Moral Teachings of Islam- Prohibitions to Protect Honor: General

Summary of 6.14′ “Diet: Other Issues”
Basically what we are covering are the five objectives of Islamic Sharia’a which are the criteria that indicate what is lawful and unlawful in Islam.’ In some of the earlier programs in the series we talked bout safe guarding faith which involves avoiding things like shirk (associating others with God), sorcery, magic, tyranny (suppresses people’s religious freedom) and son on.’ Second, we touched on the protection of life and in order to protect life Islam provided certain prohibitions such as killing, suicide, abortion (except if it is to save the life of the mother), euthanasia, social injustice (because it threatens peoples wellbeing and survival) and we spent quite a bit of time on the question of diet that might be harmful to the individual.’ The third was the safeguarding of the mind by prohibiting all kinds of intoxicants whether they are wines, drugs or anything that clouds the mind.’ Today we will be getting into the fourth objective which is to safeguard honor.’ In this case we are discussing honor in the sense of sexual morality which protect the chastity and morality of the believer.

6.15′ Prohibitions To Protect Honor: General

Host:’ How can a moral code that addresses sexual morality be viable today that was developed 1400 years ago?

Jamal Badawi:

From the Islamic standpoint the main mix-up is that a believer is not supposed to follow ‘traditions’ nor is he expected to follow laws that were developed by human beings from the past.’ When we are talking about sexual morality from an Islamic context we are addressing divine commands which were not developed by any human being or evolved by society but rather something that supersedes traditions whether these traditions are old or new.’ Throughout human history this kind of argument has been repeated.’ Many people think that this is the argument of the Space Age but indeed it reflects human weakness throughout history.’ In previous civilizations, thousands of years ago, whenever people felt like ridding themselves from the needed self control or restraints in matters of sexuality or other issues they start saying that it’s a new civilization and we have changed.

When the Muslim follows the Islamic code he is following an ultimate moral code that determines what is right and wrong.’ In Islamic belief as we indicated early in this series a Muslim does not believe in relative morality which would then introduce human bias which would allow people to interpret things the way he or she like.’ Once we realize that the moral code is not something that evolved gradually or was imposed by a social tradition but comes directly from God who has no reason to be bias or to not be aware of anything that may develop in the Space Age or beyond.

Host:’ How can people who are constantly changing be expected to follow a permanent and unchangeable moral code?

Jamal Badawi:

First of all, it is fair to say that people do change, but what kind of change?’ If by change we mean the level of education, scientific knowledge, economic developments and the way we perceive or see things then there is no dispute.’ Yes, people do change as God created the universe in a dynamic form.’ If we mean by change the basic innate nature of human beings then we have to stop.

For an example no one says that the sun is reactionary, traditional or rigid because it has followed the same cycle for thousands of years.’ No one says this because we all know that there are certain eternal permanent laws that regulate the movement of the sun.’ The sun moves with continuous dynamic change but within boundaries set by a specific law which rules these changes.’ Thus we can not say the sun is rigid.’ In the same way that there are permanent laws in nature or in the physical universe there are also permanent and unchangeable laws that rule the moral behavior of human beings as ordained by the Creator who knows what is best.’ Once a person believes in God he also knows that there are things that are permanent and stable.’ So there might be change in knowledge or other things but there is no basic change in the main laws of good and evil of right and wrong and basic human nature.

Host:’ What is the essence of the teachings of Islam on sexual morality?

Jamal Badawi:

In essence when we talk about sexual morality we are talking about clear prohibitions regarding the satisfaction of the sexual urge in any other way other than legitimate and recognized marriage.’ This, rules out pre-marital sex, post-marital sex and extra-marital sex.’ Marriage has to be a natural recognized heterogeneous male female type of relationship.

Host:’ How would your respond to those who say it this is a puritanical outlook?

Jamal Badawi:

There is a big difference between purity and Puritanism or puritanical.’ If one means by purity freedom of sin, freedom of evil, innocence and chastity then yes, Islamic sexual morality emphasizes purity because anything outside of marriage is.’ If we look at the definition of Puritanism or puritanical we find it is a doctrine that is practiced by the Puritans a group found in England and American colonies in the 16th and 17th century.’ Puritans are described to have extreme and excessive strictness in matters of morals and religion.’ Within this definition Islam has nothing to do with Puritanism because Islam has nothing to do with excess one way or the other, whether it is suppressing the sexual urges or opening the door for its insatiable satisfaction.’ Islam is characterized as being realistic and balanced.

Host:’ What do you mean when you say Islam is more balanced and realistic?

Jamal Badawi:

We can first compare it to one extreme which is promiscuity and opening the door of looseness in matters of morals. ‘There were philosophers who used to say that pleasure is the basis of morals.’ Some even called for removing the privacy of sex so that it becomes something that is common for everyone or communism in matters of sex.

On the other hand there are those who regard sexual desire to be unclean, dirty, Satanic or evil in itself.’ Islam’s approaches the matter of sex with balance and realism as it recognizes basic human instincts without making one feel that it is dirty or guilty when this instinct is satisfied.’ But at the same time it provides rules for how sexual desire can be satisfied.

In terms of the restrictions provided we read in the Quran in (17:32) ‘Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils).” So first of all it talks about the prohibition of sexual relationships outside of the recognized marriage.’ We also find in the Quran a description of the behaviors and characteristics of believers in (25:68-70) ‘Those who invoke not, with Allah, any other god, nor slay such life as Allah has made sacred except for just cause, nor commit fornication; – and any that does this (not only) meets punishment.’ (But) the Penalty on the Day of Judgment will be doubled to him, and he will dwell therein in ignominy,- Unless he repents, believes, and works righteous deeds, for Allah will change the evil of such persons into good, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” There is no question when it comes to fornication or adultery as it is clearly stipulated in the Quran.

On the other hand what I meant by balance and realism is that it doesn’t make the person to feel guilty regarding the natural instinctive feel to satisfy one’s sexual desire.’ For example we read in the Quran in (3:14) ‘Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet: Women and sons; Heaped-up hoards of gold and silver; horses branded (for blood and excellence); and (wealth of) cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world’s life; but in nearness to Allah is the best of the goals (To return to).” As we can see it does not condemn all the desires of humans.’ It goes on in the next verse to say that what is better than all worldly pleasures is the pleasure of God.’ It does not condemn these things but rather says that God created people with the instinctive desire to have property, children and sexual desire (as to men wanting women and of course the reverse is applicable).’ Sexual desire in itself is not a sin and is not evil.’ All the Quran says is that these things are fine but don’t focus on these things but on the life hereafter and living a righteous life.

The desire for marriage is explained very succinctly in the Quran as a desirable thing (not an inevitable evil).’ In (30:21) ‘And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.” The matter of marriage and having spouses is regarded as a blessing form God, not a something to be ashamed of or hide.’ In another verse in the Quran it says that one of the bounties of Allah is that He created for us children and grandchildren.’ Thus the love of children and having families is a commendable act.’ There is no virtue in monasticism or celibacy according to Islam.’ Sexual desire is basic human nature and nothing to be ashamed of.

Once the Prophet (PBUH) was sitting with his companions and was telling them about the various things that they could be rewarded for by God, then he told them that when one of them goes to his wife and has private relations with her that he gets reward for it.’ They raised their eye brows and were stunned by this.’ They said ‘Oh Prophet of God, do we do things that we derive pleasure (physical) from and still get divine reward from God for it?” He said ‘If the person does not fulfill their basic needs in a legitimate wholesome marriage would he or she be tempted to do so through fornication or adultery?” They said ‘Yes.” He said ‘Then wouldn’t he be punished for this infraction?” They said ‘Yes.” He said ‘Then they are rewarded when they do it in the lawful way.’

In a similar story it was said that some people went to the household of the Prophet (PBUH) to ask about the kind of worship he does to become closer to God.’ When they found out that the Prophet (PBUH) lived a normal life, worshiped God and enjoyed the legitimate things within the boundaries that God had set some of them were not satisfied.’ One person said that he would always pray all night.’ The other person said that he would cleanse himself by fasting all the time.’ The third person said that he would cleanse himself by not getting married and staying away from women.’ The Prophet (PBUH) knew of this discussion and he came to them and said ‘In the name of God, I am the most pious of you and closest and most fearful of God among you however, I pray and I sleep and I fast and break my fast also I get married.’ Whoever deviates from my path is not of me.” This showed again that one should not look down on the matter of sex as long as it is directed in the proper channel that God has provided.

In one of the saying of the Prophet he said ‘The best enjoyment in this life is a pious and good wife.” And this is of course applicable in reverse as the best enjoyment for a woman in this life is a pious and good husband.

Host:’ What are some of the additional measures which are provided by Islam to safe guard sexual morality?

Jamal Badawi:

This is a good point because some people seem to think that all Islam is about are laws, more laws and penal law which is a mistake towards what the main purpose of Islamic law is in establishing society.’ When there is something that is prohibited or restricted for a good cause in Islam there is a whole process within society and within the thinking and orientation of the individual to support this it.’ This is what some people call today as the system approach as we don’t just look at partial aspects but rather one looks at how the entire system supports a given direction.’ For example when we talked about intoxicants in a previous program, we saw that one can’t just issue prohibition laws (which failed in the States) but rather one has to go through a process of education, change the structure of the economy, change people’s attitudes and religious motives. ‘Once these changes take place the entire process of reformation moves in a certain and sure way.

It is very difficult and next to impossible within the context of the present civilization to be able to maintain chastity.’ When one is in an atmosphere or culture where there is constant stimulation for sex in everything (sex is being used to advertise everything from cars to toothpaste) and the woman’s body is being abused to promote products and make a fast buck.’ All this indecency and pornography it is very difficult for a person who wants to be righteous to main it.’ The measures within the context of Islamic law involve a number of things.’ One might have noted in the verse I sighted before ‘Nor come nigh to adultery’ does not say do not commit adultery or fornication but it says do not get near it.’ It says do not go near it because the sexual urge is very powerful and one should not get involved in a way that he or she becomes tempted to point where they loose control.’ This is why it is better to stay away from the temptation from the beginning.’ This could also mean that one should take a number of additional measures and precautions.’ One is to avoid lusty looks.’ This is consistent with the teachings of all the prophets.’ Prophet Jesus was quoted as saying that a person does not only commit adultery physically but in his heart also.’ Second, in order to avoid lusty looks one must take into account what causes them such as dress code (for men and women).’ Thirdly, one should not encourage free and unrestricted mixing which could provide inspiration to commit something that is inappropriate.’ These are some of the measures that would help a virtuous society fight indecency.’ I can say that so far I have not seen a perfect example of this in our modern age because of the decay of the Muslims.’ But if we really had a pious Islamic society one would not find magazines, movies or programs that are spoiling the attitudes of young people and encouraging them to commit all kinds of indecent acts.

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