Sex Therapy in Yemen

October 11th, 2006

The cover of the Wall St. Journal today had a fascinating article about an Arab sex therapist who is gaining quite a bit of attention (both negative and positive) by combining a correspondence class in Sex Therapy with teachings from the Koran.  As an Islamic woman, Mrs Heba Kotb is taking on the gigantic task of “lifting the veil on a touchy subject.”  If that is not the understatement of the year…

Mrs. Kotb’s challenge of providing sexual education in a culture where sex is forbidden outside of marriage, and female circumcision is still widely practiced is nothing short of heroic.  And while reactions to her work are mixed, there is a surprising following and support as she is directly addressing the problems of many troubled Muslim marriages and a rising divorce rate which are being quietly acknowledged as related to sexual problems.

She is able to build trust in her listeners by combining quotes from the Koran with her information.  Apparently the prophet kissed his wife before leaving and upon returning home, so she says what excuse could you have- being too busy to kiss your wife- the prophet wasn’t too busy.  Her information becomes reliable when it is taught in this context.  Surprisingly,  she is even being asked by parents to teach their teenagers.  On her first radio show she interviewed a Muslim preacher, who said that her work was “a great mission” – He referred to the “dire need for a religiously correct way to strengthen family bonds and protect our youth from harmful ideas…”

So there it is,  the problems of bad sex, no sex, sexual frustration are even coming out of the closet in places where sexuality barely exists.  I think it’s high time to lift the veil, and I salute the courage of a woman like Heba to do it.

The truth is that we all need love, yes physical love, the sexual kind.  I look forward to the day when our religious preoccupations celebrate the gifts we were given in sexual consensual love. Here I go again on my soap box, but there is no place closer to the sacred than in the arms of someone you love, loving you. Embracing the deep transformative pleasure of loving your partner could be the single act which awakens us to our humanity, our goodness, our ability to love.

3 Responses to “Sex Therapy in Yemen”

  1. Nadia Says:

    wow

  2. Elisabet Says:

    Hi,

    I just read your article about the Arab Sex Therapist. I feel that there is so much misinformation and lack of information in the West when it comes to the Islamic tradition that I thought it might help if I try to provide some information.You wrote that Yemen, like other Muslim countries, is a place where sexuality barely exists. This is not the whole truth. In Islam sexuality is seen very differently than in Christianity, with which most of us are familiar. The islamic point of view is that sexuality is something wonderful given by God that should be enjoyed within marriage and both the wife and the husband have the right to sexual fullfillment. The Quran states that God put love and mercy between the two partners and that they are like garments onto each other and the tradition of the prophet Mohammad elaborates on how this sexual fullfillment can be achieved.(He stressed the importance of the sexual fullfillment of the woman at a time when women had absolutely no rights and were inherited with property.) The Prophet never used crude language but he also did not shy away from the subject. He, for example, said that the angels are pleased when a wife and husband enjoy sex. It is believed that God wanted to give us a glimbse of Paradise when he gave us sexuality since for most people the sexual experience provides us with the most pleasent feelings that we can achieve here on earth. I feel that in fact Islam has a very natural and postive attitute towards sexuality. (The woman is not seen as the temptress that caused the fall of Adam. There is no celibacy in Islam since Muslims do not believe that they can come closer to God by abstaining from sex. The prophet Mohammad said that people who do not marry in order to come closer to God are not from his followers. He also said that Muslims fullfill half of their religion by getting married and fullfilling sex is an important part of the marital relationship and a mercy from God.) The reason that this is not known by a lot of people in the West is that sexuality is kept out of public life as much as possible. Islam does make sexuality binding on being married. Sexual relationships outside of marriage are strictly forbidden because Muslims believe that otherwise society will be harmed and disrupted and children born out of wedlock suffer because they most of the time grow up without a father and mother who are lovingly committed to each other and to providing a nurturing family environment. In order to avoid illicit sexual relationships certain precautions are being taken. They have mostly to do with regulating the behavior between people who are legally allowed to marry and dress codes.(In Islam both the man and woman are required to dress modestly when in public.) People in the West see mostly this puplic aspect and then conclude from that that Islam has a problem with or a dislike of sexuality.

    I also wanted to mention that female circumsion which is practised in some North African countries and also some Arab countries among Muslims and Christians alike, is forbidden in Islam just as it is in Christianity. It is nowhere mentioned, neither in the Quran, nor in the prophetic tradition but is in fact a cultural practice that comes from a time before Islam. If you ask me it is a crime against humanity and one of the most despicable things that is still going on in this world.

    I really appreciate your article and hope that my explanations are of value. I did not mean to preach and I hope I have not offended anyone. My intention was to provide information for people who are interested and to reduce prejudice.

    Peace

    Elisabet

  3. Benaam Says:

    Elisabet, your article is absolutely spot on. There is so much misconception about Sex in Islam and you have summed this up perfectly in your response.

    Unfortunately many parts of the Muslim World are burdened with cultural baggage like FGM in Africa which are cultural practices and not endorsed by Islam yet all too often the name of Islam is tarnished by being associated with these barbaric acts.

    I also wrote about this subject on my blog please have a read and let me know what you think?

    http://thinkingoutoftheblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/lets-not-talk-about-sex.html

    Kind Regards

    Benaam (www.thinkingoutoftheblog.blogspot.com

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