To kiss or not to kiss. That is the question the Egyptian scholar who condoned kissing between unmarried couples is seeking to answer in his new book of Islamic interpretation.
Islamic intellectual Gamal al-Banna became embroiled in controversy after he issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, sanctioning kissing between unmarried males and females and has written a new book to set the record straight.
Al-Azhar scholars accused Banna of promoting vice last March when, in an interview with the Egyptian al-Saa channel, he issued a fatwa permitting unmarried people to kiss.
Later Banna appeared on Al-Arabiya and backpedaled, saying that Islam does not permit unmarried kissing but that it is not one of its grave sins.
The 254-page book, entitled The Issue of Kisses and Other Interpretations, tackles more than just the intricacies of smooching, delving into modern relationships and the problems facing marriage in modern times.
Banna, brother to Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, said kissing is a reaction to parents' inflexibility with suitors, which inevitably leads to committing even greater sins.
"If I say kisses are a reaction, this doesn't mean I am allowing them," Banna told AlArabiya.net. "But it is a minor sin that results from instinctive human weakness and that can be redressed by good deeds."
Banna added that he based his research on the Quran and the theories of prominent scholars about the concept of minor sins. He also explained that if redemption atones for major sins then the same applies to minor ones.
He offered the example of fornication, noting that whatever happens prior to the act of intercourse is considered a minor sin.
In the book Banna, criticizes the way Muslim societies belittle feelings of love and beauty and how Muslims are portrayed as devoid of emotions.
"The book provides a religious analysis of kissing and deals with it as a human frailty, nothing more," Banna said.
A path to major sins
Former president of al-Azhar University Abdul-Fattah al-Sheikh rejected Banna's argument.
"He talks about human nature and instincts, but these should be controlled by God's laws. Otherwise, what is the use of religion in our lives," he told AlArabiya.net.
Sheikh accused Banna of giving youth the green light to have open relationships and argued that they would not stop at kisses.
"This could lead to fornication and possibly pregnancy. Parentages will be mixed and society will have no rules," he said.
Sheikh argued that kisses cannot be considered minor sins since they could develop to major ones.
"Then we will regret it when it is too late" he added.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)