|Heba G. Kotb M.D.
Sexuality In Islam
A dissertation presented to Maimonides University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Ph.D. in clinical sexology supervised by
Prof. William Granzig Ph.D., 2004
The American Academy of Clinical Sexologists (AACS) honored this work with
the “Erwin J. Haeberle Award” as the outstanding dissertation of 2004.
II. Islamic Perspectives on Sex and Sexuality
III. Islam-Guided Sex Education
IV. Male Circumcision; Medical vs. Religious Perspectives
V. Muslim Youth and Pornography
VI. Islamic Concepts of Marital Sexuality
VII. Concept of Marriage in Islam
VIII. Protocols of Sex Practice in Islam
IX. Concept of Adultery in Islam
X. Oral Sex; What about it?
XI. Homosexuality; Islamic Rulings
XII. Polygamy (multi-marriage) in Islamic Law
XIII. Women in Quran and Sunnah
XIV. Concepts of Contraception and Abortion in Islam
XV. Misconceptions Regarding Sexuality in Islam
XVI. Concluding Remarks
First of all, I would like to thank my dear God; Allah Almighty, for making me aware of, and appreciating, all his gifts and blessings to the humankind, and for giving me a sound mind which helped me trying to take a small tour in His indefinite divine wisdom world.
I am deeply touched by the support of my parents in the very first place. I am also very thankful to my beloved husband “Hisham”, whom I consider a great bless from Allah, for his indefinite support and courage. Also am I thankful to my three lovely daughters Dina, Randa, and Lobna, for standing the situation where their mommy is away working or studying for long times.
All my gratitude to Professor William Granzig, my dear American father, for all his encouragement, moral support and fatherly attitude he has overwhelmed me with, and very basically for just being there, with his ideal ethics, his extreme care, his great science, and… his nice smile. Lastly, I sincerely hope this work would be of benefit for whom to read it.
Despite the sexual relationship is highly sacred and highly recommended religiously (so long as it is inside the bond of marriage), it was for long long time that just mentioning sex was considered shameful and even sinful; this resulted in nothing but considerable lost concerning this issue.
Here comes the role of professionals in promoting or restoring sexual health, and from the clarification of this role come the recommendations to attain maximal pleasure from that highly valuable gift of GOD; that is … SEX.
There are three basic elements for better sexual life and health:
1- Courage to diagnose and admit a present sexual dysfunction.
2- A capacity to enjoy and control sexual behavior in accordance with a social and personal ethic
3- Freedom from fear, shame, guilt, false beliefs, and other psychological factors inhibiting sexual response and impairing sexual relationships
4- Freedom from organic disorders, diseases, and deficiencies that interfere with sexual functions.
It is to be known that magnificent sexual life is a completely attainable goal for just about everyone, especially if it is running guided by God’s orders and regulations, and we don’t have to be astonished reading these words, as God has created us, so he is the best to know what is beneficial and what is not for us, and overall, what is best for his beloved creatures, these are…human beings.
This message of God (Allah) came clear in his final divine religion: Islam, which surprisingly declared very profound details of a best sexual life between a husband and a wife, either frankly, or symbolically.
Islam has set legal, psychological, and social rules to control one’s natural instincts particularly when he has not the means of marriage. The basic tenet is to respond to the Quran’s call to hold tight to virtue and chastity as Allah, the Exalted, says:
“..and let those who find not the financial means for marriage keep themselves chaste, until Allah gives them means out of His grace…” (23:33)
It is strongly remarkable that there is a strong continuity between Quran (book of Islam) and the “agony columns” of specialized magazines for example, both in the problems that arise, which almost the same since very early times, and in the positions defended.
Of course in a totalizing society nowadays, the impact of Islam could not fail to be worldwide. Islamic ethics are certainly at the center of discussion. Rediscovering the meaning of things also involves questioning the functions attributed to the sacred and the sexual within the human nature. It is no so much a question that the sexual is in essence sacral or that the sacred is sexual in origin as of establishing the ways and means by which the human well being may profit both from the majesty of the sacred and from the power of the libido.
Actually the problem is bigger for women the vast majority of whom do not have satisfying sex lives. Women want sexual fulfillment but are sometimes unsure about how to express their needs or improve their sex lives. This also promotes a climate of honesty, caring and awareness that deepens the connection between men and women.
Also, for a balanced society produces a balanced sexuality and not the reverse, here the Islamic model is offered as a harmonious synthesis and a permanent adjustment of sexual satisfaction and religious commitment.
Islam is no way tries to depreciate the sill less to deny the power of the sexual; on the contrary, it attributes a sublime significance to the power of sexuality and invests it with such a transcendental quality that any trace of guilt is removed from it. Taken up in this way, sexuality flows freely and joyfully, in other words, sexuality is the reference and its contents is a full positivity, taking these facts, Islamic life becomes an alteration and complementarity of the invocation of the divine Word and the exercise of the physical love.
The fact of “being” and the dialogue between people about sex punctuate our daily lives; this becomes a permanent attempt to integrate the religious and the sexual.
Actually the only measures that do not undergo changing according to any circumstances or any inputs are the religious rules, so, I think it is time now to bypass the conflicts of the different principles given by humans and to get back to resting on the ground given by the creator of these humans; taking in consideration that no rules ever last but God ones.
For these above-mentioned extremely important goals to be achieved, this research work was accomplished to prove that original Islam, represented in Quran, and Sunnah, was the first to put a ground for sex and sexuality rules to be taken over in the right way which does not at all negate, on the contrary it actually confirmed what modern science came with and proved.
The aim of this work is to throw light both for Muslims and non-Muslims on that Islam is the oldest source of the view of life in which sexuality enjoys a privileged status, and based the harmony of sexual ecstasy and religious faith that is accessible and not hard to be achieved.
This work was built by a different literatures devoted to the subject of sexuality, whether these sources are Arabic or western ones, this is to localize the place of Islamic sexuality in different cultures, and to prove that this is not controversial with any of them, on the contrary, Islamic culture is so progressist, and liberal.
Hoping this work would be of benefit in uncovering the true identity of Islam as a divine religion, as knowing that God created us, so, it is then logic that his own words and regulations represented by Quran and Sunnah (statements and behavior of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)) are the best ways to be followed
The traditional non-Islamic moralists regarded sex and love as if these were manifestations of an obnoxious evil to be shunned. In contrast, the modernistic societies tended to consider free love as not only desirable but respectable. No doubt, the free love concept began to receive every preferential treatment and encouragement for its worldwide growth.
*What do we mean by Sexuality?
Sexuality refers in its broadest sense to the quality of being sexual. The term sexuality is also used in plural, i.e. ‘sexualities’, to reflect the diversity of sexuality. The main aspects of sexuality are sex, biological or physiological sex, gender, gender identity, gender roles and sexual orientation. Sexual orientation refers to emotional, romantic, sexual and/or affectional attraction from one person to another person or persons. Someone’s sexual orientation is categorized according to the gender(s) or biological sex of the people he/she has these feelings for, that is, it describes whether a person is attracted primarily toward people of the same or the opposite sex, or to both. Sexual orientation exists along a scale that ranges from exclusive homosexuality to exclusive heterosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality. Sexual orientation is an important part of a person’s total self-identity: how we see ourselves and how others see us. A person’s experience and understanding of her/his sexual orientation can vary during their life. Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and to self-identity, rather than only actions. Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors.
*What do we mean by Islam?
Islam can mean many different things to different people. Sometimes people talk about 'Islam' when referring to the culture or traditions from a particular country or from a specific group of people. Sometimes people use the word ‘Islam’ to refer to the practice of religious rituals and or to spirituality. People also use the term 'Islam' to talk about a political viewpoint and sometimes they are referring to what is known as 'Islamic law' or ‘shari’ah’. This body of rules, norms and laws is itself made up of several schools of thought and differing individual opinions of Muslim scholars. The Safra Project (one of the projects interested in religious studies) uses the term ‘Muslim laws’ to refer to both shari’ah as well as to modern state laws claiming to be based on it.
This variety in understandings and meanings of the word 'Islam' and what can be said to ‘be Islamic’ or ‘according to Islam’ demonstrates the diversity in how Muslims experience and view Islam. When discussing, researching and informing ourselves about the issue of gender, sexuality and Islam, we need to be aware of the various understandings people may have of the term ‘Islam’. It is also important to clarify to ourselves, and others, what exactly we mean when we refer to 'Islam': Are we talking about Muslim laws, a particular culture, religious dogma, a particular spirituality or a combination of these.
In this section of the Safra Project website, they refer to the work of scholars focusing mostly on the Quran working towards frameworks for progressive Islam, rather than on shari’ah or any other understanding of what might constitute Islam.
*Glossary of Key Terms:
Biological sex / Physiological sex: the biological classification of physiological bodies as male or female usually determined by external sex organs, internal sex and reproductive organs, chromosomes, hormones and secondary sexual development at puberty. Bodies with an ambiguous biological sex, i.e. with both male and female characteristics are sometimes characterized as hermaphrodite or intersex. A person’s biological sex usually – but not always - corresponds with her/his gender identity.
Bisexual(ity): a category of sexual orientation, referring to person who can experience emotional, romantic, sexual and/or affectional attraction to persons of both their own sex and the opposite sex. There are various forms of bisexuality, varying from being primarily attracted to persons of the same-sex and only occasionally to persons of the opposite sex (and vice versa) to being equally attracted to persons from the same sex and the opposite sex.
Feminists (Feminism): the Safra Project defines feminists as scholars and activists challenging gender bias and/or working towards gender equality.
Gay: A term used as a synonym to homosexual. The term ‘gay’ is usually preferred to the term ‘homosexual’ when describing a person’s sexual orientation, i.e. she or he “is gay”. Sometimes the term gay is used to describe only male ‘homosexuals’ (see also gay man).
Gay man: a man who experiences emotional, romantic, sexual and/or affectional attraction only, or primarily, to another man or other men. His sexual orientation is categorized as homosexual.
Gender: refers to the social and cultural codes used to distinguish between what a particular society considers ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ qualities, characteristics, attributes or behaviors. The definition of gender varies widely and is often the subject of exhaustive debates, although most agree that gender is largely socially and culturally determined. People are attributed a social and cultural gender that usually corresponds to their (assumed) biological sex and they are then expected to behave in accordance with gender roles as defined by their social and cultural context. Gender can be expressed in physical appearance, dress, mannerisms, speech patterns, and social behaviors and interactions. The attribution of gender to a person by others is a (unconscious) categorization of a person as being a man or a woman. A person’s own gender identity, i.e. their deeply felt (or psychological) sense of being male or female (or both, neither or other), usually - but not always - corresponds to their biological sex and to how they express their gender. (See also transgender, transsexual and gender dysphoria).
Gender dysphoria: a medical term referring to people who have a compelling sense that their gender identity is not in conformity with the physiological or biological sex they are born with. In other words, persons who feel that they are born in the ‘wrong body’, i.e. biological women who feel they should have been born as men and vice versa. These persons are generally referred to as transsexual or transgender.
Gender equality: refers to people receiving equal opportunities to realize their full human potential according to their wish, irrespective of gender. This can for example include equality in opportunities to take part in social, economic, cultural and political developments and benefiting equally from the results. It can also refer to the equality in protection of (human) rights. Gender equality does not necessarily mean ‘identical conditions’ or ‘identical rights’ as these conditions and rights may in themselves already be gendered. To achieve gender equality, recognition is needed that current social, economic, cultural, and political systems are gendered (i.e. constructed according to gender roles) which lead to women being disadvantaged in all areas of life (gender bias). This pattern is further affected by other factors of oppression and inequality such as race, ethnicity, culture, immigration status, class, age, disability, sexuality, gender identity and/or other status. Gender equality requires the empowerment of women in their particular contexts, taking their experiences and perspectives into account.
Gender identity: is a person’s deeply felt (or psychological) sense of being male or female (or both, neither or other). A person’s gender identity is the gender to which a person feels she/he belongs. This usually corresponds to a person’s biological sex and to how they express their gender. However, some people have a compelling sense that their gender identity is not in conformity with their physiological or biological sex or feel and/or express a gender identity that is other than simply ‘male’ or ‘female’. These people are usually referred to as transsexual or transgender (see also gender dysphoria). Gay men, lesbians and bisexual people are usually content with their gender identity and/or their biological sex, including those who are not content with their gender roles. For example those who dress or behave similar to what is socially and culturally perceived as the opposite gender, such as a woman who behaves or dresses according to what is perceived to be a ‘masculine’ manner.
Gender roles: Gender affects how people perceive themselves and others and how they expect themselves and others to behave, that is, either in a ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ manner. These gender roles are learned and culturally and socially determined. They are also affected by factors such as education and economics. Therefore, gender roles can evolve over time. Gender roles and expectations are often identified as factors hindering gender equality. In practice gender roles usually affect women adversely in relation to many aspects of their life, such as family, socio-economic status, health, life expectation, independence, freedom and rights (gender bias).
Heterosexual(ity): a category of sexual orientation, referring to a person who experiences emotional, romantic, sexual and/or affectional attraction only, or primarily, to (a) person(s) of the opposite sex. This is also called ‘being straight’.
Homophobia: an irrational fear of, or hatred against, lesbian, gay and bisexual people and homosexuality.
Homosexual(ity): a category of sexual orientation, referring to a person who experiences emotional, romantic, sexual and/or affectional attraction only, or primarily, to (a) person(s) of the same sex. Persons with a homosexual orientation are also referred to as gay (both men and women) or as lesbian (women only). Referring to a person as (a) ‘homosexual’ is usually avoided as this can be considered inappropriate or even offensive. The reasons for this are diverse and include the previous derogatory usage of the term, its medical association and the fact that ‘homosexual’ and ‘homosexuality’ in most Muslim societies and cultures refers to certain specific sexual behavior not resembling the contemporary ‘Western’ understanding of homosexuality as a category of sexual orientation. Instead the Safra Project prefers using the term ‘same-sex sexuality’. In addition, the term homosexual does not express the diversity of sexualities as it ignores bisexuality nor is it gender specific. When referring to persons, preference is given to the statement that someone is ‘lesbian’, ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’ or that someone is ‘a lesbian’, ‘a gay man’ or ‘a bisexual person’.
Islam: Islam can mean many different things to different people. Sometimes people talk about 'Islam' when referring to the culture or traditions from a particular country or from a specific group of people. Sometimes people use the word ‘Islam’ to refer to the practice of religious rituals and/or to spirituality. People also use the term 'Islam' to talk about a political viewpoint and sometimes they are referring to what is known as 'Islamic law' or shari’ah. This body of rules, norms and laws is itself made up of several schools of thought and differing individual opinions of Muslim scholars. The Safra Project uses the term ‘Muslim laws’ to refer to both shari’ah as well as to modern state laws said to be based on it.
Lesbian: a woman who experiences emotional, romantic, sexual and/or affectional attraction only, or primarily, to another woman or other women. Her sexual orientation is categorized as homosexual.
LGBT(Q) (people): is the acronym of lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (and/or queer) (people). It is an inclusive term for identities sometimes also associated together as ‘sexual minorities’.
Polyamory: This is a new term that has emerged in the debates about non-monogamy in recent years. It literally translates into ‘many loves’. Polyamory circumscribes a particular relationship philosophy that assumes that it is possible (and indeed desirable) to love many people and to maintain multiple relationships. Within polyamory there is a strong emphasis on love, intimacy, commitment and honesty. Some have defined polyamory as ‘responsible non-monogamy’. Polyfidelity is a concept closely related to polyamory. Polyfidelity is based on the understanding that the partners in a multiple relationship will be faithful towards each other, an assumption that is not clearly spelled out or implied in polyamory. While for some polyfidelity marks a very specific approach to polyamory (or even one distinct from it), others tend to equate both concepts.
Reformists: scholars who have sought to challenge classical or fundamentalist interpretations of the Quran and other sources of Muslim law.
Same-sex sexuality (& Same-sex relationships): a category of sexual orientation, referring to a person who experiences emotional, romantic, sexual and/or affectional attraction only, or primarily, to (a) person(s) of the same sex. Same-sex relationships are emotional, romantic, sexual and/or affectional consenting relationship(s) between people of the same sex, that is, between two women or two men. Same-sex sexuality is sometimes used as a synonym for homosexuality. However, the Safra Project normally uses the term ‘same-sex sexuality’ instead of, and/or distinguished from, ‘homosexuality’ as the notions of homosexuality that exist within most Muslim societies and cultures do not resemble the contemporary ‘Western’ understanding of homosexuality. In most Muslim societies and cultures, ‘homosexuality’ refers to certain specific sexual behavior rather than to a category of sexual orientation that includes a wider scope of (sexual) behaviors, feelings and self-identity.
Sex: can refer to certain forms of sexual behavior, i.e. ‘having sex’. It can also refer to a person’s biological sex, i.e. someone is from the male sex or the female sex. The term sex is sometimes confused with the term gender, just like the term biological sex is sometimes confused with gender identity. The term sex can be distinguished from sexuality and sexual orientation.
Sexual behavior: the factual behavior of a person in relation to her/his sexuality, either publicly or privately, including - but not limited to – having intercourse. Sexual behavior is different to sexual orientation as sexual behavior refers to actions whereas sexual orientation (also) refers to feelings and to self-identity. Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their sexual behaviors.
Sexual orientation: refers to emotional, romantic, sexual and/or affectional attraction from one person to another person or persons. Someone’s sexual orientation is categorized according to the gender(s) or biological sex of the people he/she has these feelings for, that is, it describes whether a person is attracted primarily toward people of the same or the opposite sex, or to both. Sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive homosexuality to exclusive heterosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality. Sexual orientation is an important part of a person’s total self-identity: how we see ourselves and how others see us. A person’s experience and understanding of her/his sexual orientation can vary during their life. Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and to self-identity, rather than mere actions. Persons may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors. Sexual orientation can be distinguished from other aspects of sexuality such as biological sex, gender identity and gender roles.