As part of the series of interactive dialogues facilitated between youth and different sets of stakeholders to advocate for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) for young girls and boys, a dialogue between Youth and Religious Scholars was arranged at Islamabad on January 22, 2010.
The dialogue was facilitated by:-
1. Dr. Anjum Rizvi, Director, Program Management Division, Rahnuma-FPAP.
2. Ms. Amna Akhsheed, Director, Adolescent/Women Empowerment, Rahnuma- FPAP.
3. Ms. Nabila Malick, Director, Advocacy & Donor Liaison, Rahnuma-FPAP.
Among the Panelists were:
1. Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan, Religious Scholar & Vice Chancellor, University of Swat.
2. Professor Azhar-ul-Haq, Religious Scholar & Associate professor for Islamic Studies, Government College Sawabi.
3. Ms. Koukab Shehzad, Religious Scholar & Research Consultant, Ghamdi Institute of Religious Studies, Lahore.
4. Syed Kamal Shah, Chief Executive Officer, Rahnuma-FPAP.
5. Begum Surayya Jabeen, President, Rahnuma-FPAP.
Youth Volunteers from Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, Gilgit Baltistan and AJK participated in the dialogue.
Keeping in mind the burning questions that the youth wanted to ask and get guidance from the religious scholars, the main body of this dialogue was planned as a question and answer session that Nabila Malick, Director Advocacy and Resource Mobilization, facilitated.
Question & Answer Session
1. Is family planning allowed in Islam?
There is no evidence that suggests against it. There is anectodal evidence of practicing withdrawal as a method of FP during the early Islamic period. The emphasis on breast feeding for 2 years in Islam is also an indicator to the same
2. Is Masturbation forbidden in Islam?
The religious scholars explained that there was a varied stance on this issue among the different schools of thought among Muslims. According to the Imam Shafi school of thought, it is not allowed. As per Imam Abu Hanifa school of thought ‘Allah may not ask for the ones before marriage’ which implies that there is leniency for unmarried people. According to Imam Abu Hambel school of thought it is not forbidden. The scholars also stressed that the above mentioned schools of thought are widely practiced in the Muslim community and none can be termed as incorrect.
3. Does Islam allow for punishment to girls whose virginity is not proven by
bleeding/breakage of hymen?
No. there are many reasons for loss of virginity and it is not necessarily due to sexual intercourse. There are laws for committing adultery which put in trial under certain circumstances.
4. In Islam what is the responsibility of the state in providing Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) information and education to children and youth?
It is the responsibility of the State to provide a healthy environment in the society. Seeking information and knowledge on all aspects of life is strongly encouraged and SRH is no exception. Dr. Izhar also suggested that the pupils graduating from Madaris should be given a 2 week mandatory course by the state in order to inline their knowledge with current trends in the society.
5. What is the Islamic stance on abortion?
As per the Shariat court, abortion is divided into two categories, before 120 days and after 120 days. It was explained by the scholars that in Islam the ‘rooh’ or soul is developed in a fetus after 120 days therefore as per the Shariat Court, abortion can be conducted before 120 days to save the life of the mother and/or for necessary treatment of the mother. However, after 120 days abortion can be conducted only to save the life of the mother. It was categorically stated that Islam does not allow abortion as a method of family planning.
6. When there is an intention to get married, is the couple allowed to have sex in Islam?
No. This is strictly forbidden and falls under adultery.
7. Does Islam allow reading, watching or listening to any type of material relating to sex and/or reproductive health?
Acquiring useful information for the purpose of education, from any source is not prohibited in Islam. The Quran itself is quite explicit on SRH issues. However, vulgarity is strictly prohibited in Islam.
8. How does Islam view sexual abuse?
Any form of violence is forbidden in Islam and sexual abuse in no exception. Islam also provides guidelines for parents and guardians how to protect their children from being violated during early years of growing up.
9. Does Islam forbid Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) for children
No. Islam encourages education in all disciples of life and SRH is no exception. However, the scholars stressed that such information and education needs to be designed keeping in mind the age of the children and youth and also it is preferable that this education is imparted in gender segregated sessions. The scholars also emphasized that it is important to select the appropriate teachers for imparting this education and that they are provided with relevant trainings and the skill set required to handle youth issues effectively. If the subject falls in the wrong hands it can lead to further misconceptions and also exploitation of the children and youth.
10. Is marriage to the Quran allowed in Islamic jurisprudence?
No. It’s a cultural practice usually to keep the inheritance of the female in the family.
11. Is honour killing allowed in Islam?
No. In Islam no punishment is given by individuals but the state. Islam gives full liberty to all persons to choose the person they wish to marry
Dr. Farooq said that Islam does not permit vulgarity. However, in keeping up with modern age we have to equip our youth with all kind of information that may be helpful for them to cope with difficulties in their life.
Kaukab Shahzad said that couples must be given free hand to decide about their family size.
Dr. Izhar-ul-haq gave his suggestion that we must provide training to students graduating from Religious Institutions and “Madaris” on prevalent trends
The panel of religious scholars unanimously agreed that Islam does not prohibit imparting information and education on any topic and Sexual and Reproductive Health is no exception. Education for everyone is strongly encouraged in Islam, including children and youth. In fact, the Quran itself covers many issues related to SRH at great length quite explicitly. Islam has always advocated for seeking knowledge on aspects of human life and SRH is no exception.
The panelists also emphasized the vital role of parents and teachers in effectively addressing SRH related issues with children and youth. The panelists suggested that age appropriate information and education on SRH be provided to children, in gender segregated classes, in schools. Training of teachers imparting this education was stressed by the panelists.
The panel of religious scholars was pleased with the level of awareness and confidence amongst the participating youth. They appreciated the efforts of Rahnuma in putting forth this very important subject and extended their full support to the youth.