LOVE, SEX & ISLAM
Sex in the Here-And-Now
Mary On Crescent Street in Montréal, there is a two-story building with two spacious outdoor balconies. One is an extension of a well-appointed restaurant that takes up the entire top floor; the other, an extension of the first-floor Cheers-like bar, only bigger. Beneath it all is a nightclub where disco went to die and found a new lease on life when I was there. The building, which encompasses the restaurant, the bar and the disco, is called Thursdays—in French, "Les Beaux Jeudis,” though even its French clientele call it Thursdays. Thursdays is where I met her.
It was late Tuesday night and the place was not very busy. Not because it was Tuesday at Thursdays, which was a party every night of the week, but because there was a raging snowstorm outside. I was nursing my second gin and tonic when she walked in, the most stunning black woman I had ever seen.
There was the white of her eyes as they searched the semi-darkness that separated her from me. There was her long, braided black hair that swung back and forth as she made her way to the bar where I was sitting. My grateful eyes took in that body with nothing but curves wrapped in a short, tight, white satin dress covered with a mesh-like material, ending in fringes that stroked her skin as she walked.
She sat two stools to my left and crossed her legs, exposing a muscular black-as-coal thigh straining against the white mesh. Her dress was square-cut along the top with only the crests of her ample, perfectly round breasts showing, so close together that you couldn’t have slipped a sheet of paper between them.
It was only a matter of time before our eyes met, and when they did, I said hi; she said hello. I said bonjour; she said bonsoir. She asked if she could move closer. I said bien sur.
Mary spoke near-perfect French. Not that high-pitched, hysterical, pretentious French spoken by Parisian snobs and garçons de café, but a happy, melodious French, not unlike in tone to the English you might hear on a beach in Jamaica.
With so few of us in the bar, the DJ didn’t mind, after I slipped him a few dollars, playing a few tunes from my younger days. I asked if she would join me on one of Thursdays’ two dance floors. She chose the one with the disco ball and a circular rotating platform. I couldn’t dance then and still can’t, but that was okay; she did enough dancing for the both of us.
I was quite happy to stand there shuffling my feet and watching her. She danced wildly, she danced gracefully, she danced seductively, moving around the entire space, never taking her eyes off me. Eventually, still swaying her hips in that sensual sideways motion with just a hint of back and forth action, she moved closer and closer until she was near enough to wrap her hands around the back of my neck, then thrust those hips forward so hard that I thought she might have broken something.
When it was time to leave, I offered to walk her to her car. The snow had really piled up. The Chateau Royale, my hotel, was just across the street. She asked if she could spend the night. I agreed. I think it was when we were alone in the elevator that she mentioned that if we got to know each other better, there would be a price to pay.
I thought I was doing her a favour only to be told that it could cost me! I had never paid for sex, though, like many men, I have paid for expensive dinners hoping that intimacy would follow.
As we were getting undressed, Mary told me her rate: $240 an hour. She was grateful enough to only charge me that amount for the entire night. It was almost midnight and I had to be at work first thing in the morning. Even if I had been interested, it was not a great deal.
We spent the night facing away from each other; she lay on one side of my king-sized bed and me, on the other. The next morning, she was not smiling, but I was. Is there anything more pleasing to the eye than a woman you first saw naked the night before getting out of bed in the bright morning light to take a shower? But she didn’t shower. I had to be content watching her get dressed and walk out the door.
I thought that was that. I don’t remember how many days had passed when there was a knock at the door in the middle of the night. There she was, asking if she could sleep over again. Sure, why not?
She again got undressed and into bed, still on her side but a little closer to mine. When I crawled over and put my arms around her, she didn’t seem to mind—she even lightly pressed her hips against my lap while reminding me that anything more came with a price. No money would again change hands, but it was quite pleasant not having to sleep alone.
The same scenario was repeated a few days later, except this time I didn’t have to crawl halfway across the bed. I just rolled over and there she was. Again, I wrapped my arms around her, my forearms beneath her breasts acting like a push-up bra, as if they needed one. Even when moving around the room with nothing on, Mary’s impressive breasts seemed to defy gravity.
This time it was not a light tap; her hips pushed back hard, and she started moving them like a stripper trying to perform a lap dance while lying on her side next to her client. In no time at all, her posterior’s impressive twins had trapped what they had aroused in the narrow canyon between them. An obstinate erection that didn’t care what time it was, or what my brain wanted, would have to be content spending the night pressed against her backside, hoping the sensation of being stretched out and more than half buried between the soft and smothering buttocks of a young African woman might bring release in a dream.
But it wasn’t over; far from it. There was no talk of money when she raised the leg that was on top, bending it at the knee and forming an archway that easily allowed a hand to come through. Her behind moved out of the way just long enough to grab what it came for, taking me to a place already moist in anticipation.
There was no frenzied thrusting—just a slow, silent back and forth with only the occasional peek outside the entrance of a tunnel with no exit. She didn’t moan much during the entire time and I didn’t make any of the sounds that men make when they feel like the dam is about to burst, plunging in with renewed vigour as if wanting their entire body to disappear into that too-narrow opening.
I thought I heard a whimper when her cushioning bum jerked forward, each cheek pressing hard against the other as they left the comfort of my lap. It was not the spasmodic clench-and-release that is your assurance that you have made your partner very happy and a testament to your competence as a lover.
Her hips returned to my lap shortly after, pressing hard against the base of what was slowly deflating inside her before slipping out to momentarily rest on that black, muscular, smooth-as-silk thigh.
Wow, unprotected sex with a hooker?! That was bit reckless, I hear you telling me. When that working girl puts a condom on you before penetration, or even before oral sex, it is not for your protection but hers. When Mary parked me outside the entrance to her vagina as an invitation to press on and make myself at home, she knew an exchange of bodily fluids was inevitable. But she also knew, from our time together not having sex, that I would not put her out of business for any length of time. Still, if it had not happened the way it did, I would have insisted on her sheathing it before I went in, or done it myself.
There was another thing about Mary that I would later discover was unusual for a woman in her profession. She always smelled nice, even when all you could detect was her body odour and not some light fragrance that could not have camouflaged anything. Hookers and cheating wives look to the same solution if they don’t have time to shower or bathe after sex: they pour on the perfume to mask the scent of the man and the deed.
That meant that whatever Mary was doing with other men did not involve full body-on-body contact, or that she met her clients at their hotels, after which she would shower. This also explained why it had not been a priority for her to do so before leaving my apartment to make her way home on previous mornings. The reason for her sporadic visits would also become evident: those were the evenings she was too late to catch the last metro.
She got up first the next morning and took a quick shower while I was still wiping the sleep from my eyes. She asked for money, but only for a cab to get her home. She lived off the Island of Montréal so it was an expensive ride. The underground metro, with a station less than a block from my hotel, would certainly get her there faster than a cab fighting morning traffic all the way to Longueil.
I was happy to give her the fare, even knowing she would probably take the faster, cheaper way home. I even threw in money for breakfast—a good breakfast. It was still a better deal than the price she quoted me that first night, but this was never about the cost. Maybe sex with me was not that bad, compensated by cab fare and breakfast, and it was not simply the convenience of my apartment that made up the difference.
Who am I kidding? I was in my forties and her, maybe twenty years younger. I was not the young man a prostitute might prefer to the older man who could offer more for her favours, like in the following hadith in which temporary marriages are sanctioned by God’s spokesman.
Sabra Juhanni reported:
Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) permitted temporary marriage for us. So I and another person went out and saw a woman of Bana 'Amir, who was like a young long-necked she-camel.
We presented ourselves to her (for contracting temporary marriage), whereupon she said: What dower would you give me?
I said: My cloak. And my companion also said: My cloak. And the cloak of my companion was superior to my cloak, but I was younger than he. So when she looked at the cloak of my companion she liked it, and when she cast a glance at me I looked more attractive to her. She then said: Well, you and your cloak are sufficient for me.
I remained with her for three nights, and then Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: He who has any such woman with whom he had contracted temporary marriage, he should let her off.
Sahih Muslim 8:3252
According to another narrator, that approval is implicit in Revelation 5:87, which God’s spokesman recited when he allowed temporary marriages.
We used to participate in the holy wars carried on by the Prophet and we had no women (wives) with us. So we said (to the Prophet). "Shall we castrate ourselves?"
But the Prophet forbade us to do that and thenceforth he allowed us to marry a woman (temporarily) by giving her even a garment, and then he recited: "O you who believe! Do not make unlawful the good things which Allah has made lawful for you." Qur'an 5:87
The holy warriors from the preceding hadiths had obviously not received any females—wives or daughters—as their share of the booty. That would have eliminated the need to seek sex with a prostitute. A revealed truth within a hadith (both reinforcing one another) meant to reduce the reluctance of some believers to raping wives in front of husbands who survived their encounter with the Muslims.
The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) sent a military expedition to Awtas on the occasion of the battle of Hunain. They met their enemy and fought with them. They defeated them and took them captives.
Some of the Companions of the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) were reluctant to have intercourse with the female captives in the presence of their husbands who were unbelievers. So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Qur’anic verse: (4:24) "And all married women (are forbidden) unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess."
Abu Dawud 2.2150
In areas controlled by the Muslims, a prostitute was usually the slave-girl of a believer who willingly accepted to have sex with men other than her owner for compensation.
24:33 Let those who do not find the means to marry be abstinent, till Allah enriches them from his Bounty. Those whom your right hands own and who wish to pay for their emancipation, conclude a contract with them, if you know that there is some good in them, and give them of Allah’s wealth which He gave you. Do not force your slave-girls into prostitution, if they wish to be chaste, in order to seek the fleeting goods of this life. Whoever forces them, surely Allah, after their being forced, is Forgiving, Merciful.
Sunni doctrine doesn’t allow for temporary marriages as a means of getting around Allah’s prohibition against pre-marital sex, in spite of God implicitly allowing slave owners to pimp out slave-girls who did not care to remain “chaste.”
As for those sayings of Muhammad allowing it, respected Sunni scholar and author of The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam quotes a companion of Muhammad, a fellow by the name of Al-Juhani, who claimed that after the conquest of Mecca, God’s spokesperson abrogated his earlier ruling and said, henceforth, all temporary marriages were forbidden. Nonetheless, you will find the largest brothel in the world in a Sunni country. It’s an entire village, that of Daulatdia in Bangladesh, one of twenty government sanctioned brothels (as of 2019).
The greatest number of temporary marriages are performed in Shia Iran, held in unofficial brothels where you will find an imam who is prepared, for a price, to proffer a temporary marriage certificate. The payment for sex is deemed to be her dowry so believers can avoid going to hell for having sex with a woman outside of actual marriage. The hypocrisy never fails to astound.
I suppose that I, too, was being a hypocrite, pretending that paying for an expensive cab ride—which she probably did not even take—was not paying for sex. The pretending stopped when her nocturnal visits began interfering with the work for which I was getting well paid. I ended my nights with Mary somewhat abruptly. I told the night clerk not to let her come up to my apartment anymore. To tell her, if necessary, that I was no longer a guest of the Chateau Royale. I did not expect him to go that far, but he did.
It was inevitable that I would run into her again and have to admit that, no, I had not moved out. She was somewhat humiliated and disappointed that I had not had the courage to tell her in person that I wanted to end “our arrangement.”
Sex was now out of the question. Instead, we started meeting for dinner. I wanted to know about the world she left behind. I remember the first time I asked her about her home in Africa. We were having dinner at Thursdays' second floor restaurant, enjoying the patio on a warm summer evening. I wanted to hear about the lions, the tigers, the tropical rainforest, the endless summers...
She laughed. Her country was not like that at all. It was dirt roads, arid dusty fields, and no wildlife to speak of. As far as the tropical forest was concerned, there was almost none left. On other nights, she talked about her family. Her father and mother remained in Africa. She hinted at a relationship that seemed to be her prime motivator for immigrating to Canada: to escape a marriage in the Islamic tradition, which she once described as "god-sanctioned rape."
Remembering Uzza is dedicated to that young woman from Africa whom I met one snowy night almost twenty years ago, who inspired me to go on a voyage of discovery of a religion like no other. Uzza should have been the culmination of that journey wherein I imagined her spending an evening in a bar in conversation with patrons talking about what I have learned.
I had a client who dated mainly prostitutes and avoided serious relationships. His motto was “it’s cheaper to rent than to own.” Bob in Remembering Uzza is based on his personality; I gave him a copy of the book. At fifty-something, he expressed disappointment with how things had turned out. He envied what I had had with my beloved Lucette, and told me how lucky I had been.
I was no longer having sex with Mary, but another line had been crossed and I no longer cared about the money, which I could afford. After Mary, I became an easy mark for all the young to slightly older women who dropped by Thursdays looking to entice a patron into paying for sex. I would end it all after, of all things, having sex for free with a young stripper who forced me to confront the morality of what I was doing.
Excerpt from Love, Sex and Islam, Boreal Books, 2020