What does Islam say about sexual relationships?

In Islam, men and women are required to dress modestly. This is said to help them avoid embarrassing one another. It is also seen as a way of discouraging adultery.

Sex is seen as a gift from Allah and sexual relationships should be restricted to marriage between a man and a woman. Meetings between unmarried couples are traditionally chaperoned. In the Qur'an, unmarried Muslims are advised against sex before marriage.

Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste until God gives them the means.Qur'an 24:33

Arranged marriages are the custom in Muslim families, when parents are involved in finding a suitable marriage partner for their child. This ensures that marriages are based on compatibility rather than lustful feelings. It is thought that a marriage like this will be less likely to end in divorce.

Adultery is regarded as a very serious crime. It is seen as a form of theft:

And come not near unto adultery. Lo! It is an abomination and an evil way.Qur'an 17:32

Many Muslims see it as their duty to have children and one of the aims of marriage is the conception and raising of children. However, most Islamic scholars agree that Islam allows contraception if a pregnancy would endanger a woman's life, or to allow couples to space out their children especially if a woman is already caring for a baby (eg if breastfeeding). Sterilisation, which would result in a couple never having children, is strongly discouraged.

What does this mean in practice?

Some Muslim women believe that the wearing of a religious garment, like the burka, is a way of protecting themselves from what they see as an over-sexualised society. They feel that society portrays women as 'sex objects' and places too much importance on a woman's physical appearance.

Under Shari'ah Law, the traditional punishment for adultery is stoning to death. Iran, which has been an Islamic state since 1979, banned stoning as a means of execution in 2013, but adultery is still punishable there by death.