“The Prophet Muhammad is a romantic and sexual ideal for Muslims,” Muslim sex educator Angelica Lindsey-Ali recently told Vice. “If we as Muslims look at him as the ideal example of humanity, why wouldn't sex be a part of it?”
Lindsey-Ali, who goes by the name Village Auntie in her work, has been leading workshops and offering one-on-one lessons on sexual health and sexual techniques to Muslim women and couples since 2011, in addition to providing halal sex education and tutorials through social media. As Vice reports, her mission is to create safe, judgment-free spaces for Muslims to have conversations about sex and to “remind Muslim women and non-binary femmes that they have a right to pleasure—and that seeking it out is not haram (forbidden).”
The Prophet’s teachings on pleasure
Islam’s perspective on sex comes from the Qur’an and Hadith (collections of the Prophet’s words, actions, and traditions), as well as opinions from scholars. Although the Qur’an advises against sex outside of marriage, sex in general is held to be a gift from God and one of the world’s greatest pleasures. The Prophet Muhammad is described as having a voracious libido and an active sex life with many partners. Moreover, the Prophet has specifically talked about sex that’s pleasurable for both partners.
“Do not engage in sexual intercourse with your wife like hens; rather, firstly engage in foreplay with your wife and flirt with her and then make love to her,” he once said, according to one Hadith. The importance of foreplay and satisfying one’s wife is mentioned in other Hadith, as well as teachings from Muslim leaders. The word “foreplay,” or “play,” has long been used as a word to describe all sex acts other than intercourse, including kissing, breast play, oral sex, and more. These days we just call all these things sex or sexual play, because sex doesn’t have to involve or build up to P-in-V intercourse. But the specifics of the language aside though, the point is that the Prophet was clearly a big advocate for mutual sexual pleasure.
How the true Islamic teachings on sex got lost
“We know at the root of Islamic teachings the Prophet encouraged sexuality as an integrated part of spirituality and social being,” Ameera Khan, a member of Advocates for Youth’s Muslim Youth Leadership Council, tells O.school.
So why is there still so much confusion today over what Islam teaches around sexuality—and why do so many communities actively suppress it? According to Khan, much of the suppression of sexuality in some Islamic communities stems not from the Qur’an or the Prophet’s teachings, but rather from early western influence—that is, interactions with Euro-Christian cultures that viewed sex as a “sin” to be suppressed and restrictive.
“[Islam’s] seamless social integration between sexuality and spirituality was diluted over time with the conflicting social forces of western colonization,” she explains. “There are so many accounts of Europeans first interacting with the Muslim world and considering them perverted and lewd, because sexuality was so integrated into social life and was not seen as taboo as it was in Christian nations.”
She adds: “Now, after a long history of repressing sexuality, the West is learning to accept women's sexuality and variations from the heteronormative discourse as normal—but the historic effects of colonization remain lingering in the countries they colonized.” That includes much of the Muslim world.
Khan says the work of sex educators like Lindsey-Ali is radical, insofar as it truly gets back to the real roots of Islamic teachings, which unabashedly celebrate sex and pleasure.
Reclaiming sexuality as Muslims
The work of Muslim sex educators like Lindsey-Ali, Khan, and others is shifting the conversation around sex to return back to the original Islamic teachings that emphasize the importance of sexual pleasure.
“No matter what they've been taught, their sexuality is theirs first and nobody else's,” Khan says. “If they've been told it's shameful, this is due to the social forces that brought them that viewpoint—patriarchy and colonization and the subsequent cultural influences muddying the root of the teachings that the Prophet ﷺ gave us.”
Lindsey-Ali told Vice she realized how necessary this reclamation work was at her first ever Village Auntie seminar: “Even though every woman in the room, except for one, [was] married and had children, there [were] a lot that didn't know about their own bodies. And there was a lot that [said] they didn't know as Muslim women about the sexual rights of women in Islam. So that’s what made me know that this was something that needed to happen.”
Other resources, such as The Muslimah Sex Manual: A Halal Guide to Mind-Blowing Sex, are similarly empowering Muslims to explore and enjoy their sexuality.
“To go back to your sexuality and own it in all its spiritual beauty is to go back to the teachings of the Prophet, to return to the divine within yourself that God has given you as a gift,” Khan says. “Be proud of God's gifts to you and not guilty of them—and your sexuality is one of those gifts.”