What Every Teenager Needs to Know (About Sexuality)
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Written by Alia Amer   
Saturday, 05 September 2009 16:41

 

Everywhere in this society, sex, and sexuality are openly displayed for all to see. In this climate of free sex and loose moral standards, it becomes imperative for Muslim parents to be proactive in the sexual education of their children. Now, although for many of us, the thought of telling our children the whys, hows, and wheres of the proper sexual behavior between a man and woman, might make us cringe, when we think of the alternative, we'll see that we have no choice. Sexual education is a phrase that is taboo for many Muslims. Part of the reason for this misunderstanding, is that people who encourage fornication and sexual deviations, are often the ones who teach sexual education in this society. How can a Muslim parent then not worry when schools and mass media portray fornication as sexual freedom, and homosexuality as an acceptable 'sexual orientation'? But does this mean that Muslim parents and educators should choose that their children have no sexual education at all? The answer is no! Children will always receive some kind of sexual education, and even if you isolate them, they will still get it from other children! The correct attitude should be to give our children the right sexual education, one that is derived from the Qur'an and the Sunnah. It is therefore the obligation of every parent to be prepared to carry out this task, and to be able to do so in the best manner. This article will, inshaAllah, present some guidance that may make the chore less stressful for all parties involved

The Different Stages of Sexual Education

As a child goes through different developmental stages, his sexual education should too be planned in stages, and each lesson should be appropriate to the age of the child. Although children's maturity vary greatly at any given age, there are four main stages that most children go through:

7-10 Years: the Age of Discernment

At this age, the child should know the etiquette of entering the parents' room, and the rules concerning looking at others.

10-14 Years: Adolescensce

At this age, the child should learn how to avoid sexual arousal, and should be protected from it.

14-16 Years: Puberty

When the child should know the etiquette of sexual intercourse, if he or she is ready to get married in the near future.

16 and Above: Young Adults

The unmarried young men and women should learn sexual abstinence, and the dangers of adultery and fornication (zina).


THE AGE OF DISCERNMENT

In most homes, young children move about quite freely, and often take for granted that they can enter wherever they want. However, there are limitations for older children, who at certain times should ask their parents' permission before entering their bedroom.

Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, says, "O you who believe! Let your slaves and the children among you who have not come to the age of puberty ask your permission (before they come to your presence), on three occasions: before morning prayer (salatul Fajr), and when you put off your clothes for the noon rest, and after the late-night prayer (salatul Isha). These three times are of privacy for you, outside these times, there is no sin on you or on them to move about, attending to each other. Thus Allah makes clear the Signs to you. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise." [24:58]

It is then preferable that when the child is old enough to discern between right and wrong, and easily understands and follows directions (usually around age seven), that he should ask permission before entering. This is especially emphasized at the times when the parents are usually undressed, i.e., from the time after Isha prayer to the Fajr prayer, and during an afternoon nap. There is no doubt that this teaches the children to be decent, and aids to protect them from unintentionally stumbling upon scenes that may prove shocking to them. When the child reaches puberty, he should be taught to ask permission before entering at all times, as Allah says, "And when the children among you come to puberty, then let them also ask for permission, as those senior to them (in age). Thus Allah makes clear His Signs for you. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise." [24:59] By teaching and reinforcing these lessons over time, decency and modesty can gradually be integrated into the child's character.

MEETING THE OTHER SEX

The Etiquette's of Lowering The Gaze

One of the hardest lessons for us raised in the West to unlearn, is this notion of eye contact. Although most of us were taught from childhood that it is impolite to stare, we were also taught to look at someone when they were speaking to us, there was no such thing as lowering the gaze. The evidence of this is seen everyday, as men and women openly ogle and drool all over each other in the streets. This is why it is so pressing for us to make sure that Muslim children become aware of what is lawful for him or her to look at and what is not. This is more pressing in the case of children who live here in a non-Muslim society, where they are constantly exposed to indecent scenes of both men and women, in the streets, on television, in magazines, on billboards, etc. Indeed the eye is the window to the soul, and a lustful look can lead to feelings of desire, which can lead to thoughts of fornication.

This is why looking at the opposite sex is regulated by the Islamic Shari'ah, where the rules depend on whether they are mahram (plural maharim) or not. This refers to women with whom a man has a specified degree of relationship that precludes marriage.

ETIQUETTES OF LOOKING

Men Looking at Mahram Women

A man is allowed to look at women who are his mahram, but only at what is usually exposed of their bodies for the necessity of working inside the house, such as the head, the hands, the feet, and the neck. For Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, says, "And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their private parts, that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what ordinarily appear thereof. That they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons." [24:31] However, one should not look at what is usually covered such as the knees, the breasts, the armpits, etc. This means that the woman should be decently clothed while in the presence of her mahram relatives.

Men looking at Non-mahram women

It is forbidden for a man to look at women who are strangers to him (i.e., who are outside the mahram relationship). He should lower his gaze as Allah orders him, "Tell the believing men to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts. This is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do." [24:30]

Adolescent boys (and even younger ones) that can distinguish between a beautiful woman and a less beautiful one, and can appreciate women's physical attributes, should be taught to lower their gaze. This protects them from getting their sexual desires aroused. It is sad to hear people saying that there is no harm in an innocent look, especially in the case of teenagers, with the idea that this may somewhat extinguish their sexual desire. On the contrary, a lustful look may lead to a greater sin, as the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "It is written on the son of Adam his lot of zina (fornication/adultery), that will inevitably afflict him. The zina of the eyes is looking, the zina of the ears is hearing, the zina of the tongue is talking, the zina of the hand is assaulting, and the zina of the foot is walking; the heart desires and wishes, and the genitals affirm or deny." (Bukhari and Muslim)

In fact, lowering the gaze is a good deed for which a Muslim is rewarded. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "No Muslim whose eyesight falls inadvertently on the beauties of a woman and then he lowers his gaze, but Allah will credit for him a worship he will appreciate its sweetness in his heart." (Ahmad, at-Tabarani) While the first inadvertent look causes no sin on him, the young man should be taught not to follow it by another, as the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said to Ali Ibn Abi Talib, "O Ali! Do not let the second look follow the first. The first look is allowed to you but not the second." (Tirmithi, Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

Men looking at other men and women looking at other women

Today, both men and women walk about practically in a state of undress, therefore it is more important now more than ever, for Muslim children to be taught to lower their gaze and this applies to both men and women. A man is not allowed to look at another man's awrah, i.e. the area between his navel and his knees (these two parts included), as the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "A man should not look at the awrah of another man nor a woman of a woman, nor should a man go under one cloth with another man, nor a woman with another woman." (Muslim) He also said to a man he saw uncovering his thigh, "Cover your thigh, for the thigh is awrah." (al-Hakim)

It is clear from this that a man should always cover himself from the navel to the knees in the presence of others, and should not uncover his awrah while swimming or playing sports games, or while taking showers in the presence of others. It is highly recommended to teach boys to cover themselves down to the knees at a young age (around seven) so that they grow up with this habit.

This rule applies equally to Muslim women looking at other women, whether these are Muslims or disbelievers. Many of us however, feel no shame at sitting and browsing through a Victoria's Secret Catalogue, or through the pages of a swimsuit or fitness magazine, where the women are practically naked, doing so either out of indifference or ignorance. It is regrettable to see a Muslim woman allowing herself to look at non-believing women who are barely clothed, believing that this is allowed. Girls should be taught to lower their gaze when they see such scenes, and should learn to cover their awrah at all times, when they are in presence of other women, Muslim or otherwise. The awrah of the woman with respect to other Muslim women is the same as the awrah of the man, i. e., from the knees to the navel.

Men looking at teenage boys

While in general, men are allowed to look during usual activities at teenage boys whose beards have not yet grown in, they are forbidden to look at them if there is a fear of temptation, especially in the case of handsome boys. Looking then becomes unlawful, because this may lead to sexual desire and sexual deviation.

Women Looking at Men

A woman is allowed to look at men while they are walking on the street, for the purpose of buying in the market, or other lawful activities, provided that they are properly clothed, with their awrah completely covered.

The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, allowed Aisha to look at the Abyssinians playing with their spears in the courtyard of his masjid, while she was hiding behind him. Women are not allowed to look closely at a man, however, or to have a lustful or provocative look, or to look deliberately at them when they happen to be in the same setting (such as on a bus, or in a room).

The reason for this rule being somewhat more relaxed for women is that usually they are not the ones who initiate a relationship, due to their nature, and that men are usually more daring.

Looking at a Small Child's Awrah

There is a consensus among the scholars that children who are four years old or younger have no awrah, meaning that there is no harm in looking at their naked bodies. The awrah of children over four years is the genitals and the buttocks. When the child's consciousness of sex has developed, or when evidence of sexual urge is noticed in him/her, the awrah limit becomes the same as that of adults and should be treated as such. However it is better to accustom the child to being always properly clothed.

All the rules of prohibition of looking become void in cases of necessity such as in administering first aid or medical treatment or during a trial testimony as the judge requests. Other exceptions are looking at one's spouse, and a man looking at a woman for the prospect of marrying her. These two exceptions will be discussed later.

A child who is raised in the context of these divine rules of lowering the gaze will no doubt acquire a distinguished Islamic personality, and a noble social character. Indeed, there is no better way to teach the child these manners, than for us the parents to lead the way and set the proper example for them to follow.

WHO IS CONSIDERED MAHRAM?

Any woman, with whom a man has a relationship (of blood or foster) that precludes marriage, is considered a mahram to him. Mahram women include his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt, grandaunt, niece, grandniece, his father's wife, his wife's daughter, his mother-in-law, his foster mother (the one who breastfed him), foster sisters, and any foster relatives that are similar to the above mentioned blood relatives. For the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "What is forbidden by reason of kinship is forbidden by reason of suckling." (Bukhari)

These are considered maharim because Allah mentions them in the Holy Qur'an, "And marry not women whom your fathers married, except what has already passed; indeed it was shameful and most hateful, and an evil way. Forbidden to you (for marriage) are: your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your brother's daughters, your sister's daughters, your foster mother who breastfed you, your foster milk suckling sisters, your wives' mothers, your stepdaughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom you have gone in -but there is no sin on you if you have not done so (to marry their daughters), the wives of your sons who spring from your loins, and two sisters in wedlock at the same time, except for what has already passed; verily Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." [4:22-23] All the man's female relatives mentioned in these two verses are considered his maharim, because it is unlawful (haram) for him to marry them, except the wife's sister mentioned last, who is not a mahram because he can marry her if he divorces his wife, or if she dies. Reciprocally, if a woman is a mahram to a man, such her brother, her father, her uncle, etc. then he is a mahram to her. One of the hardest things for my family to adjust to is the fact that I can't be alone or get undressed in front of some of my male relatives. To them, it's just Patrick or Mike or Kari, what's the harm? They do not understand that some relatives are not considered maharim who fall under the category of strangers, and are, therefore, legal for marriage under the Islamic Shari'ah.

Remember: Two habits that are commonly practiced in some Muslim communities and societies, which are unlawful, and Muslims should be warned against are:

Privacy with non-Mahram

Satan is always eager to tempt people and to make them fall into what is unlawful, and for this reason Allah subhanahu warns us saying, "O you who believe! Follow not the footsteps of Satan. And whosoever follows the footsteps of Satan, then verily he commands what is indecent and wrong." [24:21] One of the Satan's means to tempt people into sin, is privacy with non-mahram women, for this reason the Shar'iah has prohibited it. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "A man does not meet privately with a woman without the Satan being the third (present)." (Tirmithi) Ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, also said, "From now on a man must not drop in on a non-mahram woman unless accompanied by one or two men." (Muslim) Therefore, a man is not allowed to be alone with a stranger-woman in a house or a room, or in a car, even if that woman is his sister-in-law or his maid, or his patient [in the case of a physician] etc. Many people are very lax concerning this rule, thinking they have confidence in controlling themselves or confidence in the other party, but this leads to fornication or to its preambles, and causes the increase of illegitimate children.

Shaking the hands of non-mahram

The traditions of certain societies have prevailed over Allah's Shari'ah concerning this matter. Their wrong habits have overcome the rule of religion so much so that when one presents the rule of the Shari'ah to them, he is accused of being backward. Shaking the hand of one's female cousins, or one's uncles' wives has become as easy as falling off a log in our societies, but if people considered seriously the dangers of this matter in the Shari'ah, they would not do it. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "It is better for one of you to be pierced by an iron needle in the head than to touch the hand of a woman that is not allowed to him." (Tabarani) This sin is considered a fornication of the hand, as the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "The eyes fornicate, and the hands fornicate, and the feet fornicate, and the intimate parts fornicate." (Ahmad) Is there a person purer than Muhammad, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam? And in spite of that he said, "I do not shake women's hands." (Ahmad) He also said, "I do not touch women's hands." (Tabarani) Aisha, radhiallahu anha, said, "No by Allah, the Prophet's hand never touched a woman's hand, he used to accept their pledge of allegiance by [hearing their] words only." (Muslim) Men who threaten to divorce their pious wives if they refuse to shake their brothers' hands should fear Allah. It should also be known that wearing a glove or wrapping the hand with a cloth while shaking hands is not allowed either.

ADOLESCENCE

It is widely recognized that adolescence is the most dangerous and tumultuous period in the life of an individual. If the child passes this period safely, it is hoped that he will have a happy and successful life later. For this reason, Islam prescribes on every parent whose child approaches adolescence to guard him against anything that might arouse his sexual desire, and this should begin when the child is around ten.

SUPERVISION OF CHILDREN INSIDE THE HOME

The parents should supervise their children by making sure that they behave in an Islamic way and are aware of the Islamic rules that protect them from sexual arousal. These rules are summarized as follows:

When the boy is ten years or older, he should not enter a place where women are gathered, especially if they are wearing their beautiful attires and have adorned themselves with makeup and jewelry. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam said, "Beware of entering [places] where women are!" (Bukhari and Muslim)

Children ten years and older should not share the same bed even if they are of the same sex, as the Prophet advised, saying, "Enjoin your children to perform salah when they are seven, and spank them for it when they are ten, and let them sleep in separate beds." (al-Hakim and Abu Dawud)

Adolescent boys and girls should at this age be familiar with the etiquette of looking at the opposite sex, and apply its rules.

The child must be supervised as to what he watches on television. Better yet, television should be avoided altogether. Nobody in his right mind can deny the overwhelming presence of sex in all television programs, including cartoons, news and documentaries. Bringing a television set into one's house is like bringing a fox into the chicken coop. There is no excuse for the Muslim parent to let his child watch such debasing programs, which the disbelievers themselves criticize.' The child who knows that the Shariah enjoins him to lower his gaze will realize that it is almost impossible to watch television and at the same time observe that divine order of lowering one's gaze, and that watching television will undoubtedly arouse his desire to commit sins.

The child should be supervised concerning the materials he reads, such as books and magazines. Moreover the books the child gets from, or that are assigned to him by non-Islamic schools should be closely monitored. Parents should not hesitate to enter the child's room - after asking permission - in order to make sure that he does not turn it into a hiding place for forbidden materials.

Finally, by the age of ten, the child should not be allowed to befriend anyone from the opposite sex, whether a relative or a neighbor, not even for studying or competing. It is a dangerous slip that might lead the child to fornication.

SUPERVISION OF CHILDREN OUTSIDE OF THE HOME

Muslim children leaving home are like soldiers going to the battlefield, they should be armed to ward off the dangers awaiting them outside. Although too numerous to cite, here are a few:

The dangers of the cinema and theater, which base their products almost entirely on sex, for their belief is that 'sex sells'.

The danger of women's clothing where the woman's dress is ever shrinking in length.

The dangers of the brothels, and prostitutes are obvious. Needless to say that these are diseases that have become a fixture in almost all societies, and hence the child should at any price be protected from them.

The dangers of indecent pictures intended to sharpen the sexual appetite, and which are exposed everywhere in the streets.

The dangers of befriending other children who might have a bad influence on the child. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, warned against befriending bad people, saying, "A man is of the same faith as his bosom friend, so make sure whom you take as a bosom friend." (Ibn Hibban)

The dangers of intermingling the two sexes. It may appear that the mixing of young boys and girls in school presents no harm, but in fact the child becomes so accustomed to being mixed with the opposite sex that later the idea of segregating himself from the opposite sex becomes strange to him.

COMMUNICATION IS THE BEST STRATEGY

In the face of all these dangers, supervision outside the house becomes impossible, and in fact may not even be a good strategy, considering the more mature personality of the child at this age. A more positive attitude is to help him regulate his own sexual desire, and correct himself. Some of the ways in which this can be done include:

Educating and enlightening the child about the dangers outside the home. The child should realize that these diseases of the society are not part of his Islamic heritage. Some of them are the result of foreign ideologies and philosophies, ranging from the Freudian theories which base everything on sex; to the Marxist and Communist theories which deny the existence of the Creator and make man his own god; to the Hippies and the sexual revolution, etc. The child should be educated about his own Islamic heritage and should know that Islam preaches decency and chastity, and that what the child sees in the streets is the result of the deviation from the true religion, Islam.

Parents should constantly caution the child about the dangerous consequences of fornication. No sinful act has greater repercussion on the person's life, and the society as a whole, than the act of fornication. Parents should explicitly caution their child about these dangers as soon as they sense that he or she is mature enough to understand them. Some of these harmful consequences include:

1-Repercussion on the child's health: Many children and young men are unaware that sexual promiscuity leads to many sexually transmitted diseases. One such disease is AIDS, a deadly disease that has become the plague of sexually promiscuous societies. One single sexual act may ruin the child's health forever. This danger alone is an incentive strong enough to caution the child against the sin of fornication and any path that leads to it.

2-Repercussion on the society: Any society in which sexual rules are relaxed suffers from many illnesses such as a high number of unwed mothers, children born out of wedlock, a high number of rapists, and finally the gradual destruction of the nuclear family.

3-Repercussion on the economy: No doubt that the wave of fatherless children resulting from the plague of fornication, constitutes an economic burden on the society. On the other hand, a man who commits such acts acquires a sense of irresponsibility, which will no doubt reflect on his work, and on the society as a whole.

4-Repercussion on the Hereafter: It is very important that the child should fear Allah's Punishment if he commits this abominable sin. Allah says, "And those who invoke not with Allah any other god, nor kill such life as Allah has forbidden, except for just cause, nor commit illegal sexual intercourse; and whoever does this shall receive the punishment. The torment will be doubled to him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein in disgrace." [25:68-69]

Connecting the child to his religious roots. Parents should teach their children Islamic culture and history. The child should also know the norms within a Muslim community and the way social activities (gatherings, sports, hobbies, etc.) are per formed according to the Islamic Shari'ah. Parents should encourage -even insist- that the child chooses his friends from the company of well-behaved Muslim children.

SAFE PASSAGE

Puberty is the most turbulent and confusing period in a person's life both physically and emotionally. Things begin to happen to your body that you don't understand and you begin to experience feelings and emotions that were before this, alien to you. All of this can cause drastic mood swings, and behavioral changes in children that parents must be aware of. It is also a time, when the lines of communication between parent and child need to be wide open. As parents we need to listen, be empathetic to their situation and explain what all these changes mean in regards to their lives and their religion.

When a child reaches puberty, he becomes fully accountable for his deeds in the Sight of Allah.

The parents of the adolescent boy should inform him that the first time he ejaculates, he becomes accountable for his actions in front of Allah, and he should perform the acts of worship in the same way that adult Muslims do.

When a girl is about nine years old, her parents should inform her that the first time she sees blood (menstruation), she becomes accountable for her acts and that the acts of worship prescribed for Muslim women are also prescribed for her.

When the child reaches puberty, there are certain rules that the parents should explain to him or her, which include:

If the child has a sexual dream, he does not have to take a bath (ghusl) unless he sees or feels wetness on his clothes or bed sheets due to sperm ejaculation. In the case of a girl, vaginal discharge, the type of viscous discharge that commonly occurs after a woman has had an orgasm, should be noticed before it is necessary to take a bath. Such was the answer of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, to Khawlah Bint Hakeem, who asked him if a woman should make ghusl when she has a sexual dream. He said, "No ghusl on her unless she has a discharge, similarly there is no ghusl on the man unless he ejaculates." (Ahmad and Nasa'i)

When the child wakes up and sees or feels wetness due to sexual discharge, he/she should perform ghusl even if he/she did not remember having any dream.

When the boy ejaculates due to sexual arousal, whether voluntary or involuntary, he should perform ghusl. The same rule applies to the girl if she had an orgasm or vaginal discharge.

Young men and young women who are about to get married should know that during sexual intercourse, as soon as penetration occurs they both should perform ghusl whether there was discharge or not. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "When he sits between her arms and legs, and the two organs touch, and his organ disappears (in hers), there should be ghusl, whether he ejaculated or not." (Muslim)

When the girl does not see anymore blood at the end of her menses, she should perform ghusl. The married woman should know that after childbirth she should make ghusl as soon as the bleeding stops. The next step is obviously to teach the child how to perform ghusl and the Sunan acts of ghusl. He or she should know the acts that are unlawful to him or her while in a state of sexual impurity. These include:

During menstruation, or after birth bleeding, a woman is forbidden to pray, fast, hold the Qur'an, enter a mosque unless passing through it, make tawaf (i.e., circumambulate the Ka'bah), or have sexual intercourse. For Allah says, "They ask you about menstruation, say: it is a harmful thing, therefore keep away from women during menses and go not unto them until they are clean." [2:222]

Men and women who are in a state of sexual impurity (janabah) are prohibited from reading the Qur'an or touching it before making ghusl. For the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "The menstruating woman and the one in a state of sexual impurity must not read anything from the Qur'an." (Tirmidhi). They are also forbidden to pray, enter the mosque, or make tawaf.

The child should learn to inspect his clothes and keep them clean from sperm (or vaginal discharge), or in fact, any liquid discharge from the sexual organs.

UN-MARRIED, STAYING CHASTE

Today, young people, especially young men are under constant pressure to conform to the norms of the larger society, and to express his manhood through loose sexual behavior. To be a virgin in this day and age is looked upon as a sexual deviancy, while promiscuity and sexual perversions are looked at as normal. Muslim youth should always be guarded against such thinking, and steps should be taken to guard their chastity until marriage becomes a viable option. But what should young men do, if they wish to get married but cannot afford it? Allah says concerning them, "And let those who find not the financial means for marriage keep themselves chaste until Allah enriches them of His Bounty." [24:33]

Many means are offered to Muslim youths to help them to preserve their chastity. Some have been discussed earlier, such as lowering the gaze, keeping away from anything that induces arousal, seeking the company of righteous people and fearing the punishment of Allah. Some other ways are:

Filling one's idle time with physical and intellectual activities, so that one does not engage in sexual fantasies that arouses the desire. Physical activity is also a good way to expend extra energy, and also to relieve pressure.

Practicing voluntary fasting, as fasting decreases the sexual drive, and brings one closer to Allah. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "Those who cannot (marry) should fast, for it is a means of cooling sexual passion." (Bukhari)

Most of all, unmarried people should strengthen the religious deterrent within themselves. One good way is to remember the many verses in the Qur'an warning against zinaa. Also, they can consider the story of Yusuf, who is the perfect example of the chaste man, "And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him, she closed the doors and said, 'Come on, O you.' He said, 'Allah forbid! "' [12:23]

DEVIATIONS ARE WRONG

Regardless of the consensus of the larger society, homesexuality is not a sexual norm, or alternative. Islam considers homosexuality as a sexual deviation leading to a perverted act which goes against the natural order Allah intended for mankind. It is a corruption of the man's sexuality and a crime against the opposite sex. Therefore, the Islamic Shari'ah strictly prohibits the practice of this perverted act, which is mentioned in many places in the Holy Qur'an.

The story of Prophet Lot's people, who were addicted to this practice, is the best example. Prophet Lot, alayhes salam, said to his people, "Verily, you do sodomy with men, and rob the wayfarer! And practice all wickedness in your meetings." [29:29] And he said to them, "Of all the creatures of the world, will you approach males, and leave those whom Allah has created for you to be your wives? Nay, you are a trespassing people!" [26:165-166] But their answer to Prophet Lot, alayhessalam, was, "Bring us the Wrath of Allah if you are telling us the Truth." [29:29] And so Allah gave them the punishment they deserved, "And We rained on them a rain of torment. And how evil was the rain of those who had been warned." [26:173] Because of the danger, and the atrocity of this crime, Allah has punished the people who committed it by four kinds of punishments. No people have been punished by all four combined before: He blinded their eyes, He turned the town of Sodom upside down, He rained on them stones of baked clay piled up, and He sent against them a sayhah [a torment and an awful cry].

Just as a person who has a sexual urge should not satisfy it by committing zina, a person who has this perverted thought should not act upon it. In order to maintain the purity of the Muslim society, most Muslim scholars have ruled that the punishment for this act should be the same as for zina (i.e., one hundred whiplashes for the man who has never married and death by stoning for the married man). Some have even ruled that the punishment of both partners in sodomy is execution by the sword, if they committed the act by their own choice and agreement. For Ibn Abbas narrated that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "Whomever you found committing the crime of Lot's people [i.e., sodomy], then kill both partners." (Ahmad) The unprecedented plagues and the many dangerous diseases that have appeared in our time such as the fatal AIDS disease, and which are the result of this immoral crime, show the wisdom of inflicting such strong punishment for this sin.

WHAT ABOUT MASTURBATION?

Guarding one's chastity also includes staying away from masturbation. Sexual arousal may drive a person to masturbation. Such a person should know, however, that the majority of the scholars consider this practice unlawful. This ruling is based on the Words of Allah Who says, "Those who guard their private parts except from their spouses or those whom their right hands possess, for them, they are free from blame. But those who crave something beyond that, are transgressors." [23:5-7] The one who masturbates is considered be among 'those who crave something beyond that' specified in the verse.

A Muslim should therefore resist this temptation by avoiding anything that leads to sexual arousal. The Prophet's advice to the Muslim youth is to seek help through frequent fasting, for it strengthens the fear of Allah, teaches self control, and cools one's desire.

GETTING READY FOR MARRIAGE

Unlike the misguided thinking of some 'people of the book', sexual urge and desire is neither a sinful thing, nor does abstaining from expressing it in a lawful manner, lead to a higher level of spiritual awareness. Allah created sexual urge in mankind, as it is the means by which the procreation and continuity of humanity is ensured. Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, says, "And Allah has given you wives of your own kind, and has given you, from your wives, sons and grandsons." [16:72]

Sex is indeed a strong driving force in the human being, which demands fulfillment. Islam recognizes this urge and never denies it, but regulates it through the institution of marriage. Just as Islam strictly forbids sex outside marriage, and all means leading to it, it also prohibits celibacy. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "Young men, those of you who can support a wife should marry, for it keeps you from looking at women and preserves your chastity. " (Bukhari)

A young man who is physically and financially capable to marry should be encouraged to do so as early as possible. The parents of a young woman who is ready for marriage should let her marry as soon as an acceptable man proposes to her.

It is not enough to tell our children about the dangers of fornication; we should make it a point to explain to them the many benefits of marriage. By denying them one set of behaviors, it then becomes necessary to offer them legal and acceptable alternatives. Besides being a lawful way of satisfying one's sexual urge, marriage is considered a form of worship, and the sexual act itself is a good deed for which the Muslim receives a reward. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "And in the sexual act (with your spouses) there is a charity (you will be rewarded for)." He was then asked, "A man satisfies his urge and gets reward for it?" He said, "Do you see if he satisfied it in an unlawful way, would he not get a punishment?" They said, "Yes." And then he said, "Similarly if he did it in a lawful way, he would be rewarded for it!" (Muslim) Through marriage, men and women can find tranquillity and peace with each other. Allah says, "And among His Signs is that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put between you affection and mercy." [30:21] Marriage ensures the growth and spread of the Muslim ummah. It splits the responsibilities of raising the child between the parents, and tightens the bond between the generations.

When young people become aware of the many benefits of marriage, they will no doubt look forward to it. The tremendous task of choosing a spouse for the young man or woman lies more on the shoulders of their parents, who should know about the Islamic way of choosing a spouse for their child, and also should inform the child about the etiquette of betrothal.

Their next responsibility is to inform the would-be-groom and bride about what is lawful and unlawful, liked and disliked for them to do on their wedding night and beyond.

SUGGESTIONS FOR SPOUSE SELECTION

When choosing spouses for their children, many Muslim parents nowadays, look for physical beauty and economical prowess, and disregard requiring them to have good Islamic character. The proper choice of an appropriate spouse for one's offspring ensures a good foundation for the family they will establish. For this reason Islam pays great attention to the way one chooses a spouse. In choosing a bride for their son, the parents should take into consideration his preferences regarding her physical beauty and character, but most importantly they should seek a Muslim woman of high moral and religious standards. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "A woman is normally sought as a wife for her wealth, her beauty, her nobility, or her deen (religiousness), so choose a religious woman and you will prosper." (Muslim)

Similarly, the girl's father should not postpone nor refuse to marry his daughter to a man who proposes to her, if he is of sound religion, character and of equal status. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "When someone with whose religion and character you are satisfied, asks to marry your daughter, agree to his request. If you do not do so, there will be corruption and great evil on earth." (Tirmithi)

Before engaging in the search for a bride, the young man and his parents should avoid certain things:

It is unlawful for a Muslim to marry a woman who is a mahram to him. Also, he should not propose to a woman who is actually married; a woman who is in her iddah (the waiting period of the divorced or widowed woman); a woman whom another Muslim man has already asked in marriage -unless she has already refused the first or if he permits him-; a disbeliever, with the exception of Jewish or Christian women; or a prostitute (unless she has sincerely repented from it). It is also unlawful for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man.

There are also steps a girl's father should take before agreeing to the man's proposal. The father should at least:

Should make sure that the man who is asking to marry his daughter is of sound religion, and is capable of supporting her.

Should seek his daughter's consent before accepting the offer of the proposing man. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "A woman who has been previously married has more right concerning her person than her guardian, and a virgin's consent must be asked about herself, her consent being her silence." (Bukhari and Muslim)

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

It is permissible prior to proposal that the man sees the woman he intends to marry. Jabir Ibn Abdullah, radhiallahu anhu said concerning his wife, "(Before marrying her) I used to hide behind a tree to see her." The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "When one of you intends to marry a woman if he is able to look at what would induce him to marry her he should do so." (Abu Dawud)

There are, however, rules concerning seeing the woman, that they both should respect:

The man's intention of marriage should be sincere. He should not seek to meet the woman until he is satisfied about her other attributes such as her deen, morality, and character, in such a way that he is inclined to marry her, and looking at her is for him the last step toward this decision.

He should first send a woman from his family whom he trusts, to see the girl and describe her to him.

The girl's father should not allow the man proposing to her to look at her unless he is completely satisfied with him.

The girl's father should not hide from the proposing man any serious faults his daughter may have.

The man is allowed to see only the face and the hands of the woman he intends to marry. If he wants specific information about her physical appearance, he may send one of his mahram women to inquire about it, and describe it to him. There is no sin on him to look intently at her to confirm his desire to marry her.

He does not have to ask her permission to look at her, it is rather better that he does it without her knowledge if he can. This way, if for any reason, he changes his mind this will not hurt her feelings.

Even after the man and the woman accept each other for marriage and thus are engaged, they should remember that they are still considered strangers (non-mahram) to each other and that what is unlawful to the non-mahram is unlawful to them. This especially pertains to: looking at each other, being alone together, and going out together. Their relation to each other changes only after the marriage contract is executed.

WEDDING NIGHT & BEYOND

Both men and women alike look forward to no other day with more anticipation, than their wedding day. And perhaps no night can cause more joy, fear and anxiety than their wedding night. There is, however, ways described by the Prophet of Allah, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, to help make the wedding night as pleasant as the wedding day. There are desirable acts that the couple are encouraged to do on their wedding night, as well as prohibited acts, which they should avoid.

Desirable Acts

It is a desirable Sunnah that the groom puts his hands on the bride's head and pray for her. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, taught us to say, "O Allah, I ask You her goodness, and the goodness of the inborn dispositions which You have given her, and I solicit Your protection from her evil, and the evil of the inborn dispositions which You have given her." (Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah) The groom can make this supplication aloud or silently.

It is also desirable that they make two raka'at of voluntary salah together then invoke whatever supplication asking from Allah what they wish for themselves. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "Verily, affection is from Allah and repugnance is from Satan who wants you to hate what Allah has allowed to you. So when your wife comes to you, ask her to make two raka'at with you and then say, 'O Allah, bless my wife for me, and bless me for her. O Allah, unite between us in good, and if You separate us, separate us in good." (Abu Shaybah)

The groom is encouraged to please his bride and treat her with kindness. It is a sunnah that he presents to her something to drink or to eat. Asmaa bint Yazeed, radhiallahu anha, said, "I adorned Aisha, radhiallahu anha, for her wedding night, and the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, came to her side and brought a big cup of milk from which he drank and then presented it to her, but she blushed and lowered her head." (Ahmad)

It is permissible that they take off all their clothes and be completely naked but it is better for them to be under a common sheet, for the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "Verily Allah is modest and discreet and He likes modesty and discretion." (Ahmad, At-Tirmithi and Abu Dawud)

The couple is encouraged to engage in foreplay before having intercourse. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "One of you should not fall upon his wife like the way an animal does, let there be a messenger between them." He was asked, "And what is the messenger?" He replied, "Kissing and talking." (Ad-Daylami) This indicates that the man should seek to satisfy his wife's desires as she satisfies his.

Before starting intercourse, it is a sunnah to make the following supplication, "In the name of Allah. O Allah, keep Satan away from us, and keep Shaytan away from (the offspring) that which You grant us." (Bukhari)

They are free to have intercourse in any position they wish, as Allah, subhanahu wa ta 'ala, says, "Your wives are as a tilth unto you, so approach your tilth when or how you wish." [2:223]

They are free to have intercourse any time they wish, but moderation is advised and sexual activity should not become an obsession as it may take over other activities of life. Having intercourse on the night before Friday is desirable as the Prophet said, "Whoever makes ghusl on Friday to clean himself from janabah (i.e., after having intercourse), then left for salah, it is as if he offered a camel in sacrifice." (Bukhari)

After intercourse, it is desirable that they take a bath (ghusl) before going to sleep. If this presents a hardship on them they should perform ablution (wudhu) and can postpone ghusl until before Fajr salah. If they want to have intercourse a second time, it is desirable that the man performs wudhu first. For the Prophet said, "If one of you had intercourse with his wife and then wants to come to her again, it is better for him to perform wudhu, for it gives him vigor to come again." (Muslim)

Prohibited Acts the Couple Must Avoid

It is unlawful for them to speak to others about (or otherwise mention) anything that happened between them in intimacy. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, "Among those who will be in the worst position in Allah's sight on the Day of Resurrection is the man who has intercourse with his wife, and she with him, and then he spreads her secret." (Muslim)

It is strictly unlawful for the couple to engage in sodomy, as the Prophet said, "Cursed is the one who comes to his wife in her anus." (Ahmad and Abu Dawud) A man asked Ibn Abbas, radhiallahu anhu, about one engaging in sodomy with his wife, and Ibn Abbas said, "This man is asking me about kufr." The Prophet sallallahu alayhe wa sallam has even said, "Whoever has intercourse [with his wife] during her menses, or commits sodomy with her, or comes to a diviner, then he disbelieved in what was revealed to Muhammad." (Tirmithi)

In spite of the fact that some pious women who are on the innate nature, and refuse to comply, their husbands threaten to divorce them if they do not obey them. Some men lie to their wives who are shy to ask the religious scholars about this matter. Concerning this act, they may tell them that it is allowed, and might even present them a 'proof' from the Qur'an where Allah ta'ala says, "Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth when and how you will." [2:223] But the sunnah of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, clarifies what is mentioned in the Qur'an, when he stated that the man is allowed to approach his wife in any manner as long as it is in the place of conception (i.e., the vagina). Among the causes of this crime is to enter the pure marital life with filthy habits of forbidden perverted acts inherited from the times of jahilyiah, or with a memory full of pornographic scenes from movies that some had watched and had not repented to Allah for them. It is well known that this act is forbidden, even when both parties agree on it.

It is forbidden for the husband to have intercourse with his wife during her menstruation and childbirth bleeding, as Allah says, "They ask you concerning menstruation. Say, that is a harmful thing, therefore keep away from women during menses and go not unto them till they are clean." [2:222] Therefore the husband is not allowed to have intercourse with his wife until she purifies herself by taking ghusl after her menstruation stops, because Allah ta'ala says, "And when they have purified themselves, then go in unto them as Allah has ordained for you..." [2:222] The seriousness of this sin is such that that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, compared it to disbelief.

If a person commits this sin out of ignorance of the rule of Shari'ah, then there is no blame on him, but if he committed it intentionally while he knew of the rule, then he should atone for it. The atonement is either one Dinar or half a Dinar. Some scholars say the man is free to choose between either sum of money. Other scholars say he should pay one Dinar if he had intercourse during the first days of menstruation when the bleeding was heavy, and one half Dinar if it was in the last days of menstruation when the bleeding was lighter, or before she took a bath [ghusl]. The value of one Dinar is the value of 4.25 grams of gold, which he should give to charity.

The woman should not voluntarily fast before asking permission from her husband, as this deprives him from having intercourse with her. This of course excludes the obligatory fasting such as Ramadhan, or when she has to make up for the days she did not fast during Ramadhan.

The wife should not refuse to satisfy her husband's sexual need without any legitimate excuse. Abu Hurairah, radhiallahu anhu, narrated that the Prophet sallallahu alayhe wa sallam said, "When the man invites his wife to his bed, but she refuses, and so he spends the night being angry at her, then the angels will curse her until the next morning." (Bukhari) Therefore, the wife should hasten to answer her husband's call, complying to the words of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, "When the man invites his wife to his bed she should satisfy him even if she were on the camel's saddle." (Sahihul-Jami') On the other hand, the husband must take into consideration his wife's disposition if she falls sick or is pregnant, or is in grief, so that their relation remains in harmony and to avoid any discord