The Qur’an declares:

O humanity avoid disobedience to your Lord. Who has created you from a single original human self and from it created its mate and from the pair of them scattered abroad a multitude of men and women. (4:1)

The original expression translated as “a single original human self” is nafs wahida (literally a single self or soul). Nafs has two cardinal meanings: a being’s self and the animating energy or faculty that is the source of each person’s and jinn’s worldly life. Considering both meanings together nafs wahida is understood to mean a single original human self.

This point is very important to understanding the nature of the male-female relationship. The Qur’an points out this very point: And of His signs is that He has created for you from your selves mates that you might repose in them and He has engendered love and mercy between you (30:21); God has given you from your selves mates and He has given you from your mates children and grandchildren (16:72); The Originator of the heavens and Earth; He has given you from your selves mates and from the cattle mates (42:11). What these refer to by your selves is the human kind self or nature. In addition they indicate that everything in the universe was created in pairs: And everything We have created in pairs (51:49).

However these verses do not mean that by being the two halves of a perfect unit men and women are identical or the same. While a woman’s rights and responsibilities are equal to a man’s they are not necessarily identical with them. Equality and sameness are two quite different things. This difference is understandable because men and women are not identical but are created as equals. Bearing this in mind there is no problem. In fact it is almost impossible to find even two identical men or women.

This distinction between equality and sameness is vital. Equality is desirable just and fair; but sameness is not. People are created as equals and not as identical to each other and so there is no basis to consider a woman to be inferior to a man. There is no reason to assume that she is less important than he just because her rights are not identical to his. Had her status been identical with his she would have been no more than a duplicate of him which she is not. The fact that Islam gives her equal – but not identical – rights shows that it takes her into due consideration acknowledges her and recognizes her independent personality.

In: And of His signs is that He has created for you from your selves mates that you might repose in them and He has engendered love and mercy between you (30:21) the Qur’an stresses that male-female relations are – and must be – based upon mutual love and mercy. What satisfies the needs of a human being the most is having an intimate life companion with whom one can share love joy and grief. However we should acknowledge that a woman’s heart is the most compassionate loving and generous of all hearts. This is why the Qur’an stresses men’s inclination toward and attachment to women rather than the other way. In fact it states that the most beautiful blessing in Paradise for a man will be a pure woman.

On the other hand the Qur’an also says: Men (who are able to perform their responsibilities) are the protectors and maintainers of women for God has endowed some of the people with greater capacity than others (in some respects) and that they (men) spend of their wealth (for the family’s maintenance) (4:34). This verse is highly significant with respect to male-female relations and family law and draws attention to the following cardinal points:

God has not created all people exactly the same in all respects; rather. He has given each superiority in some respect to others as required by social life the division of labor and the choice of occupation. Although it is not true to the same degree for all men and women as He has created men superior to women in some respects. He also has given women superiority over men in others. For example. God has given men greater physical strength endowed them with a greater capacity for management and has charged them with the family’s financial upkeep. This is why He has made men the head of the family. However this does not mean that men have absolute authority over the family for this authority must be exercised according to the Prophetic principle: The master of a people is he who serves them. In addition responsibility is proportionate to authority and authority is proportionate to responsibility.

In short. Islam proposes a male-female relation based upon mutual love mercy understanding and respect. It also exhorts the couples to be thankful to each other for their kindness and efforts to please each other. Such things should be fundamental in any marriage. Each spouse should acknowledge the other’s efforts show them gratitude and repay them with kindness.

Islam is primarily concerned with enabling people to attain the status of true humanity or perfection. Its legislation is based upon this cardinal point and it considers legal rules or laws only as a means of reinforcement.

The Wife’s Rights. These are as follows: receipt of a dowry support or maintenance kind and proper treatment and due respect marital relations privacy justice between multiple wives to be taught Islam defense of her honor and not revealing their secrets to others.

The Husband’s Rights. These are as follows: enjoying due respect for being responsible for bringing up and maintaining the family and marital relations. In addition she must not allow in the house anyone of whom he disapproves leave the house and go to places of which he disapproves without his permission or undertake a voluntary fast without his permission. She also must defend his honor and not disclose their secrets to others.

Housework. The above-mentioned rights are noncontroversial and agreed upon by scholars. The wife’s duties in the house (e.g. cooking cleaning and generally serving her husband in the house) however have been the subject of debate. While this has been the traditional Muslim custom given that the man is obliged to look after the entire family it is considered as ihsan (good treatment and excellence) for the wife to do the housework and meets her husband’s needs (e.g. sewing ironing cooking and taking care of the babies).

Sex. The Qur’an does not neglect humanity’s sensual aspect and the married couple’s sex life for it guides humanity to the best path and enables them to fulfill their sexual urges while avoiding harmful or deviant practices.

It is reported that the Jews and Zoroastrians would go to extremes in order to avoid any physical contact with menstruating women. For example. Jewish laws and regulations are extremely restrictive in this regard. The Old Testament considers a menstruating woman unclean and impure. Moreover her impurity “infects” other people for whoever or whatever she touches becomes unclean for a day (Leviticus 15:19. 23). Thus a menstruating woman was sometimes banished to the “house of impurity” so that no contact with her would be possible during this time. The Talmud considers a menstruating woman “fatal.” even without any physical contact whereas Christians will have sex with such women. The pre-Islamic Arabs would not eat drink or sit with menstruating women and would send them to separate dwellings just as the Jews and Zoroastrians did.

When some Muslims asked the Messenger upon him be peace and blessings about menstruating women. God revealed:

(O Messenger.) they also ask you about (the commands concerning) the monthly course (of their wives). Answer (them): “Menstruation is a state that causes suffering and ritual impurity so avoid women during menstruation and do not approach them until they are cleansed. After they are cleansed. (you can) come to them as required by the inherent urge that God has implanted in your nature and within the rules that He has established. God loves those who turn to Him in sincere repentance of their errors and improve themselves and try their best to cleanse themselves.” (2:222)

What is meant by avoid women is sexual intercourse or benefiting from their genitals. Thus a man can fondle and enjoy his menstruating wife avoiding only the place of hurt. Islam’s position as in all other matters is a middle one between the two extremes of banishing a menstruating woman from the house and of having sexual intercourse with her.

Islam has established no rules concerning the way or position of intercourse. However it has forbidden anal sex.

Contraception. Marriage’s primary objective is to preserve humanity through continued reproduction. Accordingly. Islam encourages large families and blesses both boys and girls. However family planning is allowed for only valid reasons and recognized necessities. At the time of the Prophet the common method of contraception was coitus interruptus (withdrawing the penis from the vagina just before ejaculation thereby preventing the influx of semen). The primary valid reason for contraception is that the pregnancy or delivery might endanger the mother’s life or health. Past experience or a reliable physician’s opinion should guide the couple in such matters.

Abortion. While Islam permits preventing pregnancy for valid reasons it does not allow terminating the pregnancy once it occurs. Muslim jurists agree unanimously that abortion is forbidden after the fetus is completely formed and has been given a soul which is according to the hadiths about 6 weeks after contraception (Muslim. “Qadar.” 3). This is considered a crime under Islamic law for it is an offense against a complete live human being. Jurists insist that blood money (diyat) must be paid if the baby was aborted alive and then died and that a lesser amount must be paid if it was aborted dead. There is only one exception according to the jurists: If after the baby is completely formed it becomes clear that continuing the pregnancy will cause the mother’s death the couple has recourse to the general Islamic legal principle that the lesser of the two evils should be chosen. In such a case the fetus must be aborted.

Artificial Insemination. Islam safeguards lineage by prohibiting adultery and fornication (zina) and legal adoption thus keeping the family line clear and “uncontaminated” by any foreign element. Thus artificial insemination is forbidden unless the donor is the husband.