By: Waad Husein
Waad Husein is a UX designer and artist based in North Carolina. She enjoys experimenting with a variety of mediums such as photography, illustration and collage. Her work explores visual rhythms of being a third culture kid, her environment and nostalgia.
Spirituality and sexual health are two things I never would have paired together growing up. Conversations surrounding sexual health were seemingly taboo at home and in middle school; my sex-education teacher likened childbirth to “trying to squeeze a watermelon through an orange” - an unnerving plea to remain abstinent. From being in environments where talking about sex and sexual health was nonexistent to being in spaces where conversations were fear based, a sense of shame was imparted and I, like many others were left untutored and apprehensive to learn more.
As I grow older, it’s been a main goal of mine to challenge what I know and what I don’t know. Why was sexual health never discussed from a positive perspective? Why was pleasure never discussed, and not just in a physical sense, but pleasure as a way of existing? How come asking questions about our bodies was deemed as suggestive rather than genuine curiosity? Due to the cultural and societal stigmas in discussing sexual health, it's understandable that I grew up lacking the right words to begin a conversation. The Sex, Spirituality, & Reproductive Health for Muslims Summer Series has created an open and transparent space to discuss decolonized perspectives of sexual health that are rooted in Islamic traditions and practices.
I bet you’re asking, “how do Islam and sexual health intersect?” Sameera Quraishi, the founder of Sexual Health for Muslims, has developed a “five ingredient recipe” which includes Islamic psychology, spirituality, and Fiqh (religious rulings). Sameera places heavy emphasis on understanding the nafs (soul) and explains how three different levels of the nafs correlate to our ego. Essentially, fear based learning manifests into shame or fear in our bodies. When we are feeling ashamed, we are not operating at the highest level of our nafs and that can bleed into other areas of our life. I was blown away at how Sameera elegantly intertwines God consciousness and sexual health - being a sexual being is rooted in our spirituality.
Throughout this summer, the Sex, Spirituality, & Reproductive Health for Muslims Summer Series, hosted by Planned Parenthood South Atlantic’s Muslim Organizing Program, Muslim Women For, and Sexual Health for Muslims, has done something revolutionary: provide a space where Muslims from all walks of life have a space to learn about their bodies and their souls in a constructive manner. This is not a space that welcomes judgement towards yourself or others. This is a space that begins to unpack the misguided tropes regarding sex and our bodies taught to us in our formative years. It is a closed space, taught by members of the Muslim community for people who identify as Muslim who had similar experiences to mine when it comes to a lack of understanding around sexual health. I cannot recommend this series enough as it has helped me to reframe my understanding of sexual health as it is rooted in Islam. The series is accessible, enjoyable and enlightening and will meet you wherever you are in your sexual health journey.
The last session of the Summer Series will explore what sexual health for Muslims means in the context of relationships. The session will explore the difference between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships, and unpack issues Muslims may face when experiencing interpersonal violence. Because this can be a difficult topic, PPSAT has provided a form where you can ask anonymous questions for the facilitators to address during the session.
It is my hope that, through this series and the work of Muslim Women For and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic’s Muslim Organizing Program, we as a Muslim community will be more open and willing to have conversations about sex and intimacy, and how it intersects with our faith and spirituality.