Sexual Relationship education in the UK
In this ayah from Surah al-A’raf, Allah(SWT) recounts how Shaytan tricked our forefather, Adam (AS) to remind us of a critical lesson about the evil influence of Shaytan in their lives.
“O children of Adam, We have bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your shame and as adornment. But the clothing of righteousness – that is best. That is from the signs of Allah that perhaps they will remember.” [ Sūrat al-Aʿrāf 7:26]
From September 2020, the Department for Education (DfE) is introducing compulsory changes to the English school curriculum that risk sexualising children and undermining parents’ prerogative to direct their children’s upbringing in accordance with their religious beliefs. The Department for Education’s guidance says schools should engage with parents when it comes to delivering the curriculum, but emphasises that the ultimate decision on what is taught lies with teachers and parents have no “veto” on content.
Relationships Education will be compulsory in all primary schools, and Health Education will be compulsory in all primary and secondary schools. The DfE is encouraging the teaching of these new subjects to include content that amounts to sex education. But parents will have no right to withdraw their children from these new subjects.
Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) will be compulsory in all secondary schools. But, whereas parents currently have an unqualified right to withdraw their children from sex education, parents’ rights to withdraw their children from RSE will be significantly limited. And this is just the start – many of us are probably aware about mainstream media discussion about children having possibly ‘100 genders, or more’ with a parent recently being told that they could not state the gender of their child as boy or girl as they may decide to change later.
In the context of the lesson from the story related in the Qur’an, we learn many lessons about the importance of shame and modesty. Shaytan was jealous of Adam(AS) and his arrogance and disobedience to Allah(SWT) led him to find a way to make Adam(AS) fall from favour as well. Shaytan’s goal was not just to tempt Adam(AS) to eat from the tree which was forbidden to them but to make him so ashamed that he does not turn back to His Lord.
Allah(SWT) explains that clothing was sent down to Adam & Huwa (AaS) to firstly cover their shame and to look good. Reesha is mentioned similar to feathers as they beautify. After you have covered your shame, then do dress well, not out of pomp but out of good conduct.
Then Allah(SWT) reminds us that just like we have clothing for our bodies, there is also the clothing of our character – the clothing of taqwa, being conscious of Allahs(SWT) presence and bounds.– Clothes are proection of the body, and the protection of the character is far better. The story then goes on:
O children of Adam, let not Satan tempt you as he removed your parents from Paradise, stripping them of their clothing to show them their private parts. Indeed, he sees you, he and his tribe, from where you do not see them. Indeed, We have made the devils allies to those who do not believe. [Sūrat al-Aʿrāf 7:27]
Shaytan tricked your parents so he could expose their shame to one another. Imam At-Tabari may Allah have mercy upon him stated when commenting on this verse: “It means: Let not Satan deceive you into obeying him and therefore exposing your private parts to others, thus depriving yourselves from entering Paradise, which is exactly what resulted in your father (i.e. Adam) being expelled from Paradise.”
Islam obligates clothing because nakedness is a dispraised matter. A man once entered into the presence of the Prophet while wearing improper clothing, so he asked: “Do you have money?” The man replied: “Yes, from all means. Allah has granted me camels, sheep, horses and slaves.” Thereupon, the Prophet said to him: “Then let the favour and blessings of Allah be apparent on you.” Imam Ibn Hajar commented on this narration stating: “This means: wear the clothing that suits the level of bounties of Allah upon you, and which is clean and pleasant, so that needy people would recognise a person’s status and know to ask from him charity. One can eat, wear or drink anything (that is lawful) as long as it is without extravagance or boasting.
“And when they commit an immorality, they say, “We found our fathers doing it, and Allah has ordered us to do it.” Say, “Indeed, Allah does not order immorality. Do you say about Allah that which you do not know?” [Sūrat al-Aʿrāf 7:28]
Sometimes, we hear some insist on practises which may be shameless, like weddings, quoting the tradition of their community and forefathers. But Allah(SWT) reminds us of our origins, our ancestor, Adam(AS) did not encourage such shamelessness.
Once the clothes come off, then there’s only one thing left are acts of shamelessness, until this becomes normal. There are many lessons from this, including:
- The need to cover oneself is not an artificial urge amongst people, rather it is an important aspect of human nature. Allah(SWT) endowed us with the natural instincts of modesty and bashfulness.
- As people fall prey to Satanic influences, they developed a false and unhealthy notion about the function of dress.
- The Qur’an emphasizes that it is not enough for the dress to cover the private parts and to provide protection and adornment to the human body- it should also be a dress of piety, well presented without showing off, suited appropriately for males and females.
Thousands of parents, within and outside of faith communities across the country are concerned about the SRE changes and their interference with important parental rights. Campaigning group Let Kids be Kids wants these classes to be made optional to avoid children being exposed to ideas which may not correlate with the “religious and philosophical convictions” of their family.
There is no question that children in this day and age not only need to be prepared for the world in which they live. However, the current resources which are being presented to meet the government guidance are problematic, as they:
- Expose children to expose children to explicit sexual images and instruction before they have the ability to understand the context. Research shows this lowers their natural inhibition and exposes them to abuse and possibly grooming.
- Teach poorly evidenced concepts causing confusion about “gender identity” into schools from the age of 4, with claims that children were “born in the wrong body”.
- Confusing relationships with sexual attraction, rather than nurturing and develop friendships innocently.
The DfE states that all schools must have in place a written policy for Relationships Education and RSE, with reasonable consultation with parents in developing and reviewing their policy. Schools should ensure that the policy meets the needs of pupils and parents and reflects the community they serve. Speak up to protect the shame of our children, our community and so that we can have an excuse before Allah(SWT) of aiming to preserve modesty and follow His guidance by:
- Engaging constructively with the school policy making process: Request and read the school’s RSE policy and request to speak to the RSE lead at the school to review the materials and resource they will be teaching from.
- Take part in the Parent-Teacher association or consider becoming a school governor so that you can volunteer your experience and skills to support with a culturally sensitive choice for your school community.
- The family is the strongest unit of society according to the Islamic faith, and therefore when the family is weak, society as a whole becomes weak. As parents, take an active involvement in supporting the nurturing and teaching of topics related to relationships and health education with your children.
- Work with other parents, faith and community organisations to consider culturally sensitive resources to meet ensure our children are prepared for contemporary living. The Association of Muslim schools has proposed a programme and there are discussions underway between Luton mosques and the local authority. Get involved and raise your voice in a respectful, wise and effective manner.
Abu Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, among the words people obtained from the prophets are this: If you feel no shame, do as you wish.” Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3296
Ibn Rajab said, “The scholars interpret this saying in two ways. First, that it is a command of caution and warning, meaning if there is no shame, do as you wish, for Allah will repay you accordingly… Second, that it is a command of description, meaning that whoever does not have shame will do as he wishes, for it is shame that prevents evil deeds.” Source: Jāmi’ al-Ulūm wal-Ḥikam 20
Once you lose shame, you lose your humanity. May Allah (SWT) makes us the preservers of shame for His sake.