This past week, Malaysia banned an Islamic sex manual put out by the controversial group Obedient Wives Club, whose statements have caused a stir. The Obedient Wives Club maintains that wives meet only 10% of their husbands’ needs and thus this manual instructs Muslim women to be subservient and obedient to their husbands sexually. Furthermore, they maintain that it is the wife’s job to prevent her husband from being adulterous by acting like a prostitute. Finally, they encourage polygamy. Although the manual does not contain any pictures, it is very descriptive. Moreover, the manual suggests that it is acceptable for polygamous men to have sex with all their wives at the same time.
The Malaysian Islamic Affairs Department decided to ban the 115-page Islamic Sex, Fighting Jews to Return Islamic Sex to the World because it could confuse readers about appropriate Islamic practices in sex. Opponents of the Obedient Wives Club assert that the manual and the group’s positions are demeaning towards women. Furthermore, they assert that it does not reflect Islam’s view of women, marriage, and sex. Anyone who is now found with the book will be fined $16,000 and could face three years in prison for copying it.
This raises the question of Islam’s position on sex. The Obedient Wives Club does not reflect Islam’s position on this subject, which is that sex is a positive thing. It is viewed as a blessing of God as long as it occurs within the confines of marriage. It is meant to further cement the bond between spouses. Even though children are considered to be a blessing from God, the purpose of sex in Islam is not limited to procreation.
The Prophet Muhammad’s life is the best example to address the claims of this group. It is clear that his relationships with his wives was based on mutual respect. He instructed men to treat their wives with kindness and asserted in a hadith:
The best of you is the one who is best to his wives, and I am the best of you toward my wives.
This hadith underscores good treatment and puts the onus of responsibility on the man. Therefore, a position like that of the Obedient Wives Club is problematic because it blames women for their husbands’ behavior and asks wives to be submissive when there is no support for that in Islam. Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad’s polygamy later in life does not mean all Muslim men should be polygamous, as I have written about in another post; each wife had her own space. In Islam, sex is considered a private affair between spouses that should not be shared with anyone outside of the marriage. Thus, the Club’s suggestion of group sex is contrary to Islam and was never a practice of the Prophet Muhammad.
Overall, Islam’s position on marriage is defined by kindness. Two verses in the Qur’an on marriage illustrates this position:
They are your garments. And ye are their garments. (Chapter 2, verse 187)
And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts); verily in that are Signs for those who reflect. (Chapter 30, verse 21)
Both these verses illustrate the Islamic position on the marital relationship that is based on reciprocity, kindness, and love. It does not emphasize the needs of one spouse over another and does not make one spouse responsible for the actions of the other. Thus, the Obedient Wives Club’s position does not reflect the Islamic attitude towards the marital relationship and I am glad that there were Muslims who recognized this and spoke out against this group and tried to set the record straight.
What do you think of the Obedient Wives Club? Is there any merit in their positions? How do other faith traditions approach the topic of sex? What was your reaction to Islam’s position on sex? Please share your comments below.