Fornication and Adultery, should we accept these behaviours as normal?
In the Voice of Islam show 1 that this blog is based on, some of the areas discussed were, has fornication become commonplace in western culture and is adultery seen as a minor failing. What impact is this having on society? what can be done to change it? and what advice does Islam have to give with respect to this?
Let us start by defining these key terms. The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines:
Fornication: consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other 2
Adultery: voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than that person’s current spouse or partner 3
Now that we are clear about what these terms mean lets start by discussing fornication. Born and brought up in the UK and therefore exposed to the western lifestyle, I have seen for myself the transition of opinions around fornication.
Now, law in the west is influenced by religion. However, there is a line where morality, which comes from religion, can be enforced as law.
This is well explained in the extract below:
“For starters, morality is defined as beliefs pertaining to the differences between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour. The rules of morality are not mandates or commands; they are beliefs. Laws, on the other hand, are the rules a country or community mandates its citizens follow in order to regulate society. Laws are not optional. They must be obeyed. Adding to the mix, religion is a structure of faith and worship. It’s a belief system based on faith in a supernatural power.
Now, on paper, these terms seem rather cut and dry. However, their application is where things get a bit tricky. Also, these terms take on very different meanings depending on where you live” 4
So, if we stick to defining the western nations, we can start to understand that morality, which was born out of religion, has influence on the shaping of law.
It is important at this juncture to state that the rules of religion are Divine Laws. For those of us that believe in God we are clear that these laws are absolute and inform our everyday behaviour.
So, here is the crux of where changes start to occur…… How many people in the west still have a deep and clear connection with their faith? Christianity being the main faith in Europe, how many follow the letter of the law?
In the King James version of the Bible it says in Corinthians:
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” 5
If faith in our creator is dwindling in the west then of course, there is very little to prevent people from behaving in any way they wish, as long as its within the bounds of law.
In the 2021 census it was revealed:
“For the first time ever, Christianity is no longer a majority religion in England and Wales.
It’s just the first of many interesting results to come from the 2021 census, revealed earlier this week. Just 46.2 per cent of the population described themselves as Christian, down from 59.3 per cent a decade earlier.
It’s a drop of about 5.5 million people but it still remains the largest single defined religion” 6
Also, culture in the west is heavily influenced by media. Films, TV, music, social media have heavily normalised fornication.
Look at the many reality shows on TV. Programmes like Love Island 7 where young people are encouraged to interact with each other in a physical manner.
We are surrounded by information that reinforces the idea that fornication is normal, that it is a natural process.
The desire to be with the opposite sex is a natural and normal part of being a human.
As puberty hits….8 to 13 for girls, 9 to 14 for boys 8 a whole cascade of hormones create major changes to the physical and emotional states of children. Getting them ready to continue the process of procreation.
The issue is, what is Sex really about? Is it just to satisfy a physical need? or is it primarily the way for us to continue the human race?
The answer, of course, is obvious. If we look at the world around us then we can see that each species grows and thrives through reproduction, otherwise it would become extinct.
The primary purpose of sex is to reproduce and it makes complete sense that it should be a pleasurable experience otherwise why would we do it.
Over the years we have replaced the concept of sex, from procreation to recreation. People are behaving without due consideration and thought, allowing animalistic behaviours to take over.
There has been disregard for the basic ideas of reserve, chastity, patience, courtship, discipline and a movement away from really committing to our partners through the institution of marriage with divorce rates in 2020 at 42%. 9
Historically, the west has strongly discouraged fornication, with, on occasion actual laws that forbid this act. Again, much of the thinking around this was based on Christianity 10 However, as time went by, much of the stigma attached to fornication was dropped, the 1960s, 70s and 80s liberalising sex. The 1967 Family Planning Act 11 was instrumental in giving women control, for the first time, over their fertility, with the introduction of the birth control pill and changes in the law on abortion.
The same freedoms and changes in attitude that have allowed the rise in fornication have also led to an increase in adultery. According to data from the National Opinion Research Centre’s General Social Survey 12
The percentage of married women having affairs rose almost 40 per cent from 1990 to 2010 reaching 14.7%, while the number of men admitting to extramarital affairs held constant at around 22%,
This truly is a sad state of affairs. What does this say about the way we live our lives in the west?
We know that all the major religions regard fornication and adultery as a sin so what advice does Islam have.
The Quran is clear in the matters of adultery and fornication:
“And come not near unto adultery; surely, it is a foul thing and an evil way” 17:33 13
“And those who call not on any other God along with Allah, nor kill a person that Allah has forbidden except for just cause, nor commit adultery (or fornication), and he who does that shall meet with the punishment of sin” 25:69 14
For sure there are a certain number of individuals who can maintain a platonic friendship without committing adultery or fornication. The thing to understand is that Islam does not make rules for the minority. Rules are always made to impact the majority of people.
The same is the case with platonic relationships. As there are too many dangers involved, Islam has forbidden them and it says clearly in the Quran 15
“And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they disclose not their natural and artificial beauty except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head-coverings over their bosoms, and that they disclose not their beauty save to their husbands, or to their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands or their sons or the sons of their husbands or their brothers, or the sons of their brothers, or the sons of their sisters, or their women, or what their right hands possess, or such of male attendants as have no sexual appetite, or young children who have no knowledge of the hidden parts of women. And they strike not their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may become known. And turn ye to Allah all together, O believers, that you may succeed” 24:32
The Holy Prophet Muhammad ( Peace and blessings be upon him) says:
“Beware! A man is not alone with a woman, except that the third among them is Satan” 16
Islam understands that as humans we are subject to our emotions and thus serves to provide guidance that minimises the exposure to temptation. Thus segregation, modest behaviour with regards dress and conduct, guidance on interaction with the opposite sex, clarity on the purpose of sex and the sanctity of marriage, all help muslims to conduct their lives in a higher moral state.
Marriage is a vital component of a muslims life. The Holy Prophet of Islam ( peace and blessings be upon him) says of this: 17
“Marriage is my precept and my practice. Those who do not follow my practice are not of me.”
“When a man has married, he has completed one half of his religion.”
So, in conclusion, the major religions condemn fornication and adultery. The legal system was originally heavily influenced by religion. Over time, the declining belief in God in the West, with regards Christianity, has meant that religious teachings have significantly less impact on the judicial system.
Changes in social behaviour, access to 24/7worldwide media has further degraded moral values.
Is it challenging at times to adhere to a religious way of life, especially living in the west. For sure it is. It is only through Gods grace, prayer and ensuring we maintain good connections with other people adhering to the principles of Islam, do we manage to keep moving forwards every day.
I end this blog with a message from the Holy Quran: 18
“O ye who believe! be steadfast and strive to excel in steadfastness and be on your guard and fear Allah that you may prosper.” 3:201
- VOI Show Podcast: Abstaining from Evils – The Key to Peace
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Definition of Fornication
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Definition of Adultery
- Study.com: How Morality differs from Law and Religion
- Christianity.com: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
- Euronews: Losing My Religion: How the UK is Leaving the Church and Gaining Conspiracy Theories
- ITV Love Island: Official Love Island Website
- Kidshealth: Understanding Puberty
- Harbour Family Law: How Many Marriages End in Divorce in the UK
- Wikipedia: Fornication
- UK Parliament: National Health Service (Family Planning) Act 1967
- Global Investigations: Infidelity Statistics in the UK
- The Holy Quran: Chapter 17, Verse 33
- The Holy Quran: Chapter 25, Verse 69
- The Holy Quran: Chapter 24, Verse 32
- Al Islam: What does Islam say about platonic relationships
- Al Islam: The Islamic Marriage System
- The Holy Quran: Steadfastness (various references)