It is said that if the spouses see the sexual organs of each other, it will cause disrespect between them; is it true? Is it objectionable to look?

The Details of the Question
It is said that if the spouses see the sexual organs of each other, it will cause disrespect between them; is it true? Is it objectionable to look?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There is no such limitation. The spouses may look at every part of each other.

We regard it useful to present the issue in several items:

- There are many hadiths in fiqh books – regarding details – used as evidence. The ummah acts based on those hadiths. There is a rule developed by Islamic scholars: “It is permissible to act in accordance with weak hadiths regarding the virtues of deeds.” Accordingly, to accept that the issue of the relevant hadiths is about virtues and to act in accordance with them will only make a person gain rewards.  

- As far as we can see, in fiqh books, there is no expression like, “it is haram for spouses to look the private parts of each other.” However, it is stated to be makrooh (abominable) based on hadiths like the following hadith: “When one of you wants to have sexual intercourse with his spouse, they should not be naked like donkeys”(Ibn Majah, Nikah, 28; Naylu’l-Awtar, 6/189) (see W. Zuhayli, al-Fiqhu’l-Islami, 3/555).

In Majmau’z-Zawaid, the hadith above was reported from Bazzar and Tabarani, who reported it from Abdullah b. Masud, and was regarded as weak. The reason is as follows: “In the chain of transmission, Mandal b. Ali, who is regarded as weak, is present. However, some scholars said he was trustable. The rest of the narrators are the narrators of Bukhari.” (4/393-Shamila)

- According to a narration of Ibn Majah (Nikah, 28), Hazrat Aisha said, “I have never seen the sexual organ of the Messenger of Allah.”

- According to Shafii madhhab, it is mustahab (recommended) for a person not to look at his/her own private parts in the toilet and not to touch them unnecessarily. (see Nawawi, Majmu, 2/94).

- It is not haram or a sin for a person to open and look at his/her own private parts when he/she is alone in the bathroom or a room. However, it is better to cover them. (see Nawawi, ibid, 2/166, 197, 204-206).

- Ibn Hazm, one of the imams of Zahiri madhhab, says it is not abominable for spouses to look at the private parts of each other. He regarded the hadith reported from Hazrat Aisha and mentioned above as weak because there is an unknown woman in the chain of transmission. He states that there are also narrations showing that it is not abominable, and he shows this hadith as evidence: “The wives of the prophet, Hazrat Aisha, Hazrat Umm Salama and Hazrat Maymuna washed themselves from the same container as Hazrat Prophet (pbuh).”(al-Muhalla, 10/33; Huwayni, al-Fatawa’l-hadisiya, 1/45-Shamila).

- According to what Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Hakim reported from Muawiya b. Hida, Hazrat Prophet said to her, “Do not show your private parts to anybody other than your husband and female slave. (see Huwayni, al-Fatawa’l-hadisiya, 1/44-45- Shamila).

- Taking into consideration the hadith of Hazrat Aisha, "I and the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to take a bath from a single pot called 'Faraq'.” (Bukhari, Ghusl, 2), Dawudi said it was not abominable for spouses to look at the private parts of each other showing the above-mentioned hadith as evidence.

The following information that Ibn Hibban reported from Sulayman Bin Musa confirms it: According to that information, when Sulayman Bin Musa was asked about the situation of the people who looked at the sexual organs of their wives; he said:  

I asked Ata about it. He said to me, “I asked it Hazrat Aisha. She told me the above-mentoned hadith.” Ibn Hajar tended toward that view, too (see Ibn Hajar, Fathu’l-Bari, 1/364).

- To sum up: The narrations of the hadiths that spouses should not look at the private parts of each other are weak. Contrary to those narrations, there are sound hadiths that show it is permissible for spouses to look at the private parts of each other.

- However, some scholars say it is abominable stating, “It is permissible to act in accordance with weak hadiths regarding the virtues of deeds”.

As a matter of fact, in Hanafi fiqh books, taking into consideration the hadith of Hazrat Aisha, which is regarded as weak, and some other hadiths, the following judgment is given: “Although it is permissible for spouses to look at the private parts of each other, it is more virtuous not to look at. (For instance, see al-Mabsut, 12/363; al-Badai’, 10/473-75-Shamila).

Some Shafii scholars say it is permissible for spouses to look at the private parts of each other but others say it is not. Imam Nawawi said the view of those who said it was permissible was more correct. (see al-Majmu, 16/ 134-135).

- Those explanations show that some Islamic scholars take some hadiths regarded as weak into consideration too and therefore say it is not a sin for spouses to look at the private parts of each other but it is better not to look at.

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