Given the recent events concerning Dar Al-Hijrah and the statements made by Imam Shaker regarding the religious permissibility of female circumcision (i.e. Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting – FGM/C), I feel the strong need to share points of discussion that aren’t being considered in most circles. Given that I have worked extensively in the field of sexual health and not religious scholarship, many of my points relate to the former field with some elucidations to religious contexts with the support of an expert.
For those who are not aware of the situation, this recent Washington Post article will shed some light.
The following points are worth considering:
1. A valid explanation of “hypersexuality” is the following: “While some people mistakenly think that hypersexual disorders and sex addiction merely refers to an unusually high sex drive, it is much more complex than that. It is very similar to other addictions, which is evident upon closer examination of the various sex addiction signs.” Hypersexuality is not included in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness, Fifth Edition, which is used by psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose mental illnesses. Looking at other sources of information relating to hypersexuality elucidates that it consists of a complex and interwoven set of factors and symptoms that should not and cannot be simplified to “overactive libido/sexual desire.” Women (and men at that) who experience sexual desire and arousal are NOT hypersexual – they’re normal. Therefore, Muslim women and men who experience sexual desire and arousal are NOT hypersexual.
Furthermore, groundbreaking research in the field of female and male sex desire points to one conclusion that completely shatters the use of the term “hypersexuality” in the context used during Iman Shaker’s talk: only 15% of women experience spontaneous sexual desire whereas 85% of men do. Women’s sexual desire is more linked to context, not spontaneity. If anyone is going to be hypersexual in the manner the term is used in Imam Shaker’s talk, it’s men, not women.
|Emily Nagoski’s research on male and female sex drives|
3. The problem is also a pseudo-interpretation that is based on misogynistic culture that views ‘women as fitna‘ (inherently bad) due to their sexuality and that they are temptresses for men that need to be controlled and subdued. Unfortunately, this feeds this type of understanding and the global double standard that male sexuality is fine yet female sexuality is a problem that needs to be controlled. The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) made it clear that the sexual act was to be enjoyed equally for both the husband and wife and they are a source of peace and tranquillity to each other.
4. The other key issue is that it is important to contextualize the practice in relation to the maqasid of sharia (objectives) of Islam which are: Protection of life, Faith, Lineage, Sanity and Society/Property. FGM/C violates all these objectives. It is a practice that pre-dates Islam and has its roots in ancient Egypt with the most extreme practice being the Pharaonic method and again, the way of the Prophet was to differ from and distance from the practices of jahiliyah (pre-Islamic practices). Also, as far religious scriptural evidence, the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) did not practice this with his daughters and wives. The hadith that are often used in support of FGM are incredibly weak.
5. There are various types of FGM/C, but all of them impact the clitoris. The clitoris has one function and one function only – pleasure. Meanwhile, the penis has four: sensation, penetration, ejaculation and urination. The clitoris is not solely “the little nub on the top of the vulva.” Rather, it is “far-ranging mostly internal anatomical structure with a head emerging at the top of the vulva.” (Nagoski, 2015). Research into female sexual pleasure indicates that only 30% of women will achieve orgasm with intercourse whereas 70% through clitoral stimulation. The clitoris contains a myriad and complex network of nerve endings that as described above, travel down through the vulva and surrounds both the urethra (where women urinate from) and the vagina. Given that the sole function of the clitoris is pleasure, and the Islamic rights given to wives in the context of marriage to receive sexual pleasure during intimacy (and before her spouse at that with the added right that she can divorce her husband if she is not sexually satisfied) – are all indicative of the Divine design of female sexuality. The clitoris was designed with this intentional purpose – and going back to the above mentioned point – the Quran provides cognitive-based techniques for enjoining chastity among both men and women.
1. The book titled “Islamic Guide to Sexual Relations” by Adam Ibn Al-Kawthari is an excellent, easy-to-read and well compiled resource on the religious scriptures related to intimacy and pleasure. I recommend everyone read this book. The book title links to a PDF version.
2. Enhance your knowledge about both how male and female sexuality works. I strongly recommend reading “Come As You Are” by Emily Nagoski – her book is a user-friendly guide to the most current research in female sexuality and compares it to male sexuality.
3. Look into valid and credible sources of religious interpretations of sexualilty, written by both male and female experts in the field. The book suggested in point 1 is a good start. I also recommend “Sexual Ethics and Islam” by Kecia Ali. Another important book is “Living West, Facing East” by Dr. FIda Sanjakdar – she is unique in that she has her PhD in both Islamic studies and sexual health.
I hope that this information is useful to critically think and analyze not only FGM/C, but also the topic of sexual health overall. I would like to acknowledge the religious resources provided by Alyas Karmani, a sex therapist and Imam from Bradford, UK who has spent over twenty-five years in the field of counseling Muslims and Islamic sexual health education. We are hoping to compile a comprehensive list of resources in the near future relating Islam to sexual health.