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Ethics

Decency & Privacy

There was a time when people need not be reminded of some of the basic moral and ethical values, but now we are living in an era where moral values are changing with the change of the worn-out car tires!

One of such issues is decency in dress at home and privacy at the time of sexual intercourse or intimate contact between husband and wife. There are some people in the West (of course, in minority) who think that it is okay, nay healthy, to stay naked in presence of their children! Ona collective basis, they also organize nude camps. Why? So that the children will not think negatively about their own sexuality. Such parents also feel that there is nothing wrong in sexual intercourse in presence of their children. This behaviour is an example of the extreme reaction to the rigid Christian morality. To protect their children from associating sex with evil, some of these parents go to the extent of completely opening up to their children!

Such behaviour is not only condemned by those who still abide by religious moral systems, it is equally condemned by those who are familiar with child psychology. A sexual manual read by millions of Westerners says, "Never involve children in adult sexual activities: militant and exhibitionist liberals who try to acclimatize children to the naturalness of sex by letting them in any level of their own sex lives probably do at least as much harm as was ever done by the prohibitive sex-is-dirty generation."

We have quite a few ahadith in which the Prophet and the Imams have emphasized that when you engage in sexual intercourse, make sure that no child (or, for that matter, any other person) sees you or hears you. Abu Basir quotes Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq as follows, "Be careful not to have sex with your wife while a child can see you. The Prophet used to dislike this (attitude) very strongly."1 If a child sees and hears the parents engaged in sexual intercourse, he or she might go through a shocking psychological experience. It might also create problem in his or her own adult life. The manual quoted earlier says, "Most young children are biologically programmed to interpret the sight or sound of adult coition as evidence of a violent assault (they are aware of it earlier than you would expect, so don't keep babies in the bedroom), and the awareness of mother-father sexual relations is on all counts for too explosive a matter to be monkeyed with in the interest of Reichian experiments."

Islam has laid down cler guide-lines about the privacy of adults. Referring to the children who have not yet reached the age of puberty (bulugh), the Qur'an say:

O you who believe! ... Those of you who have not yet reached puberty should ask you for permission (before entering your bedroom during) three times: before the dawn prayer, when you put off your garments at midday (for siesta), and after the night prayer -these are three times of privacy for you. Besides (these three times), there is no blame on you or them if you go to one another (without announcing yourselves). Thus God makes clear to you the signs, and God is All-Knowing, Wise (24:58)

Then referring into the children who have reached the age of puberty, the Qur'an says:

When your children reach puberty, they should ask your permission (at all times before entering your bedrooms) just as those who were before them had asked permission. Thus God makes clear to you the signs, and God is All-Knowing, Wise (24:59)

These two verses give us the following rules about privacy within and without the family circles:

1. There are three times in a day -night, early morning and afternoon- which are considered as times of privacy.

2. The minor children should be taught that during times of privacy they are not allowed to enter into the bedroom of their parents or adults without first asking their permission. Obviously, by minor we do not mean infants; we mean the children who can understand what is right and what is wrong. I would put that at age five and above. The parents will have to ingrain this teaching to their minor children gradually.

3. At other times, the children are free to come and go into the bedroom of their parents without asking for their permission. In retrospect, this means that the parents should be decently dressed at those other times.

4. As for the mature children and adults, the Qur'an is clear that they may enter the bedroom of their parents or other adults at all times only after asking their permission.

Adapted from: "Marriage & Morals in Islam" by: "Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi"