“We have quotes from the 12 [Shiite] Imams saying that having sex with your wife is just like jihad, fighting for the sake of Allah,” says Dehnavi. “Unfortunately, some people believe sexual relationships are ugly. No, it is not an ugly behavior in Islam, it is a divine behavior and it is even a religious obligation to properly make love.”
During the video, the camera sometimes pans across the conservatively dressed listeners, where some lower their heads out of shyness at the subject matter. When there is a positive reaction from one member of the group to the linkage between lovemaking and religion, the cleric points him out and says he “gets the message.”
Alireza, a teenage shopkeeper in the bazaar near the shrine south of Tehran, has never seen such high demand. The $2 DVD seems out of place among his standard fare of mourning ceremonies, revolutionary videos, and religious dirges favored by Iran’s pious poor and ideologues.
These days, virtually every shop in this bazaar sells Dehnavi’s treatise on love, and hangs the eye-catching poster to bring in customers.
“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.”
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.