Arguing that Islam is a lyrical view of life in which sexuality enjoys a privileged status, this work represents an attempt to integrate the religious and the sexual. It examines the problem of whether this harmony of sexuality and religious faith is achieved in practice. Drawing on both Arabic and Western sources, the author describes the place of sexuality in the traditional Islamic view of the world. Beginning with the Qur'an, Professor Bouhdiba confronts the question of male supremacy in Islam, and the strict separation of the masculine and the feminine. He gives an account of purification practices, of Islamic attitudes towards homosexuality, concubinage, legal marriage, and of the sexual taboos laid down by the Qur'an. He assesses contemporary sexual practice, including eroticism, mysogyny and mysticism, and concludes that the ideal Islamic model of sexuality has been debased.
Abdelwahab Bouhdiba is Professor of Islamic Sociology at the University of Tunis, where he is also Director of the Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Economiques et Sociales. He is an adviser to international organizations such as UNESCO and the UN, and to the Tunisian government, on issues dealing with development and on human rights.