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The Qurʾān on Chastity and Celibacy (2)

The Qurʾān on Chastity&Celibacy
Chastity in the Qurʾān means avoidance of illicit sexual intercourse. Hence the concept of
qurʾānic chastity should not be taken as covering all connotations of the English word “chaste,”
since the qurʾānic concept does not imply that it is a virtue to abstain completely from sexual
intercourse and lead a celibate life. Wives and concubines of a Muslim man are considered lawful
sexual partners. The virtue of chastity is therefore limited to the abstention from sexual
intercourse with all others who are by definition unlawful.1
Furthermore, in the development of Islamic law, jurists emphasized the necessity of marriage,
presenting it as an absolute obligation (farḍ), which nothing but total incapacity permits one to
neglect (i.e. al-Shāfiʿī). Muslim mystics also had a favourable opinion of marriage, some
described it “as a necessary trial, a kind of asceticism ordered by God to test the patience of the
pious man, and they regarded celibacy as a harmful obstacle to those setting out on the Ṣūfī
23:1-11: Verses (āya) 5-7 of sūra 23 show that chastity refers to illicit sexual relations only
where true Muslim men are described as “those who guard their chastity except with their
spouses or their slaves.”
Harald Motzki, „Chastity“, Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān online.
Gobillot, Geneviève, “Celibacy”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam three, online.
1. [How] prosperous are the believers! 2. Those who pray humbly, 3. who shun idle talk, 4. who
pay the prescribed alms, 5. who guard their chastity 6. except with their spouses or their slaves –
with these they are not to blame, 7. but anyone who seeks more than this is exceeding the limits –
8. who are faithful to their trusts and pledges 9. and who keep up their prayers, 10. will rightly be
given 11. Paradise as their own, there to remain.
24:32-33: Enjoinment to marry
َّ ‫ض ِل ِه ۗ َو‬
َّ ‫صا ِل ِحينَ ِم أن ِعبَا ِد ُك أم َوإِ َمائِ ُك أم ۚ إِن يَ ُكونُوا فُقَ َرا َء يُ أغنِ ِه ُم‬
‫ع ِليم‬
‫َّللاُ ِمن فَ أ‬
َّ ‫َوأَن ِك ُحوا أاْلَيَا َم ٰى ِمن ُك أم َوال‬
َ ٌِِ ‫َّللاُ َوا‬
32. Marry off the single among you and those of your male and female slaves who are fit [for
marriage]. If they are poor, God will provide for them from His bounty: God’s bounty is infinite
and He is all knowing.
‫اب ِم َّما َملَ َك أ‬
َّ ‫ف الَّذِينَ ََل يَ ِجدُونَ نِ َكا ًحا َحت َّ ٰى يُ أغنِيَ ُه ُم‬
‫ت أ َ أي َمانُ ُك أم فَ َكاتِبُو ُه أم‬
‫َّللاُ ِمن فَ أ‬
ِ ‫َو أليَ أست َ أع ِف‬
َ َ ‫ض ِل ِه ۗ َوالَّذِينَ يَ أبتَغُونَ أال ِكت‬
َّ ‫ع ِل أمت ُ أم ِفي ِه أم َخي ًأرا ۖ َوآتُو ُهم ِمن َّما ِل‬
‫صنًا ِلت َ أبتَغُوا‬
ِ ‫علَى أال ِبغ‬
ُّ ‫َاء ِإ أن أ َ َر أدنَ ت َ َح‬
َ ‫َّللاِ الَّذِي آت َا ُك أم ۚ َو ََل ت ُ أك ِر ُهوا فَت َ َيا ِت ُك أم‬
َ ‫ِإ أن‬
َّ ‫ض أال َحيَاةِ الدُّ أنيَا ۚ َو َمن يُ أك ِره ُّه َّن فَإ ِ َّن‬
َ ‫َّللاَ ِمن بَ أع ِد إِ أك َرا ِه ِه َّن‬
‫غفُور َّر ِحيم‬
َ ‫ع َر‬
33. Those who are unable to marry should keep chaste until God gives them enough out of His
bounty. If any of your slaves wish to pay for their freedom, make a contract with them
accordingly, if you know they have good in them, and give them some of the wealth God has
given you. Do not force your slave-girls into prostitution, when they themselves wish to remain
honourable, in your quest for the short-term gains of this world, although, if they are forced, God
will be forgiving and merciful to them.
2:226: This verse forbids a man to carry out an oath of sexual abstinence from his wife for longer
than four months: “For those who swear to abstain from their women, a wait of four months.”
After that, he must break his oath or she is divorced.3
َّ ‫ُّص أ َ أربَ َع ِة أ َ أش ُه ٍر ۖ فَإِن فَا ُءوا فَإ ِ َّن‬
َ َ‫َّللا‬
‫غفُور َّر ِحيم‬
ُ ‫سائِ ِه أم ت ََرب‬
َ ِ‫ِللَّذِينَ يُؤأ لُونَ ِمن ن‬
For those who swear that they will not approach their wives, there shall be a waiting period of
four months: if they go back, remember God will be most forgiving and merciful.
Sheila McDonough, „Abstinence“, Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān online.
See all qurʾānic verses on https://quran.com. For explanations of verses, see www.altafsir.com. The translation given
here are Abdul Haleem’s.