Does Imam Shafi‘i Explicitly Prohibit Coercion in Marriage?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick


He who has one wife or an additional servant must fear Allah, avoiding harm during intercourse. While no specific obligations are mandated, he must provide for her welfare—financially, in residence, clothing, and intimacy. Intercourse should bring pleasure and never be forced upon anyone.

  1. What does he mean here?
  2. Is this a general statement about coercion? (no one can be forced into it).
  3. Why does he say it’s only if there is one wife/slave?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to what pleases Him. Amin.

The valuable statement you’re referring to emphasizes a fundamental principle in Islamic marital relationships – mutual consent and respect between the husband and wife, particularly in intimacy-related matters.

Coercion is strictly prohibited in Islam, whether married to one or multiple wives. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “[Let there be] no harm or reciprocation of harm.” [Ibn Maja, Muwatta, Daraqutni]

The statement by Imam Shafi‘i further espouses this prohibition, and Allah knows best.

Spousal Rights and Duties

In Islam, both partners have rights and responsibilities towards each other. The husband must provide for his wife, including financial maintenance, protection, residence, clothing, preserving her chastity, and spending time with her.

A wife should be obedient to her husband as long as the husband’s requests do not contradict the teachings of Islam or involve any sinful acts.  A wife is obligated to protect her modesty, i.e., she should preserve her chastity and not reveal her beauty except to those who are allowed to see it as per Islamic law. The wife should not refuse her husband’s lawful and reasonable demand for marital intimacy unless she has a valid reason (like illness or during her menstrual periods). [Nawawi, Majmu‘ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab]

Mutual Pleasure and Consent

All of the above is at the level of the letter of the law. The spirit of marriage is enshrined in the Sunna. Seeking one’s rights through demands and claiming rights contradicts the spirit of marriage and never solves anything. Rights should always be understood in light of the following Prophetic guidance:

“The most perfect of believers are those most perfect in character, and the best amongst you are the best of you to your spouses.” [Tirmidhi 1162]

Intimacy is a source of mutual pleasure and a means to foster love and affection between the couple. It’s important to stress that in Islam, any form of coercion or forced intimacy is strictly prohibited.

This notion of mutual consent and respect also aligns with the Quranic verse, “They [your wives] are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them.” [Quran, 2:187] This verse metaphorically illustrates the intimate, protective, and interdependent relationship between spouses.

Therefore, the statement “No one can be forced into it” reinforces the Islamic prohibition against any form of compulsion or coercion in marital relations. It emphasizes that intimacy should be a consensual act of love and affection between spouses.

Lawful Conjugal Relations is a Form of Charity

Some of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them) said to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), “O Messenger of Allah, the affluent have made off with the rewards; they pray as we pray, they fast as we fast, and they give [much] in charity by their wealth.”

He (Allah bless and give him peace) said, “Has not Allah made things for you to give in charity? Truly every tasbih [saying: ‘Subhan-Allah’] is a charity, and every takbir [saying: ‘Allahu akbar’] is a charity, and every tahmid [saying: ‘alhamdu lillah’] is a charity, and every tahlil [saying: ‘la ilaha illa Allah’] is a charity.

And commanding the good is a charity, and forbidding an evil is a charity, and in the bud‘ [sexual act] of each of you there is a charity.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah when one of us fulfills his carnal desire, will he have some reward for that?”

He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Do you not see that if he were to act upon it [his desire] in an unlawful manner, then he would be deserving of punishment? Likewise, if he were to act upon it lawfully, then he would be deserving of a reward [Muslim: 1006]

Fairness in Marriage – Conjugal Relations

Imam Shafi’i’s statement, “Likewise, if he only has one wife or an additional concubine …”, is not saying only if he has one wife, but in the previous section (before the quoted piece), Imam Shafi‘i addressed the issue of a man with multiple wives, and being fair in their treatment.

Imam Shafi‘i said, “ And verily, Allah, Exalted, and Glorified, said, ‘And live with them in kindness… much good.’ [Quran, 4:19] It is lawful for a man to withhold some or all of a woman’s division [of marital rights] if she is content with that. But if she withdraws her contentment, it is only lawful for him to be just to or part with her.

She only waives what is not obligatory for her in a new arrangement, so as long as she stands by her waiver, it is permissible. And if she retracts her waiver, what has passed by the waiver is permissible, and what lies ahead is not permissible except with a renewed waiver to him.

If she grants him [the rights] and he resides with another of his wives for some days, then she retracts, he must reinstitute justice with her, and what occurred before her retraction is permissible. He said: If she retracts and he is unaware of the retraction and continues based on what she had allowed for him, then upon learning of her retraction, he must re-establish justice from the day of his knowledge, and there is no fault upon him for what has transpired.

And if he says, ‘I will neither divorce her nor be equitable to her,’ he is compelled to divide [his time] for her but not to be compelled to divorce her. He said: Nor is he compelled to give her the act of intimacy, and it behooves him to seek fairness in it for her.” [Shafi‘i, Kitab al-Umm, 5:203]

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan (Allah have mercy on him), where he taught.

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Shaykh Muhammad Awama, Shaykh Muhammad Hasan Hitu, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has been the Director of the Discover Islam Centre, and for six years, he has been the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has fifteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic podcast, education, and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy Prophetic living and fitness.