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Islam, Women and Sex: Do We Overdo Things?

This Is Not Islam

What had gotten into these people’s minds? This could not be true, I kept telling myself. Nor does Islam support such ideas.

Of course, Islam emphasizes decency and chastity, forbids excessive and unnecessary mingling between men and women, and it prescribes a decent dress code for both men and women.

But to interpret everything in Islam from a sexual point of view and to think that men-women relation was all and only about sex was a sign of ignorance.

Many ill-informed Muslims think that, by being very strict and harsh, they get closer to God.

To treat women in such a way that they could not even express themselves or choose what color of dress they could wear, even while following the Islamic dress code, was a sign of danger and extremism.

Worse was the fact that those male students were actually in delusion and terrible deception; thinking that, as males,, they were naturally created as sexual beings and would immediately lose sanity at the very sight of women. If I were a male, I would in fact feel insulted to be perceived as sexual beasts that needed to control women in order to be in the right mind. A real Muslim man is surely higher than that!

I flew to Egypt months later and the same degree of confusion lingered around, if not worse. This time, I came across a group of female students who literally put stones in their mouths while talking to men from behind the curtain. I asked why. They said the real female voice should not be heard as it could cause sexual excitement and corrupt men’s mind.

They read out a Qur’anic verse where God told the wives of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, not to speak in a soft and pleasing manner so as not to open any possible doors of evil for weak men. Some of them wore very big and loose long gowns with several layers of clothing inside in order to make sure that the body shape was not revealed.

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To be more precise, it was not to conceal the body shape, but to make the body look bigger and a bit fatter than its actual size. Stories of rape and sexual harassment were commonly circulated among the female students to cause fear and hinder them from travelling without mahram or male representatives.

My multiple attempts to negotiate with myself to accept and neutralize their arguments miserably failed despite my newly-found craving for Islam. I realized most people were not thinking enough and hence, the easy inclination towards excessiveness. Living in a small community, which not only condoned but promoted those ideas, the short cut was to accept what other people had been following rather than to go against the flow.

I was no expert, but my simple understanding of the Islamic spirit and the faith I had in God somehow told me that Islam taught wisdom, simplicity, moderation and common sense. One does not have to overdo things to be pious on one hand, while over- simplifying is equally a blunder, on the other hand. It is the perfect and beautiful balance between the two that makes Islam appealing and practical for the whole of humankind.

Many ill-informed Muslims think that, by being very strict and harsh, they get closer to God. This is how negative qualities like being judgmental, overly suspicious and hatred or discrimination against women are bred.

This misconception also opens various doors to elements of extremism and subsequently, unwarranted retaliation and ill feelings, which eventually provoke enemies of Islam to ridicule the religion. While it is not true that Islam treats its women as passive, suppressed and dependent beings, there is sadly some truth in claims that some Muslim men and some ignorant Muslim communities handle women that way.

Perhaps if we can rediscover common sense, moderation and wisdom, which I believe have always been at the core of Islamic teachings, many doors of fallacy and mistaken belief about Islam will be automatically removed without us having to endlessly explain or apologize too much.

This article is from our archive, originally published on an earlier date, and being republished for its importance 

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About Raudah Mohd Yunus
Raudah Mohd Yunus is a researcher, writer and social activist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Her research interests include aging, elder abuse, human trafficking and refugees health. She is the editor of two books; ‘Tales of Mothers: Of courage and love’ and ‘Displaced and Forgotten: Memoirs of refugees.’