Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Sex Education in Islam

Sex Education 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. Allah says in Qur'an: "Say: Are they equal to those who know, and those who do not know?" Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) has said:"Blessed are the women of the Ansar (citizens of Madinah). Shyness did not stand in their way seeking knowledge about their religion"Although the Qur'an has given so much emphasis on acquiring, knowledge, and in the days of Prophet Mohammed (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) 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 Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) 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 ben 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 the media. 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 fulfillment of a happy marriage. With regards 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 pediatrician 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. The Role Of Parents and Muslim Organisations 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 instill 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.In summary, 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. 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, color or wealth. They should encourage them to know each other in a supervised setting.
1. To provide a platform for boys and girls to see and know each other without any intimacy.
2. 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 Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) "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]. Islamic sex 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.
By Shahid Atar M.D

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