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Article 1: Sharing Beliefs – What sexuality means to Muslim Women Living in Australia

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a) What ethical teachings are described in this article?
This article deals with the ethical teachings surrounding the meaning of sexuality for Iranian women living in Australia. This ethical question is discussed through a study that interviewed Muslim women of Iranian descent of different ages, marital status, occupational backgrounds and educational levels in order to gauge an understanding of how women view their sexual role under the teachings of Islam.

b) Specifically what does the article explain about teachings from the Qur’an?
This article clearly outlines specific teachings from the Qur’an and how they influence the views of Islamic women. It outlines that the Qur’an defines sexual obedience as “one of the items of marital contract, known as a mutual agreement, which is subject to be broken if the husband does not comply with responsibilities accepted by himself in the marital contract.” This is one of the key teachings that guide the women in determining their sexual role, as it clearly outlines that sex is not permitted outside of marriage. Later in the article it also becomes clear that the Muslim Iranian women who were interviewed in this study use a number of teachings from the Quran to explain their sexual role. For example, a woman named Afagh (a 45 year old teacher of Islamic materials), uses the Quran to justify that ‘It is a woman’s duty to satisfy her husband in any sexual occasion, otherwise she has rejected Allah’s word and the whole Quran is Allah’s words.’ Another example arises later in the comments of Amineh, who revealed how they use the Quran as a model “When we look at Prophet Muhammad, who is our model, he always admired females and valued them…According to the Prophet’s life stories, sex was not something which should be left aside.” Therefore, it is clear that the teachings of the Quran are very important in allowing females to define their sexual roles.

c) Are there matters of interpretation to be considered? How are these approached? (i.e/ what is the process of Fiqh?)
The ethical question surrounding the role of women in Islam does have matters of interpretation to be considered, but according to the article these questions are answered and confirmed in the Quran. Almost all of the 51 women use the teachings of the Quran in some way to justify their view of their sexual role. Therefore, Fiqh doesn’t need to be considered.

d) Are there exceptions to this teaching or variations in how it is expressed in the Islamic Community?
The article acknowledges that there are variations surrounding the sexual role of women in Islam. Most scholars and women believe that a woman’s role in her sexual life is validated through the institution of marriage and exercising obedience to her husband is expected in the teachings. However, the article explains that some Muslims believe that sexuality is not as central an aspect of life as other features (such as spirituality, the observance of rites, prayer and caring for other people). Later in the article the author concludes that the results he collected from interviews with the Iranian Muslim women did not support those presented by earlier Islamic scholars such as Ghazali (who portrayed women as hunters and men as passive victims) and Aqqad (who believed in male supremacy). Rather, the article concluded that women viewed their sexuality as a tool in succeeding in marriage, describing their sexuality as ‘a vehicle to progress.’ It is important to note that there were also variations among the women themselves; for example, only nine out of fifty one women believed that sexual obedience is a woman’s duty. Thus, this article outlines variations in interpretation that exist surrounding the topic of female sexuality within Islam among both scholars and the Iranian Islamic women interviewed as part of the study.

e) What is the link between the ethical teachings of Islam described in the article and the wider teachings of Islam?
This article uses the principal beliefs of Islam to enhance the discussion about the ethical question of a woman’s sexual role in Islam. The article discusses the teachings of worship (Ibadah), obedience (Taah) and submission (Tamk’n) and how women use these to justify or describe their sexual role. The article links these teachings to the principle beliefs of the oneness of Allah (Tawhid), the Prophets (Rusul) and Judgment Day (Akhira). Tawhid is the central doctrine of the Islam faith demonstrated through the worship and submission toward Allah. All of the ethical teachings and viewpoints outlined in the article are based on this belief. The belief in the prophets is demonstrated through the reference to the Prophet Muhammad as a model for Muslim life. One Muslim woman says “he (The Prophet Muhammad) had sex at least once a week with each of his wives…in any occasion even in battlefields.” Lastly, the belief in Judgment day is expressed as the punishment for any acts of haram. For example “almost all articulated the belief that the wife had to be always sexually prepared for her husband, otherwise she would be judged negatively in her afterlife.” Ultimately, the wider teachings of Islam help women to better articulate how they view their sexual role.

Step 3 and 4

1.) What does the Quran say about sex outside of marriage?
The Islamic ethical teachings for unmarried Muslim women living in Australia are exactly the same as those living in other countries as they are guided by the Quran and Hadith. Pre-marital sex (or any sexual intercourse outside of marriage) is fornication (Zina) and strictly forbidden in the Islamic religion. It is a sin that is punishable by the Islamic court. If a woman and man are found committing pre-marital sex they will be punished as per Allah’s words “scourge each of them a hundred whips; and in the matter of Gods religion, let no tenderness for them seize you if you believe in God and the Last Day; and let a party of the believers witness their punishment.”

2.) If a woman’s role is to provide a family and children, then do the teachings of Islam consider procreation to be the sole purpose of sex?
Islam considers sex to be both a means of procreation and also of pleasure. In the Quran it confirms that procreation is the primary purpose of marriage, ‘Whoever chooses to follow my tradition must get married and produce offspring through marriage (and increase the population of Muslims) so that on the day of resurrection I shall confront other Ummah (nations) with the (great) numbers of my Ummah.’ However, there is evidence to suggest that sex is also used for pleasure. A verse in the Quran tells of the Prophet Zakariya who continued to have sex with his wife when she reached menopause, “He Zakariya said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son, when my wife is barren and I have grown quite decrepit from old age? He said: So (it will be): thy Lord saith, that is easy for Me: I did indeed create thee before, when thou hadst been nothing!” This verse signifies that sex may be used for pleasure. Thus, although a Muslim woman’s primary duty in having sex is to procreate, she may also have sex for her own pleasure. Mumtaz & Mills, 2018

3.) How do Islamic women view their role in marriage? Does this have an impact on how they view their sexual role?
In Islam, it is believed that a successful and loving marriage is formed when both the husband and wife perform their duties and responsibilities. It is a husband’s duty to clothe, feed and support the wife (and children) with kindness, love and care. Muslim women often admire the hard work of their husbands and feel that it is their duty to reward and thank them in the best way they can, which is sexual intercourse. In an interview with a married Muslim teacher, Heather Fagan, she acknowledged that “men are driven by sex – women want to give their husband the small rights that he has.” Muslim women never feel pressured or obliged to have sex, but rather, feel it is their duty to do so. Muslim women also look to their model, the Prophet Muhammad, who taught that in order to engage in sexual intercourse the husband must please the wife first. They look to Muhammad’s many marriages and the importance he placed on sex in his lifetime. Ultimately, both the husband and wife have the right and responsibility to love, guide, protect and please the other. If both the husband and wife do this, they will create a loving marriage where sex is a mutual agreement. Fagan, 2018

4.) What are Muslim women’s views regarding obedience and worship – is it to Allah or their husband first?
All Muslim people, men and women, worship to Allah first and foremost before all else. Women are no exception to this and should therefore worship and obey Allah before their husbands. In an interview, Muslim women, Heather Fagan and Sarah Yolcu, acknowledged that it has become a misconception, even within the Islamic community, that Muslim women worship to their husbands first. This is mostly due to the misrepresentation and lies of the media. Heather and Sarah confirmed that worship and obedience to the husband is a way of expressing obedience and worship to Allah, not the other way around. This is proven in the most important belief of their religion, Tawhid, which is the belief that God (Allah) is at the centre of all life and that everything else revolves around him. This links to the rights and responsibilities that exist within marriage where the husband and wife are viewed as garments (“for each other”) and made equal by obeying the needs of the other, thus ultimately obeying and worshiping Allah. Therefore, worshipping one’s husband is a means of expressing one’s love and obedience to Allah. Fagan and Yolcu, 2018

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This was a useful source in my research as it had up to date statistics to support the argument. It was valid as it is a government issued. Lastly, it is non-bias as it focuses on facts and provides different perspectives from the Iranian women to support the argument.

M, Ghaffari; Z, Gharghani; Y, Mehrabi; A, Ramezankhani; M, Movahed. (2016). Premarital Sexual intercourse Related individual factors among Iranian Adolescents: A Qualitative Study. Retrieved on 1st May 2018, from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4863361/

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How does Quran 3:108-110 relate to your chosen aspect of sexual ethics?
Quran 3:108-110 is an all-encompassing statement clarifying the importance of the Quran as the mouthpiece of Allah’s wishes, thoughts and aspirations for his people. The ethical teaching of women’s sexual roles within Islam is expressed in this verse of the Quran specifically through “You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.” The ethical teachings surrounding the issue of female sexuality were derived by a series of interpretations of what Allah recited to be right (halal) and wrong (haram) and ultimately the desire to worship him solely. All Muslim people acknowledge that sex outside of marriage is unlawful and considered haram. This is based on the teachings of the Quran, which states that If a woman and man are found committing pre-marital sex they will be punished as per Allah’s words, “scourge each of them a hundred whips; and in the matter of Gods religion, let no tenderness for them seize you if you believe in God and the Last Day.” Due to this teaching, women and scholars limit their discussion about sexual ethics to within marriage (what is halal). A study was conducted that interviewed 51 Muslim women of different ages, backgrounds and marital statuses to determine the different ways that women view their roles. The primary view that was taken from this study was that obedience to the husband and fulfillment of the role as a wife is seen as a pathway to obeying Allah, which is the ultimate goal. Women view sex as a vehicle for success in their marriage as it is a way of pleasing their husband. Afgah, a female teacher of Islamic materials, stated that “It is a woman’s duty to satisfy her husband in any sexual occasion, otherwise she has rejected Allah’s word and the whole Quran is Allah’s words.” Women believe that by obeying their husbands they are obeying Allah’s words and doing what is halal. The women believe that Judgement Day will be the test of how successful they have been in fulfilling their sexual role. Ultimately, obedience and worship of Allah’s wishes, thoughts and aspirations will lead to fulfillment of the aspirations Allah expressed for his people in the Quran.

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Bibliography – Article 1

A, Amini. (2017). The duties of women: the purpose of marriage. Retrieved on 30th April, from: http://english.almaaref.org/essaydetails.php?eid=470&cid=91

E, Mansor; F, Eunos; O, Sidek. (2018).Purposes of sex in Islam.

Purposes of Sex in Islam

Islam.org. (2018). The Islamic sexual Morality. Retrieved on 28th April 2018, from: https://www.al-islam.org/marriage-and-morals-islam-sayyid-muhammad-rizvi/chapter-three-islamic-sexual-morality-2-its#pre-marital-sex

M, Frostrup. (2017). I don’t want to have sex with my Husband anymore. Retrieved 28th April, 2018, from: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jul/02/dear-mariella-i-dont-want-sex-with-my-husband

M, Ghaffari; Z, Gharghani; Y, Mehrabi; A, Ramezankhani; M, Movahed. (2016). Premarital Sexual intercourse Related individual factors among Iranian Adolescents: A Qualitative Study. Retrieved on 1st May 2018, from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4863361/

S, Mumtaz; A/R, Mills. (N/A). Sex in Islam: Its Role and Purpose. Retrieved on 3rd May, 2018, from: https://www.zawaj.com/articles/sex_mumtaz.html

Interviews

H, Fagan; S, Yolcu. (2018, May 3rd). Women in Sexual Ethics.

Article 2: Why Islam permitted Birth Control

a) What ethical teachings are described in this article?
This article discusses the ethical teachings surrounding the importance of family and rights of women in Islam. This is discussed through the topic of birth control and the reasons why it is permitted in Islam.

b) Specifically what does the article explain about teachings from the Qur’an?
The article confirms that the Qur’an has no reference to contraception specifically. Due to this, birth control was discussed through a process of Fiqh, which drew on references in the Hadith, Ijma (consensus among Muslim religious scholars) and Qiyas (a legal tool where existing rulings are extended to cover new situations).

c) Are there matters of interpretation to be considered? How are these approached? (i.e/ what is the process of Fiqh?)
There were definitely matters of interpretation to be considered in the discussions about birth control, as there was no specific reference to it in the Quran. Scholars went through a careful process in order to derive the most faithful and accurate consensus regarding birth control. The article summarizes the process of Fiqh in four steps: (1) The Quran, (2) the example of the Prophet (Hadith and Sunna), (3) analogical reasoning (Giyas) and (4) consensus of the religious scholars (Ijma). Since birth control is not mentioned in the Quran, Muslim jurists used the Hadith and their biological knowledge to argue the subject of contraception. This argument was then solidified in the third and fourth sources of Islamic law (Qiyas and Ijma) as the majority of jurists reached the same conclusion about contraception. Thus, through this process of Fiqh, contraception was deemed licit in Islam.

d) Are there exceptions to this teaching or variations in how it is expressed in the Islamic Community?
Out of all the Islamic writings about birth control there was only one jurist who condemned it completely. This was a Spanish scholar named Ibn Hzm who belonged to the Zahiri school of Law. He argued that birth control and abortion are the same thing and since the Quran prohibits abortion so too does it prohibit contraception. This became an important exception to the wider belief of other jurists as it forced them to solidify their argument by counteracting his. After discussion it was agreed that in Islamic law abortion was applicable only after the fetus was born and that contraception applies before a fetus is formed. Therefore clarifying the distinction between birth control and abortion and thus ruling on contraception.

e) What is the link between the ethical teachings of Islam described in the article and the wider teachings of Islam?
The ethical teachings of the importance of family and rights of women explored in this article through the discussion of birth control directly links to the three principle beliefs of Islam of Tawhid (One God), Rusul (Prophets) and the books of Allah (Shahada). The Islamic jurists based their argument for birth control on Tawhid, which is the belief in the oneness of God. They also made reference to the Prophet Muhummad in the Hadith and his views on the topic. Finally, the article uses the Hadith and Sunna (Shahada) to find information about birth control that isn’t mentioned in the Quran. Therefore, the discussion surrounding the importance of family in regards to birth control was carried out using their wider teachings and beliefs.

Step 3 and 4

1. What has Islam Sharia law ruled about different methods of contraception?
Sharia law has ethical rulings for two areas of contraception: permanent irreversible contraception and temporary reversible contraception. Permanent irreversible contraception refers to the type of contraception that is carried out when a couple doesn’t want to have a baby. This includes a vasectomy or tubectomy, which renders a couple incapable of a having a baby. This type of contraception is unlawful (haram) and is not permitted within Islam. This ruling is supported by messages from the prophets and Islamic jurists. An exception to this rule is if a woman is in danger and it is a necessity for her to undergo permanent irreversible contraception. Temporary reversible contraceptive methods (coitus interruptus), which are discussed in the article, refer to anything that isn’t permanent (such as the pill or condoms etc). This method of contraception is accepted in a genuine situation (such as an ill or weak wife, the need to space out children or an unstable marriage) and with the permission of the wife. Temporary reversible contraceptive methods are not accepted in situations that Sharia law doesn’t specify. These may include, the fear of poverty and being unable to provide or the fear of having a girl. However, the rulings for the morning after pill or any other method of contraception that acts after the egg has been fertilized is different to the general rulings about reversible contraception as it could possibly be considered abortion, which is haram in Islam. These methods may only be used in extreme medical situations and with the advice of specialized Muslim doctors and jurists. Shaykh (mufti) Muhammad Ibn Adam, 2018.

2. How important is family in Islam? What is a woman’s role within her family?
Family is considered to be at the heart of the Islamic faith. Muslims believe that Allah created family and its importance was demonstrated through their model the prophet Muhammad who married and raised his own family. The Quran clearly outlines that men and women are different and therefore have different roles in their families. The Quran (49:13) states that: “O mankind we have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another.” The role of a Muslim woman is to fulfill her role as a wife and a mother. This involves supporting her husband, providing children and teaching them about halal and haram. Family is a very important part of the Islamic faith as it strengthens the Muslim community and allows women to fulfill their religious duties. BBC bitesize, 2018

3. What role do the husband and wife have in deciding whether to use birth control?
According to Islamic Sharia law the wife has the right to use contraception without permission from her husband, unless it comes in the way of his conjugal rights (for example, forcing him to use a condom). This extends the idea that a husband’s marital rights are that a woman should be sexually able and active for him, and not that she should provide a baby. A husband has no right to force his wife to use contraception if she doesn’t want to, however, he is allowed to use a condom if he has permission from his wife. The decision to have a baby is a personal decision made by the woman and under Islamic law she is given the rights to use contraception in order to do this. These legal restrictions were put in place to protect women’s basic rights, however, most Muslim couples make the decision to use contraception mutually out of love, mercy and cooperation. Islam.org, 2018

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Step 5

This website was a useful source in my research as it answered my question and supported it with relevant quotes from the Quran. It is valid as it is written and published by a reputable organisation (BBC bitesize). Lastly it provided a non-biased argument that was based on facts rather than opinions.

BBC Bitesize. (2018). What does Islam say about family life? Retrieved on 3rd May 2018, at https://www.bbc.com/education/guides/zk9whyc/revision/3

Step 6

How does Quran 3:108-110 relate to your chosen aspect of sexual ethics?
The verse Quran 3:108-110 is an important reference point when considering Muslim ethical teachings as it conveys Allah’s hopes, desires and aspirations for his community. The ethical teachings surrounding the importance of family and rights of women in Islam are expressed through the discussion about birth control. As a contemporary issue that isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Quran, the issue of birth control has been a point of contention for many Muslim scholars. The discussion has been taken through a strict process of Fiqh, considering what is written in the Hadith as well as ijma (analogical reasoning) and qiyas (consensus among scholars). Based on this process birth control was permitted under Sharia law. However, in addition to this, scholars also looked to what is mentioned in the Quran as further evidence of why birth control should be permitted. Quran 3:108-110, “Allah wants no injustice to the worlds” supports reasons why birth control was permitted. Birth control was deemed licit if falling pregnant will put a women’s life in danger. Therefore, birth control ensures the safety and protection of women, thus adhering to Allah’s wishes. Furthermore, the ruling to allow birth control was supported by strict rules that give women the right to choose whether or not to she will have a baby and not feel forced by her husband, ensuring no injustice. The statement “To Allah belongs whatever is on heaven and on earth” further supports the argument about birth control as it proves that Allah’s wishes and desires are stronger than any contraceptive method. This is evidenced by ‘accidental pregnancies’ when a women falls pregnant even with the use of birth control, thus proving that Allah’s wishes and desires for his community will come true. Therefore, decisions about birth control were made on the premise of Allah’s words and his broad reaching aspirations for the Islamic community.

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Bibliography

BBC Bitesize. (2018). What does Islam say about family life? Retrieved on 3rd May 2018, at https://www.bbc.com/education/guides/zk9whyc/revision/3

D, Macguire. (N/A). Contraception and abortion in Islam. Retrieved on 5th May, 2018, from: http://www.religiousconsultation.org/islam_contraception_abortion_in_SacredChoices.htm

Huda.(2018).The view of contraception in Islam. Retrieved on 2nd May, 2018, from: https://www.thoughtco.com/contraception-in-islam-2004440

Islam.org.(2018). Family planning. Retrieved on 3rd May, from:
https://www.al-islam.org/from-marriage-to-parenthood-heavenly-path-abbas-and-shaheen-merali/chapter-4-family-planning

Shaykh (mufti) Muhammad Ibn Adam. (2017). Birth Control and Contraception. Retrieved on 1st May, 2018, from:
https://central-mosque.com/index.php/Relationships/contraception-morning-after-and-surrogacy.html