The Qur'an and Sex Education
Our epoch believes that it has made manifold discoveries in all possible fields. It is thought that great innovations have been made in the field of sex education, and the knowledge of the facts of life which has been opened up to young people is regarded as an achievement of the modern world. Previous centuries were noted for their deliberate obscurity on this point and many people say that religion -without stating which religion- is the cause of it
The information set out above is proof however that fourteen centuries ago theoretical questions (as it were) on human reproduction were brought to man's attention. This was done as far as was possible, taking into account the fact that the anatomical and physiological data needed for further explanations were lacking. One should also remember that, to be understood, it was necessary to use simple language suited to the level of comprehension of those who listened to the Preaching.
Practical considerations have not been silently ignored. There are many details in the Qur'an on the practical side of life in general, and the way man should behave in the many situations of his existence. His sex life is no exception.
Two verses in the Qur'an deal with sexual relations themselves. They are described in terms which unite the need for precision with that of decency. When translations and explanatory commentaries are consulted however, one is struck by the divergences between them. I have pondered for a long time the translation of such, verses, and am indebted to Doctor A.K. Giraud, Former Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Beirut, for the following:
-Surah 86, verses 6 and 7
. (Man) was fashioned from a liquid poured out. It issued (as a result) of the conjunction of the sexual area of the man and the sexual area of the woman.
The sexual area of the man is indicated in the text of the Qur'an by the word sulb (singular). The sexual areas of the woman are designated in the Qur'an by the word tara'ib (plural).
This is the translation which appears to be most satisfactory. It is different from the one that is often given by English and French translators, i.e. "(Man) has been created by a liquid poured out which issues from between the vertebral column and the bones of the breast." This would seem more to be a interpretation than a translation. It is moreover hardly very comprehensible.
The behavior of a man in his intimate relationships with his wife is stated explicitly. There is the order concerning the menstruation period contained in verses 222 and 223, Surah 2; God gives the following command to the Prophet:
-Surah 2, verses 222 and 223:
. They (the Believers) question thee concerning menstruation. Say: This is an evil. Keep away from women during menstruation and do not approach them until they are clean. When they have purified themselves, go to them, as God ordered it to you. Verily, God loves the repentants and loves those who purified themselves. Your wives are a tilth. Go to your tilth as you will. Do (some good act) for your souls beforehand.
The beginning of this passage is very clear in meaning it formally forbids a man to have sexual contact with a woman who has her period. The second part describes the process of tilling which the sower performs before sowing the seed which is to germinate and produce a new plant. Through this image therefore, stress is indirectly laid on the importance of hearing in mind the final purpose of sexual contact, i.e. reproduction. The translation of the final phrase is by R. Blachere: it contains an order which seems to refer to the preliminaries before sexual contact.
The orders given here are of a very general kind. The problem of contraception has been raised with regard to these verses: neither here, nor anywhere else, is reference made to this subject.
Nor is provoked abortion referred to. The numerous passages quoted above on the successive transformations of the embryo make it quite clear, however, that man is considered to be constituted as of the stage described by the existence of 'something which clings'. This being so, the absolute respect of the individual human being, which is referred to so often in the Qur'an, brings with it a total condemnation of provoked abortion. This attitude is today shared by all monotheistic religions.
Sexual relations are permitted at night during the Fast in the month of Ramadan. the verse concerning Ramadan is as follows:
-Surah 2, verse 187:
. Permitted to you, on the night of the fast, is to break chastity with your wives. They are a garment for you and you are a garment for them. So hold intercourse with the and seek what God has ordained for you.
In contrast to this, no exception to the rule is made for pilgrims in Mecca during the celebration days of the Pilgrimage.
-Surah 2, verse 197:
. For whom undertakes (the duty of) the Pilgrimage in its time, no wooing and no license.
This prohibition is formal, as is the fact that other activities are forbidden, e.g. hunting, fighting, etc. Menstruation is again mentioned in the Qur'an in connection with divorce. The Book contains the following verse:
-Surah 65, verse 4:
. For your wives who despair of menstruation, if you doubt about them, their period of waiting will be three months. For those who never have their monthly periods and those who are pregnant their period will be until they lay down their burden.
The waiting period referred to here is the time between the announcement of the divorce and the time it comes into effect. Those women of whom it is said 'they despair of menstruation' have reached the menopause. A precautionary period of three months is envisaged for them. Once this period is completed, divorced women who have reached the menopause may remarry.
For those who have not yet menstruated, the pregnancy period has to be awaited. For pregnant women, divorce only comes into effect once the child is born. All these laws are in perfect agreement with physiological data. One can, furthermore, find in the Qur'an the same judicious legal provision in the texts dealing with widowhood.
Thus, for theoretical statements dealing with reproduction, as for the practical instructions on the sex life of couples, one may note that none of the observations recorded here is in opposition to the data we have from modern knowledge, nor with anything that can be logically derived from it.