Laws of Religion
Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men
From the Qur’an
According to the Qur’an, adopted sons are not actual sons. The Qur’an (33:4-5) says that they are to be called by the names of their biological fathers, as part of the families of their biological fathers. Since an adopted son is not a real son, it is permitted to marry the divorced wife of an adopted son. (This would be forbidden for the divorced wife of a real son.)
The Qur’an (2:223) says that wives are tilth for their husbands and a man is to have intercourse with his wife as he pleases. (According to the hadiths, as discussed below, this Quranic verse that wives are tilth for their husbands implies that a man may have intercourse with his wife either facing her or from behind her without the resulting child being harmed.)
From the hadith compilations of al-Bukhari and Muslim
A hadith reports that Muhammad urged Jabar, one of his close Companions, to have children.
Hadiths say that Muhammad would kiss his son, Ibrahim, and his grandson, al-Hasan. He was critical of those who did not kiss their children, saying those who do not show mercy will themselves be denied mercy.
Muhammad said when a person injured a pregnant woman and caused a miscarriage, the compensation (diya) for her was to be one good quality male or female slave. A miscarriage, including a child who is found to be dead before it first cries after delivery, does not require a funeral. A funeral prayer should be said for all newborns who cry before dying.
It is reported in the hadiths that Muhammad declared that a child belongs to the man who owns the bed the child is born in (i.e., the mother’s husband or, if she is a slave, her owner) rather than to the man the child resembles. When a man complained to Muhammad that his wife had given birth to a black child, Muhammad refused to permit the man to disown the child. He told the man that the child’s color may have derived from past ancestors. When a man wanted custody of the son of a female who was a slave to another man, Muhammad awarded the child to the man who owned the slave even though he saw that the child resembled the other man. However, he told his wife, Sauda, to screen herself from the male child despite her close relationship to the man who was awarded paternity of the boy. (Editor’s note: If Muhammad had believed that the owner of the female slave was really the boy’s father, Sauda would not have had to screen herself from the boy because he would have been a close relative and therefore forbidden to marry her and so the general rules of female modesty would not apply.)
A hadith says that Muhammad encouraged people to take care of orphans, saying that anyone who does this will be close to Muhammad in Paradise. In the pre-Islamic period, adopted children would be called by the name of their adoptive fathers. But then the verse of the Qur’an (33:5, cited on this page, above) was revealed which says to call adopted sons by the names of their original fathers, so that has been the practice from that time on. After Muhammad adopted Zaid bin Haritha, he was considered the son of Muhammad and was called Zaid bin Muhammad. Then the Qur’an verse (33:5) was revealed that adoptive sons should be called by their original father’s name. After that revelation, he was once again called Zaid bin Haritha.
Hadiths report that Muhammad said that a child’s looks are affected both by the father’s sperm and the mother’s sexual discharge. The sperm is thick and white while the woman’s sexual discharge is thin and yellow. The child will resemble whichever parent emits the discharge first. The child’s looks, or the child’s sex, is determined by which parent’s fluid discharge prevails. The child will resemble the parent whose discharge prevails or will resemble the family of that parent.
According to the hadiths, Muhammad said that when a man calls out to Allah during intercourse asking for protection from Satan for himself and any offspring resulting from that intercourse, then a child that results will be safe from harm by Satan.
Muhammad said that Solomon, son of David, declared that he would have sexual intercourse with ninety (or sixty, or seventy or one hundred) of his wives one night and they will all give birth to sons who would fight in the cause of Allah. However, since Solomon failed to say "Insha’ Allah" (God willing), only one of the wives became pregnant and her child was deformed.
Hadiths report that Jabir (a close companion of Muhammad) said that the verse in the Qur’an (2:223, cited on this page, above) that says that wives are tilth for their husbands and a man may have intercourse with his wife as he pleases, was the result of a saying of the Jews that vaginal intercourse with the man behind his wife will result in children who squint. (Thus, the verse of Qur’an means that no harm will come to a child who is conceived when the man is behind the woman during intercourse.) A hadith reports the conclusion that a man may have intercourse with his wife either facing her or from behind her, though he is only to enter her vagina and no other opening.
According to the hadiths, Muhammad said that he had intended to prohibit intercourse with nursing women, but then learned that the Romans, Greeks and Persians do this with no harm to their children. So such intercourse is permitted. When a man told Muhammad that he interrupts intercourse with his wife to protect her and her children, Muhammad assured him that this is not necessary because the Greeks and Persians do it with no harm.
Hadiths say that the only snakes that Muhammad permitted the killing of were short-tailed and streaked (or striped) snakes because these can affect vision and cause miscarriage.
Abbreviations used in footnotes:
BK: Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.
DJP: The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Limited preview is available here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2). Full text online and download for Volume 1 is here and here and for Volume 2 is here and here.
RT: Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from various websites such as this one.
SR: al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society. It can be downloaded here.
● The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.
 QR 33:4-33:5
 QR 33:37
 QR 2:223
 BK 6:60:51, ML 8:3363, ML 8:3364-3365
 BK 7:62:173
 BK 2:23:390, ML 30:5734
 BK 3:34:333, ML 30:5736-5737-5738
 BK 8:73:26, BK 8:73:27, ML 30:5735, ML 30:5736-5737-5738
 BK 7:71:654, BK 7:71:655, BK 8:80:732, BK 9:83:41, BK 9:83:42-43, BK 9:83:44, BK 9:83:45, BK 9:92:420, ML 16:4166, ML 16:4167, ML 16:4168-4169, ML 16:4170, ML 16:4171-4172-4173, ML 16:4174
 BK 2:23:440
 BK 3:34:269, BK 3:34:421, BK 3:46:710, BK 3:41:603, BK 4:51:8, BK 5:59:596, BK 8:80:741-742, BK 8:80:757, BK 8:82:807, BK 8:82:808, BK 9:89:293, ML 8:3435-3436-3437-3438
 BK 7:63:225, BK 8:82:830, BK 9:92:417, ML 9:3574-3575, ML 9:3576
 BK 3:34:269, BK 3:34:421, BK 3:46:710, BK 3:41:603, BK 4:51:8, BK 5:59:596, BK 8:80:741-742, BK 8:80:757, BK 8:82:807, BK 9:89:293, ML 8:3435-3436-3437-3438
 BK 8:73:34
 BK 5:59:335, BK 7:62:25
 BK 5:59:335, BK 6:60:305, BK 7:62:25
 BK 5:59:335, BK 6:60:305, BK 7:62:25
 BK 4:55:546, BK 5:58:275, BK 6:60:7, ML 3:608
 BK 1:3:132, BK 4:55:545, BK 4:55:546, BK 5:58:275, BK 6:60:7, BK 8:73:113, ML 3:608, ML 3:610-611-612, ML 3:613, ML 3:614-615
 ML 3:608
 BK 4:55:546, BK 5:58:275, BK 6:60:7
 ML 3:608, ML 3:613
 ML 3:614-615
 ML 3:608
 ML 3:613
 BK 4:54:503, BK 7:62:94, BK 8:75:397, ML 8:3361-3362
 BK 4:55:635, BK 8:78:634, BK 8:79:711, ML 15:4070
 BK 9:93:561, ML 15:4066
 BK 4:55:635, ML 15:4067-4068, ML 15:4069
 BK 7:62:169
 BK 4:55:635, BK 7:62:169, BK 8:78:634, BK 8:79:711, BK 9:93:561, ML 15:4066, ML 15:4067-4068, ML 15:4069, ML 15:4070
 BK 6:60:51, ML 8:3363, ML 8:3364-3365
 ML 8:3365
 ML 8:3391, ML 8:3392-3393
 ML 8:3394
 ML 26:5551-5552, ML 26:5544, MK 26:5545