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In a Sexless Marriage

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by Mathabah.org
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Answered by Shaykh Yūsuf Badāt

Question:

If a husband and wife have not consummated their marriage (the actual act of intercourse), but engage in other intimate acts with each other, is their marriage invalid? Is there a time limit after marriage for a husband and wife to consummate their marriage through sexual intercourse? If 3 years pass by, does this mean they are not married anymore and should seek divorce, or re-marry each other again?

Answer:

In the Name of God, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate

May God bless all married couples with happiness, peace and success.

A marriage is still valid if sexual intercourse is not taking place.

In Islam, consummation of marriage occurs when the couple spend some time in seclusion after the marriage ceremony (nikāḥ). Intercourse is not necessary for consummation of marriage in Islam. (See: Fiqh al Islāmīy wa Adillatuhū and other famous manuals of fiqh)

If both partners have agreed to not engage in sexual intercourse, then there is no issue. The marriage is in tact. If however, either the husband or the wife is demanding sexual intimacy, and a spouse is not making themselves available for this, then the other partner has a right to initiate a divorce and or end the marriage.

Each partner has the right to enjoy sexual intimacy. It is wājib (necessary) upon the partner to fulfill this right whenever the partner desires, especially if there is no genuine excuse (such as absence due to travel, sickness or injury). One has the right to separate and divorce if sexual intercourse does not take place at least once in four to six months”. (See: Fiqh Al Ḥalāl Wal Ḥarām by Shaykh Khālid Saifullāh Al Raḥmānī)

There is a famous incident during the reign of ‘Omar ibn al Khaṭṭāb (may God be pleased with him) that Ka’ab (may God be pleased with him) instructed a husband to have intercourse with his wife every four days. (See: Al-Awsaṭ, Ṭabaqāt Ibn Saʾad, Maʾārifat  Al-Ṣaḥābah Li-Abī Nuʿaym)

And Allāh Knows Best

This answer was collected from Mathabah.org. It’s an Islamic educational institute based in Canada. The questions are generally answered by Sheikh Yusuf Badat and Sheikh Omar Subedar.

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