Anal sex was a pressing issue for early Muslims, and as a result, there are several hadiths on the subject. On one occasion, so the story goes, a relative of Aisha, the prophet’s favorite wife, came to her in a bit of a fluster: he had had anal sex with his wife, Aisha’s niece, and wanted to know if this was acceptable. In turn, Aisha told him an anecdote: one day in Medina, a local woman came to the Prophet in a similar dudgeon, because her husband wanted to have anal sex, and she refused. The back-story is an interesting clash of cultures. The husband in question was from Mecca, and had moved to Medina during the great migration, or hijra, of 622, when Muhammad led the early believers to what he hoped was a safer haven for the new religion.
Anal sex had been practiced in Mecca before the coming of Islam, so for these new Muslims on the move, it was business as usual. But the woman in question was one of the Ansari, or helpers of Islam, Medina tribes who assisted the new Muslim arrivals. She had been brought up alongside local Jewish tribes, whose religion forbade anal sex. The woman wanted the Prophet’s advice on her husband’s sexual tastes, but was too shy to tell him her predicament. After some persuasion, however, she consulted Muhammad directly, at which point he is said to have come out against anal sex.
In contrast to Azza’s dim view of the anal intercourse, the Encyclopedia maintained that there are women who actually prefer the practice, either to avoid pregnancy or because straight-up vaginal sex is not satisfying enough. In addition to streams of poetry in praise of anal sex, the Encyclopedia offers detailed advice on how to do it, with 16 different positions including “breaking-of-eggs”, “carving-of marble”, and the more obvious, but equally acrobatic, “untying-of-loin cloth”. Not all religious authorities follow this line. Malik ibn Anas, an 8th century Islamic scholar and founder of one of the main schools of Sunni jurisprudence, is said to have allowed the practice. When asked his opinion of anal intercourse, “It is something that I have recently begun to practice, but it is pleasurable indeed,” was apparently his reply.