Reflections on Body, Love, Marriage and Sexuality in Ancient Greece and Islam
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Ancient Greek and Islamic traditions form the backbone of secular reasoning and scientific inquiry in Western Civilization, yet perceptions of sexuality and the human body derived from these cultures are rarely discussed in context with their intellectual contributions to the Modern world. Although the ancient Greeks, or rather citizens of the Athenian city-state, (circa 500 b.c.e.) behaved differently from Muslims, they espoused values that can be grouped into similar categories significant to the development of the West. I will argue that ancient Athenians and Muslims incorporated views of the body, sexuality and, to some extent, marriage to demonstrate ongoing discipline and strength of character, reflect devotion and responsibility to the overall community, and strive for higher ideals and the perfectibility of society. I will further argue that these Greek and Islamic values shaped our perceptions of how effective citizens behave, how to pursue a balanced lifestyle and how a higher education is paramount for development of both mind and body.
Whereas ancient Athenians believed that development of mind and body was a civic responsibility that cultivated more effective citizens and governance, Muslims believe that a healthy body, sex life and intellect best express man’s devotion and appreciation for God’s Creation. Athenian democracy was shaped by the careful cultivation of citizens focused on development of mental prowess and physique, to better govern and protect their country. To improve and safeguard the Athenian city-state, citizens were encouraged to discuss philosophy, art, science, sex and politics with equal interest in an effort to reach truth and a higher ideal, and likewise conditioned their bodies ...
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To conclude, Islamic views of the body may be perceived as an extension of ancient Athenian views of the ideal body, while integrated with the trappings of monotheistic faith. Both Greeks and Muslims saw the human body as a work of beauty to be conditioned and perfected as a piece of a greater whole. Both the Greeks and Muslims saw sexuality as an important feature of man’s character to be expressed with the same discipline and skill that attend academic studies. Both the Greeks and Muslims incorporated the well-being of the body into concepts of an ideal lifestyle rich with an appreciation of the wonders of natural phenomena. Physical conditioning, sexual expression and the challenges of intellectual reasoning and discovery form the basis of an ideal college experience in the West, and, by extension, the pursuit of Happiness.