Preventing the Girlfriend-Boyfriend Relationship
A Two-Part Article
By Amatullah Islam
Zina (fornication) has become a commonplace occurrence within the Muslim Youth community, and the Muslim girls and boys have sadly fallen prey to the snares of Western society. You may wonder how can such a situation occur when most Muslim parents virtually put their children under 'lock and key'. The answer is that although most parents are strict where their children are concerned, they do not take the time to talk and explain to them about the seriousness of Zina. Instead, they give a Fatwa of "no boyfriend" when their daughters reach puberty. Such an action is like ordering a two year old child not to touch the power point. What do you think the child will do?
The following article highlights ways in which we can teach our children to shun this corrupt act.
In Islam, there is no such thing as a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship. You are either married or you are not. This is what we have to ingrain into our children at the early stage. We should not wait for them to come to us when they are teenagers to ask about girlfriend-boyfriend relationship. At this late stage, even if we forbid them to have such a relationship, how certain are we that they will obey us if they are smitten by someone? Hence, it is important that we teach our children that the only time a girl or boy can have a relationship with a non-Mahatma (non-Mahatma is someone whom they can marry) is when they are married! Furthermore, if a girl or boy enters into a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship then he/she is entering into a pre-marital relationship.
At the teenage level, we should not be shy to teach them the severity of pre-marital relationship. We need to make them understand that that pre-marital relationships are like the extra-marital relationships, or what is commonly known as adultery or 'an affair'. It ruins the community by corrupting the people. It unleashes base desires that, once allowed free-reign, will destroy families. We can quote to them the examples of illegitimate and abandoned children, broken homes, abortions, sexual diseases - the list goes on. We should also point out to them the punishment for sexual relationships outside of marriage: Ibn Masoud (r.a.a) related that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) said, "The blood of a Muslim may not be legally spilt other than in one of three instances: the married person who commits adultery, a life for a life, and one who forsakes his religion and abandons the community." [Bukhari and Muslim]. In other words, the married person who commits adultery is to be killed by stoning to death [Muslim].
But what about the unmarried person who has sexual relationships? Rest assured that this person will not go unpunished - he or she is to be caned or whipped one hundred times [Muslim]. Even in the Hereafter, the punishment is severe: the Prophet (s.a.w) saw adulterers, men and women, in a baking oven in Hellfire [Bukhari].
At this stage your teenage child may say that girlfriend-boyfriend relationships need not go as far as the sexual act; that they can control themselves and simply enjoy each others company. To counter this, you say that it is a fact when a girl and a boy are alone together, their sexual desires awaken and before they know it, they will be doing things that are not permissible between unmarried people. The reason for this is because Shaytaan will be the third person with them [Ahmad] and he will whisper and tempt them with the forbidden. This is why Islam shuns all avenues leading to corruption of the mind, body and soul.
Something else we must teach them is to restrain their desires. We can do so by giving them examples of the rewards for doing so, such as the person who controls his lust will be among people who Allah bestows mercy upon: Abu Hurairah (r.a.a) narrated that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) said that among the seven persons whom Allah will shade in His Shade on the Day (of Judgement) when there is no shade except His Shade, is a man who is tempted by a beautiful woman and refuses to respond for fear of Allah. [Bukhari and Muslim].
Below are more points on how to help your child, at an early age, to be chaste so that when he/she is older, he/she can avoid getting into a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship. First, you must talk and explain to them these things when they are young, then when they are older, you make sure that it is put into practice.
You must teach him or her to:
1. Not to freely mix with the opposite sex.
2. Not to look at the opposite sex. This is done by lowering or averting their eyes as Allah tells us: "Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and to protect their private parts. That is purer for them. Verily Allah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and protect their private parts..." [24:30-31] Furthermore, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) said, "...do not let a second look follow the first. The first look is allowed to you but not the second." [Ahmad, Abu Dawood, at-Tirmidhi]. What this means is that the first look is by accident. If this happens then do not take a second look. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) also said that the eyes also commit adultery by looking at someone with lust. [Bukhari]
3. For girls, teach them not to make their voices seductive or sweet in front of non-Mahatma. This is done by lowering the voice and not flirting. As Allah tells the wives of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) "...do not be too pleasant of speech, lest one in whose heart there is a disease should feel desire for you..." [33:32]
4. Last but not least, teach them to wear appropriate clothing so as not to draw attention to themselves. That is, girls should wear Hijabs and loose clothing while boys should also wear loose clothing, not the tight jeans or pants with t-shirt tucked in. It is sad that, often, parents allow their children to wear the so called fashionclothing which, in most cases, do not meet the requirement of acceptable Islamic dress code. What is even sadder is to see Muslim mothers covering themselves properly walking with their uncovered teenage daughters and sons.
It is important that we start teaching our children the need to feel modesty, especially around the opposite sex. Regarding shyness, we should use the Prophet (s.a.w) as an example: Abu Said Al Khudri (r.a.a) reported that the Prophet (s.a.w) was more shy than a virgin in her own room. [Bukhari] If we instill this into them at an early age then, Insha' Allah, whenever they are near the vicinity of the opposite sex, they will feel shy and, therefore, will not act inappropriately. It is also important that we keep the communication channels open with our children so that we can talk and explain to them things, and they can ask us questions, without any party feeling embarrassed. Then, when they are older, and with help from us, they will begin to understand why it is that there cannot be a thing called 'the girlfriend-boyfriend relationship'.
In the next issue, Insha' Allah, we will discuss the ways in which parents can deal with the situation when they have discovered that their daughter or son is in a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship.
In the last article I talked about taking preventative measures to ensure that when your child is older, he or she will not be caught in a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship. However, if your child is already a teenager or those methods did not work, and you are now facing this dilemma, there is still hope of rectifying it.
Most parents react with extremity upon discovering that their daughter is in a girlfriend-boyfriend situation: they lock her in her room and forbid her to see the boy again. What would be the reaction from the girl when she is faced with this? She would rebel. That is, she would do the opposite of what the parents say and, in extreme cases, run away from home. If this is not how parents want it to end, they must tread lightly. Do everything with a light touch because teenagers respond better to it. At any signs of heavy-handedness, teenagers rebel.
The first step in any bridge-building is to talk. Calmly talk to your daughter to understand why she is having a boyfriend.
What led to this?
There are many reasons why girls seek out boys. The first culprit that parents point the accusing finger at, is the girl's raging hormones. This may be true in some girls but not all. There are girls who have raging hormones but who can control themselves, and then there are girls who do not have raging hormones but who still pursue the opposite sex.
Therefore, what are some other possible reasons for the girl's behaviour?
Peer pressure is one. When all her friends and school mates have boyfriends, she feels compelled to follow suit. If she does not have a boyfriend of her own then she feels left out because she cannot fit in with their after school activities and cannot join in their conversations. What makes it worse is that everyone will see her as a "geek".
Another reason is if she is undertaking a popularity contest. She competes with other girls in attaining as many boyfriends as she can to see who will be the popularity queen. These contests also occur because it is seen that only popular girls have boyfriends.
Boredom often drives a girl into the arms of a boy. She sees her life as monotonous and so searches for thrill and excitement with the boy.
Or perhaps her self-esteem is low, so she depends on him to make her feel desirable and wanted.
Yet another reason is that she needs to be loved. She seeks her parents love but cannot access it, therefore, she seeks it elsewhere. Similar to this is if she is seeking her parents attention. She defies them in seeking a boyfriend so that she can have their attention. Any attention to her is better than no attention. The difference between the need for love and the need for attention is that the former does it passively. If she cannot get it from her parents then she goes elsewhere. Whereas the latter demands it from her parents.
There could be other reasons or the reasons could be a combination of the above. However, whatever the reason or reasons may be, parents need to identify and understand it. This is easier than it sounds as parents have a tendency of triggering their daughters to clam up.
How to approach them
When parents talk, care needs to be taken so as not to become accusative ("You did this to...") and judgmental ("You are so..."), otherwise it will end up like a police interrogation ("Why did you...?"). This only adds to their daughter's defiance. Also, to keep her self-esteem intact, avoid using "should", "don't" and all other negative words.
Talking effectively also means to know when to listen. This includes not only hearing but understanding. To understand what has been said, parents need to clarify it ("Do you mean...?"), acknowledge it ("You feel... because...") and empathise with it ("You sound really..."). When the teenager feels that her parents understand her, she will be encouraged to confide in them and explain why she does things and how she feels about it. And as I said earlier, by understanding, parents will get the full picture and will then know which appropriate action to take. Also, if parents want to be listened to by their children, they need to model good listening skills. Children tend to do as parents do rather than as parents say. So now is always a good time to start practising these skills.
Looking closer at the above reasons, parents will see that the underlying factor is that the girl feels insecure about herself. Her self-esteem is low and so she relies on the boy to make her feel good about herself. The root of falling into the trap of peer-pressures, popularity contests, the need to be wanted and loved, and to have attention, is insecurity. If this is the case then give her the love and attention that she needs. Show and tell her that you love her despite her "bad" behaviours, and yet you will not tolerate them. Teach her how to feel good about herself and her religion. Build her self-esteem by acknowledging her good behaviours and achievements or her attempts to achieve (and not focusing on failures). Assign her challenging tasks and stimulating activities. This also applies to the bored daughter. Take her to teenage Islamic gatherings and camps. Encourage her to make new Muslim friends. As to the one with raging hormones who cannot control herself, ask her if she would like to marry (but do not force it upon her).
Certainly, remind her that it is the girlfriend-boyfriend relationship that cannot be approved and teach her (again) about Islam's position with regards to this. Lastly, provide Muslim role models for her. Stories about those women who guard their chastity and piety are are rewarded for doing so. Maryam, mother of Prophet Eesa (a.s), is one great example.
Don't forget about the boys
Having taken care of the daughter, I will now focus attention on the son. It is ironical that parents react as if there is a death in the family when their daughter engages in a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship. But when it is the son who is in a similar or worst position, the same parents are complaisant. They feel that the boy needs to have experience and enjoy himself first before he can settle down and marry. It is as if the daughter alone carries the honour of the family.
Honour needs to be distributed evenly among the family if
it is to be kept intact. This means the father, mother, son and
daughter must each guard their own honour. If the father or mother
loses his or her honour then they are providing the role model
for their children. And if the son loses his honour and goes
unpunished then the daughter will see this as a hypocritical
act and consequently rebels. For any mediating action to work
on the daughter, parents must be consistent on their son as well.
Look to the reasons why girls pursue boys then parents will see
that those are the same ones that propel boys into the arms of