The essential stage in biological life, and the stage at which Islamic legal liability is assumed, is adolescence. On this subject, the specialists and researchers in education, psychology and sociology, have averred that it is the most important stage in life. How should we regard the state of adolescence?
When Islam directs the human being, it directs the kinetics of his being, emphasizing the elements of "practical anxiety" in his inner self. When God speaks of Adam as an example to humankind, He says: "And we had taken the covenant of Adam, but he forgot and We found in him no firm resolve" (Taha, 20:11 20:115). The discourse here is about Adam as an example, in his role as a person who does not possess the strong resolve of God's words: "The human being is created in haste, I will show you My signs, but ask Me not to hasten" (al Anbiya, 21:37); "And the human was ever hasty " (al Isra, 17:11); "Man was created weak" (al-Nisa, 4:28); "God is He who shaped you out of weakness" (al Rum, 30:54); and "Neither do 1 absolve myself of blame for the human self is prone to evil except that on which my Lord has bestowed His Mercy" (Yusuf, 12:53). We see, then, in more than one verse, that the emphasis is on the fact that, when created, the human being was not cast with monolithic strength, but that there are elements of weakness residing in his being.
When we study these elements of weakness, we see that they reside in the personality of the human being, just as we see the function of the positive instincts which he demonstrates during the course of his life in the inevitable situations to which his instincts propel him.
Moreover, there are the negative elements in the workings of the instincts impelling towards deviant things which mar human life when one loses balance and perspective. Thus , the human being stands between these two poles: the negative and the positive instincts, for which God (Exalted) emphasizes the intellect as an element among the elements of internal motivation ensuring the balance of perspective against desire.
ADOLESCENCE IS A NORMAL STATE
On contemplating in all of the above, we see adolescence as a normal state in the life of a person, being a condition to which one enters naturally. The process of physical growth begins with vague impulses, then places the person in an environment of rejection and revolution, propelling him to move from a stage of submissiveness and acquiescence to others, to one of realization of individuality and independence. This occurs without clear or proper guidelines for him to establish his individuality and independence.
The stage of adolescence is exactly like the balance between the waves of the sea. In the same manner, a person enters the second wave in a new being which prepares him to be another person, setting the rule for a new stage. The role of (adolescent) education is to prevent the person from being lost, because the influence of the instincts entails the awakening of revolution in the person, the examination of new horizons not yet understood. All this can cause the person to lose his balance of perspective, since he has not acquired the necessary experience on which he can rely to establish a balance.
THE ISLAMIC NURTURING OF THE ADOLESCENT
Islam encourages child rearing in the manner described in the following hadith: "Leave him free for seven years... discipline him for seven… and be his companion for seven". Instruction between 7-14 years of age determines how the person will move towards the right guiding principles by focusing on the inner person, the natural elements of his personality, until adolescence comes along in the fourteenth year, or thereabouts. When it does, there is subjection to established controls. From 14 to 20 years of age, supervision over the adolescent tendencies of the individual personality continues until the person behaves in a normal manner that takes the futuristic developments into consideration.
I do not wish to downplay the dangers of the stage of adolescence in the personality of the youth, but I do not perceive the issue as being as dangerous as claimed by some, except that it is compulsory that the nurturing at this stage be done in a manner whereby the child does not mature with restrictions which strangle him within himself, wrapping his mind and he becomes psychologically sick. Nor should he be given such total liberty that he takes absolute license, distancing himself from the balanced principles of human activities. Nurturing then must take place between the two extremes; there should be discipline without harshness and freedom without licentiousness.
The stage of adolescence is marked by lack of experience and incomplete maturity. Hence, we see many aspects of misbehavior. Does Islam provide any guidelines to correct adolescent misconduct and to protect it from the pitfalls?
Islam wants the parents to shepherd the spiritual aspect in the character of the child before he gets to the stage of adolescence. This may be done by accustoming the child to worship and by creating situations where he gradually becomes conscious of God. Islam has imbued the child with self-confidence, be it male or female, by giving it the right to be an independent and legally recognized entity. When the child reaches the age of mental maturity, when he can conduct his own affairs, Islam relieves him from his guardianship: "And test the orphans until, at adulthood, if you see maturity in them, then give them their property" (al-Nisa, 4:6)i.e., the guardianship of the elders is removed from a mentally mature boy or girl.
Maturity is a mental state stemming from the intelligent examination and contemplation of things, so that the person is able to behave in a proper, balanced manner, in the normal way that people conduct their affairs and relations. This means that adolescence is not an unnatural stage, rather merely a state by which the person goes from a stage of development to the stage of maturity.
ADOLESCENCE AND MATURITY
Islam makes a person legally liable at maturity, so that he has responsibilities both in negative and in positive conditions. This means that Islam does not treat the stage of adolescence as one where the person lets up on responsibilities and obligations. For adolescence may persist until the last stages of life. This implies that the workings of the instincts which influence the negative side of a person through internal or external factors remain forever with that person-from the time of puberty to the end of his life. We know that there are adolescents in their forties, fifties, or even sixties; maturity is not a clearly defined age, but rather a stage, the effects of which begin at puberty and the mental and physical influences of which continue with the progression in life of the person who undergoes the awakening of instincts, in one form or another.
COUNSEL AND GUIDANCE
Therefore, we must begin the work of spiritual, mental, and social instruction and all the other forms before puberty, so that we could prevent the conflict which the
youth faces when he is faced with any impulse which might arise at this stage. This nurturing must continue at every stage, and we must apply the principles of instruction and care in such a manner that this new person does not retain the concept of the former one with respect to the issues that will emerge later in life. We should not seek to constrain him within a closed mind, but rather to open his "thinking and spiritual" lungs to breathe the clear air of life.
MASTURBATION ...THE PERPETRATOR AND THE VICTIM
In order that we do not digress from the topic, the main matter that needs explanation in the light of the Shariah and the Islamic instructions is masturbation.
Masturbation is forbidden, since Islam wants that sexual matters to be satisfied through spousal relations only. This is different from the negative situations where sexual relations occur purely as, a physical joining of the bodies bereft of any supporting spiritual relations. This is in addition to the negative impact on the psychological aspect as well as life as a whole.
Thus, masturbation is forbidden in every way, shape, or form including the sexual imagination that leads to orgasm. But although this act is prohibited, we must understand the normal, natural circumstances that push pubescent boys and girls to indulge in this bad habit. For the call of impulse and passion, and the resorting to this practice as a habit intended to satisfy these impulses, make masturbation one of the easiest habits to acquire, especially under social pressures which prevent any interaction between man and woman outside the limits of permanent marriage. Another influencing factor is the economic pressure preventing the youth from early marriage; or the aspect of traditions which prevents the girl from preparing for an early marriage , and similar factors placed by social restrictions.
Islam has welcomed early marriage, since marriage as a natural state that is far detached from the pitfalls which others have placed in its path, in terms of mental and social maturity, financial means… etc. Islam sees one of the benefits of marriage is to provide a means of satisfying the sexual appetite of man and woman. It recognizes that other issues may develop and grow with this bond, which may be nurtured in exactly the same way as in other relations.
As for the problem of pregnancy and child rearing, adequate solutions are possible, on the realization that we live the problem outside of early marriage and inside it. Islam, however, emphasizes early marriage for youths, regards the dowry (mahr) as a mere formality and focuses on making marriage easy in respect of the economic or financial requirements imposed by the community.
When we understand the general Islamic outlook, we can see that it is possible for students to marry and pursue their studies, to live in their parental homes or a single room which they rent while at university. They can live their life with the same ease that they live their life as students.
We notice that social traditions that place economic and societal restrictions or iron curtains on marriage to the point where marriage is not embarked on until one is in his thirties or later, while early marriage with all its problems is a basic solution in Islam to several problems.
TEMPORARY MARRIAGE AND SEX INFERIORITY COMPLEX
From the Shiite point of view, there is another solution, and that is "temporary marriage", or the "breakable contract", which may have certain reservations on it, specifically in relation to virgins. With respect to widows and divorcees, however, there is no difficulty.
Islam does not regard the issue of sexual relations between the two genders for the purpose of satisfying the sexual appetite as a reprehensible contract, or that it assails the honor of a woman, for Islam regards sex as a natural need, in exactly the same way it does food and drink. When the human being wants to sate this carnal hunger by going to another human being it does not impugn the honor of that person. But, when we see sex only in light of the pitfalls which an air of excessive restriction create, then we go very far from the naturalness of sex.
Sex is a natural condition, indeed, and it is possible for a woman to seek the satisfaction of her impulses, in a natural manner, with a man with whom she reaches an agreement with in all candor. So, too, it is possible for a man to do this with candor, without any party hurting the other, since it is a practice allowed by God. If they cannot enter into permanent marriage, they will instead enter a temporary one according to Shariah guidelines, under certain social controls, and when society reaches a level where it is convinced of the validity of this marriage.
We may face the issue of the children born unexpectedly, in view of the fact that they are legitimate children. The problem stems from the fact that society may bar its youths every opportunity by which they can sate their hunger, and which drives them to masturbation, whether it realizes it or not.
SEX EDUCATION AND SOCIAL VALUES
In view of the harsh social values, how can a proper understanding of sex that is devoid of distortions and misconceptions be reached?
A proper understanding can only come about when the persistent social view of sex is changed, and the idea that it is something dirty or an affront to the dignity of the woman is abandoned. A social revolution must change the general views on marriage in such a way as to make us see that this institution provides the means to establish a simple and natural bond, without inviting the social pitfalls which we had inherited from non‑Islamic cultures. This is because Islam considers that marriage is essential between man and woman.
The crux of the matter is that the marriage contract does not need religious authority, nor does it require any societal convention to fall within the scope of the Shariah. With the requisite Shariah conditions regarding the man and the woman, it is sufficient for the woman to say to the man: "I marry myself to you, with the dowry (mahr) value of so and so"; and that he says to her, "I accept this marriage according to the agreed mahr or the agreed conditions." With this, they are regarded before God (Exalted) as man and wife.
In the Imami Shiite school of Jurisprudence, we notice that it is not stipulated that there should be two witnesses in marriage, but that it is commendable; since people may need to be married in circumstances where there are no witnesses. Recording the marriage in an official or Shariah registrar is exactly like registering any other contract or agreement it may be deemed legally established, but has no impact on the marriage itself from the Shariah point of view. The Shariah status of the bond is by virtue of the agreement between the two people as something specific between them, exactly as in the case of a business transaction, incorporation… etc.
The solution to the sex problem, free of deviancy, obliges us to facilitate the matter of marriage and to abandon this pile of bugbears‑the product of a social tradition which has made marriage a difficult hurdle in the life of our youth. Because of this, our girls have been driven to deviation through its widest doors.
WHAT IS THE VIEW OF ISLAM ON LOVE?
What is the view of Islam on love between the two sexes, between boy and girl; is it something allowed by the Shariah, especially if we know that it can occur sometimes in a involuntary manner?
Islam wants all of humankind, male and female, to experience human love, which allows people to feel for one another, and thus makes them feel united within the sphere of humanity. This love leads to nurturing, guarding, protecting, taking care of needs, preserving honor, respecting women, and so forth. Thus, we see the Messenger of God (p.) associating faith with love, for he said: "None of you is a true believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself, and hates for his brother what he hates for himself." This makes us understand that according to this hadith Islam emphasizes the issue of love which makes you sympathize with the feelings of the other.Consequently, you are not a true believer if your view regarding others is one of the other.
Consequently, you are not a true believer if your view regarding others is one of emptiness, unconcern, without any feelings for their affairs. Hence, we find that the well known hadith stipulates this: "Who does not concern himself with the affairs of the Muslims is not a Muslim."
The issue is that a human must love others who he shares their humanness. According to a hadith, when some people asked him about love, Imam Jafar al Sadiq (a.s) replied, "And is religion anything but love?" This then is the issue, in its separation from humanness.
But there is also the aspect of human impulse which causes a person to love another in the same way that he loves his food and drink. His love is sexually directed towards a certain person. This is what most youths experience at the stage of adolescence and thereafter an attraction for physical beauty, sexual activity, and so forth. We notice that Islam wants humankind (male and female) to experience this love in a manner that culminates in marriage. There is no objection against a man loving a woman, admiring her beauty, and wanting to marry her. Islam allows a man to look at a woman whom he wants to marry in order to reflect on his attraction and desire for her from one perspective or another.
However, love which a person takes as fun, an infatuation, or where sex is not limited to the legal boundaries of marriage, is rejected by Islam. In fact, everything that leads to sexual aberration, regardless of whether it is from the heart, the eyes, the tongue, the hands or other organs, and everything that leads to the sexual act, regardless of whether it is petting or practice, is repudiated by Islam, for it leads to moral problems, wherein a person distances himself from the proper path prescribed by God.
When we speak of love as a involuntary psychological state, then we cannot dictate any law regarding this emotion. For God does not hold a person liable for that which he is incapable of, or anything beyond reason. However, Islam wants emotions to be kept under control, and therefore pushes the person, carefully and intelligently focusing his emotions, to think deeply, rather than dealing only with the surface. Islam tries to inculcate in its youth the ability to prevent them from acting solely after first impressions, or on the basis of skin deep ideas. Islam did not propound this solely for spousal relations, but for every human relation, such as friendship, etc.
From another perspective, Islam has put controls on this love and does not push the two parties to remain alone in private; it does not permit them to express their love through petting or other forms which lead to the influence of impulses indicated earlier. On the other hand, Islam does not prohibit innocent talk, which expresses the emotion in a way that accords with a Shariah based relationship.
INSTINCTIVE LOVE AND PLATONIC LOVE
Is it possible for us, with respect to love, to speak of what is termed "Platonic love" or virtuous, sentimental love?
When you speak of love as an emotion, you cannot categorize it as "Platonic", on the one hand, and "instinctive", on the other. But we may say that there is a state of sexual desire which some people may term "love" i.e., a state where there is a physical attraction between one body and another body, not a state where one person loves another person. The issue of physical attraction represents a physical act where one body gets close to another without there being any place for the facet of humanness in it.
But love is a human emotion which attracts you to another person by way of the beautiful, ideal, functional, or other attributes. We bear the responsibility to differentiate between the emotion which plays a role in physical contact, and that which plays a role in the appreciation of a person, in a natural relationship structured on the basis of mutual respect.