Can a Wife Refuse her Husband’s Call to Bed

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by Daruliftaa.com

What are the rights of woman after marriage? If the husband calls the wife to bed, can she say no? Does the husband need the wife’s consent to have Intercourse?

If there is no consent, and the wife doesn’t want to, and he forces himself over her, isn’t that rape?

ANSWER

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

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An Important Clarification

In light of recent attempts by some to sensationalise my views by taking them out of their intended context and accusing me of “legitimising and vindicating rape within marriage,” I would like to categorically express that the answer below does not, in any way, call for rape within marriage. In fact, it clearly delegitimises rape stating: “… the above does not in any way mean that the husband may force himself over her for sexual gratification…” and “he [the husband] must restrain himself from forcing himself over her”. The answer below merely discusses the religious and Islamic obligation of a wife to fulfill the sexual needs of her husband and not use sex as a weapon against him. The ruling also applies to the husband, in that he has a religious obligation to fulfill the sexual needs of his wife and not deprive her of this right. Refusing sex without a genuine reason (or permission) and using it as a weapon against one’s husband or wife constitutes a sin in the eyes of God (i.e. in the next life), but does not legitimize rape or forced sex in this life.

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Sayyiduna Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “When a man calls his wife for sexual intimacy and she refuses him, thus he spends the night in anger, the angels curse her until morning.” (Sahih al-Bukhari & Sahih Muslim, See: Riyad al-Salihin, no. 281)

Sayyiduna Talq ibn Ali (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “When a man calls his wife for sexual intimacy, she should come, even if she is (busy) in the cooking area.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi & Sunan al-Nasa’i)

Sayyiduna Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “By the one in whose hands is my life, there is not a man who calls his wife for sexual intimacy and she refuses him except that Allah becomes angry with her until her husband is pleased with her.” (Sahih Muslim, No. 1436)

The above and other narrations of the beloved of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) clearly signify the importance of the wife obeying her husband in his request for sexual intimacy. It will be a grave sin (in normal circumstances) for the wife to refuse her husband, and even more, if this leads the husband into the unlawful.

Imam al-Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) states in his commentary on the Hadith of Abu Huraira stated above:

“This Hadith indicates that it is unlawful (haram) for the wife to refuse her husband for sexual intimacy without a valid reason. Menstruation will not be considered a valid reason, for the husband has a right to enjoy her from above the garment (on top of cloths).” (Sharh Sahih Muslim, P. 1084)

However, the above does not in any way mean that the husband may force himself over her for sexual gratification. The Hadith mentions “the husband spends the night in anger or being displeased” which clearly shows that he must restrain himself from forcing himself over her. Had this not been the case, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) would have advised the husband to gain his right in a forceful manner.
Similarly, it should be remembered here that, the wife must obey her husband in his request for sexual intimacy unless she has a valid reason. She must obey his as long as she does not have to forego her own rights. As such, if the wife is ill, fears physical harm or she is emotionally drained, etc; she will not be obliged to comply with her husband’s request for sexual intimacy. Rather, the husband would be required to show her consideration.

Allah Most High says:

“On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear.” (Surah al-Baqarah, 286)

Many times it is observed that the husband demands from his wife to fulfil his sexual needs no matter what state she is in, and uses the above quoted Hadiths to impose himself over her. If the wife is not in a state to engage in sexual activities and has a genuine and valid reason, and the husband forces her, then he will be sinful. Muslim husbands should realize that their wives are also humans and not some type of machines that can be switched on whenever they desire!

Finally, these matters should be resolved with mutual understanding, regard for one another, love, gentleness and putting one’s spouse before one’s self. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) has reported to have said: “None of you can be a true believer until he loves for his brother/sister what he loves for himself.” The importance of this is even greater in a marital relationship.

And Allah Knows Best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK

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