Today, hundreds of Indonesian women are forced to have virginity tests done in order to join the police force.
Iraqi women face court ordered virginity tests after allegations from husbands that they are not virgins after the first day of marriage.
Women all across the globe are expected to bleed on their wedding nights as proof that they are pure.
If such a doubt is cast as it is in this day and age, the humiliation and shame that a woman is forced to feel is beyond reproach. Virginity has been a long misunderstood issue, and a source of shame or honor in the Muslim community. No one seems to want to talk about it until marriage age begins to creep up, when it is apparently permitted for a girl to go from not talking or interacting with any men to choosing the one to live with one for the rest of her life. The expectation that is placed upon a woman to remain “chaste” and pure for her husband is beyond that of any other, from her intelligence to her exemplary character. No one wants to talk about the tens of medals and awards a woman has achieved, her college career at an Ivy League, or the fact that she has taught herself how to speak four different languages — but everyone wants to discuss whether or not blood had been spilled on her wedding night.
But, what if there’s no bleeding?
Many fail to realize that not all women bleed after they lose their virginity. The fear, however, is perpetuated by archaic rituals such as showing the blood on the sheets after the wedding night. In itself, this is a social construct put in place to make women feel bad about their sexuality and pass judgement on them. This is especially sensitive at the time of marriage when a woman may be publicly shamed and abused for not remaining a virgin for her wedding night. These disastrous consequences force many women to undergo hymen reattachment surgery in order to save their future honor — mostly for their family’s honor. But even more troubling is the fact that only a woman’s sexual past is publicly scrutinized. Islamically, we are asked to hide the sin of a fellow Muslim, not publicly shame them for it. However, this seems to only be subjected to one sex more than the other.
It may be in some cases that a woman has indeed lost her virginity previous to marriage. But as Muslims, we put our trust and faith in Allah (SWT) and know that the sins we have committed in the past are not a reflection of ourselves. Rather, the realization of the sin and the actions taken toward forgiveness is what determines true character.
The most conservative interpretations of Islam understand premarital sex to be one of the deadliest sins a Muslim can commit, but even then, are we not taught Allah (SWT) is most forgiving? Here is where it becomes interesting, though. It is within the most conservative of communities that one may find the double standard, which is manifested to somehow forgive the man, but continue to shame the woman.
Here’s something to think about: If we are such good people, shouldn’t we be discreet about the acts of others since it is between them and Allah (SWT)? I mean, that is what we are taught.
In an ironic twist of fate, however, we seem to be living in communities that continue to refuse refuse forgiveness for one sex while making amends for another. Even most interesting is the expectancy of forgiveness by Allah (SWT) by those same judgmental individuals who are quick to ask you about your discrepancies.
Forget the fatwas that allow you to ask your spouse about their virginity. In fact, that practice should be discouraged altogether. The truth is that your relationship with your future spouse will be determined by character and values. Again, Islam tells us that we should not confess our sins to anyone but Allah (SWT). We know that we are not to disclose the wrong doings of others, including our own.
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) say:
“All of my ummah will be excused, except for the Mujaahireen (those who make their sins known). And verily it is a kind of Mujaaharah (exposing one’s sins) that a man does something (sinful) at night, and then in the morning, when Allah has screened his sin for him, he says, ‘Hey So and-So! I did such-and- such last night…’ And the night passed with His Lord screening him, and he wakes up casting aside the screen of Allah from himself.”
But they still ask about your virginity.
The case of virginity does not seem to be as important for men as it is for women. This is evident when suitors (and their parents) speak to a girl and her family. They ask her about her past and question her chastity (virginity).
Who are you to ask so publicly about something that does not concern you? And I say “does not concern you” because you are not asking me if I pray, or read Qur’an, or what kind of children I want to raise. Instead, you are asking me about something extremely inconsequential to the future of our relationship together.
Maybe more important (future in-laws) is to look upon your son and ask him the same questions you want to know about the girl. Chastity pertains to all prior to marriage, not just women. How innocent is the son you have raised? If you feel uncomfortable asking your son this question, why would you feel comfortable asking a woman? More importantly, where did your son get the idea that it was okay to ask that of a woman?
Is your son a virgin?
Perhaps this question would be less revolting and given more importance if this was a degree that we used to judge both man and woman. But it is not.
If anything, the idea of virginity is just another form of control. From an Islamic perspective, yes, physical intimacy is an act that is sacred between husband and wife. But from the way this ruling it practiced culturally, almost no value is given to the religious importance. If there was, there would be more scrutiny on the sexual history of men in the community as well. So many of our communities have a “boys will be boys” attitude, but please someone tell me where in the Qur’an it says a woman’s virginity weighs heavier than a man’s virginity? Hint: it doesn’t exist.
Muslim women have this expectation placed on them, that if they want to be “good girls” they have to remain virgins until they are married. Okay, cool. Your value as a woman is based on some weird social construct of innocence, but what does it say about the way we interpret religion when we only enforce practices on women? Well…then it slowly stops becoming religion.
We see this all the time in our communities: A Muslim man who has a questionable past, where it’s known he has had multiple sexual partners, wants to get married. He makes a lists of demands, including that his future wife has “remained pure.” The troubling part is that society lets him do that. Mothers believe that after this period of “experimentation,” their sons will eventually fall right into place after marrying a so called “chaste” woman – that somehow this attribute in the woman will change him for the better. His past is his past, but a woman’s past is her future.
Perhaps we would think this was less cultural if the same invasive question was asked of the man, rather than it turning into some bizarre method of classifying women as “good girl” or “bad girl.” Because really, what else is it?
Co-written by Eman Bare and Marwa Abdulhai