The rules of love, as told by an Iranian cleric
Cleric Hossein Dehnavi’s comparisons of lovemaking in marriage to jihad have ensured that religious bookshops sell out of their stock of the new DVD every afternoon.
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These days, virtually every shop in this bazaar sells Dehnavi’s treatise on love, and hangs the eye-catching poster to bring in customers.Skip to next paragraph
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“This is the last piece I am selling you now,” says Alireza. “We had dozens in the morning, but all sold out. It’s rare; none of our other DVDs has been a hit like this. All other stores in this bazaar are the same. You can’t find it on the shelves in the afternoon.”
Morality police – and advanced family planning programs
The Islamic Republic has long had an intriguingly mixed influence over the sexuality of its citizens.
On the one hand, the morality police crack down on so-called “loose” women wearing “bad hijab.” But at the same time, Iran also has one of the most advanced family planning programs in the world, with subsidized birth control pills, vasectomy clinics, and condoms, and mandatory education programs for students.
Temporary marriages are common, and can be valid for days or many years; “newlyweds” are given a certificate to mark their new status. Sex-change operations, surprisingly, have also had official sanction for decades.
In the DVD, Dehnavi offers reassuring words about the religious centrality of love.
“In Islam having love, making love, of course in a family framework [marriage] is not a bad thing, it is a sacred, holy act and is advised by all religious leaders including the Prophet,” says Dehnavi. "We in Iran and Islam are shy, but the couple in love must enjoy being with each other."
Translating such guidance into matrimonial bliss would not now be easy for Babak, a 37-year-old engineer working in Tehran who separated from his wife after three years of marriage. A big problem and the root of later arguments, he said, was their sexual relationship.
Last month, the semi-official Mehr news agency referred to “recent research” indicating that 90 percent of married women in Iran were looking for a relationship beyond their marriage because of “emotional dissatisfaction.” Some 96 percent of married men were also “looking for [another] woman outside the home,” citing “sexual dissatisfaction.”
Dehnavi, who has previously presented a family TV program, said the issue of lovemaking brought up a question: “Now let’s ask why Islam emphasizes this,” he says on the DVD. “When a man and woman get together and make love, it elevates their loving emotions and is a real element of constancy and continuity of their matrimonial life …it is the sign of deep and true love.”