Summary of 7.23 “Muslim Women in Contemporary History”

The title of the whole series is the Social System of Islam and the premiss after covering some broad issues, like human brotherhood, we said that the corner stone of society is the family and the corner stone of the family is the woman because of her crucial role in establishing and keeping the integrity of the family.’ This is why the last fourteen programs were devoted to the position of the woman in Islam.’ We have not really touched on the family life in Islam: engagement, marriage and marital life.’ As we get closer to this interesting area of the family structure in Islam I think that talking about Islam’s attitude towards sex would be a befitting topic.’ We will try to explain Islam’s view of sex within the general framework of Islam.

7.24′ Islam’s View of Sex

Host:’ What is the general framework of sex in Islam?

Jamal Badawi:

First of all sex relates to human behavior.’ Behavior in Islam is not diverged from belief, understanding and the basic frame of mind that the person has.’ A person who believes in God, who understands why he/she was created on earth, what mission they have to fulfill, that his/her life will end on earth and he/she will die and will be resurrected on the Day of Judgement and will be accountable for his or her life definitely will behave in a way that is different from someone who does not believe.’ In each cases a one’s behavior is tied to his/her ultimately belief and destiny.

Second, when we address improvement or reform of behavior (sex is a behavior) in society the first logical step is to correct the belief, the understanding or frame of mind from which such behaviors emanates.’ The first step would be to explain to the individual about God, the universe, life and about human nature.’ A human being is composed of spiritual element, intellectual element and a physical (earthly) element.’ A human being has aspirations to satisfy all the needs pertaining to these three basic components.’ For example, Islam provides the satisfaction of the spiritual need through the remembrance and love of God and through various acts of worship.’ It satisfies the intellectual needs by encouraging the human to understand the universe, to ponder creation and to try to understand the Law of God in nature and human life.’ Islam also provides for the satisfaction of physical needs.’ Some of these crucial needs in the human are food and sex.’ This is regarded as a natural part of the totality of human existence on earth.’ As such the satisfaction of material needs whether they are related to food or sex are regarded to the Muslim as part of their life on earth.’ It is not contradictory to spirituality or faith.

The main point is that Islam insists that the satisfaction of these needs are within the basic guidelines set in the teachings of God which are set in order to ascertain that these needs are satisfied in a pure wholesome manner without falling into extremes.

Host:’ Can you give us a few examples from the Quran and the Prophet Traditions which would help us appreciate the basis for this framework?

Jamal Badawi:

First, the Quran indicates in dozens of verses, I will use one example (18:107), that whenever the Quran speaks about faith and belief it speaks about faith and good deeds.’ This proves that there is no distinction between behavior, belief and understanding out of which behavior emanates.’ On the question of behavior and the three basic components the Quran in numerous places indicates that God breathed into creation and human kind of His Spirit.’ We find this in (15:29), (32) and (38).’ In terms of the intellectual component we find reference to that in (2:31) and (16:78) where again it indicates that God not only created our senses but also our intellect.

Equally the Quran speaks of the human being as a material existence.’ For example in (6:2) and (38:71) which deal with the fact that the human is created from clay.’ They all also deal with the fact that a human is created from clay which is a symbol of the same elements found in clay and a symbol of the same carinal desires whether it is food or sex.’ On the issue that Islam is not against the legitimate and wholesome satisfaction of human needs.’ We find that there is an interesting, key verse 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.” The first part of the verse speaks about things that humans are crated to love such as sex, food, property, wealth and so on.’ It goes on without condemning it as it says that ‘Such are the possessions of this world’s life; but in nearness to Allah is the best of the goals (To return to).” Then in the following verse (3:15) ‘Say: Shall I give you glad tidings of things Far better than those? For the righteous are Gardens in nearness to their Lord, with rivers flowing beneath; therein is their eternal home; with companions pure (and holy); and the good pleasure of Allah. For in Allah.s sight are (all) His servants.’

While the Quran acknowledges the human need or desire for all of these things, it does not condemn any of them (sex or food) but it simply says that one should not be over occupied with these things because they are going to vanish.’ So while encouraging the individual to inculcate his or her personal relationship with God it does not condemn human needs nor does it regard it as impure.’ There are numerous verses in the Quran that are similar to that as found for example in chapter 6 where it talks about eating and drinking but without excess.’ In (28:77) it says ‘nor forget thy portion in this world” So one should keep the hereafter in his sight they should not deny themselves the legitimate satisfactions of the earthly life.’ Islam does not see anything wrong with human instincts as nothing is unclean in itself.’ The error is the immoral pursuit of the satisfaction of those needs.

Host:’ What does Islam view as being beyond limits in matters of sex?

Jamal Badawi:

When we look into history we will find two basic extremes with different combinations in between.’ There is one extreme that regards sex as unclean, contrary to goodness, faith or spirituality and that it should be suppressed and resisted in order for the person to be purified.’ We find implications in monasticism, celibacy or when people get married but consider sex as being an inevitable evil rather than a blessing from God as Islam explains.’ The other extreme, which is more predominant in human history, is looseness and the pursuit of pleasure (sexual or otherwise) regardless of the morality of it which may cause harm in the long or short term to society and to the individual.

In fact, both of these trends have manifested themselves clearly in history.’ We find literature by Saints about demonological beliefs where the Saints themselves had dreams of male or female demons (depending on the sex of the Saint) having sexual relationships with them in their sleep and they regarded that as demoniacal.”’ This approach towards sex only results a sort of psychological attitude of inner struggle about their needs and the pressure to satisfy those needs (they feel that they are bad in themselves).

The other extreme is looseness in human history with widespread adultery, fornication, preoccupation with sex and even sex trade (using sex as a multi billion dollar business).’ Both of these extremes overlook and ignore certain aspects of human nature, the nature that does have desire and the need for it to be satisfied but in moderation and within the moral framework that religion provides.”’ On the other hand people neglect that the success of the individual, the integrity of family and society can never be achieved if the individual possesses unrestricted freedom (especially in matters of sex).’ Wild sex can be subject to sublimated into different expressions which is still very potent.’ Indeed some people have recently been saying (even non Muslims) that the danger of sexual energy is just as devastating as the dangerous of nuclear energy.’ Unless both are harnessed in ways that are beneficial to humankind they can be quit devastating.’ Using the same military terminology; when one goes to any city they are constantly under sexual shelling and bombardment in all surroundings.’ This constant stimulation and encouragement to satisfy this need regardless of the morality or channel that is taken to do so can lead to very serious consequences in society.

Host:’ Could you give us some examples of such consequences?

Jamal Badawi:

Even from the point of view of non-Muslim social reformers who look into the situation as it exists in our generation indicate that there are excesses in matters of sex.’ This results in harm to the health and character’ and his ability to be patient and persevere particularly people who may be involved in struggles or on the battle field.’ A person who is so involved in sex would not be a good defender of his faith or country.’ In fact, many scholars relate the over occupation with sex as one of the main reasons for military defeat (there are many examples of this in history).’ Another harm that is even more devastating is that it destroys the moral character of the individual.’ When sex is satisfied regardless of the mode or channel it leads to an attitude of selfishness, opportunism, lack of responsibility of family or results of such actions, the attitude of lying and deception (when one seeks extra marital relations).’ All of this may lead to inner conflict, drug addiction, theft, rape and murder.

Not only does this effect the individual but society itself if sex is left loose.’ The stability and integrity of the family would suffer a great deal, families would break down, leading to lots of problems that effect the family and society at large.” In society we have seen crimes and excesses in society in the case of loose moral standards regarding sex and of people who elicit sex as a profession (in direct or indirect ways).’ This is after all a degrading area for human beings to be involved in.’ This is just an outline; there are books written about sexual morality in any given society.

Host:’ How does Islam attempt to solve the problems of sex while avoiding the danger that you mentioned?

Jamal Badawi:

Islam attacks the problems on many different levels which include the individual, family and society at large.’ It is important that an individual is raised with God conscious or taqwa.’ This God consciousness in an individual allows them to persevere in the face of any possible temptation especially when it comes to errors regarding sexual needs.’ They also need to be brought up with the proper intellect and understanding.’ This can be achieved by understanding the teaching of Islam in that respect, by taking Islam and using it as the criterion to judge between what is right and what is wrong.’ Thus people would not get confused especially when things are presented in a different light.’ Sometimes vise is presented as a good thing and many times virtue is being represented as something that is not good or rigid’ The intellectual understanding is essential for the person not to get confused.

Islam prohibits the satisfaction of sexual urges in any form outside of the marital relationship.’ Only through marriage is sex regarded as’ a wholesome, acceptable, sanctioned and encouraged type of satisfaction.’ Islam does not only prohibit adultery and fornication but it also prohibits anything that would likely lead to these consequences.’ Islam stands very clearly against homosexuality and any other perversion and regards this as something that not only justifies the anger and displeasure of God but also the application of penal law in this life.’ In other words all these things that are regarded as natural, today, are severely condemned in Islamic teachings: premarital relations, extramarital relations, and postmarital relations are regarded as abortions which are absolutely unacceptable from the Islamic stand point.’ In return for this strictness in terms of the morality of satisfying the sexual urge we find that Islam also establishes a very healthy attitude towards sex.

An example from the sayings of Prophet Muhammad is that one time a group of people meat and they started talking about how to develop their spirituality.’ Some of them said how can we be more like the Prophet, after all God promised to forgive all of his sins and he is going to Paradise but we should work harder.’ So one of them said he would pray all night and never sleep, the second person said I will fast everyday and never miss any days of fasting, and the third person said I will sacrifice all my sexual needs and I will not get married at all.’ The Prophet knew of their discussion and he came to them and said ‘Are you the people who said so and so?” They said: yes.’ He replied ‘I am the most pious of you, the most fearful of God of you and I always remember God however I pray then I sleep, I fast sometimes but also I break my fast, and I do get married and whoever deviates of my way is not of me.” This Hadith was narrated in Bukhari.

In another saying narrated in Al Tabarani he said ‘If a person is able, and has sufficient finances to get married and he refuses or delays his marriage he is not of me.” In a saying narrated in Al Bihaki ‘Whoever gets married has completed half of his faith, let him be God conscious in the remaining half.” In another Hadith narrated in Al Tirmithi he said ‘There are three types of people who deserve the help of God: The one who struggles in the path of God, a person who seeks his freedom and a person who wants to get married to maintain and protect his chastity.’

In some cases he raised the satisfaction of the sexual instinct (in a wholesome) as a matter that deserves reward from God.’ One time he said that ‘If one of you goes to his wife (to have intimate relations) he will be rewarded for that.” They asked how they could enjoy it and get reward.’ He said ‘If a person doesn’t get the enjoyment through wholesome Halal marriage wouldn’t he do it in the Haram way?” They said yes and he continued ‘You get punished if you do it wrong way and you get reward if you do it right.’

In addition to this we find that the method of approaching this satisfaction should not be just a selfish or physical act but it should should be something that is surrounded with tenderness, understanding and mutual concern for the feeling and regard of the other party.’ There are several Ahadith, sayings of the Prophet (PBUH), about this.’ One is narrated in Al Bilami Al Muslim Al Firdouse he says ‘One of you should not go to his wife like an animal goes to another.’ There must be a messenger between you.” They asked what kind of messenger oh Prophet of God.’ He replied ‘The tender kiss, pleasurable talk and entertainment.” In addition to this Islam requires maintenance of secrecy and privacy of intimate relations.’ There are several in Muslim, Abu Dawood and Ahamd that strongly prohibit people from revealing private things that go on between husband and wife.’ Finally, for young people as reported by Abd Allah Ibn Omar and narrated in Bukhari and Muslim ‘If any of you (youth) is able to support a family and get married, let him get married for those who are not able they should practice fasting which is a protection for them.” This means that fasting teaches the person to have self control.