In this series of articles we’re looking at how the Bahá’í Marriage Vow “We will all verily abide by the Will of God” can help solve the 10 most common marriage problems. In this article we will explore the topic of sexual problems in marriage.
The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual inside a marriage:
The Bahá’í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse . . . The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this purpose that the institution of marriage has been established. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 344)
When undertaken with love, it is a beautiful thing!
It’s conditioned upon the consent of both parties, however. If sex is forced on a partner unwillingly, it’s called rape, and may jeopardize the continuation of the marriage:
If a Bahá’í woman suffers abuse or is subjected to rape by her husband, she has the right to turn to the Spiritual Assembly for assistance and counsel, or to seek legal protection. Such abuse would gravely jeopardize the continuation of the marriage, and could well lead to a condition of irreconcilable antipathy. (The Universal House of Justice, 1992, Violence and Sexual Abuse of Women and Children)
There are some forms of sex which are not allowed inside or outside a marriage. They include:
It condemns . . . the practices of nudism . . . (Shoghi Effendi: The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 30).
Masturbation is clearly not a proper use of the sex instinct, as this is understood in the Faith. Moreover it involves . . . mental fantasies, while Bahá’u’lláh, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, has exhorted us not to indulge our passions and in one of His well-known Tablets ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encourages us to keep our “secret thoughts pure”. (Universal House of Justice, 1981, Lights of Guidance, p. 364)
Sodomy (anal intercourse)
Ye are forbidden to commit . . . sodomy . . . Avoid them, O concourse of the faithful. (Baha’u’llah, The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, p. 57).
QUESTION: Concerning the penalties for adultery, sodomy, and theft, and the degrees thereof. ANSWER: The determination of the degrees of these penalties rests with the House of Justice. (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 121)
Lechery (immoderate indulgence of sexual desire):
Ye are forbidden to commit . . . lechery. Avoid them, O concourse of the faithful. (Baha’u’llah, The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, p. 57).
As to the contents of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, one of the provisions of that Most Holy Book is ‘not to indulge one’s passions’. (See Synopsis and Codification of the Laws and Ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, pg. 50) (Universal House of Justice, to an individual believer, 5 June, 1983.)
We’ve put too much emphasis on the importance of sex:
The world today is submerged, amongst other things, in an over-exaggeration of the importance of physical love, and a dearth of spiritual values. In as far as possible the believers should try to realize this and rise above the level of their fellowmen who are, typical of all decadent periods in history, placing so much overemphasis on the purely physical side of mating. (Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 233)
Sex is not what holds a marriage together:
The institution of marriage, as established by Bahá’u’lláh, while giving due importance to the physical aspect of marital union considers it as subordinate to the moral and spiritual purposes and functions with which it has been invested by an All-Wise and loving Providence. Only when these different values are given each their due importance, and only on the basis of the subordination of the physical to the moral, and the carnal to the spiritual can such excesses and laxity in marital relations as our decadent age is so sadly witnessing be avoided, and family life be restored to its original purity, and fulfill the true function for which it has been instituted by God. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 226)
It’s only one moment in a longer process:
The sex act is merely one moment in a long process, from courtship through marriage, the procreation of children, their nursing and rearing, and involves the establishment of a mutually sustaining relationship between two souls which will endure beyond life on this earth. (The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05, Homosexuality, p. 11)
Love and harmony in a marriage is far more important than sex:
Bahá’u’lláh has urged marriage upon all people as the natural and rightful way of life. He has also, however, placed strong emphasis on its spiritual nature, which, while in no way precluding a normal physical life, is the most essential aspect of marriage. That two people should live their lives in love and harmony is of far greater importance than that they should be consumed with passion for each other. The one is a great rock of strength on which to learn in time of need; the other a purely temporary thing which may at any time die out. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 378-379)
Friendship and mutual assistance are important attributes in a marriage, and without them, there are serious consequences.
The Lord, peerless is He, hath made woman and man to abide with each other in the closest companionship, and to be even as a single soul. They are two helpmates, two intimate friends, who should be concerned about the welfare of each other. If they live thus, they will pass through this world with perfect contentment, bliss, and peace of heart, and become the object of divine grace and favour in the Kingdom of heaven. But if they do other than this, they will live out their lives in great bitterness, longing at every moment for death, and will be shamefaced in the heavenly realm. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 122)
Marriages are meant to last through all the worlds of God, but this will only happen if they are based on both physical and spiritual ties. Otherwise this union will be temporary and end in separation:
Marriage, among the mass of the people, is a physical bond, and this union can only be temporary, since it is foredoomed to a physical separation at the close. Among the people of Bahá, however, marriage must be a union of the body and of the spirit as well, for here both husband and wife are aglow with the same wine, both are enamoured of the same matchless Face, both live and move through the same spirit, both are illumined by the same glory. This connection between them is a spiritual one, hence it is a bond that will abide forever. Likewise do they enjoy strong and lasting ties in the physical world as well, for if the marriage is based both on the spirit and the body, that union is a true one, hence it will endure. If, however, the bond is physical and nothing more, it is sure to be only temporary, and must inexorably end in separation. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 117)
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