Estimated reading time: 21 minute(s)
by Fudia Muhammad
Fornication is an act that can be defined in both secular and non-secular terms. The magnitude of each respective position is exposed by the subtleties in the definition. The broader secular world defines fornication as simply, “sexual intercourse between people not married to each other.” However, the non-secular or religious definition of fornication is, “unlawful or illicit sexual intercourse.” Fornication, according to the latter definition is against the law – God’s law. In the United States, the laws are governed by men and women, not by God; so those who commit fornication are not criminally prosecuted or fined. However, this does not mean there are no consequences. According to the law of God, fornication is “forbidden, prohibited, unsanctioned, illegitimate, felonious, unauthorized, illegal and criminal.” In other words, fornication is NOT allowed. The Bible goes so far as to equate fornication with adultery, homosexuality, incest and bestiality – Wow!
Whether or not we agree with comparing fornication with the aforementioned, we should ask ourselves why God views fornication with such disdain and contempt. A clear indication of the gravity of a law is the punishment rendered when it is violated. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan wrote, “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us why fornication is an ugly thing in the Sight of Allah, and punishable in the dominate Islamic world by death. Isn’t that something? It’s punishable by death – that’s how heavy a crime it is!” If we lived and were governed by a theocracy (society ruled by the laws of God) – Christian, Muslim or Jewish – the punishment for fornication could very well be death.
Though some countries, in the dominate Islamic world, put both the adulterer and fornicator to death, the Holy Qur’an does not actually prescribe death. Yet, the number of lashes from flogging that the violator is sentenced to is so great that death could easily be the result of such a judgment. Death is irrevocable and irreversible; therefore Quranic law requires that at least four witnesses of the crime of fornication or adultery be provided. Keep in mind that when a person violates a known law, it is done undercover and out of the sight of others; so it is very difficult for there to be any additional witnesses much less four of them. So in the eyes of Allah (God), though the violation is severe, there is still evidence of His Mercy.
Those of us who are striving to be counted amongst the righteous Believers and followers of God’s path are not interested in man’s law if they contradict God’s law. For a Believer, a crime that should require the violator to pay with his or her blood, is one which we want to be far removed. If understood, the very language in the Holy Qur’an provides a protection to keep those, choosing to adhere, from ever falling victim to fornication. It reads, “And go not nigh [near] to fornication: surely it is an obscenity. And evil is the way” (17:32). Maulana Muhammad Ali’s footnote to this verse reads, “The Qur’an not only forbids fornication but enjoins men not to go near it, thus avoiding all those opportunities which are likely to tempt one to fall into the evil. Hence it is that Islam discourages the too free intermingling of the sexes.”
Teenagers and adults do not “accidentally” have sex with people to whom they are not wedded. In fact, married people do not accidentally have sex. Consensual intercourse is the result of desire and environment; both must exist at the same time. Allah (God) gave men and women a natural desire for one another that begins to manifest during adolescence. Though passion is natural, it must be restrained until marriage. This is done by deciding to be mindful of the environment we allow ourselves and our children to be exposed to and engaged with. And it keeps us obedient to the Holy Qur’an, which warns us not to even approach the environment or get near the activities that can lead to fornication.
Good manners protect good morals. Typically, children do not jump from innocent angels to promiscuous teens overnight. There is a gradual build-up. First, seemingly harmless behavior is allowed – private conversations, intimate questioning, holding hands, daring suggestions… It’s the same with adults; but adults quickly graduate from having coffee together to having an intimate evening out. If we allow ourselves to indulge and go near these activities, nature will propel us toward breaking the law forbidding fornication. Youth is not an excuse. We cannot feign ignorance of the law because we were ‘too young to understand.’ If it is done away from public view, in the darkness of secrecy and we attempt to hide our actions from those in authority; then we knew it was wrong and are held responsible for our actions.
In the Nation of Islam, we do not physically harm those who fall victim to this law. To execute such a harsh punishment at this time would be unjust due to the chronic spiritual and mental ailment which continues to plague us after 400 plus years of captivity. However, there is a consequence – one to five years away from the circle of Believers. Yet, the greater consequence for any person who commits fornication is that they are weakened physically, mentally and spiritually. What we abuse or misuse, we lose. This means that the egg and sperm are not only physically weakened, but their divine potency is also weakened. Most know that women are required to protect their virtue and remain chaste; but the Holy Qur’an gives the same instructions to the man. A man produces the seed of life daily – when he is careless and promiscuous, his seed is steadily weakened with every violation. This means that future children are directly affected by the transgressions of their parents to this divine law. Fornication used to be as taboo as incest; and one day soon, it will be again.
We believe that everyone can benefit from the good manners and restrictions that the followers of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad strive to maintain in order to protect good morals and keep from going NEAR fornication. Here are just a few: Lower your gaze when speaking directly to the opposite sex; do not stare at sisters or watch the movements of their body; do not watch sexually explicit movies or listen to sexually explicit songs; do not feel, rub or pat sisters; do not lust; do not display adornments, but dress modestly; do not strike (stomp) your feet loudly, calling attention to yourself; do not remain in the company of those who are drinking heavily or using drugs; avoid functions not conducive to righteous conduct; do not engage in inappropriate private conversations – in person or online; do not leave daughters alone with any male; and adults should not be alone in private with the opposite sex, who is not a blood relative.
It was Jesus who raised the bar and desired for his followers to correct immoral behavior by first elevating their thinking. Since every action is first preceded by thought, Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28, NIV). This bears witness to the Book of Proverbs, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” Again, we can avoid fornication by not going anywhere near it; and we avoid going near it by controlling our thinking. Yes, Allah (God) is ever-Forgiving and the Most Merciful, but He reminds us, “Repentance with Allah is only for those who do evil in ignorance, then turn (to Allah) soon, so these it is to whom Allah turns (mercifully). And Allah is ever Knowing, Wise. And repentance is not for those who go on doing evil deeds, until when death comes to one of them, he says: Now I repent; nor (for) those who die while they are disbelievers. For such We have prepared a painful chastisement” (4: 17-18).
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing.)