I recently went to a Mastura group and was told that women’s wudu is invalidated if she so much so touches her husband but when you sleep it isn’t invalidated. So if you go to Makkah again if you touch a non Mahram it’s not invalidated because of the crowds and circumstances. Things like this make me question the logic behind the rulings. Why is it so inconvenient for us? I genuinely struggle with believing it’s so rigid. My husband constantly asks for massages so I need to retake wudu 24/7?
There are many differing opinions on this issue. According to the Ḥanbalī school touching a spouse or a stranger does not nullify wuḍuʾ because they interpret the relevant Quranic verse (4:43) as referring to sexual intercourse (Ibn Taymīya, d. 1328 CE) (Ibn Bāz, d. 1999 CE) or erotic touching (al-Mardāwī, d. c. 1480 CE).
Ibn Nujaym (d. c. 1562 CE), representing the Ḥanafī school, says that mere skin contact does not nullify wuḍuʾ regardless of whether the contact is accidental or intentional, and regardless of whether it is done with erotic intent or not, and regardless of whether it is with one’s spouse or a stranger.
Al-Nawawī (d. 1277 CE), representing the Shāfiʿī school, says that any form of contact between members of the opposite sex who have reached puberty nullifies wuḍuʾ, regardless of whether the two persons are married or not. It is probable that what you heard was from a Shāfiʿī source.
The Egyptian jurist Muhammad ʿIllīsh (d. 1882 CE), representing the Mālikī school, says that the only type of touching that nullifies wuḍuʾ is that which is done with erotic intent (i.e. with the intention of obtaining sexual pleasure), regardless of whether the person obtains the pleasure they sought. It is also nullifies wuḍuʾ if a person obtains sexual pleasure from touching even though they did not intend to obtain pleasure.
The main matter at issue here is the interpretation of lāmastum in verse 4:43. The Shāfiʿīs interpret it as “if you touch”, while the Ḥanafī and Ḥanbalī scholars appear to interpret it as “if you have sexual intercourse with”. Both of these interpretations involve taking an extreme position that is not implied by the verse. The phrase lāmastum literally means “if you caress”, it suggests prolonged contact and has a sexual connotation to it. The Mālikī opinion in my understanding best represents the intent of this verse. Touching a person of the opposite sex only breaks wuḍuʾ if the touching is done with erotic intent or if the touching leads to erotic pleasure without intent. This would apply whether the touching involves a stranger, relative or spouse. The Mālikī opinion represents a middle road between the extremely strict Shāfiʿī view and the extremely lax Ḥanafī/Ḥanbalī views.
On this issue I prefer the Mālikī view, which is that touching between spouses or strangers does not nullify wuḍuʾ unless the person does it with erotic intent or gains erotic pleasure from it. Giving your husband a massage wouldn’t nullify wuḍuʾ if there is no erotic intent or pleasure involved. The Ḥanbalī scholar al-Mardāwī also appears to share a similar opinion.
Source for the opinions of the scholars mentioned above: IslamWeb, fatwa 41160 [archived link], Ibn Baz’s website, fatwa 2961 [archived link].