In order to maintain a high level of sexual desire for each other and keep the passion and spark alive in their physical relationship, is it permitted for a married couple to mutually agree on seeing each other occasionally? Will it be permissible for spouses, for example, to sleep separately and only be together every so often?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
There seems no prohibition in both spouses mutually agreeing to see each other occasionally in order to maintain a high level of sexual desire and passion for one another.
Both spouses, however, must be careful of not neglecting each other’s marital and sexual rights. Islam lays a great deal of emphasis on the sexual rights of both spouses, and as such, fulfilling this right is considered to be one of the objectives of sexual relations and of marriage itself. Each spouse is religiously obligated to fulfil the sexual needs of the other in a way that they are able to live a life of chastity and refrain from unlawful activities such as fornication, masturbation, looking at the unlawful and thinking of the unlawful.
The renowned Hanafi jurist, Imam Ibn Abidin (may Allah have mercy on him) states:
“Among the consequences of marriage is the permissibility of each spouse deriving sexual pleasure from the other.” (Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar 3/4)
This “deriving of sexual pleasure” is the right of both the husband and wife. The husband has a right that his wife has sex with him when he so desires, and it is the wife’s religious duty to make herself available to him for the fulfilment of his sexual needs. Failing to do so, without a valid excuse, will result in a major sin on the wife’s part. This has been emphasized in many Hadiths, for example:
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “When a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses, and then he sleeps angry, the angels curse her until morning.” (Sahih al-Bukhari no: 3065 & Sahih Muslim no: 1436)
Likewise, it is the marital right of the wife that her husband has sex with her enough to maintain her chastity such that she does not fall into committing something unlawful. When she requests that her sexual needs are fulfilled, the husband will be religiously obligated to fulfil them. It is a sin on the husband’s part to deprive his wife of this right without any valid reason or permission. (See: Bada’i al-Sana’i 2/331)
However, if both spouses agree to spend time apart from one another or sleep separately and be together occasionally in order that they maintain their passion for one another and the spark and excitement in their sexual relations, then there seems no reason why this would not be permitted, provided it is mutually agreed.
In fact, the renowned scholar of Hadith and Hanbali jurist, Imam Abu’l Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (may Allah have mercy on him) suggests that it may be healthy for the marriage if both spouses slept separately and only united when they were fully prepared for intimacy.
He states in his work, Sayd al-Khatir:
“A woman should not be intimate [sexually] with her husband too often since he may become bored, and she should not become too distant from him [also] since he may forget her.” (Sayd al-Khatir, p: 605)
He further states:
“The wife should have her own bed (firash) and the husband should have his own bed. They should not engage in intimacy except in a state of [physical] perfection.” (Sayd al-Khatir, p: 606)
What Imam al-Jawzi (may Allah have mercy on him) is implying here is that both spouses should avoid being intimate with one another when they are physically in an undesirable state such as them being in their filthy work-clothes. This can be a “turn off” for one’s spouse and thus result in detrimental consequences.
As such, he states in another place in the same book that couples should fix a certain time of the day or night for sexual relations in order that both spouses are prepared physically and psychologically. Not only will this increase and enhance their pleasure, it will also eliminate the possibility of any one of them being in an undesirable or unprepared state of the mind or body. (Sayd al-Khatir P: 280)
In conclusion, it is permitted for a married couple to see each other occasionally due to the reason outlined in the question, provided this is mutually agreed and the rights of one’s spouse are not violated.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK