Photo courtesy of Fatima El-Hajj
Islam isn’t a belief system known for its liberal stance on sexuality. Though the Prophet Muhammad said in the Qur’an that men should treat their wives to some foreplay before putting it in, the scholars who’ve interpreted his words have generally been less cool with making sex fun—many going so far as to say that oral sex is completely forbidden.
Lately, however, there have been signs that the Muslim world is becoming at least a teensy bit more open-minded when it comes to genitalia. In 2007, Heba Kotb, the Arab world’s first Muslim sexologist, started answering questions about doin’ it on her Egyptian TV show. Others have followed in Kotb’s footsteps, and now Muslims in Denmark have their own sexologist to turn to in Fatima El-Hajj. The 24-year-old devout Muslim says that since opening her practice in Copenhagen a couple of months ago, she’s been overwhelmed with curious clients, while also facing prejudice from both xenophobic Danish bigots and fundamentalist Muslims. I emailed her to find out more about the Muslim sex-advice biz.
VICE: When did you become interested in Islam and sexuality?
Fatima El-Hajj: Having been born into a Muslim family, I knew extremely little about sex and its place within my religion. It was taboo and people didn’t really talk about it, but the more I looked into it, the clearer it became just how negative and distorted many Muslims’ views on sex were. I couldn’t understand why my own religion had such a depressing view of it. It’s a human right for each and every person to enjoy making love—why shouldn’t Muslims be part of that, too?
As an adult, I became fascinated with spirituality, and three years ago, I suddenly found myself at a tantra festival, and all sorts of impressions overwhelmed me. I remember feeling cheated in regard to all these facets of sex that had been kept secret from me. I became a full-time tantra practitioner, and at the same time was studying literature about sexuality within Islam and discovered a wealth of information and detail I hadn’t had the slightest notion even existed. Like what?
For instance, keeping one’s partner erotically satisfied is a great way to win blessings. It’s also written that a man may never ejaculate before the woman has achieved orgasm. Both partners are expected to smell good, as well as keep properly manicured nails and well-groomed pubic hair. This all helps to ensure a healthy sexual appetite. So is there a conspiracy of sexually lazy dudes keeping all this under wraps?
There are many Muslims who view sex as something wrong and shameful, whereas Islam views it as something beautiful. What sort of questions do these misinterpretations lead to in Muslims?
I’ve had people ask me if too much sex is unhealthy. One woman even asked me if it was common to experience vaginal discharge after sex, because her aunt had told her it was. Young Muslims tend to go to their elders to ask such questions, and unfortunately, the answers are rarely reliable. Intercourse before marriage is forbidden, so quite often parents tend to stigmatize [sex]. The only problem is that this stigma tends to stick around later in life.
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