What's your image of a devoutly Muslim woman? Pious and shy? Virginal and unwilling to experiment? Well, if this devoutly Muslim woman is married, you're probably wrong.
Islam is surprisingly (surprising, that is, depending on how much you know about the religion) open about sex within married couples. While most Islamic societies go to great lengths to make sure all things sex-related remain out of the public eye, sex between a married man and woman is, by Islamic jurisprudence, allowed to get steamy. Unlike some religions (cough Catholicism cough), you don't have to have sex just to make babies when you're Muslim. Sex between a husband and wife is encouraged in Islam — and not only as a lawful method for getting off. There are accounts of the Prophet Muhammad ruling that husbands or wives who were spending a little too much time praying and fasting, especially at night, should ease up and take care of their partner's sexual needs. Hear, hear!
While the Qur'an and various accounts of the Prophet have spoken rather openly about sex, (open for the 632 A.D. in the Arabian Peninsula, anyhow), Muslims, and Muslim women, still shy away from much discussion the subject. That's beginning to change, thanks to marriage counselors like Wedad Lootah, who is based in Dubai. Her book, Top Secret: Sexual Guidance for Married Couples, was blessed by the mufti of the United Arab Emirates. But Lootah doesn't believe her book is just about sex:
"My subject is not sex; people always misunderstand that. I'm trying to guide people about how to satisfy each other… We're talking about Islam. We're not talking about sex."
Well, when you're talking about satisfaction in a sex book, you are talking about sex, but maybe that's just her conservative PR campaign talking. Anyhow, Lootah's tips don't sound unlike Western marriage counselors. She usually helps women who find their husbands disinterested or inexperienced when it comes to pleasuring women: "They're here because the men don't always understand that they have responsibility in marriage beyond working: they have a responsibility to make sure the wife gets pleasure."
In nearby Bahrain, Khadija Ahmed opened up a sex store called Khadija Fashion House in 2010, causing scandal in the small country. "I established the store to help married couples, because the issue most Bahraini couples suffer from is the lack of interest in their intimate relationship," said Ahmed. But her seemingly benign effort to spice up married couples' sex lives did not go over well when she crossed customs with some sex toys. She was held in jail in 2010 when customs officials declared that some of the products Ahmed was importing were unauthorized. "The products I sell don't go against Islam," said Ahmed. "There is nothing that prohibits married couples from enjoying their sex lives, or preventing them from having a happy marriage."
Stateside, Asra Nomani, one of the leading faces of Islamic feminism, penned the Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Bedroom. The ten commandments of the bill specify a woman's sexual rights within the guidelines of Islam, from a woman's right to a pleasurable experience to her Islamic right to be free from every form of abuse.
For Abdelaziz Aouragh, sexual pleasure between religious men and women is his business. Aouragh owns an online sex shop called Al-Asira (meaning "society" or "clan" in Arabic), which sells a line of "sharia conscious" lotions and lube. That's right, they make halal lube. "We don't sell products that simply enhance the love life between man and woman," reads the site's "Philosophy" page, "We strive to offer a product range which will eventually lead to more admiration and love for women."
All of which may make many a Muslim woman blush, but when it comes down to it, Islam encourages believers to have happy marriages, and (most) happy marriages tend to include decent sex. When you take away the stereotype of the quiet and submissive woman behind a veil, it's all too clear Muslim women, like most women, want to get some. We're all horny, no matter our creed.