A follow up to the story about Egypt’s proposed “Farewell Intercourse” law. While that itself looks more and more apocryphal (the Mail Online has since added denials by the Egyptian embassy to its story), the question of whether Islam permits sex with one’s dead spouse lives on. As esteemed Moroccan cleric Abd Al-Bari Al-Zamzami explains, it may not be approved, it may well be sick, but it ain’t illegal:
From the transcript:
Abd Al-Bari Al-Zamzami : A few days ago, I was asked by the Al-Sabbah newspaper about men who have sex with their dead wives. The truth is that this question took me by surprise, and I asked the journalist whether there really are people who do this deplorable and disgraceful act, which is not to be expected from a normal, balanced person. Only a mentally or psychologically unbalanced man would do such a thing.
In any case, I do not have the right to prohibit things. Fatwas are not shaped according to one’s will or whim. Rather, they reflect the law of Allah.
Therefore, I do not have the right to prohibit that act merely because I consider it deplorable.
The evidence I relied upon in this case was that a wife’s death does not sever her relations with her husband. A wife’s death does not sever her marital relations with her husband. She remains his wife post mortem, in the Hereafter, just as she was his wife in her lifetime.
It is perfectly clear that marital relations are not severed by a wife’s death. She remains her husband’s wife. This being the case, the husband has the right to do whatever he wants with her. For instance, he may kiss her. It is common for a husband to kiss his wife after her death, out of love and sorrow. This is something that is done, and there is nothing wrong with it.
The fact that such an act is permissible does not make it commendable or even acceptable. Having sex with your wife’s corpse is permitted but not commendable.
The first half dealt with the question of whether a woman may use a carrot to relieve “sexual pressures” while preserving her chastity. Don’t laugh! These are crucial questions of law and theology that have vexed Islamic scholars for centuries!
Okay, go ahead and laugh. And point.
According to this hadith, Muhammad took off his shirt and placed it on a dead woman and “lay with her” in her grave. The gravediggers proceeded to hurl dirt atop the corpse and the prophet, exclaiming, “O Prophet, we see you doing a thing you never did with anyone else,” to which Muhammad responded: “I have dressed her in my shirt so that she may be dressed in heavenly robes, and I have laid with her in her grave so that the pressures of the grave [also known as Islam’s “torments of the grave“] may be alleviated from her.”
What was Muhammad saying and doing? Perhaps his magical shirt would transport the dead woman to heaven, and his blessed body would protect her from the “pressures of the grave”? A more cynical—a more human—reading is that he stripped his shirt as a natural step before copulating; that he precisely, if not sardonically, meant the act of sex would “alleviate” the pressures of death from the corpse; and that the observers covered them with dirt for privacy and/or for shame.
This interpretation is given much more weight when one considers that the secondary meaning for the word I translated above as “lay with” is “intercourse,” further demonstrating that the proposed Egyptian law is, in fact, based on this hadith: after all, the Arabic root-word used for “intercourse” in the phrase “farewell intercourse” is derived from the same root-word that Muhammad used to explain what he did with the dead woman (d-j-‘). As if this was not enough, necrophilia finds more validation in Islam’s legal texts. For example, according to al-Sharwani’s Hawashi, “there is no punishment for having intercourse with a dead woman” and “it is not necessary to rewash the dead after penetration.”
Be sure to read the whole thing. I also recommend his reports on the lectures of Coptic Father Zakaria Botros on Muhammad’s perverse sexual practices. Bear in mind that all the authorities cited are approved Islamic texts.
Now, does this mean I think all or many Muslims approve of necrophilia or other perverse practices? No, of course not. Zamzami himself, in the clip above, is clearly disgusted.
But the religion does, because Allah himself in the Qur’an (33:21) endorses Muhammad’s life as a “beautiful pattern of conduct,” an example for all mankind for all time. And to the literalist believer who wishes to recreate the “true Islam” of the 7th century, that may well include (among other things) child marriage, pedophilia, and, yes, marital necrophilia.
I think you can see why Islam’s apologists would rather we not know of these things.