Is my husband a rapist?

By :  Hafsat A and Khadijah E

A sister came to me recently and confided in me on what she should do because her husband forces himself on her whenever she refuses to have sex with him. My thought was “is this force or rape”? Why did she allow herself  go through this scenario on multiple occasions and why she did not speak out?

Rape is an abuse, a violation of power. When you rape someone you take something not given to you. Marital rape is therefore a non-consensual penetration perpetrated against a spouse. It is a chronic case of forced sex which happens very often.  Although it is much more common to women, it’s not exclusive to them. I would thereon concentrate on marital rape as it relates to women.

Spousal rape is largely under-reported, under-prosecuted, and not prohibited by law in many countries (like In India and even Nigeria) due in part to the belief that through marriage, a woman gives irrevocable consent for her husband to have sex with her when he wishes.

Sex with your spouse is a crucial aspect of marriage and should willingly be consented to however,  it should not be taken by force. It is widely believed that consent for sex is given once you marry, however over the years, sexual intercourse is no longer based on contract, ie marriage rights but consent and we have come to understand that consent is not implied but explicit.

The Quran and hadiths of the Prophet (saw) speak of the honour, protection of women and the beauty of marriage as an essential aspect of our deen, the relationship between a husband and his wife is based on love and care.

Allah says in Suratun Nisa 4:19 –

“Live with them honourably”

It is clear that any form of sexual abuse depletes the victim of her honor and integrity.

The Prophet (saw) said:

“The most complete of the believers in faith are those with the best character, and the best of you are the best in behaviour to their women” – Sunan Al-Tirmidhi 1162.

“Do not cause harm or return harm” – Sunan Ibn Majah 2340.

“Only a noble man treats women in an honourable manner and only an ignoble man of low character treats women disgracefully.”

Why are women going through such trauma and undignifying act and the answer lies within our community?  In our society, culture and yes in our places of worship, submission of wives to husbands cannot be overemphasized. This is very true,  however, Allah says:

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought} (Ar-Rum 30:21).

From the above verse,  it is clear that the relationship between spouses should be cordial, affectionate and merciful.  Our wives are individuals and not mere dolls, have feeling and go through pain. It is only reasonable that a good husband is considerate of his wife.  She may be going through a very tedious moment, depressed or filled with sadness.Her consent to sex should be sought for that special moment to be memorable, unforgettable instead of riding her as if she were an animal.  

The Prophet SAW also said:

“Not one of you should fall upon his wife like an animal; but let there first be a messenger between you.” “And what is that messenger?” they asked, and he replied: “Kisses and words.”

What is the use of bedding a woman who is obviously not responsive, sad and probably shedding tears.. For most women, sex is more of an emotional act than a physical act. Most experts agree that the greatest need of most men is respect,  while that of women is love. Neither of these two qualities (respect and love) is merely got but earned, it means we have to work to achieve it. A man needs to show his wife love and mercy as Allah has decreed between them and the wife too must be respectful in return.

“Women shall have rights similar to the rights upon them; according to what is equitable and just; and men have a degree of advantage over them.” (Quran, 2:216)

Yes, husbands have rights over their wives, he has the right to make love to his wife be intimate with her, but his right does not and should not negate her right as his wife. Although the above verse was revealed in relation to women’s right to divorce,  it also makes a general sense. A woman’s rights against any form of emotional or mental abuse should be upheld. When a woman is unhappy, financially or physically abused and forced to submit her body for her husband’s sexual gratification, she becomes mentally abused as well.

According to all four orthodox jurists, it is necessary that a husband keeps his wife happy and pleased in this respect. It is also essential for the wife to satisfy the desire of the husband. Neither should one reject the other, unless there is some lawful excuse.

“If a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses for no reason, and he spends the night angry with her, then the angels will curse her until the morning” – Sahih Bukhari 3065

I often hear this hadith quoted to cement the argument why a woman should not deny her husband sex.  

Some Muslim scholars and jurist believe marital rape is merely a term coined by the west and does not have any bearing in Islam.  Of course it is important that a woman consents to her husband’s sexual advances thereby preventing the chances of adultery and promoting a cordial relationship between them, however, If we look into this matter closely,  a happy marriage shouldn’t resort to forceful sexual gratification. Spousal rape going by all the evidence above is not tolerated in Islam and should be prohibited by law in all countries. Just like any form of abuse, spousal rape could result in a long term mental health issue.

The sister who came to me, after narrating her scenarios still insisted that her husband forced himself on her but did not rape her. The truth is,  these two are largely the same. I wonder if women that are quick to dismiss marital rape but accept forced sex knows the impact of it and its precedence under Islamic law.

Forced Sex in marriage falls under the Islamic law of harming your wife, It is part of our right as women and wives to be free from harm from our husbands. A husband that forces his wife for sex is harming her this makes his action unlawful and becomes an issue of domestic abuse.

In conclusion, Rape is a shameful act, and its punishment in Islam is death, We may deny martial rape as a term, but the act/action cannot be ignored. Rape in its nature goes against Islamic doctrines, and marital rape goes against everything Islam proclaims what a marriage should be. It is only human nature to deny its existence or desensitised ourselves it by giving it a new name.  

“In the sexual act of each of you there is a sadaqa.” The Companions replied: “0 Messenger of God! When one of us fulfils his sexual desire, will he be given a reward for that?” And he said, “Do you not think that were he to act upon it unlawfully, he would be sinning? Likewise, if he acts upon it lawfully he will be rewarded.” (Muslim)

Almighty Allah has made sex a reward for men and women performing the duties of marriage, a prize that should be enjoyed by both parties. How can it still be rewarding if it brings about pain and sadness.

Marital Rape or Forced Sex happens, this act is not merciful, or fair, it is not done in kindness, nor is it gentle, and it is indeed not honourable. It is certain that this act should not happen within the confines of marriage.

The threat of violence or actual violence or force against your spouse is criminal. The way to protect our mothers, sisters, daughters from such trauma in their marriage is to remind our fathers, brothers and sons the principle of Islam: Do Not Harm.

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