Muslim youth, sex and marriage

Many young Muslims bring up questions about today's topic during the Islamic halaqah's and programs I conduct for them. It is long, but the detail was necessary to make the essential points in a balanced manner.

Overview of Islamic Perspective on this issue

Islam as a way of life abhors any sexual act or any behaviour having sexual overtones that is not between duly wedded spouses . It is extremely sensitive about this issue and greatly emphasizes maintenance of purity by Muslims in their character, behaviour, gaze, words and thoughts. Lest the Islamic standard of purity in this respect slips from our minds, let us remind ourselves that when it comes to a member of the opposite sex to whom one is not married or getting
married, not to speak of flirtation or any kind or level of sexual activity, a Muslim is not even allowed to:

§    Stare, exchange lustful eye contact or even look intentionally after initial inadvertent look;

§    Chat or exchange correspondence or emails where the text or tone carries any sexual overtones or some sexual consideration is intended;

§    Spend time together just for fun;

§    Fantasize or lustfully think about a person.

Following are some references supporting the above statements:

§    "Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and protect their private parts, that is a purer demeanour for them. Verily Allaah is well aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to protect their private parts."  (An-Noor 24:31-32)

§    "Do not talk in a soft voice lest a man with a diseased heart (inclined to un-Islamic behaviour) starts to harbour evil desires." Al-Ahzaab 33:32

§    "O Ali! Do not follow up with another look after the (inadvertent) first look. The first is forgiven but not the second." (Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Aboo Dawood).

§    "The Prophet was asked about sudden, unintentional glance. He said, "move your glance away."  (Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Aboo Dawood)

§    "The fornication of the eyes is the sight (looking lustfully), the fornication of the tongue is the talk (with sexual overtones), and the heart (inner self) lusts and desires and the private parts testify all this or deny it." (Aboo Hurayrah, Bukhari)

§    "Eyes fornicate and their fornication is look, ears' fornication is listening, tongue's fornication is talking, hands' fornication is touching and feet's fornication is walking. The heart lusts and desires and the private parts either confirm it or deny it." (Muslim)

§    "Whoever believes in Allaah and the Last day, he should not be alone with a woman without the presence of a Mahram . Otherwise, the third with them will be Shaytaan (Satan)."  (Ahmad)

§    "No man has the right to be in the privacy with a woman who is not lawful for him. Shaytaan is their third party unless there is a Mahram." (Ahmad)

§    Ibn Abbaas related that the messenger of Allaah said, "None of you should meet a women alone unless she is accompanied by a Mahram". (Bukhari, Muslim)

§    Umar reported that Rasoolullaah said, "When a man is alone with a women, the Shaytaan becomes the third."

That is how sensitive Islam is about cross gender interaction. To help Muslims maintain this level of purity, it purports to establish its own norms of social behaviour, dress code and social set up of the community of believers. Most importantly, it urges young Muslims to get married as soon as possible and it discourages any adults from remaining unmarried for any length of time after death of a spouse or divorce.

What is happening? – A Reality Check

The society in which we are living, on the other hand, is very liberal and permissive in this area. In
addition to the fornication of eyes, ears and hands, Zinaa (sex with a non-spouse) is commonplace and is an accepted behaviour. With the passage of time, the age at which youth are becoming sexually active is decreasing and the number of unmarried sexually active youth keeps increasing. Although it is very testing for every Muslim living in the sexually oriented society of our times, this poses a huge problem for Muslim youth.

At an age when the pressure from nature and hormonal activity is at its peak, and where Muslim youth are surrounded by easily accessible opportunities of illicit relations, a provocative environment, a permissive set up, and above all, perpetual incitements from Shaytaan who has avowed to mislead them into sinful behaviour, Muslim parents expect the
youth to maintain purity and chastity, resisting all those pressures and incitements. This is just like throwing someone in a swimming pool and expecting him/her to keep swimming without getting wet.

Living in these conditions, the Muslim youth end up in one of the following categories:

1.    The youth give in to the pressures, rebel against the family and the religion, and do whatever everyone else in the society is doing against the tenets of Islam.

This comes with many social and family problems, turmoil and upheaval. It is always accompanied by rebellion against Islam as well. Depending upon how much inculcation of faith had been done in earlier years and depending upon how much of the faith was built upon rational understanding of the Deen, the degree and duration of rebellion varies. Regardless of the magnitude, it is deadly both from a social and Islamic point of view and creates problems in this
life as well as destroys Aakhirah (Hereafter) of the youth.

The possibility of this outcome increases considerably if the parents allow their children to spend a lot of time socializing with their non-Muslim friends outside of the school hours.

2.    The youth become hypocrites: secretly compromising their purity and chastity, while publicly acting as ‘good’ Muslims.

The degree of compromise in this case again varies according to the strength of family ties and depth of the faith. It may vary from minor incursions to serious violations of Islamic code in illicit affairs. This trains/encourages the youth to practice duplicity and hypocrisy, creates a psyche of acceptance of sin, destroys conscience, strengthens the preference for worldly pleasures, and causes disregard for Allaah’s displeasure and the Aakhirah.

This situation develops when parents are taking their children to Islamic programs and Muslim family get-togethers and watching their behaviour carefully, while still allowing them to freely socialize with non-Muslims.

3.    The young person continuously tries to avoid sinful behaviour in wake of the continuous barrage of pressures and in that struggle develops deep psychological problems.

Those young persons who have accepted the faith rationally, have deep attachment to it and, hence, try to practice it sincerely, are put through a very tough test of nerves. In their struggle to do so, in the absence of a sufficient support structure and a supporting environment, they may develop psychological problems (such as depression, an angry personality, pessimistic tendencies and loneliness), anti-social attitude and bad human relations traits.

This outcome occurs when the youth themselves are sincere believers and the parents maintain strict Islamic environment at home and do not allow the children to socialize with non-Muslims out of school at all.

4.    The youth get married before they are forced by the pressures to compromise their religious principles and conscience, regardless of how much more they have to study and how dependent they still are on their parents for support and finances.

This is like providing the youth with protective clothing that helps them wade through the pool without getting wet.

Those who get married early are better able to cope with the environment of permissiveness, are saved from sin or compromising attitude towards sin, and will be well placed to develop a mature personality, social skills, sense of responsibility and sincerity of faith.

This outcome is possible only when both the parents and youth are sincere Muslims, are loyal to Islamic principles rather than their cultural traditions or western norms and are courageous to do the right thing rather than follow the customs of the society.

It is for this reason of protection of the chastity that the Qur-aan uses the Arabic word "Hisn" or "fortress" for marriage, suggesting that marriage is 'Ihsaan' -  i.e. 'protection' or 'fortification'.  A male who marries is a Muhsin, i.e. or 'protector
through fortification of marriage' and a woman who is married is Muhsanah, 'one who is protected by fortification'.  Examples of the use of these words to connote such meanings are in the following verses:

§    "All women other than those aforementioned are lawful for you provided you seek them by paying your wealth (Mahr ) as Muhsin (protecting through marital contract), not promiscuously."  An-Nisaa 4:24

§    "Marry them with the permission of their guardians, and pay them an appropriate amount of Mahr, so that they become protected in wedlock (Muhsanaat), not promiscuous or involved in secret friendships." An-Nisaa 4:25

§    "Also lawful for your are the chaste Muslim women and chaste women from those who were given the book
before you, but only when you have paid them their Mahr as protectors in wedlock (Muhsin), not engaging
in licentiousness or secret friendships."  Al-Maaidah 5:5

The Prophet also urged youth to get married for this protection:

"O youth, whoever of you can handle the responsibilities, he should get married because it lowers the gaze and protects the private parts. However, those who cannot, they should keep fasts because it will diminish their desires."  (Bukhari
from Abdullaah Ibn Masaood).

Hence, the youth who marry at a very early age are ‘protected’ from the negative influences from which the youth in the first three categories are not.

Given these four possible outcomes, it would appear that every Muslim parent living in Western societies would be wedding their children early while they were still studying and dependent on them for financial help; and every Muslim youth would be anxious to get married early and would be seeking their parents’ help in this regard. But that is not the case.

Unfortunately, these issues are the least of parents’ worries until it is too late and they see the problems staring them in their face. Many parents do not even think about these things until it is too late and their children have already rebelled as per the first category or become secret violators as per the second outcome. Those parents whose children are in the
second (hypocritical) category, keep believing that their children are exceptionally good as if they are immune to the immense pressures they are exposed to. They usually are very proud of their children, admire them profusely and have absolute confidence in their purity, not knowing the secrets of their lives. Any suggestion about something going on behind the scenes makes them extremely angry and defensive. They often boast about their children praying and reciting
(parroting) the Qur-aan as if it proves that there is nothing wrong in their lives. The reality strikes home only when an illegitimate pregnancy results or they themselves somehow catch their children’s un-Islamic conduct. Then they are devastated with shock.

The parents of youth in the third category usually blame everything around them for their child’s personality problems. The Muslim community around them considers them (parents, youth or both) extremists and faults them for their extremism. Hardly anybody realizes that it is basically the young person’s continuous inner battle with the pressures from the society and their natural needs that is destroying and has destroyed their personality -- a problem for which the parents and the community themselves are largely responsible by putting the youth up for an un-winnablebattle, and by not helping the poor young souls get married at that age when they need it the most.

Are parents failing their children?

Usually the community’s and parents’ paradigm for children’s marriage is to let them marry only after completing their education, becoming established in their career and being financially independent. No one cares how the child copes in the meantime, nor does any one think if it is even possible to stay dry while treading water. The moral and spiritual costs of the delay are not even considered because it is taken for granted that the youth will just practice ‘patience’.

This is an outdated paradigm that is setting up our next generation for failure either in this world or Hereafter or both. It is guaranteed to create a generation that is lost in the first two categories or that is psychologically unhealthy to advance the Islamic mission as per the third category. If our attachment to Islamic teachings is not limited to empty words and hollow claims, we must open our hearts and minds and seriously explore creative ways of helping youth live clean Islamic lives and help them get married when they need it the most, not when they can ‘afford’ or are ‘well-equipped’ for it. Islamic teachings such as the following should be kept in consideration.

"Marry off the singles among you and your fit slaves, both males and females. If they be poor, Allaah will enrich them out of His bounty."  An-Noor 24:32

"When you receive a proposal (from a person) whose religious practice and social behaviour is pleasing, marry off your daughter to him. Otherwise, (i.e. Not accepting the proposal from the pious person, but continuing to wait for someone else) will cause great problems and troubles in the society."  (Tirmidhi)

"Do not delay three matters:
Salaah, when its time approaches;
Burial, when body is ready;
Marriage of a woman, when an acceptable match is found."  (Tirmidhi, Ahmad)

Allaah takes responsibility to help three persons:

A person who gets married to maintain chastity;
A slave who has made deal to pay for his freedom;
A fighter in the way of Allaah.    (Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasaai, Ibn Maajah, Haakim)

If non-Muslim youth can go on dating and having sex before finishing studies or establishing themselves financially, at the very immature ages of 13, 14, 15, etc. while their parents continue to support their studies and their living expenses, why can Muslim youth not get married while continuing to be supported to complete their studies and living expenses by their
respective parents? If the society supports an illegitimate mother with all its resources and compassion, why is it that a married mother could not be supported in the same fashion? Why should fulfilling natural needs legally and legitimately be a hindrance to the youth completing their education and establishing themselves in their careers while illegitimate fooling around does not?

The new paradigm for the Muslim parents who care for their child’s well-being in this world and Hereafter and who want or care for their children to have an honest, Islamic and healthy personality is that:

When a youth (your son or daughter) feels that he/she cannot continue without compromising their Islamic behaviour, help them in getting married immediately and let both parents continue taking care of their son or daughter, as they would have if they were not married at that early age. We have to think of creative ways to enable such arrangements. We must explore and evaluate different arrangements such as both spouses continue to stay with their parents and meet on the weekends, until they can afford to live together.

There are parents who do want to help their children marry young and keep supporting them until they are able to stand on their own feet. But they need counterparts who are willing to give their son or daughter in such an arrangement. Unfortunately, there are not many parents and youth around who have accepted this new paradigm. The Muslim community needs to talk about these issues and open their minds and adopt new ways that will allow us to honour the law of Allaah SWT and teachings of Islam without making any compromises or without putting people in situations
where they are hard pressed to violate them. Let us not put our youths’ faith through too hard a test! Let us provide them the protection they deserve.

Although it is difficult to shift the paradigm with which we have lived all our life and is the only model we are familiar with, we owe it to our own success in the Hereafter and we owe it our children to provide them a chance to live a healthy life.

Are youth failing the Deen?

The above-mentioned points were considerations for parents to think about. The questions for the youth to consider are:

If you do not get a chance to get married early as has been suggested above, does it absolve you from your responsibility of keeping yourself, pure, modest and chaste in your thoughts, gaze, words, communications and behaviour?

Tomorrow on the Day of Judgment, when the record of your actions is presented to you, would you be able to justify to the satisfaction of Allaah SWT if you did not meet His expectations as mentioned above?

Will your excuse of the pressures of the environment be acceptable to Allaah or will the delay in your marriage be a justifiable reason for your transgressions in the sight of Allaah SWT?

If not, and they will not be, then save yourself by lowering the gaze, fasting, avoiding or minimizing to your utmost those situations that put your resolve to test, and being steadfast, patient and persevering in Islamic behaviour. Keep the following in mind:

§    "O youth, whoever of you can handle the responsibilities, he should get married because it lowers the gaze and protects the private parts. However, those who cannot, they should keep fasts because it will diminish their desires." (Bukhari from Abdullaah Ibn Masaood).

§    "The fornication of the eyes is the sight, the fornication of the tongue is the talk, and the heart
lusts and desires and the private parts testify all this or deny it." (Aboo Hurayrah, Bukhari)

§    "Eyes fornicate and their fornication is look, ears' fornication is listening, tongue's fornication is talking, hands' fornication is touching and feet's fornication is walking. The heart lusts and desires and the private parts either confirm it or deny it." (Muslim)


§    Muslim youth must get married, for their own sake, before they breakdown under the pressures they encounter.

§    Parents and community must shift their current paradigm, and help the youth and facilitate their getting married early, despite the opposite trends prevalent in our societies.

§    In a society that accepts youth having sex against the laws of God while they continue to be supported by the parents and the society, we must provide them the opportunity to get married according to the Laws of God, while continuing to help the married youth in their studies, finances and personal development.

Ayub Hamid

Home - Quran & HadithCharity - Family & HealthIslamMiscellaneousMatrimonials

Human Rights - WomenNewscenterBoycottChechnyaPalestine - Links