Toward a sexual, social and Islamic culture without shyness [Archives:2006/1008/Reportage]

December 18 2006

Fatima Al-Ajel
[email protected]

In a conservative society like Yemen, it's unusual to talk about sexuality, even when discussing societal problems. Family problems and couples' sufferings are increasing due to lack of sexual, social and Islamic principles in Yemeni culture. Before writing this article, many individuals considered it shameful to write or even talk about such topics, especially living in a conservative and tribal environment.

The seminar was led by Dr. Heba Kotb, a marriage counselor and sex therapy consultant and a member of the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists; Dr. Mustafa Al-Momari, a counselor at the Creative Celebration Center and the Happy Family Center in Dubai and Dr. Abdullah Al-Adimi, a member of the European Foundation for Urinary Tracts and Infertility. They presented three papers at the seminar, which was under the banner, “Healthy family relations.”

They assured that most family problems result from misunderstanding the real meaning of social relations and the sex life between a husband and wife and the importance of opening conversations to discuss such topics, which will decrease divorce and family problems.

It was good to see many couples, doctors, specialists and others attend the discussion group for one purpose – to understand the real meaning of sex within Islamic concepts, as well as give themselves the opportunity to better understand their life.

Islam and sexuality

A sexual culture existed in Islam more than 14 centuries ago. The Qur'an emphasizes the spiritual objectives of marriage, making them the foundations of marital life. These objectives are realized in peace of mind, which comes through healthy sexual experience with the spouse, in the improvement of the circle of love and affection between the affection and tenderness among the children under the loving care of their parents. Al-Momari agreed with Kotb that the Qur'an doesn't neglect sensual aspects or the physical relationship between husband and wife. Rather, it guides humans to the best path, fulfilling the demands of the sexual urge while avoiding harmful or deviant practices.

“Jews and Arabs in the jahiliyyah period used to have physical contact with their wives only in hard conditions Such things were among the ignorance of the Jews, which helped increased forbidden relations during that period; whereas in Islam, every sexual thing is permitted, except those that might hurt the wife. For example, a husband may fondle and please his menstruating wife, only avoiding intercourse with her,” Al-Momari explained.

Reasons for family problems

Family problems begin from the initial step of engagement when an unsuitable spouse is chosen. Men and women mostly seek an opposite companion to complete his or her character, but this is wrong. “It's better to look for a character similar to you physically and spiritually because this will create better harmony between you and your spouse. People think this isn't enough reason for problems, but it's one of the major causes of problems,” Kotb commented.

Ideas about manhood are another reason. Men from cultures teaching them to be tough and macho cause many husbands to treat their wives like adversaries rather than partners. The husband feels that he's the boss and whatever he says goes, which is a result of a macho society.

Arab men grow up with the idea that they must control and be heavy handed. They believe women are their possessions, so the wife must obey her husband without objection or expressing her opinion. Therefore, she feels must squeeze everything she can out of her husband. Some wives never show their husband that they are satisfied with anything he does or buys for them in order to trick him into doing and buying more. In some cases, it's a way to forget their failed sex life.

“Some husbands speak very harshly to their wives, humiliate them and even physically abuse them. Their wives have no voice or opinion in the family, so they feel they are unable to satisfy their husbands and themselves as well. Many husbands mostly are selfish; they always look for their own pleasure and neglect their wives' emotions,” Kotb added.

Unfortunately and despite the difficulty of international communication, negative sexuality that traditionally and recently evolved in the West has penetrated Arab and Yemeni society's moral fabric too, despite the difficulty of international communication. Now with improved means of communication and regular international contacts, modern Western speculation is virtually flooding Arab and Yemeni society, which leads to more problems between parents and the new generation.

Many couples considering divorce due to sexual infidelity are coming to Kotb's sexology clinic from all Arab countries and Yemen as well. When figuring out the main reasons for this phenomenon, it was found that a spouse's carelessness and the large gap between husband and wife are enough reasons for unfaithfulness. What is surprising is that wives' infidelity now has become more than husbands', which means there's a big problem men must search for and try to solve directly.

“After I opened my sexology clinic, I receive many divorce cases, especially involving infidelity among newlyweds. After two months, the new couple gets divorced,” Kotb said.

Advice for couple

The three specialists advised both husbands and wives that the physical relationship is important. “Be available to your mate sexually and don't let your sexual relationship be characterized by selfishness. Show affection for your mate. Be kind, gentle and loving. The Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) reportedly said: 'It's not appropriate that you fall upon your wives like a beast, but you must send a message of love beforehand,'” Al-Momari reminded.

Although many couples may be in failing marriages right now and on a fast track to divorce and its terrible consequences as a result of ignorance about marital life, there are many ways to put their marriage back on the right track if the husband and wife are sincere in their desire to resolve problems. Many Islamic principles can be used by Muslims whose marriages already are in trouble or by those who would like to avoid trouble in their marriage.

Too often, husbands and wives live in the same house but know nothing about each other's lives, so it would be great if husbands and wives could sit together. “Be your spouse's friend. Show interest in your mate's life,” Kotb suggested, “Show appreciation for what your spouse does for you, make her or him satisfied with his work or his efforts.”

Al-Momari agreed with Kotb in their remarks to male attendees, “As a husband, you have to know that your wife needs to hear that you appreciate her. If she takes care of the house and the children, don't take it for granted. It's hard work and no one likes to feel unappreciated.”

Kotb pointed out, “I repeat this many times: 'Communication, Communication, Communication!' This is the big word in counseling and it's the main solution to many family problems, as it should be. Husbands and wives need to talk to each other and both need sweet words. Express your nice feeling to your spouse and don't keep it in your heart or let them guess that you love him or her. It's better to deal with problems early and honestly than to let them pile up until an explosion occurs.”

Chewing qat also has negative affects upon the marital life of couples. “Recent research considers qat a stimulant but its effects take a long time. It mostly increases sexual desire, but it also leads to sexual impotence,” Al-Adimi commented.

Simple solutions in Islam

If one takes a significant and profound look at all of the abovementioned positive feelings, one can conclude that the simplest way to express affection is to talk gently with one's partner, taking special care to be a sweet talker. This usually means saying nice words, such as flattering the other person's good looks or elegance, expressing positive feelings like love, missing or appreciation, as well as being thankful whenever indicated.

Overall, it involves always being aware of the other person's feelings, whether positive or negative, such as happiness or sadness, and always being supportive and bonded with each other as one unit. Many other positive feelings can be concluded and are included in the global meaning of sincere affection.

It's unacceptable for a Muslim man just to satisfy himself while ignoring his wife's needs. Experts agree that a man's basic psychological needs are respect and sexual satisfaction, while for women, it's love. Neither respect nor love can be forced; rather, they must be worked for and earned.

The Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) stated that in one's sexual intimacy with one's life partner, there is sadaqa (worship through giving): “In the sexual act of each of you, there is sadaqa, which means charity.”

Attendees' viewpoints

Husbands attended the seminar with their wives to gain future benefits, in addition to specialists, interested individuals, businessmen, journalists and others. Their general viewpoints were positive, as well as those concerning the lectures. When asking some attendees about the seminar, they commented as follows:

Newlywed Abdulrab Al-Samawi came with his wife to learn more about the main concepts of marital life in Islam. “I do agree with Dr. Mustafa Al-Momari and Dr. Heba Kotb that they are right when saying Muslim women have rights and should be treated nicely. Islam gives women everything to make them happy in life. They have rights as mothers, wives and sisters and a man has rights as well.”

His wife, Asma Al-Saba'i, a housewife, commented that she learned many new concepts about marriage issues, especially how a wife should deal with her husband in both normal and married life. She hoped to attend more lectures discussing such topics because, “As you know, we aren't educated enough in such topics,” she commented.

Pharmacist Dr. Jamal Awad pointed out that those presenting the seminar were successful. “They provided us with highly valued information and knowledge, especially regarding new, more productive medicines and explaining their benefits,” he added.

Doctor Fardus Ahmad remarked, “I'm lucky to attend such a lecture. I just married six months ago and I don't know enough about married life. Really, it's the first time I've learned that the husband has such duties toward his wife.”

Nadia Salah, a married teacher, mentioned that the symposium was great. “For me, I received a lot of information about marriage from my relatives and friends' experiences, but they were incomplete and some were wrong. In attending this seminar, I corrected my thoughts about marriage in general and couples' duties toward each other specifically. If my husband had attended with me, he really would have benefited too,” she added.

However, some attendees disagreed with what was discussed at the seminar, saying there's no need to talk about such topics. One mother who attended commented, “If I had known they would discuss such topics, I never would have come. My husband asked me to attend it with him; otherwise, I wouldn't have come.”