Preparing for puberty
Learn why it is so important to talk to your child about sexuality from an Islamic perspective, and how you can help take the lows out of growing-up.
Talking to teenager about sexuality
Your child has just turned 11 years old; over time you begin to notice subtle changes in the way that she looks, acts, and talks. Her body begins to show signs of maturation, she is rather moody, and conversations with her seem to be more adult-like. Your child, or rather ‘young lady’, is just now entering the first stages of puberty and experiencing the wonderful changes that it brings. As a parent, it is important to prepare your child for this phase of life, and it is also crucial from the Islamic perspective. Once she has reached puberty, she will no longer be considered a child free of responsibility. Instead, she will be an adult with all of the obligations of Islam placed upon her. Spiritually, her relationship with Allah will grow and develop, and she will be accountable for all of her choices, actions, and intentions.
Although we are able to train our youth for the religious and spiritual aspects of this phase, we often neglect to teach them about another important element – sexuality. Our neglect may be due to shyness, discomfort, fear, or worry, but it is something that must be done for the sake of our youth. Young adult Muslims have actually related that they wished someone (i.e., a parent, relative, Imaam) would have spoken to them about the Islamic perspective on sexuality and dealing with the opposite gender. They have so many questions about this new passage in their life, but are often afraid to ask. It is imperative that Muslim parents discuss with and educate their youth on this issue; otherwise their child may turn to other sources that are likely to be un-Islamic. It is actually the responsibility of parents to undertake this task, as it is part of the overall education, or training of a child. We must also consider how much our involvement will benefit our youth, because adequate preparation for the changes they are about to experience will lessen their worry, anxiety, and fear.
What should you say?
The following are some key points to consider when imparting information about sexuality to youth, and are also good points to draw on when discussing it with them.
1. Sexuality is a beautiful gift from Allah
Sexuality is a blessing given to us from Allah, Almighty. It is obviously for the purpose of procreation, but it is a mercy from Allah, Almighty, that there is also enjoyment and satisfaction that comes with it. The relationship between man and woman in all spheres highlights Allah’s Graciousness. Allah, Almighty, Says (what means): “And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” [Quran 30: 21]
Thus, sexuality is one component in a loving and affectionate relationship between husband and wife. It is not something shameful or disgraceful, but is rather part of Allah’s wondrous, universal plan.
2. Sexuality is a test and also a responsibility
Although sexuality is a gift from Allah, along with many other things in life, it is also a test and it entails responsibility. Allah, Almighty, determines, at the age of puberty, that an individual is ready for this test. The test determines whether or not a person will submit to Allah and His laws in this sphere of life. To pass this test, the satisfaction of one’s sexual urge must be fulfilled in pure and legitimate ways (within the bond of marriage); to fail the test is to engage in illegitimate sexual relations and those actions and thoughts leading up to it. There are strict guidelines in the Sharee’ah (Islamic Law) for our sexual life, even in relation to other issues such as Hijab, privacy and our social behavior. Many of these are a means of prevention, which is the most effective mechanism. This matter is a very serious one, and should be treated as such, for the consequences are quite severe if it is neglected.
3. Sexuality and marriage are inseparable
To assist in successful completion of the test, Allah, Almighty, through His Mercy, has provided legitimate means to satisfy sexual desire. Marriage is strongly emphasized in Islam for this reason (as well as many others) as indicated in the following Prophetic narrations. The Prophet said: “Whoever marries has completed half of his faith; so let him have fear of Allah in the remaining half.” [At-Tabaraani] He also said: “He who can afford to marry should marry, because it will help him to lower his gaze (from looking at forbidden things and other women) and save his private parts (from committing illegal sexual acts) and he who cannot afford to marry is advised to observe fasting, as fasting will diminish his sexual power.” [Al-Bukhari]
Islam encourages marriage as a legal sexual outlet and as a shield and protection from immorality. Marriage should not be postponed, as is common practice in this time, particularly if the youth has strong sexual desire. The fulfillment and satisfaction of this desire is one of the main purposes of marriage, and it should not be postponed or suppressed for the sake of further education or reaching a certain age, especially if the temptation for illicit relations is present.