The Islamic Model of Immunization of Sexual Behavior; Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Problems and Deviations1 / By: Masud Nur Alizadeh Mianji
The Islamic Model of Immunization of Sexual Behavior;
Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Problems and Deviations
By: Masud Nur Alizadeh Mianji
As a comprehensive program for a special style of life, Islam presents a particular model for immunization of human behavior from sexual deviations and problems. This paper reports the findings of a research about the Islamic model for healthy, safe, and mature sexual behavior, immune from deviations, problems, and disorders. The research is carried out in descriptive analytic method. Islamic sources (the Quran and hadith) are consulted in a processing system in order to discover causal relations.
This model is named immunization or hesan in the terminology of the Quran. It comprises the two fundamental aspects of marriage and chastity. The appropriate satisfaction of sexual need through marriage constitutes one aspect and self-control and chastity constitutes the other. The majority of deviations and family problems stem from malfunction in one of these two respects. This model is based on certain principles and proposes a wide range of programs and techniques enabling individuals to control, direct, and safeguard their sexual instinct protected from deviations and disorders so that serene and progressive life and normal sexual behavior are guaranteed in the framework of family. By implementing these Islamic measures and programs in form of modern psychological techniques, patients can be treated and returned to normal status where their sexual behavior is immunized.
Keywords: immunization, sexual behavior, marriage, chastity, sexual deviations, sexual problems, sexual disorders
Sexual instinct is one of principal and important human faculties and drives which should be guided, exercised moderately, and satisfied properly. Studies have shown that when this instinctive faculty is utterly suppressed or its satisfaction encounters disorder, deviation, and problems, then, the individual loses their balance, their growth becomes entangled, their psychological health becomes endangered and becomes susceptible to a variety of mental, psychological, and even physical maladies. Therefore, people need to have their model of appropriate and healthy sexual behavior, just like any other aspect of human life in which good models make good progress.
One of very important problems humanity faces now is the failure to behave securely, healthily, and maturely. In regards to sexual behavior, this problem is aggravated because sexual issues are especially sensitive. No theorist or school of thought has so far succeeded in presenting the final solution for this problem. Therefore, this problem is getting more complicated day by day. It is most unfortunate that Islamic precepts have been overlooked because they are thought to be non-scientific. However, the fact is that with a comprehensive, profound, critical, and practical approach to Islamic sources, it is possible to find a solution for this problem of humanity.
Throughout history, all theistic religions specially Islam as a religion compatible with human nature and aiming to develop humanity, have focused on a model for immune sexual behavior attaching much importance to prevention of abnormalities, deviations, and sexual problems as well as to ways to treat them. The reason why these religions have paid attention to this important point is that they are indeed a way of life aiming to lead humanity towards sublime divine and humane ideals. It has long been realized that human growth, development, happiness, perfection, reform, and raising new generations, keeping track of family lineage in the proper way, the strength and the survival of family system and finally, purity of society depends on the prevention of deviations and appropriate treatment of these problems. The approach adopted by Islam in this regard is outstanding. It has its own characteristic features. This approach is based on a special ontology and attitude towards human life adopted by Islam. From Islamic point of view, man enjoys a characteristic value and dignity; the Quran says, “We have honored the children of Adam” (Sura Isra’: verse 70). Man is exclusively equipped with the capability of self flourishing, moving towards perfection and salvation in proximity to God. In fact, religious precepts and plans are directed towards the realization of these sublime ideals.
It is for this reason that we study Islamic sources including the Quran and hadith and try to analyze them in order to explore the model of sexual behavior which is immune, healthy, natural and mature capable of solving problems humanity face and preventing sexual deviations and problems and curing them when they emerge. This model can be used as a background against which the comprehensive theory Islam holds about sexual behavior can be presented. According to this model, educational and clinical plans and programs may be drawn to be used in cultural educational institutes and clinics.
Methodology of the research
In this is research, we shall study the Islamic sources with the descriptive analytic method. That is, we shall consult the Quranic verses and sayings of the Infallible Imams, and analyze the concepts and ideas therein trying to find out causal relationships and psychological rules. First, we collect all the verses of the Quran and the sayings of Infallible Imams which are relevant. Then, we should analyze them one by one. In the next step, we shall consider all the verses and sayings relevant to family as a whole in order to see which one is general and which one is particular, which one is conditional and which one is unconditional. In the final comprehensive analysis of all these sources, we shall be able to discern the viewpoint Islam takes towards the subject matter. Having taken all these steps, we came to the conclusion that all these sayings and verses are directed to one particular end and all together produce one model. It goes without saying that appropriate analysis of the Islamic sources requires invoking notions and ideas of modern psychology in the field.
Through this research, we arrived at a comprehensive and foundational pattern for secular behavior. This pattern is called immunization or hisan in Arabic. The pattern comprises of two facets; marriage and chastity. The former is supposed to make satisfactory, healthy, and appropriate satisfaction of sexual need possible via marriage. The latter refers to piety, self-control, and reining in sexual desires through learning necessary skills. This model is superior to others because of its simplicity. It does not suffer from the complexities of other theories and schools which count as problems themselves. Our model is based on certain principles, includes interesting concepts and notions, and proposes comprehensive solutions on three social levels, namely, individual, family, and society. It is capable of administering human sexual faculty in a manner safeguarding it from deviations and disorders guaranteeing secure, normal, healthy, satisfactory, mature, and even sublime sexual behavior.
Our diagnosis of the cases of sexual problems showed us that, apart from medical causes, whether organic or physiologic, the main cause of the majority of sexual deviations, matrimonial problems, and sexual dysfunctions is some disorder in one of these two facets. Consequently, in order to treat the patients, we need to implement these Islamic programs in the framework of modern psychological techniques so as to bring them back to normal status where their sexual behavior is immunized.
Pathology and epidemiology of sexual deviations and problems
Experts the world over speak about as high percentage of sexual disorders, deviations, and problems. This tells us that families and society suffer from and an unidentified disease. As a human natural instinct, sexual faculty need be administered logically and satisfied properly. Otherwise, society would witness unwanted consequences in the form of social problems like a host of spouses who hate their matrimonial life, a host of teenagers who run away from home, increased rates of divorce, and instances of extramarital sexual relationships.
There are numerous reports indicative of various statistics about the spread of sexual deviations and disorders all over the world. Some statistics are not released for security reasons. For example, in 1991, Miller reported that there were over a million prostitutes in the United States of America some of whom were young adults and some mature women. Approximately, 75% of women sentenced to one year in prison were first offenders guilty of prostitution (Satchels, 1991). In 70% of cases of prostitution, one reason for this phenomenon is that the prostitutes have undergone sexual abuse in childhood (Sybert, 1984 as quoted by Soltani 2003). Inappropriate sexual relationship, sex abuse, and insufficient control and supervision within family play a decisive role in the emergence of sexual deviations (Sheikhy, 2003).
There are also a number of researches and different statistics about various sexual problems and disorders marriage partners suffer from. These studies show that approximately 40-50% of marriage partners experience sexual disorders sometime in their married life (Stuntz, 1988; Frank as quoted by Spence 2001, p. 11; Laumann 1994 as quoted by Jahanfar, 2001, pp. 11-13). A higher percentage of sexual problems such as insufficient foreplay before intercourse have been reported (Spence, 2001). There are many reports about sexual disorders and problems women suffer from (Bahreinian et al, 13 and Salari, 2005). For example, 18% of women never experience orgasm in their sexual relationships. Actually, their sexual satisfaction is very low (Jahanfar, 2001, p. 19). A Study of successful cases of marriage stated that 77% of the women suffered from sexual insufficiency. Of these women, 48% experienced insufficiency at the stage of excitement and 15% never experienced orgasm (Matlin, 1987, as quoted by Jahanfar 2001, p. 13). These reports about prevalence of such sexual disorders among women are consistent with what we can see in Islamic precepts. As we shall see later, the gist of the recommendations received in relevant Islamic precepts concerns the role women can play in making sexual relationship successful through displaying their willingness and obedience.
Biologically speaking, sexual activity is an activity that brings about pregnancy and makes reproduction possible. Therefore, sexual behavior is a response to a biological need instrumental to the survival of species. But the majority of men and women see sexual activity in a different light. For some, it represents the manifestation of emotions and intimacy. In fact, there are so many pieces of evidence showing a strong correlation between matrimonial contentment and sexual activity (Halgin et al., 1988). Likewise, there is a strong correlation between sexual dissatisfaction and matrimonial discord. This is one facet of sexual problems as a social phenomenon. Thus, satisfactory sexual relationship plays a very important role in continuation and preservation of healthy matrimonial relationship (Spence, 2001, p. 13).
Sexual disorders leave many negative repercussions irrespective of the cause. Studies show that different types of sexual problems are intimately connected to social problems such as crimes, sexual aggression, psychological diseases, and divorce (Hulbert, 1994). Some marriage partners are utterly ignorant of the impact their sexual dysfunction leaves on their family problems such as shaky family ties, weak self-confidence, and depression one or both of them suffer from (Makenvy, 1994). Appropriate sexual performance contributes largely to the strength of family ties and establishment of a firm culture of relations (Hogen, 1994, as quoted by Jahanfar, 2001, p. 13). Studies carried out in Iran about the rate of correlation between contentment from sexual relationship and compatibility of spouses show that it is possible to foresee the level of compatibility of spouses from their score of sexual satisfaction (Ahmadi, 2002; Aqa Mohammadian et al, 2003).
Sexual problems are mostly caused by wrong cultural attitudes and beliefs about matrimonial issues as well as bad sexual behavior and lack of sexual skills. One reason why people pay little attention to sexuality and consider sexual education as a taboo is their approach to it as an exclusively biological subject matter that belongs not to the human dimension of life but to the animal. When sex is downgraded, then, the aesthetic aspect of sexual behavior and the Islamic precepts and views about it would be rendered meaningless. The individual’s knowledge of how successful sex is possible contributes greatly to successful sexual relationship. In addition to this knowledge, the appropriate skills are also needed. Married people should learn the appropriate techniques for exciting their partners sexually. Failure in this respect may be the cause of widespread problems such as hypo-excitement and want of orgasm. Some marriage partners enjoy a good knowledge of sexual subject matters and techniques but are not sufficiently skillful (Spence 2001, p. 68). Failure to remain loyal to one’s spouse and attempt at sexual relationship beyond marriage are the two main common reasons for the incompatibility between spouses especially when such immoral affairs are disclosed. Available evidence shows that another important element causing sexual problems specifically sex-phobia or disgust at sexual behavior in adulthood is the memory of the victims’ experience of sex abuse or sexual harassment they suffered in childhood (ibid. p. 58). The main reason behind these disorders can be said to be indifference to the culture of chastity in family and society in addition to the lack of skill for self-control, self-defense, and supervision over the members of the family.
Diagnosis and pathological study of sexual disorders and deviations as well as matrimonial problems show that there are two main causes:
- Weakness or lack of skill in sexual self-discipline and chastity;
- Insufficient sex skills and delayed marriage.
Insufficient skill in sexual self-discipline
Among more important elements conducive to sexual deviations, we may mention want of personal traits such as self-control, self discipline, piety, and chastity. When these traits are not rooted enough in one's personality, one usually remains unable to avoid pitfalls and to rein in their sensual impulses. As a result, sexual trauma and deviation is inevitable. Imam Ali (be peace upon Him) says, “Chastity and self-control help man avoid fornication” (Ahmadi, 1981, p.256). He is also quoted as saying, “Chastity results in immunity” (ibid. p.256; see Maharanis, 1404 Hegira lunar calendar, p.15). These things tell us that in the absence of chastity one is more susceptible to sexual deviations.
Nowadays, psychologists believe that emotional intelligence is composed of different elements prominent among which are self-control and ability to defer. Acquiring these two abilities is considered as a highly important skill normal life style requires. If one's emotional intelligence is underdeveloped, they display weakness in waiting, controlling their emotional tensions, administering their feelings and passions, recognizing other people's feelings, and finally, establishing relation with people properly. Psychologists believe that it is necessary to develop one's ability to wait as a pivotal factor for success. Along this line, they emphasize on the importance of being able to exercise suppression, inhibition, delay of gratification, and resistance against temptation in the development of person’s personality. People who are unable to wait and resist their desires often demand instant pleasures without contemplating on probable repercussions. Spontaneous satisfaction of desires may bring about varieties of problems (Pasandideh, 2006, p. 85). A number of scientific studies have confirmed this conclusion. For instance, it's been shown that students with higher ability and skill for self-control enjoy better performance, faster progress, easier interpersonal relationship, and more successful psychological compatibility (Tangney et al., 2004). Alcohol consumption, attempts at crimes and dangerous sexual relationship is of a lower rate among them; they feel healthier and behave appropriately more often (Baumeister and Vohs, 2004; Bogg and Roberts, 2004, as quoted by Mc McCullough and Willoughby 2009).
In Islamic teachings, all these important characteristics are referred to by the general terms piety and chastity. Piety (or Taqwa in Arabic) is an established characteristic trait that helps man escape from devilish snares and temptations by evil prompting self. It prevents man from sins, immoral behavior, and libertines’ style of life (see Tabatabaii 1992, Vol.2, P.8). As a matter of fact, piety is a shield protecting man from the attacks by the Satan and temptations of evil prompting self. Imam Ali (be peace upon Him) says, “Infallibility is accompanied by piety,” (Amedi, 1987, p.269).
There are various factors that play the role of internal deterrence controlling and administering human person. The general name of these factors is self-control or taqwa in religious terminology. In fact, different personal traits such as patience, forbearance, restraining one’s anger, fear of God, chastity, and modesty are different aspects of taqwa or piety. So, piety is manifested in human behavior in one of these frames. When piety is considered in the sexual field, it is named chastity. When piety is seen as the result of one’s strong belief that God the Almighty is ever beholding one’s behavior, then, its name is modesty (Pasandideh, 2008, P.34). Imam Ali (be peace upon Him) says, “So, fear God who is watching you,” (Nahj al Balaghah, p.266).
The main reason for sexual deviations and traumas is lack of skill in self-control and self-discipline. Lack of supervision and control on family scale plus grounds for and causes of sexual arousal in society count as another important set of factors. When sexual faculty is at work and sensual feelings are aroused, sexual instinct erupts like a volcano and does away with any resistance. When modes of relationship are not controlled and grounds for sexual stimulation is not administered, then, it is so hard for an individual to resist the powerful drive and refrain from quenching the thirst. Often, people are driven mad under such circumstances. “When the eye sees the [object of] sex, the mind becomes blind to the consequences” (Amedi, 1987, P.305). Also, “indulgence in sensual pleasures plus passion put off the light of wisdom” (Nuri, 1408 Hegira Lunar Calendar, vol.11, p.211). The light of wisdom turned off, it becomes extremely hard to stop sensual desires. “Wisdom is the power that can stop selfish desires and it is the limit of ignorance” (Harrani, 1404 H. L.C., p.15).
Among important reasons for quarrels between marriage partners often neglected is their inability to restrain themselves, to control their wishes, and to exercise chastity and modesty. Shameless sexual behaviors such as pornography, ogling, and prostitution gradually occupy an individual’s mind so much so that they fail to attend to the needs and demands of their spouses and begin to lose interest in them. A saying of Infallible Imams states, “Refrain from fornication because it makes you seize enjoying sex with your spouses” (Tabrasi, 1412 Higira Lunar Calendar, P.238), and indifference, dislike, and tension will follow. Two things are incompatible: fornication and good” (Kufi, P.99). The statistics of divorce witness this fact.
The sexual instinct does not recognize any boundaries and pushes the individual to unlimited satisfaction of any sort. Therefore, when one of the marriage partners fails to immunize themselves via chastity, then, it may drive them to always compare their spouse to other people in their mind. This whets false appetite and leads to indulgence. As a consequence, they may feel their sex partners fail to satisfy them. Here start matrimonial problems. Stained with immoral sexual affairs, a married person unknowingly encourages their partner to opt for similar sins; “O men, observe chastity; then, your wives would remain chaste, too. There was a tribe whose men would commit fornication; then, their women too were pushed to do the same” (Tabrasi, 1412, Hegira Lunar Calander, p.238; Koleini, 1986, Vol. Five, p.554). In such families, the pillars of trust are shaken, mutual attachment grows weak, and the new generation is corrupted. Family ties, emotional relationships, and loyalty gradually fade away and family collapses finally.
Deferred marriage and undeveloped sex skills
Among very important elements that contribute to sexual deviations is the phenomenon of delaying marriage. “Virgin women resemble the fruit on a tree; when it ripens, one cannot help reaping it. Otherwise, it would be spoiled by the sun and the wind. Likewise, when virgin girls reach adulthood of their sole, the remedy is marriage; otherwise, they are susceptible to temptations” (Koleini, 1986, Vol. Five, P.337).
Another reason for sexual deviations is the lack of required sex skills as a result of which healthy sexual relationship is hard to establish and marriage partners feel unsatisfied. From an Islamic perspective, sexual instinct is a capability given by God that can play a decisive role in the psychological well-being of an individual and in the establishment of emotional attachments among married partners. Since immunization of sexual behavior of married people can often be conceived only in case of proper sexual satisfaction, we can conclude that some people are driven to sexual deviation as the result of their feeling unsatisfied in their sexual relationship with their spouses.
Clinical observations show that, in some cases, sexual deviations are the result of lack of satisfaction due to insufficient attention to the sexual needs of married people by their partners. “He who marries a young woman but fails to have sexual intercourse at least once in every 40 days, would bear the burden of the sin she may commit” (Hor Ameli, 1409, Hegira Lunar Calendar, Vol.21, P.178). Another saying reads, “Every man who owns a young female slave but neither has sexual intercourse with her nor lets her marry a man who satisfies her shall bear as much the burdens of the sins she may commit as she does” (ibid, p.179).
Although sexual education is included in Islamic precepts and is given much importance, no much attention is paid to sexual education in our society for various reasons. Cultural and religious institutions have failed to introduce appropriate plans to enhance awareness and knowledge of sexual issues among people who acquire them. Unfortunately, this failure has contributed largely to the spread of abnormalities, matrimonial tensions, various forms of sexual disorders and problems such as sexual hypo-desire and frigidity. By improvement of sex skills, many of these problems may be prevented.
Islamic approach to sexual needs and behavior
Man is born with inbuilt instincts that accompany him throughout his life. Sexual instinct is one of the strongest instincts man is equipped with by God out of wisdom and generosity (Jofi Kufi, 1969, p.76). Human instinctive needs drive man to take every necessary step to satisfy them. It is contrary to divine wisdom to suppress these needs. “Psychological studies in the last century have shown that suppressing instinctive needs specially the sexual instinct brings about a wide range of problems and repercussions detrimental to human life. It has now become known that the presupposition held by many authors in the past who thought the more natural instincts and desires are weakened the more higher level human faculties such as reason will develop is fundamentally wrong. Suppressed desires and unsatisfied instincts may disappear but cannot be extinguished. They continue to act unnoticed and emerge in forms so expensive socially and individually. In order to keep natural desires and instincts controlled by reason in order to prevent destructive consequences, it is necessary to avoid any attempt to suppress, injure, deny, or refuse satisfying them properly (Motahhari, 1989, p.60).
For this reason, Islam has taken this natural human need into account when prescribing the special way of life it proposes for man. Islam has never been contemptuous to natural instincts. In this regard, Bertrand Russell says, “There is a deep contempt for sexual instinct almost in every faith except in Islam. Islam has imposed restrictions and constraints on sexual relationship in order to protect social interests” (quoted by Motahhari, 1989, p.18).
Obviously, Russell has overlooked many personal benefits of restrictions on sexual behavior Islam imposes including the psychological, moral, educational, and hygienic points. But he correctly highlights the fact that sexual desire is not considered evil in Islam and sexual satisfaction in appropriate healthy ways is recognized. The Quran says, “It is decorated in the eyes of people to love the desired including women, children…” (Sura Al-i Imran: verse 14). Moreover, Islam supports sexual relationship and lawful pleasure man derives from it. Islam envisages some sort of sexual pleasure beyond this terrestrial life. Some hadiths say, “The best women of yours are the passionate chaste” (Koleini, 1986, Vol.5, p.324). Another hadith says, “Sexual pleasure is the strongest both in this terrestrial life and in the hereafter.” A third hadith says, “Intercourse gives the strongest pleasure” (ibid. p.321, also: Horr Ameli, 1409 Hegira Lunar calendar, Vol.20, p.23).
Among human needs is prominent the need to enjoy. It's a pivotal need the satisfaction of which paves the way for other human needs to be met. Therefore, it is advisable to dedicate some time every 24 hours in particular to lawful pleasures. There are hadiths saying that the experience of this lawful pleasure helps man undertake his other responsibilities (Koleini, 1986, Vol.5, p.87 also: Harrani, 1404 Hegira Lunar Calendar, p.409).
A passing glance at the Islamic sources indicates that negative attitude towards sexual behavior is contrary to Islamic precepts. The pleasure one derives from sexual behavior and from satisfying this natural need can be counted as a means for the realization of sublime godly ideals. As the negative attitude towards sexuality is responsible for a range of sexual problems, it is necessary to correct this attitude as the first step in sexual education. To treat sexual problems and deviations, a correct vision of sexuality should be developed as a model for sexual behavior. All educational programs and training plans in the field should address the correct attitude to sexuality before any attempt is made to correct sexual relationship between marriage partners. Also it is necessary to make a distinction between the public and private spheres. This distinction is necessary so far as the preservation of the principle of modesty and the appropriate patterns of clothing are concerned. In public sphere, issues relevant to sexuality must be addressed in a way conducive to the fortification of the principle of modesty and the domination of sexual morality. For this reason, whenever Islam talks about sexuality, it uses a metaphoric indirect language. Words and phrases such as “intimate contact” (rafath), “close proximity” (mubashirah), sleeping together (mubadhi’ah), intercourse (jimaa’), and the like are used figuratively in the locution of the holy Quran, the holy Prophet, and immaculate Imams.
Sexual activity is a very important part of matrimonial life. It is enjoyable and tranquilizing (the Quran, Sura Rum, Verse 21). The majority of marriage partners experience a pleasing feeling after sexual activity. They attain psychological contentment. Sexual activity is a successful means for subsiding psychological pressure man would experience. It can reduce the rate of destructive effects of psychological trauma (Kajbaf, 1999).
Islam emphasizes that within the family, the opportunities for the husband and wife enjoying from one another should exist. Any man or woman who fails to play their part in this regard is to be reproached (Motahhari, 1989, p.46). A hadith says, “The best wife is she who lays aside the iron shield of modesty when she is alone with her husband” (Koleini, 1986, Vol. 5, p. 324, also: Horr Ameli, 1409 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol. 20, p. 15). Another hadith says, “The best wife is she who does not refrain from replying to her husband's invitation even though she is on camel’s back.” And, “The best wife is she who expresses readiness for her husband day and night” (Ibid. pp.506&508). In the Islamic precepts, one important task marriage partners are charged with is to meet the sexual needs of their partners (Horr Ameli, Ibid. p.8). It means that neither the wife nor the husband is allowed to refrain from sexual activity even under the guise of religious service: “Do not prolong your prayers in order to keep away your spouses (Koleini, 1986, Vol.5, p.508). Islam even adds a spiritual tinge to the sexual relationship between marriage partners. Much has been said about the reward of sexual activities of spouses in the hereafter (Ibid. p.495).
Positive evaluation of sexual relationship between marriage partners indicates that Islam is trying to promote a positive attitude towards sexuality. Evidently, positive attitude to sexuality largely contributes to the success of matrimonial relationship and to partners enjoying their relationship more. It helps prevent feeling guilty or vain after sexual activity. These negative feelings often leave adverse effects on partners emerging in the form of sexual hypo-activity, sexual dysfunction, and family tensions. Wrong attitudes toward sexuality and misunderstanding about religion and morality and outdated traditional traits are to be blamed for the majority of these problems (Salari far, 2005, pp.46-49).
Immunization of sexual behavior
Human beings are equipped with two poles of traction. The interaction between these two poles emerges as behavioral stimuli. The principle of pleasure as the general principle predominant on human activities is controlled by the two poles. All human activities are performed in order to either enjoy some sort of pleasure or avoid some sort of pain. These two poles are sometimes called “instinct” and “disposition” (gharizah and fitrah in Arabic) or sometimes, “lust” and “reason” (shahwah and aql). Every one of these two poles of traction pushes the individual in a particular direction demanding the satisfaction of certain needs. The instinctive needs are primary. Only when they are met, the ground is prepared for meeting dispositional needs which are more sublime. Human beings share other species of animals in most of instincts. Their difference from animals is in their possession of rational faculty; “Verily, God has equipped the Angels with reason alone. They do not possess instinct. He has given all the species of animals only instinct and not reason. But human beings are composed of both” (horr Ameli, 1409 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol. 15, p. 209).
Although we do not consider sexual instinct among primary human instincts, it has a very considerable impact on human behavior. Through sexual behavior, human beings pursue two parallel aims: the instinct drives them towards sexual enjoyment and reason drives them towards some sort of spiritual pleasure which can be achieved via chastity and piety. If reason is fully flourished, it can control and guide instincts. It prevents rush, panic, and unwise moves. For this reason, human beings need a pattern and program for their life. Since they recognize they are inadequate, they turn to the creator of reason and instinct for help. Religion is the program for life. This program includes a pattern for sexual behavior.
Islam has presented a particular model for sexual life. This model is based on immunity obtained by marriage and chastity which together enable individuals to meet all the needs of reason and instinct in this particular field. It has long been the dream of scientists and psychologists to find a way to the immunization of human sexual behavior. They have so far failed because they overlook the spiritual and rational aspect of sexuality. If the Islamic model is adopted, that dream is realized. The Islamic model primarily aims at prevention. But it also includes the required elements for diagnoses, pathology, and treatment of sexual deviations and problems which may happen as the result of mistakes.
According to the Islamic precepts, immunization of sexual activity can be achieved exclusively in two ways; lawful sexual pleasure through marriage and self-restraint, self-control, and chastity. “Immunization is of two kinds: immunization via marriage and immunization via chastity” (Syuti, 1401 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol.1, p.472). In the holy Quran, the word Ihsan is used in two senses. Asked about the meaning of the Quranic verse in Sura Nesa and the meaning of the verse in Sura Ma’idah, Imam Sadiq (peace be upon Him) said, “The phrase ‘immunized women’ in the former verse means married women and, in the latter, it means ‘chaste women’” (Saduq, 1413 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol.3, p.436). Explaining this saying, Sobhani writes, “We understand from the hadith that the word Ihsan in the two versus means differently. In the first use, it means ‘immunized through marriage.’ In the second use, it means ‘immunized through chastity’ (Sobhani, pp.142-143).
Etymologically speaking, the word Ihsan comes from the stem hisn meaning so strong, protected, and resistant a place that cannot be penetrated (a bunker). Words similar to hisn are hifz, syanah, mana, and hirz in Arabic (Farahidi, 1410 Hegira lunar calendar, V.3, p.118, also: bin Manzur, 1414 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol.13, p.119, and Ragheb Esfahani, 1412 Hegira lunar calendar, p.239). These words can be interchangeably used because chastity and marriage can prevent fornication and adultery (Sobhani, p. 142). Since Virgin Mary was chaste, the Quran says about her, “And Mary the daughter of Imran who kept herself immunized” (Sura Tahrim, verse 12). We can conclude that hisn is a state one may attain when they are protected by rational faculty, Sharia, custodian, spouse, and the like (Mostafawi, 1981, Vol.2, p.236).
Ways of immunization
As we said earlier, according to the Islamic precepts, immunization of sexual behavior can be achieved in two ways which will be discussed here.
A: Marriage (temporary or permanent); the proper and legitimate satisfaction of sexual needs
Man’s sexual instinct need be satisfied especially when it is aroused. Islam advocates neither the suppression of sexual needs, mortification, and monasticism nor a sensualist life and indulgence because both of these two extremes bring about various problems and disturbances to human life. Islam recognizes the right to pleasure and satisfaction of sexual needs but prescribes a pattern that guarantees appropriate and healthy ways. Protection of human life and prevention of various sorts of problems that may accompany unrestrained indulgence are very important from an Islamic perspective. Marriage is the best way to achieve this end. “O young people, those of you who are sexually potent should marry, for, it helps you keep your eyes and your intimate organs safe” (Nuri, 1408 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol.14, p.153).
Lexicographically, there is a difference in meaning between the word Tazwij and the word nikah in Arabic. While the former only means marriage, the latter, sometimes, means marriage and sometimes, intercourse (Farahidi, 1410 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol.3, p.63, also: Bin Manzur, 1414 H.L.C., Vol.2, p.625; and Mostafawi, 1981, Vol.12, p.237). In fact, one of the very important purposes of marriage is the satisfaction of sexual faculty. Marriage plays a dual role. It protects married people form sins and provides for them the safest sexual satisfaction. “Every nation has their own particular way of marriage by which they protect themselves from fornication” (Koleini, 1365, Vol.2, p.324). Sobhani writes, “The Quranic verse saying those who are unable to get married shall observe chastity so that God enriches them out of His generosity witnesses the fact that marriage is permitted and monasticism is prohibited because God wills that human beings be immune to grave sins and encouraged to observe chastity. This end may be achieved in all different sorts of marriage whether permanent or temporary. … And the Quranic verse saying, “And you are permitted beyond that to seek pleasure by spending money provided that you are immunized and do not commit fornication” (Sura Nesa: verse 24) indicates that it is a divine will that people get married and pay the dowry for the sake of immunized reproduction. God dislikes mere sexual satisfaction and waste of semen as is common among fornicators (Sobhani, p.140). From the Islamic point of view, the establishment of family is considered as building a fortified bunker to protect one's faith: “He who gets married saves half of his faith” (Koleini 1986, Vol.5, p.329).
Studies show that religious people enjoy marriage more than others do (Azarbaijani &Musawi Asl, 1906, as quoted by Argil, 2000). Asked why religious people are more eager to marry and actually make more effort for this, Imam Baqer (be peace upon Him) replied, “in order to protect their intimate organs from what is prohibited, to control their desires from swaying in every direction, and to content themselves with legitimate means”( Saduq, 1413 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol.3, p.560).
It is worthwhile to mention here that immunization via marriage is a matter of grades and degrees. The perfect immunization is realized when sexual contentment is released. It is when the person has a legal partner with whom intercourse is possible whenever they wish. Imam Baqer (be peace upon Him) was asked about the meaning of muhsin. He answered, “Anyone who has a legal partner with whom intercourse is possible at any time” (Koleini 1365 Vol.7 p.179). Explaining this hadith, Toraihi writes, “The word muhsin is applied to every married person who can have sexual intercourse with a partner at any time except when there is some obstacle. So, temporary marriage causes no immunity” (Toraihi, 1996, Vol.1, p.314).
The married people who are separated because of a trip or are unable to sexually satisfy one another or do not wish to do so and those who enter into temporary marriage contract do not enjoy perfect immunization. According to the Islamic jurisprudence, if such people commit fornication, the punishment is less severe. “The man and the woman whose spouse is absent shall not be stoned [if she commits adultery]. Stoning is the punishment of adultery only if the man is accompanied by his wife and the woman is accompanied by her husband” (Koleini, 1986, Vol.7, p.178).
The sexual immunization is not confined to preventing sexual deviations. Rather, it includes immunity to the sexual problems and disorders of marriage partners. Therefore, Islam tries to educate marriage partners and teach them the necessary skills. As the first step, Islam tries to correct the negative attitude towards sexual activity inviting husbands and wives to do their best to satisfy their partners. Later, we shall introduce a list of the measures Islam prescribes for the faithful. In order to promote immunization to the highest possible degree, Islam advises that, before marriage, the necessary information be given to those who would like to marry. Among these pieces of advice is a checklist including factors such as religiosity, piety, etiquette, equal rank, beauty, and virginity (Koleini, 1986, Vol.5, p.324).
B: Chastity, self-control, and self-restraint
The safest way to immunization is chastity and learning the required skills for sexual self-control. Islam enjoins people who are unable to marry and satisfy their sexual desires properly to observe chastity: “And those who cannot get married shall observe chastity so that God enriches them out of His generosity (the Quran, Sura Nur, verse 33). Chastity is a state of the self that prevents the domination of lust on one's personality (Ragheb Isfahani, 1412 Hegira lunar calendar, p.573). Chastity is one branch of piety. It means self-control and self-restraint. Imam Ali (be peace upon Him) says, “The most important part of piety is refraining from desires” (Nuri, 1408 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol.11, p.344).
When sexual drives, instinctive powers, and sensual forces are controlled by man and man succeeds to overcome selfish and devilish powers by the help of reason, Sharia, and divine powers refraining from both extremes, then, tranquility, serenity, and the habitude of moderation emerge. This emergent power is called chastity (see: Imam Khomeini, 1999, p.278).
Chastity, modesty, and honesty are natural dispositions and shamelessness and sins are against human natural disposition. The love of chastity and modesty is inbuilt in human nature. People naturally detest obscenity and shamelessness. Therefore, by nature, man is pure, chaste, and modest. People lose these qualities as the result of immoral behavior and sins.
Consequently, the first step for self-restraint and prevention of sexual deviation is preservation of piety, modesty, honor, and voluntary deference of response to the stimuli for sexual deviation. One ought to resist sexual passion as the Quran prescribes in Sura Yusuf, verse 90. “Resistance against temptations is chastity” (Nuri, 1408 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol.11, p.263).
The second step is to learn the skills required for self-control and sexual self-restraint. To acquire these skills, one ought to control the context of sexual stimulation. Prevention is better than treatment always. This principle should be observed more closely in regards to sexual issues. One should prevent sexual arousal and sensual impulses in wrong directions in the first place because, after stimulation, it is very difficult to resist and overcome them. Therefore, the holy Quran and religious leaders advise that people should keep themselves away from situations that may lead to sin: “And do not get close to fornication because it is a grave sin and a bad way” (Sura Isra: verse 22).
In our religious tradition, mention is made of committing fornication by various organs of human body such as eyes and ears. Anyone of human senses and perceptive faculties that transgresses the boundaries set by Sharia is said to be committing fornication because it can push an individual to sexual deviation (Koleini, 1986, Vol.5, p.559). One of the very important skills of self-restraint is the capability to control one's imagination in sexual field.
Having practiced self-restraint in regard to sexual tendencies, the volcanic power of sexuality gradually diminishes. “Chastity diminishes lust” (Nuri, 1408 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol.11, p.275). Efforts made to exercise self-restraint and to defer response to spontaneous stimuli gradually help adjust various tractions working within human personality.
As one goes on giving preference to spiritual and rational pleasures over the sexual, one begins to detest improper sexual pleasures and sensualist behavior. “Persistence in doing good results in detesting bad” (Bahrain, 1404 H.L.C., p.15). Chastity is a religious service (Koleini, 1986, Vol.2, p.79). Practicing self-restraint for sometime helps man develop spiritually and taste spiritual pleasure. Through strengthening one’s faith and moral conscience plus observing religious rites and rituals such as prayers, fasting, and incantation, chastity as a personal trait is fortified, one’s delight in spiritual achievements augments, and the power of sexual drive is reduced. Consequently, one’s ability to control oneself increases (Azarbayjani & Musawi asl, 2006, p.170).
Having succeeded in the aforementioned steps, skills of self-restraint develop and chastity becomes a personal trait and a habit. This habit plays the role of a shield that protects him against temptations. “Chastity protects man and keeps him away from meanness” (Amedi 1987, P.256). For this reason, the holy Prophet would always advise His followers to observe chastity and refrain from dirty language: “You ought to observe chastity and keep away from crimes” (Koleini 1986, Vol.5, P.554).
Immunization in all stages of life
Evidently, the human social and economic limitations, life circumstances, and factual structure of life in this world pose real obstacles for perfect satisfaction of man’s instinctive desires. No rational school of thought allows unrestrained and absolute satisfaction of passionate wishes. Since sexual tendency plays a decisive role in man’s life, all religions and psychological schools have addressed sexuality. Islam presents a comprehensive plan for the development and betterment of human life rendering empowerment of man and his immunization via acquiring self-restraint skills of paramount importance. In fact, empowering man to exercise self-control aims at chastity. Man is trained how to avoid staring at other people. All techniques in the three levels of personal, family, and social are directed to this end.
Islamic educational programs for immunization begin at the pre-birth stage. The particular biological circumstances of human life are such that individuals need chastity and self-control in all stages of their life even when they are married and capable of enjoying complete satisfaction. “He who gets married has protected half of his religion… So, they should be fearful of God with respect to the other half” (Koleini, 1986, Vol.2, p.329). The second type of immunization, i.e., legal and proper sexual satisfaction may be realized only after man reaches sexual rational psychological and social maturity.
There is no conflict between satisfying one's instinct and observing piety and chastity. As a matter of fact, it is only through observing chastity that human beings can satisfy their instinctive needs sufficiently and properly preventing untimely passions, the sense of deprivation and frustration resulting from suppression of such passions and various sorts of discomfort. In other words, there is a big difference between development of capacities one enjoys and the satisfaction of unquenchable desires and passions. Desires are, sometimes, true and, sometimes, fake. The genuine desires need be adjusted to equilibrium. But fake desires may not be adjusted in that way because they stem from an exaggeration. Some instinctive desires such as the sexual tend to turn into some sort of unquenchable thirst. In that case, they cannot be fully satisfied. Natural instinctive desires can be fully satisfied but fake desires cannot. For this reason, sexual desire must be adjusted (Motahhari, 1989, P.66).
Consequently, sexual tendencies are classified under secondary needs. They are not among primary needs. Even in the case of primary needs, usually absolute satisfaction is not possible. At this point, theorists and schools proponent of sexual liberalism run into a deadlock. The problem with these theories is that they overlook the strategy of empowering human beings. From an Islamic perspective, the strength of sexual drive is recognized but spiritual forces hidden in man are also attended to. Human beings are usually capable of being trained. But youngsters are more easily trained. They are faster in acquiring the skills. Imam Ali (be peace upon Him) says, “A youngster’s heart is like fertile but bare land ready for any type of seed to be cultured” (Nahj al Balaghah, p.391).
Islam's intention is that man rules himself rather than his selfish and sensual desires governing his personality. The results of ruling one's personality are liberty and capability for moving towards human perfection and achieving prosperity and salvation. In a striking simile, Imam Ali (be peace upon Him) says, “Verily, wrongdoing and sensualist style of life resemble a mulish pigheaded horse that takes the wretched rider to his plight. Piety and self-restraint resemble an obedient horse reined in by the rider who leads her wherever he wishes and enters the paradise…” (Koleini, 1986, Vol.8, P.67).
Experimental studies show that there is a significant correlation between religiosity and strong superego. It can prevent sexual deviations (Kumarthy, 2003). Kinsey and his colleagues believed that premarital sexual activity or such activities out of the framework of family is less seen among people with religious tendencies (Azarbaijani, 2006, p.170).
Empowering individuals to get control over themselves is among prime targets of all theistic religions. Piety, self-control, and self-restraint are so important that the religiosity of individuals is measured by them. Perhaps, it is for this reason that some researchers tried to investigate the impact of religious tendency, rites, and rituals on psychological health, social welfare, and the improvement of socialization in general. They believe that the role of religiosity in strengthening self-restraint and self-discipline is not deniable. A certain set of religious beliefs, behaviors, and understandings help improve self-discipline and self-control. It is through this function that religion comes in contact with health, welfare, and social life (McCullough & Willoughby, 2009)
The Islamic plans and programs for the development of human personality and social life place the immunization via practice of chastity on family and social scales at the center of attention. In all stages of selecting a spouse, marrying, the style of social conduct, and the quality of matrimonial relationship, this principle dominates. Some of the precepts pertinent to this point can be mentioned as follows:
- The ban on marrying prostitutes and impure people in general stems from the fact that such people are not worthy of being parents (Nuri, 1408 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol.14, p.389).
- Refraining from improper thoughts, imaginations, and utterances during intercourse and concentrating on the constructive thoughts and saying prayers instead are meant to repel satanic temptations and facilitate raising good-natured children (Horr Ameli, 1409 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol. 20, p. 252, also: Nuri, 1408, Vol.14, p.229).
- Training children to ask permission before entering parents’ room and separating their beds aim at correct sexual education (Saduq, 1413 Hegira Lunar calendar, Vol.3, p.436).
- Supervision and control within family aims to teach children to be jealous in the good sense of the word, i.e., wanting to keep something one has because one is proud of it. It also aims at preventing the sexual abuse of children (Saduq, 1413 Hegira lunar calendar, Vol.3, p.437).
- The control over sexual stimuli, the observance of the etiquette and sexual moral principles specially the presence of children aim at the rule of the culture of chastity in society which is a branch of the general principle of enjoining virtues and prohibiting vices (Harrani, 1404 Hegira lunar calendar, p.49).
Islam proposes legal marriage to those who are capable of it in order that immunization and healthy satisfaction of sexual needs are realized (Nuri, 1408 Hegira Lunar Calendar, Vol.14, P.153). For more immunization against sexual deviations, disorders, and problems, Islam proposes efficient measures. In this regard, Islam emphasizes marriage, the attributes of a good spouse, sexual educations, and matrimonial etiquettes. Some of Islamic pieces of advice are as follows:
- Rejecting monasticism, enjoining the marriage, calling to sexual relationship and to the diagnosis of maladies such as negative attitude towards sexual relationship (Koleini, 1986, Vol.5 p.320).
- Identifying a set of physical and mental characteristics for a good spouse that contribute to the enhancement of sexual pleasure and contentment derived from sexual relationship. These characteristics include being chaste, beautiful, lively, mirthful, equal in rank, tan, fragrant, having large eyes, beauty spot, and bodily symmetry (ibid. P.334).
- Emphasizing the proper sexual relationship between marriage partners and attention to mutual enjoyment aim at the betterment of emotional and mental rejuvenation.
- Encouraging marriage partners to pay special attention to sexual relationship between them by assigning reward for it in the hereafter.
- Reminding marriage partners of their duty to attend to their appearance being neat and decorated specially the duty of wives to wear their best dress, perfume, and makeup for their husbands in order to increase the sexual attraction and pleasure (Koleini, 1986, Vol.5, p.508).
- Advising wives to comply with their husbands’ requests in order to maximize their satisfaction and to refrain from mannish gestures during intercourse which make them unattractive.
- Attaching importance to sexual relationship and refraining from deferring it without a reasonable excuse.
- Paying attention to correcting the sexual behavior of couples so that they do not skip the preliminary steps in sexual intercourse including self-preparation, fondling, talking, kissing, caressing, and foreplay which are needed to arouse a partner sexually and bring their excitement to the same level as theirs.
- Psychological treatment of negative attitudes toward sexual behavior in order to convince the individual that sexual activity is not vain.
10.Advising marriage partners to avoid haste in their sexual contact, giving intervals to sexual intercourse, and to control premature ejaculation so that wives can experience orgasm.
11.Making arrangements for the best suitable time for sexual activity; a time when the partners are not too tired or mentally engaged. Midnight is said to be appropriate. Times when people are psychologically disturbed such as times when there is an eclipse, earthquake, or volcanic eruptions are not suitable (Saduq 1413 HLC, Vol.3, P.553).
12.Selecting the proper place for sexual activity, preparing desirable circumstances, and avoiding unsuitable conditions and places such as a vehicle (ibid. p.404).
13.Studying the mentality and peculiarities of one's sexual partner. For example, the majority of women feels shy and prefers to be asked. This must not be misinterpreted as dysfunction.
14.Pleasing one’s sex partner in ways other than mere penetration.
15.Looking after appropriate diet and medication in case they are needed for successful sexual activity.
16.Prohibition of teasing one's sexual partner, preferring others to them, and abandoning sexual contact for a considerably long time.
Sexual education and training
The majority of problems families are faced with nowadays stem from lack of education and training. Ignorance about sexuality often results in sexual dysfunction (Masters and Johnson, 1970). A comparison between couples educated about sexuality with couples uneducated showed that the rate of sexual contentment is far higher in the former group (Hosseini et al, 2002).
Therefore, it is necessary to give priority to sexual education and training for youngsters going to marry. They should learn the necessary skills for a successful sexual activity. At different stages, before marriage, during the early days of marriage, and after the establishment of a family, different things must be taught. In one of its reports, the healthcare organization of Iran states that sexual education is needed both by married people and by those not yet married. Sexual education enables men and women to prevent many of matrimonial problems and take necessary steps to solve them if they appear.
It is important to note here that many of these points are briefly mentioned in some hadiths. For example, the holy Prophet of God says, “The best of women are those who are not barren, cheerful, chaste, honored in the family, obedient to their husbands, who bear makeup for their husbands, and not anybody else, who give their husbands what they need when they are together and do not behave as men do” (Koleini, 1986, vol.5, p.324).
Treatment of sexual problems and disorders
Masters and Johnson (2007) divide the process of sexual intercourse between man and woman to four phases. The first is the excitement phase. The second phase is Plateau. The third phase is orgasm. The fourth is resolution phase. Leiblum adds a fifth phase to the beginning: desire (Leiblum, 1998).
Any of these phases may be subject to disorder. The most common disorder is in the phases of excitement and orgasm. All these disorders result in the decrease of enjoinment and are classified as dysfunction.
The kernel of any treatment is return to the normal state, i.e., the immunization of partners by removing obstacles. According to the Islamic method we described earlier, the first step is to correct the attitude towards sexuality. Then come the measures to revive sexual desire. Then, sexual education comes. Removing obstacles to satisfactory sexual activity is the last.
The treatment in the Islamic way includes all the stages of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral. Techniques can be invented based on these teachings applicable to different cases of sexual malfunction. At the stage of attitude correction, pathology may be followed by replacing the appropriate Islamic view to sexuality. In cases of patients with the background of religious tendencies, this method is highly efficient.
When treatment of behavior is concerned, we can refer to the following Islamic advices:
- To treat the problem at the stage of sexual arousal, it is important to attend to preliminary steps that lead to sexual desire. During intercourse, attention should be paid to preparing the partner and arousing their excitement to the level of theirs. As a prelude, attention must be paid to sensitivities of one’s partner. Generally speaking, being tidy, clean, friendly, and patient is constructive.
- Avoiding haste and preventing premature ejaculation and substitute ways of bringing orgasm should be tried.
- Time and place preparation is important for the treatment of dysfunction at the stage of excitement. Erection problem and premature ejaculation have direct relation to this point.
- Special techniques for treating sexual disorders among women such as painful intercourse need sufficient training.
For emotional problems, treatment methods can be devised on the basis of Islamic teachings. Avoiding emotional incompetence and teasing one’s partner before sexual activity and in general, showing love and affection, making love, attending to female elegant features, and finally, evading masculine superiority can be prescribed.
Islamic method of treatment includes other dimensions, too, among which healing by prayers, treatment through giving meaning to sex, healing via diet, and treatment via fragrance are worth mentioning.
The Islamic model of immunization of sexual behavior is composed of two facets: chastity (i.e. self-controlled self-restraint and piety) and marriage (i.e. proper satisfaction of sexual desires). These two facets include a wide range of programs and plans prescribed to human life and development from the moment of birth to the end of life. In this model, supervision, control guidance, training, education, and moral etiquette relevant to sexuality at different ages are included. This model is based on particular principles of axioms and proposes criteria plans and programs, educational, psychological, and social, which address the involved factors in minute details. These fundamental principles are capable of producing progressive methods and techniques for the treatment of sexual problems within scientific framework.
Islam recognizes sexual tendency and approves lawful satisfaction of sexual desires. Islam extends the realm of sexual function to the life in the hereafter too. The Islamic model of sexual performance is capable of bringing human life into equilibrium and providing pleasure and tranquility simultaneously while keeping the room open to the flourishing of sublime human potentials.
Our study showed that only Islamic precepts are capable of guiding man in a way that sexual needs are sufficiently met. Spiritual and mental well-being of man depends on preventing deprivation, disorders, deviation, and tension in family life and social relationship. The Islamic model for sexual activity is the best successful pattern preventing problems and teaching them actively the levels of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral techniques, methods, and educational plans.
Development of this plan is the first step to take in the process of presenting a comprehensive Islamic theory about sexuality. Based on this plan, educational, cultural, and clinical centers can implement programs for the treatment of sexual problems on the social scale and preventing them on the personal scale.
As the most perfect of religions, Islam pays attention to the social aspects of sexual behavior. It emphasizes on chastity and social control, on the deterrence system based on supervision, control, and punishment. It attaches much importance to eradicating the elements causing deviation, sexual problems, and the like. Since we focused in this research on the psychological aspect, we did not elaborate on the social aspects.
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. First published in the Persian language in the “Bi-quarterly Journal of Studies in Islam and Psychology”, Volume 3, number five, autumn and winter 2009.
. Seminary researcher and MA in psychology.