Rape is defined as sex with a person without that person’s consent. Rape simply means forcing them to have sex without their consent.
EDIT July 2018: I would like to reconsider that Islam does not allow marital rape. I was wrong. I have removed the obscure references to the book by Imam al-Kasani, student of Imam al-Samarqandi who claimed that a man can rape his wife. I will assume that in Sunni Islam the main schools of fiqh do not allow marital rape unless it is proven to me otherwise. However, I do think the below rest of my article is still true, that Islam puts a lot of pressure on the wife being sexually available to the man:
Islam does not allow the wife to deny intercourse to the husband. Sexual satisfaction is one of the rights of the husband in Islam. Infact, the actual marriage contract is made in that way. The husband has to mainly provide financially and the wife has to provide obedience and sex. Hamza Yusuf in the popular Rights and Responsibilities of Marriage series states the same.
Infact the Quran states that once you have intercourse with the wife, you cannot take back your dower (maher in arabic) because you have gone into her. This is another example that underscores that in Islam, you are making a contract for sexual exclusivity with a woman in exchange for taking care of her financially. Of course there is more to the contract than that, but MAINLY its financial for the man, and sexual for the woman.
‘And how can you take it when one of you has already gone in to the other’ and they have made with you a firm covenant?
And also in a hadith it states very harshly:
Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘If a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses [and does not come], and he spends the night angry with her, the angels will curse her until morning.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 4794; the additional phrase quoted in square brackets is from Abu Dawood, al-Sunan, Kitaab al-Nikaah, Bab haqq al-zawj ‘ala’l-mar’ah).
There is no hadith saying the same for men. That is some really strong language. I wonder if a husband does the same and refuse sex to his wife (and they do…) do the angels curse them too? Probably not. Angels curse wives only, not husbands.
Not to mention, one of the punishments that husbands can use if they suspect their wife for disobedience, is to deny them sex as stated in the Quran
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.
The wife cannot under any circumstance deny the husband sex or she will be sinful. The reason we were given for this is that men’s marital rights must be fulfilled so they don’t go out and cheat. Men are highly sexual creatures, but I would argue so are women! Both the husband and wife should not be denied sex. Coming from a 7th century view of the world where the man is the most important one, Islam caters to his needs. In the Quran it says,
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear nushooz (arrogance) – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand. (4:34)
Interesting that he just has to fear nushooz (defined as disobedience), he is allowed to give up having sex with her, and can even hit her. There is no such recourse for women, if they consider the husband is being unfaithful. Seems rather unfair, doesn’t it? God seems to love men a lot more than women. Or maybe women are considered cattle to him to be used for sexual pleasure only?
Not to mention, a man is allowed to have multiple wives, but a woman cannot do the same (multiple husbands).
Also see my post on Death Penalty for Adultery in Islam