercourse with his wife and she refuses him many times due to the reason of not being ready or prepared for it, and this in turn causes the man to fall into sin, what is the man and the woman’s position in front of God and what is the appropriate punishment for them.
Concise answer

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Detailed Answer

From the traditions narrated from the Holy Prophet (s) and the Imams (a) it is clear that in terms of marital relationships both men and women have to observe the needs of each other.[1] This two sided responsibility is found in all the rights related to marital relationships. In these traditions it is said to men that: It is recommended (mustahab) that a man has sexual relations with his wife in a gentle way alongside with taking his time and doing it with foreplay.[2] The duty of carrying out the marital relationship lies mainly with the women and is of extreme importance; there are many traditions that relate to this matter, of which we shall mention some of them: Imam Sadiq (a) has said: “A woman came to the Holy Prophet (s) and asked him what the duty of the wife is towards the husband? He replied: “That she answers his (sexual) needs, even if they are in the situation of riding on top of a camel.” Imam Baqir (a) narrated from the Holy Prophet (s) where he told women that: “Do not make your prayers lengthy in order to prevent your husband’s from having sexual relations with you.” In another tradition Imam Sadiq (a) has explained in relation to this aspect of women’s actions and its end consequences that: “A woman who keeps her husband waiting on their place of sleep and does not become willing to have sexual relations with him until he falls asleep, till the time that the man remains asleep the angels will curse that woman.”[3]

All of this emphasis from Islam towards women is so that the society is not overtaken by an overflowing current of lust and the consequent corruption that will follow it. Furthermore sexual relations will not end up being satisfied in the healthy and private settings of the family home but will instead take place in other quarters.

In a very clear way, if the woman does not have a legitimate reason for refusing her husband, she will become responsible and a partner in her husband’s sin to a certain degree. The following are several suggestions for solving these problems:

A.    The husband should obey the commands of Islam, such as the examples we mentioned above, towards his wife.

B.    The husband should take steps to solve the problems that have occurred. For example he should explain the problem in detail to his spouse and the dangerous consequences of things continuing in the same way for their married life and convince her of its severity. It’s highly likely that the wife has a reason for her actions.

C.    Sometimes the refusal of a woman to comply with her husband’s request is due to her not having been satisfied in the previous instances. There are many traditions which narrate that the lack of sexual satisfaction in females has many undesirable effects on their state of mind.[4]

D.    The man must pay attention to the fact that just because the woman is failing to comply, this does not give him a good enough reason (which is acceptable by God) towards sinning. Both men and women must put their trust in God and by using their intellect and logic, attempt to solve the problem from the most basic level.


See: Question 3251 (Site 4349) (The condition for paying the whole amount of the ‘Mahriye’ (dowry) in the case of compliance with sexual intercourse)

[1] In hadith sources such as the noble book of Kafi, the chapters of “The woman’s rights regarding her husband” and “Honoring one’s wife” are next to each other. see: Koleini, Kafi, vol. 5, pp. 507 and 509.

[2] Hurr Ameli, Muhammad Hasan, Wasa’elul-Shia, vol. 20, pp. 117-118, “بَابُ اسْتِحْبَابِ الْمَکْثِ وَ اللَّبْثِ وَ تَرْکِ التَّعْجِیلِ عِنْدَ الْجِمَاع‏، و بَابُ اسْتِحْبَابِ مُلَاعَبَةِ الزَّوْجَةِ وَ مُدَاعَبَتِهَا

[3] Kafi, vol. 5, pp. 507-508.

[4] Wasa’elul-Shia, vol. 20, pg. 118.

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