clothes and sex
January 17, 2006 6:01 PM   Subscribe

A curious religious debate is raging in Egypt The question is: should you keep your clothes on when having sex?
posted by halekon (74 comments total)

posted by a3matrix at 6:15 PM on January 17, 2006

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. Same wording, even.
posted by interrobang at 6:16 PM on January 17, 2006

When religious scholars are making comments like:

... warned that being completely naked during intercourse invalidates a marriage.


Another religious scholar suggested it was OK for married couples to see each other naked as long as they don't look at the genitals. To avoid problems in that area, he recommended having sex under a blanket. should be a pretty clear sign to people that maybe, just maybe, this religion thing is a little bit out of control.

(As if all the other obvious signs we've been getting for hundreds of years haven't been enough.)
posted by LooseFilter at 6:18 PM on January 17, 2006

Yeah, I personally dont much mind cross posts since I don't read fark or boingboing all that much, but the same wording even? That's a bit lame.

That aside, the article is interesting at least. Shame you didn't come across other pieces of info on this, but that's likely because you just directly reposted from fark.

Sorry for the attitude, the direct copy from fark just got to me.
posted by Stunt at 6:19 PM on January 17, 2006

Yes, this newsfilter crap tends to drown out the good stuff, yes?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:20 PM on January 17, 2006

flagged. moving on.
posted by Justinian at 6:26 PM on January 17, 2006

Is Fark closed to new members now? Is that what is happening here?
posted by LarryC at 6:27 PM on January 17, 2006

Oh for crying out loud, it's the same wording because it's the first paragraph of the article, not because it was blindly coped from Fark. Using the beginning of the article is - while admittedly a little weak - hardly unusual, around here or anywhere else.

I thought the discussion of how Islamic scholars approach sex and sex advice was interesting. I also just read about how Christian philosophers a century or so ago were so against Nakedness that not only were there these kinds of debates, but bathing more than absolutely necessary was frowned upon since you generally need to be naked to do it. Lest anyone think this is about Islam rather than Fundamentalism.
posted by freebird at 6:30 PM on January 17, 2006

How is the whole idea of regulating sexual practices any different from Orthodox Judaism, for example?
posted by gaspode at 6:35 PM on January 17, 2006

interrobang: "JESUS FUCKING CHRIST."

posted by Plutor at 6:36 PM on January 17, 2006

Reading this reminded me of that coalition of Christian nuts and Jewish nuts that formed in Jerusalem a few years ago to protest some gay parade.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:37 PM on January 17, 2006

Seems like most of these scholars take the same position (npi) as Orthodox Jews on these matters (at least, the folks not yet enlightened by Shmuley Boteach). You'll find pretty much the same thing in the Shulkhan Arukh, the normative code of behaviour for Orthodox Jews, i.e. do itu nder the blanket, don't look at the genitals, no oral sex, masturbation is horrible. Nothing new here.
posted by greatgefilte at 6:40 PM on January 17, 2006

Or, what gaspode said.
posted by greatgefilte at 6:41 PM on January 17, 2006

Yeah, you're right freebird. I had somehow not caught that (mostly because I don't think I would have even known about the fark thing without interrobang, and by the time I saw that I had already read the article).

In the event that it wasn't just seen at fark and ripped from there, my apologies. Like I said, still an interesting article.
posted by Stunt at 6:48 PM on January 17, 2006

Does a cock ring count as clothing?
posted by mullingitover at 6:50 PM on January 17, 2006

How is the whole idea of regulating sexual practices any different from Orthodox Judaism, for example?

As greatgefilte points out, it's not. I would note, however, that even among Orthodox Jews and strict Muslims (and Protestant and Orthodox Christianities, and in Buddhism and in Hinduism), the sliding scale of sexual repression mandated by religious law is very wide. I'd be pretty willing to bet that the vast majority of Orthodox Jewish and observant Muslim couples have naked sex, and even irreverent sex, potentially ass slapping sex with genitals in full view.

And just to head it off, the hole in the sheet thing is a bunch of bullshit.
posted by kosem at 6:55 PM on January 17, 2006

/* masturbates furiously with his clothes on */
posted by furtive at 6:56 PM on January 17, 2006

Socks count, you know.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:08 PM on January 17, 2006

And just to head it off, the hole in the sheet thing is a bunch of bullshit.

Too bad, it's a good way to deal with lube stains.
posted by Rothko at 7:12 PM on January 17, 2006

"what are those stains on your Ihram attire?"
posted by j-urb at 7:12 PM on January 17, 2006

anything that keeps religious wackos from breeding is ok with me.
posted by mcsweetie at 7:14 PM on January 17, 2006

Socks count, you know.

Totally. I think these do too.

Too bad, it's a good way to deal with lube stains.


[Seems to me, more sheets, more lubestains. But IANALSE.]
posted by kosem at 7:18 PM on January 17, 2006

In case you think this is a purely Egyptian concern: Fully Clothed Sex. (NSFW once you click the "enter" link, in case that wasn't clear.)
posted by alms at 7:19 PM on January 17, 2006

It's pretty clear to me that when the scriptural debate descends to this level of pathology, there is only one possible interpretation: GOD WANTS YOU TO STOP HAVING SEX.

It worked for the Shakers - otherwise we'd've been overrun by austere hand-crafted chairs and bent-wood boxes by now.
posted by Triode at 7:20 PM on January 17, 2006

A curious religious debate is raging in America
The question is: should women wear pants?

A curious religious debate is raging on
The question is: is george bush a good president?

A curious religious debate is raging in history
The question is: did the holocaust happen?
posted by fuq at 7:20 PM on January 17, 2006

Clearly, talking about what Allah does or does not like goes against the sanctimonious prerogative of the Almighty: woe betide those who imagine the Creator of the Universe cannot speak for Himself!
posted by davy at 7:22 PM on January 17, 2006

If God/Allah/Yahweh/whatever had wanted us to fuck naked, he'd have made us that way ...

posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:25 PM on January 17, 2006

Does a cock ring count as clothing?

If made of leather or fabric, yes; if it's rubber or metal, no.

That will be 50 cents, please.
posted by davy at 7:27 PM on January 17, 2006

Those poor people.
posted by nickerbocker at 7:47 PM on January 17, 2006

I declare a fatwa on this post and ones like it. There, go ahead and piss off god. See if I care.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:48 PM on January 17, 2006

I recently returned from Syria after spending a couple of years studying Hanafi jurisprudence, and I doubt this debate is as pervasive as the article indicates.
From the texts I've read, the Hanafi opinion seems clear, husband and wife are permitted to see any part of the other's body.

Whether this issue is more in contention amongst scholars of the Shaffi school (which is likely what the article is considering since this it refers to Egypt), I'm not sure. It is still odd, as issues such as this have usually long been settled centuries ago through the process of tarjeeh (whereby another scholar, usually highly regarded, think Ghazali or Nawawi, reviews all the varied opinions on a topic within his school of thought , picks apart the inconsistencies and lapses in logic of each of the opinions and finally gives HIS opinion(fatwa) on which is the strongest).

I guess many people commenting here are unclear on how Islamic fiqh and its associated fatwas evolve, so they might be tempted to conclude that staying clothed during intercourse is a mandatory part of Islam. Keep in mind that, a random cleric's edict is not binding and more often than not, there are numerous contradictory opinions. Especially when it comes to extremely minor issues such as these.

One last note, the article's references to bin Baz are references to salafi/wahabbi ideology which don't even warrant a response.
posted by mulligan at 7:50 PM on January 17, 2006

this fark, it vibrates?

i think i'll take a mulligan on this one...
posted by slogger at 7:57 PM on January 17, 2006

Soemone has credentials
posted by Suparnova at 7:57 PM on January 17, 2006

Oh and another thing "waste of seminal fluid" ???
It is pretty well accepted that contraception, such as with a condom, is fully allowed.
The technique earlier Muslims used and that described in hadith is 'azl whereby ejaculation is done outside of the vagina.

If that was an opinion giving on some online fatwa site, it seems to be poorly researched.
posted by mulligan at 7:58 PM on January 17, 2006

favorite quote:

"But if sucking leads to releasing semen, then it is makruh (blameworthy), but there is no decisive evidence (to forbid it) ... especially if the wife agrees with it or achieves orgasm by practising it."

It's damned from the start.
posted by pmbuko at 7:59 PM on January 17, 2006

it is good to see that people are a spending their precious few minutes, hours, days, and years on such important questions.
posted by nola at 8:11 PM on January 17, 2006

Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated Mormons do it. Apparently the LDS members who make it to Heaven will be able to identify their spouses by the cut of their cloth... (Sorry still can't embed HTML). No need to see them Naked in Paradise. Not sure whether they wear it , you know, when they do IT. So basically they're saying what your mom always said - you need clean underwear to get into heaven.

Ritual clothing is a really big deal in most religions and faith based organizations. Masons, Mullahs, Priests and Rabbis all wear special duds. The extension to the parishoners or members of the religion would seem a logical conclusion to those who are so infatuated with their own robes. I just don't get the expansion into the bedroom...

posted by Gungho at 8:11 PM on January 17, 2006

From the article: Unlike Christianity, which tends to be squeamish about sex, Islam has a long tradition of talking about it openly.

Really? Buddhism, yes, but Islam? Can anyone confirm this?
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:19 PM on January 17, 2006


The general opinion is that having intercourse (with your spouse) is encouraged and rewarded as a good deed.
posted by mulligan at 8:46 PM on January 17, 2006

I try to have respect for other's customs and beliefs, but stuff like this is just absurd. Anyone who participates in this "debate" is, simply put, a fool.

I assume somewhere some Imam is trying to decipher whether Allah prefers pen or pencil, or if the Almighty prefers Dvorak to QWERTY.

I have a feeling how the PC vs MAC fatwa will go.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:59 PM on January 17, 2006

anything that keeps religious wackos from breeding is ok with me.
posted by mcsweetie at 7:14 PM PST on January 17 [!]

But how do you stop the whole state of Texas from making whopee?
posted by AspectRatio at 9:04 PM on January 17, 2006

I was pretty disgusted that the article didn't mention the obvious line from the Holy Qu'ran:
"Your wives are your tillage. Go into your tillage any way you want."
Seems pretty unequivocal to me, and to this guy:
I think that means the Hershey Highway is OK with God. If you were so inclined, you could probably get away with the Dirty Sanchez and the Dutch Oven, too.
posted by Aknaton at 9:08 PM on January 17, 2006

Ynoxas, I agree with your sentiment, to a degree.

Islamically, if the Quran and Hadith make no indication regarding the permissibility of something, then by default it is considered mubah[permissible] and there is no preference one way or the other. For instance pen or paper.

The problems comes when you have some poorly trained or foolish imam who makes some weak fatwa on something mubah. Unless the more reasonable clerics make it clear that this guy is making baseless or weak claims, then there is the risk that less educated or sensible people will buy into his reasoning. So, at some point, even reasonable people end up engaging in this debate, even if the issue itself is too minute for sensible people.

To take your example, when some imam starts claiming that pencils kill trees and that we only use pens, someone needs to speak up and say, no, pens and pencils are both acceptable writing tools.
posted by mulligan at 9:08 PM on January 17, 2006

And yes... making whoopee.
posted by AspectRatio at 9:08 PM on January 17, 2006

err "for instance pens or pencils"
posted by mulligan at 9:09 PM on January 17, 2006

I like to wear a bra and stocking during lovemaking.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:23 PM on January 17, 2006


Indeed a fatwa is a scholar's opinion and not binding. So really one should discount this as representing a fringe and not mainstream legal opinion. The problem as the article and you point out is that too many people (who aren't scholars) feel themselves qualified to issue fatwa and they don't reason it out in the proper way (i.e. full ijtihad).

I, too, also do wonder why don't we hear from the reasonable scholars who COULD reason it out the proper way and reach a reasonable result. Actually, maybe they are there but the foreign press writing in English focus on loony opinions like this guy? Or is conservatism so rampant that they're afraid to be reasonable because that seems too liberal?
posted by enakaja at 9:32 PM on January 17, 2006

Tilling the butt is good.
posted by exlotuseater at 9:34 PM on January 17, 2006

Yeah, but gas or electric?
posted by trondant at 10:01 PM on January 17, 2006

Another religious scholar suggested it was OK for married couples to see each other naked as long as they don't look at the genitals.


Add handcuffs to tast.
posted by spazzm at 10:23 PM on January 17, 2006

Add handcuffs to taste.
posted by spazzm at 10:24 PM on January 17, 2006


Although I doubt I will be able to give complete answers to your questions, I can try to provide you with my personal views on the topic.
If you'll allow me to answer them out of order:

As can be expected, the press, foreign or otherwise, will rarely write an article to the effect "Local imam gives opinion in line with centuries of teaching". Over the centuries of fiqh's evolution, most things have been settled. Not definitively of course, but valid opinions have been accepted and weak opinions have been rejected. (when it comes to fiqh, tons of opinions have been given but there is/was a `darwinian` survival of the fittest process that weeded out the weak opinions) As such, whenever a fatwa is newsworthy, it is either one concerning a new topic such as abortion or human cloning, or a inane fatwa someone is peddling. The more newsworthy it is, the more likely the foreign press will pick it up. So even if there is no intended malice or bias, the wacky fatwas are much more likely to get picked up.

Traditionally, I've not come across the dividing particular opinions along the lines of "conservative" versus "liberal."
These issues tend to be divided between "the exaggeratedly proper" versus the reasonable and accurate. Traditional Islamic fiqh rules are supposed to be reasonable and accurate. The wahabbi sensibilities lean towards this rigid and exaggerated propriety, which is why so many people (and rightly so) avoid the senseless ideology. Unlike the gulf, Egypt is not as overtaken by the wahabbi ideology, to a large extent because of the school of al-Azhar's presence in Cairo. So, whereas the wahhabis are able to drown out orthodox/traditional islamic scholars in place like saudi, i see no reason (other than the egyptian government is one reason) why a scholar would be afraid to state his views.

I think most of the reasonable scholars are not the kind who like to make lots of noise or engage in futile debates over already settled upon fiqh. When weird opinions start getting passed around, they most likely respond to direct questions concerning the matter. If it starts to become widespread, they would mention it in their friday khutba. So while regular muslims will eventually become informed on the topic, rarely is this sort of thing met with any fanfare or vocal rejection. Part of that is because the imams are aware of the reasoning, to them "it is clearly mention in so-and-so's supercommentary on so-and-so's commentary on text R" Students and interested people can ask and get shown precisely what the reasoning is, but few amongst the general populace bother to.

On a larger scale, one of the big failings of the scholars this century has been their failure to address the greater muslim community when it comes to these kinds of corrupting ideologies (such as wahhabism). While they thoroughly refuted the teachings coming out of Saudi in many books, their effect was limited to specific regions. With it's oil wealth, Saudi was able to build mosques in wartorn or severely underdeveloped regions (algeria, albania, etc) and stipulate that the Imam be a saudi imam. Taking advantage of the general ignorance of the population, they succeeded in convincing large numbers of people to buy into their faulty ideology.
posted by mulligan at 10:25 PM on January 17, 2006

mulligan: yes, but the same is true of Christianity. Marriage is considered one of the seven sacraments, for example. That doesn't mean that Christianity has always encouraged "talking about [sex] openly." Is there a historical Islamic literature or cultural tradition of talking about sex openly?
posted by Slithy_Tove at 10:28 PM on January 17, 2006


Oh i see, yeah, it is probably a misstatement to claim that sex is talked about openly. While it is viewed positively and encouraged, it is still very much a private matter and not generally discussed.
posted by mulligan at 10:33 PM on January 17, 2006

but if we are specifically discussing issues of jurisprudence, the rule of thumb is "there is no shyness in fiqh" meaning people should not feel uncomfortable about asking a fiqh question. that includes questions regarding sex
posted by mulligan at 10:41 PM on January 17, 2006

If anything, this article minimizes the amount of frank sex talk which is considered perfectly normal in mainstream Islamic cultures.

Of course, the subjects of this talk are limited proscribed to married Islamic couples. There's also a certain way to talk about it, which is hard to explain, but the basic premise is, as long as you can in some tangiental way relate it back to the Quran, it's OK.

those of you who have never experienced Islamic societies would be shocked by the dirty minds and free expression of some of those veiled women!
posted by cell divide at 11:33 PM on January 17, 2006

But how do you stop the whole state of Texas from making whopee?

Have your mom leave Houston.
posted by melt away at 3:26 AM on January 18, 2006

(Sorry but if someone can make a lame Texas joke I can make a lame "your mom" joke)
posted by melt away at 3:28 AM on January 18, 2006

While Catholic priests are enjoined to remain celibate, Muslim clerics are expected to marry and indulge heartily with their wives in the pleasures of the flesh.

And in that the reason of the demise of anything Catholic, an irrational fear of sex.

On a tangent: notice how strikingly similar are the advices of the sef-proclaimed Quran thumping clerics to the integralist christian/catholics/evangelwhatever western God lovin Bible thumping clerics.

Except they hate each other. Now I see one more reason for a strict separation of Church(es) and State..but it really should be in the hearths and minds of people that clerics are mostly insane and ignorant.
posted by elpapacito at 4:43 AM on January 18, 2006

Marriage is considered one of the seven sacraments, for example.

Only for the Catholics, and the Catholics have a long history of considering marriage pretty dirty, and only a distant second best to celibacy. Medieval (Catholic) marriages were performed on the church porch, not in front of the altar, for this very reason.

Marriage is absolutely not a sacrament in any of the Protestant churches.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:21 AM on January 18, 2006

Note: This is not a news article, it's an opinion piece, and a Farkish one at that. I'm surprised at Brian Whitaker, who runs the al-Bab website and knows a great deal about the Middle East. But for whatever reason, he's sat around reading Muslim sites looking for the goofiest fatwas and opinions he can find so he can present yet another in the endless series of "look how evil/weird/quaint/exotic those wacky Muslims are!" pieces that have been eroding our collective intelligence for years. Note the deep understanding exhibited here:

Sunni clerics, especially those influenced by Saudi Wahhabism, like to assert their authority by forbidding anything that might be remotely pleasurable.

Of course, it's entirely possible he wrote a more thoughtful and interesting piece which was then butchered by Grauniad editors. Anyway, please don't base your understanding of Islamic attitudes towards sex on it; there's better information right here in this MeFi thread, thanks to well-informed members.
posted by languagehat at 6:02 AM on January 18, 2006

This seems appropos.
posted by greatgefilte at 6:29 AM on January 18, 2006


I get your point. I find it ironic (and tragic, perhaps), that the same "legal liberalism" that said anyone (not just the classically trained ulama) could interpret the Quran & Hadith and thus wrested Islamic law from the monopoly of the imams also led to Wahhabism and loony fatwas from poser scholars.

I also think you're spot on: the connection between Saudi oil wealth and the spread of fundamentalism (and silencing of reasonable, mainstream Islam) is key. Money talks, and if reasonable imams aren't getting the same financial support as the Wahhabi ones then their voices are marginalized and the Wahhabi voices are the ones people mainly hear.

Just like how the vast right-wing conspiracy operates in the U.S., in fact, now that I think about it. Huh.
posted by enakaja at 6:38 AM on January 18, 2006

I'd just like to pop up and say thanks to mulligan for the informed opinion.
posted by longbaugh at 7:48 AM on January 18, 2006

I don't think anyone who is familiar with some of the fatwa that have been coming out of al Azhar over the last few decades would be surprised at yet another weird one. Bit of a shame as there's still some excellent teachers and good learning to be done there, statements like this just knock it down in the estimation of prospective students.

The methodology of al Azhar and alumni such as Sh Qaradawi can be funny at times too, so it's tough to see where they come from sometimes. Qaradawi has a tendency of taking dispensations from the Maliki school and selecting these as the best view for the awwam. Which is a bit strange.

mulligan - I would like to disagree with your assertion that if something is not covered in Qu'ran or sunnah, it is considered mubah. The classification of a topic that isn't covered depends entirely on what usul one choose to employ and whether one is considering matters of mu'amalat or ibadat.

I'm also curious as to the position of Hanafi fiqh on the topic - I was under the impression it was makruh tanzihan to be naked, even when alone (durr al mukhtar - save when required)?

I don't think the positions on oral/anal sex are particularly out of line with traditional positions though. Some of the other things are a bit strange though, it must be said.
posted by Mossy at 8:19 AM on January 18, 2006

I like to have sex whilst butt ass naked.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 8:49 AM on January 18, 2006

If you were so inclined, you could probably get away with the Dirty Sanchez and the Dutch Oven, too.

Dutch Oven?
posted by brain_drain at 10:20 AM on January 18, 2006

Don't ask.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:41 AM on January 18, 2006

I like to have sex whilst butt ass naked.

In the desert your ass would soon fill with sand.
posted by semmi at 2:02 PM on January 18, 2006

How can I know what felching is, but not know what Dutch Oven is? Quick, someone explain!
posted by nlindstrom at 3:23 PM on January 18, 2006

So, Astro Zombie, why only one stocking?
posted by RedEmma at 4:12 PM on January 18, 2006

Mossy said:- I would like to disagree with your assertion that if something is not covered in Qu'ran or sunnah, it is considered mubah.

Just to clarify, that is why I used the word "indicated"
Obviously, Usul will catch things inferable but not directly referenced in the Quran and Hadith. I apologize for not stating that clearer.

Hmm, I don't have a copy of darr al-mukhtar but I do not recall either al-Ikhtiar or Multaqat al-Abhur making mentioned of that. If you find it in Rad al-Muhtar or something, i would appreciate a heads up. thanks
posted by mulligan at 6:14 PM on January 18, 2006

Dutch Oven?
posted by brain_drain at 12:20 PM CST on January 18

Dutch Oven

posted by Ynoxas at 8:36 PM on January 18, 2006

Radd can be found here: Useful site, in spite of its leanings ;)

Re: indication - one could say that the Qu'ran and hadith have something to say about pretty much everything in life ;)

I made the point as different schools have different predicates that they work from: it's not a blanket "halal until proven haram" - in a number of schools for example, the basis in ibadah (matters of worship) is haram until proven halal. Proven meaning within the usul you are using of course.

It's interesting looking at the effect of usul (axiomatic basis for jusrisprudence) in the development of contemporary fiqh (understanding). Sadd ad-dhara'i (blocking of the means) is the most pertinent of these principles methinks. A lot of the Saudi clerics in particular apply this principle, which - ie if you keep the women on the inside, clearly they won't get out and cause trouble, tempting as they are. Subcontinental Hanafis like to use it too..
posted by Mossy at 3:20 AM on January 19, 2006

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