People sometimes jokingly ask, why is it that driving requires a license, but you can have children without a license or any kind of certification? It’s often a lighthearted remark, but, when you think about it, it’s a legitimate question. If driving or teaching at a school, practicing medicine or law, or even being a plumber requires certification, then what about something that is far more sensitive, far more significant like having children and raising them? After all, children are our future and the state of our society as a whole depends on how children are brought up — their morals, their sense of responsibility, their character, and so on. It’s no secret that children who grow up without proper parental influence are far more likely to become involved in drugs and crime, to face unemployment, to fail to become productive members of society and upright human beings. This, then, has a toll on all of us, on all members of society.

Given these high stakes, one has to wonder how any civilized nation could allow its people to have children without having some kind of regulations to ensure that all children have competent parents. Isn’t it a child’s right to have a stable household and parents capable of properly raising him? Isn’t it our right as members of society to make sure incompetent, irresponsible people in our midst aren’t having children that they will neglect, children who will be more likely to become burdens on society?

Islam, of course, does require just such a license — a “nikah.” Properly done, according to Prophetic guidance, a nikah ensures that a couple is in the best position to raise a family, with the full support of the extended family and the community at large.

Yet, Islamic sexual ethics have been the target of unrelenting criticism from modernists and liberals for decades, who argue that Islamic law stifles the sexual freedom and autonomy of individuals by prohibiting premarital sex. To the contrary, this prohibition protects people’s freedom and autonomy because it effectively curbs the amount of children being born to single mothers and couples who are not in a position to take adequate care of them. This in turn benefits the interests of children and hence, the interests of society at large. So, even if one is not religious per se, the rational merits of prohibiting premarital sex are more than clear. And all the sociological evidence supports this.

Put differently, premarital sex is not a victim-less crime, as some believe.* It is a major crime that most modern nations have allowed to run rampant. This in turn affects the crime rate, it affects the percentage of the population that requires government assistance through welfare, unemployment benefits, etc. — in effect, it make people far more dependent on the state, thus increasing state power exponentially. It is no wonder that modern nation states have shown no interest in upholding the sexual ethics that human societies of all religions have depended on for thousands of years.

In sum, we can make an unimpeachable case for why Islamic sexual ethics are rationally and ethically superior to the secular liberal alternative. So, if a religious argument against things like dating, hooking up, etc., is not convincing, then the rationalistic argument should suffice to make the moral case. At the very least, even if someone does not ultimately agree with this reasoning, he can admit that it is *reasonable*. And that is enough to characterize Islam’s sexual ethics concerning zina as rational and not simply “prudery,” “close-mindedness,” “backwards,” “cruel,” and all the other cheap adjectives used to denigrate Islamic law.
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* – The inevitable remark to this point is, what about contraception? If impregnation is impossible, then where is the victim? Two easy replies: First, on analogy with other kinds of certifications and licenses, airplanes have had autopilot for decades — that doesn’t mean pilots don’t need to be certified before flying commercial jets. Second, if the existence of contraception coupled with widespread sex education were enough to prevent unwanted pregnancies, why has single-motherhood continued to rise decade after decade for the past 50 years, such that today, nearly half of all children are in single parent homes?

People sometimes jokingly ask, why is it that driving requires a license, but you can have children without a license or…

Posted by Daniel Haqiqatjou on Monday, June 1, 2015

Daniel Haqiqatjou

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4 comments

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  • I agree that bringing a human being into the world is a huge responsibility and should not be taken lightly. A child doesn’t ask to be born and has the right to have the best possible conditions to form her own happiness. However, I can’t see it like you put it, because having two married parents doesn’t mean the family will be functional as well as having only one parent doesn’t mean the family will be harmful for the baby. I think it’s less about the way the family is and more about the care and the stability it can provide. I have seen uncountable examples of “perfect” families – wealthy husband and wife and three kids – that end up being extremely unstable – constant fighting, aggression, violence. On the other hand, there are also numerous examples of people who were raised by the mother only, or by the father only, or by the grandparents who ended up getting all the love and care they needed.
    So what I’m trying to say is that, in my opinion, there cannot be a formula that works in every case and to have two married parents isn’t enough or in many cases necessary for a happy and healthy upbringing.
    Anyway, just wanted to share my thoughts, so thank you for reading and best wishes!

    • Having a drivers license also does not guarantee that a person will never cause a car accident. And there are certainly people without licenses who are good drivers. But does either of those two facts mean that we shouldn’t require people on the road to be licensed?

      • Getting married according to Islamic precepts allows couples to put their best foot forward in raising children. Marriage in Islam happens in a family context and it is the influence and support of the “extended family” that is most salubrious to growing children. That is something that modern society has lost and it has lost it in large part because it has dissolved marriage.