by Dr. Shahid
of children and youth is a sensitive but important aspect of their
learning. At present Muslim children are getting secular sex education
at schools and getting, the wrong messages from the media. In this
article pro and con of American sex education and Islamic concept
of sexuality and marriage are discussed. Finally a curriculum is
proposed for Islamic sex education to be given at home or Sunday
Key Words: Sex
Education, Teenage Pregnancy, Sex in Islam and Marriage.
Allah says in
they equal to those who know, and those who do not know?"
(saws) has said:
are the women of the Ansar (citizens of Medina). Shyness did not
stand in their way seeking knowledge about their religion"
has given so much emphasis on acquiring, knowledge, and in the days
of Prophet Mohammed (saws) Muslim men, and women were never too
shy to ask him questions including those relating to private affairs
such as sexual life, for Muslim parents of today sex is a dirty
word, they feel uncomfortable in discussing sex education with their
children, but do not mind the same being taught at their school,
by secular or non-Muslim teachers (of even opposite sex), by their
peers of either sex, and by the media and television, (an average
child is exposed to 9,000 sexual scenes per year). These parents
should know that sex is not always a dirty word. It is an important
aspect of our life. Allah who cares for all the aspects of our life,
and not just the way of worshipping Him, discusses in Qur'an, reproduction,
creation, family life, menstruation and even ejaculation. And Prophet
Muhammed (saws) who was sent to us as an example, discussed with
his companions many aspects of their sexual life including sexual
positions. The main reason Muslim parents do not or cannot discuss
sex education with their children is because the way they have been
brought up, ignorant and maybe they are not comfortable with their
own sexuality or its expression. They leave Islamic Education to
the Sunday school, and sex education to the American schools and
What is Sex
Education and Who Should Give it?
Is sex education
about knowing the anatomy and physiology of human body, or about
the act of sex, or about reproduction and family life, or about
prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy?
Is giving sex education equal to giving permission of engaging in
sex? One sex educator at my son's school told the parents "I
am not planning to tell your children whether or not they should
not engage in sex, or how to do it but in case they decide to do
it they should know how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases
and pregnancy". At present the sex education is incomplete
as it does not cover the morality associated with sex, sexual dysfunctions
and deviations and the institution of marriage.
One of the basic
questions is , do children need sex education? Do you teach a duck
how to swim or just put it in water and let it swim. After all,
for thousands of years men and women are having sex without any
formal education. In may traditional civilizations, sex education
starts after the marriage with trial and error. Some couples learn
it faster than others and do it better than others, due to difference
in sexual perception and expression of one partner. In my opinion
having dozen children is not necessarily a proof of love. An appropriate
and healthy sex education is crucial to the fulfilment of a happy
to the questions who should impart sex education, I believe everyone
has to play his or her role. The parent as a whole have to assume
a more responsible role; especially the father has a duty to be
able to answer his son's questions and the mother to her daughter's.
We can hardly influence the sex education at school or by the media
which I call "VD- AIDS And Teenage Pregnancy Education",
but we can supplement that with some ethical and moral dimension
and add family love and responsibility. Apart from these sources,
some role can be played by Sunday school teachers, the family physician,
the paediatrician and the clergy. Within a family the elder sister
has a duty towards the younger one and the elder brother has for
the younger one.
in American Schools
In every American
school, public or private, sex education is being given from grade
2 to 12. The projected 1990 cost to the nation will be $2 Billion
per year. Teachers are told to give the technical aspects of sex
education without telling the students about moral values or how
to make the right decisions. After describing the male and female
anatomy, and reproduction, the main emphasis is on the prevention
of venereal diseases and teenage pregnancy. With the rise of AIDS,
the focus is on "Safe Sex" which means having condoms
available each time you decide to have sex with someone you don't
know. With the help of our tax dollars, about 76 schools in the
country have started dispensing free condoms and contraceptives
to those who go to school health clinics. Very soon, I can foresee
there will be vending machine in the school hallways and "children"
could get one condom each time they need to engage in sex. The role
of parents is minimized by American sex educators and sometimes
ridiculed. In one of the sex education movies I was made to watch
as a parent at my son's school "Am I Normal?", the young
boy whenever he asks a question about sex to his father, the father
(is shown as a bum and a slob) shuns him away and diverts the topic.
Finally the boy learns it from a stranger, and then is shown going
into a movie theater with his girlfriend.
sex education devoid of morality promoted by educators like Dr.
Sol Gordon is in many ways unacceptable to our value system. The
examples of Dr. Gordon's beliefs are:
a. Nudity in
homes (in shower or bedroom) is good and a healthy way to introduce
sexuality to smaller (under 5) children, giving them opportunity
to ask questions. In the same book he also states that 75% of all
child molestations and incests (500,000 per year) occur by a close
relative (parent, step parent or another family member) in a familiar
b. A child's
playing with genitals of another child is a "naive exploration",
is permissible and not a reason for scolding or punishment. He is
also aware that boys as young as 12 have raped girls as young as
8. He does not tell us when this "naive exploration" becomes
a sex act.
caught reading 'dirty' magazines should not be made to feel guilty,
but parents should use it as a chance to get some useful points
across him or her about sexual attitudes, values and sex exploitation."
Like charity, pornography, should start at home !!
d. " If
your daughter or son is already sexually active, instead of telling
them to stop it, the parents moral duty is to protect their health
and career by providing them information and means for contraception
and avoiding VD". Educators like Dr. Gordon do not believe
that giving sexual information means giving the go ahead signal
for sex. I just wonder as to why some folks after being, told the
shape, colour, smell and taste of a new fruit, and pleasure derived
form eating it, would not like to try it? These educators say that
even if your child does not ask any questions about sex, parents
should initiate the discussion using i.e. a neighbour's pregnancy,
a pet's behaviour, advertisements, popular music or a TV show. I
wonder why these educators are obsessed with loading children with
sexual information whether they want it or not.
The More They
Know it - The More They Do it
The sex education
in American schools has not helped decrease in the teenager the
incidence of VD or teenage pregnancy. This is because it has not
changed their sex habits. According to Marion Wright Elderman President
of Children's Defence Fund in a recent report, "out of every
20 teens, 10 are sexually active but only 4 use contraception, 2
get pregnant and one gives birth. In 1982, John Hokins study found
one out of every five 15 year olds, and three 16 year olds are sexually
active . The incidence increased to 43% in 17 year olds, 46% of
16 year olds, 29% of 15 year olds were sexually active . Now it
is estimated that about 80% girls entering college had sexual intercourse
at least once. Going to church does not help either. Some 1400 teenagers,
mostly white, attending conservative Evangelical Church were sent
questions about their sex life. 26% of 16 year olds, 35% of 17 year
olds, and 43% of 18 year olds said they had sexual intercourse at
least once. 33% that responded also said sex outside of marriage
was morally acceptable.
Hazards of Early
The health hazards
of early sex include sexual trauma, increase in incidence of cervical
cancer, sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy.
A variety of
injuries are possible and do happen when sex organs are not ready
for sex in terms of full maturation. Some of these injuries have
a long lasting effect." Cervical cancer has been thought to
be related to sex at an early age and with multiple partners. Dr.
Nelson and his associates in his article of epidemiology of cervical
cancer calls it a sexual transmitted disease."
About one million
or more teenage girls become pregnant every year, 80% of them are
unmarried. Out of this I million, about 500,000 decide to keep their
baby, and 450,000 are aborted (or ? murdered), 100,000 decide to
deliver and give the baby for adoption. In 1950 the incidence of
birth from unmarried teenagers was only 13.98%, but in 1985 it increased
to 59%. It is a myth that teenage pregnancy is a problem of black
and poor. To the contrary 2 out of 3 teens getting pregnant now
are white, suburban and above the poverty income level. The pregnancy
rate (without marriage) in 54,000 listed Navy women is 40% compared
to 17% to general population. What is the life of those who have
teenage pregnancy? Only 50% complete high school, more than 50%
of them are on welfare. They themselves become child abusers, and
their children when grown up have 82% incidence of teenage pregnancy.
8.6 billion dollars are spent every year for the financial support
and health care of teenage mothers.
The sexual revolution
of 60's has affected another dimension of health care. In 1985 alone
, 10 million cases of Chlamydia, 2 million gonorrheae, 1 million
venereal warts, 0.5 million genital herpes and 90,000 syphilis cases
were diagnosed." The plague of AIDS" is adding a new twist
to our fears. About 52,000 cases have been diagnosed in the USA
alone and 50% of them have already died. The disease is growing
at a rate of one case every 14 minutes," and so far there is
no good treatment. Father Bruce Ritter of New York, who operates
shelters for runaway children, says the biggest threat to the Nation's
1 million runaway is the threat of AIDS now.
There are many
reasons children get involved in sex". Most common being the
peer pressure. Their common response is "since everybody is
doing it". One of the reasons is their desire for sexual competence
with adults and a way to get ahead. Another common reason is their
lack of self esteem which they want to acquire and improve by becoming
a father or mother. Sometimes it is due to lack of other alternatives
to divert their sexual energies. It could also be due to lack of
love and appreciation at home. Detachment from home can lead to
attachment elsewhere. The sexual pressure on them is everywhere,
at school from their peers, from the TV where about 20,000 sexual
scenes are broadcasted annually in advertisement, soap operas, prime
time shows and MTV. The hard core rock music nowadays fanned the
flames of sexual desires. Most of the parents do not know what kind
of music their children are listening. If they care, and listen
to hard rock songs, they will know what they are singing some of
these songs that have pornographic words and sentences which made
Kandy Stroud, a former rock fan, beg parents to stop their children
from listening to what she calls "Pornographic Rock".
Music affects our mood by activating Melantonin, the hormone from
the pineal gland in the brain which is turned on by darkness, turned
off by flashing light. It is the same gland which has been thought
to trigger puberty, and affects reproductive cycle, and sex mood.
What is the
True Role of Parents?
For their failures
(i.e. teenage pregnancy), the American educators are putting the
blame, as usual, on the parents. In fact in Wisconsin and many other
states the grandparents of a baby born to a teenager are responsible
for the financial support of the child. Remember parents are not
needed if their teenage daughter needs contraceptives or abortion.
Faced with such hypocrisy, the parents job is to instil in their
teenagers mind what is not taught in sex education classes i.e.
reason not to engage in sex, reason not to get pregnant etc. At
the same time, they should divert their energies to some productive
activities like community work, sports, character growth, or Sunday
schools. Another role of parents is to help their children make
the right decisions. In Islam anything which leads to wrong is also
wrong. Therefore parents should control the music children are listening,
the TV program they are watching, the magazines they are reading,
and the dress (which may provoke the desire in the opposite sex)
they are wearing. While group social activity should be permitted
within supervision, dating should not be allowed. When American
teenagers start dating, sex is on their mind.
In fact 25%
of college freshman boys during a survey responded by saying that
if they have paid for the food, and the girl does not go all the
way, they have a right to force her to have sex. Many of the rapes
occur at the end of the date and are not reported. Anything which
breaks down sexual inhibition and loss of self control i.e. alcohol,
drug, petting or just being together for two members of the opposite
sex in a secluded place should not be allowed for Muslim teenagers.
Kissing and petting is preparing the body for sex. The body can
be brought to a point of no return.
the Muslim parents should teach their children that they are different
from non-Muslims in their value system and way of life. Having a
feeling and love in your heart for someone else of the opposite
sex is different and beyond check, while expression of the same
through sex is entirely different and should be under control. Muslim
children should be told that they don't drink alcohol, eat pork,
take drugs, and they don't have to engage in pre-marital sex either.
the power of sexual need, and the subject is discussed in Quran
and the saying of Prophet Muhammed (saws) in a serious manner, in
context with the marital life and family life . Islam does not consider
women (or men) an object of sexual pleasure but with a legal frame
work of relationship fulfilling the will of God. While the sex outside
marriage is a punishable sin, sex with one's spouse is an act of
worship. The Islamic laws regarding sex are fixed and do not change
with peer pressure or changing values of society. Virginity at the
time of marriage is considered a virtue in Islamic morality, but
a disadvantage in the West. No wonder less than 10% of American
brides are virgin.
Mention of Creation,
Reproduction and Sex in The Qur'an
We not create you from a sticky fluid?, Which We laid up in a safe
abode, for a known term. Thus We arranged, how excellent is Our
let man consider from what he is created. From a gushing fluid that
issues between the lion and the ribs.
We created man from a product of wet earth, then placed him in a
drop in a safe lodging, then We fashioned the clot into a little
lump, then We fashioned the lump into bones, then We clothed the
bones with flesh, and then produced it as another creation. So blessed
be Allah, the best of creators". Commentary: The seminal fluid
has all the ingredients (protein, carbohydrate, minerals) as earth
has. The order of embryology given 1400 years ago when no microscope,
X-ray of ultrasound were available is the same as discovered now.
Western scientists recognized sperm in 17th century and thought
it to be a miniature pre-formed man".
women are a tilth for you, so enjoy your tilth the way you wish,
and make an introduction to yourself.
one of you have sex with your wife it is a rewardable act of charity".
The companions were surprised and asked, "but we do it out
of our desire, how can it be counted as a charity?". The Prophet
replied "if you had done with a forbidden women, it would have
been counted as a sin, but if you do it in legitimacy it is counted
as a charity?".
not the one of you fall upon his wife like a beast falls. It is
more appropriate to send a message before the act" .
not divulge secrets of your sex with your wife to another person,
nor describe her physical feature to anyone".
Concept of Adultery
(Fornication or Zina) in Islam
Allah says in
come near to adultery. Surely it is a shameful deed and Evil, opening
roads to another evils ".
Verily, my Lord has prohibited the shameful deeds, be it open or
secret, sins and trespasses against the truth and reasons"
impure are for men impure, and men impure are for women impure and
women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for
women of purity".
(saws) has said on many places against adultery as one of the three
major sins. However the most interesting story is that of a younger
man, who came to him and asked his permission for fornication, since
he could not control himself. The Prophet dealt with him with reasoning
and asked him if he will approve of someone else doing illegal sex
with his mother, sister, daughter or wife. Each time the man said
'no' then the Prophet replied that the woman with whom you plan
to have sex could also be somebody's mother, sister, daughter or
wife. The man understood and repented. The Prophet prayed for his
a crime not against one person but against the whole society. It
is a violation of marital contract. 50% of all first time marriages
in this country result in divorce in 2 years, and the main reason
for divorce is extra- marital affairs of either husband or wife.
Adultery which includes both pre- marital and extramarital sex is
an epidemic in this society. Nobody seems to listen to the Bible
which says frequently "Thou shalt not do adultery". The
Qur'anic approach "Do not approach adultery" is more sensible.
What it means that not only illegal sex is prohibited, but anything
which leads to illegal sex is also illegal. These things include
dating, free mixing of sex, provocative dress, nudity, obscenity
and pornography. The dress code both for men and women is to protect
them from temptation and desires by onlookers who may lose self
control and fall into sin.
the believing men, that they should lower their gaze and guard their
modesty; that will make for greater purity, and God is well acquainted
with all they do". "And say to the believing women that
they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty. ..".
Concept of Marriage
the strong sexual urge and desire for reproduction. Thus Islam encourages
marriage as a legal sexual outlook and as a shield from immorality
(sex without commitment). In Islam the marriage of a man and woman
is not just a financial and legal living arrangement, not even just
for reproduction, but providing with a total commitment to each
other, a contract witnessed by Allah. Love and joy of companionship
is a part of the commitment. A married couple assumes a new social
status and responsibility for himself, his wife and his children
and for the community.
His signs is that he created consorts for you from among yourself,
so that you may find tranquillity with them, and (He) set love and
compassion between you. Verily in this are signs for people who
is my tradition. He who rejects my tradition is not of me".
is half of the religion, the other half is being God fearing".
In Islam there
is no fixed rule to the age of marriage. It is becoming fashionable
for Muslim young men not to marry until they have completed their
education, have a job, or reached age 26-30 or more. Similarly Muslim
young girls say they want to marry after age 24 - why? When asked,
they would say "I am not ready for it" - not ready for
what? Don't they have normal sexual desire? If the answer is, yes,
then they have only one of the two choices (a) marry or (b) postpone
sex (abstinence till they marry). "Let those who find not the
where withal for marriage, keep them self chaste till God find them
the means from His
of you who own the means, should marry, otherwise should keep fasting,
for it curbs desires".
concept for delaying marriage is different from ours. When I suggested
to one of my sexually active young female patient, she bluntly said
"I don't want to sleep with the same guy every night."
Role of Muslim
Parents and Muslim Organizations
I am not proposing
that all Muslim youth be married at age 16. But I must say that
youth should accept the biological instinct and make decisions which
will help a more satisfied life devoted to the career rather than
spending time in chasing (or dreaming about) the opposite sex. Parents
should help their sons and daughters in selection of their mate
using Islamic practice as a criteria and not the race, colour or
wealth. They should encourage them to know each other in a supervised
a) To provide
a platform for boys and girls to see and know each other without
b) Offer premarital
educational courses to boys and girls over 18, separately to prepare
them for the role of father and husband and of mother and wife.
The father has
a special role, mentioned by Prophet Muhammed "one who is given
by God, a child, should give it a beautiful name, should give him
or her education, and training and when he or she attains puberty,
she should see to it that he or she is married. If the father does
not arrange their marriage after puberty, and the boy or girl is
involved in sin, the responsibility of that sin will lie with the
father". (Reported in Mishkat, page 271).
For Islamic Sex Education
education should be taught at home, starting at an early age. Before
giving education about the anatomy and physiology, the belief in
the Creator should be well established. As Destoevsky puts it "without
God everything, is possible" meaning that the lack of belief
or awareness of God gives an okay for wrong doing".
The father should
teach the son and mother should teach her daughter. In the absence
of a willing parent, the next best choice should be a Muslim male
teacher (preferably a physician) for boys and a Muslim female teacher
(a nurse or physician) for a girl at the Sunday Islamic school.
should be tailored according to the age of the child and classes
be held separately. Only answer to a pertinent question be given.
By this I mean that if a 5 year old asks "how did I get into
mom's tummy", there is no need to describe the whole act of
intercourse. Similarly it is not necessary to tell a 14 year old
how to put on condoms. This might be taught in premarital class
just before his or her marriage.
For Sex Education Should Include:
a) Sexual growth
* Time table for puberty
* Physical changes during puberty
* Need for family life
of reproductive system
* For girls - organ, menstruation, premenstrual syndrome
* For boys - the organ, the sex drive
development of foetus & birth
transmitted disease (VD/AIDS) (emphasize the Islamic aspect).
e) * Mental,
emotional & social aspect of puberty
* Social, moral and religious ethics
* How to avoid peer pressure
is not intended to be a sex manual for married couples, though I
may write such someday. I just wanted to remind the reader a short
verse in Qur'an and then elaborate.
your garments, and you are their garments".
and wives are described as garments to each other. A garment is
very close to our body, so they should be close to each other, a
garment protects and shields our modesty, so they should do the
same to each other, garments are put on anytime we like, so should
they be available to each other anytime, and a garment adds to our
beauty, so they should praise and beautify each other.
I should say this. Sex is an expression of love and one without
the other is incomplete. One of your jobs is to educate her in matters
of sex especially in your likes and dislikes and do not compare
her to another woman.
For wives I
want to say this. Man's sexual needs are different from woman's.
Instead of being, a passive recipient of sex, try to be an active
partner. He is exposed to many temptations outside the home. Be
available to please him, and do not give him an excuse to make a
choice between you and the hellfire.
1. The Holy
Qur'an, Chapter 39, Verse 9 (A. Yusuf Ali Translation).
- Collection of Ahadith -, Volumn I Book of Knowledge, Page 97,
Translated by M. M. Khan.
3. Time Magazine,
Report On Sex Education, Nov. 24, 1986.
4. Gordon, Sol
and Dickman, Irving R "Sex Education - The Parents Role."
Public Affairs Pamphlet No. 549.
D. "Teenage Pregnancy and Sex Education In Schools What Works
and What Does Not work" - San Antonio Pregrnancy Center, 1986.
6. Mast, C.K.
"Sex Respect: The Options of True Sexual Freedom." Bradley
Illinois, Respect Line.
Nora et Al. "Teenage Sex" - Ladies Home Journal, Oct.,
Having Children" - Time, Dec. 9, 1985.
Robert and J. Adams - "Solving The Teenage Pregnancy."
Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, March 1980.
Abu Saud "Sex Roles In Muslim Families of USA" ATP publication,
28. The Holy
Qur'an: Chapter 77, Verse 20-24.
29. The Holy
Qur'an: Chapter 86, Verse 5-7.
30. The Holy
Qur'an: Chapter 23, Verse 12-14.
31. Lyons, Albert
S. and R. J. Petrucelli - "Medicine - An Illustrated History"
Page 432, Published by Abrams.
32. The Holy
Qur'an: Chapter 2, Verse 223.
Collection of Ahadith.
Collection of Ahadith.
Collection of Ahadith.
36. The Holy
Qur'an: Chapter 17, Verse 32.
37. The Holy
Qur'an: Chapter 7, Verse 33.
38. The Holy
Qur'an: Chapter 24, Verse 26.
39. Imam Ahmad
Quoting Abu Omama - page 30-31 "Modesty And Chastity In Islam"-By
M. Z. Nadvi, Islamic BookPublisher, Kuwait.
40. The Holy
Qur'an: Chapter 24, Verse 30-31.
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