Imam al-Ghazali (d. 505) mentions in his famous work The Revival of the Religious Sciences that scholars have mentioned many blessings of intimacy, such as protecting one’s chastity and increasing one’s progeny. But he also mentions a blessing that might surprise many Muslims. One of the blessings of intimacy that our scholars have mentioned, al-Ghazali says, is to experience some of the pleasures of the afterlife. He continues:
“And I swear, what they have said is absolutely true! For indeed, in this pleasure [of sex] – a pleasure that cannot be compared to any other pleasure if only it were to persist, it would indeed be a sign or signal for those pleasures of the next life that have been promised to us. To entice someone regarding a pleasure that he has never experienced is of no use! If an impotent man were to be enticed with sex, or a young child with power, there would be no temptation. Therefore, one of the blessings of the sexual experience and pleasure in this world is the hope of its perpetual existence in the next, so that this can be used as a motivation for the worship of Allah. Marvel, therefore, at the wisdom of Allah, and His Mercy, for look at how He has placed in one desire two lives: an external life, and an internal life. So the external life is the preservation of a man through his progeny and children. And the internal life is the life of the next world. For the pleasure of sex is diminished in this world because it must remain temporary, and is swiftly terminated, but by experiencing it, one’s desire to have such a pleasure remain everlasting becomes firm, and this encourages one to persist in deeds of worship that would allow him to experience such pleasures.”
An amazing quote from an amazing scholar! In the next section, I have yet another interesting example.
A Teacher Teaches His Students…
It is very difficult to improve one’s conjugal experiences without reading up or otherwise learning about better techniques. Yet, at the same time, not only is this highly uncomfortable for many Muslims (for we are encouraged to be shy and modest), there is the added problem that most if not all such material present in our times would contain pornographic images and graphic text, and thus be out of our (halal) reach.
When we turn to our own classical works, we find that sexual conduct has been mentioned in numerous books. Every single work of fiqh has chapters related to sex. Every explanation of hadith, every tafsir of the Qur’aan, must by its very nature deal with matters pertaining to sexuality. Additionally, throughout our own fourteen centuries of tradition and history, there have been many books written to help couples find more meaningful relationships and increase sexual pleasure within marriage. These works are many times quite explicit, but hardly ever crude or vulgar. And I believe that we can learn much from their language and style.
One of the more interesting examples of this is one that the famous Imam al-Qurtubi (d. 671 AH) mentions in his Tafsir. In reference to the verse of women being one’s ‘…cultivation’, [al-Baqara; 223] he mentions that the Maliki jurist Ibn al-Arabi (d. 543) narrates that his own teacher, who was the most respected and esteemed scholar of Andalus of his era, went into some detail describing the female organ to his students, so that they would be better aware of what to do and not to do. Says the teacher to his presumably unmarried male student body, “And the closest image that I can give to you of the female organ is [the number] thirty-five…” so saying, he holds his finger and thumb together, and sticks out the other three fingers above it. “Now” he continues, “…the zero (meaning the place between the finger and thumb) is the actual vagina, and this is where the male organ goes. My finger above it is where the urethra is – this is where the female urinates from, and this is a different place than the actual vagina…”
One can only imagine how eagerly these young men must have been paying attention to their teacher’s fingers and ‘schematic diagram’ that he attempted to demonstrate!
What is of interest to us here is the fact that great scholars like al-Qurtubi and Ibn al-Arabi saw no problem in relaying these experiences in their standard and famous works (on Tafsir no less!). The lesson that we learn from this is that basic human anatomy is a necessary requirement for understanding such issues, and as long as permissible means are used to convey the information, there is nothing wrong with studying such information!