October 31, 2006 Special Dispatch No. 1342

Religious Female Egyptian Sexologist Discusses Marital Problems in the Arab World

October 31, 2006
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 1342

Egyptian physician Dr. Hiba Qutb, who received her Ph.D. in medicine from the University of Cairo and her Ph.D. in sexology from Maimonides University in Florida, is the first female sexologist in the Arab world. The goal that guides her work is, as she puts it, is "to fix the cracks in the collapsing building [of marriage] caused by failed sexual relations." [1]

According to Dr. Qutb, "sexual problems are very widespread in the Arab world, and it is estimated that they are the cause of more than 80% of divorce cases." In her estimation, "it is possible that the true figures are even higher, since the Arab world has been suffering from sex problems for hundreds of years. After [the era of] the Prophet, there was a turn for the worse, and the topic became covered in shadows."

The following is a collection of statements by Dr. Qutb from various sources.

"The Prophet Instructed Men to Satisfy Their Wives before They Satisfy Themselves"

In her research, Dr. Qutb found that "things discovered by modern science in the second half of the previous century, which were considered to be great discoveries, have existed in the Koran and the Sunna for the last 1400 years... [For instance,] the Prophet instructed men to satisfy their wives before they satisfy themselves when having sex, and thus the woman's right to enjoy [sexual] relations is equal to that of the man." [2]

However, "unfortunately, the Eastern man approaches sex selfishly, thinks only about his own needs, and ignores [the necessity] to satisfy the woman's needs. The woman acts in one of two opposing ways: either she is extremely submissive to her husband and does not reveal what her needs are, or else she is rebellious. What we need to do, and to teach our children, is that the woman has rights and the man has rights, and when each of them receives his or her rights this leads to full and healthy marital relations."

Dr. Qutb admits that she does not have one single prescription to solve all sexual problems, but she advises every couple to regard the Sunna as the basic guide for Muslims in all aspects of life: "In the Sunna, one can find [instructions for] how the husband should act with his wife and with his children, starting from the moment he enters the house - helping his wife, joking with her, kissing her, and so on.

"When I ask men today 'Why don't you help your wives at home?' they reply that that is not their business, and that they work outside of the home as providers. I say to them, 'Are you better than the Prophet, who used to work, fulfill his [prophetic] mission, and help his wives?' Likewise, when I ask women why they do not reveal their feelings for their husbands, since a man needs to feel that his wife desires him, most women answer that they do not have the courage to do this. My question is: Are they better than [the Prophet's wife] 'Aisha, who used to call the Prophet to come to bed?" [3]

Sexual Relations During Ramadan

On the occasion of the fast of the month of Ramadan, Dr. Qutb dealt with a number of issues in matters of marital relations. She said that couples need not refrain from sexual relations during Ramadan, mistakenly thinking that the month should be entirely dedicated to God's service. Dr. Qutb says that the best time for sexual relations is after the tarawih prayer [a nightly collective supererogatory prayer recited during Ramadan]. While full sexual relations are forbidden in the daytime, one is allowed to kiss and to caress. [4]

According to Dr. Qutb, "there is no monasticism in Islam. This was established in the Koran and the Sunna. The human soul cannot withstand monasticism [i.e. abstinence]. There are religious legal scholars who hold that [having sexual relations] is [a form of] selfless worship of God, and thus a man who conjoins with his wife receives reward as though he gave charity, and he who does this during Ramadan receives a double reward.

"The rules of sexual relations during Ramadan begin with observing the times when such relations are permitted: between the call to prayer at sunset and the call to prayer at sunrise - that is, from the hour of the breaking of the fast to its beginning [the next day]. It is highly desirable for a couple to have relations during this period of time, so that the love [between] them is not lost [because of the mistaken belief] that the nights should be consecrated to worshipping God alone.

"There are complaints from both sides that the other side refrains from having sexual relations during Ramadan out of the belief that this brings one closer to Allah. In my opinion, this is an incorrect understanding, that has a negative influence, both on the couple's relationship and on their love for God's worship. We do not want people to have complaints against Ramadan because they feel that it holds them back from their natural desires..."

As for the final 10 days of Ramadan [ayyam al-i'tikaf], during which one must refrain from having sex, Dr. Qutb explained: "During these days, the nervous system is prepared for the fact that the couple will not have [sexual] relations, and thus neither of them feels any lack. [This is similar to the way that] the feelings of hunger and thirst weaken once one gets used [to the fast], since the nervous system is prepared for this, whereas one feels great hunger when a meal is delayed when it is not Ramadan."

According to Dr. Qutb, "there is no problem with kissing in the daytime during Ramadan, if the couple knows that they can control themselves and that things will develop no further than that. However, since it is permitted to have sexual relations after the breaking of the fast [in the evening], it is preferable to put off [kissing]... until after the breaking of the fast, in order to stay clear of stimulation that might lead to violating the fast [i.e. its prohibition on sexual relations]. There is nothing wrong with affectionate kisses, caresses, and embraces in the daytime during Ramadan, provided that they do not cause stimulation that leads to violating the fast."

As for the ideal time for sexual relations after the breaking of the fast, Dr. Qutb said: "Having sexual relations immediately after breaking the fast does not adversely affect one's health, but the performance will not be good... One should not separate sexual activity from any other activity, including the activity of the digestive system. Sexual relations require exertion of the circulatory system and coordination of the muscles and nerves. After the meal that breaks the fast, one feels weakness and laziness, and thus sexual performance will not be entirely sound. Blood flow is not sufficient for successful sexual activity, since the digestion tires [the body], especially if the food eaten was not light. If the couple broke the fast with light foods, they can have sexual relations 10 minutes later. But if the meal included... fatty, heavy foods, [they should wait] a few hours until the stomach relaxes and the digestion is complete...

"The ideal time to have sexual relations is after they return from the qiyam prayer [another name for the tarawih prayer], since by then digestion has already mostly taken place, and the stomach is relaxed by the physical exertion of this prayer."


[1], August 30, 2004.

[2], May 1, 2006.

[3], August 30, 2004.

[4], October 1, 2006.

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