We have discussed a Muslim woman's status with regard to her husband and the children. What then of her relations with men other than her husband and her close relatives? This is where a considerable difference is found between Islamic practice and the customs now prevalent in the Western world. In the West, sexual relations outside marriage are still in theory generally considered a sin or at least vaguely undesirable, but in practice no steps whatsoever are taken to reduce the very high incidence of pre-marital and extra-marital sexual relations in spite of the soaring rates of illegitimacy and venereal disease. On the contrary, in films, television and certain sections of the press there is every encouragement to consider pre-marital experience desirable and extra-marital affairs quite normal. Contraception or abortion is expected to conveniently get rid of any undesirable side-affects of this way of life.
In contrast with this uncontrolled situation, Islam advocates a number of specific measures to reduce the temptations towards sex outside marriage.
To begin with, the Prophet advised all people to get married if they could, so that their natural desires should have a legitimate and legal fulfilment.
Secondly, due to the permission for limited polygamy there is little chance of surplus of unattached women in the society.
Thirdly women are directed in the Qur'an when they appear in public to cover themselves in a modest type of dress so as not to attract men.
Fourthly the Muslim way of life excludes the boy-friend/girl-friend system, mixed parties, dancing between men and women, taking alcohol or drugs, and other facets of the Western way of life which are well known to provide the situation from which pre-marital and extra-marital sexual relations develop. Social entertainments in Islam are generally either within the family and close friends of the family, or among men and women in separate groups.
Fifthly sex outside marriage is considered in Islamic law not only as a sin but as a crime which is punished under the law in the same way as theft or murder. The punishment for it applies equally to the man and woman and is severe and deterrent in its effect.
Let me now look back at some of these points in more detail since they are very relevant to the life style of a Muslim woman.