Islamic Sex Education?
Sex in our society, sex in Islam and the hypocrisy of our society!
By M. Tufail
Sex- a topic with the most polarized attitude known in our society! With all the presumption and the cultural aspects accredited to it, all the more desperate and urgent is the need to initiate a communication regarding this vacuum in our minds, in our conduct and in our society is not only
Why does this attitude prevail in our society? Thanks to our religion? NO! Thanks to our cultural upbringing, ignorance and the hypocritical attitude of our society, which allows sex everywhere, which condones sex as "student life kae mashghaley" (part of growing up, in the sense of first experiences)- the most pathetic excuse I ever heard. It accepts marrying off their daughters to those very students, but will run amok if a girl speaks of "hush . that disease", called AIDS! No, I am not exaggerating, I hardly could believe my ears, when a literature graduate mother, of educated background, hushed her then medical student daughter into silence while we were discussing about HIV and AIDS, telling her not to mention this disease without any inhibitions, blurting out its name.
Sex is hushed and curtained off to the bedroom and speaking about it is a sin, accredits a loose character and well, I could go on echoing all those remarks, prevailing even in our Muslim society- be it Pakistan, the middle East or the sisters (I guess the brothers aren't any better) and gatherings in the western hemisphere, to which I have been, regretfully but in not avoidable situations, witness.
Grown up in the west, being educated in the normal public schools and experiencing the era when sex education was introduced in the curriculum of German schools, I could follow the conservative attitude of our society, but what shattered my respect for our society was the hypocrisy as pointed out above. In the West I knew what people thought, you knew who is sexually active or at least you knew how they think of it and thus also protect yourself in some way from it. Boys knew I wouldn't date, so I wasn't asked. Period. In the Muslims countries, you can't guarantee and know where the person would have been around, the very person you may end up marrying through a proposal "with good and respected family background and bright future" I would have loved to see the faces of people, if a girl would have asked him to get his HIV test done before saying yes, let alone his attitude towards family planning or contraceptives!
Can we endorse this hypocrisy as a society?
I can't accept this ignorance and hypocrisy, neither as a Muslim nor as a responsible citizen of any society, be it ANYWHERE in the world!! I thus pondered over this hypocrisy and found many answers, which collectively I would title as "ignorance and uneasiness of expression with respect to our sexuality, blindly following cultures and traditions, instead challenging it through education, as Muslim in the days of Muhammad (S) used to do". They used to come up to him and ask and discuss issues pertaining to sexuality; shyness is indeed a virtue of a Muslim- male or female, but not in matters of knowledge or deen/concept of life (Islam). Any person, yes in fact even child who reads the Qur'an and understand it, will come across the teaching pertaining to reproduction, creation (32:7-9)), menstruation (2:222), family life, sexual positions (2:223) and even ejaculation (86:6)(75:38) along with the moral and the social ethics in the light of Islam. This is the basics of Islamic Sex education: treating it as a blessing form the Almighty, a gift to human nature, a source of peace and tranquillity, as well as hasana in the light of high social and moral ethics.
Sex is not a "dirty word", as per our cultural concepts; it is a gift of God to mankind. Islam provides a legal frame to enjoy this blessing from God, which is NOT only for procreation. The sexual urge should be enjoyed as His blessing, but within a commitment. Contrary to some religions and philosophies, Islam doesn't degrade Sex to the status of " lust of flesh, thus sinful, which the soul has to conquer." In fact exercised within the appropriate frame, it is not only a source of emotional satisfaction and enjoyment, thence peace, but also a source of hasana is promised in return.
In this very light, we Muslims should emancipate ourselves in the light of the open minded and very modern concept of life Islam, abrogating all those cultural and traditional influences, which only turn the wheel backwards.
Sex education should start at home or in the frame of Islamic Sunday/Friday Schools, wherever the possibility is given. It should however be actively supported through the participation and support, as well as objective answering to the questions, through parents and elder siblings. In the Islamic Schools Muslim teachers, pref. Physicians should come forward and fill this vacuum. What should be taught? Anatomical and physiological aspects, table of puberty, along with the physical changes, need for family life, sexual drive, menstruation and pre-menstrual syndrome, conception and development of the child/foetus, contraception and then also the STD's and the Islamic concepts of it. The emotional, mental and social aspects of puberty should be discussed, moral, social and Islamic ethics of sexuality should be brought to word; in the western hemisphere tell them how to avoid peer pressure.
Preferably premarital counselling should be conducted, including sex education. Scholars prefer sex education in separate classes, contrary to the model in Iran, as described somewhere. We should however not forget the potential of marital counselling along with sex education in marital life. A very good book in this regard is the Muslim Marriage guide, written by Ruqayya M. Waris.
We need to grow out of the traditional baggage and pressure, which we carried along with us for centuries, malpractising the most modern concept of life, if we only gave ourselves the chance to understand it. The potential is enormous, we only need to take up the challenge and give ourselves the chance, thus abrogating this hypocrisy in our society of which we ourselves-me and you, are a part.
A proper sex education may not only be an effort against this hypocrisy and a potential towards a more natural attitude to sex, but also help to fight the very grave crime of child sex abuse. It could happen to your child, get involved and prevent it, fight it!
19. April 1999