Sex Education in the Mosque: An Abstinence-Based Approach to Prevent HIV, STDs, and Pregnancy

Saturday, 29 July 2017: 8:30 AM

Shaakira Lateefa Abdul Razzaq, DNP
School of Nursing, Rutgers University, Roselle, NJ, USA
Suzanne Willard, PhD
School of Nursing, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ, USA
Prudence Arthur, DNP
School of Nursing, Rutgers University, Union, NJ, USA
Radhika Patel, DNP
School of Nursing, Rutgers University, Somerset, NJ, USA


Premarital sex among adolescents is very common in today's society throughout the globe. Adolescents often lack the maturity and mental capacity to navigate through the potential physical, psychological, and emotional consequences of sex. In order to reduce teenage pregnancy rates and the spread of sexually transmitted disease, it is important to focus on adolescent sexual education. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that “about 1 in 4 (26%) of all new HIV infections occur among American youth ages 13 to 24 years” (CDC, 2013, p 1). There is unique and particular need for education in the adolescent Muslim community that is reflective of their faith.

Islamic teachings are heavily focused on the virtue of chastity and there are many in this community that consider even the word sex to be “dirty.” Despite the stigma and taboo nature of sex, two thirds of Muslim youth residing in the US and Canada reported having sex before marriage. In the developing nation of Malaysia, a strong Islamic country, 75.2% out of 238 female Muslims aged 16 to 18 reported premarital sex (Ghani, Abdullah, Akil, & Nordin, 2014). Prior research attributes such sexual behaviors to Muslim youth having weakened Islamic identities related to current societal norms conflicting with Islamic beliefs and ongoing criticism against the Islamic religion (Ghani et al, 2014).

Muslim youth also reported that their greatest source of sexual education is from the media which is often unreliable. Muslim youth lack effective sexual education that coincides with their religious beliefs and thus are unaware of the risks of unintended pregnancy and STDs. (Ghani, Abdullah, Akil, & Nordin, 2014). This project aimed to understand the link between Islamic religiosity and sexual behavior.


The research project was adapted from Dr. Loretta S. Jemmott’s evidenced based curriculum titled Making a Difference which utilizes social and behavior theories to educate participants about their sexuality, STDs, and HIV, while instilling high self-esteem and confidence in them to abstain from sex before marriage (Jemmott, Jemmott III, & Fong, 1998). The curriculum was adapted with input from Islamic scholars to incorporate Islamic beliefs to reinforce the importance of having a strong Islamic identity in order to further strengthen Muslim adolescents’ sense of confidence allowing them to delay sex until marriage.

Twenty five single, female Muslim adolescents between the ages of 13-19 years old participated in this project. This teaching based intervention was held in a mosque located in Northern New Jersey, USA.

Initial support for this work was minimal from elders in the Muslim community, however the Islamic leaders, scholars, and adolescents strongly supported it and the overall community followed this lead.


The results demonstrated an increase in mean scores on the “HIV/STD/Pregnancy knowledge items” which proved the project enhanced participant knowledge of such topics. There was also an increase in positive attitudes and intentions to abstain from sex before marriage in the posttests. Overall, there was an increase in subjects who did not have sex within three months post intervention which provides further proof of its effectiveness.


The authors were unable to find any evidence based curriculum that addressed sexual education in the Muslim community. This project has laid the groundwork for tailoring an effective curriculum that can address the unique needs of this population. Nurses and other health care professionals must be prepared to acknowledge diverse religious teachings and their impact on sexual health education. This is most important in the maintenance of the safety of Muslim youth while upholding their religious principles and cultural values.