“Verily, there is a (special) morality of every religion. And the (special) morality of Islam is modesty” – Prophet Muhammad PBUH (Ibn Majah)
Modesty is an important characteristic of Islam. We are encouraged not just to dress modestly but to be modest in our character as well. The way we dress, talk, and interact with other people, it is not just a visual or physical concept but it has to do with the heart. Shyness has been described as a branch of Imaan and an emphasised characteristic to obtain. Contrary to what many people believe about Islam and cultural attitudes within Muslim families, this modesty applies to both men and women.
However there is a fine line between modesty and shame.
Shame is different. It’s associated with embarrassment and humiliation. We are often taught it from a young age. Don’t look, touch, say, even think…although it’s not always said out loud. We understand when to look away if we see something that we shouldn’t see and then there are the questions we have nowhere to ask.
Growing up, were you taught more about shame or modesty?
If instead of being told that intimacy and the opposite sex is “haram, haram, haram” for us, we are taught about this unique and spiritual relationship that we can aspire to have then perhaps as we grow we will be less likely to rebel and chase that which has been made more desirable due to the taboo label that it carries. A child will always want the thing that he or she is told they cannot have, especially when not properly informed as to why they are not allowed. Some young Muslims are taught their religion in such a way that they grow up believing that anything enjoyable is haram, even simply communicating with the opposite sex. The forbidden can become intriguing and as a result there are many waiting to grow up so they discover things for themselves.
Parents and older siblings should take the opportunity to educate the children while they remain in their care and in their houses, so that they feel free enough to have open discussion no matter how embarrassing it may be. The Prophet PBUH and the Sahabah were not shy to discuss these matters and there are many ahadith relating to intimacy and our bodies. People would openly ask questions and have these answered with the intention that they wanted to live their lives with more humility and to please Allah SWT. If we want the next generation to become young men and women who live their lives emulating the Prophet and his companions, we have to be the teachers, who emulate the Prophet and his companions.
In Islam, we are advised to start teaching children about the religion from the age of 7 from the pillars of Islam to dressing themselves, bathing themselves and moving into separate bedrooms. The age of puberty is when Salah becomes fard (obligatory), due to the child now having the ability to understand things of an adult nature and so their Islamic responsibilities begin and thus, education around intimacy should begin. Of course each child is unique and it is up to the educator how best to educate the child about sensitive issues in a way that is neither cringe-worthy or scare-mongering. However, nowadays, this is often left to the hands of schools, peers, and the mighty internet – not forgetting social media.
Huge importance is placed on parents and older siblings in being proactive and approaching the youngsters with these discussions and allowing open rhetoric so that they can learn in a safe place about such issues. If they are encouraged to come to their parents and elders with any questions or thoughts about themselves or a situation, then they will be less likely to tap into other sources of information which may give them a distorted view of intimacy. It is also absolutely vital that you as the parent, sibling or guardian are well educated on the topic of discussion too, to make sure the information that you have is up to scratch.
After all, what conversation can be more important than the one a guardian has with their younger in making sure they know how sacred their own and other people’s bodies are? In making sure how to protect themselves from all kinds of dangers? What is more beautiful than creating a healthy and nourishing environment for them to thrive with emotional and sexual intelligence from?
We want to delve deeper into issues around sexual health concerns in the Muslim community, particularly around pornography. If you feel this relates to you and you are 18+, please participate in our survey where your response will be 100% anonymous and will help us to produce leaflets, conduct workshops and help us supply important research and information to community leaders and more. Please follow the link here to take the survey.