In any religion, certain texts and rules are open to various interpretations. But most Muslims around the world would accept the idea that sex outside of marriage is a sinful act, as outlined in the Quran and other religious texts.
Most, but not all. Recently, a student named Abdul Aziz at the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University (UIN Sunan Kalijaga) in Yogyakarta became the subject of national news after his doctoral dissertation arguing that premarital sex should be permissible in Islam went viral and caused a huge controversy in Indonesia recently.
As reported by Detik, on Aug 28, a thesis committee at UIN Sunan Kalijaga approved Abdul Aziz's dissertation on premarital sex according to Islam. In his paper, Abdul Aziz dissected the theological and linguistic meaning of the Islamic concept of milk al-yameen, which literally translates to "those whom your right hand possesses" and has been interpreted to refer to female slaves that Muslim men can marry so they can obtain their freedom.
Abdul Aziz argued that, based on the views of Islamic thinker and author Muhammad Shahrur from Syria (whose liberal interpretations of the Quran have earned him many enemies among more traditional and mainstream Islamic scholars), milk al-yameen should also apply to premarital sex to satisfy the urges of men and women, provided that they are bound by a temporary marriage contract.
After that particular aspect of his dissertation went viral online and stirred a debate in Indonesia, Abdul Aziz stressed in several media interviews that his argument did not constitute Islamic jurisprudence. But he said he would be open to scholars and clerics studying the possibility of allowing premarital sex among Muslims under those specific conditions.
But the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the highest Islamic clerical body in Indonesia, was having none of it.
"The research by Abdul Aziz on the concept of 'milk al-yameen according to Muhammad Shahrur' which allowed sexual relations outside marriage is contradictory to the Quran and Sunnah (traditional customs in Islam) as well as the consensus of ulemas," MUI Deputy Chairman Yunahar Ilyas told reporters in Jakarta yesterday, as quoted by state news agency Antara.
Yunahar also called on Muslims in Indonesia not to follow the "misleading" arguments of the dissertation, saying that marriage is a time-honored tradition and is not "only for the purpose of fulfilling sexual desires."
Despite having approved the dissertation, the thesis committee at UIN Sunan Kalijaga has apologized for the controversy Abdul Aziz has caused and said that they have instructed the doctoral candidate to revise the dissertation's abstract so that it reflects the fact that it is both an analysis and critique of Shahrur's views, not a recommendation for it to be adopted in Indonesia.
Abdul Aziz has also apologized for his dissertation and has agreed to the revision, saying that he would do so for "the greater good and so there is no unrest."