Allah says: “It is made lawful for you to have sexual relations
with your wives on the on the night of the fasts. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them…” [Sūrah
Allah chose to use the word “clothing” rather than any other word
to describe the special relationship between a man and his wife. Allah made the man clothing for the woman and the woman clothing
for the man. The word “clothing” as used in this context is rich with meaning. It would be quite difficult to
express in words every subtlety that it conveys. We shall try, however, to consider a few of the ideas that this word expresses.
1. The word “clothing” in its most literal sense is what immediately
covers the body with no barrier in between.
2. The word clothing connotes the idea of equality, complementarity, and support
of both a psychological and physical nature. The man has his role and the woman has hers. The woman cannot be construed as
merely a vehicle to fulfill the man’s desires. She is a human being, equal to the man. Each of them is as clothing to
the other in every aspect of life.
3. Clothing implies adornment and beautification. Allah says: “Take
your adornment to every mosque.” [Sūrah al-A`raf: 31] A man and woman are an adornment and beautification
for each other.
Ibn `Abbās said: “Indeed, I like to dress up for a woman in the same way
as I like it for a woman to dress herself up for me. This is because Allah says: ‘And they have upon you similar rights
to those you have upon them in good dealings.’ And I do not like to exact from her every right to which I am entitled,
since Allah says: ‘and for the man there is a degree over them’.” [Tafsīr al-Tabarī (1/625)]
Some of this beauty is of a physical kind, for a person sees in the one he truly
loves beauty that others do not see.
Some of this beauty is also of an intangible nature. Faithfulness and enduring
friendship are a part of faith, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said.
A woman adorns herself with her husband when she speaks about him to her friends.
She can tend to embellish her account, claiming that he loves her so much, honors her so much, and gives her so much…
even when the truth is far short of all that.
4. Clothing conveys the meaning of covering and concealment. Allah
says: “O children of Adam! We have bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your shame and as an adornment.”
[Sūrah al-A`rāf: 26]
A husband and wife screen each other from falling into sin by fulfilling one another’s
needs in a lawful manner.
Likewise, they conceal from others their intimacy. They do not disclose to others
the details of their physical relationship nor the secrets that they share between them nor the little problems that they
have with each other. They do not allow the personal life that they share together become the topic of public discourse.
5. Clothing implies cleanliness and purity. This is why Allah commands
us saying: “And your clothing, purify it.” [Sūrah al-Mudaththir: 4]
This dispels the notion that some people have that the marital relationship is
somehow a “dirty” thing. There are those who disdain even talking to any length about marriage and what it entails
in Islam, because of the bad feelings they have about the topic.
Allah made the institution of marriage the practice of the Prophets:
“Indeed we sent Prophets before your time and provided for them wives and children.” [Sūrah
It was the way of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He said quite clearly
to those of his followers who wanted to become overly ascetic: “By Allah! I am the most God-fearing among you, and yet
I both fast and break my fast; I both pray and sleep; and I marry women. Whoever wishes for a way other than my way is not
of me.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī and Sahīh Muslim]
Clothing is something clean and decent and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
6. Clothing is a sign of wealth and self-sufficiency. In marriage,
the husband and wife fulfill each others needs. Allah says: “And those who safeguard their private
parts, except from their wives and those whom their right hands possess.” [Sūrah al-Mu’minūn: 5-6]
7. Clothing is a pleasure and a delight. Indeed, Allah has made clothing
one of the pleasures of Paradise. He says: “Their clothing therein shall be of silk” [Sūrah
Fātir: 33] “And they shall wear therein green garments of fine silk and brocade.” [Sūrah al-Kahf:
Marriage should indeed be a garment of pleasure. It should bring pleasure to the
body and to the soul. It should bring about inner balance and alleviate tension and anxiety. Those who are denied this often
suffer from depression, worry, and emotional instability.
8. Clothing provides protection, shelter, and warmth. Allah says: “…and He has made for you garments that protect you from the heat and coats of mail that protect
you in battle.” [Sūrah al-Nahl: 81]
Allah says about David (peace be upon him): “And
we taught him the fashioning of suits of armor to protect you in battle.” [Sūrah al-Anbiyā’: 80]
The Prophet (peace be upon him), after he bathed, used to sometimes warm himself
with his wife `Ā’ishah. She relates to us: “Sometimes the Prophet (peace be upon him) would bathe after having
intercourse and then come to me for warmth. I would hold him to me without having had taken a bath.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī]
9. Clothing implies peace and tranquility. Allah says:
“And we have made the night a clothing.” [Sūrah al-Naba’: 10]
A husband and wife should find in one another peace and tranquility.
This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave his first wife Khadījah glad
tidings of a house in Paradise made of reeds wherein there would be no turmoil or discomfort.
Abū Hurayrah relates the following:
Gabriel came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: “O Messenger of
Allah! Khadījah is bringing a vessel containing broth or food or drink. When she comes to you, greet her with peace on behalf
of my Lord and of myself and give her glad tidings of a house in Paradise made of reeds wherein there would be no turmoil
or discomfort.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī and Sahīh Muslim]
Scholars have commented that the reason she was given glad tidings of such a house
in Paradise is that her home on Earth was like that. It was not like most other homes wherein shouting was commonplace and
arguments were frequent and marital problems were rife.
10. Clothing covers a person’s body, particularly the private areas. In
the same way, a wife protects her husband with herself and likewise protects his wealth and children. The husband in turn
protects his wife with himself and safeguards her secrets and fulfills her needs.
Allah says: “Righteous women are devoutly
obedient, guarding in their husbands’ absence what Allah would have them guard.” [Sūrah al-Nisā’:
11. Clothing connotes quality and goodness. Allah says: “Good
women are for good men and good men are for good women.” [Sūrah al-Nūr: 26]
12. Clothing conveys the image of something directly touching the skin. It is
an intimate bodily contact without any barrier. When the husband and wife have intimate contact, it is as if their bodies
take the place of clothing. Symbolically, there is the implication of close proximity and contact throughout their life together.
13. Clothing needs to be kept fresh and clean. It needs to be washed. Likewise
the marital relationship between a husband and wife must be refreshed and reinvigorated.
14. Clothing is a personal distinction. Each of us wears his or her
own personal clothing. One’s husband or wife has an even greater exclusivity. Allah says: “And
those who safeguard their private parts, except from their wives and those whom their right hands possess.” [Sūrah
15. Clothing provides variety. Who among us would be content with only one suit
of clothes? Likewise the marital life should provide variety. This is why when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about
the limits that Islam imposes upon a husband and wife in their intimate relations, he made it clear that everything between
a husband and wife is permitted except for two things: anal sex and sex when the woman is menstruating.
Even then, the Prophet (peace be upon him) informed the husband and
wife as to what they could do when she is menstruating. He said: “Engage in everything except sexual
intercourse itself.” [Sahīh Muslim]