Moral Teachings of Islam- Sexual Morality

Summary of 6.15 “Prohibitions To Protect Honor: General”
There are five basic points we addressed last time.’ First of all we discussed safeguarding honor as one of the five basic objectives of Islamic law, the others being protection of faith, life, mind and property.’ This specific topic refers more specifically to sexual morality in an Islamic society.

In the second point we indicated that Islam regards the pursuit of sexual satisfaction with any partner outside the boundaries of recognized marriage as a major moral sin.

The third point was a discussion of the objections and reservations some people may have against following such clear cut divine command.’ For example some people would say we are in the Space Age how can we follow old ideas about sex?’ We responded to this by saying that the Muslim is not simply following tradition or ideas of any human being but is following divine law that came directly from God for the benefit of all.’ The other reservation we addressed is that some say that people change and how can we have permanent moral laws?’ Our response to this was that there is a difference between people changing in that they gain more education, technology, perception and change in the basic human nature. ‘Moral laws deal with human nature which does not change from time to time.

The other argument is that people say that Islam is to strict with respect to sex and they compare it to Puritanism.’ Again we said there is a difference between purity in terms of innocence from sin and Puritanism a philosophy that was extreme in regards to religion and sexual morality which was common in the 16th and 17th century.’ We also said that Islam does not have extremes one way or the other.

The fifth point was an elaboration of what we meant by a healthy balanced wholesome and realistic approach of Islam to human sexuality.’ The Quran does not condemn sex in itself but regards it as a blessing that God has provided to perpetuate human life.’ There is no negativity attributed to sex as it is seen as a blessing.’ On the other hand Islam is strict as to how it permits the fulfillment of that sexual urge which is only allowed within the boundaries of marriage.’ Adultery, fornication or any other form of sexual perversion are considered to be major moral sins in Islam.’ Finally, a key point is providing a social atmosphere with an environment where people are encouraged to live a wholesome and virtuous life

6.16′ Sexual Morality

Host:’ How are sexual perversions defined within the scope of Islamic law?

Jamal Badawi:

A sexual perversion is any pursuit of sexual partners for the purpose of sexual satisfaction other than one’s own legitimately wed spouse.’ This does not only refer to adultery and fornication (male and female who are not legally wed) but it also includes group sex, swapping, groupies (having a family with common wives and husbands and children being for the entire family), sodomy, homosexuality (applying to males or females), and the use of animals (bestiality).’ This is all regarded as a way of brining down the wholesome urge for sex to a low level rather than seeking the legitimate wholesome method of satisfaction.

The Quran itself gives an example of some of these perversions (I am sure anyone who is religious whether Muslim, Jew or Christian is familiar with the story of Sodom and Gomorra) when it talks about Prophet Lut in (7:80-84) ‘We also (sent) Lut: ‘He said to his people:’ ‘Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? ‘For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” And his people gave no answer but this: they said, ‘Drive them out of your city: these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure!” But we saved him and his family, except his wife: she was of those who legged behind.’ And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): Then see what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime!’

Their acts were mentioned in the Quran as sin and crime as it also described the punishment that was sent upon them.

Host:’ What are measures that can be taken on a social level as a society as a whole to safeguard against these things?

Jamal Badawi:

First of all, when Islam deals with any problem whether it is sexual morality, economy or politics it tries to solve the problem from its roots rather than dealing with the outer superficial symptoms.’ This is unlike the common notions that people have about Islam when they assume that Islam only depends on penal law to enforce this.’ We indicated in the previous program that even though Islam requires this high moral standard it is very difficult for an individual no matter how courageous to be able to practice this if the whole atmosphere and pressure of society is pushing the person away from his or her moral ideals.’ We are not saying it is impossible but it is very important that society pressures the good rather than the evil.’ It follows from this that it is important not only to motivate the individual to practice virtue but also to encourage society to encourage virtue.’ When Islam calls for fighting immorality and indecency in society it includes a number of things.’ First society should fight pornography and nudity which is a cheap exploitation of human sexuality in order to make a fast buck.’ This includes newspapers, magazines (I am not just talking about skin magazines but even respectable magazines are not free from indecent photographs which are not appropriate from the standpoint of Islamic morality) and movies (everyone is familiar with the level it has descended to.’ When we see the lines in front of theaters when an X rated movie comes out that it is a matter of exploiting people’s human instinct in order to make as much money as possible.’ But worst of all there are programs on TV which invade the privacy of people’s own homes.).

In order to deal with the problem we must look at the roots.’ For example, Islam tries to deal with the problem of prostitution not by punishment but rather by trying to remove the reasons for this unfortunate and dehumanizing type of activity.’ I am sure those are unfortunately in this situation are not doing it because of their own choice but because of certain social and economical injustices that may have provided this kind of avenue for them.’ To deal with this problem one has to go threw a process of education, motivation, religious appeal, and the removal of injustices economically and socially and then perhaps people will become more receptive in their attitudes.’ On the whole in a society that truly follows the scripture not just claims to be Islamic is to try to avoid anything that results in spreading evil and corruption in society.’ The Quran gives a warning against those who want to spread evil for whatever motives in (24:19) ‘Those who love (to see) scandal published broadcast among the Believers, will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: Allah knows, and ye know not.” This is a big warning to anyone who tries to spread corruption in society.’ As we mentioned in the last program even business people are not free from this because some are simply using the bodies of women for advertisements.’ Many women including non-Muslim women view this as exploitation of the human body.

Host:’ What would be your response to those who claim that society has no business interfering in the matters of sex?’ Even if society would attempt to do that as the standards of sexual morality are in dispute?

Jamal Badawi:

As a Muslim I would agree with this if you mean restraint of spying on people in their own homes.’ In that sense spying is prohibited in Islam.’ But if it is meant by that that society has no right to provide for certain amount of control in order to protect the moral fiber of society, to protect the decay and prevent the decay of the family and society at large then I beg to differ.’ After all personal freedom in any political or social theory is restricted by the extent by which that freedom infringes on the freedom of others or when it threatens to destroy the society at large.’ No body questions the right of society to take measures to prevent air pollution, because one can not poison the air that is breathed by someone else, nor does anyone question the right of the state to take measures to control water pollution, because if we can dump anything into the lakes we would kill the fish and affect human beings as well.’ If air pollution and water pollution are legitimate dangers to society that justify being controlled why not let society by mutual agreement the right to take measures to control moral pollution!?’ Why do we emphasis the physical pollutants, such as air and water, and not the more important aspect of pollution that threatens to destroy society in a worse way than water or air pollution ever can?

The material civilization or philosophy that is predominant today that diverts our attention to the material things but moral pollution the fundamental source of the strength of any nation, society or the world at large is not looked at with much apprehension or a fraction of apprehension.’ When measures are taken from a socio-political side to limit moral pollution based on clear and explicit expressions from the scriptures (not human ideals or bias interpretations), which is divine, then things will have more authority and justification especially if people are believers and accept God.

Host:’ What are the responsibilities that individuals have to respect themselves?

Jamal Badawi:

In the Quran in (24:30-31) ‘Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.’ . And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty.” Then it goes on to say under what condition women can display their beauty and ornaments.’ The original Arabic term of lowering the gaze is used with the term min which means to lower of their gaze (which doesn’t mean that they should not look at all).’ This means that looking with an innocent casual look that is not staring or thinking lusty thoughts about the person in itself is not condemned.’ In fact the Quran in (31:19) quotes Luqman, a wise man, who was advising his son when he said ‘Lower of your voice’ which means that he can speak but without raising his voice unnecessarily.

In the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) he clearly indicated that what is forbidden is lusty look that is likely to arouse sexual feeling and may lead the person to commit adultery or fornication if there is no control and things develop from one stage to the other.’ Legally wed spouses however are allowed to look at one another with as much lust as they want, because the whole idea is to satisfy one’s self fully within the clean boundaries of marriage and to be reserved as far as others are concerned.’ The other thing that the Prophet explained was that many parts of the body can commit adultery, the hand, the ears and the eyes.’ He said that adultery of the eyes is the look (the look with desire) which is reported in Bukhari.

Host:’ What about the look that where the person is not deliberately staring or being lustful especially in America where people of the opposite sexes mingle freely?

Jamal Badawi:

This question is not new because even in societies with less intermingling there are opportunities where people might see each other.’ The answer to this was given by the Prophet (PBUH) reported in the collections of Hadith by Ahamd, Abu Dawood and Tirmithi that the Prophet (PBUH) was asked about the sudden look and that he replied ‘Turn your gaze.” There is no sin in this because one did not deliberately try to have lusty looks.’ In another occasion he was advising his cousin Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) when he said ‘Ali do not follow the first look with a second look.’ The first look is for you (one is not blamed for the first look) but the second look is not for you.’ This of course is provided that the first look is not a stare and that one turns their gaze.

Host:’ Is complete and total separation between the two sexes required in Islam?

Jamal Badawi:

First of all, those who say that should be praised for their noble motives, because their intention is to provide a virtuous atmosphere where there is minimum degree of temptation.’ However sometimes Muslims go through excess that are not consistent with Islamic law or goes beyond what is minimally required.’ Of course precautions are fine but to say that those precautions are minimal in themselves is another subject.’ I am not implying in any way that Islam encourages unneeded and unrestricted intermingling of the sexes.’ Islam definitely does not encourage this in gatherings where there is likely to be encouragement or a threat to the sexual morality of individuals or society as a whole.’ An example of this would be the high school setting of today with the magnitude of illicit relationships.’ If it is possible to avoid this and have separate gender schools it would be better than to impose these kinds of relationships on young people.’ Some people may find this strange but there are still ladies colleges that are found throughout the country.’ On the other hand Islam doesn’t say that women can’t be in a place where there are men provided that the basic Islamic understanding of behavior, modesty and dress are observed.

Even in the days of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) women came to the mosque and participated in prayers and educational functions but within the proper Islamic attire.’ They were seated in their own area where they could avoid unnecessary intermingling while still asking questions and participating in the discussion.’ There is no record of physical partitions or other things to separate men and women.

So the issue is not the problem of having men and women in the same place but rather the context, objectives and the type of behavior and etiquette that is observed during their gathering in order to maintain mutual respect between both the sexes and regard one another as humans and not sexual objects.

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