Intimacy is such a broad topic, such that it is described as 3 very different things: 1) close familiarity or friendship, 2) a cosy and private relaxed atmosphere or 3) sexual intercourse.
The definitions themselves set the scene. You have the relationship, you have the scenario and you have the consequence. However it’s not as simple as that, and for Muslims nowadays, talking about intimacy is definitely not as simple as whipping out dictionary definitions.
So, why are we talking about intimacy?
Are you slightly cringing at the thought of talking about this to people? Are you squeamish at the thought of ever talking about intimacy to your parents, or your siblings? Is this something that ever comes in conversation with friends without blushing?
Yes, that’s why.
We’ve decided to talk about intimacy because although there are those among us who do take the middle path, more often than not, we are either channelled into thinking that the opposite sex is “haram” or there are those who totally disregard the concept of hijab in behaviour and conduct – we’ll exploring why this is throughout the month.
So, is intimacy only those 3 definitions and how does this affect your mental health?
Without having this free dialogue with our elders or having open spaces to discuss these issues within our communities, we are leaving the younger generation to learn from sources that are not Islamically appropriate. For example, in schools where sex education is taught, they are most likely not given what Islam says about puberty or relationships. Of course, having this conversation with your parents is beyond imagination so you rely on movies, books, observing peer relationships and worse, pornography. This can become confusing, sometimes overwhelming; it can affect self – esteem due to comparison to “sexual health icons” or other relationships, it can have a similar effect on confidence and ability to communicate with the opposite sex. Viewing pornography repeatedly could easily lead to an addiction including masturbation which is forbidden in Islam, and this can add to the confusion, guilt, shame and anxiety you may be feeling. Research has also been conducted where moderate levels of depression have been found in those who view porn 3-5 times a week. It has been suggested that the lack of a partner in single people is what fuels the need to watch porn, thus acting as company (Skinner, 2011).
We’re sure that there is someone who is reading this that can relate to the above, and that’s okay. We’re not here to judge, nor label or diagnose but what we are here to do is to say that feelings of intimacy are a natural desire that we have been blessed with from Allah. They have important functions for the livelihood of this ummah, but there are boundaries in this balanced religion. Allah would not prohibit something without giving us good reason, or ways to control ourselves, and to help with this – is by talking about it. We are the ummah of Muhammed (pbuh) whose companions would have no shame in talking about wet dreams, or ask about periods, but it’s sad to say that we could not emulate such conduct. Our communities continue to ignore that much of the crises that Muslims, especially the youth are experiencing is rooted in sexual health and inadequate education of it. This is simply another part of our deen which is our responsibility to be versed on, and of course, in order to equip those around us with the right knowledge and tools to tackle these issues themselves and younger generations.
To kick start the conversation, we want to know what you think is important to discuss when talking about sexual health / Intimacy?