The topic of sex has universal appeal. Sex is portrayed daily in various forms directly or indirectly in newspapers, magazines, cinemas, and in conversations between people. The topic of sex conjures images of sexuality, promiscuity, lewdness, adultery, fornication, pornography, rape, teenage pregnancies, pedophilia, gays, sexually transmitted diseases, contraceptives, abortions, and HIV/AIDS.
Yet somehow, despite the fact that “everyone” is influenced by this topic, it seems that most parents find this topic somewhat “delicate” to discuss with their children. Children of today seem to be maturing at a faster rate than a generation ago and often ask intelligent questions of their parents. Some parents do their level best to satisfy their children’s natural curiosity. Other parents simply don’t know how to handle their fast-growing kids and often assume that the less said about the subject of sex, the better.
In some homes the word “sex” is taboo, and children are often reprimanded for asking innocent questions. Parents assume that children will grow up and “they will learn,” or that the school or friends are “responsible” for sharing this knowledge. The reality is that parents who have this view are overlooking a major and significant source of correct information regarding this topic themselves! Our children have the right to be given an unbiased view of sex, based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
Western media is very powerful, and often the main driver is money rather than values based on sound moral principles and with their roots in religion. This essay deals with this topic in an objective manner to throw some light on this issue and thereby, perhaps, give some confused teenagers a clearer perspective of the choices that they can make. I am not a moralist or a mawlana. I do not intend to be judgmental of any individual, group, or society, but simply give my opinion on this topic from an Islamic point of view. Any errors are my own and I seek the forgiveness of Allah Most High for any errors contained in this article.
Studies have shown that the average teenager and preteen receive their sex education from the following sources in order of priority:
1- Friends, who may then share pornographic magazines, books, and the Internet.
2- TV and movies, which then lead to magazines and newspapers, or school (video or discussions of video), parents (through discussion of TV and movies).
Parents fail to realize that everyone is teaching their children about s
ex except them. Everyone is telling your children about sex, so how sure are you that this information is based on the guidelines laid down in Islam?
Sex is a fashionable industry that changes like the flavor of the month. Sex is a topic that advertisers and marketers use very effectively to sell their products.
Unfortunately, the sources of information available to the preteen are often biased. Illusions are created that everyone is having sex in these modern times, anything goes, you only live once, so make the most of it, and it is “cool” to chew a particular brand of chewing gum or smoke a particular brand of cigarette because that will make you rich and successful and ensure that you can attract the perfect partner. In fact, the reality is far removed from the illusion that is fed to the senses of our unsuspecting youth.
With aggressive and sustained marketing, society comes to accept abnormal activities as normal. Ten years ago, what was considered abnormal, unthinkable, abhorrent, immoral, and shameful, is today considered fashionable, normal, and modern. A typical example is that after watching a few episodes of any prime-time soap opera on TV, one gets the impression that adultery is acceptable and normal; premarital sex fashionable, and that deceit, trickery, lying, and manipulation are essential to get your man or woman, no matter what the cost or the hurt that others suffer in the process.
Furthermore, the printed and visual media create the impression that marriage is old fashioned, live-in relationships and cohabitation are in vogue, and being gay is fashionable. Homosexuality, bestiality and escort clubs (prostitution) are all normal. We have reached a stage (through effective marketing) where certain individuals in society justify everything by their right to freedom of expression. If this is really freedom, then why do we see so many examples of the following scenarios:
1- Young adults are being infected with the HIV virus at an alarming rate. South Africa has one of the fastest growing number of infected people in the world; HIV/AIDS has reached epidemic proportions in this country. The age group that is mainly targeted is teenagers and young adults.
2- A devout mother, loyal to her husband, suddenly develops a sexually transmitted disease (such as syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, or even HIV/AIDS); how did this happen? STDs have reached epidemic proportions in America, where 40 million people are infected with some form of STD.
3- Teenage pregnancy is on the increase; girls as young as 11 are getting pregnant a child is pregnant with a child. Many teenagers are having abortions, which leads to emotional, physical, and mental side effects.
4- Girls as young as 10-12 are having unprotected sex, with devastating consequences. When questioned, these young children say, “No one told me that it is wrong.”
5- Wonderful homes break up and end in divorce because the husband (or wife) was having an adulterous relationship; the main victims in this scenario are the children.
6- Females as young as 2 and as old as 80 are being raped.
7- Homosexuality is on the increase; acts of sodomy that were once considered an abomination against humanity, are now considered normal to the extent that gay marriages are being allowed in some parts of the world.
8- More and more relationships end up in hurt, depression, unhappiness, conflict, and regret.
The above examples show that the issue of sexual liberation has in fact enslaved the very people that it attempts to free. The sexual liberators are being enslaved in the chains of disease, depression, divorce, dissatisfaction, double standards, deceit, and discontent. Individuals, organizations, and governments are actively searching for solutions to halt this tide of immorality and its associated truckload of problems.
Recent research has shown that two-thirds of the schools in America are now promoting the idea of “no sex before marriage” and that “safe sex” is not the use of condoms, but safe sex is “no sex before marriage,” and only one sex partner for life (no adultery). Furthermore, many states in the US are promoting the idea of having pride in remaining a virgin until marriage, and many students are signing certificates vowing their commitment to this new “fashion” of abstinence.
How long will this last? Will we once again undergo a new sexual revolution? The answer to this dilemma and to all dilemmas facing any society where the fabric of society is under threat from immorality, alcoholism, drugs, gambling, crime, dishonesty, and materialism can be found in the Qur’an, which has been sent for all humanity. Its principles have a universal application for all times. It was the task of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to give a practical implementation of the universal message of the Qur’an so that anyone who follows the perfect example of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) will be on the straight path.
The Islamic View of These Problems
Adultery means to have sex with a person who is not your legally married partner; there are two types of adultery:
1- A married person who has sex with an unmarried person
2- A married person who has sex with another married person
Would you like adultery for your mother, wife, sister, or daughter? If not, then why perpetuate it or condone it? There are several verses in the Qur’an and many authentic hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), which give clear guidance on the choices that we can make.
“Say, “My Lord has only forbidden immoralities – what is apparent of them and what is concealed – and sin, and oppression without right, and that you associate with Allah that for which He has not sent down authority, and that you say about Allah that which you do not know.”(Al-A`raf 7:33)
“And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality and is evil as a way.”(Al-Israa’ 17:32)
1- Marriage is a sacred relationship between a husband and wife. When either spouse has a sexual relationship outside this relationship, this is usually done secretly; thus there is a breakdown of trust in the relationship.
2- The guilty party may contract a sexually transmitted disease, which can then be transmitted to the innocent victim.
3- The victim is usually the female. She has two options, either stay and ignore what the father of her children is doing or ask for a divorce. If the woman does not have a source of income, she either has to return to her parents and thus be a burden on them, or eke out a living and thus raise her children in poverty.
4- Children are the innocent victims in divorce. They bear the brunt of the constant fights between their parents and grow up with emotional and psychological scars.
Fornication (zina) means to have sex with anyone while not yet married; there are two types of fornication:
1- An unmarried person who has sex with another unmarried person
2- An unmarried person who has sex with a married person; in this case, it is fornication for the unmarried person but adultery for the married person
“And those who do not invoke with Allah another deity or kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed], except by right, and do not commit unlawful sexual intercourse. And whoever should do that will meet a penalty.”(Al-Furqan 25:68-69)
In this verse, the sin of fornication is given its seriousness by being ranked as follows:
- The first major sin is associating partners with Allah Most High
- The second major sin is murder
- The third major sin is fornication
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,“When a man commits fornication, faith departs from him and there is something like a canvas roof over his head; and when he quits that action, faith returns to him”(Abu Dawud #4673).
The Prophet said,“When an adulterer commits illegal sexual intercourse, then he is not a believer at the time he is doing it; and when somebody drinks an alcoholic drink, then he is not believer at the time of drinking, and when a thief steals, he is not a believer at the time when he is stealing; and when a robber robs and the people look at him, then he is not a believer at the time of doing it.”(Al-Bukhari 8, 801).
Furthermore, the punishment is described in the following verse:
“The [unmarried] woman or [unmarried] man found guilty of sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment.”(An-Nur 24:2).
Furthermore, if the girl becomes pregnant as a consequence of this premarital or extramarital act, then the child is not considered a legal heir according to the following hadith:
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,“”Any man who fornicates with a free woman, or a slave woman, then the child born from Zina does not inherit, nor is it inherited from.”(At-Tirmidhi #3054).
Marriage is the public proclamation that gives legal, physical, and spiritual license to have sex with your partner.
“But let them who find not [the means for] marriage abstain [from sexual relations] until Allah enriches them from His bounty.“(An-Nur 24:33)
“Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward”(Al-Ahzab 33:35)
Muslim males and females are enjoined to marry. There are various guidelines pertaining to selecting a suitable partner in life. This choice cannot be left to chance. However, if anyone does not have the means to marry, this dilemma does not entitle anyone to fornicate; rather he or she is enjoined to remain chaste and to patiently persevere and seek help from Allah Most High.
To guard your chastity is a test from Allah Most High and requires a lot of discipline and willpower. However, those individuals who succeed in avoiding fornication and adultery, [for them has Allah Most High prepared forgiveness and a great reward.] Furthermore, according to the following verses, there are clear instructions for those people who commit fornication and then decide to marry:
“The fornicator does not marry except a [female] fornicator or polytheist, and none marries her except a fornicator or a polytheist, and that has been made unlawful to the believers.”(An-Nur 24:3)
“And [lawful in marriage are] chaste women from among the believers and chaste women from among those who were given the Scripture before you, when you have given them their due compensation, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse or taking [secret] lovers.”(Al-Ma’idah 5:5)
These verses emphasize the need and pursuit of sexual purity both before marriage and within marriage and give guidelines as to the selection of a partner. Sex counselors and psychologists now confirm the wisdom behind these verses. A person who has multiple partners is always comparing the spouse’s performance to that of other partners. If an “experienced” boy marries a virgin wife, he may be unhappy with her inexperience and may expect (and sometimes demand) more.
This can lead to a very fragile relationship, which is bound to flounder. Unfortunately, some men have a double standard wherein they feel free to have sex with multiple partners before marriage, but insist that their wife must be a virgin.
Sex and Hygiene
Islam places a very high emphasis on hygiene and cleanliness. This requirement, together with sexual purity both before marriage and during the marriage, tremendously minimizes the risks of diseases associated with the sexual organs. The need and emphasis on cleanliness is highlighted in the following:
“O you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles. And if you are in a state of janabah, then purify yourselves.”(Al-Ma’idah 5:6)
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,“When anyone sits between the four parts of her body and exerts himself (has intercourse), bathing becomes obligatory (for both).”(Muslim)
Sa`id ibn Al-Musayab (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari (may Allah be pleased with him) said to ‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her), “I would like to ask you something, but I am embarrassed.” She said, “Ask and don’t be shy, for I am your mother.” He asked about a man who had intercourse but did not ejaculate. She said, on the authority of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him),“If the two circumcised parts encountered each other,ghuslis obligatory”(Ahmad and Malik).
Prostitution is forbidden in Islam as indicated in the following hadith:
“A slave girl of some Ansari came and said, “My master forces me to commit fornication.” Thereupon, the following verse was revealed: “But force not your maids to prostitution (when they desire chastity)“ (Abu Dawud 13#137).
It is a very sad reflection on our society that some people are forced into prostitution due to circumstances that may be beyond their control. The most wicked and severe form of prostitution is that of child prostitution, enforced either by their parents (very rarely, but most abhorrently), caregivers, or swindlers.
Furthermore, studies have shown that there is a very high correlation between prostitution and drugs. Drug dealers usually prey on unsuspecting teenagers at shopping malls, cinemas, and schools, by offering them free drugs. The unsuspecting teenagers become addicted and involuntarily become “customers for life” to these drug dealers. The teenagers then resort to begging, stealing, and prostituting to service this habit.
Teenagers should be on the alert for pimps and drug dealers-nothing in life comes for free, there is always a catch. Be alert. Furthermore, be very alert to the dangers presented by pedophiles who derive a perverted sense of pleasure in abusing young children.
Willpower and Discipline
Adultery and fornication do not happen automatically. The mind plays an important role in the whole scenario. Everyone is constantly bombarded with visual, auditory, and tactile stimuli that are processed in the mind. These messages can either be controlled or uncontrolled. If teenagers have low self-esteem and want to be accepted, they will give in to temptation. On the other hand, teenagers who are firm in their faith in Allah Most High and who have positive self-esteem, use their willpower to control temptation and channel it into another form of energy.
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,“Allah Most High has written for the son of Adam his inevitable share of adultery, whether he is aware of it or not: The adultery of the eye is looking (at something which is sinful to look at), and the adultery of the tongue is to utter (what it is unlawful to utter), and the inner-self wishes and longs for (adultery) and the private parts turn that into reality or refrain from submitting to the temptation”(Al-Bukhari 8, 609).
Prevalence of Illegal Sex
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,“From among the portents of the hour is that (open) illegal sexual intercourse will prevail, and men will decrease in number while women will increase”(Al-Bukhari 8, 800A).
This hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) very accurately describes our current state of affairs. San Francisco and Sydney are famous for their “gay liberation” celebrations. Nudist colonies, escort agencies, pornography, teenage pregnancies, and adultery are so common that people seem to be fighting a losing battle against this tidal wave of immorality and have come to accept all of these activities as the “modern generation.”
Furthermore, with each generation, the level and availability of lewdness is increasing; for example, pornography is available in our homes on TV and the Internet, thus affecting the mindset of our children from an early age. Homosexuality is gaining support throughout many parts of the world. Some advocates of the gay movement are claiming that they are born gay. This is a ruse to cover their shameful behavior. Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice. Allah Most High created everything in pairs, male and female. Anyone who goes against this plan will be answerable to Allah Most High.
The above verses from the Qur’an and various hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) clearly indicate that both fornication and adultery are forbidden in Islam; furthermore, the long-term harm of these acts far outweigh and short-term momentary gratification.
In simple terms, the Islamic requirement is as follows:
1- Boys and girls should not have sex before they are married.
2- Sex is only permissible between legally married partners.
3- Within the arena of the marriage contract, sex is a sacred, private, and personal act between the married couple only; this means that the husband and wife should guard their “bedroom secrets” from all prying ears and eyes.
4- Neither of the partners is allowed to have sex with anyone else. This means that neither the husband nor the wife can indulge in the un-Islamic practices of wife swapping parties, visiting prostitutes, or having sex with another married or single person.
5- If the husband is legally married to more than one wife (up to a maximum of four) then he is legally allowed to have sex with all four wives provided that he treats all of them equally.
6- When in doubt about anything, use the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to give clarity on any matter.
Role of Parents
Our children are faced daily with images from TV, movies, videos, Internet, newspapers, magazines, books, and friends about the “sexual revolution.” Their young minds are being brainwashed with ideas that morals, modesty, and values are old-fashioned. If we do not tell our children about the facts of life and what is acceptable moral behavior from a cultural, and, more importantly, from an Islamic viewpoint, then we should share the blame with our children if they become ensnared in the vices of sex, drugs, teenage pregnancy, prostitution, alcohol, and gambling. The methodology should be as follows:
Advice to a Preteen Daughter
Your body is now undergoing various changes that will prepare you to be a woman. With these changes comes the responsibility that you will one day be a mother. Your body will undergo various changes in the size of your breasts, face, height, weight, as well as the onset of a flow of menstrual blood on a regular basis every month this is nothing to be scared of, it is Allah Most High’s miracle, where your womb is made ready every month to receive an egg for fertilization.
These changes are coming much earlier in this generation compared to a few decades ago. Children are maturing much faster than we can ever imagine. In previous generations, young girls started menstruating from the age of 13 years; today, girls as young as 9 years are beginning to menstruate. This means that if you have sex at this age, you can become pregnant. If you become pregnant at this age, your life will be shattered and the whole course of your life will be changed. Your dreams, goals, and wishes to pursue a career may have to be postponed or abandoned forever.
You must be happy with your own body. Your body will undergo various hormonal changes, which will lead to emotional changes and mood fluctuations as well as pimples. This is a time for conflict with everyone, and parents have to restrain themselves and discuss issues with love and understanding. The main word of caution for you is to avoid peer pressure from your friends, who will encourage you to start experimenting with kissing and sex.
Some teenagers can make very hurtful remarks and may make you feel very isolated if you do not participate. Don’t listen to them. You must have enough confidence in yourself that you are following the commands laid down by Allah Most High and you should simply say “No, I am not interested.” It will be a decision that you will never regret. Particularly avoid the older boys and men. They will shower you with gifts, flowers, and false proclamations of love, but they are simply throwing out a net to get you into bed so that you lose your virginity. They will then dump you and go to the next unsuspecting girl. You will have lost various personal things in the process:
-You will have lost your virginity.
-You will have contravened the Qur’anic injunction not to commit fornication (zina).
-You may well have gained an unwanted pregnancy (many girls still have the mistaken myth that they cannot fall pregnant after their first sexual encounter.)
-You may have gained a sexually transmitted disease (including HIV/AIDS). There are no cures for some sexual diseases: herpes and genital warts, for example. Some diseases, if not properly treated, can lead to infertility and you will not be able to have children. Or they lead to an increased incidence of cancer of the cervix (entrance to the womb).
Advice to a Preteen Son
-Your body is undergoing various changes that will prepare you to enter adulthood so that one day you can be a father. You will notice changes in your voice; you may develop acne and hair on various parts of your body. Nocturnal emission is common at this age, as well as mood swings. Your natural body odors will increase, so it is important for you to bathe regularly and pay special attention to personal hygiene. Your body will be growing rapidly and you will need to eat a lot, exercise a lot, and sleep a lot to allow your body to gain maximum physical benefits.
-You will be encouraged or ridiculed by some of your friends to have sex with a girl. You should be confident in your abilities as a freethinking individual to make your own choices based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). You should treat all girls and women with respect, kindness, and courtesy-not as a commodity that can be used, abused, and thrown aside.
-You will see advertisements on TV and in newspapers and magazines that in order to avoid HIV/AIDS, you should use a condom. Remember that this is not what Islam teaches us. Islam says safe sex is “no sex before marriage.” Indulge in all activities that will develop your mind, body, and spirit within the framework of Islam. These are wonderful years that you are going through, free of responsibility (except the homework!). Try to be the best “you” you can be.
Allah Most High has given mankind free will. We all have to make choices in life. However, life offers us a whole banquet of choices and delicacies that sometimes lead to a state of utter confusion or paralysis. What is the right decision?
*Whom should I please?
*What is fashionable?
*Will my decision open me to ridicule?
An undecided person is always a victim of circumstance, a pawn in the hands of the fashion trendsetters. The ones at peace are those individuals who use the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as the compass to set the right course and to differentiate right from wrong.
There is much good in this wonderful world; however, there are many temptations. Temptations are present as a test for all of us. Ultimately, we are the decision-makers. We can only make informed decisions based on knowledge. Many governments are now firmly advocating the policies of virginity, no sex before marriage, no adultery, and so on, in a desperate attempt to re-kindle the value systems of prior generations.
The beauty of Islam is that the instructions and guidelines contained in the Qur’an are valid forever and are immune to the vicissitudes of the latest trend. Allah Most High created us. It, therefore, follows that He knows what is best for us. I do hope that this brief discussion has thrown some light on this very vast topic. I also hope that the current generation of teens and preteens who are often faced with difficult choices will have a clearer foundation on which to base their decisions.
Finally, a new generation of preteens is developing. It is our collective responsibility, as a community and a nation, to give clear guidelines to our youth. Our youth is our future and our destiny. May Allah Most High, Most Gracious, worthy of all praise, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, guide us, and our youth to a path that is straight.
First published: February 2010