Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil advises a sister whose husband is addicted to porn on how she best can tackle this sensitive issue.
Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
I have been married for 21 years. My husband has been addicted to porn since before we got married. I did not know this until a few years into our marriage. I have tried to talk to him several times but he gets angry and defensive. He tells me he doesn’t want to be controlled and if I continue to try to stop him he will be more determined.
In other aspects of his life he is very religious, masha Allah. Recently his addiction had become too much for me and I no longer want him to touch me. At first I did not refuse him, but tonight I had a long talk with him. I told him I want to help him stop his addiction and only do what pleases Allah.
He had the same reaction as before and again said he will not be controlled. Finally I told him I don’t want to have relations with him if he will not stop. He said in that case Allah will be displeased with me because I am not fulfilling my duties as a wife.
My question is, is that true in this case? Am I still obligated to fulfill my wifely duties even though he continues to watch pornography and I cannot bear to have him touch me?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.
Witholding Marital Intimacy
Narrated Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him:
Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “If a husband calls his wife to his bed (i.e. to have sexual relation) and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning.” (Bukhari)
Dear sister, I cannot imagine how difficult this situation is for you. I pray that Allah heals your husband and your marriage. 21 years is a very long time to struggle with his refusal to repent.
Although you are at your wit’s end, I do not encourage the use of ultimatums, especially in regards to withholding intimacy. Doing so is a form of controlling your husband’s behavior, and this would naturally cause him to be defensive.
As hard as it might be, try to imagine his pornography addiction as a drug or alcohol addiction. Threatening to withhold marital intimacy from an alcoholic does not make him more likely to stop drinking alcohol. This route could add to his feelings of anger and frustration. However, he is choosing to refuse to get help. He is still responsible for his actions.
In short, for as long as you are married to him, you are still obligated to have marital relations with him. I say this within the context of your husband being gentle with you and being sensitive to your needs and wants in the bedroom. If you are feeling repulsed by him, then you both need to work on solving this issue.
By the same token, these actions are displeasing to Allah:
1) watching pornography
2) masturbating while he watches it
3) disregarding your feelings.
It was narrated from Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet, blessing and peace be upon him, said: “The best of you is the one who is best to his wife, and I am the best of you to my wives.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)
A successful Islamic marriage is a mutually respectful and loving partnership with the joint intention of pleasing Allah. Within this context, your husband is failing to recognize his role in displeasing Allah through how much he is hurting you.
Is it possible for at least you to attend culturally-sensitive counseling? Ideally, it would be better for both of you to attend counseling, but your husband seems resistant to any form of change. Please know that you can still tremendously benefit from counseling, even if you attend it by yourself. A good counselor can help empower you and help you recognize what is within your sphere of control, and what is not.
Accepting a Wife’s Influence
A wise husband knows how to accept his wife’s influence. Consider these links:
Prayer of Need
You probably feel extremely powerless. Because of this, I encourage you perform the Prayer of Need to appeal to the One who created your husband.
Purify Your Gaze is an excellent resource for people like your husband. Again, only he can decide to get help.
I encourage you to consult Megan Wyatt from Wives of Jannah to help you navigate your difficult and sensitive marital situation.
Prayer of Guidance
I encourage you to perform the Prayer of Guidance as often as you need to in regards to staying in your marriage. A positive answer could be your husband softening and finally getting the help that he needs to treat his addiction. A negative answer could be your husband persisting in his addiction and refusing to repent.
Narrated Anas, may Allah be pleased with him:
Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one.” People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him)! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” (Bukhari)
At the end of the day, if you cannot bear to touch your husband, then it does not seem like a marriage worth staying in. Please exhaust all options and consider divorce a last resort. Divorce may be frowned upon, but it is still permissible. If both of you fail to fulfill your obligations towards each other, and continue to oppress one another, then divorce may even be obligatory. Please remember that Allah has given you the gift of agency. Use it to draw closer to Him.
Please see Selected Prophetic Prayers for Spiritual, Physical and Emotional Wellbeing by Chaplain Ibrahim Long, A Reader on Pornography and Masturbation, and “Too Embarrassed to Talk About It”: Pornography Addiction and Some of Its Effects on Muslim Marital Life.
I pray that Allah blesses you with wisdom, courage and insight to do whatever is most pleasing to Him.
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.