Song of Songs – Erotic Content?

Song of Songs—”The Word of God could not possibly contain such erotic or obscene content”

God’s Word is guidance for every area of life. Song of Songs is a poem of love between a husband and wife and so, while the content may be graphic it is appropriate in the marriage context. The use of the terms ‘lover’ and ‘beloved’ to refer to the male and female characters of the book indicate their married relationship. The male character does not refer to his wife as ‘wife’, but by the affectionate name ‘lover’. The two people in the Song are married people, very much in love with each other, so they are expressing their delight and their passion for each other. Surely this cannot be obscene, unless one thinks that all sex is bad, even between married people. On the contrary, it seems that even Muhammad (pbuh) taught that marriage and marital relations are a blessing and a good thing, and his sayings (hadith) contain many very explicit details of married life.

In modern times, in both West and East, it sometimes seems that society says all sex is allowed and exciting, EXCEPT that between two married people! So something like the Song of Solomon, where two married people are clearly loving and desiring each other, is a helpful correction of these dangerous ideas. Perhaps we are given the Song to remind us of the blessings of marriage, and to remind us to keep the joy and passion WITHIN our marriage (as scripture clearly teaches), and not to seek it elsewhere.

Some also read the book as an allegorical poem. Down through the ages, both Jews and Christians alike have applied different interpretations to the book, in order to try to understand the deeper meaning of the poetry within it. It has been suggested that the Song of Songs is a picture of God’s love for his people, who elsewhere in the Bible are described as his “bride.” Sufi Islam has a very similar tradition of love poem allegories comparing love for God to human love, such as the poetry of Rabae’ Al-Adaweiah.

Like the Song of Songs, the Qur’ān also has been berated by critics for explicitly erotic references to extramarital sexual pleasure in heaven. One finds in the Qur’ān erotic descriptions of the angelic hur ‘s sensual eyes and breasts (Al-Naba’ 78:31-33; Al-Rahman 55:70-77). We read that these perpetual virgins have round breasts (that don’t sag)1 with their husband’s name written on one breast, dwell in splendid palaces with female attendants and rich jewels2, and they are infatuated with their husbands as she-camels in heat3. Marriage contracts won’t be needed for hurs 4, and they will remain virgins perpetually. Furthermore, every believer will have a large number of them at his disposal5, and he will have miraculous sexual strength6 to have intercourse with a hundred virgins in one day7. By contrast, the Zabur and Injīl’s description of heaven is primarily about enjoying God’s presence without any reference at all to sexual rewards.

  1. Ibn Kathir, on 78:33.
  2. “Hur”, The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam , p.141.
  3. Ibn Kathir on 56:35-37
  4. Maariful Tafsir on 44:54, p.762.
  5. “Hur”, The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam , p.141.
  6. al-Tirmidhi, no.2459
  7. Ibn Kathir on 56:35-37

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