The Dreaded “S” Word

Talking About Sexual Education

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The “S” word. We all look around when we hear it. We even feel kind of guilty when we have to read or learn about it in school. I actually feel very weird and rebellious for even writing about this, to be honest with you. But why is that? Why is it that when Muslims hear the word “sex”, we run and hide?

Due to the Western media, which has made this topic so exposed and unnatural, we automatically feel as if the way the media has exposed and publicized it, running and hiding is the only way to deal with it. And now Muslims have fallen into the trap of ignoring the situation. Let’s be real here – we live in a society where that is life. Girls are taught through every vice that they are born to be slaves to men, supposed to be dolled up and seek the attention of men. And young boys are taught at a young age that their number one reason for getting married, or being a man, is just for lust.

In fifth grade, in my elementary school, we took home permission slips to get signed by our parents regarding watching a movie on “growing up”, the maturation process of boys and girls. The boys had their video to watch, and the girls had theirs. This was a public school, which most Muslim kids today attend. Fifth grade – that is, age ten.

What have we done in our centers and our homes to combat and correct the views that our kids are fed at such a young age? Some people may argue, “Well, don’t sign the permission slip!” So what, you think ten-year-old kids are not going to discuss what they saw? Reality check: they will, they are, and they will continue to all the way through high school, where it just gets worse.

It’s not only about these “health class” videos; it’s about everything they see: TV shows, movies, video games, music, and even fellow classmates. What is YOUR backup plan to guiding your child, sibling, or community to being educated on the subject?

Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi states in his book Marriage and Morals in Islam: “Sex education should begin in mid-teens when the children become sexually mature. The aim of sex education at this level should be to help them in understanding that they are responsible and accountable for using their sexual organs. They should be taught how to deal with sexual tension.”

He also addresses the fact that sexual education in the West is focused on controlling pregnancy, not on abstaining until marriage. Contrary to popular belief, Islam does advocate suppressing sexual needs and natural instincts. That is why it is so highly encouraged to marry early, or even do temporary marriage if it becomes a problem for one to control his/her desires.

Sayyid Rizvi states under his explanation of Islamic sexual morality: “No text in Islam can be found to equate sex with inherent evil or sin; whatever has been taught by the Qur’an, Prophet Muhammad and his Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) points in the opposite direction.”

For example, “It is important to realize that in Islamic texts, the idea of marriage is not restricted to a platonic relationship between husband and wife, nor is it confined to sex for the purpose of procreation. The legal term for marriage is Nikah, which literally means ‘sexual intercourse’.”

How many of us knew that? I had no idea that that is what the term Nikah means. There are countless references in the Holy Qur’an and narrations of the Infallibles that prove that fulfilling one’s sexual needs is a healthy and necessary aspect in one’s life. The entire book by Sayyid Rizvi is available online.

The point I am trying to raise is the fact that there are serious issues arising within the Muslim world today, specifically amongst the youths, who are falling into many more evil vices today than ever before. Casual dating is accepted and popular, even publicized on sites like Facebook or MySpace. And recently, there has been news of Muslim girls having abortions and naturally hiding everything from their parents. So why is all this being done? There can be many explanations, but I would definitely say that the most important one is the fact that early marriages are not being promoted or supported. An early marriage does not mean that the couple must live together and have a fancy, full-blown wedding. Rather, Islam offers alternatives and encourages a simple lifestyle, especially in situations where it would otherwise lead to committing illegitimate sexual acts.

So how do we stop things like illicit sexual activity and unwanted pregnancies from taking place in our communities?

Most of us who have attended public schools in the West can remember sitting in health class and learning about birth control and abstinence. It didn’t really matter to us, because we never thought about this stuff. It is a different story now. Reality check #2: Muslim youth are dating. Muslim girls are getting pregnant before marriage. It is common to openly talk about sexual needs among them. But what are we doing about that?

The most important thing to do is to educate the young Muslims on what is permissible and not permissible in Islam regarding sexual activity. Now that pregnancy is an issue, we need to educate and teach the communities about birth control, and that it is allowed in Islam.

This may come as a shock to some people, but we need to realize that these are legitimate issues arising in our communities, and if we continue to ignore them, they will only get worse. Allah has bestowed ways for us to help ourselves; therefore, why do people who are seeking those ways have to suffer due to people just not being comfortable with these ways? We need to understand the importance of making sure that we are providing opportunities and offering Halal and permissible ways to stop sinning, even though it may be out of our comfort zone.

Holding small discussion circles amongst your peers is a good way. Elder ladies and young married ladies can sit and talk with younger Muslims girls about problems that may be arising in their lives, how to deal with them, and practical ways to stay in control of your desires. The same can be done for older men and younger men also. Support groups and open communication are extremely necessary for problems like this, because nobody seems to want to address these “taboo” things openly.

Sharing Qur’anic references and teachings of the Ahlul Bayt, as well as teaching the general Islamic perspective to solving these kinds of issues, will help bring the reality and practicality of Islam into young Muslims’ lives. Is that not what we want? We are losing our future leaders to problems that we shouldn’t have to, since Islam offers a solution for each and every one of them. But firstly, it is necessary for us to realize that.

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