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Thursday 8th of December 2022
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The Responsibilities of the Home and the School

The Responsibilities of the Home and the School

The Responsibilities of the Home and the School

Which is better, teaching sex education in the family or at school?

We are not able to delineate the issue so clearly that we can classify it to within a particular scope, for children may need one type of teaching within the home, when they ask about childbirth, become conscious of their private parts, find siblings who are anatomically different. In this case, fathers and mothers may certainly teach the children in a well-balanced manner, giving the child correct but comprehensible answers.

We also need the school, for the systematic education of schools is necessary, especially since some school subjects relate to health, the study of animals and their reproduction, etc. The children are taught subjects they need to know, and through these they receive detailed explanations on subjects relating to the body.

The Sexual Atmosphere

A problem which we face is that, as a result of western culture, the general social environment has become quite sex conscious. The issue of sex has become one of absolute right, as generally with other rights. If Eastern cultures did not possess some discipline or restraint, this perverse cultural conditioning could have transformed the Eastern outlook from an Islamic reality into something more akin to what people are in the West.

When, therefore, you initiate sex education without strict prudence in this atmosphere, you could easily pervert sex education. What I say is not dependent on the type of prudence known in present-day society, but rather that of ensuring a strong foundation when providing sex education, so that it may not lead to corruption in practice.

The Concept of Deficiency

The concept of deficiency is the same as its lexical meaning: a flaw in the character, body, or conduct which may cause a moral or ethical deviation. Fornication by a youth is considered by the family to be a deficiency; the public exposure of one's private parts is considered a deficiency-in view of the Shariah prohibition of both actions. This prohibition makes them deficient in respect of religion and flawed in respect of social norms.

Islam, however, does not see that a person should suffer the faults of others, and I do not participate in the deficiency of one of my deviant relatives, even if he is closely related. This is because Islam avers that: "No bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another" (al-Anam, 6:164).

Consequently, targeting the entire family for the sexual transgression of a woman is indeed a jahili concept, not an Islamic one. Islam charges the woman or the man who has fornicated, and determines that their moral depravity is something specific to them, not to the members of their two families or any other person who may be socially connected to them.

There are those who say that sexual deviation or perversity does not stem from any error in sex education or lack thereof, but rather results from the sexual repression prevalent in our society.

I do not say that sex education is the cause of deviancy whenever it is connected to such practice. I say that it may open the avenues to deviations by people who have no previous experience in this area.

Sex Issues as Educational Issues

What is the method for explaining these issues to our sons and daughters? To what length should we go when discussing these issues with them?

These issues are exactly like the other educational issues which need to be explained to children. There may not be a need nor a conducive atmosphere to offer a detailed analysis to a child; we may explain childbirth exactly as we do planting or the incubation of an egg.

With respect to the foregoing questions, I have indicated that society strongly rejects these methods, even though they may be evident. It is absolutely necessary that we educate society in this respect, and introduce the matter as a general societal perspective, providing fathers and mothers with the proper methods of sex education which they may give their inquisitive children.

What about a special program for sex education in schools?

I support that, but it is normal that every subject should be examined for its positive and negative influences on the students to whom it is taught, and what these can lead to in society at large.

Sex Films

What is the ruling on looking at sex films and pornographic photos?

The Shariah and ethical principles prohibit looking at the private parts of another person. This fundamentally applies equally to looking at private parts in pictures or films. The reason is that the negative aspects of the latter are almost the same as those of the former. We do not, however, see this as the main criterion in the legal rulings (fatawa); instead specific circumstances dictate the ruling. For there is a condition which afflicts some people to the point where looking at such films may save the marriage, as in the case of frigidity, impotence, or similar dysfunction in either spouse, and looking at such films may offer a cure. Viewing these films and pictures beyond these circumstances, however, may lead to spiritual dissolution, to the point where the viewer becomes obsessed with the ideas of the film and acting them out, necessitating a prohibition-despite the situations which warrant a certain amount of license, as in the first scenario.

Two Differennt Generations: Parents and Children

Ali b. Abi Talib, Amir al-Mumineen, counseled that parents should rear their children in a different manner than the one in which they were reared, on the premise that they were born in a different time. What is the value of rearing from a perspective which respects time difference? What is the role of past methods and experience here?

What al-Sharif al-Radi related in Nahj al-Balagha is, "Do not mold your children's ethics according to yours, for their time is different from yours." When we wish to analyze this narrative, we must take note that there is a difference between the principles and the ethics which form the behavioral aspect of life. If we wish to delve deeper into the matter, then we must state that ethics is of two categories: morals that are immutable and morals that change.

Immutable morals comprise the pure morals necessary in thought and deed for daily living, necessary in every time and place (e.g., truth, honesty, chastity, and the like) from the best ethical models for perfectly integrated human life.

The morals that change are manners and methods of interaction which reflect social interaction and ways of living in the evolution of the self, etiquette, and protocol. The etiquette of respect, speech, political or social relations changes from time to time.

Take clothing as an example. What is important is not to wear what the Prophet wore, or what the Imams and the Companions wore. Every epoch has its form of dress, and it is possible for us to employ the modern items people have invented while developing various forms of eating, dress, and other things. A tradition was reported from Imam al-Sadiq: "The best dress of the time is the dress of its people"-i.e., a person should wear what the people wear.

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