The following article is an edited transcription of a response that Sh. Yasir Qadhi gave to a question posed to him.
Q: Shaykh, I have unnatural urges and feel attracted to members of the same gender. I don’t know what to do about this, can you please give me some advice.
Bismillah, alhamdulillah, wa-l-salaat wa-l-salaam ala Rasulillah
I was actually asked the same question in Toronto, a few weeks ago. And while this is a very disturbing question to some people, it is something that needs to be mentioned and discussed publicly.
It is possible that some people have urges that are considered abnormal by others. Sometimes, from a religious perspective these urges would indeed be classified as abnormal. But simply having such urges does not justify acting upon them.
The issue of sexual orientation has raised a huge controversy in Western circles. People are still debating whether sexual orientation is decreed by what they call ‘Nature’, or by ‘nurture’. And the reason for this debate is that there is a tendency to justify homosexual urges because, it is claimed, they are beyond one’s control. So, some people say: “My sexual orientation is something Nature has decreed. It’s in my DNA – my genes! So its not in my control whether I am attracted to the opposite gender or the same gender.”
Such discussion is happening in the backdrop of what has been termed the ‘sexual revolution’, which began in full force in the 60’s and, some would argue, is still continuing to this day. People are more open about topics of sexuality, morality levels have radically changed, and it has become acceptable to espouse what has been termed ‘alternative life styles’. To give you just one example of how dramatic this revolution has been, many would be surprised to discover that even as recently as 50 years ago, Western culture viewed homosexuality with a very different lens. Up until 1973, homosexuality was actually classified as a mental disease in America.
In our religion, the discussion of whether these urges are because of ‘Nature’ or ‘nurture’ is really quite irrelevant. And by this I do not mean that we don’t have an answer to this question. As Muslims, we believe that the fitrah that Allah created us upon is that, in terms of sexuality at least, opposites attract. But it is possible that some people have corrupted this fitrah themselves, or it has been corrupted by external methods. And it cannot even be ruled out that for some, the change in this fitrah is beyond their control.
But the point is – and that is why I say the question is irrelevant to the Shar’i ruling – even if somebody has such urges, it does not justify them acting upon it. Rather, what we can say to those who feel attracted to the same gender is that having such urges and conquering them is a part of the test Allah has given them. Each one of us is tried in different ways, and merely wanting to do an act is not justification enough to carry it out. Imagine if we were to open this door, and legitimize acting upon an urge merely because it existed!
And I firmly believe – and this is my theory, and it may be wrong – that the primary reason why we are seeing a rise in such unnatural inclinations is because of the proliferation of sexual images and the increasement of public sexuality around us. What this proliferation has done is to desensitize us to that which we should not be desensitized to. We are constantly bombarded with images of the most beautiful women and the most handsome men, and such images are a temptation to those of the opposite gender. Wherever we look, whether its TV, advertisements, magazines, the internet, or even simply strolling down a public road, we constantly see the most sexually charged images possible. Sexuality is always flaunted in our faces. And the proliferation of such overt sexuality desensitizes our normal sexuality. It is amazing that looking at a scantily clad gorgeous model in an advert hardly elicits any sexual arousal amongst people of our generation, whereas just a few decades ago that very image might have been banned in some Western countries, or at least never displayed in public.
Can you imagine (I know it’s difficult to do so, but let us try!) growing up in a world where you have never seen an unrelated woman? Where you have never witnessed nudity? Where you have never gone through love affair after love affair? For the one who is raised in such a world, a person of ‘average’ beauty would be attractive to someone of the opposite gender.
This unnatural emphasis that our modern world has on external beauty is simply dangerous. Typically, when a person is looking for a spouse, such a person should feel an attraction to somebody of a similar background and culture and age. Such is the way that Allah created us – a man is attracted to the natural beauty of a woman. And that is why in the past, for thousands of years, our own fathers, and forefathers before them, did not emphasize external beauty to even a fraction of what we do, and yet it can be argued, merely by looking at their divorce rates, that their marriages were far more successful than ours. The whole emphasis on external beauty was simply unnatural to them. All of you know how your own parents and grandparents got married, and their grandparents before them. The groom comes, sees the bride, and, generally speaking, there is an attraction and the marriage takes place. Nowadays, on the other hand, the very notion of a pre-arranged marriage is a mockery that we would not subjugate ourselves to (and I am not suggesting here that we should – I’m merely pointing out how things have changed in just one generation). This emphasis that we have on ‘beauty’ and ‘compatibility’ is a very modern phenomenon. Of course I’m not suggesting that people in the past did not care about beauty, but what I am saying is that it was not anywhere near as emphasized as it is now. Also, since the generations before us were raised in environments where they were not subjected to the sight of sexual images everywhere, they would not compare their prospective spouses to the sensual images of world-famous models that have been seared into our heads as a result of our upbringing here. When we expect our spouses to look like the most beautiful/handsome people on Earth (and it must be pointed out that most pictures we see are not even real, having been digitally altered to look super-humanly sexy), this will only lead to trouble.
And so, when we have been bombarded with sexual images all the time, that which is naturally lustful loses its erotic nature. This then leads to being attracted to unnatural attractions. The bar for ‘sexual titillation’ rises higher and higher. It also explains certain sexual habits that are becoming more predominant between couples. While these habits might be halal and mubah in and of themselves, it does make us pause when we realize that people before us would disdain such practices and even consider some of them to be perverse. Once again, I reiterate that these practices might be halal, but the whole emphasis on sexual toys, sexual games, certain fetishes, and role playing, even between couples, is indicative of this sexually charged world we live in. While these matters are halal, it does show that we are not satisfied with what is natural. Our desires become increasingly insatiable.
And so this is why we are seeing an increase in many unnatural and perverse desires. Homosexuality is on the rise amongst non-Muslims, and now also amongst Muslims. A few weeks ago I was in Toronto, and the exact same question came up, where a brother wrote the exact same thing. And he said: “Shaykh, I can’t help it. What advice do you give me? I can’t help feeling attracted to other men. This is the way I am. And I’m battling it, and I’m embarrassed of it,” and he even said: “I don’t even want to get married. The thought of getting married disgusts me”.
So, the question arises: what does a person who has such feelings do? As I’ve said, the fact that you have such feelings doesn’t mean you act upon them. If Allah has tested you in this manner, then that is a part of your test and trial, and Allah says in the Qur’an, ‘And Allah does not burden a soul with more than it can bear.’ The claim that merely having an urge legitimizes it is extremely flimsy.
I say that I’m attracted to women. Does that legitimize going after every woman I’m attracted to? Of course not. We all have our desires and urges and we must all battle them. So if you experience urges that are unnatural, you must battle them, and without doubt Allah will reward you for that.
Another point to realize is that the urge, in and of itself, is not sinful. It is simply a desire, and desires are beyond our control, hence we are not accountable for them. But to allow such feelings to persist without trying to control them is problematic. In any case, the urge in and of itself is not sinful, acting on the urge is what incurs sin. As long as the desire remains in the realm of feeling, you are not accountable on the Day of Judgment, but the second that this desire is manifested in a physical action, you are liable for all that follows.
Lastly, even if you have acted upon this urge – and we seek Allah’s refuge from this – know that this would constitute a sin. Yes, a major sin, and one that most people would be disgusted by, but realize that it is a sin alone and not kufr. Hence, even acting upon it and committing a major sin does not expel you from the fold of Islam. However, to stand up and justify it, or defend it, or write articles claiming that it is Islamic, without a doubt constitutes kufr, and not merely sin.
So, my dear brother who wrote this question – and you are my brother in Islam, even if you have such feelings – I want you to know that I sympathize with you, and I also appreciate your honesty and sincerity. I advise you to seek counseling, and to go to people who will understand your situation and who can direct you in a more specific manner. I understand as well that if you go to many of the typical imams of the masjids, they would not sympathize with your situation at all and would probably make matters worse for you. I understand that you cannot go to such people. But you will find sympathetic ears to listen to your problem, insha’Allah.
And remember that marriage is a solution, so you should seriously consider it. The Prophet Lut ‘alayhis salam told his people, “These are my daughters, they are more pure for you.” Some scholars say that when he said “daughters”, he is also implying the women of the town and not just his own daughters. So he’s telling the men of his community who were guilty of this crime to go and marry women, for they are better and purer for them. Marriage is a solution, because sensuality and sexuality is something that can be satisfied – rather it should be satisfied – by the opposite gender within the confines of marriage.
Try to repel these urges, do not act upon them, take immediate steps to get married, and throughout all of this, put your trust in Allah and continue making du’a to Him, and I pray that Allah makes your situation easy for you and blesses you in this life and the next.
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