Sunday, 24 May 2009
Sex in Islam.
I need you to read the above title several times...
Just in case you missed the meaning, I will repeat it again - Sex in Islam.
I did not entitle it sex amongst Muslims, neither did I call it sexual practices in the Islamic World, nor did I call it the state of sexual relations in the Muslim world...I called it Sex in Islam.
By that I am referring to the concept/notion of Sex/Sexuality and I shall be using those two terms interchangeably in Islamic thought. Islamic thought means - the text, i.e the Holy Koran, the Hadiths or Sunna, and exegesis or Islamic Jurisprudence. And am no Jurist, thank God, nor am I a theologian, thank God again.
This is a blog post, and I do not want this to turn into a boring long essay, so I will make it as simple as possible.
The reason for this particular post, is because there are too many stereotypes, misunderstandings, and misconceptions around Sexuality in Islam and by correlation too many misconceptions and stereotypes regarding the Body in Islam and by consequence the Female Body in Islam which will eventually bring us to Women in Islam. This last point I will not cover here. I think by tackling the Islamic view on Sex/Sexuality, I would have already by then, demystified a lot of the garbage that revolves around Women in Islam. But you need to use your brains for that - like in logical deductions...
Let's start from the very beginning. And beginnings are important because they are not only starting points but they also set the framework from which all else flows...
Islam i.e the Koranic text clearly departs with a clean break from the previous Judeo-Christian messages on two levels, which for me are essential.
1) The NON-EXISTENT idea of Eve's temptation in the Garden of Eden and consequently her being responsible for Adam's Fall. The Koranic text clearly points to the shared responsibility for/in the "Fall".
2) The Koranic Text is DEVOID of the concept of "Original Sin."
Nice start, don't you think ?
Eve and her female progeny are let off the hook from the very beginning.
Hence their bodies are too. So is their Sexuality.
The concept of the Body (Flesh) is pivotal in Islamic thought. For the body is the vehicle, the recipient of the Divine message. Hence it makes perfect logic that in the Muslim prayer, there is a TOTAL involvement of the body (through specific sets of movements). A body in movement. I will not go into the meaning of each "rak'aa" or prostration. As I said I will keep it simple.
A body in movement that reflects the movement of the Universe/Cosmos/Creation.
Just pondering on the above, you can see for yourself that sex/sexuality cannot be considered as anything emanating from the Devil as in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Now am aware that some Judeo Christian gnostics have cut loose from the above message, but am sticking to mainstream Judeo-Christian tradition here.
Sex/Sexuality or the Libido is Energy in Islam. A God given one, like everything else in Creation. Not only that, it is albeit the Quintessential Life giving Energy.
It serves two functions - procreation and pleasure. Procreation in Pleasure and Pleasure without Procreation.
Since Sex is not equated with Sin, the desire/pleasure aspect of it is essentially free from the concept of Guilt as well.
But as with anything Divine, comes a set of responsibilities. The Khalifa on Earth, God's vicegerent, this is how The Human Being is referred to in the Text, is also a responsible agent.
Pleasure yes, but also Responsibility (also called duties/obligations) and with Responsibility comes Accountability.
Hence Marriage becomes the terrain where this life energy is allowed to manifest and be exercised...
Now I need to qualify something here. Marriage in Islamic thought is NOT an Institution in the traditional sense. It really is a contract, which will form the basis, the starting point for a family and ensure the idea of continuity of God's vicegerents on Earth...
There are many types of Marriage contracts but I will not go into them either...as I do not wish to complicate matters.
Marriage becomes the "legal" or responsible vehicle for Sex. Marriage as opposed to celibacy. In fact marriage is greatly encouraged and celibacy is frowned upon. That makes sense since Sex is only permissible within the framework of the marriage contract.
And marriage contracts are really easy. They are not a complicated affair like in the West. The easiness of it is due to the fact that Marriage is the only conduit where Sex is allowed to take expression. With or without procreation, because contraception is not considered a Sin either, in Islamic thought. Which confirms the idea that the pleasure principle is encouraged...
The pleasure principle is applicable to both sexes. In Islamic Jurisprudence, it is incumbent upon a man to satisfy his wife sexually and vice versa.
In the Sharia, failure to do so, allows the wife to recourse to divorce. For instance if a man abstains from sex with his wife for a period of 30 days with no legitimate reason, she may divorce him. Unfortunately many women are unaware or do not exercise their Islamic rights. And unfortunately Islamic Sharia as it stands today has been hijacked by misogynistic male theologians who have perverted the Message and done much harm in the process...
Entrusted by the Divine, the boundaries between the Sacred and the Profane in the Body concept are not at odds with each other. They are not opposing forces...
And this is where the role of Ritual comes into play, to mark the transition from Profane to Sacred, not once a week, but daily, five times a day...as in the Islamic prayer...till the lines are blurred...till the realization dawns that All is Sacred, including Sex.
Painting : Iraqi artist, A.Al-Twaij.