My morning reading material includes an article from Morocco World News entitled PJD Member “Authorizes” Sexual Relations During Ramadan Daytime. I do not know anything about Moroccan politics and the greater context of the article, so I probably do not react to the article or shiver from the title’s scare quotes as is intended. Reading the article shows that the fiqh issues the title refers to are about travelers engaging in sexual intercourse during the day, and non-traveller engaging in foreplay while fasting. Both of these actions fall within the realm of the permissible – even if they are best avoided or offensive. The fiqh presented in the title is tame once you read the article.
There’s nothing new or sensational about it being permissible for couples traveling during Ramadan to engage in sexual intercourse. The obligation to fast is established in the Quran in Surat al-Baqarah, verses 183–187. These verses mention that sickness, infirmity, and travel are excuses to not fast the day – along with what needs to be done in its place. The actions of the Prophet ﷺ confirm and clarify these verses. Here is the relevant section from Abū Shujāʿ’s The Ultimate Conspectus, a short legal text for novices, with a few comments from Ibn Daqīq al-ʿEid’s Tuḥfat al-Labīb:
Someone who is ill or making a long journey is not required to fast, but must make up the fast-days.
The Prophet ﷺ said, “It is not an act of righteousness to fast while traveling.”1 This ḥadīth is interpreted to apply to those who experience difficulty in fasting and people for whom fasting would prevent [them] from carrying out journey-related tasks. If someone sick or making a long journey breaks his fast he must make it up, due to the verse “…for days numbered; and if any of you be sick, or if he be on a journey, then a number of other days…” Q2:184 – meaning: he broke his fast, so then [fast] a number of other days. And Allah knows best.2
So this claim in the article is not surprising.
The article reports that the fatwa included that “while fasting in Ramadan, a husband is recommended to caress and kiss his wife in order to get her ready for sexual intercourse after iftar (break the fast) later at night.” This is a little strange – but only a little. There are ḥadīths encouraging husbands to engage in psychological and mental foreplay; they are usually understood to apply to times when the individuals involved are not fasting Ramadan. There are also ḥadīths mentioning that the Prophet ﷺ kissed his wives while fasting, including one transmitted by Abū Dāwūd: ʿĀʾīshah (may Allah be pleased with her) said
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ used to kiss and embrace while he was fasting, but he was the one of you who had most control over his desire.
Many scholars consider it offensive to engage in foreplay when fasting since it can lead to orgasm which invalidates the fast (which requires making up the day), or intercourse during the day (which requires an expiation involving two months of consecutive fasting). There is disagreement when there is no concern for breaking the fast, such as with more mature couples. What is strange here is the claim that foreplay is recommended while fasting.
The Arabic source for the English article includes a few more details related to the issues mentioned above, like the need to take ablution or, in the event of orgasm, a purificatory bath. Concerning the latter, it should be noted that the person would also need to make up the fast after Ramadan.
The Arabic article also mentions that it is unlawful for a married couple to watch pornographic films to become aroused for sex. The article goes on to say that it is, however, permissible for them to look at arousing pictures of themselves provided that the pictures are safe from being seen by other people, and that it is permissible to engage in rough or dirty talk during sex.
These issues that were omitted from the English article are more interesting than the ones it included. People do ask about these issues, so maybe I should engage in some of that “muftic musing” I sometimes do here.