No, it is not.
There has been an ongoing conversation among British Muslims, literally for decades about oral sex (fellatio and cunnilingus) and the Victorian attitudes that inform certain cultures that make up the British Muslim population has meant that it is rarely dealt with decisively, pragmatically, and with some logic. It can be understandably frustrating when we have to deal with things repeatedly that should have been settled long ago. In my interactions I have found that even the critics of oral sex themselves do not recognise how they impose regressive attitudes on shar’ī discourse and the nature of the bizarre reasoning to justify it, nor the ambiguous nature of answers they give because they become prudish in a public setting.
There is nothing to explicitly suggest that oral sex is forbidden by God, and the inferences some try to argue are not only far-fetched and absurd, but always fail to holistically consider everything God says on sexual intimacy. In fact, revelation presents it as a very simple matter (as it often does with most things): ‘Your women (spouses) are your fields, so come to your fields however you like.’ (2:223). Speaking on the intimate nature of sex, ‘they are garments to you as you are to them.’ (2:187)
Of course, sexual intimacy is an act of mutual understanding and it is not for spouses to get authoritarian between the sheets and force their better halves into things they may be deeply uncomfortable with. Dialogue and empathy from both sides are a great place to start. But those who’d like to enjoy such intimacy with one another ought to know that God is not offended and encourages believers to enjoy themselves so that they may be appreciative for what they have.
The rule is that once sex-acts meet the condition of occurring within a valid nikah, all things are permitted unless God tells us otherwise. No one has the right to restrict another, especially through some badly reasoned religious response offered in God’s name. Only God reserves the right of restriction and He only does so speaking to the interests of human beings. We do not need to evidence with the Quran nor the sunnah in what we do. With most things in the sharī’ah the burden of proof rests on those who say we can’t do something. This is a prime shar’ī principle as I point out here.
Classical Hanbali texts mention kissing genitals, Shāfi’ī texts mention sucking the clitoris, and Mālikīs talk about licking – all doing so in the context of permissibility. Even the heavily cited al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya (Hanafi) speaks of the permissibility of fellatio and cunnilingus. My point here isn’t to use the above as evidence but merely highlight how this matter is not as questionable as some people have made out.
The modern critics of oral sex display their aversion with a number of retorts that come in different forms, some are absolutely ludicrous (such as “…but dogs lick their own genitals!”) and others rely on tangential and subjective premises in an attempt to portray it as an decisive prohibition. Dealing with some of these:
“Islam is a religion of modesty and shame, and it’s shameful.”
Not it is not. Modesty is an aspect/branch of faith (īmān), but we ought to be clear on what is meant by ‘modesty’ and how it might relate to the bedroom; what is modest in the home isn’t necessarily in the street. Islam is not a religion of shame (what does that even mean?!), shame is an emotion brought about by social pressures. And neither of these points, in the way that they are made, are relevant to oral sex or sex for that matter.
“We recite the Quran/do dhikr with our mouths so we shouldn’t put them in a filthy place”
Firstly, if the genitals of spouses are filthy, then touching genitals with other parts of the body, such as one’s hands, should also be impermissible. In fact, extending this reasoning further, even the genitals shouldn’t touch one another since they’re deemed filthy; is there any place in the sharī’ah that encourages bringing any part of the body into contact with filth? Similarly, if it’s about reciting the Quran with the mouth, then touching intimate parts should be impermissible since hands also come into contact with the Quran.
Secondly, if it’s argued that there is an exception to genitals coming into contact with one another, why shouldn’t the exception go for oral sex as well? If the argument goes that both genitals are already deemed intrinsically filthy (unlike the mouth) that does not mean that it is permissible to extend/revel in (perceived) filth!
Intuitively, I’m sure most can see the problematic nature of this line of reasoning. The irony is that some sects/denominations actually do prohibit “unnecessary” touching during sex, looking at private parts, or even engaging in the act undressed!
There is also a discussion on whether bodily fluids associated with sex are impure and whether they prohibit oral sex. I do not believe so, nor do I think it’s a particularly strong argument, all things considered. Many jurists from various schools do not hold pre-seminal discharge to be impure, nor sex-related vaginal fluid to be impure – it’s a speculative matter. As for sperm, most hold it to be pure based on hadith related by Aishah where the Prophet would offer prayer in clothes on which there was dried sperm that hadn’t been washed off (al-Bukhārī and Muslim). Even where bodily fluid is of little concern the condemnation remains – the point of ‘impurities’ is never the only argument since critics acknowledge it to be a weak premise.
“Evil western influences!”
Many naysayers fall into irrational and polemical rants about ‘depraved western culture’ and that the desire for oral stimulation is merely a malign western influence. This line of argument is so absurd that it’s hard to find where to begin. So very simply, if it’s a modern manifestation of western depravity, how is it that past jurists from the east, such as Ibn al-Arabi, al-Millibāri, al-Bahuti and others, discussed these issues addressing something that was obviously a point of conversation in their time? This ‘blame the west’ game is not only infantile but reveals insecurities for what they are: a fear of inherited cultural norms falling into the oblivion of irrelevance. Reactions such as these reveal a desire to impose the cultural norms of others onto the diverse faithful of Britain, something we should resolutely reject.
Now, the Prophet informed the believers that a cruel man is one who has penetrative sex with his wife before foreplay. Can it be any type of foreplay? The Quran speaks in general terms of righteous people who guard their private parts except from their spouses (23:5-6). Here the generality of the proposition allows for contact of a broad nature, and there is nothing in revelation that restricts contact to genitalia. Furthermore, and as a principle of sexual justice, it is well established that many women cannot climax through vaginal penetration alone, and the rights of women to achieve all possible heights of sexual fulfilment is enshrined in Islamic sexual ethics.
So what for those who say it is makruh (discouraged)? I can’t see how one can, since there doesn’t seem to be any strong reason to do so besides what seems to be culturally motivated subjective views. In fact, all things considered, it seems reasonable to assert that it might be mustahab (encouraged) for some, especially in the highly sexualised context we live in, where it leads to increased pleasure, increased intimacy and satisfaction, and aids in quelling illicit desires – all amongst the core objectives (maqāsid) of sex.
Let’s be clear. This is not about forcing people to engage in oral sex. Your matters are your own and do what makes you comfortable. But to use morality or misuse medieval fiqh without holistic consideration as a means to impose inherited cultural norms and restrict God-given freedoms, especially where it feeds into social problems amongst Muslims, is simply wrong.
For all those who have queried about oral sex over the years seeking to enrich their sexual experiences, your bedroom matters are yours. Be happy and have fun.
And God is the true guide to all that is good.