Two Muslim women have revealed they struggle with strict Islamic teachings banning sex before marriage in a frank discussion about their religion.
Activist and author Yassmin Abdel-Magied, who says she may never get married, revealed she finds it difficult to accept that she may never have sex.
She appears in new BBC documentary Islam, Women And Me, in which presenter Mehreen Baig examines what makes the ‘perfect’ Muslim woman and wife.
Yassmin, an outspoken feminist, tells Mehreen that she often feels ‘randy’ and thinks non-Muslims don’t realise that they also have sexual desires.
In another scene, Mehreen is horrified when a conservative Imam from an east London mosque claims the ‘perfect wife’ should obey her husband and have sex whenever he demands it.
Mehreen Baig’s new BBC documentary Islam, Women and Me looks at what makes the ‘perfect’ Muslim woman and wife (pictured here: Mehreen, left, with author Yassmin, right)
The unnamed Imam who appears in the documentary says that Muslim wives should be obedient, and have sex whenever their husband wants them to, while speaking at a mosque
A verse in Chapter 24 of the Quran advises both men and women to ‘turn your eyes away’ from temptation and to ‘preserve your chastity’.
But Mehreen, who has been told that she is a ‘bad Muslim’ for dressing in western clothing, questioned whether she would be forgiven for having sex outside of wedlock if she isn’t married by the time she is 32 years old.
The 28-year-old said: ‘Sometimes I think what if I reach 32 and I’m still not married, which looks pretty realistic right now, then what’s going to happen? It sounds so bad but will God be like, ”I understand?”’
Yassmin replied: ‘I’m not too fussed about the marriage thing. I think it would be nice to find a partner, but one of the main motivating factors is I’m still holding on to the no sex before marriage thing and it’s a struggle, we have needs.
‘The reality is like it’s not like we have any less of a sexual desire than men. We’re all neutered apparently, it’s like get off it. I’m as randy as the next one right.’
Mehreen admits that she’s worried a Muslim man won’t want her because she is independent and ambitious
Mehreen (right) visited a Sharia Law council in Birmingham headed up by Dr Amra Bone (left), a lecturer in Islamic Studies, who said that Islamic principles should not be used by men to imprison their wives
To learn more about how the ‘perfect’ Muslim woman should behave, Mehreen visited a mosque in east London where an Imam was giving a speech about finding the perfect partner.
WHAT IS SHARIA LAW?
Essentially Islam’s legal system, Sharia governs all aspects of the observant Muslim’s life, and is drawn largely from the Quran – the Islamic sacred book – as well as the hadiths, which are the actions attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
As well as marriage and finances, Sharia law encompasses everyday rules around things like hygiene and dress codes. Although there are Sharia councils and tribunals operating in the UK, they are not courts of law, and their rulings are based purely on religion.
They cannot overrule regular British law courts, but Muslims will often seek the assistance of a Muslim council in resolving marital or financial disputes.
He told the congregation that a man should love and trust his wife and provide her with a good home – before reeling off a list of requirements for women.
The imam, who was not named, added: ‘She should show him love and affection, she should express her full confidence and trust in her husband.
‘She must make herself available to her husband whenever he says ”I’m ready, I need you.”
‘She must be available unless you’ve got good excuse.’
He continued: ‘She should not admit anyone whom her husband dislikes to come in or stay in her house.
‘She must not put economic pressure on her husband, she must obey her husband.
‘The wife must not travel without the consent of her husband.’
Mehreen admitted she was shocked by the imam’s guidance, and said she didn’t agree with any of his points.
Mehreen, who has been told that she is a bad Muslim for dressing in western clothes, says she struggles with being both a modern woman and a Muslim
Mehreen wonders if God will forgive her for having sex if she doesn’t get married in the next few years
‘It is important to me to marry within my faith but will Muslim men want a wife like me with an independent streak and ambition?’ she said.
Mehreen revealed that her own modesty is often questioned by her followers on social media when she posts pictures of herself in trousers or wearing lots of makeup.
She said: ‘I get really positive support on my social media and stuff but a few times people will point a finger at me and tell me I’m a bad Muslim.
‘What are they going to pick on? They’re going to pick on the way I dress. If that’s the worst thing you can pick about me as a person and me as a Muslim I’m quite happy with that.’
Activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied (centre), who calls herself a Muslim feminist, says also struggles with not being able to have sex
Mehreen visit a Sharia Law council in Birmingham headed up by Dr Amra Bone, a lecturer in Islamic Studies, to find out more about the role of a Muslim wife.
Dr Bone insisted the Islamic principles are there to show Muslims how to treat people with respect and love, and not as tools to oppress wives.
She explained: ‘You have to look at the overall principle of Islamic teachings. Islam is not a ritual as people have made it out to be. Islamic teachings are there to guide both men and women to behave towards each other with respect and kindess and love.
‘How you understand that is did the prophet ever beat his wife? Never in his life. Say he is an example for you, the best example for you and he never hit a woman ever in his life.’
Islam, Women and Me airs on Tuesday at 10:45pm on BBC One