Premarital Sex

Islam does not allow premarital sex. That’s something that seems fairly obvious, but I couldn’t seem to find a specific verse in the Qur’an dealing with the issue.  Some verses talk about marriage and how to propose (2:235); others talk about adultery, but that’s different from premarital sex.  There is one verse that says people engaging in adultery and fornication should be flogged (24:2): does fornication refer then to premarital sex?

But then I found this:

23:1-6
The believers must (eventually) win through,-
Those who humble themselves in their prayers;
Who avoid vain talk;
Who are active in deeds of charity;
Who abstain from sex,
Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or whom their right hands possess,- for they are free from blame.

So that’s pretty explicit, unless the translation is weird.

Does anyone know of any hadith about premarital sex?

The reason I’m posting about this is because I’m interested in finding out your opinion on what modern Muslims who can’t marry young should do re. premarital sex. The average age of marriage in Egypt, for example, is over 30.  This means that these men and women cannot have sex before they reach that age. Now we all know that hormones etc kick in around puberty which is way before 30.  So what is the solution?

“Control yourself.” Okay, yes, but that’s not so easy. Plus we can see that it is impossible for many to control themselves since sexual frustration is causing all sorts of social problems, such as sexual harassment.

This is where reformists (and I :D) would argue that the Qur’an needs to be contextualized.  When the Qur’an was revealed, people were getting married at puberty, or at least by the time they were 20. So everything was fine and they could have sex when their hormones kicked in. This isn’t the case anymore, so what is the solution?

This is where traditionalists will get really angry and scream about humans trying to change the Qur’an (as if their own interpretations haven’t done the same thing). But how do we deal with social problems such as sexual frustration? If the age of marriage goes up to 40, do we really expect people to not have sex before they turn 40? And I mean just from a biological point of view, that seem ridiculous.

What do you all think?

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101 thoughts on “Premarital Sex

  1. I think in the overall scheme of things it is not hard to abstain from sex. BUT I do recognise that people (esp men) blow it up to be this huge thing, hence sexual frustration. I don’t think though that not having sex is the catalyst for harrassment as many married men harrass women at the same level of unmarried men.
    As for engaging in sex before marriage – I would assume (and just assume, since it’s something I take as a given rather than something to research) that it is not permitted. I just see it as something so small but significant to do, you know? It really cements a marriage, when you’re with the right person. Although, temp marriages happen a lot because of these societal things, but then they are still technically viewed as marriages… You’re making me think 😉 hehe.

    I’ll be honest – my personal view, from experience, is that abstaining from sex with the view of sharing it with your future spouse is not that hard a thing but also very special. But you NEED to be with the right person in order for it to be special! Not just a guy who really doesn’t get it, or else it doesn’t mean anything. It’s so important to have that experience with a man who views it in the same way. I think that the verse you quoted above (23: 1 – 6) supports no sex before marriage 100%.

    I’m sorry if I seem so “Aunt Ellen” by writing that but no one ever supported me in abstaining and looking back now I still feel annoyed that they didn’t.
    Your post says something about it being hard biologically… I just don’t think it is – but then every person is different. Also I don’t believe that age means you should have the right to have sex – marrying at 30 is a personal preference hence something that can be changed. You can, for example, put the word out to your family to get married sooner or marry someone from another country (what I did – in my country, getting married at 30 is normal so I am considered quite young whereas my hub was 25 when we married and was considered of the right age in KSA).

    But you know in the long run, what an individual does is up to them, that is just my personal opinion 🙂 Sex can still be a respectful thing if you do have it before marriage but again I think that if both the husband and wife view it in the same way then it is just better to save it for marriage. I don’t think it is a big enough deal to try re-interpreting the Qur’an for it.

    • Also just to add – I think that sexual harrassment will exist forever, whether everyone is having sex or not. You can be harrassed anywhere in the world, in New York or Cairo or Saudi Arabia or Sydney. Better education and enforcement would do better than pre-marital sex which seems to me is a bandaid for a stab wound.

      • “many married men harrass women at the same level of unmarried men.”

        That’s definitely true – good point!

        I wrote the post mostly out of my own experience, taking my friends and people I’ve met into consideration. Many people who are older and have not married do feel sexually frustrated and for them it is both biological and sociological. Hormones exist, and they do something, so I really think that for many people not having sex before 30 is not as simple as saying “well I’m waiting for Mr Right”, because their bodies might be waiting for something else.

        Also a broader question would be: what do people do if they want companionship before they turn 30, but can’t? Since many Muslims believe you can’t date/live together etc before marriage, it’s either you’re lucky enough to be able to marry young or you have to just not have a relationship. This is something else I see a lot of middle-aged Muslims complaining about.

        Great comment!

        • I wonder if it’s very lucky to marry young, though. Like I would imagine if the person began to feel the need to marry then they would begin to look? Eg you’re in Holland now (I am getting SO personal with this so if you want to delete his you can I just don’t know how to be politically correct lol!) so perhaps a man from Holland would have the same ideas as you. That’s where I would personally start to be honest, if the society I was usually living in preferred couples to marry at an older age. Actually that is pretty much what I did – married a man from another country. Sure it’s not the ideal/easiest thing, but something to consider. But I’m coming from a POV where temp marriage is perfectly acceptable see so I am referring to both that and permanent marriage when I talk about controlling urges and what not.
          I definitely agree with you about bodies wanting things – yes, 100%, that’s completely right. What are classical artworks & modern day music vids if not expressions of that lol. But I do think that if you’re determined to, you can control it. But again like I said, marriage to me can be permnt or temp so it’s probably easier for me to say that I guess. Also you know I wouldn’t have a clue what it’s like to grow up in a Muslim country like Egypt so forgive me if my observations are just so completely Australian lol 😀

          • “But I do think that if you’re determined to, you can control it.”

            I agree 100% – it is definitely possible to control these urges. But I guess if we take a Freudian view of looking at things, the urges will somehow come out through another channel. I’m still not sure what I think about that, but I think it is possible.

            I think the option of temporary marriage does change everything, of course. In Egypt many people are doing that too, even though it’s against Sunni Islam.

  2. I think birth control has made it a completely different situation than in the past. Plus it isn’t even as hard to be a single mother now as it used to be, even if that were to happen. I think it was absolutely best for a woman in the old days to wait for fully committed marriage. The rule made sense.

    I still think commitment is closer to an “ideal”, psychologically, and certainly for the well-being of any children. I personally think casual sex is like the equivalent of junk food – not the best for you. But I’m not really sure waiting for marriage is the optimum these days especially as you say that people are getting married much later.

    I would even say waiting can be damaging if, like me as a Christian, you have relationships where you can kiss and be alone together etc but not have sex. The repression and the guilt if you overstep some sort of line can be really bad for you, and when you do get married the guilt doesn’t switch off instantly! I realise most Muslims don’t date like this, and I actually thought that was more sensible. Some Christians are also keeping more of a distance I think.

    • I completely agree about birth control – times are so different now that premarital sex is not as dangerous as it used to be. And like you said, premarital sex doesn’t mean sleeping with a different person every night, it could also mean being in a solid relationship and just not being able to or not wanting to get married.

      Your point about feeling guilty is excellent – it really does make a difference! I know many Muslims who are terrified of doing anything that crosses the line because they know how guilty they will feel after. And a problem is that that line is often drawn by conservative traditionalists, so you can imagine that it leaves room for very little.

  3. Maybe marriage should be more facilitated – i.e. judgements about class, money and nationality should be withheld. Many people want to marry but are worried because their parents want them to marry a cousin or a child of a family friend. Many parents would refuse, or make it extremely difficult, for their children to marry someone from a different social strata.

    But on the other hand, it’s also unproductive to have many people marrying TOO early and have children, which could end with high divorce rates and children in single-parent families.

    I think the solution would be to make marriage easier (with withholding judgement) and also making contraceptive advice more available, even with free condoms and health services in the muslim community.

    • Withholding judgements would definitely make everything easier, but it is also very difficult. I think in Egypt it is more about realities than judgements though. Many men just can’t afford to buy an apartment or raise a family, so they don’t. The only way to change that is if women stop expecting to live in their own apartment/house once they marry or stop expecting to have children right away, etc.

      I definitely agree that making marriage easier is the solution, and I think the government is the one who should be doing that.

      • You’re right that lots of people can’t afford it, I guess its easier said than done! In the UK they’re introducing tax incentives for married couples (we have the opposite problem here of course, too much premarital sex [diseases, kids without parents] and not enough marriage).

  4. Not that I’m running out of new things to say, but I think this is also because we are cursed with better brains than all the other animals. We have in us such a thing as moral conscience, whatever that is. We have the brains to plan ahead—sometimes very far ahead—and we can learn from mistakes etc.

    The “marriage” that you talk about is quite a tricky thing. I don’t know if Adam and Eve actually got married and became husband and wife. And if they did, how did they do it? There are so many religions and customs in the world, and so many marriage rituals. But actually, strictly speaking, marriage is merely something like a promise between a man and woman to be together as husband and wife.

    Then someone came up with the “formalities” for a marriage to be counted as valid. It has to be done in a specific way. Then certificates drawn up and signed by both parties etc. When that’s all done with, then the couple can have sex! But truth be told, all these came from our own rules!

    If I am a prophet, I might come up with new rules too, e.g. newly-married couples are not allowed to have sex until 6 months after the marriage; or couples are allowed to have sex immediately after the engagement, even before the marriage etc. Hell, I might even make exceptions for myself to have the freedom to have sex without even marrying at all, like what the prophet Mohammad did! But of course that privilege is only reserved for me alone!

    • I definitely see where you’re coming from. I’ve asked myself these questions a million times. But I have to admit that when I read the Qur’an and look at the context it came down to, everything in it makes sense and has its logic. Yes, rules were made up (by humans, according to you; by God according to me), but if those rules made sense back then, then I guess there’s nothing wrong with them.

      Do they make sense now? Well that’s the big question.

      • “…if those rules made sense back then, then I guess there’s nothing wrong with them.”

        Can’t agree with you more! I adopt such attitude in most things. If something works well, where it comes from doesn’t really matter.

        My thinking is like this. God is supposed to be an all-knowing almighty being. I would imagine that if ever he makes any rule at all, that rule will not be subject to the time element. And if indeed the contents of the Bible or Quran are from God, then they must be applicable forever, not something that is subject to changes according to changing times by us humans. For if we need to keep changing the contents, I see those books as imperfect! But those books are supposed to be perfect!

        That part about God allowing men to have sex with their slaves without marrying them, for example, I see nothing divine in that rule at all. Instead it looks very human in nature! I can’t except the explanation that God allowed that in the past because things were different back then. What is wrong is wrong, I don’t care if it’s several thousand years ago, it’s still wrong. And God should know better!

        To answer your “big question”, some of the things no longer make sense. Many, many years ago, humans probably did not know how to make soaps or anti-bacterial detergents. So when they come into contact with something “dirty” like pork, they had a ritual to wash off with clay, or something like that. But today we have invented soaps which are more effective than clay! So perhaps that ritual involving clay should be changed also?

        But this post is about premarital sex, not about whether the contents of the holy books are from God. So I better sit back and see you people go back to the original topic… haha!

        • “I would imagine that if ever he makes any rule at all, that rule will not be subject to the time element.”

          I don’t think it’s the rule that is changing, but the way we understand it. For example, if someone reads the Qur’an looking for gender inequality (which many people do), then they’ll definitely find it; but if someone reads it looking for gender equality, then they’ll find that as well. And that’s the genius of the Qur’an.

          If the Qur’an had come down to people who would have been convinced of it automatically, then I’m sure God wouldn’t have had to put all those specific rules that we don’t need to day. But He had to do that since those people needed convincing and also needed guidance. But today the context is different. That doesn’t mean we change the Qur’an, it means we re-interpret it.

          “What is wrong is wrong, I don’t care if it’s several thousand years ago, it’s still wrong. And God should know better!”

          But “wrong” is always defined by context. Today polygamy might be “wrong”, but back then maybe it wasn’t. And if we say “well they didn’t know better” then we are imposing our own views on them.

          • “I don’t think it’s the rule that is changing, but the way we understand it. For example, if someone reads the Qur’an looking for gender inequality (which many people do), then they’ll definitely find it; but if someone reads it looking for gender equality, then they’ll find that as well. And that’s the genius of the Qur’an.”

            We are in fact behaving like the lawyers, constantly looking for loopholes in the “statute” to support our cases. If we’re prosecuting the rapist, we will find something in the statute to find him guilty. If we’re defending the rapist, we will find something, perhaps on technical grounds, to acquit him. We will find something in the statute to support our purpose. But if that statute is capable of multiple interpretations, I don’t see it as “genius” at all! But that’s just me!

            “But “wrong” is always defined by context. Today polygamy might be “wrong”, but back then maybe it wasn’t. And if we say “well they didn’t know better” then we are imposing our own views on them.”

            I suppose in the olden days slavery used to be a common thing. For people like the Prophet Mohammad, it’s OK to have slaves and having sex with them even. But I certainly wouldn’t want to be one of those slaves and owned like properties. Would you? Just because it was the norm back then, it’s not wrong? Forget what the Prophet said—he had his own interest to protect! Tell me from the bottom of your heart, do you really believe that slavery is—or even was—not wrong?

            • Of course I think slavery is wrong. And to be honest, there are some things in the Qur’an I have a problem with.

              However, the Qur’an does discourage slavery and say that they should be freed – the Qur’an never says slavery is okay or not wrong. Why didn’t God ban it, or polygamy, or other things I find wrong? Well there are numerous explanations. Am I happy with them? Maybe not, but my search continues 😀

  5. I find it hard to believe that people are abstaining until the age of 30 – so…I would query the virgin status of these Egyptians you speak of.

    Premarital sex, marriage for the wrong reasons and lack of sex all cause their own problems for society and for people.

    Of the three above, I would probably say that premarital sex is the most easily avoided of the three, and that it causes more problems than the other two. (I am thinking disease, unwanted children, abortions and so on)

    Marriage for the wrong reasons causes misery – but can be changed.

    Lack of sex causes it’s own problems, but really people should be able to control themselves, or find some way of alleviating their frustration. Actually, really one does not get aroused alone – it takes some thinking, looking and yearning before you get to the stage where you cant hold your knickers on any longer….and there are many of those stages that can be avoided.

    You speak of hormones kicking in, and a lot of things kick in – the desire to take drugs, try drink, try new and exciting things – but a desire is not as dangerous as a habit, and if you allow sex, you cause sexual habits in people which have longer-term consequences for people and for society.

    I thought “adultery” meant extramarital and premarital sex.

    • “I find it hard to believe that people are abstaining until the age of 30 – so…I would query the virgin status of these Egyptians you speak of.”

      Of course I doubt that they are all virgins. But as Sarah said, they probably feel guilty if they have had sex, since society stigmatizes premarital sex to such a large extent.

      I guess what I have a big problem with is Muslims’ huge adversity to sex in general. It isn’t something wrong or a bad habit at all. In fact Islam is very positive about it, as long as it is within marriage. But now many Muslims can no longer marry at the age they want to or even marry at all, so does that mean they can’t have sex (which is something enjoyable after all)?

  6. Sexual harassment is about control and superiority, it is learned. I don’t think it has much to do with sexual repression..

    But I think it would be an awesome idea for further study. Do sexually repressed societies have more instances of sexual harassment and/or rape?

    If there is already a study out there, I would love to know about it!

    • “Sexual harassment is about control and superiority, it is learned. I don’t think it has much to do with sexual repression.”

      I completely agree, but I think that there is some kind of a link. It may increase the sexual harassment from a particular man, for example.

      I would love to know about (or do!) a study like that as well!

  7. I agree with the above poster who mentioned it taking some desiring and yearning. Sure there are many temptations in life. If you are watching TV shows with naked women and finding porn on your computer, you are making yourself MISERABLE if you cannot satisfy your lust in a legitimate way.

    The best solution would probably be to marry young. However, I know this isn’t always feasible so I say avoid situations that leave you sexually vulnerable. Don’t watch the risque’ TV show. Don’t go to the dance hall where half-naked beauties are shaking their stuff. Don’t walk through the Red Light District where the whores call out to you. Don’t read Playboy or find the like online. Direct your thoughts elsewhere into some wholesome activity, sports, work, crossword puzzles (ha) or if you are having those strong urges and need a fast solution, try a cold shower!

    I think saving yourself for marriage is special and sex is too intimate a thing to share with any ol’ person. I believe God is all wise and He didn’t forbid sex before marriage to deprive us of fun. He knew it could have devastating consequences of which many of us see in our societies.

    • “I think saving yourself for marriage is special and sex is too intimate a thing to share with any ol’ person.”

      I completely agree. But what about couples who have been together for years and love each other, but just don’t have the means to get married? I wonder why it isn’t okay for them to have sex either.

      Lol @ try a cold shower! 😀

      • “But what about couples who have been together for years and love each other, but just don’t have the means to get married?”

        They can’t do the elopement thing until they can afford a fancy wedding just to make sex halal? I just don’t see changing God’s standards so people can indulge themselves, but I guess God’s standards are what is debatable at this point. Did He *really* mean no sex in THIS situation? I suppose this is the issue.

        • What you do then is say **** the fancy part, just have a small wedding and live in modest circumstances. God’s commandments are indeed more important than the custom of having a fancy wedding.

          • Couldn’t agree more caraboska! I would question the whole concept of not being able to afford to marry to be honest, when why does it matter if you don’t have a huge reception or invite a billion people? It is free to get an Islamic marriage, why not just have that until you can afford the legal one?

            “God’s commandments are indeed more important than the custom of having a fancy wedding” too right ^_^

            • The problem for couples in Egypt is definitely NOT having a fancy wedding. The problem is finding a place to live, finding a job that can support a family, and finding a comfortable means of survival. So yeah, it’s not about them asking for huge, fancy weddings.

              • But I do still think that one could get married, it’d just have to be tight on money for a few years. Take KSA – many wives move in with their husband’s family. I think that marriages when both are young definitely can work (speaking from being in a marriage where both of us are uni students here lol) but you both have to understand that luxuries come later, if the couple is that determined to be together then they can make it work. It is really, really hard but it can definitely be done.

                I’m sorry for writing so much Sarah but this is such an interesting topic to me :):):)

                  • “Maybe many people are just not meeting eligible partners?”

                    Then they are *not* in committed relationships and you are talking about people being able to burn off sexual frustration by casual sex, right?

                    From what I understood, you thought sex *could possibly* still be halal IF the couple were committed and just simply couldn’t afford an apartment due to lack of funds. However here it seems they are not meeting “eligible partners” (I’m assuming you mean people committed to them) so you are wondering if casual premarital sex should be OK (the Quran “updated” so to speak) since people are marrying later.

                    I’m not trying to sound challenging so much as trying to fully understand what you are suggesting. 🙂 I’ve seen how casual sex can have really bad societal consequences so I think it’s a big fat “NO” in God’s eyes.

                    You could make the case for a committed relationship where you have one partner ONLY and a life commitment, but enough with these one-night stands and treating something so intimate as if it’s meant to be passed around to the cutest guy at the bar.

                    I’m so old-fashioned! 😉 😀

                  • P.S. If you just wanted to burn off your sexual frustration and there are no “eligible partners,” you could go down to the local prostitute hangout and find someone willing to give you some sort of “release.” Yeah, that’s how crass I think of casual sex, one-night stands in particular.

                    • I was replying to Ellen’s comment – she said any couple should be able to make it work just by being frugal at the beginning of the marriage, so I suggested that maybe apart from economic reasons the reason it is possible that people aren’t getting married in Egypt because they can’t find eligible partners.

                      That said, I think the economic argument is the one I’ve heard the most. Many people can find partners.

                      I don’t think sex is okay if you are not in a committed relationship, for sure.

  8. I liked Cornelius’s comment – what exactly is marriage? When does it start? To be honest, I think there are unmarried couples who are in truth more “married” than I ever was, even though I said some vows and got a bit of paper saying I was married. I think marriage is more than a legal formality, or should be – it describes the essence of a relationship. Just like religion in fact. 🙂

    I also liked Leyla’s comment about forming sexual habits – I think promiscuity does change a person, how can you be happy to commit to one partner if you are used to a frequent change of partner? I would be wary of getting involved with someone who had been promiscuous. Of course habits can be changed though.

    • “To be honest, I think there are unmarried couples who are in truth more “married” than I ever was, even though I said some vows and got a bit of paper saying I was married.”

      Exactly, so in this case it shouldn’t be as big of an issue to have sex, especially if they don’t have the means or ability to get married (and I don’t mean have a fancy wedding, I mean just live a life together).

      • So you are talking about committed couples who are basically “married” in all but society’s legalities and maybe even Islamically. However they are committed and “more in a marriage” so to speak than even some truly married people. The only difference is that once they have sex, they each go back to their respective families’ houses since they are not able to afford actually marrying and *living together* since – in Egypt as you say – it’s too expensive and there are not enough jobs.

          • I think mut’ah or “marriage lite” type of thing was something that was quite bad for women in the 7th century but could have a role in modern times. (Curiously – a reverse of the situation for slavery etc!)

            I just don’t see this black and white. There are many shades of grey in-between full marriage with mortgage and 2.4 kids, and say casual sex or one-night stands. If there is real love, and kindness, and loyalty, and respect, and faithfulness – these are all good things and I cannot bring myself to call it immoral just because it doesn’t have a piece of paper or just because you haven’t settled down together, whether it includes sex or not. I would truly like to understand the arguments for this being immoral – are there arguments or is it just “that’s what the book says”? What harm does it do? I suppose there is a risk of pregnancy but this is close to 0% on the pill. Condoms protect against most diseases and anyway couples can have tests before deciding to have sex. I have heard arguments about sex being risky on an emotional level, but I was still emotionally wrecked by relationships where there was no sex, and this is a modern rationalisation anyway rather than a scriptural reason.

            It would be great if we could get married when we were physically and emotionally ready for it, and live happily ever after. Life is a bit more messy than that. Everything has risks, even marriage. Why do we have to nit-pick about the risks involved in premarital sex and not consider the risks of getting married?! How many marriages end in pain and heartache? Quite a lot!

            Life is a bunch of compromises and there is risk in everything. Best to be sensible about it and also accept that we cannot have a “perfect” life with no uncertainty or risk.

    • Marriage = man leaves father and mother, cleaves to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. Since they are one, that means that while divorce may even be theoretically possible, it is not permitted because it was God who made the two one, and who are we to undo that? It also means two and only two parties, and it also means they are of opposite sexes.

  9. Its a hard topic. And it does have a lot to do with age. Its like you aren’t too surprised if the 21-23 year olds actually make it. Or earlier marriages. Its very popular to get married in this age group in the US. Im almost 26 and I’m starting to feel the heat to get married before I get to old to do so. The pool of men greatly thins after 23. You hit 28, and you start to get the devorcies already because they married at 21. Its a weird world of relationships in the US.

    I think only a western midset could ask the question you are asking. Barely anyone makes it out of college a virgin. Some, its because they got into serious relationships, others its running around. Every girl I know is on the pill (Some started for health reasons with their cycle though). Its normal. These things are normal. But are they right? I’m not even sure.

      • One reason I asked this question is because I’m interested in the correlation between sexual harassment and sexual frustration, since harassment is something you find almost everywhere in Islamic countries. I don’t think there is a direct link between them, but I do think there is something.

        Another reason is because I want to see people’s views on the idea of re-interpreting the Qur’an for our time: the social situation was different then, people got married v. young, so the issue of frustration didn’t come up. But today I know many young, unmarried people ARE frustrated, and don’t know how to deal with it.

        • So what are you thinking is the solution? Premarital sex being halal as long as you use protection and are in a committed relationship? Maybe God meant for the holy books to be updated to fit the times and this suggestion is certainly OK with most of western society today.

            • What about being Islamically married? Because without the legal aspect it’s (unfortunately lol) it’s easy to divorce – just say a few talaqs and you’re done, very similar to a usual break up. I mean I wouldn’t advocate that but if you’re talking about committed, serious relationships (my country actually recognises them as marriage if you’ve been together for a certain time btw in de facto relationships) then maybe that’s something to think about.
              As for temp. marriage – heaps of benefits, big risks obviously but I think it is a GREAT thing for women *when used correctly*. It is in Sunni Islam but called misyar, as you know. But to be honest, I see no difference between a perm and a temp one when a legal marriage is not done because both are easy to get out of it’s just the name is different.

      • Caraboska,

        “Wow, things have really changed since I was in college, then. Back in my day it was rare to marry before age 30…”

        Really? I thought today’s ages for first-time marriages were at an all-time high partly because so many people live together now before officially marrying. I think people got married younger in previous decades. Maybe you knew people on the high-end of the scale and this is just the median age.

        I found this — http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005061.html

        • The age of marriages reflects where I am from. Most people I know getting married are straight out of college 21-23 because I am from a small town. That is what you do. Go to the Big City and you have people living together for 10 yrs then maybe marriage.

          So it depends on what part of the US you are from.

        • OK, first of all, I have for most of my adult life traveled in circles where people normally do not live together or even engage in sexual relationships before marriage. Secondly, it is very possible that since I lived in or near a large city among people with a larger rather than smaller number of years formal education, that could have had some bearing. But I do remember that of the ladies in my Bible study back then, very few got married before age 30 – only two (and one of those was on account of one of the almost immeasurably rare unexpected pregnancies in those circles). Aside from the one lady whose status was (and perhaps still is) ‘it’s complicated’ (among other things, a spouse who deserted her), I think I may be the only one who is still single, but some of the ladies (as I recall, three counting myself) were even over 40 before they married for the first time.

  10. I feel strongly against casual sex. I don’t think sexual frustration is a good reason for it AT ALL. I think it’s ridiculous to think that people can’t hold themselves until they are married. I definitely think that the marriage situation in Egypt is also ridiculous! The majority of men in a society shouldn’t have to wait until over 30 before they get married! I know that men can’t afford their own place and before then, but why is owning your own home a requirement for marriage?! I think that with birth control, the situation changed. Not to allow casual sex, but to allow couples to marry and have sexual relations before being 100% financially ready to have children. To be able to be together while they finish their studies for example, and not have to have children popping out one after the other during this time.

    The way I see it, any couple that has made a committment to each other (to make a life together) and are public about their relationship are married even if the legal aspects are not taken care of. A signed piece of paper is just that and God is beyond anything we can do to “make it official”.

    Basically what I’m saying is that I cannot accept the Qur’an allowing pre-marital sex. That’s changing the Qur’an. But I think the definition of “marriage” is not the specific nikkah and walima thing and that God would accept a couple being committed to each other having sex without sin.

    • “I think that with birth control, the situation changed. Not to allow casual sex, but to allow couples to marry and have sexual relations before being 100% financially ready to have children.”

      I don’t claim to be an expert on religious matters, but I have spoken and discussed this issue several times with people who claimed that they know the subject well.

      One school of thought is that birth control is wrong, period. Whether it is done by means of birth control pills, condoms etc, or by what is known as the “withdrawal method” or its technical term, coitus interruptus.

      Another school of thought is that birth control by “natural means” such as the coitus interruptus is allowable by the religion, but not by means of the birth control pills and condoms etc.

      As always, I think these are all man-made rules as opposed to rules from God; that the loopholes from some people around those rules to justify their acts.

  11. “I think birth control has made it a completely different situation than in the past. Plus it isn’t even as hard to be a single mother now as it used to be, even if that were to happen. I think it was absolutely best for a woman in the old days to wait for fully committed marriage. The rule made sense.”

    —Sarah

    I see the rule against premarital sex slightly differently from how you see it. I don’t think it has very much to do with “safety” or how damaging premarital sex can be to the non-married couple. But of course it happens that premarital sex has a bearing on those factors.

    I’m inclined to think that sex is seen as only reserved for those who are married on moral grounds, i.e. something sacred and special, not so much on what harm sex can bring to the unmarried couples. If that is indeed God’s intention of that rule, the fact that there is now birth control pills around does not change anything!

    I don’t know if God sees premarital sex as an immoral act, but I believe many people who claim themselves as “religious people” do! In a way, premarital sex maybe an immoral act just like stealing from others.

    However, because we are humans, it is very like us to try to find loopholes in the rule to justify out acts. If there is something in the holy books that is against premarital sex, we will try to come up with justifications like “times and circumstances have changed”; “we now have birth control pills”; “if the couple love each other”, then it’s OK, hence perhaps the text could be re-interpreted differently etc.

    In the same way, stealing from others is morally wrong, but we try to justify that it can be right—or at least not so wrong—under some circumstances, e.g. it was OK for Robin Hood to steal, because he stole from the rich and gave to the poor.

    • Cornelius,

      I think most religious people do see the rule that way, as you state. My own view is that we do tend to value commitment, because of our evolution as a family-oriented species, and birth control isn’t going to change that value which is why I think casual sex is sub-optimal. And it’s mainly this family value, rather than rational deductions about harm, that finds expression in religious rules such as this – I agree.

      I was rationalising the rule by talking about harm because from my perspective, something cannot be called immoral if it harms no-one. (Stealing harms the victim of theft, so it is wrong.) Premarital sex can certainly still be harmful these days, but I don’t think it is always harmful.

      • I disagree with premarital sex because people get used to it, develop habits and fetishes and all of a sudden it is not enough that you get on with each other and are on the same level, now you need to be “sexually compatible” as well. Well how can there be such a thing as sexually compatible without first of all developing tastes and habits regarding sex?

        Sexual freedom creates multiple partners – and thoughts like “oh, x was much better in bed than y” or start thinking about penis size – and then soon, you get the “try before you buy” attitude where people go from one relationship to the other, never getting satisfied enough to stay, because they want to see what sexual experience others have on offer. It devalues the sex act, and makes it like food or some other activity that you do for fun or experiment instead of being something between man and wife.

        I see it all the time with female friends who speak at length about “Sam did it like this, but Paul does that” and “I love James, but he’s just not the same in bed as Joe was” – this is damaging. Good people are being dumped because their penis is too small, or because they are less experienced than John, Paul and Ringo – or Jane gets dumped for Paula because Jane does it rough and Paula doesn’t like that – but Jack as developed a taste for it and even though Paula is better suited personality wise, he misses the rough stuff with Jane. This is bad. This would not happen if these girls chose them for marriage and love and only experienced sex with the one they marry – they would spend their relationships yearning for a passionate one-night stand because they would not have learned it.

        Meanwhile, girls are being judged on a whole heap of things – most of which are not compatibility and long-termness, Some are being pursued ONLY for sex, or sexualize themselves to attract the wrong attention – women think sex is the way to a man’s heart.

        A ban on premarital sex means that men and women are forced to appreciate the non-sexual values of a person and choose them for marriage on that basis which is healthier for long term compatibility.

        Marriage protects males and females from being used and abused. Yes, people still behave badly even in marriage – but at least the couple have rights to protect them from too much harm, not like the poor women who live with a guy for 5 years and then get left with nothing when he runs off with a new sexual adventure.

        • I think these days we expect too much of a relationship in general, we have much too high standards in terms of all the boxes that must be ticked, and I think this comes from (1) living as nuclear families puts pressure on marriages, as most of the time they are your only adult family member nearby you and so they have to fulfill so many of your needs that would traditionally be met by others; (2) having a series of relationships before settling down, and even making friends with members of the opposite sex, makes us compare and think in terms of choices and that there might be something better out there.

          It undermines commitment – we live in a world where everything is disposable, the grass is always greener elsewhere. I do think it’s unfulfilling to go searching for better all the time, because there’s no such thing as perfect. I very much believe in marriage and in the blessing of being content with what you have and working with it, working through all the issues. But on the other hand, it’s good that people that naively got into not-so-good relationships are more easily able to get out of them where in the past they would just have put up with it. There’s good with the bad!

          I’m sure premarital sex does play a role in this “disposable” attitude, but it depends on the person. Some people are just more shallow. I can definitely think of people who’ve had sexual relationships and are not like that. I think any couple can learn to be happy together in terms of sex. I think sooo much of what makes a marriage function is down to having/developing the right skills and not about having the right person, and some people realise that and some don’t.

          • Sarah, I agree that some people are shallow and some are not – but I would go a step further and say that MOST people are shallow and a few are not.

            If we are saying that premarital sex is OK, we are actually encouraging this shallowness.

            I am sure the rules were initially made with very good intention but now every young girl can be on the pill, can get an abortion even, without her parents knowledge – that means we have a whole society full of teens who are growing up being told by Government, the medical profession and school that sex is going to happen, its ok and here are some provisions for it.

            Teenagers are now having sex, and pressuring each other to have sex – does anyone honestly believe that these people who have been sexually active their whole lives will be able to comit to and be happy with one partner for the rest of their lives?

            I agree – yes it happens – but when sex is “just another thing you do for fun” then its much harder to turn that off later, so the minute you are having issues with your partner..you go have sex with some one else, and dont even think twice about it.

        • That is mainly because you see sex as something very special… much more special than other things in a relationship. In any relationship at all, we all would like to have at least a bit of compatibility whether you would admit it or not. So we date steadily for a while; some for a couple of years. We try to weigh the pros and cons of the other’s behaviors, habits etc.

          At the end of the day, we ask ourselves, OK having taken everything into account, is this fellow leaning to the plus or minus? If very much to the plus, then yes, we will proceed further to the marriage stage. If not, then shall we say let’s continue this probationary period for a bit more?

          These days, we rarely meet someone and then marry him or her the next day. We will want to have a better idea of compatibility somehow. And we think there’s nothing wrong to want to find out.

          But of all the things you think is OK to test compatibility, the one thing that is the exception is when it comes to sex. That is the one thing you think should not have the option of “trying before buying.” That is the one thing you gamble with… for better or for worse, you find out after you’re married. That’s your point.

          • Yes, I don’t think people should try sex before they buy. I think one good sexual experience can fuzz people’s brains. Also, sex can be affected by many many things – it can be amazing today, crap tomorrow – and it relies on many things – how attracted you are, the conversation you just had, the place you just visited, whether you have a headache or not, whats on your mind.

            Within marriage you have influence over your sex life – you can make it good or bad.

          • I don’t think a test drive is even possible – because as someone else has pointed out, pre/extramarital sex is not the same thing as marital sex. Just like masturbation and sex are not the same thing. So we can’t try out marital sex without getting married first, and if we do try, then we are getting the wrong kind of experience.

        • “Good people are being dumped because their penis is too small…”

          I know this has nothing to do with the topic of discussion, but arghhh!!… I swear to God I can’t control my curiosity any longer—do men actually get dumped because their penises are too small? Does size really matter that much to women?

          MUAHAHAHAHAHA!

          Ahem!… sorry about that outburst…

          • By some women yes, they do Cornelius – in my humble experience, women who have a lots of premarital sex, sleep with more than one partner at a time and then choose the one who is better in bed, and from the girls I know, the guy with the tools gets the better end of the bargain, even if he’s a total loser in every other respect.

            Our culture has sold this concept of “mind blowing sex” / passion to such a level, that people have begun to believe that good sex and sexual compatibility equals a good relationship which is rubbish.

            Now every product on the shelf is a seduction tool – it’s not perfume – its a seduction tool, its not a shoe – its a seduction tool, its not a bra, its a “hello boys”, its not a car, its a chick magnet.

            Sex sells products alright – but now sex is selling philosophies, mind sets and relationship choices which is a tragedy and a half. Every other quality is now null and void – the new philosophy is that security, morals, commitment are of the ancients, and now all that matters in couple’s lives is the bedroom. Everything’s become sexualised, and the good clean stuff has become “outdated” – and they wonder why we have so many problems in our societies.

            I agree with Sarah above that everything is disposable including partners. Staying in the same job, relationship, or area-to-live in is something that grandparent’s did., The “new age” is all about moving on and experiencing new things. Well if you cant afford regular holidays and don’t enjoy reading, those new things are partners, and sexual experiences which only leads to bad decision making and bad choices.

            • Really? I’d always heard that it was more important that the guy know what to do with his equipment than what its exact size paremeters are. And above all, that he be a good lover in the non-physical sense.

      • That is an interesting way of seeing morality. And I guess it’s debatable whether that is the correct standard for the test of morality. There are many acts which are considered immoral even if those acts do not harm others. In fact, some of them are considered sinful too.

        From the top of my head right now, I can think of masturbation, sex between gays, or even oral sex and anal sex etc. These are acts which do not really harms others, or at least not always as you put it. Yet they are considered as immoral acts by many people.

        But the thing is this. If sex between couples which are for “entertainment” purpose only, i.e. not for reproduction purpose is immoral, how is sex between, say, gays immoral? After all, the act is also for “entertainment”?

        • Can you think of a better test for morality? I’m open to suggestions…

          It’s interesting that all the non-harmful immoral acts you mentioned are sexual acts. I think it’s that sex is a powerful drive that humans have always struggled with, in the conflict between the base drive to procreate and the value of family and commitment, and so all sorts of taboos spring up around it because we fear the power it has over us. It’s like playing with fire and we know how easily we can get burnt.

          I think sex in a committed relationship – whether straight or gay – is different from casual sex (“entertainment”), even if there is no intention to make a baby. It is an expression of love. Sex releases oxytocin which is a hormone that promotes bonding and closeness. It unites people together in other words. When people do it casually, they may get hurt as a result of this effect, or over time they may learn to suppress their affectionate feelings to avoid being hurt, which could be seen as harmful.

          • No, I’m not disagreeing with you about morality. I am not a religious person and I’m free from religious rules, some of which I think are ridiculous. And I am also a very open-minded person. It takes all sorts to make the world.

            Generally speaking, I can agree that whatever one does, sexually or not, which has no harmful effect on others, do not usually give rise to immorality. I just gave those examples earlier because they have been given to me by others as sinful/immoral acts.

            • I think a good test for morality is to ask the question “how many problems is act likely to create for the individual, the people around the individual, then society, then the world” and “what if everyone in the world did this act?” – so:

              If a person is gay, what problems does it create for them? their family? people around them? for society? the world?

              What if everyone in the world was gay?

              • I’m sure I have debated this issue before in several other blogs. Now there are different opinions as far as gays are concerned. Some experts say that it’s mainly psychological, a mental condition; whereas others say it’s a kind of genetic condition.

                If there is any truth in the second one—and I’m inclined to think there is—that is something like when people are born with, say, down syndrome. The question that begs to be answered is this:

                Is it fair to condemn a person who’s born with a condition through no fault of his?

                I think the human race will be in big trouble “if everyone in the world was gay.” But we know that we are not all gays. If there is indeed God, He did not allow that to happen. Why God allowed some gays to exist is an interesting topic for an after-dinner conversation. Maybe we will find an answer one of these days, I don’t know. We have so many things in this world which are not good for us, yet God let them exist.

                Are we saying that just because people are born gays (through no fault of theirs), they are not entitled to experience sex the only way they can enjoy it? If a gay falls in love with another of the same gender (and can’t control his feelings) is that an immoral act? Is he not entitled to experience love because of his condition? Is his love any less meaningful than the rest of us?

                Must he suppress his sexual urges, his capacity to love, and live his entire life in pretense, for the sake of his family, the people around him, the society, the world?

                • Well, what if he is born with a desire to have sex with children? Or animals? Or his mother?

                  We all know that we shouldnt sleep with relatives, even if they are the most attractive relative on the planet.

                  • I’m not suggesting that everyone is free to do as he pleases without limits. You’re giving here examples to the very extreme.

                    Drinking clean water is good for health, but drinking too much of it can be harmful. Always when we do too much of something, no matter how good that something is, it can become not so good in the end.

                    When speaking of morality, the human race has to pay for being civilised creatures. Well, OK, maybe some of us are still not so civilised. We come up with rules and regulations in the best interest of the majority of the human race, but we know that we can’t possibly please everybody.

                    I have been told by the so-called religious people that homosexuality is a sin. I don’t believe it. As we become increasingly civilised, we tend to come up with something new all the time.

                    The great thinkers of this world, they come up with new standards for “morality”. I can just imagine that when we first came into existence eons ago, we were essentially the same as all other animals. We must have had sex with our own siblings, with our own children (I think I once read about the Pharaoh marrying one of his own daughters). For if we did not have sex with our own siblings, how did we grow in population from just Adam and Eve?

                    But times have changed, because we have become more civilised now. Sex between siblings and relative no longer a “moral” act. In fact it is sinful!

                    Likewise, sex between two persons of the same gender is “immoral” and sinful. And those born with that trait will just have to suppress their inclinations. And I suppose the rest of us who are “lucky” for not having that trait impose upon them who do have that trait by saying they should control themselves. We tell them that they have choices whether to indulge in the act or not. Otherwise God’s gonna be real mad!

              • Leyla,

                I think we are approaching this from different perspectives. I am looking at it as, if an individual chose to do this act, would I condemn it? Whereas you are thinking more about the effects of promoting the act in society.

                My brother lives with his girlfriend and they are committed to each other, and I wouldn’t dream of condemning it because I see nothing wrong or harmful. But I can also see what you’re saying about the current social norms encouraging us to be shallow.

                I believe there is a real need for secular moral training to replace what people used to get through religious instruction (which they are now largely abandoning). I don’t believe people are naturally shallow, I think everyone is capable of better than that, and there are problems in society that could be avoided if people were trained at a young age to think about morality. I don’t think it needs to be as black and white as “don’t have sex before marriage”, but that’s just my view of course.

                I think asking “what if everyone in the world did this act?” can be misleading, because people don’t all want to do the same things. Not everyone wants to be a doctor – it would cause a problem for society if everyone did, but that doesn’t mean it’s immoral to want to be a doctor. I don’t think we have to worry about everyone “deciding” to be gay either. This is a world full of variety and I think it’s misleading to think in terms of universal ideals that everyone should be following.

                • To Sarah, I understand what you are saying, and I can see a lot of value and truth in it – but I do feel it is incredibly idealistic to think that humans are moral beings.

                  Yes, there are morals and morality in a large amount of humans but the acts of evil on behalf of humans way outweighs the good and for me, that shows that humans are not predisposed to being good or moral.

                  Animals will kill to eat,to survive – whereas humans will kill their mothers, fathers, sons, daughters…I mean, the list of evils that a human is capable of is endless. There is no creature on the planet more destructive than a human being – other creatures do what they need to do to survive, whereas a human does evil for the joy of it. How do you combat evils without setting things in stone?

                  SOME things must be set in stone, even if they are not perfect, otherwise we have incredibly intelligent animals doing whatever they like for their own advancement with no motivation, no reminder no nothing of why morals are even important.

                  How can you stress the importance of morals without some kind of set-rules? What powers can you use to ensure that morals survive, and live on, and teach generation after generation?

                  Its no good looking at just one generation and seeing no harm in the diminished and still diminishing morality – with each generation there is less and less emphasis on morals and more and more emphasis on being best fit to survive, and what is the best fit to survive creature on the planet?

                  The cockroach? The germ? The virus? What creature, according to evolution has the best chance of making it? Because that is the creature we will turn into without some kind of solid, moral code that can withstand the changing face of the human race and society.

                  Linking this back to the subject of sex, and allowing sex without morals is just another loss on the part of morality and another gain for self-interest.

                  • “other creatures do what they need to do to survive, whereas a human does evil for the joy of it.”

                    You might be surprised at some of the documented behaviour of apes. Chimpanzees have been observed committing brutal attacks on members of other groups without any obvious motive.

                    I don’t think we are naturally moral or immoral but a whole mixture of the two.

                    As for set-in-stone rules, who would set them? Who has the authority to do that?

                    • I am new to the info on the chimps – and I acknowledge that there are evil animals. But at the same time you’re not going to have a load of chimps drop a nuclear weapon are you? They’re not going to build concentration camps, and gas people to death or unleash biological warfare on eachother are they? Or wipe out massive areas of rainforest to build a Maccy D’s, and destroy the earth are they?

                      I feel very afraid by the concept of no universal moral code that withstands time and change, because that means that morals can die out like anything else, and then we really would be in a terrible terrible situation.

                      Remove that – and you have no basis, no argument for morals – only self-interest.

                      Yes there are good and bad people and there always will be, but how do you bring people from bad to good? Encourage Forgiveness? Love for your brother?

                      You cant. You can try – but you just cant. You need a code, and a powerful code at that – you cant just hope for the best and leave it. There has to be some influence from somewhere, some adherence of some kind.

                    • I think morality *is* universal. Perhaps there is some set of rules that would cover the unchanging essentials, but it’s hard for anyone to define because we all come with culturally ingrained notions.

                      I can’t see all notions of morality ever being abandoned, because the moral instinct is wired in – it comes from our ability to empathise (through our intelligent brains) and our inclination to care for others (which has to do with oxytocin receptors). Here is a short article which says this better than I can. It also notes that we can be self-serving too (testosterone plays a role). Regarding the question of how to make the good side win out, it says “the brain circuit that produces moral behaviors depends critically on sufficient childhood nurturing, a stable legal-political environment, and the social support we receive. Without these, moral behaviors recede.”

        • This business of sex for entertainment vs. sex for procreation is exactly why the procreationists believe both homosexuality and sex for entertainment are wrong. Indeed, some of them even go so far as to state plainly that sex for entertainment only, using contraception, is morally equivalent to homosexuality precisely because both ‘variants’ exclude procreation.

          • Sex for entertainment is wrong, because as with every entertainment – when it gets boring, you need to do something more to be entertained – after all, you can only watch the same film so many times right?

            Enter: fetishes, dogging, orgies, swapping parties, sex in public, adultery, necrophillia, paedophillia, and every other time of sickness you can think of.

            • Yeah. It is degrading to humanity. I think we need to ask one really important question: would I want someone to treat me like this? If I would feel less than totally loved, respected, honored, etc. if someone did to me what I am contemplating doing to them, then better not to do it. Love neighbor as self.

            • I think you need to have at least a bit of faith in people. We do all sorts of things to entertain ourselves. I am an adventurous person and would like to try out new things for the excitement. And I don’t mind admitting that I’d like to try out new things in sex too (with my spouse), but having been married for almost 18 years now, I have still not gotten as far as “dogging, orgies, swapping parties, sex in public, adultery etc.” And I doubt that I will ever get that far!

              Some of us insist on eating different dishes everyday. Others are happy to rotate a few recipes. Others still can live with the same dull menu day in day out for years and years.

              This may be surprising to you, but not everyone who engages in the sinful, immoral, premarital sex will end up in orgies, swapping parties etc. Most of us are still sane, you know.

              • I agree with Corenelius’ last point – there are always extremes with regards to sex. People who have sex won’t necessarily go on to have orgies, sex parties, etc. Besides, Islam is a very pro-sex religion as long as it is within marriage. Islam does not say that people should *only* have sex to procreate. It is supposed to be pleasurable for both parties.

                • I agree that not everyone that has premarital sex will end up strapped in rubber and in pain, I accept its not black and white like that – but what I am trying to say is that sex without morals is dangerous and can have bad consequences.

                  Cornelius, you are married – so I am tempted to argue that you fall into the “moral sex” bracket, as does Sarah’s brother who is in a comitted relationship and lives with his partner.

                  And I also hold firm that what makes sex “clean” is the morality attached to it, and if you remove that morality you get other results.

                  No, not 100% of the time – I am sure there are exceptions but I am sure that most of the time you will get bad consequences if you dont view sex as something to be responsible with, and meaningful with.

  12. To Sarah – thats an amazing article – if I understood it correctly, it says that morality relies on this positive, nurturing childhood environment.

    So what about the people who dont have a nurtured childhood environment, have ample testosterone levels and the other non-moral factors – how do you teach morality to them? You have to have some way of teaching them, otherwise a great many people of the society go awry.

    And is it not interesting that our greatest Prophets actually lacked that nurturing childhood environment and social factors and still managed to create the greatest morality drive the world has ever known?

    • “if I understood it correctly, it says that morality relies on this positive, nurturing childhood environment.”

      No, I think it’s saying that’s one of the factors which influences it. If it’s not there, something else may compensate. It would be a shame if people with bad childhoods were doomed to be bad people – certainly doesn’t seem the case from what I’ve seen 🙂

    • “So what about the people who dont have a nurtured childhood environment, have ample testosterone levels and the other non-moral factors – how do you teach morality to them?”

      I guess that’s where the legal-political system comes in perhaps? So if people don’t feel it’s wrong to steal, they might not do it if there is a law in place so that they will be punished if they do? I suppose the law can be seen as a societal moral code, or a way of enforcing a basic level of moral behaviour. Most people would not steal even if they could get away with it, if they have had the nurturing and other conditioning to allow them to feel empathy and kindness for others. But the law is there so that we are all protected from those who do not have this moral inclination.

      Laws, of course, are dictated by people (unless you believe in a divinely-sanctioned law) and in a democracy the law reflects the consensus of the population… Is this safe, or do you think that there might come a time when society will ditch laws and allow all hell to break loose? I guess this does happen in some places. How can it be prevented?

      I guess having a set-in-stone law might help, but that can also have bad effects. I think every society gets something wrong and having those wrong parts preserved in an unchanging law is not the best thing. I wouldn’t want to live under sharia and make slavery legal again and have gay people stoned to death. I think law has to be open to debate. I think “freedom is dangerous, but it’s the safest thing we have”!

    • Sorry for broken-up commenting! Someone sent me this link the other day, it’s quite a long essay but relevant to this discussion – about moral “fashions”.

      http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

      Here is a snippet:

      “Like every other era in history, our moral map almost certainly contains a few mistakes. And anyone who makes the same mistakes probably didn’t do it by accident. It would be like someone claiming they had independently decided in 1972 that bell-bottom jeans were a good idea.

      If you believe everything you’re supposed to now, how can you be sure you wouldn’t also have believed everything you were supposed to if you had grown up among the plantation owners of the pre-Civil War South, or in Germany in the 1930s– or among the Mongols in 1200, for that matter? Odds are you would have.”

  13. mysiar is not a temporary marriage unlike mut’a, mysiar marriage is where the bride agrees to let go some of her rights, e.i, the husband doesn’t have to provide for her, she can continue to live with her parents etc.
    Some divorced women like this,they can raise their children from a previous marriage and have a man that comes ro visit but not lived with them

  14. Okay I kind of skimmed through everyone’s comments … trying to see if anyone has addressed your question:

    “There is one verse that says people engaging in adultery and fornication should be flogged (24:2): does fornication refer then to premarital sex?”

    As far as I understand it, fornication/zina is anything outside of being married to that specific person. So like when the Qur’an says the punishment for zina is 100 lashes, then that means sex with anyone besides who you’re married to is punishable with that … so there’s no need to mention all of the categories that would apply to in a list. 😉
    …. and that’s what I understand out of it, anyway…

    I’m not sure about the situation in Egypt. I think people should be getting married earlier than 40 … or even 30, if they’re ready for it. But then many times getting married young isn’t a good idea … so I dunno…

  15. The way I see it, restrictions on sex in all scriptures have very little to do with morals and everything to do with social control. Let’s not even get into the matter of how incredibly man-friendly and woman-unfriendly these restrictions tend to be. Morals change with time; what was moral today may be viewed as criminal twenty years from now. Universal morality does exist but not anywhere near the detail people envisage; these universal rules, in my mind, do not comment on sex, premarital or otherwise.

    The issue people have with premarital sex is their inability to make the following admission: “I am ready to have sex but not ready to get married or be in a committed relationship.” Why must commitment or marriage be a price of admission to sex between two consenting adults? Short-term relationships (where no one is exploited) can be beautiful for their own sake; experiences can be cherished without turning them into a life sentence. I admit I am a bit more libertarian than most of the commenters here, but this attitude got me through life just fine. Disease and unwanted pregnancies are scare tactics; a reasonably intelligent person can enjoy a sexually rich life without ever coming close to either.

    I also want to comment on the topic of sexual compatibility that came up. Leyla, if I understand correctly, you seem to think that the issue of sexual compatibility can only arise when partners had prior experiences and developed certain preferences to which the other partner can be compatible or not. Following that logic, you say that this issue will never come up between two virgins because they only have each other, not prior recollections, to adjust to, and they will eventually become sexually compatible with each other. Did I understand you right?

    Let me offer my humble opinion: your sexual history does not mold your preferences and habits. It only helps you discover them. Sexual likes and dislikes are already imprinted in your cortex before you enter puberty. You have your own internal calibration that tells you if the sex you had is good or bad – even if this partner is your only one for life. Also, we continue to develop and evolve as sexual beings throughout our lives – and that is only vaguely related to our sexual partners. Your curiosity, imagination, fantasy life have their own internal engine; you will continue to think and be driven to your true desires quite regardless of your sexual behavior. Let me repeat it again: we already know what we like in bed before we begin having sex; it just takes us a while to realize and verbalize it. This will happen independently of your partners’ sexual skills and their numbers.

    In my experience, people are NOT sexually moldable. If you find something distasteful, it will be very difficult to develop a taste for it (unless you only thought you found it distasting). If you are hungry for something, your hunger will not die out just because your current partner doesn’t practice it. Can men and women be made into good lovers? In my educated opinion, this improvement is only incremental. Crudely speaking, a man who is not sexually talented may improve his performance, but will not come close to the level of the man who is naturally talented in the bedroom. I imagine the same is true about women but I have never been with one so can’t comment. Let’s make this really simple and graphic. A man who adores giving oral sex will volunteer and continue to do so. A man who finds it a turn-off may be prevailed upon to do it once in a while if the wife asks for it, but he will never have the skill or the ardor of the first man.

    Will a history of rich sexual experience make it easier for you to compare men and discard them based on their performance in bed? It might – if you are only with them for the sex. When you are choosing a husband, not a lover, or even a long-term partner, his sexual skills are just one factor in his package. So no, a suitor who is financially stable, personally compatible, charming, interesting and with a shorter penis will not be rejected in favor of Mr. Casanova with no job and no common interests (by an intelligent woman). You don’t get married to enjoy yourself in the bedroom (that is much easier outside the marriage!) Marriage requires a set of completely different standards for men and women than “being good in bed.” Sexual skills are only one small part of what makes a good spouse. But then I was thirty-six when I got married; a 21-year old may not have realized it.

    • “Disease and unwanted pregnancies are scare tactics; a reasonably intelligent person can enjoy a sexually rich life without ever coming close to either.”

      Completely agree with this.

      Thanks for such a detailed and informative comment! I really enjoyed reading it and basically agree with everything!

  16. I was reading the hadith on Aisha’s wedding to the Prophet. There were witnesses. Her face was washed, hair removed from her face and she was brought into her house. There she was placed in the lap of one of her father’s friends present in the room. He drank milk from a cup and gave her some to sip from the same cup. Aisha drank a bit. Everyone left the room but her parents; she remained seated in the lap of her father’s friend. Later she was told he was her husband.

    He didn’t touch her for some years and when Abu Bakr asked him why he wasn’t consummating his marriage to Aisha, he confessed that he had no dowry to give her. That same month Muslims raided their first large caravan and the loot offered the Prophet the opportunity to pay Aisha her dowry and consummate his marriage with her.

    There are similar stories of the Prophet’s *weddings* to other women.

    Now compare that with the *weddings* too. They are an extravaganza! I see two necessary parts of an Islamic marriage: witnesses and bridal money. Witnesses are free 😀 Bridal money is just a gift which could be small. But I agree that livelihood has become more expensive. It is not easy to raise a family any longer.

  17. I haven’t read through all of the comments, but have skimmed through most of them. What is the REAL issue here?

    The sunnah of the prophet (peace be upon him) advises practicing Muslims to get married as soon as a good suitor comes along. Culture and tradition, now a days, have made marriage a HUGE enterprise where most Arab (and also non-Arab Muslim) cultures ask for ridiculously high dowries, and weddings cost thousands of dollars where marriage is made unbelievably difficult. That is why they don’t get married until 30. If people chose Islam before tradition, men and women would not have such a difficult time getting married in the first place, and therefore, pre marital relations would not be even an issue. And it shouldn’t even be an issue.

    Allah has made this religion (ISLAM) easy for us, and it is we and our unhealthy practices and traditions which are nurturing other types of sinful behaviors in Muslim societies. Allah through out the Qur’an tells us to guard our private parts – meaning to abstain from sexual activity unless married.

    The solution is simple. If the hormones are acting up, and you can’t wait, then get married. We have made the halal difficult and the haram more easy. May Allah guide us all!

  18. Do sexually repressed societies have more instances of sexual harassment and/or rape?

    Yes. And peadophilia as well. Examples: Catholic priests, Haredi (Orthodox Jewish), India and Roma (Gypsy) communities. In Roma communities incest is quite common too.

    Now for the pre-marital sex and Islam, I think it’s unadvisable rather than forbidden. I found a Qu’ran verse on a now defunct blog that says something like :”a virgin for a virgin, a non-virgin for a non-virgin” meaning it’s not compulsoy to be a virgin just beneficial. I think temporary marriage is the perfect solution. It’s widely practised in Iran and one woman joked that she never thought that feminists and conservatie Imams would form and alliance and create halal boyfriends but temporary marriage is just it lol.

  19. Guard your private parts can refer to not walk around the town showing them not sexual abstinence. One can have sex in the dark or under quilts so the partner can’t see you.

    It’s all in the perception

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