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Laws of Religion

Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men


14.  Minor Restrictions on Sexual Acts


from the major hadith collections



Minor Restrictions on Sexual Acts

From the hadith compilations of al-Bukhari and Muslim




Restrictions on sexual intercourse other than zina (hadith)


Minor transgressions with women (hadith)



Restrictions on sexual intercourse other than zina (hadith). Muhammad cursed a man who intended to have sexual intercourse with a woman in an advanced stage of pregnancy.[1]


According to the hadiths, Muhammad intended to prohibit sexual intercourse with women who were breastfeeding their children. He changed his mind when he learned that the Greeks and Persians,[2] or the Romans and Persians,[3] do this without any harm to their children.


The Qur’an says to stay away from women during their menstrual periods. Once they have been purified, then one is to go to them as Allah has commanded.[4] However, a hadith reports that Muhammad said that the only thing that is prohibited with a menstruating woman is to have sexual intercourse.[5] (The issue of contact with menstruating women is discussed in detail in the section on Ritual Purity, here.)


Hadiths say that when the army was setting out for jihad (war in the cause of Allah) and one of the men shrieked like the bleating of a male goat (in sexual excitement) and gave a small quantity of milk (referring to semen), Muhammad said he would punish the one who did this.[6]


According to the hadiths, Muslims practiced coitus interruptus (azl) during the lifetime of Muhammad,[7] and he did not forbid it.[8] Muslim men came to Muhammad and said that they wanted to practice coitus interruptus with captured females to prevent them from getting pregnant,[9] which would reduce their value when ransomed later.[10] Muhammad advised these men against coitus interruptus for the purpose of preventing pregnancy. He said that interrupting intercourse would have no effect, since any soul will be born that Allah intends to be born.[11]


Muhammad said the same thing about coitus interruptus when asked about it concerning other men[12] including a man who practiced it because his wife was breastfeeding their child and they did not want another child.[13] He also said the same thing about a man who practiced coitus interruptus to keep his female slave from getting pregnant.[14] Muhammad said that the child does not result from the release of semen inside the woman.[15] In fact, a female slave did get pregnant even though her master interrupted his intercourse with her.[16]



Minor transgressions with women (hadith). Muhammad said that it is inevitable that people will commit adultery of the eye by looking at what is sinful to look at and adultery of the tongue by saying unlawful things. But the inevitable longing for unlawful sexual intercourse (zina*) will either be fulfilled by the private parts or successfully resisted.[17] Muhammad said that evil thoughts are forgiven by Allah as long as they are not said out loud or put into action.[18]


Hadiths say that when a man confessed to Muhammad that he had taken some liberty with a woman short of sexual intercourse,[19] touching her hand perhaps[20] or kissing her[21], Muhammad prescribed prayer. The verse of the Qur’an was revealed which says that people should establish prayer at the beginning and end of each day and also early in the evening.[22]




*Zina, unlawful sexual intercourse, includes both adultery involving a married person and sexual intercourse between two people who are not married to anyone (though sexual intercourse with one’s female slave is permitted and so is not zina.)




Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.


Updated October 12, 2016


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Abbreviations used in footnotes:

QR:   Qur’an, with surahs (chapters) and ayahs (verses) numbered as in most modern translations, including those found here, here and here.

BK:    Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.

ML:    Hadith collection of Muslim as found here and here.

DJP:  The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Limited preview is available here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2). Full text online and download for Volume 1 is here and here and for Volume 2 is here and here.

RT:    Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from various websites such as this one.

SR:    al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society. It can be downloaded here.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.

[1] ML 8:3389-3390

[2] ML 8:3392-3393, ML 8-3394

[3] ML 8:3391

[4] QR 2:222

[5] ML 3:592

[6] ML 17:4198, ML 17:4199-4200, ML 17:4202

[7] BK 7:62:135, BK 7:62:136, ML 8:3386, ML 8:3387, ML 8:3388

[8] ML 8:3383, ML 8:3388

[9] BK 3:34:432, BK 3:46:718, BK 5:59:459, BK 7:62:137, BK 8:77:600, BK 9:93:506, ML 8:3371-3372, ML 8:3373

[10] BK 3:34:432, ML 8:3371-3372

[11] BK 3:34:432, BK 3:46:718, BK 5:59:459, BK 7:62:137, BK 8:77:600, BK 9:93:506, ML 8:3371-3372, ML 8:3373

[12] ML 8:3374-3375, ML 8:3376, ML 8:3380

[13] ML 8:3377-3378-3379

[14] ML 8:3377-3378-3379, ML 8:3383, ML 8:3384-3385

[15] ML 8:3381-3382

[16] ML 8:3383, ML 8:3384-3385

[17] BK 8:74:260, BK 8:77:609

[18] BK 7:63:194

[19] ML 37:6657, ML 37:6658-6659

[20] ML 37:6656

[21] BK 1:10:504, BK 6:60:209, ML 37:6655-6656

[22] QR 11:114