Debating Homosexuality

In light of the recent US Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, we have seen a number of Muslim scholars reiterate the position of Islamic law on same-sex acts. What we have not seen much of, however, is reasoning explaining why Islamic law prohibits same-sex acts. Clearly many people today including Muslims do not understand why Islam or any religion would forbid homoeroticism. As it is often put, if two people love each other and want to consummate their love, what difference does it make if they happen to be of the same sex? What could be wrong about this?

To understand what is wrong requires addressing several large assumptions about sexuality and morality. These assumptions make it virtually impossible for people today to understand the moral reasoning and intuitions inherent to Islam’s stance on homosexuality. But once those assumptions are addressed, then Islam’s position starts to look more and more compelling. At the very least, Islam’s position stops looking like sheer hate, bigotry, prudery, etc.

The way that I have framed my thoughts on this issue is in the form of a “debate” with myself. Over the years, we have all heard the typical arguments and one-liners in support of homosexuality, so much so that these arguments have become embedded into the way most of us think about the topic. I give voice to this position in the form of questions and charges that a typical pro-gay advocate would raise against Islam’s stance on homosexuality. I then respond to these in turn, defending the Islamic view.

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Q1: First of all, there are some Muslims who think that Islam is fine with homosexuality. Does Islam even prohibit same-sex acts in the first place?

I understand that there are a handful of outspoken Muslims who try to argue that Islamic law does not prohibit same-sex acts, despite the consensus of scholarly opinion to the contrary. I will not address the claim here mostly because the claim itself is so implausible and confused, frankly, that it hardly deserves recognition, let alone rebuttal. Typically, those who claim that Islamic law accommodates gay sex argue by radically redefining Islamic law and the methodology of Islamic jurisprudence and exegesis. It is on the basis of that redefinition that they then try to stake their claim. This is not unlike a person who claims that US federal law permits grand larceny, and when he is shown the copious amount of relevant legal and historical documentation to the contrary, responds by disavowing the relevance of legal precedent, historical documentation, and conventional juristic methodology in determining US federal law.

As far as same-sex acts are concerned, the legal precedent and historical record shows complete unanimity on the part of Muslim jurists — not a single dissenting opinion can be found permitting same-sex acts in nearly a millennium and a half. The primary reason for this, no doubt, goes back to the many clear and unambiguous statements of the Qur’an and hadith themselves that categorically prohibit all forms of sexual activity between members of the same sex, as well as the clarity of the Sunna of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Companions, and early community in this regard. Obviously, if one believes the weight of juristic consensus, combined with the unambiguous pronouncements of divine revelation and Sunnaic precedent, to be irrelevant in determining what God requires of us today, then it is hardly surprising (or interesting) that such a person would have divergent opinions on Islamic law vis-à-vis those who do put weight on that consensus, formed on the basis of those texts and those normative precedents.

Besides all this, some academics will also point out that premodern Muslim scholars worked with different categories of sex and gender than what would strictly map onto the modern categories we are familiar with today. What about the mukhannathun, the amrad, and so on? We will delve into some of these distinctions below, but for our purposes, what are germane are the moral implications of sexual relations between two adults of the same sex. This is the category of behavior the modern “gay rights” movement is primarily concerned with and, as it turns out, the type of behavior Islamic law unequivocally proscribes.

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Q2: Let’s just cut right to the chase. Why should anyone regulate what people do in private? What business is it of anybody’s if two men want to have sex behind closed doors?

Even secular law regulates some of what people do behind closed doors. The distinction between “public” and “private” is irrelevant when it comes to issues of immorality and criminality. Part of this is because many things we do in the private sphere have an effect on the public sphere.

One straightforward example is drug use. We might think that if a person abuses heroin in private, that is his business. After all, the heroin addict is only hurting himself and what right does the state have to tell people what to do with their bodies? But if enough people start using heroin such that an appreciable size of the population consists of “junkies,” then this will clearly have a negative impact on society as a whole. Even in US political debates on the “War on Drugs,” both the “liberal” and “conservative” side acknowledge the negative societal impact of drugs. They just disagree on what is the best way for the state to regulate and curb drug use, i.e., whether to criminalize it outright or impose government programs to treat drug abusers and discourage drug use in the population. Either way, in the case of drugs, even liberals agree that what someone does behind closed doors very much is the business of a higher authority, i.e., the authority of the state, which aims to promote public welfare overall.

Another example is abortion. Studies have shown that the legalization of abortion in America and other countries correlated with drops in crime rates. Researchers believe this happened because legalizing abortion made it easier for women to terminate unwanted pregnancies. This, in turn, meant that fewer unwanted children were born and, hence, that fewer children grew up in detrimental environments and households that would make them prone to a life of crime.

Liberals often use these studies to argue that abortion is a good thing, that it has clear benefits to society as a whole. But, implicit in this argument is the idea that private behavior, namely whether or not women have abortions, has significant consequences for the public good. And if we acknowledge that private behavior has the potential to impact society at large and hence, impact each member of society individually, then why shouldn’t that private behavior be the business of a higher authority? As I argue elsewhere, this is one possible argument justifying Islam’s prohibition of premarital/extramarital sex. But, we could imagine other ways that a governing authority might regulate birth rates in order to protect society from the possible negative repercussions of private behavior.

Many other examples can be given, but the point is that the whole distinction between “public” and “private” easily breaks down when it comes to at least some questions of morality and protecting people in society from the negative impact of what others do behind closed doors.

Q3: Fine, drug abuse and abortion are two examples, but what does that have to do with homosexuality? How does two men having sex negatively impact society as a whole?

Well, the answer to this depends on what you think about homosexuality in the first place. The implicit assumption in this question is that same-sex activity is inherently harmless, but not everyone believes that. Muslims, for example, believe that certain sexual activities are deeply destructive — spiritually, mentally, and physiologically — to the person doing them, even if the person is physically enjoying him or herself. If enough people engage in these sexual activities, this will impact the character and health of society as a whole.

This is not unlike the drug abuse example above. While drug abuse is quite enjoyable for some, the fact is that drugs debilitate a person, and the cumulative impact of many such debilitated persons will negatively impact society.

Q4: But drug abuse is objectively harmful, not so with same-sex intercourse. Some Muslims might believe that, but that’s personal religious belief and has nothing to do with public law and morality in general.

Actually, drug abuse is not “objectively” harmful. Most people — liberal, conservative, religious, secular — all agree that drug addiction is harmful. But we can imagine someone that does not agree with this.

Imagine someone who truly believes that abusing hardcore drugs is a good thing. We might ask this person, “Don’t you see the harmful impact of drugs to the body, how drugs can cut someone’s life short, etc.?”

But our hypothetical drug advocate could respond, “Yes, I absolutely recognize the effects of drugs; I just do not believe that those effects are a bad thing.” In other words, while the empirical impact of drugs to the body is objective, considering that impact “harmful” is a judgment call based on a person’s normative outlook. For example, the drug advocate could try to justify his views by giving us an involved story about how life should be spent in a substance-induced euphoria, how the body was meant to be transcended, that self-destruction of the body is necessary for us to see the transience of life and the everlasting nature of the spirit, that a short and euphoric life is infinitely superior to a long but corporeal one, etc. Now imagine that this was not the view of one person but an entire community or demographic.

Obviously, given our contemporary assumptions about drug use, not many people would accept this story or find it the least bit plausible (unless the drug in question is alcohol, in which case some of our hypothetical drug advocate’s beliefs are widespread). But, ultimately, this is a dispute about what people believe about the human body, mind, spirit, the nature of life, death, and so on. Even if everyone agrees on the empirical, scientific aspect of drug abuse, they can still disagree on these metaphysical, value-laden questions.

Nonetheless, the liberal secular state must take a position on these questions, and it does: it deems drug abuse harmful and attempts to systematically curb it, either with criminalization or intervention, education, market manipulation, and other programming. The drug advocate, however, will experience these government programs as a forceful imposition on his beliefs, either by way of locking up “believers” or the use of public funds to “stigmatize” those beliefs and spread “propaganda” against them.

Islamic norms against same-sex acts could be cast in the same light. There are those that believe there is nothing harmful about homoeroticism, but Islamic law takes a different view. My point here is simply that what is or is not deemed harmful is ineluctably normative and far from objective. And since one’s notion of harm is so important in determining what is considered morally permissible or prohibited and whether an action should be subject to public scrutiny, we cannot so easily dismiss the Islamic view of same-sex acts as being harmful.

Q5: But it is still not clear how same-sex acts could be considered harmful, even from a religious perspective. It’s just sex. What’s the big deal?

Sex is a big deal, and it is not just Islam that thinks so. All cultures have extensive beliefs about the significance of sex, its meaning, its impact to the people engaged in it, its impact to society and to the world and beyond. Think about modern Western culture. If sex were not significant, there would not have been a whole “Sexual Revolution.” If sex were inconsequential, people today wouldn’t associate sex with human freedom itself. And look at Western popular culture and how much attention is given to sex and sex appeal. Sex even has implications for the economy since, as we know, “sex sells.” Freud, of course, went the farthest in interpreting literally all of human activity in terms of latent sexual drives and frustrations. And Darwin put sex in an even more pivotal, almost deified role by conceiving it as the fundamental force that creates new life and new species ex nihilo, as the most “fit” are those organisms that can out-reproduce and out-sex the competition.

Given this importance of sex on the individual, communal, physical, and metaphysical levels, it is only natural that cultures would feel the need to “regulate” sex, to define its proper bounds and its correct expression. And when those bounds are violated, it is always a big deal. And that is what we see. All cultures — even modern Western culture, as we will see — have specific beliefs about certain sexual acts being offensive and immoral and other sexual acts being deep violations.

As for “harm,” what we have to realize is that — regardless of whether we are Muslim or not, liberal secular or not — our senses of right and wrong are very complex and based on a multitude of different factors beyond just physical harm. The drug abuse example above was just a taste of that. Along those lines, consider that not all of our moral judgments are purely consequentialist, i.e., based on the tangible consequences of an action. For example, is it immoral for a person to daydream and fantasize about brutally raping and murdering someone? It’s just a daydream, so no actual consequences or physical harms result from that momentary act of imagination. But most of us would be at the very least disturbed by this, even if we cannot articulate why in purely consequentialist terms.

When we look at sexual morality specifically, all cultures — even modern Western culture — have specific beliefs about sex that go beyond consequences and physical harm. What is interesting is that each culture views its own set of beliefs as being preeminently rational and apt and the beliefs of other cultures as being nothing more than irrational taboos and prudishness, on the one hand, or lascivity and lewdness, on the other.

So while Western liberals might view Islam’s objections to same-sex behavior as just a cultural taboo with no basis in reason, other cultures view, for example, Western statutory rape laws in the same light. Or how about contemporary Western attitudes towards polygamy, adultery, public indecency, sexual harassment norms, and so on? Even among Western countries, different cultures have varying sex norms and view each others’ differences as either prudery or promiscuity. And when we look at how secular norms have changed over time…

Q6: Let me stop you right there. Sure, Western attitudes towards different sexual practices have changed over the past 300 years, from the Enlightenment, through the Sexual Revolution, and now culminating in the legalization of same-sex marriage. But that change is based on liberal tolerance and moral progress. Muslims, in contrast, are stuck in the 7th century.

The Western progressive narrative has it that, through the light of reason and science, Western civilization has been able to transcend puritanism as well as all other forms of sexual taboo and barbarity. This keen sense of triumphalism is dripping from, for example, the recent US Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, which is seen by many as the culmination of the Sexual Revolution or even the Enlightenment. Accordingly, the belief is that we live in a sexually liberated age: Everything goes! Do what feels right (so long as it’s consensual, etc.). Depending on one’s outlook, whether “liberal” or “conservative,” this state of affairs is either a utopia or the End of Times. Whether it is cause for celebration or consternation, however, both sides of the political spectrum agree that moral inhibitions and taboos have been collectively chucked. Unfortunately, Muslims have also accepted this narrative.

A closer look, however, shows that this progressive myth has little basis in reality. It may sound strange to our culturally conditioned ears, but plenty of sexual inhibitions and taboos still stand in the West today, even though they are typically not conceived of in those terms. Contrary to popular belief, Western society is as judgmental as it ever has been on matters pertaining to sex, just not about exactly the same things and not in exactly the same ways. This stridence can be seen in how liberal secularists react to certain features of Islamic sexual ethics, e.g., polygyny, the age of `Aisha when she married the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), divorce (back when divorce was still taboo in the West), even marriage itself (back when liberal theorists were more forthright about their belief that marriage is tantamount to slavery), etc. Obviously, liberal secularists believe they have good reasons for these reactions, and as hard as it is for them to see beyond those feelings, the fact remains that from another perspective, from another set of normative assumptions and beliefs about the world, Islamic sexual ethics are perfectly reasonable and morally sound. Beyond Islam, there are also plenty of other cultures and religions that have sex practices and rituals the average liberal secularist would be squeamish and outraged about if those practices were common or prominent enough to show up on the West’s radar in the way Islam and Muslims, as subjects of colonialism, have over the past 200 years.

Beyond the cross cultural, further stringency can be seen in other areas of Western sexual morality. Consider views on voyeurism, indecent exposure, public masturbation, sexual harassment, etc. An imposing legal system with severe consequences for offenders enforces these points of Western sexual normativity. The question of legality aside, we see further sexual restrictiveness in the ever expanding realm of gender identity politics and policing, where even the most insignificant perceived slight is met with abhorrence and swift, harsh rebuke. To use “non-gender neutral” language, for example — simply using the impersonal pronoun “he” more than “she,” “he/she,” or “xe”  in one’s writing — is a grievous crime tantamount to rape in the eyes of some. Offenses of this nature typically do not have legal consequences, but anything not caught in the legal process is handled in the court of public opinion, where one’s reputation, career, and livelihood are all on the line.

These examples show that there are many entrenched norms and taboos that continue to govern the sexual morality of Westerners, even though these restrictions are not experienced or conceived of as taboos or restrictions on sexual expression and autonomy. From a certain perspective, however, these could be seen as precisely that: overbearing restrictions on how individuals can express themselves sexually. When, for example, a person has to worry about something as seemingly small as pronoun usage in their writing, that is an indication of how objectively expansive and imposing the regime of modern Western sexual morality really is, as opposed to the free-for-all it is caricatured as. So this Western triumphalism, sense of superiority, and notion of progress toward more freedom and sexual autonomy are misplaced.

Q7: Even if it is conceded that Western sexual norms are extensive in quantity, they are nonetheless qualitatively less restrictive than their Islamic counterparts.

What does it mean for sexual norms to be more or less restrictive or more or less conducive to a person’s sexual autonomy? To answer this, we have to take a more theoretical look at the concept of desire.

What is desire? Plenty of religious and philosophical opinion has been expressed in both Western and Islamic discourse on this question. What is salient for us is the modern Western notion that any authentically experienced desire is worthy of satisfaction. Modern psychology, with its roots in Freudian psychoanalysis, tells us that if a man carnally desires another man, it would be harmful and, hence, oppressive to subjugate that desire. If an adolescent carnally desires another adolescent, it would be harmful and, hence, oppressive to insist on abstinence. Yet, if a person carnally desires an immediate family member, that desire must be repressed.

This connection between the satisfaction of desire and health (and human happiness generally) is important because that is how the typical modern Westerner conceptualizes sexual autonomy. The only just legal-ethical system is one that permits the maximum number of authentic, natural desires to be fulfilled while prohibiting the fulfillment of all inauthentic, unnatural desires, which inevitably lead to harm for the individual “perpetrator” himself as well as for possible victims.

From this it is argued that Western sex norms are the most just and liberating because they take into account people’s natural desires and allow them to fulfill all of them. Religiously-based sexuality, however, is unjust and restrictive because it recognizes people’s natural desires yet requires them to repress some of those desires for the sake of God.

There is much that can be said against this narrative, not least of which the question of how Western thought believes itself to have discovered what, in fact, is natural for a human being to desire. What constitutes essential human nature is very clearly a metaphysical question and, hence, cannot be answered by scientific inquiry. Tests in a lab are not going to reveal what human nature amounts to and what desires are in fact natural. And looking at the animal kingdom and trying to infer human nature by analogy to other species amounts to nothing more than the Naturalistic Fallacy.

In this way, conventional Western liberal attitudes about human desire are not based on any robust, objective theory of human nature. Without such a theory, there is no basis for liberals to claim that their sexual mores are more in line with natural human desire as opposed to, say, Islamic ones.

Islamic metaphysics, in contrast, does have just such a theory. Muslim scholarship frequently delves into metaphysical questions like the nature of man, his desires, his relationship to the cosmos and to God, etc. And the epistemological avenue Muslim scholars rely on is revelation, i.e., what God and His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) have said about these topics, coupled with the notion of the fitra (roughly translated as “normative primordial human nature”). Of course, non-Muslims may be skeptical about this source of knowledge, but at least Muslims purport to have a source of knowledge at all, whereas liberal secularism floats aimlessly, with no mooring from any consistent, principled standard of knowing.

Postmodernism, at least, is up front about this failing of modern epistemology and its resultant nihilism. Liberal secularism, in contrast, is in constant self-denial, insisting that liberalism and its sexual morality are what is most aligned with human nature but then failing to proffer a metaphysical account of what human nature is. By the same token, Islam and traditional religion are accused by liberal secularists of being contrary to human nature and, hence, oppressive, again without any underlying theory of human nature to give traction to these weighty accusations. How, then, can liberal secularism’s charge against Islam as “oppressing homosexuals” be taken seriously?

Q8: Look, I don’t care about whether or not Islam has a theory of human desire, etc. All I know is that homosexuals desire same-sex partners. They cannot help that. So to block the satisfaction of that desire is inhumane. Should we consign gays and lesbians to a life without sexual pleasure? What kind of religion wants people to be tortured like that?

Everyone has desires that cannot be fulfilled, whether due to social sanction, personal self-constraint, or sheer physical circumstance. That is just a part of being human. How we view the lack of fulfillment of those desires, however, depends on our beliefs about sexual morality. If someone cannot be sexually satisfied unless he publicly masturbates in full view of pedestrians, we would be fine “consigning” this person to a life without sexual satisfaction. The person himself might be sexually frustrated at not being able to fulfill his desires, but even he himself would not experience this frustration as torture. This is because he lives in a cultural milieu where public masturbation is socially frowned upon. Growing up, he was socially conditioned to understand that this is not appropriate behavior, that this is not what decent people do. Decent people must, as a matter of decency, morality, social cohesion, etc., learn to train their impulses and bring these under the disciplining force of moral habit and custom. So the would-be public masturbator does this, since he understands that public masturbation is not an actual, objective “need” that must be fulfilled for the sake of his physical and emotional health. In actuality, the impulses themselves will most likely decrease in frequency and strength or may disappear completely over time. And everyone, including the person himself, will see this as a good thing.

The point is that what we believe about which desires we must control and which we are free to pursue fundamentally depends on our moral commitments. Not only that, but our actual experiences of those desires will change depending on that normative worldview. Individuals today with same-sex attraction may feel that the inability to have intercourse with the same sex is a life of continuous frustration and misery, but that is in large part because that is what our current Western moral commitments entail. Individuals in different social contexts under different ethical frameworks would have a very different experience of these same-sex desires. And this is documented in both anthropology and history.

Furthermore, Western philosophers like Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, Talal Asad, and others have argued that ethical systems play a deciding role in determining and shaping our desires as well as our experience of those desires. Ethics and desire are intimately connected and interdependent in this way. This may sound counter-intuitive because we typically think that our deepest impulses are completely natural and authentic and are not the products of outside influences. But, in actuality, outside forces can deeply impact what desires bubble up in our consciousness in the first place.

For example, children who are taught that public masturbation is wrong will internalize that injunction, which will in turn affect their thoughts and desires later in life, often preventing the impulse from even arising. And if it does arise, it will be experienced as a waywardness of the concupiscent self that must be disciplined and denied in the name of decency, morality, social cohesion, and the like. Of course, children do not have to be explicitly “taught” such things. The fact that certain behaviors are not done, at least not openly in society, in itself does a great deal to socialize and discipline children. Similarly, if children are taught that public masturbation is normal, legitimate behavior, that there is nothing wrong with this, etc., then even if they were not inclined to publicly masturbate otherwise, they may nonetheless feel a desire to do so where no desire existed before. (Note, however, that societal endorsement is not the only way socialization can occur. The fact that a person grew up in an anti-public-masturbatory culture and, as an adult, may even feel great psychologically distress at experiencing the urge to publicly masturbate does not contradict the notion that those desires are nonetheless socially constructed. In fact, it is to be expected that cultures that obsess and fixate on a certain taboo will also see a higher incidence of people violating or feeling the urge to violate that taboo. The more forbidden the fruit, the stronger people feel the urge to eat it despite themselves, whereas if the fruit were not there or if it had not been forbidden or if it had not been called “fruit,” etc., fewer people would experience the temptation.)

In these ways, we can see how some desires, for all intents and purposes, are implanted or produced by one’s social and cultural context. Or, more tenuous, amorphous urges that a person might passively feel in the course of the day are highlighted by society, reinforced by social acceptance, and then interpreted by the person as a deep, inherent desire to, say, relieve himself at the mall. In this way, socialization goes a long way in influencing our appetites.

Of course, this is not to say all human desire is purely a function of socialization, though postmodernist thinkers like Foucault do go to that extreme. Islam, however, recognizes that some desires are purely natural in the sense that that is how Allah created human beings. But there is also a recognition that this sound nature can be corrupted, or reformed and recovered if corruption has already occurred.

In the Islamic view, same-sex attraction in the sense of desiring intercourse with the same sex is not natural. As the Qur’an records, Lut 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) said to his people, “Do you commit lewdness such as no people in creation ever committed before you? For you practice your lusts on men in preference to women — you are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” (7:81)

That being said, finding members of the same sex attractive in the sense that a man recognizes another man as handsome or a woman recognizes another woman as beautiful is not unnatural. Similarly, it is not unnatural for a man to prefer the company of other men and prefer social interaction with them over women. Given this, it is not hard to imagine how a hyper-sexualized society could socialize children and adults to interpret such natural feelings as latent signs of same-sex sexual attraction. This would especially be the case in societies beholden to Freudian theories of sexuality, where a person’s every psychological impulse and conscious thought is somehow connected to some prior Oedipal frustration or childhood psycho-sexual encounter, where even something as nonsexual as breastfeeding an infant is understood to have sexual undertones. In such a society, these natural, nonsexual sentiments could be cast in a sexual light and then reinforced such that a person increasingly feels and is completely convinced that he desires the same-sex and that he is a “homosexual,” whether he is happy, neutral, or distressed by that “discovery.” Ultimately, the normative and metaphysical assumptions of that society — in addition to other psychological, emotional, or developmental issues — will crucially impact the way individuals see themselves in relation to their desires.

As it turns out, Islamic spirituality and metaphysics conceive the development and evolution of desire in much the same ways, as we will see below.

Q9: We don’t need to get into the dirty business of spirituality or metaphysics to know that, as long as two (or more) people consent to a sexual act, there is nothing morally objectionable about them going through with it. The fact that Islam restricts people from engaging in consensual behavior is plenty proof of the religion’s oppressiveness.

Actually, consent itself is a concept fraught with metaphysical assumptions.

On a theoretical level, the notion of consent is notoriously difficult to pin down. For example, feminists (and law makers) to this day have been struggling to define consent so that they can decide once and for all what constitutes rape. Rape, for nearly all people, is the ultimate example of sexual violation, so in many ways it has served as an archetype of sexual immorality in Western sexual ethics and liberal thought. And, of course, what makes rape a violation is the absence of consent. And while, in the case of a stranger sexually assaulting an unwilling person, the meaning of consent and its relevance to the moral status of the act is crystal clear, for other sexual behaviors and scenarios the meaning and relevance of consent is far less obvious.

Some extreme feminists, for example, argue that for a sexual encounter between a man and woman to be fully consensual, the man must continuously ask for permission throughout the act of intercourse since, at any moment during the act, his partner might change her mind and not want to proceed, in which case, what was permissible intercourse becomes rape.

In this vein, it is argued that for sex to be truly consensual and hence morally sound, every act between the sheets must be preceded with an, “Is this okay?” and a verbal affirmative from one’s partner. Before any change of position, any touch, kiss, or movement, a partner must stop and get formal authorization in the course of what would be a normal sexual encounter. (Yet, we are to believe that it is Islamic law that is autocratic in its regulation of sex compared to the supposed “Caligulan permissiveness” of the modern West!)

Other feminists and liberal theorists wonder whether the institution of marriage can ever be anything other than slavery and institutionalized rape. After all, given the existence of patriarchy even in modern society and how men are comparatively more powerful than women on average in terms of wealth and influence, how can any woman be independent enough to provide meaningful consent?

Beyond internal debates within feminism, there are other sexual behaviors where the significance of consent and its connection to morality are opaque. Again, let’s consider voyeurism. A man spies on women in a dressing room without them ever knowing about it. Since the women do not consent to being watched, consent-based sexual ethics deems the man’s action as morally wrong. But from a purely secular materialistic perspective, what impact does the man’s spying have on these women? Clearly, there is no physical or psychological harm to the women since they are none the wiser. One might say, well, maybe the man records what he sees and passes that along to friends and the overall reputation of the women is harmed. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that this does not happen, that the man does not record anything and just enjoys what he sees in the moment. In this case, presumably we still believe this is morally wrong, but why? From the perspective of secular materialism, what is so special about consent that it can operate beyond the realm of physical or mental harm? Does consent have some kind of metaphysical or supernatural significance that is not captured by any physical factor? Wouldn’t this mean that even secular sexual norms, insofar as they invoke consent, have a metaphysical component, not unlike religious sexual morality? But I digress.

Necrophilia and bestiality are two other examples where consent is for all intents and purposes irrelevant, but most liberals would consider the act in question as morally objectionable and deviant.

There are also examples of acts considered morally despicable despite the existence of consent. Incest is one example. Consensual cannibalistic fetishism is another. The number of such actions eliciting disgust and moral condemnation from even the most permissive liberal are as limitless as one’s imagination. Of course, there are those extreme liberal secularists who bite the bullet and argue that all these activities, including incest and cannibalism by consent, are perfectly permissible so long as all parties mutually agree to participate. But, again, most people feel in their bones that these actions are fundamentally disgusting and wrong. Shouldn’t such intuitions factor into our moral reasoning and what we ultimately consider right and wrong?

Q10: No, these moral intuitions are irrelevant. They are purely subjective after all. People used to feel that homosexuality was viscerally disgusting, but now no such reactions arise.

Premodern thinkers — Muslim and non-Muslim alike, from Aristotle to Aquinas to Fakhr al-Din al-Razi and beyond — almost took the reprehensibility of same-sex acts for granted, as if it were perfectly lucid and beyond the need for elaborate justification. Furthermore, these thinkers appealed to human nature, what we might call a person’s conscience, as plainly recognizing that such acts are vile. Modern readers interpret these appeals to conscience as evidence that the expressed abhorrence and categorical sanction are simply crass bigotry, prudery, and hatred.

But let’s examine this interpretation more closely. Is it that modern Western sexual ethics deny that viscerality and intrinsic human conscience per se are ever valid sources upon which to base our moral judgments?

From the perspective of the Islamic worldview, intuition and viscerality are very much a part of morality, whether in terms of how individuals exercise personal moral agency in their lives or in terms of how theologians theorize right and wrong. Modern liberal ethics and Western moral philosophy, in contrast, downplay the role of moral intuition and oftentimes completely disregard it.

Islamic sexual morality grounds the importance of our moral intuitions with the notion of the fitra. Certain moral reactions, tendencies, and postures are associated with the fitra in Islamic thought, as indicated in direct statements by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and passages in the Qur’an. A full treatment of this topic is beyond the scope of this essay, but we should note how the notion of the fitra is conceived as the ground not only for the highest moral sentiments — such as the knowledge of God, His Oneness, and the yearning to worship Him — but also the source of more visceral elements of a person’s normative outlook, e.g., one’s involuntary abhorrence to fahisha (i.e., sexual impropriety), disgust at feces, attraction to purity and cleanliness, shame surrounding nakedness, and so on.

Due to one’s God-given fitra, a person will intuitively recognize goodness and feel repulsed at corruption and depravity. In a famous hadith, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Take a fatwa [i.e., take moral counsel] from your heart. Moral goodness [birr] is whatever your heart feels ease at doing, and sin [ithm] is whatever brings discomfort to the heart even if people counsel you otherwise.” Of course, this does not mean that a person’s heart or fitra is immune to corruption, which is why a Muslim must defer to Islamic law whenever applicable rather than automatically assume that his intuition on a matter is valid. That being said, the idea is that the sound fitra will perfectly align with Islamic law because both were set in this harmony by Allah.

Numerous Islamic scholars stressed this relationship between fitra and normativity. What is significant for our purposes is that, when it comes to moral reasoning, Islamic ethics has a seat at the table for these visceral elements of our normative Umwelt as human beings, factoring in this universal aspect of human nature where applicable.

Liberal secular philosophies, by contrast, either downplay or completely disregard this dimension of the human experience. It is not that liberal individuals themselves do not experience visceral normative reactions — everyone has a conscience and an intuitive sense of right and wrong after all. It is just that liberal ethics and meta-ethics do not make much of this type of visceral sentiment. This is a significant oversight considering that if we survey the moral attitudes of any religion or culture, including modern Western culture, we will always find a class of normative reactions that can only be described, for example, as categorical revulsion (though the actions eliciting such revulsion may vary from one culture to the next). Revulsion specifically concerns actions that are so odious that to simply think about them causes one to gag in disgust and horror. It is significant that these reactions are non-cognitive, meaning they are not obtained through conscious thought or carefully considered moral reasoning. Rather, they are immediate in a way that instantaneously impresses upon the mind prior to any ratiocination.

Incest with one’s own mother is a straightforward example of an act that elicits this response in virtually all cultures and religions. No in-depth moral reasoning, no consideration of practical ends, harm, virtue, consent, utility, or anything else needs to be theorized or reflected upon prior to a person’s instantaneous and visceral reaction of abhorrence and a sense that something is seriously wrong.

What place does this intuitive sense have in liberal secular ethics? Clearly, visceral abhorrence does exist in the Western mind, even if it is not conceived as such. Typical sexual examples evoking this reaction include incest, necrophilia, pedophilia, vorarephilia (i.e., erotic desire to be consumed by, or to consume, another person), coprophilia (i.e., sexual arousal and pleasure from feces), and bestiality (even though public opinion on the latter has recently been shifting toward tolerance) — and, until very recently, homosexuality. But, when pressed to justify or explain their position on these acts, Western ethicists fall back on an often convoluted, over-intellectualized discussion of harm, objectification, and consent. Rather than admit that people find these acts intuitively repulsive and that this is the central, plain, and overriding reason such acts ought to be deemed immoral, liberal secular thought attempts to theorize and base its moral condemnation on a pragmatic analysis, in terms of a rationalized harm and consent.

As mentioned before, this tendency is in accordance with liberal modernity’s own self-image of being preeminently rationalist, pragmatic, and free of purely emotive considerations or irrational “taboos.” And while not all Western philosophers in history made short shrift of conventional moral intuition in their ethical theories, the predominant view among Western ethicists in the liberal secular tradition is that intuition is subjective and carries no normative force.

Q11: Right, our intuitions and conscience are subjective! If Muslims want to argue that the fitra is important and that the “pure fitra” recognizes that same-sex acts are abhorrent, why should anyone else care? What significance does that have for determining the moral status of homosexuality?

Saying that the conscience is “subjective” is an epistemological point. It means that there are no “objective” ways by which we can know what moral intuitions are truly natural and hence universal to all human beings. But the question of what we can or cannot know objectively is separate from the question of what does or does not exist. In the parlance of analytic philosophy, we cannot conflate questions of epistemology with questions of ontology.

What does this mean? Well, Muslims can concede that there is no “objective” way to know that the fitra as described in revelation exists. We can concede that there are no scientific experiments that will unveil true primordial human nature. But, just because science cannot opine on this does not mean that the fitra does not exist and does not operate in the way Islamic thought describes. After all, science cannot opine on a lot of things that we nonetheless experience as realities, e.g., human consciousness, the nature of time, or normativity and our sense of right and wrong itself.

To recap, we have already discussed how moral intuitions and our conception of human nature are important in determining our beliefs about right and wrong and sexual norms specifically. We have also discussed how Islam proposes a robust theory about our intuitions, human nature, and how all that relates to Islamic law and its attitude toward same-sex acts. Modern Western secular thought does not provide much of an alternative theoretical view. This is in large part because secular thought sees itself as scientific to a fault and thus avoids metaphysical debates about human nature and the human essence, despite itself. This is significant because Islamic sexual norms against same-sex acts are underwritten by a full intellectual discourse with the weight of 1400 years of unanimity on the issue, whereas the West’s very recent acceptance and normalization of homosexuality is not based on anything other than changing cultural attitudes of the last fifteen to twenty years.

Q12: It’s not “changing cultural attitudes” that have led to sexual liberation for LGBTQ individuals. It’s recognizing human rights and rejecting illegitimate religious taboos against gay love.

Again, this is the progressive myth that “homosexuals” — as a category of people — have been oppressed for millennia and it is only the modern West that has recognized and stopped that oppression.

In actuality, the “homosexual,” “heterosexual,” and “sexual orientation” in general are modern Western social constructions (which is not to say that these categories are not experienced as real). Both religious and secular academics have made this point, while anthropologists, sociologists, and intellectual historians have documented the cultural variance in conceptions of sex, sexuality, and gender. Even contemporary queer theory proposes a social constructionist account of same-sex identity and sexuality in general. (And academics like Joseph Massad go even further in arguing that the hetero/homo binary and Euro-American conceptions of sexuality in general are often forcefully imposed in an imperialistic way on other cultures and colonized peoples who, naturally, do not share these Euro-centric categories of “sexual identity.” Sexuality politics and a mission to “save the oppressed Muslim homosexual” thus becomes a pretense for “intervention” in the Muslim world, in much the same way Euro-American feminism and the mission to “save the oppressed Muslim woman” became and continues to be a pretense for Western imperial presence throughout the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and beyond.)

As far as Islam’s “oppression of homosexuals,” we should note that classical Islamic scholars did not even have a conception of “heterosexuality” let alone “homosexuality” (as was also the case in other cultures, including Europe up until the late 19th century). In Islamic law, what is impermissible is simply anal intercourse between two males and other male-male (as well as female-female) actions done with sexual desire. These sexual norms were on the books for centuries, despite the fact that same-sex activity did occur in Muslim-majority lands throughout history. Even though people were engaging in same-sex activity, they did not self-identify as “homosexuals” or as a separate category of people that could have even become a subject of systematic oppression.

So which narrative is more plausible?

1. For millennia across hundreds of different cultures across the globe, “homosexuals” — as a distinct, identifiable category of people within any given population — have been subjugated and repressed, and only the modern West of the past forty years or so has had the clear-mindedness and bravery to recognize this subjugation and “emancipate the homosexuals.” The modern West, after all, is the most enlightened and moral of all peoples of all times, so it should come as no surprise that they would be the first to “discover” what literally 99% of humanity throughout human history was too stupid or too cruel to see.

2. For millennia across hundreds of different cultures across the globe, people have experienced the full gamut of sexual desire. Different cultures regulated the expression of those desires in different ways, but the satisfaction of same-sex sexual desire was almost universally prohibited on the basis of robust theories of human nature and sexual morality. Then the Enlightenment happens, religious and non-Western notions of human nature and moral reasoning are deemed “unscientific” and eventually discarded, effectively unmooring cultural practice from the grounding of tradition or moral principles embedded in a larger ethical view of human meaning and life. Sanction of same-sex acts continues for a while due to cultural inertia, but little by little, attitudes change. What used to be moral deviancy is recast as a “psychopathological disorder” and then, finally, as just another normal, acceptable facet of a person’s “sexual orientation,” until “homosexuality” is recognized as such and no one can see why the “homosexual” should be constrained by “archaic” sexual mores.

To me, it is far more plausible that current views on same-sex behavior are the product of changing cultural attitudes that have been dressed up in the language and conceptual framework of emancipation. The alternative view, as expressed in the first narrative above, is nothing more than an ethnocentric, self-aggrandizing myth based on historical revisionism and a marked disdain for conceptual rigor and consistency.

Q13: If the West is so lacking in “conceptual rigor and consistency,” what conceptually rigorous and consistent account of sexuality does Islam provide?

The Islamic account of human sexuality begins with Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), the first human being God created. As the Qur’an recounts, Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) resided in Paradise with his wife until Satan deceived them into eating from the forbidden tree. Upon consuming the fruit, they became aware of their nakedness for the first time and felt the shame of this. So they used leaves from trees to clothe themselves. Realizing their mistake, they turned to Allah for forgiveness and He turned unto them in forgiveness while also sending them out of Paradise and placing them on Earth, a place of pain and hardship.

What Islamic scholars have taken from this event at the precipice of human history is that human beings naturally incline towards breaking the rules. God has set limits for us, but Satan, the evil inclinations of our own selves, and our tendency to immerse ourselves in the satisfaction of our desires push us to transgress these bounds. Violating the limits set by Allah is the epitome of ingratitude because He has given humanity many licit ways of satisfying our desires and enjoying life. Unlike Christianity and other religions, Islam does not consider bodily enjoyment and partaking in worldly pleasure to be inherently sinful. Rather, to imbibe of the permissible in life and, in doing so, to remember and be thankful toward one’s Lord and Master is a major part of what Islam considers as part and parcel of righteousness. Diametrically opposed to this are israf (i.e., wasteful overindulgence) and ghafla (i.e., heedlessness), in other words, to transgress beyond what Allah has made permissible and to do so in a heedless, ignorant manner without regard for the One who has provided all these bounties and blessings in the first place.

Accordingly, sexual misdeeds are the essence of such transgression. Here, a person’s nakedness and those parts of the body associated with nakedness are used in indecent ways. And that indecency is the cause of shame and human suffering, as a person debases and humiliates himself before God and all creation. By putting aside the permissible pleasures in order to taste the forbidden fruit, human beings show the utmost disregard for the Almighty and the very purpose of their creation and place on this earth. It is in this sense that, in the Qur’an, the people of Lot 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) are labelled “musrifun” (from israf): “For you practice your lusts on men in preference to women — you are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds [i.e., musrifun].” In these ways and more, sexual morality very literally has a cosmic significance.

In Islamic spirituality and ethics, desire is always something that needs to be controlled so as not to exceed these boundaries set by God. Even natural, God-given desires, like the desire to eat, sleep, or have relations with the opposite sex, must be tempered so as not to lead a person into transgression. If a person perseveres in keeping his desires in check and in accordance with what God wants, then eventually that person’s desires will transform such that even the thought of violating the Shari`a becomes abhorrent to him. But, if a person succumbs to his desire, transgressing sacred norms repeatedly without repenting to Allah, then this too leads to a transformation.

Islamic metaphysics, interestingly, does acknowledge the mutability of desire in the sense that a person may experience a desire for something, but that desire is not natural in the sense of it arising from human nature, i.e., the primordial normative form — the fitra — upon which human beings were created by God. A person’s fitra, after all, can be corrupted, whether by social circumstance, parental influence, or even the whisperings of shayatin (i.e., satanic demons).

As classical scholars like Abu Hamid al-Ghazali describe, according to Islamic metaphysics, no amount of indulgence of a desire can lead to complete satiety. Only temporary gratification is possible, so if a person becomes accustomed to yielding to his desires, eventually he will lose the ability to abstain until the desires themselves grow ever more demanding and take over the person.

Whereas modern Western thought distinguishes desire for intimacy with men versus desire for intimacy with women, Islamic thought (along with many other civilizations, both historical and contemporary) identifies the primary natural urge for males as the urge to penetrate, whereas females urge to be penetrated. As scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah describe, the same desire to penetrate women can be corrupted such that it is directed towards men, but that desire is not sui generis. Any man who gives free reign to his lust for women may eventually be driven toward craving to penetrate other men, animals, and beyond. A male who desires to be penetrated, however, is understood to be suffering from a kind of abnormality known as “ubna.” In this way, the “active” and “passive” partners are distinguished respectively, as has been the case in many cultures throughout history including ancient Greek civilization.

To this day, many Middle Eastern men who participate in same-sex intercourse in this active role do not typically consider themselves to be “gay.” They perceive themselves simply as men since they continue to play the typically “male” role even in an encounter with another man. Again, the operative distinction here is primarily one of role rather than of gender. The Western homosexual, in contrast, understands his very desires to be completely distinct from those of the heterosexual. Furthermore, it is his desire for sexual contact with a male, regardless of the respective role played, that marks him off distinctly as a “homosexual,” highlighting the modern West’s (culturally and historically bound) prioritizing of gender over role or any other potentially relevant consideration. This is the “orientation” a person is supposedly born with. As such, a homosexual man could never truly desire the opposite sex or have his desires satisfied by a woman.

Finally, when it comes to the prohibition of same-sex acts, Islamic scholars typically express four main ideas in their reasoning against male-male anal intercourse (i.e., liwat) as well as same-sex sexual acts generally (though female-female tribadism, i.e., sihaq was less discussed):

1. An expression of disgust and abhorrence as well as condemnation in the strongest terms while citing not only the Quranic account of the people of Lot (i.e., qawm Lut), but also human nature (or conscience) as immediately recognizing the evil of this act.

2. Appeals to nature and teleology, specifically regarding the natural, God-given roles of males as penetrators and females as recipients of penetration and how liwat subverts this normative order. This language is especially prominent in legal treatises. Beyond jurisprudence, some theologians go further in discussing the inherent complementarity of the male and female bodies as well as other characteristic traits essential to each sex as well as how that complementarity bears life, propagates the “descendants of Adam,” and provides the basis for familial and societal flourishing, in contrast to same-sex acts which undermine all these.

3. Characterization of liwat as being driven by extreme, blameworthy desire where men who, in their lust and desire for sexual variety, turn to other men instead of females.

4. Mention of physical and mental diseases caused by liwat as well as characterizing a male’s desire to be penetrated as a mental affliction, i.e., “ubna.”

Obviously, the classical Islamic view of desire and how it leads to same-sex intercourse, as well as the reasoning for prohibiting that intercourse, are all outrageously offensive to the modern liberal mind. But this offense is due to specific cultural attitudes and assumptions that we have questioned and deconstructed throughout this “debate.”

Q14: I have gay and lesbian friends. Ultimately, what they say they feel and makes them happy is all I care about.

Islam cares about what people feel and what makes them happy, too.

It should be recognized that from the Islamic perspective, we all have to be constantly critical of ourselves and question whether or not what we believe about ourselves is true. A Muslim, for example, could spend his whole life believing that he is a just, righteous believer only to discover on the Day of Judgment that he was in fact a hypocrite because his false piety was only for the sake of people and not for God alone. In the same way, a person might see himself as a “homosexual” and subjectively experience what he thinks are immutable desires, but, in reality, he is only deceiving himself.

Even liberal secularists recognize this capacity for self-deception. Consider the latest identity groups that have entered the scene, such as the otherkin. For the uninitiated, otherkins are individuals who believe themselves to be partially or entirely non-human. For example, some otherkins have very strong feelings that they are partially animals, e.g., foxes, rabbits, kangaroos, etc. These feelings constitute a significant part of their sense of self such that otherkins feel an overwhelming biological or psychological connection to the species in question. Some have argued that being otherkin even has a genetic basis. Indeed, many otherkin activists have adopted the language of social justice and minority rights to fight for respect, acceptance, and equal treatment in society at large, which they believe to be deplorably “human-centric” and “kinphobic.”

One does not have to come from a religious perspective to see all this as ludicrous. Even gay-rights activists bristle at the audacity of otherkins and take offense at the comparison with homosexuality. After all, sexual orientation has a real basis in constituting people’s identities, they argue, whereas otherkins are a bizarre, invented subculture. Otherkins, however, interpret this animosity to their cause as not unlike the prejudice homosexuals had to endure prior to mainstream acceptance.

Otherkins obviously feel very strongly about their animal identities and believe that they were “born this way” and that being otherkin is an important component of human nature. Regardless of how strongly they experience these feelings, however, that does not mean the rest of us are wrong to think they are crazy. Analogously, self-identifying homosexuals may feel very strongly about sexual orientation, its place in the human psyche, and its role in generating desire. Nonetheless, all that subjective feeling is irrelevant to the derivation of moral norms and legal rulings in light of a robust theory about human nature as given in Islamic thought, especially given the fact that, from the Islamic perspective, individuals and entire societies can systematically mislead themselves about right and wrong, purity and filth, as demonstrated by the story of Lot 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and his folk. Simply put, what God tells us concerning human nature and the fulfillment of desire trumps what people subjectively feel or claim about themselves.

Ultimately, it is unfortunate that modern society has bombarded individuals with the unchallenged idea that same-sex attraction is natural, that having a “gay sexual orientation” is immutable, that same-sex behavior is acceptable and even healthy. Given this, it is not surprising that that is what so many in our communities and in our society deeply believe and feel about themselves. But there is nothing wrong with us problematizing these assumptions and working in a compassionate manner to get people to see and experience an alternative reality that proceeds from an elevated and holistic account of who we are, what our purpose is, where we are going, and to Whom we shall ultimately all return.

_________________

About the Author: Daniel Haqiqatjou is a columnist at MuslimMatters, where he maintains his column The Muslim Skeptic. He attended Harvard University, majoring in Physics and Philosophy. He completed a Masters degree in Philosophy at Tufts University. Haqiqatjou is also a student of the traditional Islamic sciences. He writes and lectures on contemporary issues surrounding Muslims and Modernity. Contact: Email, Twitter, Facebook.

217 / View Comments

217 responses to “Debating Homosexuality”

  1. DAUDA ALIYU ABBA says:

    SakalLaahu khairan

  2. I am Gay. In my lifetime I have had plenty of Muslim friends and co-workers. They have always been kind to me and have never told me that being Gay was wrong.

    But these days I’m hearing more and more about how Gay people in Iran are being hanged, and how ISIS is throwing Gay people off of buildings. Do have cause for concern?

    • Mosaman says:

      Islamically, the punishment is only given if the act is committed in public. With that said, you would have to have witnesses, go through a trial, and a bunch of other requirements have to be met for you to be under this category according to Shar’ia law. The chances of you being hung by proper Muslims under a real Islamic State is very minimal, so no you don’t really have anything to worry about.

    • Matthew Johnson says:

      Salaam Bra Ahmed and everyone

      Rejoining the conversation after a long while.

      Just to say totally agree here with Ahmed that ” if there really is going to be a dialogue on these issues, it’s going to have to be an honest one where revisionists take seriously these various problems and concerns and address them forthrightly, rather than just demanding radical changes in doctrine or practice without seeming to care much for the larger implications.”

      But in my experience, its not “revisionists” ( I would prefer the term “revitalisers”) who block such a conversation but “traditionalists” who do not have the confidence that Islam as such can survive such a challenge, and so fearfully resist pretty much any significant change.

      So yes a deep philosophical- theological debate is needed – but one where the rules of engagement are not rigged beforehand.

      I personally find the thought of Nasr Abu Zayd (Died in 2010 – May God admit him to the Gardens) a pointer forwards in this regard, for example – but he is a good case in point: because his thought was regarded as too ‘”challenging” by conservative clerics, he was declared an apostate and forced to divorce his beloved wife!! Nice!!

      So long as that kind of attitude persists, we will make no serious progress in these matters.

      Just also wanted to address the comment by Audri saying that we can discount the actions of ISIS etc as these people are not muslims. I really respect the motivation here, but I think it does not wash. In most significant ways they are muslims, and I have no more right to say they are not than they do of me. They are muslims who, in my view, hold a flawed interpretation. Hence the importance of the open debate as above. It is only by flushing out all of our underlying assumptions, interpretative frameworks, cultural accretions, personal prejudices, etc etc that we can arrive at the Truth ( which is in fact God himself – al Haqq). That is why Socrates, for example, is a key figure in both the Islamic and Western intellectual history because he exemplified this honest intellectual approach (and he was also by the way a type of monotheist and I believe one of the unnamed messengers that were sent to all nations according to God’s own Word).

      PS Highly controversial film just released on the Gay topic: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/a-gay-muslim-films-his-hajj-pilgrimage-to-mecca_55f1fc6ae4b093be51be52e3?ir=Religion%253Fncid%253Dnewsltushpmg00000003

    • Jonaid says:

      Salam Alaykum.

      I have always had an exclusively homosexual orientation (henceforth “EHO”). I come from a family of pious Muslims and in my early teen years I was very much devoted to the faith. No doubt the Qur’an is the Divine Speech delivered to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and “Islam” as a religion developed over the centuries is the least corrupted methodology for living a Divinely ordained way of life. I believe that now but for the past 12 years, since I was 15/16 to about 4 months ago, I was a staunch atheist. How could I not be? You’re growing up and you realize there’s something very different about you from everyone else you know. Guys at this age talk about very little besides the attractiveness of the opposite gender. In fact, not participating in the conversation itself can be interpreted by some as a sign of hidden homosexual inclinations. Then you turn to your religion and to God which, one would expect considering it is the ultimate Truth, would have some answers. What you find is scarier than anything you hear at school or the playground: it’s a “major sin,” an “abomination,” “Lut’s people were cursed and destroyed because they were gay,” “animals don’t behave in this way,” “the only debate is HOW to kill them, not IF” etc etc. Yet the most important questions – the one that matters most – are completely ignored and if they aren’t, no satisfactory answer is given. Why am I like this? How can I change? Who do I go to to help me? Why am I blamed when I’m a victim? Not only do I have to hide from peers and family and friends, I don’t even know WHY? For what sin am I paying such a price? If it’s a “tribulation” from God which I should bear patiently, why haven’t they – Islamic scholars throughout the centuries – have made it clear already? How is it that they insist that every man and woman marry and fulfill their desires (“Islam encourages healthy sexual relations and it is dangerous to deny this to yourself as it will potentially lead to sin…”) yet they – when all else seems to fail – say “well, if you’re incapable of finding a woman attractive then just be celibate”? Does the idea of a non-sexual, loving relationship ever cross their minds? Perhaps most importantly: where is the empathy – you don’t have to agree with me, you don’t have to license anything that is forbidden, you don’t have to compromise the faith, but a little empathy so we know you truly understand our circumstance?

      Of course now, in the West, Muslims have begun to tone down on the more extreme positions (at least publicly) and have – as demonstrated in this article – started to “rationalize” their position as if that’s going to be of any comfort to those who really need it: young, confused teenagers who are wondering who / what / WHY they are the way they are and where on Earth can they find some genuine support. I swear by God, the One & Only, this sort of blanket, apathetic, and largely ignorant repetition of the same old argument with minor revisions here & there is NOT going to help Islam, Muslims, “gay” Muslims and anyone else. Our “scholars” have forgotten what the spirit of Islam is – what the ultimate message of God, the Prophet, the Qur’an and Islam is when it comes to homosexuality and they keep repeating “positions” and “laws” without any consideration for the impact their words might have on some people’s hearts, and ultimately, their faith.

      The fact is no one really knows how sexual orientation develops and why some people are exclusively or predominantly homosexual in their desires. By the grace of God I have understood – to my own satisfaction – at least some of the reasons behind it and it enabled me to return to the faith. Having said that, before I elaborate further, I want to make this clear: this is NOT a scientific claim. I do not have any empirical evidence to support my claim but I have enough experience & knowledge of human psychology to believe it with near certainty. I firmly believe that a predisposition to EHO (as distinct from homosexual behavior) is a result of 1) genetics, 2) early experiences & environment. My extensive research into “Sociopathy” (a.k.a. psychopathy or “ASPD” per DSM) has led me to conclude that there is a very strong correlation between self-identified sociopaths and sexual fluidity & promiscuity. Power & control is what drives these people and their sexual desires and in time even a heterosexual sociopath can become flexible enough to engage in sexual behavior with the same gender. Some of these people may eventually even call themselves “gay” but they are in fact bisexuals or “fluid.” These are akin to what the Qur’an says of the people of Lut. What is apparent in Lut’s community is a complete lack of empathy to the point where raping men is apparently a non-issue for the masses. Rampant homosexuality – and sexual abuse – was just one outcome of the psychopathic tendencies of Lut’s community. So where does EHO fit into all this? I have personal as well experiential reasons to believe with near certainty that children born in dysfunctional or semi-dysfunctional families, or to a sociopathic parent or grandparent, or experiencing abuse early on have a much, much higher likelihood of EHO. These are the victims of other people’s sins – their parents or their grandparents or great-grandparents, or their abusers, etc. Of course there may be other reasons which I am completely unaware of and there may certainly be families who do not show any signs of dysfunction or sociopathic tendencies but nonetheless have homosexual members. This is not surprising considering sociopaths are very good at hiding their true selves.

      Only good comes from God and evil is the result of our actions. Sometimes that evil is the result of societies’ wrongs and not the individual’s own actions. Genetics plays a key role in our development and sometimes an individual inherits a pathology which predisposes them to harmful – or potentially harmful – outcomes without any fault of their own. The question is how one deals with such issues and such individuals. God says that every act is judged based on the intention behind it. The spirit of Islamic law is to ensure a healthy society by maximizing the good and minimizing the evil. HOW that is accomplished must vary from place to place and time to time. Classic example is of Umar suspending the cutting of the thieves’ hands due to the food shortages which plagued the region at the time. The rule remained the same: stealing is evil and forbidden and warrants the cutting off of the hands but considering the circumstances, people are not “stealing” but rather they are forced to take extreme measures to feed themselves and their families. By the same token, does inheriting a predisposition to HMO against your will justify or legitimize homosexual behavior? Does it make it halal now? I would argue no but the key point here is to remember WHAT the original sin was: it was not the act in it of itself but rather it was leaving the halal & natural way (marriage) to go to the haram. The actual act is harmless in it of itself. No harm comes to two individuals who engage in “safe” sex in the privacy of their homes. It eventually leads to harm for the society overall. However, if the harm is already inflicted and you now have innocent people with this orientation who neither desired it nor can they change it, you cannot just apply the same ruling to them.

      To conclude: I just want to briefly outline how I think we ought to proceed with this issue. First and foremost, I do not think anything the Qur’an says and does NOT say is coincidental. The mere fact that the Qur’an attacks a community as a whole, not just for STARTING a new & deviant behavior but for a host of sociopathic behaviors (i.e. raping, pillaging etc) and does not at all speak about romantic love between two gendered individuals is telling. The mere fact that Islamic law forbids a certain sexual act – anal sex and according to some, oral sex – and not any or all forms of bonding between two same gendered individuals is telling. None of the Hadith literature pertaining to homosexual behavior is authentic beyond doubt. If I’m not mistaken, they are “weak” narrations. Does it mean that these are to be encouraged or even allowed when they do not exist? No but the mere fact that God Almighty has left these gaps open is, to my mind anyway, a clear indication that there is some leverage for certain individuals with HMO. I’m inclined to say that it is preferable to avoid anything that is not clearly allowed but I am not naive enough – and neither should our scholars be so naive – to think that this is a practical suggestion for most people, especially our day and age. Finally, our scholars will no doubt find a major stumbling block even for this: why has 1400 years of scholarship which included great minds like Al Ghazali and Ibn Taymiyyah been unanimous in its position against homosexuality without allowing for ANY flexibility? I would rephrase this question as “Why did God Almighty allow such unanimity for 1400 years”? God knows best but perhaps the answer is: so long as it was possible to prevent this phenomenon from ever surfacing and becoming a public issue, Islamic law held on to its original position. Now the situation is quite different. The aim should be: to ensure the faith of HMO (and indeed even those who are deeply engrossed in homosexual behavior) remains as strong as possible. That is the strongest tool any individual has to minimize, if not prevent, themselves from what is harmful & forbidden. The utterances of scholars or the laws of a society are of no use to someone who’s soul is bent on doing what it wants. All that accomplishes is resentment and forcing people to hide their actions from the authorities (a.k.a. hypocrisy). What we need is an empathetic approach which is in harmony with the original message & spirit of Islam: do not make people feel like they’re criminals or sick or degenerates. Speak the truth but be compassionate in your approach & actions. An HMO knows (at least I do) that their disposition is not entirely natural or even preferable. They’ve just come into terms with it. If they find empathetic, nonjudgmental & honest Muslims, their faith will be strengthened and God-willing they will take the necessary steps to protect themselves from the haram as much as they can. Do not blow the issue way out of proportion and accomplish the exact opposite of what was originally intended. This is not the prophetic way – it is the “traditional” way.

      God is my witness that everything I shared is my honest take on this issue. Ultimately only God knows everything and I hope and pray that only good comes out of this, not harm, Inshallah.

      Thank you.

      • Malik Matiyahu says:

        Thank you. Makes me think that too much dry theorising misses the point. May God bless you and bring you success.

        There is so much we just don’t know, all this ‘certainty’ and ‘that’s that’ type of attitude is too prevalent in Islam.

        The Prophet himself did not know on many matters: for othewise why would he have said: “Oh Allah increase me in knowledge”.

      • Jonaid says:

        Thank you for your well wishes Malik and may God bless you as well.

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Assalamu ‘alaikum Br. Jonaid,

        Let me just say that your message is wonderful — I can really feel the depth and the sincerity — and if I had you in front of me, I should like to give you a big, warm, heartfelt hug. There is no gift greater than the gift of guidance: praise be to God the Almighty who guided you back to your faith in Him after such an extended estrangement. The Prophet (saas) said in a hadith that Allah is happier on account of the return of one of His servants than a man who has lost his riding beast in the middle of the desert then stumbled upon it again. And if Allah is this happy over the return of His servant, then it behooves all of us Muslims to rejoice heartily at such an event, and to be filled with gratitude, thanksgiving, and love. Hence, the hug.

        I think your thinking and approach are very mature, and I really respect the honesty you show in your approach to the deen’s rulings on homosexual behavior despite your personal knowledge and experience of this condition as an unelected and very difficult trial. As you will see if you read through the many comments I have made to this article since it was published last July, I believe the approach you call for is already manifested in our tradition. When there is no melting together of desires and acts into an irreducible “homosexuality” that we can then react to with either total disgust and rejection or total acceptance and celebration, then there is no basis for stigmatiztion and rejection — or, for that matter, self-loathing on the part of the “EHO” individual — on account of the mere inclinations or desires. The shar’i discourse is all about specific acts only, and these are generally graded in seriousness according to whether there is penetration involved or not, much more so than the gender of the persons involved (especially for acts that fall short of penetration). In much of the literature (poetry, biographical accounts, etc.) across time and space, there is the assumption that, for example, grown men are paradigmatically attracted to male youths who have not yet grown full beards. This attraction is very often presented matter-of-factly with little or any stigma attached to the DESIRE, while simultaneously maintaining the unbroken position that any ACTS between such persons are impermissible.

        Ibn Hazm is one who apparently also takes for granted the possibility of such attractions even between, e.g., two grown men (as opposed to the pederastic model of a man and a youth that I mentioned above, very common throughout ancient Greece, Persia, Rome, Central Asia and, essentially, most of the territories and cultures that Muslims have inhabited for the majority of their history). In his famous love treatise, Tawq al-Hamama (“The Ring of the Dove”), he discusses the trials of love, passion, desire, etc. and uses these to make statements about the nature of the human heart and the love it can feel. He shows sympathy for anyone beset with the pain of unrequited love — whether the beloved be of the same or the opposite sex (and it’s often the former) — without judging negatively the love or passion or affection itself at all. This is quite remarkable from a European Christian perspective or, for that matter, from the modern (secularized) perspective which derives from it. When it came to ACTIONS, however, he did the only thing a Muslim can do, which is submit to the Will and Law of God. (He did not believe in qiyas — or juristic analogy — however, so he did not endorse the death penalty for sodomy, since this is based either on admittedly tentative hadith evidence or on analogy to male-female zina. He fixed the penalty for sodomy at a mere 10 lashes, which is the softest view on the matter that exists in our tradition.) But because traditional Muslims did not have the modern Western concept of “homosexuality” as such, it was apparently not hard for them to maintain what seems from our perspective to be a contradictory stance: namely, an essentially matter-of-fact attitude towards the existence among human beings of same-sex attractions, loves, and passions, coupled with a strict prohibition of translating these attractions into forbidden acts of physical intimacy. There is a really interesting article on this at: http://al-qantara.revistas.csic.es/index.php/al-qantara/article/view/172/165. Khaled El-Rouayheb’s book, “Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World: 1500-1800,” is also very meticulously researched and very eye-opening. A synopsis of the main arguments of the book can be found in a summary article he wrote that can be found here: (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1366616042000309157?journalCode=came20).

        So I actually agree with you — on the basis of the Islamic tradition itself — that we need to not be naive when it comes to the reality of same-sex desires and attractions among people. Past scholars do not seem to have been shocked at the very thought that two men or two women might be a fitna for each other. Our indignant hand-wringing at this is, I would submit, much more a result of modern sexual categories and attitudes (which have been absorbed even in many quite traditional Muslim societies), including the categorizing of all people into rigid categories of “heterosexuals” and “homosexuals,” than of our traditional, more realistic as well as more nuanced, approach.

        May Allah bless you, my brother, and keep you firm on His path, give you peace and happiness in this life, and ultimate success and felicity on the Day of your meeting with Him. May He bless and guide and enlighten all of us Muslims to be discerning, compassionate, nuanced, principled, faithful, and firm in the currently murky waters of confusion that we are traversing over the question of same-sex desires and behaviors, and may He make of us and our communities beacons of guidance and khayr for all of mankind. Ameen!

        Wassalamu ‘alaikum,
        Ahmad B.

      • Slave of Allah says:

        Wallah brother Jonaid I feel You!
        I believe and love Allah and submit to his perfect orders.
        Allah is not the one who makes mistakes, but we do.
        I believe that most of the mainstream scholars noawadays just don’t understand. How can you understand when you can see the sky blue just like almost everyone else? How can you solve the problem of someone who sees the sky red?

        I wish the prophet peace be upon him was here to tell us how to live with this. How can we start to feel attraction to what we are ought to feel attracted towards naturally, even when he knows that we were so ignorant and weak to defend ourselves or see how it shall it corrupt your identity when you hit puberty …

        I’m sure his talk would have started with his angelic smile may Allah’s blessing and mercy be upon him.

        Somedays you just wish that Allah takes you to him when hes pleased with you at a young age, for even manic bipolar disorder / schizophrenic patients are more clear on their issues than a corrupted fitra homosexual.

        May Allah takes us to him if life is not going to be fit for us or heal us if it was.

  3. Norma Tarazi says:

    the current U.S. Discussion of homosexuality is somewhat a closed loop where everyone repeats catch phrases. This discussion is outside of that loop and should provoke a change in the public discourse. But it is lengthy and uses a high level of language, and I can’t see it summarized into the sound bites people expect. So unless people work to get its ideas out there, it will be ignored. I will try.

    • Kamal R. says:

      If English is your first language and you actually think this is high level than you shouldn’t participate in this discussion. This is not a discussion for someone who cannot understand basic middle school grammar. Not everyone needs to participate only those with a sufficient intellect.

      • Irfan says:

        This is a discussion in regards to society as a whole, so yes everyone of all levels should participate. Also, a lot of these vocabulary words would be considered college level. Don’t dissuade people not to engage in discussion. Instead encourage them to read the article along side an online dictionary to make sense of the discussion at hand.

      • elza says:

        I do agree that it needs to be delivered in more simple manner, not that I dislike or disdain the writer for writing this. It is actually the opposite, i find it enlightening and answering all the questions I was unable to answer before. I wouls like this idea to be spread wider and understood by people or rather, muslims who have been affected with ideas from the other end.
        This piece is exactly what I was looking for, may Allah bless you for making things clearer in ways it has never been done before. Jazaka Allah Khair.

      • Faz says:

        What a patronising, invalid distortion of Norma’s point, there is no room in such a discussion for personal insults.

  4. Caroline says:

    Very interesting article, although I stand strong with Islamic view and the Quran, it’s sad that the west is taking vulnerable people and acting innocent by leading people towards homosexuality instead of using knowledge as used in the article to clear this misconception. It’s not about freedom but about acts that are against nature. I leave a question to why are the churches fearing to stand against this when knowing that it is also against the true practice of catholic/ Christianity

  5. Lara says:

    Salaam Alaikum,
    I am troubled to see such a violent, inappropriate photo in the backdrop of this article. It is insensitive to our brothers and sisters who are truly struggling with homosexual urges and often depression and suicidal thoughts. As their muslim sister and a medical doctor, my immediate instinct was to speak up. I assume the author did not choose this and may not be aware. Admin, please address this.
    Thank you.

    • Wa alaikumussalam, Thank you for raising your concern. The image was not meant to be insensitive to anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts. As the article itself describes, these are sensitive issues that have to be addressed with compassion and care.

      • Lara says:

        Thanks for listening and changing the image.

      • Ismail says:

        Asalaam alaikum,

        Jazaala Allah khairan for the article and the in-depth discussion. However, I add my voice to Dr. Lara as the photo problem is not resolved. When you share the article on facebook, the photo that appears is one of a man “shooting himself”… can this be addressed as well. I find this practice from websites to attach unacceptable images to articles quite disturbing, it is not only a problem at MM, but it is rampant across the internet.

        Wa Asalaam.

      • naveed shaikh says:

        Thank you for an interesting article which provides for thought on a contentious area.
        I note your academic qualifications with interest.
        Though you have provided your secular institutes quite clearly , your source of islamic studies
        seems less apparent.
        I feel knowledge of those sources and institutions /scholars could help to lend weight to your positions from an islamic legal authorisation angle

        Sincerely

        naveed

    • Has the image been changed? Because the one I see there now does not look violent to me. I see it as a representation of a person who is confused.

    • Conviction2Change says:

      Lara,

      Thank you for speaking up for your Muslim brothers and sisters (like me) who are struggling with this issue. I was deeply hurt by the picture and then even more so by this article. Good to know people like you are out there.

  6. Ibrahim says:

    The article is good. But it’s lengthy and language is of very high level. Very difficult to put the complete meaning of sentence together. I will be very glad if Dr YQ could look into that for us.

    Thanks

  7. Buddy says:

    Their is only one to be concerned about, how he views homosexual live style and that is the most high and only true god,who’s name is JEHOVAH (psalms ch.83:vs18) remember SODOM and GOMORRAH? go to ( genesis ch.19:vs.1,4,&5 & 24-25 ) then go to (leviticus ch.20:vs.13) then go to ( roman’s ch. 1:vs.24-32 ) and ( 1st. corinthians ch.6:vs.9-11, notices in vs. 11 it says and that’s what some of you ( WERE ) showing that they can ( CHANGE )!!!!! Read ( isaiah ch.55:vs.11. this from GOD’S word the holy bible and not i.

    • M.Mahmud says:

      Naaah Islam suffices me. I can’t trust a book whose oldest maniscripts lack the Jesus and adulterous women story.

      I would rather believe in Islamic morality with it’s divine laws and commandments and punishments firmly established in the Book of Allah and command of His Messenger.

      You might want to check it out. Unlike Christian texts, Islamic sexual morality is unambiguous.

      • Matthew Johnson says:

        So islamic sexual morality is unambiguous?

        Really? So when the Quran says you can have sex with your slave girls, there’s no ambiguity about interpreting that today? And no ambiguity in that the type of marriage contract that legitimises heterosexual intercourse is neither religiously defined, nor has much in common with modern notions of marriage? And no ambiguity in such things as age of consent, given A’isha’s purported age and the fact that the age of consent in most modern societies is well above that? To admit these ambiguities by the way is not a sign of weakness or lack of faith but of intelligence and wisdom.

        What really amazes me is that this debate has been kicked started by the desire of gays to formalise long term committed monogamous relationships and gain the legal protections of marriage contracts, yet the comments here are full of references to AIDS, STDs etc. HIV infection is mainly transmitted heterosexually worldwide, so has nothing per se to do with gay sex.

        Furthermore, the Hadd punishments for fornication etc are all PRE-ISLAMIC, the Islamic innovation was simply to render those punishments to all intents and purpose unenforceable, and also to encourage people not to dwell on others misbehaviours but to look at heir own actions, avoiding gossip and backbiting. This seems to have been completely forgotten by many modern muslims.

  8. Ahmad says:

    Jazak Allahu Khayran for this well thought out and written article. As many have noted, it was slightly difficult to read (although I won’t disregard the community’s unfortunate level of illiteracy as a factor), but I appreciate the fact that someone has taken the time to construct an argument beyond a 3 paragraph Facebook status for such a controversial issue.

    I read your previous post on pre-marital sex, and I can’t help but notice that both of these subjects sprout controversy from similar roots, namely ideology. I was wondering if you’d ever thought of compiling a book that refutes Islamic misconceptions/clarifies position through this lens (as you’ve been doing thus far with these articles), or perhaps a book that comparatively (Islamic or otherwise) challenges liberal ideological norms on subjects of morals and ethics . It would be nice if these books were written with the general public’s literacy level in mind, not just academics’, so that many can benefit.

    Keep up the great work.
    Barak Allahu Feek,
    Wasalam Alaikum

    • Wa iyyakum. The difficulty in writing on these topics in depth is that one side will find it too academic and the other side will think it is not academic enough! I have been writing for MuslimMatters for about 1 year and I get both kinds of feedback for almost every single post, dismissed as either too difficult to understand or too simplistic, not nuanced enough, etc. Trust me, I am not trying to write this way for the sake of sounding academic. Ideally, complicated questions could be fully and satisfactorily addressed in a language that the public at large could appreciate. I try my best to strike that balance, but I think the best compromise is to have more academic essays like this in conjunction with less in depth pieces that highlight the main ideas and convey them in a way that is easier to digest. The two kinds of material can then lean on each other in a complementary way. I am still working on that.

  9. Siraaj says:

    Salaam alaykum Daniel,

    Jzk for this lengthy and detailed write-up, a very serious contribution to the debate. I’d like to play devil’s advocate here, I felt that between Q3 and Q5, the “harm” of homosexuality was not clearly expressed. Fundamentally, when one says religion, the government, one’s parents are blocking something from someone, they are doing so because of specific benefit or harm to be gained.

    Within these questions, you deconstruct notions of harmlessness, objective harmfulness, and consequentialism. You also point out a number of inconsistent applications of such principles in specific instances. But at the end of it, I don’t have a sense of exactly the “what” of either physical, spiritual, or social harm is in allowing two consenting (assuming a generally understood and agreed on definition of consent by society rather than fringe interpretations and frameworks from thinkers and academics) men, let’s say for the sake of argument, gay marriage (and only gay marriage, not pre-, or extra-marital sex).

    Siraaj

    • Wa alaikumussalam Siraaj,

      Great question. The purpose of Q3-Q5 is to question the notion of “harm” and to also to question whether all our moral beliefs can be reduced to a calculation of harm. As is pointed out in those sections as well as Q6 and elsewhere, even liberal secularists have moral beliefs, some of them quite strong, that do not reduce purely to a matter of “prevent physical harm.” Therefore it would be inconsistent for that group to insist that all of Islam’s moral prohibitions link to a clear physical harm in order to be reasonable and valid.

      In Q13 and Q14 is where the Islamic assumptions behind the prohibition of same-sex acts are described. Some of that reasoning is straightforwardly consequentialist, some if it not so much. Obviously, it is difficult for (lay) people today, non-Muslim and Muslim alike, to recognize and internalize this reasoning that classical Islamic scholars and indeed Quran and hadith describe because 1) they have the mistaken belief that all morality has to reduce to harm and consequentialism and 2) there are a ton of other assumptions that trip people up, like this notion of “consent,” natural desires, etc. In other words, there are two competing paradigms here, secular and Islamic, and most of us are entrenched in the former such that when Allah speaks of the great disaster that is liwat or zina, that doesn’t resonate with us in the way that it should. If we can attack the secular paradigm, bring it into doubt, then this will more easily allow us to adopt the Islamic paradigm and to condition our selves and our minds to that way of thinking that was so natural to Muslims of the past.

      • Sheharyar says:

        Sorry to barge in; I agree with what you’ve said Daniel but I still don’t think Siraaj’s point has been addressed i.e. what exactly is the moral harm.

        I didn’t miss your point though; what it comes down to then, is, is it out of the scope of a comment or article to somewhat introduce the classical paradigm to people immersed in the paradigm of today? That would be a shame because I think this is what most people would be interested to hear (and if anyone could do it it’s probably you).

  10. Sam says:

    Great article!

    The argument of “consent” is always used by those who believe homosexuality is a natural and harmless phenomenon. They use this argument to separate homosexuality from other acts considered deplorable by society. Take bestiality for example, when it is likened to homosexuality, the pro-gay advocates claim that since animals cannot give consent, bestiality and homosexuality are inherently dissimilar. What these pro-gay advocates fail to take into account are the different types and definitions of consent (as the article’s author mentioned). In the case of bestiality, it may be true that a female animal is not capable of giving consent to a human male, but if a male animal voluntarily engages (or mounts) in sexual activity with a human female, does this not constitute consent?

    Just my two cents.

  11. Zane says:

    I am a non-Muslim but I have some knowledge of Islam.

    First of all, all arguments about homosexuality not being “natural” and completely a product of the modern age can be easily refuted. For one thing, pre-modern thinkers did not unanimously disparage homosexuality. Socrates, the tutor of Plato (who was in turn Aristotle’s tutor), pursued men romantically and argued the virtues of male-male romantic love in the Symposium. And as you yourself referenced, the Islamic world has its own “gay” history starting from the time of the Prophet.

    I won’t argue that Islam teaches that homosexuality is wrong. The argument about moral & cultural relativism doesn’t interest me. What is more important to me is the issue of HARM. You talk a lot about Islam’s *right* to teach that homosexuality is harmful to society, but you don’t offer any evidence that it is. On the other hand, it’s easy to offer examples of the destructive impact of intolerant attitudes on people who identify as gay. In the USA, people are allowed to believe that gay marriage is wrong. No one is forcing Muslims or their kids to marry someone of the same gender. But people can also marry who they like. I fail to understand how this arrangement harms people who don’t believe that gay marriage/homosexuality is wrong. However, if the belief that homosexuality is wrong is widespread, the damage to homosexuals and their families is obvious and easily demonstrated.

    • Sam says:

      Hi Zane,

      I think you misunderstood the author’s points. What I understood was that he’s arguing that homosexuality as an identity is a product of the modern times. Although people in ancient times might have engaged in homosexual activity, they did not believe it was what they were born or inclined to do.

      The example of Socrates mentioning homosexuality is also weak. The Ancient Greeks practiced pederasty, where the older men sexually engaged with younger men in their teens. They did not do this because they believed they were naturally inclined to men, but they believed that women were unequal to men and undeserving of their romance. Also, the men who were penetrated were looked down on in that society too.

      As to the argument of harm, I think the author covered the topic clear enough. Read through the article again.

      • Zane says:

        “I think you misunderstood the author’s points. What I understood was that he’s arguing that homosexuality as an identity is a product of the modern times.”

        This is true, but sexual identity is different for everyone living in a modern society. We’ve experienced massive cultural changes in the last century+, nobody is denying that or trying to pretend like it’s “always been that way.” These changes are not part of a sinister conspiracy to turn everyone gay, rather, they are a mostly organic result of society coming to terms with questions that had previously not been openly asked or discussed.

        The example of the Greeks was meant to demonstrate that every society has its own interpretations and norms regarding sexual orientation & practice. The author makes the same point, but does not demonstrate what makes the Islamic position reasonable or worthy of respect. You must understand that whatever your opinions are about the origins & substance of homosexual identity, in the West, we already have A LOT of people who openly identify as gay and live normal, productive, well-adjusted lives, often as parents and model citizens. So if you are a Muslim living in the West, the burden of proof is upon *you* to explain why open acceptance of homosexuality is harmful and why we should teach children who find themselves with these feelings that those feelings are wrong. Treating others with less dignity without a demonstrable non-metaphysical reason for doing so just seems like prejudice. You easily alluded to why we wouldn’t permit Greek pederasty in our own society. I still have not seen a cogent argument explaining why “modern” homosexuality is similarly harmful and why it would be better for the West if we did not tolerate it at this point.

    • Zeeshaan Ahmad says:

      Zane – the US has not done this yet (but probably will, when continuing down this path), but in Ontario, we have just been handed a new sex education curriculum that has parts of it which are MANDATORY, including the fact that homosexuality is NOT wrong. Our children will be taught to accept homosexual behavior and acts as acceptable. To you, this may seem harmless. To Muslims and Christians alike, who view homosexuality on par with incest or other morally objectionable acts, it is not.

      When you say “no one is forcing Muslims or their kids to marry someone of the same gender”, this is true. However, by teaching the acceptance of homosexuality in public schools (the only affordable ones for most parents), you are forming their values in a way that many religious people find objectionable.

      If one were to say that “some people have a problem with homosexuality, but in our public space, we choose not to object to the practice, and we expect others to do the same, whatever their moral objections to homosexuality”, this would be understandable. However, what’s being taught to children in their formative years is that homosexuality is NOT wrong. That’s where many religious people have objections.

      When you say that you “fail to understand how this arrangement harms people who don’t believe that gay marriage/homosexuality is wrong”, you are ignoring the current climate for the weather. It will soon be illegal – or economically sanctionable – to raise any objection against homosexuality. This becomes even more problematic because the West seeks to impose its views as to what’s morally objectionable and what’s not on the Muslim world.

      • Zane says:

        I do understand the discomfort of having your children being taught about these subjects in public school. However, there are good reasons that schools undertake such programs. Whether you like it or not, you live in Canada, a liberal Western democracy where pre-marital sex and widespread acceptance of homosexuality is simply part of the culture. Public schools in this day and age have an obligation to offer compassionate advice and guidance for youths who are struggling. If your children had homosexual feelings, what would you have to offer them for support and guidance? Here in the West, we’ve tried “converting” gays, suppressing these topics from the public sphere, and banning the activity. It didn’t work. Compassion and acceptance has proven to be a much more sane approach in our society, and you are a part of that society, whether you are Muslim or not. Do you think a non-Muslim living in a Muslim nation has the right to complain about Islamic values being passed on to their children from the public sphere?

    • Dr. Atkuzzaman says:

      Homosexual never cause any harm to others, but actually they cause physical and mental harm for themselves. Study shows 90% gay perform anal sex. But anal canal is not a part of Genital system, it is a part of digestive system. Anal canal is full of viruses and bacteria. There is no lubrication system. So STD rate is very high in homosexual society.

      • Zane says:

        The practice of basic hygiene and safe sex eliminates this issue. Unprotected heterosexual sex can lead to infection and the spread of STD’s too. So this argument does not apply to the age in which we live.

      • Vamanos says:

        It does cause harm to others because it spreads the diseases HIV and AIDS. Also it’s psychologically disturbing to witness gay couples, especially for young children that are adopted by them.

      • Vamanos says:

        That’s a good scientific-based argument.

      • Oberyn Martell says:

        That has to be the most used argument of all. HIV spreads both by unprotected vaginal and anal sex, in certain rare cases, oral sex. Anal sex poses a greater threat because of the fragility of rectum in exposing blood to potential virus. However, the practice of safe sex and recently, PrEP practically remove any chance of HIV spreading. As a fellow Microbiologist, I can also tell you that research on rectal prevention of anal sex has shown more promising results than that of vaginal prevention. There are gays who do not engage in anal sex and there are straight people who happily do anal sex. Using HIV/AIDS as a counter argument to homosexuality doesn’t make sense. It’s true in the past that MSM has contributed to rising cases of HIV/AIDS in North America but it’s no longer true as our scientific technology keeps on improving. It’s also worth mentioning that lesbians have almost zero chances to pass HIV/AIDS. Are lesbians God’s chosen people?

        It’s not psychologically disturbing to see gay couples if children are not taught that ‘Homosexuality is a disease’.

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Just for the record, anal sex in Islam is prohibited to all, even to a married male and female couple. In the West, people often say, “Why should gays be prevented from doing something that many heterosexual couples enjoy as well?” In Islam, at least, there is no double standard here, since this foul act is prohibited to all equally. Indeed, it would constitute a double standard for people to suggest that now, self-identified “homosexuals” should uniquely be permitted to engage in this activity, while it has been made the subject of a blanket prohibition to all.

        I agree with Vamanos that it is disturbing and highly offensive — and not just to children — to see gay couples making out with each other in public. Some might call this “prejudice” (which, of course, makes no sense since I am not “judging” anything “prior to” coming to know about it), but I would simply call it a healthy fitra. And it is definitely an unjust imposition on many people that one can hardly walk through many Western cities nowadays with one’s family and avoid being accosted by such ignominious sights.

        Once again, Islamic norms here are perfectly consistent, as they would hold such activity to be inappropriate in public for ALL, including male-female couples (though same-sex is, of course, naturally more repugnant). The principle is actually quite simple: intimate behavior should remain PRIVATE. This is what common decency and decorum demand, two virtues which used to have their rightful place in Western society but which now count among the many casualties of the West’s disastrous Sexual Revolution.

        If anyone has not yet read Wendy Shalit’s “A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue,” I would recommend it highly. It does an excellent job of cataloging the many bitter fruits of the Sexual Revolution, not least for women and girls, whom the new feminism had promised to “liberate” (by turning them into sluts).

    • H. Bint-Robert says:

      I am a Muslim. ONLY A MALE AND FEMALE PARING CAN PRODUCE CHILDREN. NOW, TWO MALE PARING AND TWO FEMALE PARING CAN NOT CARRY ON THE HUMAN RACE.

  12. Blue says:

    salaam alaykum Daniel,

    I read through your blog post and appreciate the thoroughness of your argument. However, while reading your post I couldn’t help but think of wondering what would happen if the same logic were applied to the practice of Islam?

    What if someone fundamentally believes that Islam is not a way to achieve true happiness? Maybe they have Muslim friends who they care about and they believe that the only way for their Muslim friends to find true happiness is to become an atheist? I think its common for many liberals in the west to find traditional Islamic practices viscerally troubling – conservatives and bigots no doubt play upon these fears.

    Do you think there is a moral imperative for (some) Western societies to make the practice of Islam illegal? This could be a form of cultural separatism, some western countries like the UK or Switzerland might ban Islam, while other countries like Indonesia or Saudi Arabia would ban Homosexuality.

    • Wa alaikumussalam Blue,

      This is not a hypothetical. This is reality. Liberal secular regimes around the world have done a great deal to restrict the practice of Islam, to curtail certain aspects of Islamic belief, and to control and condition Muslims and the Muslim mind all in the name of freedom, equality, pursuit of happiness, etc. The hypocrisy is when liberal secularism, after all this, turns around and calls Islam “repressive” and Islamic morality as “authoritarian” and incorrigibly metaphysical. To read specific examples, see my essay on the subject here, which contains further references: http://muslimmatters.org/2014/11/03/what-bill-maher-isis-in-common/

      • Blue says:

        Do you think that the moral thing to do for liberal western countries would be to ban the practice of Islam? (And ban homosexuality and haram acts in an Islamic country?

        How do you propose both behaviors should be regulated in a democracy?

    • Amatullah says:

      Blue, if you’re going to use logic, then first establish the premises. You’re using the old “comparison of apples and oranges” fallacy thus making nonsense of your argument. Islam is a universal concept by which billions of people live, homosexuality is a minor type of sexual behaviour which has been exaggerated by western media. You can’t compare them in any way.

  13. Amatullah says:

    Salaam aleikum brother Daniel. Your description of the modern day shifting of cultural attitudes in western culture is interesting, especially those areas of behaviour which are still illegal or not culturally acceptable. Aren’t these changes of attitude simply part of the wider degeneration of western ethics and morality, in which sexual exploitation of men, women and children is widespread? It is up to Islam to hold the line!

  14. Amina says:

    Salam Alaykum,
    The biggest problem is that they say that they are born this way and they ask us ” How can it be illegal when this is on our DNA and “your” God created us this way”
    The second problem is that when you tell them about Homosexyality and its immorality, they start to talk about the “animal-kingdom” and how they have found homosexual behavor on animals -search homosexuality animal wikipedua. And because of that they say it is “natural” and “normal”.
    What answer should we have with these arguments?

    • ifthikar hassen says:

      The argument that there is a “gay DNA” and they are born that way has been proven wrong by no less than 26 reputed studies. The only study that apparently supports the gay gene theory was actually conducted by a gay himself! Genetics has therefore shown that people are not born gay and in the field of epigenetics there is only evidence to show that there could be a propensity to gayness and no evidence of gay determinism.

      With regards to animals there is no comparison between humans and animals except for certain types biological behaviour. The human being is created with a soul and spirit which animals lack and it is important to consider its consequences and responsibilities in any direct comparison.

      The harmful effects of homosexuality becomes more evident in the societal or macro sphere as can be deduced and interpreted from the story of prophet Lot in the Quran. God decided to destroy this nation when homosexuality became so rampant and dominant that women could not find partners for marriage and resorted to becoming “pimps” for men as was the case with the wife of prophet Lut. The men also resorted homosexual acts without consent which becomes rape. The story of Lut also dramatically captures the pleading of Lut to the men who came to his house to have sex with the men who were his guests(they were actually angels who had taken human form), requesting them not to embarass him and his guests and instead offering his daughters in lawful marriage and yet they said they have come for the men and women interest them no more.

      The backdrop of this story and its inferences clearly show that once a society openly encourages and accepts such deviant sexual behaviour it takes over like a scourge and has a devastating impact on normal human behaviour that would undermine its very existence.

      • Student says:

        I am afraid you are mistaken. It is true that there has been no result in search for a “gay gene”. This does’t, however, exlude the possibility of genetic determinism. Many characteristics are the result of a huge interplay between many genes. So far the brain is still the least understood organ and there have been no results yet in search for a single “autism gene”, yet we do know it runs in families and is at least partially gentically determined.

        As true as it is that humans are very distinc in their consciousness and rational abilities we also share many aspects with animals. Regardless of intellect or rational ability we all share the same instincts, of which sexual desire is one.

        As much value as you might hold to your story, I fear it contains the anecdotal logical fallacy. An isolated example is certainly not sufficient proof to draw conclusions about the macro-societal results of internationally accepted homosexuality. Currently there stands no significant proof that acceptance of homosuality has any harmful effect, as opposed to the supresson of homosexuality.

      • Matthew Johnson says:

        The “DNA” argument is totally a red herring. A homosexual orientation could be genetic, or due to intra-uterine influences, or early childhood, or other environmental factors, or a combination ( the most likely). It makes zero difference to the arguments as the individual concerned has no control over any of these. The point is that it is clearly NOT simply caprice.

        The sophisticated arguments given in the article about the “construction” of desire and sexual identity notwithstanding, the homosexual experiences themselves as having this identity, and we know from the testimony of many otherwise highly moral people the agony that having to hide this, engage in sham marriages, etc . The very clever philosophical arguments offered here rather obscure this basic ethical fact.

        What is really noticeable is how of all the opinions being expressed here, lacking are those who identify as
        muslim and gay. Because it needs saying that it is their voices that need to be heard, What do they experience? What do they think and feel about all this? We don’t know because they are effectively silenced in this discourse.

        Islam, in my view, places what is in peoples’ hearts above philosophical speculation. But the whole set up of the terms of this debate – which is that the consensus has been that homosexuality is haram, and thus always will be ( a circular agreement if ever there was one) – effectively excludes us form hearing what is the the hearts of those most directly affected. And this position also allows people to waive aside serious objections to the claim that the textual proofs are unambiguous and capable of re-interpretation. Scholarly contributions like that from Scott Kugle are not answered head on but simply ridiculed.

        Mercy is the foundational principal of Islam. Yet what I see here is the use of clever sophistry to bolster a position that is basically lacking in that greatest of the attributes.

      • Sharif says:

        Dear Matthew,

        I agree with you that the debate over the origins of same-sex desires is somewhat moot, but draw from that an opposite conclusion: Any human tendency, desire, or proclivity can be argued to have some biological basis, to be present in a person absent his conscious control. People are definitely wrong if they think that anyone actively CHOOSES to feel homosexual attractions. On the other hand, the mere existence of a desire, no matter what its provenance, cannot be turned into a moral argument for the permissibility of satisfying that desire. We have all manner of desires, wants, and cravings, and as Muslims we turn to the guidance of revelation to ascertain which of those desires it is permitted for us to fulfill and which we must resist and struggle to loosen their hold over us. We cannot simply “listen to our heart” when there is explicit guidance on an issue, as our fitra is susceptible to corruption, as the article states, and therefore cannot always accurately discern the true status of an act (such as in the case of those who see nothing intuitively wrong with gay sex).

        A comment on your contention that the debate should be informed by the perspective of “Muslims who identify as gay.” I would like to submit that a Muslim who consciously and openly self-identifies as “gay” (with all that is normally implied by that in terms of approving same-sex acts, believing same-sex relationships to be permissible, etc.) brings a whole host of his/her own biases into the discussion. In fact, those who self-identify as gay and adopt this as a matter of identity represent a mere subset of people who experience same-sex attractions. The logic that takes desires as the basic fact, derives permissibility of acts from the de facto existence of the desires, and then makes all this the basis of an entire identity (e.g., desires = acts = identity) is hardly a neutral or necessary way to proceed. The article makes this clear by showing how specific this particular démarche is to modern Western culture.

        There are plenty of Muslims, and those of other faiths, who experience same-sex desires but who neither act upon them nor take them as the basis of a public identity. Some find that through a combination of conceptual, emotional, and behavioral modifications, they are able to lessen their same-sex desires over time, even to the point of engaging in an honest marriage with an opposite-sex partner. Others continue to struggle with the issue similar to how any person must struggle against particular inclinations they may have which are not permitted.

        People are keen to say “just another straight man writing about gay issues,” we need the “gay voice,” but what about the voice and perspective of these people of a different path, faithful strugglers who know through personal experience what having same-sex desires is all about, but who nevertheless fully and faithfully embrace the command of their merciful Lord on this issue and make mujahada against their inclinations for His sake and pleasure? Their witness is sufficient to refute, or at least heavily qualify, the perspective of self-identified “gay Muslims” who wish to rewrite the religion in light of categories, values, and distinctions alien to it.

      • Sharif says:

        Dear Matthew,

        One last point: The mercy you so rightly insist upon — and which is the primary quality of our Lord (al-Rahman al-Rahim) and the quality He has commanded us to embody in our dealings with each other — is located, as is so often the case, in a middle place between two extremes: between harsh rejection and ostracizing of people merely on account of the fact that they struggle with this issue (through no conscious choice of their own), on the one hand, and lying to them about the religion’s teachings on same-sex acts in a misguided attempt to eliminate their internal conflicts, on the other. Mercy consists in meeting people where they are, sympathizing with their struggles, giving them a shoulder to lean on, and doing what one can to point a workable way forward, the same as one should help any Muslim brother or sister — and as we ourselves would like to be helped and supported — in struggling for the Straight Path, the path that alone leads to happiness and ultimate success.

  15. Conviction2Change says:

    According to this article, I was not told at a young age to not be gay and that if I ever act on my desires, it will be as harmful to myself and this society as doing heroin. Muslim Matters has continued to stoop low.

    I hope Sh. Yasir Qadhi is continuing his research in this field as he once had intended to do many years ago. I was fortunate enough to have a scholar counsel me through some of my issues with having same-sex attractions. It has not un-gayed me but this person’s care and merciful manner of speaking was of greatly beneficial. Maybe Muslim Matters should spend more time on researching how to assist their gay (yes, let’s use the word) brothers and sisters rather than lecture us and anyone who backs us up with a poorly constructed (i.e., lack of empirical evidence) “dissertation”-length article to toss into the internet and see what happens.

    • Umm Muhammad says:

      Dear Conviction2Change,

      I am sorry for your pain and the struggle you’re going/ have gone through in dealing with homosexual desires. I’m glad that you have found someone to stand by your side and to counsel and comfort you, and I pray for the same type of guidance and comfort for all Muslims struggling with this, and any other, issue.

      In my mind, there are two different issues. One issue, A, is the moral and ethical-legal status of homosexual acts in Islam. The other issue, B, is the best way to support and be there for fellow Muslims who might be struggling with homosexual feelings. These two very different issues are not the same.

      When a Muslim writer puts out an article on issue A, why is it that Muslims who struggle with homosexual desires immediately feel offended and insulted?? Are you confusing the fact that Islam prohibits homosexual acts with the fact that Muslims have to still respect, understand, and try to be there for fellow Muslims who struggle with homosexual feelings?

      In Islam, no one is allowed to look down on anyone else or to condescend to or show contempt for anyone else. We all sin. (Hadith: “Every child of Adam makes mistakes, and the best of those who make mistakes are those who repent.”). We ALL have issues with doing things that we are not supposed to do. Why is someone simply stating that something is impermissible in our religion so offensive to you? Do you want people to tell you that it is permissible, just because you want it to be? How does that make any sense??

      I don’t want to come across as insensitive or harsh. But I do feel confused and bewildered by the angry and insulted reactions fellow Muslims will have sometimes when told basic things are haram/ halal in Islam, as though the speaker is trying to insult them personally or as though he made up the rules himself just to annoy them and make their life harder. We can’t change our religion just based on whims and desires that we may have. We have to try (and I know it’s HARD!) to struggle against our baser desires and whims if they conflict with this beautiful religion, and to be compassionate with ourselves and each other if we make mistakes. There is immense reward in the struggle.

    • Zeeshaan Ahmad says:

      Conviction2Change – thank you for sharing. I am working on an Islamic sex education curriculum which does exactly that, including educating Muslims on people like yourself, and stressing the point that bullying or unqualified preaching (which, to my mind, is the same as bullying) will not be tolerated in our society, regardless of what you believe. Sh. Qadri, Sh. Faraz Rabbani and other much more knowledgeable and understanding scholars will be put at the forefront of these discussions, which will be used to educate Imams and others.

  16. Salman says:

    Assalaam Waalaikum,

    I can see that you’re getting some stick for the language, but when I try to comprehend what you’re trying to do with this article, the necessity of the language becomes quite clear. It is one thing to describe the ‘what’ of an issue, and completely different to go into the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of it. Reminds me of some Usuli books, and the nightmares resulting therefrom. In comparison, this is a weighty topic that demands the weight that it showcases. Breaking down decades of mental processes and effects, and identifying their fallacies that have resulted an entire shift in worldview is no small task after all, and one that can’t be solved with just a few ‘normal’ articles.

    Hence why I’d love to have more discourses like these, is there a platform that you primarily focus on? You endeavors at muslimmaters are great, but throughout your readings I feel like there’s so much more that can be said.

  17. SALAUDEEN says:

    jazakallahu Khayr. Although I had to be brave to read this, it was very educational. Indeed it is only Islam that has transcended through time to uphold morals, ethics, decency and achieving true happiness but that itself is in danger because of liberal secular regimes as u mentioned in one of your replies. man thinks he knows what is best but he forget that he is incapacitated by the susceptibility to make mistakes and therefore for this reason it is better for him to not rely on his whims and instincts. Because This will lead to arrogance and pride just as it occurred to Iblis when he failed to listen to the commandment of his Lord Quran 7 vs 11-13. Indeed we need the support of Allah whose perfect knowledge alone can assist us.

  18. Dr. Atikuzzaman says:

    A study shows 90% gay perform anal sex. Anal canal is not a part of genital system, it is a part of digestive system. Its main function is to reserve fecal matter and help in the process of defecation. Anal canal is full of viruses and bacteria. There is no lubrication. Anal sex is totally unhealthy.
    An unhealthy habit can never be normal.

  19. Brothers and sisters, one word:

    SADUM.

    Sadum is a city where homosexuals lived. Lut(AS)came to them but they did not listen. Then Allah sent an Angel to DESTROY SADUM WITH THE HOMOSEXUALS. Being homosexual is not allowed. Case closed. People are not born like that. It is like saying people are born murderers. And yes it is the same since both are sins. And that animal do homosexual stuff doesn’t make it right for humans. Because we are humans not animals. And disbelievers cannot posses Islamic knowledge. Otherwise they would convert to Islam immediately.

    • zul says:

      ” . . . . People are not born like that. . . . ”

      Please tell your friends who interested ini this matter. There are two villages in my home town (Sumatera, Indonesia) that almost 60 percent of its people born as female-like children: gesture, voice, and muscle. May be they use these villages as the subject of their thesis or decertation.

  20. Mohammed Khan says:

    I want to just say that it was a good read and arguments were well formed.
    A very good and thorough argument.

  21. Rosalinda Wijks says:

    Read this.
    http://www.salon.com/2015/07/19/yes_its_possible_to_be_queer_and_muslim/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

    Oh, and read Scott Kugles magnum opus Homosexuality in Islam.

    • Abu Milk Sheikh says:

      It’s possible to be gay and Muslim if one affirms that homosexuality has been proscribed by Allah and strives against these base desires the way the rest of us strive against the base desires to have premarital or extramarital heterosexual sex.

      It’s even possible to be gay and Muslim if one slips up, commits this egregious sin, and affirms one’s sinfulness in doing so.

      The moment one believes that such behavior is permissible, their faith is nullified because they have made permissible what Allah has declared impermissible. I.e. In doing so, they have committed apostasy and left the fold of Islam.

      The prohibition on homosexuality is one of those issues that are necessarily known to be of the religion of Islam, like the prohibition on murder, the prohibition on usury or the prohibition on consuming alcohol. No one is excused for ignorance of such matters except the one who has recently become Muslim or one who lives isolated from Muslims and religious knowledge. Denying any one of them is major disbelief and apostasy from Islam.

    • Hyde says:

      You guys always prove my point. Always. It’s never principles, facts or traditional held beliefs, but your emotions and personal narratives. One girl’s adventure has to now fit with with all of Islamic fiqh?! Of course you can be gay and supposedly still be a Muslim. That is not news nor something revolutionary. Just don’t try to take one’s own desires lifestyles and cuddle it with 1,400 yrs of RULINGS.

  22. […] came across this article which is very passionate about the matters of homosexuality. But before I proceed to criticize it I […]

  23. Omar Jamal says:

    jazakAllah brother…this article will clear the doubts of many confused souls inshaAllah !

  24. Ghalib Moseti says:

    Asalam aleikum Daniel
    Jazakallahu their for this very informative Piece. I would like to know how any Muslim would respond to some gay activists who will outrightly dismiss the argument that Allah has forbidden such acts as happened to people of Lot, by arguing that God does not exist in the first place.(Atheist)
    Fiamanillah.

    • Wa alaikumussalam,
      If a person doesn’t believe in a Creator or the last day, then speaking to that takes priority over debating ancillary issues like homosexuality. There is quite a bit of literature, videos, and media out there against atheism from Christian and Muslim authors, including ulama, that will help with this.

  25. SG says:

    Interesting post, but it seems to rely on a surface level amount of rhetoric that at its core has some serious flaws in it. For me several things stand out.

    1. You try to use a rhetorical strategy of comparing same-sex relationships. You claim that the negative impact of drugs is not objective, but a societal judgement but it hinges upon the fact that, “empirical impact of drugs to the body is objective.” There is a couple things wrong with this statement. Firstly, the negative impact of drugs is actually quite objective, regardless of people’s subjective beliefs on it. You rely on the notion that someone *believes* them to not be harmful, that does not change the fact that the harm to the body, namely biological damage and its psychological effects are objective and measurable. But setting that aside and assuming you are right, the fact that society deems it harmful is based on the fact that “empirical impact of drugs to the body is objective.” Your analogy here with same-sex relationships falls short because you do no show what is the empirical impact of same-sex relationships on the body that Islam judges to be harmful. You do not note biological, social, nor moral harms to the body and rely simply on an “Islam says so” argument. After a framework building up an analogy this conclusion is not only weak, but seriously harms your overall case.

    2. You mischaracterize your sources. Especially when it comes to Foucault. You use his central thesis to argue that homosexuality as a category is modern. However you are picking and choosing from this thesis. Either this is deliberately done as a strategy to bolster your claims, or because you are not as deeply familiar with this thesis, it mangles what he says. The central thesis of Foucault is not that homosexuality is a new concept, but that ALL sexual identities emerge out of a new type of sovereignty, namely biopolitics, which uses biological (ie sex) as a means of regulation and control. He takes for granted that same-sex relationships and those who engage in it (gay or queer people) are perennial. The Classical episteme doesn’t label people in such a way. You ignore this part of this thesis as a means of subtly implying the newness, modern, and therefore illegitimacy of the category. Indeed, a full understanding of Foucault would challenge your own claims, as if homosexuality as a category is indeed modern, then Islam and any premodern religion, would not address sexual identity at all, but rather specific sexual acts. Indeed, this is fully expanded by Dover’s Greek Homosexuality which looks at concepts like “sodomite” and “catamite” and other similar works of history that conclude that these concepts are not predominantly categories for people we would deem as gay today, but refer to specific sex acts that would also be performed by people claiming to be heterosexual today. This leads to the next point.

    3. In line with the above you cite and link to the work of Khaled El-Rouayheb but again, it is a mischaracterization of his thesis. I wonder if you have read him because his work challenges your idea of a consensus among scholars of pre-modern Islam on homosexuality. His convincing argument, based on a deep mining of primary texts, demonstrates that the debate was actually ongoing and constantly shifting based on out-right prohibition, justification, differences on punishments etc. But most importantly of all, based on the theory of Foucault, that what we call homosexuality was conceived of differently by premodern scholars of Islam. The focus for much of the prohibition debates focused specifically on the sexual act of anal penetration, but did not encompass all behaviors or acts that are identified as homosexual today. You ignore his part on homoeroticism, which was not only tolerated, but often praised by the same scholars who prohibited liwut. Love between men, erotic and romantic, seemed to be of no issue. The ban on homosexuality then is a rather modern modification of the ban on anal sex, in other words reducing the category into a sexual act. His thesis seems to point out that what we call homosexuality today was not an identity that concerned premodern Muslims and that there were those who very much favored same-sex relationships without an issue and the focus of the debate was on anal penetration which included what today would be called heterosexual relationships.

    4. You say you’ll address the mukhanathum and never do. This leaves the questions of intersex completely wide open.

    These are just some issues. As a result, they make your argument very weak indeed, through superficially clever. I wonder if this is the problem with religious discourse, is that rather than use critical thinking and analysis as a means of investigating thought and beliefs, it uses them as a tool of rationalization. In this article, it seems that your investigation is not one of sincere questioning, but having already had a dogmatic conclusion and using rhetoric to justify it. It is convincing to someone already thinking via Islamic religion, but to an outside entirely unconvincing and misleading.

    • Sharif says:

      Dear S G,

      I appreciate the time you took to comment on the article in such depth. I don’t think the author (Daniel) is misrepresenting the literature he cites. It is true, of course, that if “homosexuality” is a relatively new category, then “heterosexuality” is as well. Indeed, it seems that just as it took some time for men in the West who engaged in same-sex behavior to label themselves as “homosexuals,” it also took some decades for men who did NOT engage in same-sex behavior to start defining themselves as “heterosexuals.” Before that, they were all just “men” (as opposed to “women”), some of whom engaged in sexual behaviors with other men while some did not.

      And as you correctly point out, Islamic law does not address “sexuality” or “sexual identity” (as these are modern Western concepts), but it DOES, as you concede, proscribe specific ACTS and BEHAVIORS, including all forms of same-sex erotic activity. The question here is whether the subjective and culturally bound concept of “homosexuality” can be wielded as a stick to override specific textual prohibitions which Muslims believe to be divinely revealed. How can the presence of a mere concept like “homosexuality,” culturally and temporally bound to Western modernity, all of a sudden authorize relationships and behaviors — like anal sex and other activities — that have been specifically prohibited by God? I believe the author is trying to undermine the presumed universality of notions like “sexual identity” and “homo-/heterosexuality” in order to disqualify these as a sufficient basis for overturning otherwise completely clear and agreed upon prohibitions of specific ACTS in Islam (and practically all other religions until very recently).

      And this brings me to my third point. Regarding El-Rouayheb’s book, you seem to be confusing several issues. It is true that there is a difference of opinion in the legal literature regarding the PUNISHMENT for same-sex acts, but he never implies that there was any disagreement over the PROHIBITION of such acts. No Muslim scholar has ever held same-sex erotic behavior of any kind to be permissible in the eyes of God. It is also true that while it is specifically anal sex that is considered a “kabira” (or major sin/crime), it nevertheless remains the case that all other erotic BEHAVIORS outside of legally authorized relationships between a male and a female are prohibited. This refers to all male-female activity not authorized by a legal contract, as well as, by necessity, all same-sex erotic behaviors. Again, difference of opinion on punishment, but not on the prohibition of such actions itself.

      The parallel with male-female sex here is crystal clear: penetrative zina (male-female) is a major crime, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not forbidden, for example, for a non-married Muslim male and female to make out, mutually masturbate, engage in oral sex, or anything else. These might not be as serious as the full act of zina, but no Muslim would suggest with a straight face that any of that is not prohibited. So same-sex behavior doesn’t get a free pass here just because someone self-identifies as a “homosexual.” That’s a subjective category and self-definition which doesn’t have the ability to override a Divine command or prohibition.

      You say: “The focus for much of the prohibition debates focused specifically on the sexual act of anal penetration, but did not encompass all behaviors or acts that are identified as homosexual today. You ignore his part on homoeroticism, which was not only tolerated, but often praised by the same scholars who prohibited liwat.” This statement is factually incorrect. You seem to be eliding the critical distinction between feelings/inclinations and ACTS. The scholars you mention at the end here conceded that it was natural for a male to be attracted to the beauty of a younger, beardless youth and even be susceptible to falling in love with or having romantic feelings for him. Such feelings were sometimes celebrated in poetry. Scholars, according to Rouayheb, disagreed as to whether such feelings were blameworthy or not, but many of them did not see them as such, so you are right on that score. But again, NONE of the scholars, even the ones who saw such feelings as normal, ever saw it as permissible to engage in forbidden ACTS with such a loved one, neither anal penetration nor anything less than that. Please cite if there is any passage in Rouayheb that contradicts this.

      The bottom line is that, yes, Islamic law is concerned with ACTS. The entire edifice of the law is all about which acts are obligatory, which are recommended, which are prohibited, which are reprehensible, which are neutral. As it turns out, all same-sex erotic acts are categorically prohibited, and there has never been any disagreement about this whatsoever. If contingent concepts like “homosexuality” as an identity marker are currently causing problems for Muslims in accepting the categorization of certain acts, then it is right and appropriate for the author to problematize these categories. And I don’t see this as him just using rational arguments to support a foregone conclusion. He is simply showing the relative nature of many concepts and assumptions held by most modern individuals (particularly in the West) and exposing their contingency (at best) and incoherence (at worst).

    • Matthew Johnson says:

      “It is convincing to someone already thinking via Islamic religion, but to an outside entirely unconvincing and misleading.”

      And indeed unconvincing to anyone in the religion who actually wants to use their reason to yield truth rather than bolster dogma.

      • Umm Muhammad says:

        Dear Matthew,

        Please, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what Islamic “truth” vs. Islamic “dogma” are on the issue of homosexual acts. If you are implying that the author is attempting to “bolster dogma” as opposed to using “reason to yield truth,” I would just love to hear YOUR enlightened version of this truth in Islam.

        It’s quite easy to make back-handed derisive remarks. Please add your own substance if you are disagreeing with the author and, even further, accusing him of trying to hide “truth.” Wow.

        • Matthew Johnson says:

          Dear Sister

          I have replied elsewhere on the site to you, but jus wanted to add a further clarification.

          “Dogma” just means teaching ( from the Greek). The “Truth ” is what God actually wills or wishes or knows, or in fact simply IS ( al-Haqq). We can only make human attempts to work out what that might be from revelation, reason, and insight. Any interpretation of revelation ( i.e. Quran, and arguably Hadith) is what give rise to to teaching. It is what we hope is the truth, its our best shot at it, but its not necessarily the same as the truth. Because, to repeat myself again, only God knows for sure ( knows best).

  26. hamesh says:

    The idea of gay marriage being legalized was done primarily to accept the anomaly, not to make it appropriate or healthy or social requirement..plz ppl understand the difference..
    Ppl are not fools and muslims rhetorically like to become bosses or judges of every issue of the world..in their societies , they cant even marry straight ppl , but they would gladly talk about same sex marriages like Gods…
    Drugs and homosexuality have the same affect On the society as stated by the aurhor;
    Mr author try and sell this to an auditorium full of gays/lesbians…
    I for one cannot fol the gay discourse but I can understand ppl who do…let god be the judge, he is the only judge to such issues…not any man or woman..

    • Sharif says:

      Dear Hamesh,

      If you’re speaking to Muslims, then they would likely respond that God HAS acted as judge on this issue, precisely by the fact that He has clearly prohibited same-sex activity among His creatures. Of course, only God on the Day of Judgment can “judge” a human being in the sense of deciding the worth of his/her overall life and his/her ultimate destiny (and certainly only God is able to take all factors into account and to properly weigh a person’s total good vs. total evil), but that certainly does not mean that we as human beings cannot state that certain acts have been commanded or prohibited by God. Our ability to discern and state such things is one of the main reasons He has given us revelation, after all!

      From a Muslim perspective, engaging in same-sex behavior is morally wrong and prohibited by God, and this is known to us as an objective fact through God’s revelation (and universal consensus of all scholars throughout history). A person who commits such an act (or any prohibited act) is under the obligation to repent and to strive never to return to that act. This much we know. Now, what is the ultimate fate of Person X who has engaged in x, y, or z behaviors? Clearly, yes, only God can judge in that sense of the word “judge.”

      These two senses of judging (the morality of an act based on God’s revelation vs. the overall assessment of an individual person’s life) are often carelessly confused, but it is very important to keep them apart — in order to avoid both harsh judgmentalism, on the one hand, as well as lax moral relativism, on the other, and an “agnostic” stance on the status of acts that have been clearly defined and categorized in the religion.

  27. Fatima says:

    Nice to see another article by a straight man, debating the deplorable act of homosexuality without a thought for the many young people you would get reading this article, who are teetering on the edge of depression due to being ostracized by their society for something they have no real choice over.

    Try a day walking in our shoes, and see what it feels like when people say you are diseased, compare you to those who practise bestiality, to paedophiles etc.

    Homosexuality is not only about sex for many people, stop assuming it is.

    • Actually, I am not straight. I am not gay either — I don’t subscribe to any of these categories. Maybe you should stop projecting your homo/hetero binary and other modernist sexual categories on others without concern for their feelings or their moral commitments.

    • Hyde says:

      Again you utterly complete his dissertation, that is all about emotions. You feel depressed, you feel sad, you are teetering on Principe of hurt and sadness. Well guess what? A heterosexual man trying not commit zina could be suffering too just like you, but his suffering is ‘normalized’ while your’s ascertains special ‘oh poor me’ status’ ? Cn you explain that? Why your emotions and feelings must be that everything must be constructed around that? It is a pathetic shame that of the entire jist of the essay, you just could not get yourself over to entertain the thought that ‘if he has just said being gay is great and islam fully endorses that’ I would have loved the essay. You would have, right?

    • Umm Muhammad says:

      Dear Fatima,

      I am sorry for the pain and the hardship that your struggle causes you. I truly am, and I hope and pray that you find peace and relief from your pain.

      But you know what I’m wondering? Why is it that a Muslim writing an article about the Islamic position on homosexuality offends fellow Muslims, why that is seen as being done “without a thought to young people” who are “teetering on the edge of depression” in their lives? Why are YOU assuming that he has given no thought to these people? I would get it if the tone of the article overall was one of condescension and contempt for those Muslims struggling with homosexual desires–but in several different points of the article he mentions compassion, and specifically tries to show that these homosexual desires that are causing the young Muslims teetering on the verge of depression that you’re talking about so much depression are in fact at least partially constructed and molded by external societal factors. In other words: it’s like he is saying that the blame is NOT on the person themselves and that society at large has played a major role in creating this type of category and hence this dilemma that people sometimes find themselves in. So in other words: there IS a possible way out! You may not struggle with this forever. It is not as immutable or permanent as it may seem. I’m not saying this article claims to provide a solution to Muslim struggling with homosexuality–but it is certainly is NOT bashing or deriding them in any way.

      I always notice this: when Muslims hear about a hukm in Islam that goes against something that they desire, they get offended. Who are you offended at??? Do you think that this random guy writing this article just one day made up this hukm himself? Why do you act insulted?? Do you want people to just tell you, “Oh, you want to have homosexual sex? Go right ahead, there’s nothing in Islam that prohibits that. Do you what you want to do. Follow your whims. Yay! Go you!” ??

      Again, I’m sorry if I seem unfeeling. It’s NOT that I do not recognize the true pain and the misery that Muslims feel as they deal with homosexual urges. It’s just that it is one thing to struggle with homosexual urges while acknowledging that they are haram to act upon in our religion. It is ANOTHER THING ENTIRELY to feel homosexual urges and expect people to not say that acting upon those urges in haram in our religion. We can’t change a religion based on feelings and urges. We as Muslims and human beings ALL struggle daily with things that we can’t or are not allowed to do. There is immense reward in the struggle.

    • Vamanos says:

      You do have a choice. You definitely have a choice.
      Move away from self-pity and victimizing yourself, and you will see those gay feelings will likely disappear or at least minimize.

    • Hassan says:

      Homosexuality is choice.

      • Student says:

        After much research homosexuality has been declassified as a disorder by all, if not the vast majority of all, psychiatric and psychological associations. Not to mention the countless attempts of conversion therapy that have failed, together with evidence that certain biological characteristics are significantly linked to sexual orientation.

        Regardless of the nature-nurture debate it has been concluded by the psychologist community that there is no to little choice in one’s sexual orientation. Therfore, the burden of proving one’s claims lies with you, dear Hassan.

      • Hassan says:

        No it does not.

    • Student says:

      Dear Fatima,

      I am sorry for all the anguish you have to go through because of this. Many people cling to their beliefs without questioning them. Real faith requires constant questioning of one’s religion. There are many people who call themselves Muslim but do not follow each and every law in the Qur’an, yet do chose to vividly apply this notion against homosexuality.

      The world is becoming more accepting of the LGBT community though, and that is a good thing. Everyone should be able to have the same rights, including freedom of religion and expression of identity. The claim that consensual homosexuality harms anyone is unfounded bogus.

      You have my sympathies.

    • M.Mahmud says:

      Yet another (feminist?) mindlessly commenting on an article without a valid point. Gay sexual acts are sinful and whoever fails to affirm their sinfulness is an absolute disbelieve unless he is new to Islam or lives where he cannot obtain Islam knowledge.

      The Sahaba RA who were not engaged in these acts didn’t have any problem physically punishing those that did.

      What Daniyal has done is comparitively mild. So please keep your faux outrage and meaningless comments to yourself.

      • Hyde says:

        “Straight man”…what of this was written by a woman? Then what would happen ? Yes def a feminist because straight Muslim men of course can never ever ever write on something that may cause someone to actually be interested in the topic ? smh
        (go to MuslimGirl.Net…they would cater to your needs :)

  28. Shireen says:

    Broke it down like a Boss. MashaAllah.
    I’m curious, are you saying that Islam specifically negates same sex acts, but does not acknowledge the idea of the ‘homosexual’ identity? That same sex acts are purely for sexual, physical pleasure, but do not suggest a psychological preference for a same sex relationship and a certain lifestyle? So that a “homosexual” is a man- made, (mainly Western), construct?
    Interesting idea. Then what are your thoughts on hijras in Pakistan (drag queens)? They have been there for centuries. And what are your thoughts in general on transgenders?

    Jazaak Allahu Khair

    • Abu Milk Sheikh says:

      @Mathew Johnson above, there is no mercy in transgressing the limits ordained by one’s Creator or approving of it for one’s fellow man. Such thoughts and behavior are a crime against humanity. In the Qur’an the words used by Allah for such behavior are fujoor and israaf, i.e. criminality of the worst possible kind.

      Islam does not submit to us. We submit to it. That’s what Islam is, absolute submission to the Will of the Almighty.

      • Matthew Johnson says:

        In reply to this and also to Umm Mohammed, and Abu Sheik earlier. If you read all my posts here you will see that I do not question the virtual unanimity of the fuqaqa on this issue, as that is a matter of documented fact. I do question the soundness of that stance based upon the textual sources, and for the reasons I would give I can do no better than point you towards Scott Siraj Kugles’ book on the subject – which is scholarly and well argued – and which I get the strong impression few on this site have actually bothered to read. Furthermore, sexual morality does change over and most muslims accept this – or do you think its ok to have slaves girls that you own and have sexual rights over for example? Or indeed (sorry, yes, I know this makes everyone go apoplectic – but that’s because it challenges them in ways they can’t really deal with unless they do accept that morality changes) consummate a marriage with a 9 year old?

        One of the commentators above says that very act of questioning these things makes one is an apostate or whatever.

        I would only say to that: God knows best.

        But He does say several times that human diversity is a part of his intention, and that is created as a challenge for us to understand each other better, and that in the end He will clarify to us those things upon which we were wont to differ. Amen to that.

  29. Mike says:

    The politicians and Supreme Court Justices do not care about me, you, gays or anyone else. All they care is about themselves. Prostitutes go with whomever is paying the most money. Politicians see which way the wind is blowing the strongest and lean that way. Supreme court is not impartial. This institution has been politicized. Wasn’t it the same Supreme Court which upheld slavery laws and the court held that African Americans can not be US citizens? Also wasn’t it the same Supreme Court with upheld segregation laws? And remember, women were not allowed to vote until a few decades ago.

    If there are enough polygamists in the US and their votes made a difference, there is no doubt that polygamy will become totally legal as well. As I said, they do not care about you. It is about them. They want to be in power so they do whatever the majority demands. They do not care about morality or what is best for the future of the country. They only care about today and the next election.

  30. Andy says:

    This is a formidable response to many questions muslims have about the islamic position on homosexuality. Bravo!

    On the other hand, we should not be under any misconceptions about using logical analysis to persuade the broader society that is becoming more accepting, even embracing and promoting of alternative lifestyles. That answer is provided by Allah so eloquently as only He can: “the evil of his work has been made attractive and they follow their own desires” (47:14).

    To someone who has decided to follow his or her own desire, none of the commandments of Allah will make sense – because this person has rebelled and will exceed all limits except those they set upon themselves.

    • Matthew Johnson says:

      Being a muslim was an “alternative” life style in at the time of its inception.

      Yes God counsels against doing evil – but the whole point is: is homosexuality actually evil? Despite all the claims made here, it’s not clear to me that the Quranic story of Lot is about homosexuality per se: the tribe of Lot wanted to rape, and were also guilty of denying Lot’s prophetic mission, highway robbery, sexual promiscuity in general, and violating the code of hospitality to guests. These “acts of the tribe of Lot” become reduced to the specific act of male on male sodomy in as the Islamic discourse was further elaborated. The Hadith on the subject can be critiqued on various counts ( again see Scott Kugle’s book for detailed analysis of this). There is NO evidence that the Prophet himself (upon whom be peace) ever took action against any homosexuals or homosexual acts ( even though its seems unlikely such activity was unknown anywhere in Arabia at the time) so the claims about the Sunna of the Prophet in this regard are actually incorrect.

      I do think however (personal opinion here) that it is preferable not to be homosexual. I mean this as a morally neutral, factual statement. Because it is always a minority status, it means you are always going to be something of an outsider to mainstream society, and some people are doubtless going to dislike you for it. You will not be able to experience the joys of bringing children into the world. Also having an intimate relationship with the “other'”rather than the “same” sex brings, I believe, a greater depth of insight into the nature of things in general. So I do not find it surprising that the Quran hardly affords homosexual acts the same elevated status as male-female bonding.

      But that should all be reason to be sympathetic to those that do experience their sexuality in this way (which I accept many on this discussion are trying to do), and that includes not telling such people that they, or their acts, are inherently evil.

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Dear Matthew,

        Sympathy for those who experience their sexuality in this way, absolutely. It’s a test, a trial, and can be a very difficult struggle to work through indeed. Telling a person (a whole person, who is invariably a complex mixture of good and evil that only God knows) that he is “evil” is also not in the cards. This judgment is for God not make, not us. But to identify the objective quality of an ACT — whether the ACT is good or evil, moral or immoral, lawful or prohibited — is not only our right, but our duty. Otherwise, how can we choose right action and avoid wrong action if we cannot identify — or cannot publicly state — what these are? In fact, this is what our entire moral life is predicated on, and is a major reason why God has sent us revelation, namely, to legislate for us in the moral realm. This is God as Legislator and Law-Giver.

        Your statement about “not telling such people that they, or their acts, are inherently evil” collapses the actor into the act and, in doing so, overrides a person’s moral agency. You are reducing a person who experiences same-sex desires to an essentialized “homosexual” who simply cannot help but perform certain actions. This implies that a person cannot choose his acts, that sexual behaviors flow from a person quasi involuntarily, and that a person is therefore not responsible for these actions. That’s dangerous territory, morally speaking, and I don’t think we want to go there.

        And notice that we do not apply to any other domain of sexuality such a process of essentialization into an identity and concomitant moral neutralization of the related acts. A Muslim who masturbates, for example, is just that: a Muslim who masturbates (and not an essential “onanist”). The urge to masturbate is certainly very strong, especially in younger males, very widespread, and in that sense very “natural,” but no one takes it as an essential identity or, for that matter, takes the strength and persistence of the desire as a justification for performing the act (on the dominant opinion that masturbation is haram, though I concede there is some scholarly disagreement about this — unlike the case of same-sex erotic behavior).

        A Muslim who commits zina is the same. If, say, a 35-year-old Muslim male or female is not yet married for whatever reason, we as Muslims nevertheless expect that person to maintain their chastity, no matter how difficult this might be. If they slip up, that’s a sin and a mistake and they must repent. But if a 20-year-old self-identifies as a “homosexual,” then he can go out and have all the sex he wants and we can’t say anything about it because well, “he’s gay,” and that’s just what he does. It’s just who he is. Do you see the inconsistencies that arise in our moral judgments when we treat “homosexuality” as this special, essentializing category of identity?

        The Shari’a, on the other hand, presupposes what practically all known societies have presupposed, including Europe up until the late 19th century, namely, that same-sex erotic behaviors are just that: same-sex erotic BEHAVIORS, which some people choose to perform through their own will and God-given moral agency while others do not (like masturbation, zina, etc.). The performance of such actions constitutes a sin from which one must repent (just like zina, lying, backbiting, etc.), but such persons are not thrown into some special category where they become this entirely separate order of human being. If they repent and desist from the act, they are just like anyone else, not an essential “homosexual” on account of the mere desire to perform certain acts or past performance of them (just like I’m a “zani” only if and as long as I choose to commit zina, not merely if I want to commit it, and I’m a “masturbator” only if and as long as I choose to masturbate, not merely if I desire to do so but don’t) — and this can be very liberating!

        Only in late 19th-century Europe was same-sex desire and behavior reconceptualized, by the European medical establishment, as a fixed trait, creating the “homosexual” as a new kind of being who was essentially different from everyone else (who now came to be considered “heterosexuals”). This homosexual difference was first pathologized as a deviation, and only much later, at the time of the Sexual Revolution, did the stigma fall as homosexuality (for purely political reasons — and a lot has been written about this) was dropped from the APA’s list of mental disorders. So “homosexuality” got destigmatized, but the category remained, as well as this notion that a “homosexual” is a special type of human being that someone just essentially is. Only under such a conceptual scheme could one speak, say, of an “abstinent homosexual.” Such a concept is ludicrous, however, if one views homosexuality, as in the Shari’a and most other societies, in terms of ACTS that someone may or may not DO, and not in terms of same-sex DESIRES as defining who one essentially IS. It would be just as ludicrous as saying that someone is an “onanist who refrains from masturbation” or, for that matter, an “abstinent fornicator.”

        So do we have the right to pass a global moral judgment on the moral worth of an entire human being? No, we don’t. But do we have the right, even the obligation, to correctly identify the status of particular acts as clarified in our religion? We absolutely do, and if we don’t, then we are remiss. But the good news is that, once we learn to reconceptualize “homosexuality” in terms of acts rather than essential identity, the mere declaration that certain acts are prohibited in our religion no longer entails the permanent stigmatization of an essentialized group of “homosexuals” any more than, say, the declaration that zina is haram is taken to entail the permanent stigmatization of arbitrarily essentialized “fornicators.”

        Wallahu ta’ala a’lam.

  31. Muslimah says:

    Salaam, and JazakumAllah khairan for discussing this topic in great detail. I appreciate the time and effort that goes into producing such work, which helps us Muslims clear the doubts and questions that come to our minds regarding such subjects of controversy, and in addressing questions from Muslims and non-Muslims. The fact of the matter is that the topic of “homosexuality is okay” is fairly newer than the “premarital sex (zina) is okay” topic, and while the struggles within both these paradigms are very real to the people who face them it is interesting to note that anyone who explicitly states in writing or words that homosexuality is not approved within Islam gets more flak than one who does the same with zina, though both are legally okay in various countries. Perhaps for future discussions it would be interesting to compare and contrast these two issues and how Islam deals with both in a comparative sense.

  32. Oberyn Martell says:

    I was raised in a strict Muslim family and spent a good chunk of my childhood to learn Islam. At one point, I consider myself very in love with Islam and perhaps, very knowledgeable in it. Of course, it wasn’t fun when I discovered that I had a thing for my male neighbour/friend and not his sister. But like many closeted kids, I thought it was a phase and it will all end soon. Islam had been my biggest protector and my homosexuality became the reason for me to seek out Islam. But it was a big pain to hold inside, secretly wishing that this nightmare to end yet it never came. Not to mention that my nafs kept growing every day. By the time I finished high school, I decided to stop hating myself and the whole thing was more bearable then. I guess the moment I accepted my desire, my religion spiraled all the way down. By the virtue of God, I made it to study in a Western country that happens to be very tolerant of homosexuality. That obviously didn’t do good to my faith. I discovered sex, I became promiscuous.

    I was not ready to leave the deen though. It is a part of me, it defines me in some ways. However, I must admit that I am getting more and more separated from the religion with each passing day but again, I am not, probably never, ready to leave it. At the same time, I am falling in love every passing day with my own sexuality so much that if I get to live life again, I still want to be a gay man. These two somewhat opposing notions have made me a rampant closeted lustful guy. I am an active member in local Muslim community in daylight (I am resourceful in a way, not monetarily, more administrative and management-related) but at night, I turn into a sex maniac. It’s hard for me to get into a relationship because I’m not exactly good looking and I don’t come from the most pleasant background (hardcore Muslim) to gay community (yes, they are very superficial). Yet I know the second the Muslim community heard of my ‘transgression’, I would be more shunned than supported. Truthfully speaking, I am more afraid of the Muslim community than the LGBT community.

    This double life that I am living has made me very depressed, very careless in sex (sometimes not using protection) and very unstable. I am living on anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs and God forbid, probably antiretroviral drugs if I keep my careless attitude. My academics took an all time low last year and I spent my free time (off Muslim community, ‘nightly sex’ and school) thinking about life in a very negative way. I no longer find things that I like enjoyable anymore, I am even getting less and less active in both school+Muslim community. My typical routine these days is wake up, see social media and go back to sleep. Yes, sleep is my favourite hobby now. Heck, I don’t even find sex that enjoyable anymore but my counselor defined sex as my pleasure/punishment escapism. Because of my declining activity and academics, I am denied basically a lot of opportunities that would be good to my future and I always find sex to escape. Same goes when I succeed in something. It’s almost as if I’m stuck in a loop of sex, success and failure. I am dead long before I am in a coffin.

    Sorry for ranting, it might seem that it’s a victim complex or a choice to you. But it meant the world to me. Perhaps it’s a choice. I could have dumped the religion and be who I am or tossed my sexuality away and be a celibate monk (please, the sight of naked woman disgusts me so don’t ever suggest marriage). But how can I throw away something that I hold dear to me, despite their conflicting nature? (I am not going to be some Irshad Manji and claim that homosexuality is okay when Islam’s stance on this is clear) And please don’t suggest having homosexual thoughts are okay but acting on them is wrong. How stupid does that sound when you yourselves can’t be celibate and need marriage.

    I know I am a messed up dude and by all means, judge me.

    • Straight Struggle says:

      Assalamu ‘alaikum dear brother Oberyn Martell,

      You are not alone and your story is not dissimilar to that of many other Muslims struggling with the challenge of same-sex desires. I strongly encourage you to join the confidential online support group StraightStruggle (groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/StraightStruggle/info), where you can share your challenges in a safe environment and benefit from the experiences of others who have been in a similar situation. The group contains people of all ages and of all different profiles, and is very non-judgmental. There is a considerable amount of collective wisdom that has been built up on the site over the years, as well as numerous articles and other resources that can help you get a wider perspective on homosexuality and, insha’Allah, eventually reach a safe place in your deen where you are integral, at peace, productive, content and, most importantly, right with your Lord. Do yourself a favor and give it a try.

      Wassalam

    • Hyde says:

      Sweet Jesus…
      “I get to live life again, I still want to be a gay man.”
      Dude, just be gay and be happy and leave this religion stuff behind. I met gays who have left Islam and they have never been happy and productive.

    • Matthew Johnson says:

      Dear Oberyn

      May you find peace in your struggle to find a way that allows you to be gay and muslim

      Best Regards

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Dear Matthew,

        Why are you so convinced that being “gay” is to be utterly taken for granted and not questioned? That a person who feels homosexual desires literally has no choice but to accept them at face value, build his identity on them, and live his life satisfying them at the risk of otherwise being “inauthentic” and other than “what God created him to be”? An important part of what this article is trying to do is to break down these categories and mental boxes we have built up in order to allow for a different approach to same-sex desires and what they may or may not imply for a person’s life — specifically, to what extent they should be taken as DETERMINATIVE of the choices a person has for living a fulfilling and authentic Muslim life.

        I have not read Scott Kugle’s actual book, but I did read very carefully his own synopsis of his argument in the (lengthy) chapter he contributed to the book “Liberal Islam,” edited by Omid Safi. I find his argumentation incredibly disingenuous and based on a haphazard and unprincipled methodology which he applies selectively to justify homosexuality, but which, if you applied it consistently, would not even leave something as basic as the five prayers standing.

        Allah states explicitly on so many different occasions in the Qur’an that the primary crime of the people of Lut was to “approach men in shahwa / lust instead of women,” making it very explicitly an issue of gender and same-sex behavior, and not one of rape, coercion, or anything else read into the verses by tendentious interpretations like Kugle’s. Many words could have been used to indicate force, coercion, rape, etc., but Allah never does — not on one single instance out of the many times He mentions the people of Lut. By contrast, on the majority of those occasions, He specifically mentions “men instead of women,” “men instead of the wives your Lord has created for you,” “you approach the males (for sex) among God’s creatures” and not the females, etc., always making very clear and explicit this gender-related violation.

        If we are to believe, in the light of so many such verses, that the Qur’an’s prohibition of same-sex activity is somehow ambiguous, then what would be your definition of “clear”? And I’m asking that honestly. What phraseology or wording, hypothetically speaking, would you expect or require the text to have if Allah’s intention were (as the tradition unanimously attests) to categorically prohibit same-sex behavior? Is there ANY wording you would accept as rendering this meaning?

        I only ask because it seems clear to me that Kugle and the like start out with a foregone conclusion (“Modern ‘homosexuality’ must be found to be unobjectionable and not prohibited by the religion”), then simply work backwards from there trying to come up with a justification for this view. If one has already decided the morality of the question before even consulting the texts (and the authoritative scholarship on them), then one will not accept any wording in the revealed texts as sufficiently “clear” nor any scholarly argument as sufficiently conclusive to override one’s foregone conclusion.

        To see what I mean, try picking any cause other than homosexuality — say, vegetarianism — and see how easy it is to construct arguments, using techniques such as those employed by Kugle, to argue that when the Qur’an speaks of “dhabh,” for example, it doesn’t actually refer to slaughtering animals (I mean, how could it, after all, if we believe that God is just but have simultaneously started out with the conclusion that slaughtering animals is barbaric and unjust?), or that slaughtering an animal as a ritual requirement of Eid al-Adha, though agreed upon by unanimous consensus of the umma, is actually a huge mistake as it really just means to “sacrifice” something you really love, like chocolate, or to “sacrifice” your desires metaphorically or something like that. And if all that fails, well, we can just play the historical card and argue that people “used” to slaughter animals in the past when they were more primitive, but now we’re more advanced and have improved morally to the point where we rightfully see that as barbaric and unbecoming. You can apply this same procedure to, say, circumcision (male) as well, which a lot of Western liberals like to get into a funk about, or any other cause. It’s really quite easy to construct these types of arguments, especially if you simultaneously admit the unanimous consensus of the scholars and then proceed to reject it as irrelevant.

        Discovering that one has same-sex desires and attractions, quite despite oneself, is not a choice; you are right about that. But there is more than just one way to proceed once this reality is discovered, and one always has a choice about how one is going to conceive of and define oneself and live one’s life. The label “homosexual” is a trap that conspires to foreclose one’s options and boxes one into a fixed identity based on shahawat. And I find that very difficult to defend from an Islamic perspective — not just an Islamic legal perspective, but even more so from an integrated Islamic SPIRITUAL perspective.

        I hope you don’t take offense at anything I have said. You seem like a really reflective and sensitive guy, and you have shown yourself to have good adab with your brothers and sisters, which is a really important quality to have in Islam and which is not universally on display in the comments to this article. If you personally experience same-sex desires and attractions, then, in response to your du’a to brother Oberyn Martell, I would like to make du’a for you that Allah open a way for you to achieve peace, serenity, fulfillment, and happiness — both in this life and the next — despite these desires and while remaining fully within the agreed upon boundaries of our beautiful religion.

        Wassalamu ‘alaikum wa rahmaullah.

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Oh, Matthew, and if you’re not someone who experiences same-sex attractions (as I seem to gather from your most recent posting), then I commend you for your sensitivity to the plight of others and willingness to put yourself in their shoes, while simultaneously urging that we all try to think beyond this 19th-/20th-century homo-hetero binary which is foreign to the Islamic tradition, and which arbitrarily consecrates mere sexual urges and impulses as the core of one’s essential identity. Historically and cross-culturally, this is a very odd and idiosyncratic way to look at things, and I feel we are under no obligation as Muslims to buy into this specific paradigm — especially when it is taken as a basis for undermining a core part of the religion’s moral teachings.

        • Matthew Johnson says:

          Well thanks to Ahmed B, Renewalist and others who have made such thoughtful contributions on this. i think the points are well made and really too many and complex to go into here or it would turn into a Ph.D thesis!

          I will just restrict my self to three issues.

          1. The Hadith of the ‘strange ones’ can be read in many ways. As can the story of Lot. Thinner there is only one correct reading is at the heart of a lot problems for Islam.

          2. The idea of the “essentialising” of homosexual acts into a fixed identity is interesting, but it does not really help the person who is in that situation. And all identities are similar in that way, surely ( including the Muslim identity)? That is the way people experience themselves much of the time, and that structures the way they see the world. But at the same time, people, can and do have multiple identity: being ‘gay’ and being “nulls” being one such case thats highlighted by some of the contributors here.

          3. The suggestion that Kugle starts off with an assumption that being gay is fine then reads this back into the textual sources is probably true. But the reverse is also true for the Islamic tradition, I would argue.

          I certainly have much more to reflect upon in this debate and I thank those who wrote in with a spirit of enquiry and non judgementalism.

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Dear Matthew,

        Thanks for your latest response. You are right that fully engaging all the issues would turn into an entire dissertation (of which we need at least several, by the way, to handle this topic properly in all its dimensions). I did, however, want to respond here to the three points you raised:

        (1) Of course there is not necessarily just one correct interpretation for each and every verse of the Qur’an or just one correct opinion on each and every fiqh issue. Indeed, the tafsir and fiqh traditions, if anything, show a considerable range of difference of opinion on so many topics. But not on all. There are boundaries, as well there must be, otherwise the deen would have no definition whatsoever and would simply have fizzled out a long time ago, unable to retain any recognizable definition or form that could be practiced or reliably transmitted through time. In fact, given the enormous ikhtilaf that does exist in our tradition, is it not all the more salient and meaningful when a particular issue — whether of belief or of practice — forms the object of a complete and unbroken consensus, over all schools of thought, all geographical locations, and all periods of Islamic history? If an issue enjoying this impressive (and not all too common) level of unanimity cannot be taken for granted as definitively true and undoubtedly the authoritative teaching of the faith, then what possibly could be? This level of skepticism, if applied consistently, would leave virtually nothing standing at all.

        This is precisely why I said that, using Kugle’s method, even the five daily prayers could not hold up as a definitively established obligation in Islam. (I didn’t say that he himself has doubted the five prayers, but the fact that he doesn’t is precisely why I say he employs his method *selectively* in defense of the foregone conclusion that “homosexuality” is unobjectionable in Islam.) If one takes the verses on qawm Lut as ambiguous and applies consistently whatever impossible standard of “clear” is implicit in that stance, there is no way you could derive — certainly not from the Qur’an alone — anything close to a definitive obligation for a Muslim to pray five times a day. The verses on qawm Lut, in fact, are more numerous and much more explicit than anything in the Qur’an regarding the five prayers. Where in the Qur’an does it say explicitly to pray five times a day? Where in the Qur’an does it name the prayers or even clearly delineate their times? There are general references to praying “at both ends of the day” and of maintaining the “middle prayer,” but this is all comparatively vague — and in any case a LOT less explicit than: “Do you (really) come to men in shahwa instead of women? Indeed, you are a people most ignorant.” (Surat al-Naml, 27:55) or “Do you approach males (sexually) out of all creation, and leave aside the spouses your Lord has created for you? Verily, you are a people transgressing (all bounds).” (Surat al-Shu’ara, 26:165-166), and numerous others.

        Now, of course I am not trying to throw doubt on the five prayers here, but simply making the point that definitive teachings in Islam are established through various different channels, the text of the Qur’an and hadith being very important, but by no means the only, channels through which such matters can be definitively established. Unbroken widespread practice of something by the entire community all over the world from the first generations until now (like the performance of the five daily prayers and the knowledge of their obligatoriness), or widespread “common knowledge” of a belief or practice known by all to be part of the faith over all times and climes (including basic halal and haram, such as the prohibition of wine, gambling, murder, theft, zina . . . and, yes, sodomy, tribadism, and other same-sex erotic activities) — this type of widespread knowledge and unbroken communal consensus is actually one of the very strongest proofs we have of what the fundamental beliefs and practices, commands and prohibitions, of the faith consist of. And this is precisely what the most rigorously established and most undisputed beliefs and practices of our religion are found to rest on upon due investigation.

        And there is no “dogmatism” in this. If you really think about it, how could it be otherwise? Allah is communicating a message to people. If the entirety of the community to whom He has conveyed the message is, as a matter of full consensus, in error on a fundamental belief or practice, if they all together have radically misunderstood the Qur’an or have, all together down to the last man, distorted the Prophet’s (saas) normative example (even unwittingly), then what communication has taken place? What guidance has taken place? And if this goes for things that are only vaguely stated in the Qur’an (like the five prayers and numerous other fundamentals of the faith), then how could it not hold for things that are much more explicit (like the verses on qawm Lut)?

        This type of universal knowledge and practice of the faith, therefore, cannot simply be brushed off because someone has decided to interpret specific verses of the Qur’an differently (and most implausibly, at that) after 1400 years of Islam. This goes back to the whole idea of the authoritative sanad in Islam, which is one of the three things that the Prophet (saas) said distinguished the Muslim community from all other previous religious communities. This notion that you can just approach the text “directly,” straight out of the 21st-century West with no intermediary of authoritative practice, transmission, or an authoritative scholarly tradition, is a very typically Protestant approach to religion and scripture: “solo scriptura” was Martin Luther’s mantra. Yet this has nothing to do with how Islam has ever been practiced, taught, or transmitted. It is no surprise, however, that it is the approach of choice for many “liberal” Muslim academics with no sanad who have been trained primarily in “religious studies” or other modern disciplines that take the Protestant, subjectivist conception of religion utterly for granted.

        At the very least, I would want to know why Kugle is willing to bypass all of what I have just mentioned while taking utterly for granted conceptions and terms like “homosexuality,” “sexual identity,” and all the rest, when it is so easy to show how contingent and debatable these terms and concepts really are. Isn’t it much more reasonable to subject the contingent terms and categories we have inherited from our immediate environment — especially when they have been derived from a non-Muslim, post-religious, secularizing(ed) civilization — to critique on the basis of the firmly established terms and categories of normative Islam, rather than the other way around? This is precisely what I believe Daniel’s article is trying to help us do.

        • Matthew Johnson says:

          Thanks Ahmed.

          I am still reflecting upon all your very well made points. And thanks for the link to the website, there’s some really interesting material on there. And finally, yes you are absolutely correct about what drew me to Islam, and it is indeed important to keep in mind the central unitary core whilst paying due attention to the multiplicity of the peripheral.

          Salaam and best wishes

          Matthew

      • Ahmad B. says:

        (2) Regarding the deconstruction of “homosexuality” as an identity box not being helpful to a person actually in that situation, I agree and disagree. I agree that there is much more such a person would need in terms of help, support, guidance, etc. in order to find a way forward in dealing effectively with their same-sex desires. Neither I, nor Daniel’s article, purport to be offering that. There need to be many resources made available — literary, pastoral, benefiting from the experience of others who struggle / have struggled, etc. — for that to take place. This is precisely why I suggested to Br. Oberyn Martell that he consider joining the Straight Struggle online support group, where he could find at least some measure of these things to help him out in more practical ways. Other faith groups have similar (even more developed) support groups and websites that provide, based on their own perspectives and spiritual resources, alternative ways for people dealing with same-sex attractions to view themselves and how they may direct their lives.

        On the other hand, I do think that the “homosexual” label really is a box that really can confine a person with same-sex attractions into believing that they are predetermined to live life in just one particular way and really do have no other viable options. And in as far as this is true, I think that deconstructing this whole notion of a fixed identity based on sexual desires can actually be an important first step in opening up various alternative possibilities for a person struggling with same-sex attractions.

        As for your statement that “all identities” in the end are constructed, fine. But then I would say the question is one of what you’re constructing your identity ON. Put somewhat crudely, are you basing your guiding identity on your relationship to your Lord or on your relationship to your libido? One has to prioritize these: which one is to be subsumed under the other? Putting them on a par would be a form of shirk, don’t you think, especially if the two are in conflict? A man cannot, after all, serve two masters. Identifying oneself as a “muslim” (‘submitter to God’) is a high-order, all-encompassing commitment that sets the tone and the parameters for everything else. If it doesn’t do this, then it is of little consequence and is not being taken for what it ought to be. God first then all else besides, no?

        In this sense, then, I do not think that “Muslim” and “gay” are compatible IDENTITIES (assuming that the “gay” identity, as is normally the case, implies the view that it is morally acceptable to act on one’s same-sex desires and consciously build one’s life and relationships on them). There is no contradiction, on the other hand, in being a Muslim who experiences same-sex desires, and even one who may slip up by falling into sin on their account (as other Muslims fall into various other sins that they are susceptible to). I am specifically talking about taking “gay” as an IDENTITY, so this issue wouldn’t even have to come up if, as I suggest, we learn to get beyond this idiosyncratic habit of basing one’s identity as such on the nature and orientation of one’s sexual desires.

        (3) If Kugle is reading a foregone conclusion into the texts, I disagree with you that the same thing can be said about the Islamic tradition. It makes no sense to hold that the tradition as a whole, in one unanimous voice, is simply “reading something into the text.” The reasons for this are given in my answer to your first point above. If the unanimous understanding of the community cannot be taken as a reliable indication of what the text ACTUALLY MEANS, then we have no reliable epistemology on which to stand at all, and the entire venture collapses into a morass of unmoored and subjective personal interpretations that together undermine the possibility for even attempting to reach objective truth in matters religion. (Ever heard of Protestant Christianity, with its 400 or 500 different sects?)

  33. Hassan Ali says:

    This article is not an attack on the Muslims or anybody who has feelings toward the same sex. The author is outlining the fact, I emphasise the word fact, that in Islam homosexual acts are forbidden. There is no debate about that within the religion and those that imply that there is have no ground to stand on.
    I personally have the utmost sympathy for those who have these feelings. However no feeling or desire can ever outweigh a direct command by God. Whether these feelings are natural or not is an irrelevant question in Islam as what is right and wrong has been determined by God.
    My personal opinion follows that of the majority in that the natural inclination of the human being, their Fitra, is to be attracted to the opposite sex. However this Fitra can become corrupted.
    Yet I understand that people will disagree with this opinion and that’s fine. As long we all agree that homosexual acts are undoubtedly forbidden in our religion. But for those who are struggling I pray that God eases your test, because it is truly a test and your reward will without a doubt be great InshAllah.
    May God bless you all.

  34. Matthew Johnson says:

    Just to clarify. When Hassan says:
    “Yet I understand that people will disagree with this opinion and that’s fine. As long we all agree that homosexual acts are undoubtedly forbidden in our religion.”

    Yes indeed I said above that IS the position in terms of scholarly opinion. I merely question whether it should continue to be so going forwards. The problem, I think, is that many think such questions about such things should be ruled out of court as “apostasy” or whatever. And I think that is a general problem for the religion, perhaps its central one currently.

    There is an authenticated prophetic hadith ( sorry can’t remember the reference but you’ve probably all heard it) that I think is relevant to this.

    “Islam started out out as something strange, and in the end it will become so again. So honour the strange ones”. Apologies this is my rendering from memory, not exact, but the sense is close enough. This multilayered hadith is worth a lot of meditation upon in the context of this whole debate, I think.

    One more hadith: again from memory, gives very specific warnings about the dangers of accusing other people of apostasy. Its especially pernicious, in my opinion, when that is done in the context of a debate and exchange of views. If someone is blowing up your mosque because he does on like your brand of Islam, that’s apostasy.

    And once again, God knows best.

    • renewalist says:

      The hadith you are alluding to states that when Islam came in to this world it was an alien concept/faith and towards the end of time it shall also become something alien.

      The context is clearly that Islam came in to an hostile environment where its believers were alienated and similarly towards the end of time the people practicing true Islam will also be like aliens in a hostile environment devoid of spirituality.

      Reflecting on this makes a believer more steadfast in adhering to the fundamental core values of the faith and not adapt deviant practices that will become rampant at the end of time to the extent that muslims will be looked upon as
      strange beings who have not changed with the times and values and mores of the time.

  35. Noor says:

    >>>In light of the recent US Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, we have seen a number of Muslim scholars reiterate the position of Islamic law on same-sex acts. <<>> As it is often put, if two people love each other and want to consummate their love, what difference does it make if they happen to be of the same sex? What could be wrong about this?<<>> inherent to Islam’s stance on homosexuality. <<>

    >>>But once those assumptions are addressed, then Islam’s position starts to look more and more compelling. At the very least, Islam’s position stops looking like sheer hate, bigotry, prudery, etc.<<>>The way that I have framed my thoughts on this issue is in the form of a “debate” with myself. <<>> I give voice to this position in the form of questions and charges that a typical pro-gay advocate would raise against Islam’s stance on homosexuality. I then respond to these in turn, defending the Islamic view.<<>>I understand that there are a handful of outspoken Muslims who try to argue that Islamic law does not prohibit same-sex acts, <<>>>consensus of scholarly opinion <<>>I will not address the claim here mostly because the claim itself is so implausible and confused, frankly, that it hardly deserves recognition, let alone rebuttal. <<>Typically, those who claim that Islamic law accommodates gay sex argue by radically redefining Islamic law and the methodology of Islamic jurisprudence and exegesis.<<>> It is on the basis of that redefinition that they then try to stake their claim.<<>> This is not unlike a person who claims that US federal law permits grand larceny, <<>>As far as same-sex acts are concerned, the legal precedent and historical record shows complete unanimity on the part of Muslim jurists — <<>>not a single dissenting opinion can be found permitting same-sex acts in nearly a millennium and a half. <<>>if one believes the weight of juristic consensus, combined with the unambiguous pronouncements of divine revelation and Sunnaic precedent, <<>>the heroin addict is only hurting himself<<>>Or how about contemporary Western attitudes towards polygamy, adultery, public indecency, sexual harassment norms, and so on? Even among Western countries, different cultures have varying sex norms and view each others’ differences as either prudery or promiscuity. <<>>Of course, there are those extreme liberal secularists who bite the bullet and argue that all these activities, including incest and cannibalism by consent,<<<

    What? What? What?

    Y'all have a habit of using 7:81 which is the most vague wrap up of what happened to Lut and the messengers with the tribe. It does make it sound like its just about homosexuality vs. raping the messengers. And you refuse to look at the whole story. And this is one reason patriarchy continues to go on like it does.

    And when Our messengers came to Lut, he was grieved for them, and he lacked strength to protect them, and said: This is a hard day. And his people came to him, (as if) rushed on towards him, and already they did evil deeds. He said: O my people! these are my daughters– they are purer for you, so guard against (the punishment of) Allah and do not disgrace me with regard to my guests; is there not among you one right-minded man? They said: Certainly you know that we have no claim on your daughters, and most surely you know what we desire. He said: Ah! that I had power to suppress you, rather I shall have recourse to a strong support. They said: O Lut! we are the messengers of your Lord; they shall by no means reach you; so remove your followers in a part of the night– and let none of you turn back– except your wife, for surely whatsoever befalls them shall befall her; surely their appointed time is the morning; is not the morning nigh? 11:77-81

    It says the tribe which was already committing evil comes rushing toward Lut intoxicated in their rage … because Lut invited some "pure" messengers to his house. Something they had forbidden him. They didn't want monotheists with righteous virtues around them. So they were going to rape them, to humiliate both Lut and to defile the guests. Lut says don't do this to his guests (having sex with these men, something no one has done before)…have his daughters (exegesis = either the tribe's women or his actual daughters). But if you think a tribe full of men trying to shove past the leader to force themselves on the messengers is equal to "homosexuality" vs. "male on male rape"…you've missed everything. The thing is Lut knew the men wanted to rape them to shame Lut and to defile and harm the guests. He knew they didn't want women. They wanted to rape these men because they hated "purity". Read ALL THE VERSES on Lut to get this. Not just 7:81.

    • Hyde says:

      Wow, so the guy that spent some time making this essay, probably did not get past 7:81 on Lut(p). Right, he spent researching every other piece of information but probably forgot to read about Lut(p) in the Quran. Yup, that’s what happened.

    • Hyde says:

      Let’s be honest it’s looks like you knew Lut)p) as bff…were you there?! Did you hear him speak ?
      “The thing is Lut knew the men wanted to rape them to shame Lut and to defile and harm the guests. He knew they didn’t want women””

  36. Amer Rizvi says:

    Salam. This article is too long with too many main ideas. Who has the time these days to sort them all out and make the necessary deductions. Please choose concise AND brief articles. Thanks

    • Ahmad B. says:

      Dear Amer,

      This is a very complex issue that touches on many fundamental issues of core belief, practice, approach to and understanding of our religious texts and traditions, how we understand what God requires of us in any given time or circumstance. Issues of this nature cannot simply be shrugged off in a few soundbites or “concise AND brief articles.” If you are interested in this topic as it now presents itself in our current day and age, and really care to understand it properly in order to take a reasonable and consistent stand on it, I’m afraid you’re going to have to put some effort into it. If you’re not interested enough to do that, that’s certainly fine, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need deep, nuanced treatments like this one, even if they are “difficult” to get through upon first read. In fact, this article is just the beginning. An entire book would be necessary to address all aspects of this topic thoroughly.

      Having said that, as Daniel himself has mentioned in a previous response, it would perhaps be useful for a summary to be prepared of the main points of this article for ease of digestion, with references and links to the full treatment for those who wish to plunge deeper. But if anything, I think we should be welcoming of the depth and sophistication attempted in this article. This is exactly what our discourse needs, and only on such deep and sophisticated analyses can a responsible and solid summary of the main ideas be put together.

  37. Matthew Johnson says:

    OK so I find I quite can’t leave the debate be!

    First in my last post two typos that may confuse. It should say “thinking” that…can only be read in one way… rather than “thinner…”. Also gay and “muslim” rather than gay and “null” a bit further down.

    So I was thinking about what Ahmed B had to say in his analogy with eating meat and ritual slaughter. And I think this highlights the difference between our approaches. Firstly I totally respect his approach, and I also recognise my approach is a minority, although I do think it has precedent in the work especially of Al-Shatabi.

    I take as a suggested methodology that when we look at rulings that we do not apply those wholesale to radically changed circumstances; but seek to understand the intention behind the ruling, and then work out how to apply that intention in the new context. in fact believe this was largely the approach of, for instance, the early Hanafi school before they eventually capitulated to the Ahl al -Hadith approach which massively restricted the use of such reasoning. Secondarily, I suggest that general Quranic themes are taken to be indicative of such intentions , not just specific rulings. So in this instance, I am going to appeal to the concept of our Guardianship of the planet ( as Khalifa) as part of my argument, and also the recommendations about freeing slaves.

    So now let’s looks at this issue of meat. I take it for granted that the gravest issues in the present era that directly affects the welfare of the planet, humanity and all the other inhabitants, are ecological devastation, species loss, and climate change. One of the factors that are important in this is the inefficiency of raising animals for slaughter, in terms of land usage and carbon footprint. Furthermore, the raising of animals and their slaughter undoubtedly involves a degree of cruelty at some level.

    The specific rulings about ritual slaughter have a clear intention of reducing to a minimum the cruelty involved. We know this from certain Hadith and actually just from common sense. But the ecological problems just did not exist in the 7th century. Putting these two factors together now, and one can, I think, see that it would be quite possible to argue, based upon the underlying intentions of the prophetic messages, that in our current context we should be moving towards a state where meat eating is gradually reduced and possibly eliminated.

    This is analogous, for example to the situation of slavery. The Prophetic message did not outlaw slavery, in fact refers to it as normal and allows for sexual satisfaction to be gained from slave girls one owns – a point I have raised earlier and which no-one tackles – because I suspect there is not really a good response it from within the traditional outlook. However there is a clear prophetic message that slaves should be freed when possible. Most Muslims, I think, whether consciously or not, now see the modern view of its absolute abolition, as something commendable and in keeping the the intention of God: but note this is NOT what the revelation actually ordains specifically at all. The revelation accepts slavery as a perfectly normal human institution. This seems to be something that most muslims just gloss over. Now of course the badly motivated critics of Islam rush to point this out, and muslims rather flounder because they are not prepared, by and large, to accept the point that it’s to intentions not specific rulings that we must ultimately look. The fact that slavery does still persist in the West and the Muslim world does not alter the agreements here about principal.

    Without going into great detail, these arguments can also be applied to sexuality, women rights, animal rights and other issues. The West, despite its many problems and failings, has ended up addressing these intentions more successfully in many instances than the Islamic civilisation in fact ever achieved. This is something that Muslims do not like to accept in the main – although I note that some scholars (e.g. Hamza Yusef, Tariq Ramadan) have noted and stressed this point. As I see it, Western Liberalism and Islamic ethics, although clearly different, in fact have many points of intersection. And it would make for a much better world if those on both sides of that ideological divide would embrace this reality.

    One final point. None of this approach would end up rejecting for example the five pillars, as was claimed by Ahmed ( I think). Those are all to do with modes of worship, not human transactions. These are not subject to Ijtihad (although some variation in precise details is part of the tradition), except when conditions do not conform in any way to the original context( for example in places where the sun never actually sets during Ramadan). Nor does it involve rejecting the elements of faith, e.g. God, Prophecy, Reckoning etc. In fact these centrally inform the attempt to discern the Divine intentions.

    I know most muslims will still likely not agree with me. But I hope we can at least agree to disagree.

    Salaam to all.

    • Ahmad B. says:

      Salam Matthew,

      Again, I really appreciate your thoughtful contributions to this important discussion. Shatibi was all about deducing the overall objectives of the Shari’a as a way of highlighting the underlying wisdom of the Law, but note that he deduced these objectives FROM the positive rulings he found in the Shari’a. Originally, the maqasid of the Shari’a, as derived and articulated by Shatibi, were not used for legislation. It’s only in the modern period that you get calls for a “maqasid”-based approach that appeals to the larger objectives in order to override specific rulings, which goes way beyond anything Shatibi ever envisioned. Wael Hallaq has a great presentation of Shatibi in Ch. 5 of his book, “A History of Islamic Legal Theories.”

      Regarding what you say about meat, I agree with what you say about the ecology, and certainly the level of meat consumption in developed countries is neither healthy nor sustainable on a global scale. I also think a strong argument can be made that the conditions under which most animals for consumption are now raised themselves violate Shari’a stipulations on kind and humane treatment of animals, and so are not really “halal” even if slaughtered in the proper manner. Under these circumstances, the only thing that makes sense is to reduce our consumption of meat to a more sustainable (and humane) level. These are all practical concerns which we are right to take into account and which, one could argue, are inspired by our appreciation of the larger goals of the Law (man’s stewardship of the earth, as you mention). I fully concede the legitimacy of all of these practical concerns, but that is different from saying that slaughtering animals for meat is, IN PRINCIPLE, barbaric, immoral, etc. That is what I was trying to get at before. Adopting a vegetarian diet as a question of health or ecology is one thing, but doing so as a question of morality (specifically objecting to the killing of animals for food) is, I think, problematic from an Islamic perspective.

      Regarding slavery, you are right in everything you say. I would only add, however, that there are clear indications of the undesirability of this state and nudging toward its removal both in the Qur’an itself, as well as in the Prophet’s example (saas) and that of his Companions (such as the fact that Abu Bakr – ra – was reported to have spent half his wealth buying slaves in order to set them free). In striking contrast to this, the issue of same-sex behavior forms the object of a specific and deliberate PROHIBITION, both in the Qur’an and in various hadith. So an institution that preexisted Islam and came to be regulated and mitigated by revelation — with a possible view to its ultimate elimination (as most Muslims now understand the case to be, as you mention) — has strictly nothing in common with a completely unrelated act that, once again, revelation has gone out of its way to specifically PROHIBIT. Do you see any indications at all in any of the texts that somehow point the way to the desirability of same-sex relationships and their eventual normalization and acceptance? This would make no sense at all given the fact that, once again, revelation has specifically prohibited the acts in question. So seen under this angle, the case of slavery and that of homosexuality have strictly nothing to do with one another at all, such that a “change” in one would automatically open the door to a possible change in the other.

      Now, you mentioned in a previous post the more general notion that “sexual morality changes over time,” and you gave the examples of concubinage and the young age of A’isha (ra) as examples. I would like to suggest that we are making a category error by grouping all of these things into the vague and abstract category of “sexual morality,” with the implication that if anything in this category “changes” over time, then it’s legitimate for any other act in the category to change as well. If we look at the actual legislation, however, what do we find the bottom line to be? We find that Allah permits sexual relations between a sexually mature male and a sexually mature female between whom exists a legal relationship in which the male has rights over (and duties toward) the female. Marriage (nikah) is the primary contract through which such a relationship comes about, and through which such relations therefore become permissible. In previous times and circumstances in which slavery was still present, a man’s female slaves occupied a position similar to that of a wife, but of lesser status. This difference in status pertains to the slave in general (both male and female), and not to anything pertaining specifically to sexual relations. ALL sexual relations outside these carefully defined boundaries are strictly forbidden, with male-female zina and (usually) male-male sodomy counting as major crimes, and other behaviors (regardless of the sex of the partner) treated as lesser misdemeanors. The fact that slavery, in principle, no longer exists reduces the halal channels of sexual practice to what was always the principal one anyway, which is marriage (nikah). There is nothing in this fact that would cause any of the other prohibitions suddenly to fall. I mean, what sense would that make (assuming that there is some rhyme and reason, some hikma and larger objective, to God’s legislation)?

      In fact, it would make little sense at all if we go back to this notion of the objectives of the Law to see what the Legislator’s (i.e., God’s) main objectives appear to be in the realm of sexual relations. One of the five major objectives, or “maqasid,” of the Shari’a is the protection of what is usually called “nasl,” which means reproduction, and also lineage (the relationship between these two things should be obvious enough). The main overriding objective of the Law in this domain is the protection and promotion of natural family bonds/lineage, ensuring the legitimacy of children conceived, making sure that each child knows who his/her father and mother are (it’s considered a fundamental right to know where you come from and who you’re biologically related to), and being able to ensure things like custody, maintenance, and rightful inheritance for the child, all of which are predicated on whose child he/she is. All this is considered to constitute a vital nexus of fundamental rights and duties, as well as the foundation of family and social life, which must be preserved and promoted as primary objectives of the Law for the individual and collective benefit of all. All of these objectives are, in fact, met under the classical law (i.e., none are violated or undermined through nikah or semi-nikah-like concubinage).

      So why the prohibition of other sexual acts? Obviously, male-female zina directly undermines these objectives because it raises the risk of a child being conceived outside of a stable legal relationship and directly undermines the boundaries of permissible sexual relations. Why are same-sex relations prohibited? Scholars disagree as to the reason (I’m taking from Rouayheb here). Some fear that one would be prevented by such actions from eventually engaging in marriage (i.e., a pragmatic and consequentialist reason). Others point to the natural complementarity of the male and the female, the obvious teleological fit of the male and female reproductive organs, etc., whereby same-sex relations constitute a dishonoring of this order and a misuse of one’s God-given body (I think some of these are covered towards the end of Daniel’s article). [It’s important to note, however, that these rationales are not the reason WHY scholars maintain these acts to be prohibited. The prohibition itself stands on its own proofs and indications in the law that such acts are prohibited. It is simply an attempt on their part to articulate the possible wisdom of God’s legislation here, not to JUSTIFY that legislation or, even less, make the prohibition dependent on our appreciation of this wisdom.) I assume the prohibition of masturbation (on the majority view) would be subject to similar reasons: either a distraction from actual marriage (which doesn’t seem very plausible to me), or perhaps just a misuse of the sexual organs. Islam is not as strict as Catholicism in demanding that each and every sexual act constitute an opening to the possibility of conception, but it does restrict legitimate sexual behavior to the overall context of a relationship where this can paradigmatically occur. Solo-sex and same-sex behavior do not make the cut. Sexual relations between an elderly or sterile couple (since people always like to bring that up) do count as legitimate, since they fall within the bounds of the PARADIGMATICALLY approved male-female sexual relationship (and they continue to honor both the inherently interactive nature of sex as well as the natural fit and teleology of the male and female bodies and complementarity of the male and female principles, which Allah mentions in the Qur’an).

      The objectives I have outlined above are actually applied very consistently by scholars of Islamic law, and it for this reason that they regard most of the reproductive technologies used in the West as forbidden. In vitro fertilization, for example, is only permissible with the sperm and egg of a married man and woman with the wife carrying the baby (maybe her Fallopian tubes are blocked or something, but otherwise she and her husband are both fertile and she is fit to carry the baby to term). No sperm banks, egg donors, or surrogate mothers allowed. Scholars consider all of these things, interestingly enough, as forms of virtual “zina,” since they have the same effect: namely, to obscure and confuse natural lineage and family bonds (khalt al-ansab).

      So if we are serious about following Shatibi and an authentic maqasid-based approach to the Shari’a, we should accept as the overriding objectives of the Law those principles and values which are promoted and preserved by the actual legislation we find, which are the ones I have enumerated above. Regardless of circumstantial changes in things like the presence or absence of slavery — or, for that matter, notions of appropriate age for marriage that, as in our day, far exceed the reaching of natural sexual maturity, i.e., puberty, which A’isha had reached at the time of the consummation of her marriage to the Prophet (saas) — these are the objectives that must be kept in mind and actualized in every time and place as a question of fundamental rights and appropriate moral action in line with God’s plan for and command to us His creatures and vicegerents on Earth.

      And if this is the grid we are using — the one derived from the actual Shari’a based on God’s revelation, the Sunna of the Prophet (saas), etc. — then same-sex relations continue to have no place in Islam, since they violate practically each and every one of the maqasid we are able to derive from the Shari’a (and, moreover, they have been specifically prohibited, which is sufficient for continuing to hold them to be so). It is interesting that in arguing for gay marriage in the West and the “equivalence” of same-sex families to traditional mother-father families, people appeal to things like the fact that sex is no longer strictly required for procreation (since we have all these technologies), straight couples often conceive through these artificial means as well, etc., etc. But in Islam, none of these things are permissible to begin with, so the fact that same-sex “families” can only be made sense of by appeal to them only serves to further undermine the case for them from an Islamic perspective.

      One final thought. In previous ages, slavery existed and there were ahkam regulating the sexual relations between a man and his female slave (as well as wife or wives). Today, slavery does not exist, but wives still do (and always will, obviously). Owning slaves has never been REQUIRED in Islam (and in fact, we have said that there are indications for its removal), so obviously no one is committing a violation by NOT having a female slave. But every nikah that a Muslim male performs with a Muslim female is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, a valid contract which renders — and which, in our day, alone renders — sexual relations permissible. Similarly, it is never REQUIRED to marry a girl immediately upon her reaching puberty, and if contingent circumstances, or even just cultural attitudes, in a given society make this undesirable or inappropriate, no one is committing a sin by NOT engaging in such a marriage. If you wait until a girl is 15 or 17 or 20 or whatever, the ensuing contract and marriage are perfectly valid, by consensus and by the standards and norms that have always been operable in the religion. If, however, you are a man and propose to marry another man, there is obviously no valid way to do this in Islam, as the Law does not countenance such a relationship and in fact couldn’t, since the ensuing sexual relationship presumed to follow forms an object of specific and explicit prohibition.

      So to buy Scott Kugle’s thesis, it’s not just that you would have to throw doubt on this or that hadith, or try to reinterpret this or that verse of the Qur’an. You would have to, in fact, throw out the entire Shari’a hook, line, and sinker — and not “just” its specific ahkam (as if these were in any way dispensable), but even its highest-level overriding principles and objectives, those principles and objectives which you, dear brother, have been urging us to constantly keep in mind as we apply the Law to our own day and circumstances. You would actually have to eviscerate the religion of its own guiding principles and objectives and argue, with virtually no support in the texts or the tradition, that the “real” objectives of the religion are, in fact, to promote things like “self-realization”, “sexual authenticity”, an unqualified notion of “stable families” (even if these are based on foundations that the religion does not recognize as valid, such as same-sex “marriages” and the ensuing legal fictions of “Mother 1” and “Mother 2”, etc.), an unqualified notion of “long-term committed relationships” (even when such relationships, as between two members of the same sex, is not recognized as valid), broad and amorphous notions of things like “tolerance” and “diversity” which take no account of specific commands and prohibitions, etc., etc.

      And I ask you, my brother: The soundbites and liberal rhetoric aside, does any of this sound even remotely plausible when you look at it in this larger perspective?

      Wallahu a’lam (God certainly knows best — and may He guide us all!)

      Wassalamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullah.

      • Matthew Johnson says:

        Salaam Dear Ahmed

        Firstly think you for the time and extensive reply. I must acknowledge your obviously greater knowledge of the Islamic corpus on these issues, and to that extent I am automatically at a disadvantage somewhat. So I do not think it behoves me to engage in a counter argument. On reflection, I think we only differ on matter of emphasis in any case as perhaps you will agree.

        I would only make the following observations.

        1. The classically recognised higher objectives are only some of those that could theoretically be derived from a consideration of the intents of legislation. There is nothing necessarily fixed about those and they might be considered anew in the light of prevailing realities.

        2. As you point out, technology has radically altered the landscape concerning the important issue of lineage and the rights of children and family life. Most obviously this is the case with effective contraception, which as I understand it is generally considered legitimate. This does mean that sexual relationships can be conducted without the necessary consequence of childbirth. Of course this does not guarantee the prevention of single parents and ambiguous parentage ( although the latter can be clarified by use of technology unavailable until recent times), and clearly the former is a significant problem concerning which islamic ethics undoubtedly has something important to say.

        3. I would also point out out (and I am aware of the controversy here) that some versions of Islam recognise the category of temporary marriage which is solely for the purpose of sexual pleasure. I don’t think we need go into this controversy and I only note that an important branch of Islam does hold this position and further claims this was normal practice at the time of the prophet. This is only tangentially relevant, but worth raising, I think.

        4. So with regard to the issue at hand, having reviewed all the Quranic verses to do with Lot, and some of the relevant exegesis, and considering them in the round, it does still seem to me that the sins that the tribe of Lot committed were clearly more than just homosexual acts. Furthermore, although it is not explicitly mentioned that the intention was rape, it does seem to me a pretty clear inference that the intended sexual acts with the angels were hardly going to be consensual. And it is also clear, to em at least, that the primary intention of the threatened acts was the sullying of the purity of the angels and the violation of Lot’s hospitality, rather than sexual pleasure per se. The men involved wanted the angels sent away if they could not violate them and their presence in the city was hated on account of their purity and virtue. Furthermore its seems a reasonable inference that they had wives at home whom they are abandoning in their frenzied and delirious state. Another point is that the whole society is destroyed, yet the women can only have been very peripherally involved if at all in the male on male acts. This would suggest that the entire society was massively corrupted in a wide variety of ways of which only some examples are cited ( Al Tabari commented that the sins were highway robbery, committing immoralities, and penetrating men in the rear, the second of which clearly covers a multitude of sins). But either way, the fact that the city is destroyed for much more than just homosexual acts seems irrefutable on the textual evidence takes as a whole.

        5. So here is the question I would pose. Suppose the tribe of Lot were generally peaceable, ethical people who treated Lot with respect and protection even if they did not accept his prophetic mission (cf Abu Talib), were not engaged in highway robbery and whatever abominations they were committing in the council chambers – this seems to generally interpreted as homosexual acts as well, although A’isha is reported to say it meant farting(!!), and to me the fact that it refers to the council suggests we are talking about political corruption on a massive scale – and further suppose that some of the men were interested only in pursuing long term monogamous consensual sexual relationships with other men on account of their sexual orientation ( please leave aside for the moment all the questions about the exact status of that description). Would this still merit the level of admonishment described? it seems to me highly unlikely.

        6. Conclusion ( suggested). It would be still be clear that homosexual acts are not being approved of in the Quranic narrative. But in isolation, and without all the other sins – Ridicule of Lot’s prophecy, Highway robbery, desertion of wives, use of threat of non consensual sex as a way of causing humiliation interestingly I note Umm Hami’s report of the Prophet’s comment upon the highway robbery here that they “used to take from people on the road and humiliate them” underscoring the motive for sexual assault) – I think it could be argued that such sexual acts, on their own, are disliked, unrecommended, or some such category, rather than actually Haram.

        But even if this is not tenable, as I think you are likely to think, with reference to the context of this debate which is gay marriage, would it still not be far better for men who find that they can not change their desires away from other men, and who also find they really can not live as life long celibates ( a tall order in any case and one which I think there is a fair bit of evidence is not good for anyone), that they enact such desires within the context of a commitment to a loving monogamous setting rather than the type of situations that are common place in that community, and to which a man struggling to suppress such urges may have recourse during times of weakness (as rather movingly evinced by the testimony of Oberyn on this discussion group)?

        I think I will leave it at that now, but again I do thank you for the tone of your debate, and having made me really think through all this.

        And as ever God knows best.

        Matthew.

      • Umm Muhammad says:

        In reply to brother Ahmad B: I just want to say thank you for your extremely thoughtful, nuanced, and extensive posts! I am learning so much by reading these, and hopefully others are benefiting as well insha’Allah.

        I am not someone who is confused about the status of homosexual acts in Islam or the absurdity of basing one’s entire identity on the mere question of the nature of one’s sexual preferences–but still I’m finding it immensely helpful and illuminating to read your responses and to see how your reasoning progresses mash’Allah. Very logical and solid reasoning based on and firmly grounded in Islamic principles. May Allah increase you and us in knowledge and sincerity, ameen!

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Assalamu ‘alaikum Sr. Umm Muhammad,

        Thank you for your kind du’a; “wa-iyyakum” on all of them, insha’Allah. I also appreciate the various comments you have made here. They have been balanced, insightful, and right on target. May Allah grant guidance and success to all! Ameen.

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Assalamu ‘alaikum Matthew,

        I realize we cannot go on and on forever, but I did want to offer some final thoughts on the few points you have raised in your last message:

        (1)

        Regarding your first point about the maqasid, the classically recognized objectives were derived through a thorough induction of the Islamic texts, agreed upon fiqh (not the differed upon areas, as ikhtilaf pertains only to details anyway), an understanding of the overall moral tenor of the deen as passed down from generation to generation through an authoritative transmission of teaching, scholarship, training, and spiritual tarbiya, etc. And there seems to be wide agreement that these five maqasid (preservation of religion, life, intellect, lineage/family, and property – some also add honor) are what Allah’s legislation has been promulgated to protect and promote. Again, actual legislation and rulings were not treated as mere “indicants” by way of which we could derive these objectives, but as the very means that Allah Himself has established for their realization. So I think we should at least start out from the position that these five objectives, and the specific legislation that promotes them and from which we have derived them, should be taken as a firmly established part of our religion.

        Now, could we derive new objectives that might appear to us in light of changed circumstances? I certainly don’t see why not. One primary example that you have mentioned is the objective (or “maqsid”) of stewarding and taking care of the earth. The means by which we are currently raping the planet were simply not available in previous times, so the salience of this aspect of man’s khilafa fi-l-ard was simply never noticed before but today has become a major preoccupation of anyone thinking straight about such issues. And once this has been brought to the fore, we look back into the Qur’an, hadith, the sunna of the Messenger (saas) and, in fact, find many verses and directives that directly speak to what we’re concerned about and seem quite obviously to underwrite a novel concentration on this newly articulated maqsid. In fact, if we really followed the example of our Messenger (saas) – which is a school in minimalist, sustainable living if there ever was one – we could probably solve the ecological crisis very readily indeed.

        I just don’t see how such considerations would apply to the issue at hand. What are, exactly, the “changed circumstances” that would force an entirely new conception of sexuality, parentage, family, lineage, what it means for the Shari‘a to be protecting nasl/family as a major overriding concern, etc.? Note that in the case of the environment, we are able to point to concrete facts that have brought about an objective change in the condition of the planet we inhabit. I just don’t see this in the case of same-sex relationships. What I do see, on the other hand, is a lot of conceptual and value-laden modifications that have occurred and which have profoundly altered the way such issues look to people in modern society. But those kinds of conceptual and value-related issues are, I would submit, precisely the areas in which the deen – as a comprehensive, God-given world view and value system – must be taken as normative and as setting the tone for the evaluations and judgments we apply to the world around us.

        I am sympathetic to the argument based on the plight of the individual struggling with his/her sexuality, but I still don’t see that as an adequate basis, from a Shari‘a perspective, to argue for a fundamental reconceptualization of sexuality and of family altogether. Doing so may be thought to provide some solution for the struggling person, but it would simultaneously undermine all the other central values, parameters, and preoccupations of the Law that I elaborated in my last message.

        The only reason, I would submit, that modern people in the West have been able to countenance such a “sea change” of views in order to accommodate homosexuality is precisely because they had already come to put very little value on all those other factors, and so there was very little left to “sacrifice” by fully accommodating and normalizing the homosexual element. Sexual relations had long been separated from religious morality, as well as from family and procreation (all complements of the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s). Similarly, things like the notion of a natural or God-given and objective teleology to nature – and of the body and of sexuality as parts of that nature – had also long been scuttled (much earlier in the modern period) in favor of purely personal, subjectivist notions of truth and reality in which individuals and their private perspectives, drives, and wants form the starting point from which ethical and other reflections take off. “I am (personally and subjectively) attracted to my own sex, therefore this fact must be taken as indicative of the (objective) rightness of pursuing such relations” comes to replace “Sexuality has an objective nature in which male-female complementarity is essential and which serves to delimit – as in the Shari‘a – the legitimate bounds of sexual expression.”

        This is precisely what I mean when I say that coming up with a Shari‘a legitimation for same-sex relations isn’t just a matter of tinkering around the edges – disqualifying a couple hadith and reinterpreting a couple verses of the Qur’an. It actually involves a much more radical shift in perspectives and values on a much deeper and more fundamental level. And this is the reason why I think the adjustments you seem to favor do not just constitute minor accommodations, but rather fundamentally undermine a number of basic Islamic worldview commitments. This is in striking contrast to, for instance, the addition of “ecology” as a sixth (or seventh) overriding objective of the Shari‘a that we now in our day must be much more conscientious of than in previous times. And again, the fact that maqasid were derived from, and not in spite of, explicit rulings is critical as well. I just don’t see how a maqasid-based approach – even one expanded to include perhaps other goods and values in addition to, say, ecology – can get around specific and deliberate prohibitions on discrete acts which, had He wanted, Allah could simply have not addressed (i.e., He didn’t have to prohibit sodomy and related acts if He didn’t want to).

        (2) & (3)

        Regarding Points 2 and 3 of your message, you state that, given contraceptive technologies, “sexual relationships can be conducted without the necessary consequence of childbirth.” This is true, but is already included in the point I made about Islam not requiring the possibility of conception for the legitimacy of each and every sexual act (which is the basis of the Catholic opposition to ALL forms of sexual expression other than vaginal intercourse of a married couple with no contraception). Ditto for the point you make about temporary marriage, “solely for the purpose of sexual pleasure.” Regardless of one’s opinion on the legitimacy of temporary marriage, Islam has always recognized sexual pleasure as a valid aspect in its own right of legitimate sexual relations. This is precisely why married couples may engage in activities other than vaginal intercourse, purely for the pleasure of it, even if no conception is possible.

        But note that this is sexual pleasure as an aspect of an otherwise legitimate relationship. There is no notion that sexual pleasure in Islam is independently self-justifying in the sense that it alone can serve to legitimize an otherwise prohibited act (like same-sex behavior or, for that matter, masturbation), or that Islam somehow provides a blanket guarantee of a “right” to the satisfaction of sexual desires per se “on their own terms,” so to speak. To the contrary, the Prophetic sunna counsels a man or woman with strong desires but unable to marry that he/she should fast (not even masturbate, let alone engage in unlawful relationships to satisfy their desires). Islam does not guarantee, for example, the fulfillment of sexual desires to a 35-year-old man or woman who, for whatever reason, has not been able to marry. That person is expected to maintain his/her chastity and to exercise restraint and forbearance (sabr) in keeping themselves within the clearly delineated moral boundaries of the faith.

        (4)

        Regarding your point about the multiplicity of the iniquities for which the people of Lot (as) were destroyed, there is no need to dispute any of that. It is hardly necessary that sodomy, say, be their only crime for us to know that it is, in fact, a crime (one of their crimes). Certainly one would not excuse any of the other crimes they committed merely because none of those crimes are given as the sole reason for why the whole people was destroyed. And if you add up the enumeration of their various crimes and how Allah describes these in the Qur’an, the explicitly same-sex element of the people of Lot’s sexual practice is mentioned more often and more explicitly than any of the other actions of which they were guilty. This is no doubt why the act of anal intercourse itself has taken its name in Arabic from the very people of Lut (luti, liwat, etc.).

        The point about possible rape here is very speculative (especially compared to the explicitness of the repeated “men instead of women” motif in the relevant verses) and, in my opinion, a clear example of reading modern preoccupations about “consent” and the notion that sexuality is all just about “consent” back into the texts of revelation. There are many sexual acts in Islam that are prohibited despite the fact that they involve no coercion whatsoever. In fact, practically all sexual acts that are prohibited are prohibited with the assumption that their participants are, in fact, engaging in them quite willingly. Any male-female intercourse outside of legal channels, for example, is forbidden. Consent of the partners here is irrelevant. On the dominant view that masturbation is prohibited, consent obviously has nothing to do with this either. So how could it be that once we get to same-sex behavior, it is only forced acts that are to be taken as forbidden, while ones engaged in with “consent” are somehow off the hook? This is totally out of line with the rest of our sexual morality and would, at a minimum, require very rigorous proof that this is the case and not mere speculation. Now, was there implied coercion involved in the case of the angels? Perhaps. But is that sufficient to hold that coercion is the only “real” crime involved here and that the same-sex nature of the relations themselves (which is the only aspect that Allah explicitly mentions about them, and repeatedly, at that) is of no consequence? Again, this hardly coheres with any of the rest of our sexual morality.

        The question of purity and wanting the visitors sent away because they desired purity is fully in line with the traditional understanding. Because gay sex – specifically, anal sodomy – is, as a question of objective fact (for us), an impure and sullying act (both physically, given the nature of the anus, as well as morally, as it is beneath the dignity of human creatures whom God has ennobled), the visitors’ desire for purity is manifest in their resistance to engaging in the act of sodomy itself (and not specifically to being “raped”). The people of Lut (as), in their impurity and iniquity, desired precisely this base act and were angered to see their designs frustrated by the purity and nobility of Lot’s (as) visitors. We see this all the time today when people who live immoral lifestyles resent, taunt, and mock religious believers and other people who refrain from their base activities – even more so if the attitude or stance of the righteous people actually ends up preventing them from engaging in their sinful activities (as in the case of the purity of Lot’s visitors).

        (5)

        The question of what would have been Allah’s evaluation and treatment of the people of Lut (as) if they had nothing against them other than their rejection of his message (by no means an inconsequential matter) and the pursuit of “long term monogamous consensual sexual relationships with other men” is, of course, a hypothetical. I’m not sure how relevant the question is either, since it presupposes that the relationships you describe are, in fact, inherently unobjectionable and congruent with their would-be practitioners being an otherwise “generally peaceable, ethical people.” But whether such relationships are, in fact, ethically and morally justified or not (from an Islamic perspective) is precisely the point in question here. If we look at Islamic sexual morality as a whole, we find that monogamy is not necessarily a requirement of it (though I think you can argue that it is preferable) and that consent alone is not sufficient to render a given act permissible. (And if you take the view that permits temporary marriage, which I don’t, then even the “long term” element is not strictly necessary either, even if, again, preferable). On the other hand, if we’re working on the basis of the texts of revelation, a strong (I would say conclusive) case can be made that sexual complementarity is always a required element in permissible Islamic sexual relations. So “long term consensual sexual relationships with other men” can only be put forth as a benign description of the acts in question if all of the Shari‘a’s own concerns and parameters regarding sexual acts and relations have been put aside and replaced by other ones derived from a very different set of premises and civilizational norm.

        (6)

        As you correctly surmised, I personally do not find any of this very tenable. But you also seem to agree that the Qur’an, at a minimum, “disapproves” of homosexual acts per se (where you say, “It would still be clear that homosexual acts are not being approved of in the Quranic narrative”). If this is so, then I agree that, as you state at the beginning of your last message, our positions are perhaps not as far apart from each other as we may have first believed. Whether the same-sex acts committed by the people of Lut (as) can, alone among their misdeeds, be demoted to “makruh” status instead of “haram,” while maintaining that the other acts of which they were guilty are actually forbidden (even though none might have been sufficiently egregious alone to have hastened the destruction of the entire town), can only be decided on the basis of, well, the status of (consensual) same-sex acts in Islam — which brings us right back to square one!

        [Last part of message in subsequent post. See below.]

      • Ahmad B. says:

        [End of previous message, continued from above.]

        You end, admirably, once again on a note of pastoral concern for your brothers and sisters struggling with the difficult trial of same-sex attractions. I think the question of how best to assist such persons, and what avenues may be open to them, is a serious and very important one – one that should ideally involve the long-term engagement and collaboration of religious leaders, scholars, spiritual masters, health care professionals, counselors, and others. The origins and etiology of homosexual desires are still very poorly understood, though different theories abound, as well as different methods for learning to control one’s same-sex behavior and, perhaps, eventually even mitigate their hold upon one – if not completely, then at least to the point where marriage with an opposite-sex partner becomes a feasible and honest option.

        We should not discount such possibilities simply because the dominant (politically motivated) narrative presents homosexuality as a black-and-white, all-or-nothing type of phenomenon. With respect to all those who angrily and adamantly declare that it is, I am always at a loss to explain how it is, in an age where “everything is possible” – where we can regenerate limbs, clone organisms, turn Bruce Jenner into “Caitlyn,” travel to the moon, discover an earth-like planet 1,400 light years away from us, etc., etc. – people have become so utterly convinced that we will never, ever be able to uncover the true origins and etiology of same-sex desires (be they physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, biological, perceptional, or any combination of all these) and, in doing so, gain the ability to mitigate and/or eliminate them for affected individuals who, based on personal moral convictions or other reasons, would like to live their lives in the manner that we, as mu’minun, believe that God has intended, and for none other than our own benefit and good.

        I shall close with your words, dear brother: “And as ever God knows best.”

        Thank you for a stimulating and thought-provoking exchange, one which has afforded me too the opportunity to crystallize my thinking on and my analysis of numerous issues. May Allah grant you and me and all who may read these words guidance, knowledge, understanding, faith, patience, compassion, steadfastness, contentment in this life, and ultimate felicity and success in the next. Ameen!

        Yours,
        Ahmad B.

    • Abu Milk Sheikh says:

      The questions of
      1) Slavery & sexual relationships with concubines
      2) Ages of marriage and consummation

      Are detailed and nuanced.

      However, since Mathew wants to reduce them to use as appeals to emotion the short answer is yes, IF you end up in a position where you have a concubine, you are permitted to have sex with her.

      Similarly yes, if a woman is an adult (as defined by the Shari’ah) it is permissible to marry her and consummate the marriage as well.

      Why would a Believer be shy about anything in our Shari’ah?

      I will also caution Mathew from making such arguments because he is indirectly speaking about Rasulullah صلى الله عليه و سلم when he mentions these scenarios. The situation of one who impugns the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم or his actions is grave indeed. http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/misc/alshifa/pt4ch1sec2.htm

      That too, to use them to defend a sin that is a such a crime in the Sight of Allah that He annhilated it’s originators with a punishment so severe the like of which was never seen before nor since.

      We live in very strange times.

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Assalamu ‘alaikum Abu Milk Sheikh,

        I appreciate the ‘azima you show for the deen in your various posts; that is a very good quality for a believer to have, alhamdulillah. I’m afraid, however, that I don’t see how Matthew, in your words, is “indirectly speaking [and inappropriately, at that] about Rasulullah (saas).” His entire comments focus on the people of Lut (as), and he has not directly engaged any of the hadith or other reports about what our Messenger (saas) has said about same-sex (and other) acts.

        I, for one, have found Br. Matthew’s tone to be sincere and open-minded, and he has admitted (in a previous post) that he has “much more to reflect upon in this debate” — which is a very honest and humble thing to admit. It is clear to me also that his motivation for pursuing this line of questioning stems from noble quarters, namely, a real concern for the plight of Muslims who discover in themselves a strong and persistent erotic attraction to the same sex — a situation which some such individuals may feel makes them unqualified for marriage and left, therefore, to contend with the prospect of unelected life-long celibacy (not a fun prospect indeed).

        Now, I personally happen to think that this feeling of inherent ineligibility for marriage on the part of individuals who experience same-sex attractions has a lot to do with our peculiarly modern ways (starting in early 19th-century Europe) of conceiving of sexuality, sexual attraction, marriage, romantic fulfillment, and related issues — all of which I think should be subjected to radical critique and reconstitution along more traditionally Islamic lines. I think people in other cultural settings would have found odd the notion that an entire class of men or women were inherently unfit for marriage (to an opposite-sex partner) on account of same-sex desires. Indeed, if we are assuming that the proclivities and inclinations we now bundle into the notion of a “homosexual orientation” have always existed among human beings (at least in some capacity and to some degree — Daniel’s article argues for a large part for the social construction of such desires), is it not interesting that this notion does not turn up anywhere in the literature of previous societies?

        This all requires much more discussion to unpack, which I’m afraid cannot be done here. Having said all that, however, these ARE very complex issues that can take a lot of time to work through — intellectually, emotionally, and otherwise. We all grow up with a whole host of concepts, categories, and assumptions given to us by our surrounding society (which is modern Western for most of us, like it or not), deeply intertwined with each other and embedded in certain base-level assumptions about the world, ourselves, ethics, etc. that are simply buried too deep down for most of us to see or gain easy access to. This web of concepts and beliefs, which we hold quite beside ourselves, can then give rise to doubts (shubuhat) when we find them to be incongruent with certain aspects of our deen. At this point, questions can arise in the mind even of a very sincere believer (even the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, experienced shubuhat — about the deen! — from time to time). The way to try to help answer some of these questions is to work through them patiently, open-mindedly, and “open-heartedly,” especially when dealing with a brother or sister who, by all appearances, seems to be sincere.

        Let me throw this one at you, akhi: I would contend that if a Muslim has grown up in the West and has never experienced at least some level of questioning (even slight — and I don’t mean doubting the faith, but just wondering why something is so) on issues like slavery, the age of A’isha, etc., then there is a good chance that that person has not really thought through a lot of things very carefully. I, personally, believe that there are satisfactory answers to be had for questions like these, but it is nevertheless the case that things like slave girls, young marriage ages, polygamy, etc. — by simple way of fact — are not part and parcel of our lived reality and are, on a purely objective level, difficult to reconcile with the dominant ethical and moral paradigm of our age. This doesn’t mean that the dominant paradigm is necessarily right, but the two are not always compatible, and since we are all affected deeply by both, conflicts and questions are bound to arise — unless we’re not thinking very deeply.

        Now, as is clear from my various posts, I am certainly not one to just throw the religion out the window in deference to the reigning paradigm (or push for constant reinterpretation in a liberalizing direction, which amounts to the same thing). Nevertheless, the questions people have are real, they can be quite discomfiting, and they can even lead people away from the deen altogether. Every age has its challenges of this nature, and this has been the case since the very moment the Sahaba left Arabia and Muslims suddenly found themselves surrounded by unfamiliar — and very sophisticated — cultures, philosophies, and different ways of thinking and doing things.

        So let us agree to discuss things openly and respectfully, and give people room to think things through without assuming they are motivated by unworthy intentions. I pray you forgive me if I have caused you any offense.

        Yours,
        Ahmad B.

        • Matthew Johnson says:

          Salaam and first of all thank you so much much for addressing the comment about me. i was going to respond in person but you have said what I wanted to say and it is better coming from someone else! Just to clarify – for Abu Sheik and any others who felt offended – my point about raising the example of A’isha was in no way to impugn the Prophet, but was to demonstrate that in fact many aspects of morality do change with time. So we should not judge the Prophet by what happens to be the prevailing norms of our societies, even though we may feel some discomfort at the differences. Ahmed B makes these points so well is his recent post thats its hardly worth my repeating them. I suppose my point is that we likewise need to careful about judging people today by the norms of the Prophet’s time.

          In fact I had wanted any way to post regarding Ahmed’s recent contributions as I totally admire the knowledgability, rationality, and intelligence exhibited. I think we differ because there are probably some assumptions upon which our respective positions rely that do not match up. It may be that my assumptions are basically non consonant with “Islam” – I hope not as I do identify myself as muslim even though I do find it to be a cognitively dissonant place to be at times, especially in regard to sexuality (and the use of violence). As you can all probably guess from my name I am a convert ( I dislike the term revert) and as such bring with me a whole lot of values, assumptions and perspectives from my western (English) liberal background. Many of these I continue to hold as valid and valuable, and therefore I am engaged in a mental and spiritual struggle to harmonise them in some way with the values system of Islam. That is a path fraught with difficulty at times and it may in fact be one that is ultimately a blind alley, but it seems to be my jihad and my decreed lot. There is no doubt wisdom in it for me, perhaps for others too, who knows… (other then God almighty).

          One of the reasons that I feel so passionate about the issue at hand is that around the world, in Saudi Arabia, in ISIS occupied Iraq/Syria, in Jamaica, in parts of Africa (especially where fundamentalist Christianity is strong), people who engage in same sex acts (let us keep the terminology like that so we avoid the debate about gay identity) have been subject to appalling and brutal killing, torture and so on. I work as a primary care doctor in the UK and have personally dealt with several cases of men severely tortured in other parts of the world on account of these behaviours who are mentally scarred for life.

          Since this type of treatment is frequently characterised as justified by being part of “Shari’a” ( although as I point out above this issue is by no means confined to Islam), its hard to not want ( for me) to address the underlying assumption of sinfulness. To make myself clear; an often referred to major sin in Islam is backbiting, right? Everyone probably does that at some point or other. But no-one is getting hung, or pushed off a high building in the name of religion for it. So homosexuality being a sin ( and yes the same goes for Zina, too) is rather more of an issue than most other, perhaps worse, sins on account of the extreme punishments possible. Now I know that poeple will say things like, oh well you have to have 4 witnesses and so on, and that when you see what ISIS do this is not Islam and so forth….but its not totally convincing as an argument is it? Because we do not live in a perfect world where these such laws are enforced with total justice and dignity, not are we likely any time soon.

          I think I have realised that this is really my issue. Whether or not homosexual acts are regarded as a sin is, from a certain point of view, irrelevant. An individual concerned might not believe in God, in which case they don’t care about its status as sin or not. Or if they do believe in God they might think well yes it’s a sin, but everyone sins, this is my sin and I will face God about it when the time comes. That may not be wise of them, but it’s their responsibility and their ethical choice. And here I would again stress my belief, which I’ve not read anyone tackle directly, which is that surely better to sin with one like long partner in the context of a loving and supportive relationship, than the in the context of astonishing promiscuity that can be part of the “gay” lifestyle ( and which is alluded to Quranic narrative of Lut). Surely God would make some distinction over that? (I know, I am speculating….).

          So I think my personal conclusion having reflected upon all the contributions here, especially the original article by Daniel and the contributions from Ahmed B, is that the way forwards here would be Tariq Ramadan’s suggestion of a moratorium on all Hadd punishments. As I think Daniel points out in one of his follow on comments, the reason for the extreme nature of the punishments for ZIna was the central importance of familial ties and patrilineal heritage that bonded the entire society together. The existence today of a more nuclear family structure, geographical mobility, effective birth control, and technologies that allow identification of parentage surely means we just don’t need these punishments any longer. So the punishments can as it were remain on the statute book, as theoretical punishments, but otherwise in actuality to be banished to history. Of course in may places this is what has de facto happened. I would like it be seen a supported by the scholarly class as a positive ruling of a reinvigorated modern-context-relevant Shari’a.

          In such a context, (consensual) homosexual acts become a matter between the perpetrator and God only.

          And God knows best.

      • Matthew Johnson says:

        Salaam alaykum Abu Sheik

        I had not noticed the link until now in this post. I have already replied to you via my response to Ahmed B’ s response, but now I read the link I do feel I must reply directly.

        1. In these supposed ‘proofs’ on the link I note none of the hadith about the prophet doing things like pulling peoples teeth out and so on have proper isnads supplied, nor any indication of their degree of reliability. From what I understand of the character of the Prophet these sound like highly dubious reports.

        2. In fact, despite severe provocation, the Prophet is recorded on many occasions as taking no punitive action against those who insulted him. Even to those who actually opposed him with force he was very often merciful, though on occasion he was unable be so. Violence was for him, as far all great prophets and sages, a last resort, and Peace and Mercy always the proffered options wherever possible.

        3. The hyper sensitive attitude you exemplify here, one that effectively precludes anyone from even questioning the actions of the Prophet, with the accompanying veiled or not so veiled threats, is amongst the various things that are causing the great religion of Islam to be viewed by many as abhorent and intrinsically intolerant and violent. You therefore do your religion no service by this post, I respectfully suggest.

        4. In fact, as I hope you will agree following Ahmed B’s and my previous response, I had no intention in any case of impugning the Prophet. But the idea that in world of so many different beliefs, cultures, and attitudes that no-one is allowed to (peacefully) express a negative opinion of the Prophet is, frankly, ludicrous.

        “The Servants of the Lord of Mercy are those who walk humbly on Earth, and who, when the foolish address them, reply ‘Peace’” Quran [25:63]

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Assalamu ‘alaikum Matthew,

        Thanks for your extensive response. I see where you are coming from now, and it helps to clarify things a lot. You raise two interrelated, though nonetheless separate, issues: (1) what behaviors revelation declares sinful (i.e., prohibits), and (2) which of these sins revelation simultaneously treats as crimes, subject, in principle, to worldly punishment (albeit under very tight conditions in the case of the hudud). All crimes are sins, though not all sins are crimes.

        You have mostly been taking issue with whether same-sex behavior in Islam should even be considered sinful (or, rather, “prohibited” — ‘haram’) in the first place, but as it turns out, your main issue is actually with its “punishability.” Can we agree that these are actually two separate issues which should not be confused? One could, as Tariq Ramadan does, offer pragmatic and procedural reasons for why the hudud should be suspended in current circumstances without this having any implication whatsoever for the MORAL status of the acts to which the hudud apply. Indeed, with respect to the topic at hand (homosexual acts), Tariq Ramadan himself has firmly and consistently maintained and defended the view — both before and after his moratorium call — that such acts are categorically forbidden in Islam, that this is a matter of consensus on the part of Muslim scholars, and that Muslims should not be pressured (and, by implication, should not succumb to pressure) to change this MORAL stance with respect to the acts in question. [At the same time, he has counseled — as have I and many others on this board as well — understanding, support, and compassion for sincere Muslims struggling with deep-seated homosexual desires with which they must somehow contend.]

        So I think it should be clear that we cannot “change” the inherent moral status of an act just because we wish to avert excesses in the way punishment for that act is sometimes meted out. (I put “change” here in parentheses because we cannot, in fact, “change” the status that God Himself has given to an act, but only misrepresent it — i.e., lie about it — to ourselves and others.) If it is true, as you contend, that homosexual acts are sometimes punished with prejudicial rigor when compared to other acts (like male-female zina, as you point out — a serious sin/crime as well), this should not cause us to err in the opposite direction, i.e.: In order to address the issue of punishment, we must go all the way to declaring the act itself positively licit. For let us not forget that, quite apart from legal punishments in this world, every Muslim must account for his/her actions on the Day of Judgment, which is what really counts of course in the end. And this is why it is so critical that we not distort the true status of acts as determined by God and defined in the Shari’a. Every single person drawn to commit a same-sex erotic act, or an act of zina, or to look at pornography, or, for that matter, to backbite, to harbor envy for one’s brother, to lie, to cheat, to steal, etc., etc. — this person must have reliable knowledge of the objective status of the act in question in order to make his moral choices accordingly and to know what he will be responsible for in front of his Lord on the Day of Reckoning. The religion was sent to us to clarify these matters and these criteria, and we do ourselves and, in fact, all of mankind a disservice by obscuring the facts of the matter regarding basic halal and haram.

        Dear brother, if I gave you enough examples, say, of male-female couples in some country being unjustly prosecuted and punished for zina, do you think you would be arguing that extra-marital sex (including adultery) should, for that reason, be regarded as permissible, or as merely “reprehensible” rather than “prohibited”? Highly unlikely. You would probably, à la Tariq Ramadan, campaign against the abusive implementation of the punishments, which violate both the letter and the spirit of the Shari’a, the explicit order of the Prophet (saas) to try to AVOID implementing the hudud whenever possible (many current regimes seem happy to rush to their implementation at the drop of the hat, which itself constitutes a most grotesque distortion of our religion, the religion of rahma), and the historical record of past Muslim societies where Islam was strong, the Shari’a was uncontested . . . and the hudud penalties, according to court records spanning many centuries, seem to have been relatively rare occurrences. But were we to go all the way to the approval of homosexual acts merely as a response to prejudiciously rigorous punishment, would we not be committing the opposite error of being prejudiciously lenient on the question of the (inherent, objective) moral status of acts — giving gay sex a special pass while not doing so for other behaviors of the same category? (Note once again that Western society came to give gay sex a pass only once it had already given other sexual behaviors previously considered immoral a free pass as well.)

        You ask about someone with strong homosexual tendencies who feels they can neither marry successfully nor remain celibate, and whether it would not be “better” for them to satisfy their desires in the context of an exclusive long-term loving relationship as an alternative to the “astonishing promiscuity” generally characteristic of the gay lifestyle (particularly among men). On an intuitive level, I think I would be inclined to say yes, it would be “better” on a number of levels. But this would be “better” in the sense of “the lesser of two evils,” not “better” in the sense of inherently correct, good, or right in and of itself, let alone something to be “celebrated.” Again — and I know this will sound harsh given the rhetorical context of our contemporary Western societies — the fact remains that “long-term, committed, monogamous, loving same-sex relationships” (assuming they include a sexual and erotic element) are haram. It may be “better” to steal only $20 rather than $100 if that’s all you can do, but it’s stealing nonetheless (not a great analogy, I know, but you get my point). Would I rather face Allah on the Day of Judgment with the $20 on my record rather than the $100? Yes, for sure. But I’d rather not have to account for stealing at all, right?

        But who among us, I ask you — and on the basis of what authority — can say with respect to a given individual with same-sex desires that such a person definitively CANNOT remain within the bounds of the law? Does Allah not promise us repeatedly in the Qur’an that He never lays upon a soul a burden greater than it CAN bear? How many times does a teenage boy have to slip up and masturbate for us to determine that he is “incapable” of refraining from this activity and so we should declare it permissible for him (while maintaining the prohibition for others who may be as strongly tempted but manage to refrain)? How many times do I have to slip up with Internet porn, constantly repenting and swearing never to return only to fall into the pit anew, before I can simply give up and say that it’s okay for me to peek? Does not the human moral struggle essentially consist in sinning, repenting, sinning again, repenting again, and so on? We try to avoid and reduce our sin as much as possible as we grow spiritually over time, but will any of us ever be without it entirely? Did not the Prophet (saas) say in a hadith that Allah loves to forgive and loves to turn back to those who turn to Him in repentance, and that “if you were not to sin, He would take you away and bring in your place a people who would sin, so that they could then repent and He could then forgive and return unto them?”

        Again, let us try to apply consistent principles and standards here — in both directions. Is a Muslim with strong same-sex desires somehow expected to be more perfect and blameless than the rest of his brothers and sisters? They may fall (sexually) and repent, but if he falls, he’s consigned to eternal Hellfire? All of us expect that on the Day of Judgment our bad deeds will be weighed against our good ones and Allah will judge our overall merit and destiny, which we hope to be favorable despite our many failings, but for someone whose failings include lapses into same-sex intimacy, all of his good deeds are automatically of no avail? I can find nothing in our religion to substantiate such a point of view.

        Once again, we must judge impartially and with a clear head according to what we have been given. The Shari’a does not, in fact, distinguish a category of sexual sins called “same-sex acts” (as opposed to “opposite-sex acts”). Among haram actions, some are kaba’ir (major sins), while others are sagha’ir (minor sins). [Catholic moral theology differentiates similarly between “mortal” and “venial” sins.] As I have said before, “homosexual” is a purely modern category, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it doesn’t show up as such in our tradition. Many may be surprised to learn this, but among “homosexual” acts (again, there’s no Arabic word for that), it is specifically male sodomy — and male sodomy alone — that is classified as a kabira, right along with male-female zina. Books and treatises listing major sins (al-kaba’ir) in Islam mention things like shirk, murder, drinking wine, zina, LIWAT (which means “sodomy,” not “homosexuality”), dishonoring one’s parents, not performing the five daily prayers, intentionally missing a day of fasting in Ramadan with no valid excuse, etc., etc.

        According to the norms of our religion, then, any non-married Muslim who has had premarital sex (with an opposite-gender partner) has actually committed a greater sin, by the standards of the Shari’a, than, say, two guys who have “fooled around” but not committed actual sodomy. Similarly, a faithful Muslim who maintains his daily prayers but has occasionally slipped up on account of his same-sex desires (and repented) would, all else being equal, stand to fare much better on the Day of Judgment than a perfectly “straight” Muslim who neglected his prayers. But that’s not how we normally think about things, is it?

        So in the end, as I said before, when dealing with any given individual, you work with them however you can from wherever they are standing. If someone is involved in a same-sex relationship, you counsel them to get out of it. If they feel they don’t have the strength to cut it off right away, you might suggest, as a minimum, that there be no actual sodomy going on (since the Shari’a does consider sodomy to be qualitatively on a different level than other acts — a distinction which is not captured at all in Western approaches to the topic). Being involved in same-sex behavior that falls short of sodomy is “better” than engaging in sodomy, of course, but it’s still not “okay.” If a person says they absolutely cannot refrain, we would hope that at least they stay clear of the most serious sins. But we would continue to encourage them to leave off the sin altogether and not be content on their behalf that they should remain in it indefinitely. But this doesn’t mean that, in order to show compassion and understanding for someone’s struggle, we have to go all the way to condoning the behavior itself, let alone normalizing it.

        So yes, certain things are halal and certain things are haram, but life itself is not black and white and the moral struggle is inescapably fraught with ambiguity. We help and support people as best we can in their unique struggles. The test of having strong same-sex desires is no walk in the park, but we cannot say that it is impossible either. Indeed, one reason I have been so insistent in my posts is because I know perfectly well that there are Muslims out there who experience same-sex desires but who nevertheless struggle hard to remain faithful to their Lord and their deen, and who would never consider reinterpreting the clear teachings of the faith just to let themselves off the hook, even though their struggle may be hard. Undercutting the integrity of their struggle by proffering weak arguments for the acceptance of gay sex not only dishonors the religion of Allah, but the integrity of many of His faithful, struggling servants as well.

        Wassalamu ‘alaikum,
        Ahmad B.

      • Ahmad B. says:

        … oh, and because I am also aware that many people, and from many different faith backgrounds, have credibly reported various degrees of success in their struggle with same-sex attractions, eventually reaching a point where they no longer have the upper hand over one. There is a LOT of literature out there on stuff like this (though of course none of it is considered “mainstream,” since it directly challenges the very narrow orthodoxy that now prevails on the topic of homosexuality in the public sphere).

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Assalamu ‘alaikum Matthew once again,

        Regarding what you say about your background and the dissonance you sometimes feel, don’t think this is unique to you because you are a convert. As I mentioned in my post to Abu Milk Sheikh, many Muslims in the West (and even in the East now too, since the “West” has effectively been globalized) face very similar questions and dilemmas as you do. They are presented with two normative paradigms — Islam and secular liberal Western modernity (or however you want to characterize it) — both of which, at least in principle, represent comprehensive worldviews. I agree with you that the two may overlap on any number of issues, but they are definitely distinct at some of the deepest levels, and so conflicts are bound to arise. I have found that one of the best ways to deal with this is to really excavate the concepts on each side as thoroughly as possible in order to judge matters on a deep, rather than a superficial, level. I have tried to do some of that work here in these posts, but of course, there’s a lot more that could be said on each and every point.

        Since you’re from England, you could certainly do worse than to take from your illustrious compatriot, Sh. Abdal Hakim Murad (Tim Winter), whom I consider a genius and definitely one of the most profound and eloquent Muslim thinkers and writers on Islamic issues in the English language. If you are not familiar with his work, you can find his many writings at (http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/ahm/), as well as some Friday khutbas at (http://cambridgekhutbasetc.blogspot.com/).

        As for issues related to violence — particularly jihad and warfare as it appears in the Qur’an and the life/practice of the Prophet (saas), Sahaba, and early community — have a look at “Jihad and the Islamic Law of War” (Google it and you can download a PDF right away).

        Anyway, all the best to you, brother. Take issues one at a time, don’t feel like you have to answer every question at once, and make sure to prioritize in all of this your actual worship of and relationship with Allah, your Creator — presumably your main purpose for converting to Islam in the first place, no?

        It’s been great connecting with you on this board. May Allah give you tawfiq!

        Yours,
        Ahmad B.

  38. Bronson Hanson says:

    Yeah! Sex between two men? EVIL. Sex between a man in his 50s and an 8-year-old girl? That’s totally normal and logical.

    • Ahmad B. says:

      Well, it is “totally normal and logical” if you consider that:

      (1) our bodies and sexuality have a natural, God-given, objective teleology and “fit” (which is always violated by same-sex behavior, particularly penetrative male intercourse, regardless of the age or “consent” of the parties involved); and

      (2) there is nothing inherently objectionable in a sexually mature male and sexually mature female consummating their lawful marriage. The dominant opinion is that A’isha was nine, not eight, when her marriage to the Prophet Muhammad was consummated, and it was only done once she had begun menstruating, an event which marks the onset of NATURAL sexual maturity in a female.

      From a totally objective perspective, I think it is hard to argue that human beings reach sexual maturity in their early teens (or before), but somehow it’s completely unconscionable that they should, even within a proper context (such as a marriage), engage in the activities their bodies have now prepared them to engage in. This repugnance is actually hypocritical coming from people in the modern West, where there are practically no sexual limits left and where it is all but taken for granted that “kids” will start having sex as soon as they are able to. (Ever heard of condoms being passed out to ten- and eleven-year-olds in 5th- and 6th-grade public school classrooms?)

      The cognitive dissonance we feel in the modern age with the case of A’isha’s marriage goes back primarily to our notion that she was a “child” at the time of the consummation. Notions of childhood are not constant over time and place, and in fact, our contemporary notions of childhood are a relatively recent development (say, of the last 300 years or so, maybe a little longer). This certainly has to do with changing circumstances regarding production and overall way of life as we move into an industrialized society, and especially the rise of things like compulsory schooling which prolongs “childhood” by keeping 5-year-olds and 15-year-olds engaged in essentially the same process of sitting behind a desk at school from 9:00-3:00 everyday.

      Before this, the life of a 15-year-old in most times and places would have looked very different from the life of a 5-year-old. I doubt, for example, that there is anywhere where a 15-year-old would not have been considered a full adult (which, biologically speaking, of course they would be, as long as they had hit puberty). It was not uncommon even in the West, just a century ago, for girls to be married at this age, and very commonly by the age of eighteen. Did you know, Mr. Hanson, that in the state of Massachusetts, the official marriage age for girls (with parental permission) is — or at least was — twelve?

      In a situation, like in 7th-century Arabia and many other places, where you don’t have thirteen years of compulsory education, followed by four years of college, then graduate school, etc., what’s the point of waiting around for years and years after you’ve hit puberty to get married and start your own family, which is what your life is mostly going to consist of (especially for women)? In this sense, our modern notion that anyone under the (arbitrary) age of eighteen is a “child” is actually ludicrous. Alexander the Great was only 17 when he set out to conquer the world, and there are numerous military and political heroes throughout the ages who similarly achieved many great exploits while still in their teenage years. In their contexts, they were treated as adults as soon as they reached their natural sexual majority (menstruation for women, ejaculation for men), and were by no means considered or treated as “children” in our particularly modern sense of this term.

      Now, people often have an issue with the large age difference between the Prophet and A’isha at the time of their marriage, but we must remember that this acute sensitivity to age and age parity goes hand and hand with our notion of a very prolonged childhood and other related factors. It has been very common in many times and places for older men to marry women significantly younger than themselves, and this was never looked at askance by anyone. The Prophet’s worst enemies accused him of many things, but no one in his society (or even in pre-modern Europe) ever faulted him for marrying such a young bride. A’isha herself was known to be a very sprightly and strong-willed woman, and went on to become one of early Islam’s greatest scholars and highest religious authorities — hardly signs of “trauma” suffered on account of being a would-be victim of “pedophilia,” as modern critics like to taunt. (Please note also that the Prophet’s very first marriage was a monogamous union to a twice widowed woman named Khadija who was 15 years his ELDER — he was 25, she was 40 when they married — a union which lasted for 25 years until her death. Most of the other wives the Prophet married after Khadija’s death were similarly older widows, so clearly age wasn’t much of a factor in their society — or, at least not in the Prophet’s own calculus. These facts and others also render meaningless the common accusation that the Prophet was primarily motivated in his later years by lust, rather than the imperative of providing a home and shelter to widowed women and, also, of building important social and political alliances for the early Muslim community by marrying women of different tribes.)

      Am I arguing that in our day and age it makes sense to marry off our daughters at nine years of age, in our modern industrial societies with their many years of schooling, delayed families, etc.? No, I am not saying that at all. Circumstances have changed to render such an arrangement out of place. But I am arguing that if it is not appropriate in our time and place, this is for purely circumstantial and contingent reasons (which deserve to be taken into account, obviously). And as I mentioned in a previous post to Matthew Johnson, Islam has never REQUIRED that girls (or boys) be married immediately upon reaching their natural sexual majority (i.e., puberty), so no one is doing wrong in not engaging in such early marriages or, for that matter, in judging them inappropriate for our specific circumstances, despite the fact that the Prophet Muhammad did engage in such a marriage — appropriately and with no blame on him whatsoever — in the context of his own circumstances which, on this score, are substantially different from ours.

      Apart from contingent circumstances such as the ones that have given rise to the modern “17-year-old child,” the fact remains that there can be found to be nothing INHERENTLY objectionable in a sexually mature human being engaging in and consummating his/her marriage with a lawful partner (of the opposite sex, naturally). The fact that contemporary Western society sees nothing wrong with two 13-year-olds having sex, or a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old, for that matter (since they’re both “children”), but criminalizes a sexual relationship between, say, an 18-year-old boy (excuse me, man) and a 17-year-old girl (I would say “woman,” but the law calls her a “child”), is completely arbitrary and culturally specific. These are artificial legal definitions and categorizations that do not map on to the natural sexual development of human beings, and thus cannot be employed as a “neutral” grid for passing moral judgment on people who lived in circumstances very different from our own.

      So yes, Islam essentially PERMITS marriage between a sexually mature male and a sexually mature female (while recognizing that sexual maturity, on its own, may not constitute a sufficient bar for marriage in all circumstances), while it FORBIDS same-sex intercourse and other erotic activities for all the reasons I have enumerated in my various posts, regardless of the age or mutual consent of the parties involved.

      And yes, this is totally logical and makes perfect moral and ethical sense.

    • Hyde says:

      Sex with a 17 years old, 51 week, 364 day, 23 hour, 59 minute, 59 second girl…rape….Next second she can be a porn star
      ‘started from the bottom now we here”

  39. Waqas says:

    Salam! I showed this article to some non-Muslim friends of mine of philosophical background, and they were confused about how you intertwined sexuality with the notion of ‘metaphysics’. For example, where you mention that sex plays an important role in metaphysics. Could you explain what you mean by this, or are you using the term metaphysics loosely? How does a sexual act impact the reality of the universe?

  40. Mitchell says:

    Since you have a masters degree in something that isn’t a science-I’m going to go ahead and dismiss your opinion entirely based on moral value judgements, because in your long, overly long, hate speech against LGBTQ people you do nothing but using crap logic to back up your backward ass opinion. It’s necessary to point that out because your argument turns into vitriol. You compare a scientifically based fact to otherkin… I don’t know how you have any kind of moral input on the world, why do you do it? Do you sleep comfortably at night knowing gay people get murdered? I just don’t get why your hashtags include the following: “LIBERALISM, HOMOSEXUALITY, SCOTUS” ISLAM”. None of this is liberal… unless your in that camp thats decrying liberalism and calling it neo colonialism (what?).

    Let us exam your holy hadith!

    Narrated Khalid bin Sad:

    We went out and Ghalib bin Abjar was accompanying us. He fell ill on the way and when we arrived at Medina he was still sick. Ibn Abi ‘Atiq came to visit him and said to us, “Treat him with black cumin. Take five or seven seeds and crush them (mix the powder with oil) and drop the resulting mixture into both nostrils, for ‘Aisha has narrated to me that she heard the Prophet saying, ‘This black cumin is healing for all diseases except As-Sam.’ Aisha said, ‘What is As-Sam?’ He said, ‘Death.”

    Narrated by Bukhari.

    So the next time you quote “lut” which only Allah knows the real deal- I hope you practice this and adhere to the the Hadith.

    • Umm Muhammad says:

      …What just happened? Is this a joke?

      • Matthew Johnson says:

        If it’s a joke, its not a very funny one.

        Although I remain ultimately unconvinced by Daniel’s argumentation, to call it hate speech is ridiculous. I think in this person’s view, hate speech = expressing an opinion he does not like. To that extent, he’s in the same camp as the people that want to kill anyone who dares say something negative about the Prophet (AS).

    • Hyde says:

      Why did you come here? What did you think you would accomplish, other than appearing foolish and emotionally insecure, which is the summary of your pathetic comment. “Neo -Colonialism?’ Yeah the larger gay agenda is neo colonialism and well part of the White Supremacy that everybody runs their mouth about.

      And you know how bias you are towards LGBTs…how dare you put T after the LG?? Are not trans worthy to be before L and G’s. Shame on you and your ‘backward ass’ prejudice.

  41. Mitchell says:

    Okay- lets play by your logic and say its an opinion. What am I joking about? It’s not a joke that horrible things happen to LGBT Muslims and to LGBT folks who aren’t muslims… why would that be funny?

    This opinion leads many LGBTQ Muslims (like myself) into mental anguish, and most of us leave the religion. There’s a space for Gay Muslims, and the author won’t offer us that, so we have to defend ourselves.

    To that extent- our identities are erased and ignored, and we’re told to “be celibate and be cured”.

    Lol at the same camp- no, thats really really absurd logic.

    I

    • Abdul Wahhab says:

      Assalamu ‘alaikum Mitchell,

      There are also plenty of Muslims who have same-sex desires and attractions, but who stay within the deen and accept its teachings on sexual morality. It’s tragic that someone should lose hope and give up on the deen over this issue. I say that respectfully and without at all meaning to underestimate the difficulty of your situation. Some people have been at a point where they wanted to die over this and be swallowed up into the earth, but are now in a much better place, with a much different perspective on their life, their situation, and their possibilities. May Allah grant you solace and ease your path!

      • Hyde says:

        There is NO Classical Islamic Thought nor creed nor “Books” that have a post 20th century sexual revolution theme you would see as a solution. Islam is not monolithic…to what one point…is there a view that we should allow for worship of Budhha too? LOL…don’t confuse Islamic diversity with faux paus liberal idiocy.

        Sweeti, I didn’t call her a lesbian. Notice the comma. The Gay Imam, is the Gay Imam Daayiee Abdullah (and yeah if he is an Imam, then I’m bloody Robin Hood). Are you calling me misguided? Wow, you people have this as a counter initiate ‘to start calling other people misguided’. Almost like being called kaffir by an ex Muslim sort of. LOL.

        I swear there is a homosexual agenda. That is why they are teaching seven year old how to masturbate with the same gender. Why entire curriculums are being re written to accommodate ‘sexual fluidity’. Why the entire society is being shifted to see the so called plight of homosexuals. You really have to be not just naïve but superstitiously malignant to think there is not a ‘homosexual agenda’. Shame on you. Did you ever wonder what would happened if being gay was something that only affected poor blacks? Only happened in some immigrant ghetto? NOBODY would care ever. So yes it is part of the larger Supremacy Neo Colonial Structure. And I need therapy? For what? Being a heteronormative? Not being able to be attracted to the same gender? Not fantasying about ‘other kins’?

        http://www.lamppostproductions.com/the-homosexual-challenge-to-muslim-ethics/
        http://www.lamppostproductions.com/reflections-on-a-supreme-court-verdict-gay-marriage/

        Again DID YOU READ his essay? He makes it obvious through his research and analysis that these “equalities” are not only manifesting around us but that they utterly do precisely exist as they are. My comment may be piggish or disheartening but guess what? I ain’t here to make you feel good about yourself. Maybe you are the one that needs a therapist (notice how I never told in my comments homosexuals need help or they need to be cured. Did you notice that? Because I don’t care that you are gay or they are gays out there. I am not offering cures. I’m defending a Principle. A PRINCPLE, not a feeling nor emotions. Yet you have no issue whatsoever telling others go seek therapy. Again double shame on you. Double bias from you).

        OBVIOUSLY IT IS AN ISSUE BECAUSE THAT IS WHY HE WROTE THIS!!!!! What is wrong with you? How the heck is he sweeping it under a ‘masjid rug’ if he wrote this long essay on it???? OBVIOUSLY HOMOSEXUAL MUSLIMS exist; where in the heck is he saying they do not exist??? Where did I make the assertion ‘there is no such thing as gay Muslims’? For the millionth time, you people always prove my point. Whalli Always. You never respond with facts or analysis just pure emotions or feelings. Tsk Tsk…

        I am seeing this perfunctory heartfelt plea for GTNL….sorry if you can’t see yourself. Don’t waste your duas on me. Don’t patronize me with religious pin points that make you think you have a justification. Tomorrow there will be scholar that says Al-Laath can be incorporated into Isha Prayer. Go enjoy that interpretation as well.

        (Ten-Thousands Scholars will say something you don’t care for because of your obsession with your sexuality and one secular clown will come along and offer an ‘alternative’, and you will make him/her/they/is/otherkin your holy man. So much for “They have taken to their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah”)

        You utterly insult The Word of God in my opinion by your cherry picking verses to think you have any point whatsoever. Go be gay and enjoy your life.

        Salaam

    • Hyde says:

      Did you not read the part about woe-is-me poor emotional sad sucker story? What is it with you? What about others people who suffer? Are they less? A 16 yr kid who wants to have sex with a pretty girl is told repeatedly to fast or lower his gaze. There are no solutions given to him at that age.
      You will leave this religion for one reason or another, if your mind is made up, so don’t play that game. What is exactly do you want? It will never ever be sanctified to be a homosexual and be a ‘good public Muslim’. That is the end of the story. You could be gay, as you say your are and enjoy your life both as being a homosexual and a Muslim…yup! you can. Live with it. The books will never change for you. Never. Be with Amina Wudud, the Gay Imam, or the dastardly secular re-interpenetration of the story of Lut(p) and live your life. But there will be Islamic acceptance of gay marriage so oh well gotta live with as well.

      Gay Spaces? There is also Bestial Spaces and Pedo Spaces and the author is not letting someone defend that as well? right ?
      Offer solutions? Daniel is not a Psychotherapist nor a camp counselor nor your bff. And please be honest, there is only one solution you want to hear (because if you cared for anything else SURPRISE read the essay!!!!). There is ALWAYS one solution homosexuals want to hear, only one. Because of the many other things ppl identify with, you choose your sexuality identity. Nothing else exist for but how you can be sexually involved with someone else? Is that it?
      And P.S. if you are a lesbian, you actually have it easier. Read into that

      • Mitchell says:

        Hyde-

        It seems clear that you only want to adhere to the “one answer solution for homosexuals” argument. I read the article, and I happen to disagree with the authors of “debating homosexuality. What books? If you want to get into a fiqh and sharia debate about the “books”, there are countless scholars who will disagree with you. There are different schools of Islamic Thought, and I clearly do not fit into yours. Surprise! Islam is not a monolithic religion ( the simplest example is Shia and Sunni).

        I am shocked at you calling Amina Wadud a lesbian, she is not, and she has repeatedly said this. You just want something to yell at and point fingers, you are one of the misguided. Ask Allah for forgiveness for falsely accusing someone of something they are not- which is one of the most heinous sins in Islam (or at least my sect).

        You also absurdly insinuate that there is a gay agenda somehow tied with neocolonialism and then throwing in white supremacy. I do hope you are seeking some kind of therapy or counsel, that really was a far fetched one for me to even try to process. And as for your remark about the LGBT acronym- it is alarming that you think I, or anyone else by using that acronym is “lessening trans” (I’m still not quite sure what to make of your paragraphs- they are disjointed). That acronym is used by millions of people- gay or straight.

        As for your other alarming comment- comparing “gay spaces” to pedophilia and beastiality, is disheartening. They aren’t even something you could logically equate- But since your alarmist language and piggish comments show an utter lack of understanding of the world around you, I again hope you seek counsel with a therapist.

        As for the author, no- he is not my “bff or my camp counselor”- but if you are going to take on this issue, you can’t sweep the elephant in the masjid under a prayer rug and provide the standard interpretation of the story.

        Surah 9:61 ” They have taken to their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah”

        “Homosexuals want to hear only what they want to hear” There are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Muslims.

        Surah 49:13 “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted”

        Do you reject that God has created mankind in differences? Do you know better than The Almighty? The Most Gracious? The Oft-Forgiving? The Most Merciful?

        Several studies in humans have shown that there are biological correlations for sexual orientation- this is not evidence you can toss aside and pout about. God created mankind- he knows best. If there is biological evidence, then it becomes necessary to re-examine the Hadith and Fiqh. If you want to ignore evidence, I do not need to guide you to it . As for what I want? I want a better dialogue on the story of Lut (AS). I want the whole picture out there, I want other scholars to have these articles from whatever school they come from to debate this because historically- we see changes in the interpretation of the story of Lut (AS).

        I’m making my most heartfelt Dua for you that maybe you will see the plight of other LGBT folks in the Muslim world and that the Almighty will be with you in all your future endeavors- for it is the Most Mericful, Allah himself who has given us signs for the people who think.

        Surah 13:3 “And it is He who has spread the earth wide and placed on it firm mountains and running waters, and created thereon two sexes of every [kind of] plant; [and it is He who] causes the night to cover the day. Verily, in all this there are messages indeed for people who think!”
        Surah 13:4 “And there are on earth [many] tracts of land close by one another [and yet widely differing from one another]; and [there are on it] vinyards, and fields of grain, and date-palms growing in clusters from one root or standing alone, [all] watered with the same water: and yet, some of them have We favoured above others by way of the food [which they provide for man and beast]. Verily, in all this there are messages indeed for people who use their reason!”

        This was a book in which no doubt was for the people who use their reason, and for the people who think.

        AsSalaam Alaykum.

    • Lenna says:

      Several studies in humans have shown that there are biological correlations for sexual orientation- this is not evidence you can toss aside

      Actually, yes we can toss them aside. People may be born with all kinds of inclinations, but those inclinations don’t justify sinful behavior. I’ve had a mean demon temper since I was a toddler. Maybe I was born with it? Maybe not. Either way, I can’t go around punching people in the face when they set me off. My test is to control that temper. Someone else’s test is same sex attraction.

      No one makes a man sodomize another man. That’s a choice. And not one accepted in Islamic doctrine, period.

      • Mitchell says:

        Hi Lenna,

        Thank you for your in depth analysis of biology and behavior, and have essentially dismissed decades of research on sexual orientation. People are not born with inclinations to murder, to rape, to kill, to steal, these are environmentally learned behaviors which are abhorrent. We cannot throw science aside in the modern world, if we want to ignore what science has discovered (please don’t post debunked journal articles, my eyebrow might permanently fix to its raised position) then we should reject many scientific findings that have only made the world more beautiful.

        Sexual orientation does not equal sodomy. I’m not too concerned with your opinion, rather maybe you want to examine what you think sexual orientation and sex are, what types of sex there are, and really crack open an Islamic History book because I guarantee that “doctrine” has changed over time- period.

        You can mudsling at me all you want. Allah made me a strong believer, and guides me as it says in the Qur’an that in nature are the signs for the people who think.

    • Lenna says:

      Thank you for your in depth analysis of biology and behavior, and have essentially dismissed decades of research on sexual orientation.

      I don’t need to do an “in depth analysis” and I don’t need to quote any journals refuting the theory that people are “born gay.” My point is it doesn’t matter if they are or they are not. Most people have powerful sexual urges as part of their inborn nature, and yet if they are not married, they are expected to refrain, regardless of “sexual orientation.” We are required to avoid sin as part of our test in this life. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be a test.

      Sexual orientation does not equal sodomy.

      I’m not equating the two. I was giving an example.

      rack open an Islamic History book because I guarantee that “doctrine” has changed over time- period.

      No, the doctrine has NEVER changed. The interpretation changes over time. Allah said clearly, “This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion” Quran 5:3. The whole point is that you can’t just make up whatever you want based on the present-day zeitgeist. Homosexual behavior always has been and always will be a sin, just as zina always has been and always will be a sin, no matter how many people indulge or what excuses they proffer for their sinful behavior.

      You can mudsling at me all you want.

      I didn’t say anything about YOU personally at all. Emotionally manipulative “you’re insulting me” or “my feelings are hurt” arguments are irrelevant, in my view. Homosexual behavior remains a sin in Islam, no matter how people “feel” about that ruling.

      • Mitchell says:

        Hi Leena,

        Thanks for your reply. First things first- the definition of mudslinging : the use of insults and accusations, especially unjust ones, with the aim of damaging the reputation of an opponent.

        It’s an insult and unjust to “toss them aside” and that “it doesn’t matter if they are or aren’t” born with those “inclinations. Using a loaded term like sodomy and “using it as an example” in reference to homosexuality, is an insult. Its still insulting to use the word “sodomize” when you can’t say gay sex. Then you accuse me of using emotional manipulation?

        “The doctrine has NEVER changed, the interpretation has”. What do you think doctrine is? Doctrine changes-thats a fact. There have been many things in Islam that were doctrine that have been changed. Again, theres a great deal of knowledge out there on islamic history, teachings, interpretations, sects, etc (there are muftis who believe the earth is flat).

        This was a great piece http://islamicommentary.org/2015/07/same-sex-relationships-the-fluidity-of-marriage-in-islamic-history-by-ali-a-olomi/

        “Most people have powerful sexual urges as part of their inborn nature, and yet if they are not married, they are expected to refrain, regardless of sexual orientation.” People do have sexual urges, so why can’t gay people get married then? There’s nothing absolutely nothing that says homosexuals can’t get married in the Quran. Theres also nothing in the Qur’an, absolutely nothing against same-sex behavior unless it is witnessed by 4 people of the public practice of adultery- its a little worse for women. Unless you’re outside having sex where people can see you- who are you to care?

        Are you facing this test? Just out of curiosity. Because I would like to know how you deal with it if you are.

        ASalaam Alaykum!

        • Lenna says:

          Walaikum salaam,

          It’s an insult and unjust to “toss them aside”

          The reason I will “toss aside” the “born gay” argument is that it’s irrelevant. As I’ve already explained, being born with a particular inclination does not absolve sinful behavior. As for this assertion being perceived as an insult or unjust, I care about what Islamic doctrine actually says, not about how people feel about what it says.

          Using a loaded term like sodomy and “using it as an example” in reference to homosexuality

          Sodomy, anal sex specifically, isn’t universal among homosexual men, but it is common, unhygienic, and clearly forbidden. I will use whatever example I feel best drives home my point.

          What do you think doctrine is?

          In this case, the Qur’an and authentic hadith.

          This was a great piece…

          Irrelevant to my argument. The fact some Muslims have done certain things in the past, and perhaps continue to do so in the present day, in no way changes what is defined as sin in Islamic doctrine. For example, even if every Muslim on the planet suddenly began eating pork, that would not change Islamic doctrine, and as such, would not make pork halal.

          People do have sexual urges, so why can’t gay people get married then?

          Marriage is a beneficial social institution that provides a stable environment for the raising of the next generation. Marriage preserves and perpetuates the society. I have no interest in subsidizing, through various tax benefits for example, same-sex marriage, which does not positively contribute–and is arguably destructive.

          In the case of Muslims in particular, because homosexual behavior is sinful and prohibited in Islam.

          There’s nothing absolutely nothing that says homosexuals can’t get married in the Quran.

          Homosexual behavior is sinful and prohibited in Islam, and therefore, obviously, it follows that homosexuals are not permitted to marry.

          Theres also nothing in the Qur’an, absolutely nothing against same-sex behavior unless it is witnessed by 4 people of the public practice of adultery.

          This burden of proof standard, in and of itself, suggests the act in question is not only a sin, but a crime.

          Unless you’re outside having sex where people can see you- who are you to care?

          I’m not and never have been particularly interested in what goes on in the privacy of people’s bedrooms, though I do find it relevant that homosexual activity contributes disproportionately to the STD epidemic now plaguing the US.

          Quite aside from that very practical consideration, when homosexuals insist on advertising their sins, and then attempt to convince others their sins are not really sins, and ultimately demand a moral seal of approval from the public, it most certainly is my concern. Corrupting society’s moral compass and overturning the social order impacts everyone. Gay marriage is a public issue.

          Are you facing this test?

          Which test? No, I don’t grapple with same sex attraction. But I’m not married and therefore am also required to refrain. And I do. Hypothetically if I were to lose control, I would keep my sin private. And I most certainly would not try to suggest that zina is not really a sin, just because it would be more convenient for me to do so under those circumstances.

      • Hyde says:

        Salaam,
        Your small concise comments are perhaps the best rebuttal I’ve seen on this post. Small and to the point. Jazkullaha.

  42. SirMagpieDeCrow says:

    Here is my two cents on the issue. I think this whole argument about the legitimacy, or sinfulness or classification of homosexuality (is it sexual deviance? is it a mental disorder) is frankly infantile, alarmist and futile. What is really the most important problem facing the Islamic community right now around the world? Is it two men consensually cohabiting? Or is it muslims so religiously disillusioned they leave the faith to become atheists or secularists who then start blogs condemning clerics in Saudi-Arabia? Or is it dancing by women without their chador to the beat of an American music producer in Tehran? No, I think not. Maybe it is the growing, metastasizing ideology that is taking over Islamic theology that is implementing sexual slavery of religious/ethnic minorities in the Middle East, driving young people throw their lives away to kill “out of control” North American cartoonists, indoctrinating young 10-14 year old girls taken hostage to blow themselves up in Nigerian marketplaces and massacre hundreds of students in Peshawar. I also think the issue of child brides dying from vaginal hemorrhages in Sana’s because they had their “honeymoons” should be of great concern. And how about that Australian dad that instructed his child to take pride in the severed head of an enemy amid the rotting remains festooned on a fence in Syria? What in world should be the moral priorities of the faithful? Is it personal infractions by people engaged in consensual and now legal relationships in the West… or the daily escalating atrocities that are truly destroying the lives of the young and the innocent often under the direction of ghoulishly misguided clerics and other assorted religious fanatics? The reason maybe no one asks these questions is because it is more painful to contemplate them then the misdeeds of the “sodomites”. Frankly, two gay men in sexual congress bothers me less than the “pious holy men” who would like to throw them (hands and feet bound) from the balcony of a Middle East minaret.

    • Matthew Johnson says:

      This is ‘ a point’ as the french say. While I have completely admired Ahmed’s learned and humane explication of the religious position on all of this, the above encapsulates my intuitions quite well. There is an elephant in the room and meanwhile we are fussing about private sexual behaviours.

      People were will say all sorts of apologetic things about this: that the two issues are separate, that the appalling acts as described are not Islamic, and so on. None the less, one does get the impression that many muslims are far more upset by the fact that gay marriage has now been allowed in USA than by the appalling acts of their co-religionists.

      • SirMagpieDeCrow says:

        It was not my intent to obsessively go over the nauseating details of these acts of grotesque misbehavior. My point was to express legitimate frustration. My point was to express my bafflement at the petty criticisms of acts that are infinitely less corrosive to society (and the prestige of a religion) than the horrors I mentioned. I have read and consumed much information about the suffering of young victims of religious fanaticism (or religiously inspired fanaticism) so its hard for me to get worked up over the personal and private sexual interactions of consenting adults. Take for example a story regarding those who have attempted to free young girls from sexual enslavement by ISIS members in Iraq. Yazidi girls are now suffering enslavement: repeated sexual assaults, forced labor, forced impregnation and the horror of loved ones being killed. Their religious identity is being stripped away from them only to be forced to convert and then marry the very people who have killed their families. The fact that some young muslims (both male and female) from the West (Europe, Canada and the United States) who have enjoyed the personal freedoms these people can now only dream of are now participants in their abuse. That fact alone sickens me to the core. Some of these victims have for obvious reasons decided the only viable escape from this hellish existence is to take their own lives. The response of ISIS members is apparently to throw their remains to feral dogs for disposal to express their contempt for their victims last desperate act of escape.

        Now think of two men in suits holding hands and kissing during a wedding ceremony. Please someone tell me… which of these incidents truly sickens you more? Which of these sins is more monstrous than the other?

    • Hyde says:

      You could have done better with your two cents by going back in time to the 1860’s and buying yourself a Penny Dreadful instead of allowing yourself to comment because obviously you did not see the hundreds of other issues discussed on this website regarding everything else…and here is one on an Islamic viewpoint of homosexuality. ONE out of many topics discussed. And from your tone, perhaps your views are discussed in the main stream media over and over gain and on blogs such as Jihad Watch.

      • SirMagpieDeCRow says:

        Because time travel is clearly impossible or not yet feasible and also the fact that many Penny Dreadfuls have probably been preserved in the form of pdf’s online (that one can access for free) I have decided to not pursue your suggestion. One point I would like to make in regard to Penny Dreadful stories. Those were works of fiction by desperately impoverished writers. The horrific acts and ongoing travesties I described are unfortunately very much real and well documented.

        But I thank you for your humorous attempt at deflection.

        It is possible for someone such as myself to hold the beliefs that Yazidis/Kurdish girls should not be enslaved, unarmed black people should not be shot in the back by police for trivial crimes, Muslim Brotherhood protestors should not be sentenced to execution by the hundreds during “trials” that last less than a couple of weeks, that Franklin Graham is in grave error for suggesting muslims should be arbitrarily banned from immigrating to the United States and homosexuals should not abused or pushed to the margins of any society especially by intolerant/ignorant clerics and their sycophantic followers.

    • Ahmad B. says:

      Dear Sir Magpie and Br. Matthew,

      I actually agree that if you put issues up side by side, wanton killing is worse than sodomy, let alone other sexual offenses less than full sodomy. Making that judgment is actually in line with the classical Shari’a (wrongs are of different degrees of seriousness). But I agree with Hyde that this is also somewhat beside the point right here. People in the public realm try to deflect criticism of homosexual behavior, gay marriage, etc. by pointing to all these other atrocities going on in the world, but no one lives their lives like that. We take up issues as they come. If the neighbors’ kids toilet paper your yard, you’re going to deal with that. If someone steals your kid’s bicycle, that’s wrong, demands that justice be done, and you’re going to deal with that. If your local town or municipality cancels some vital service for the poor and disenfranchised, that might not be the worst thing in the world that’s going on, but you’re going to deal with it if you can. Even Muslims should be concerned about that as a question of the public good and doing right by one’s fellow man, even if they simultaneously deplore the excesses of ISIS. None of these things might be the most important thing on a global scale, but you deal with them on their own level within the realm of your involvement and competence.

      This particular article (alone among 1,000s of other articles on this site, as Hyde has pointed out) happens to be about whether a fundamental issue of halal and haram, that has been unanimously agreed upon by our umma throughout its history, should today be revised, revisited, or overturned based on considerations A, B, and C. This is not a small issue at all, as the premises on which this whole debate rides run very deep and touch on many other fundamental issues and commitments. As I have tried to point out in my posts above, this isn’t just tinkering around the edges.

      In response to Sr. Magpie, I don’t agree that Muslims here are obsessed with what other Muslims do consensually “behind closed doors.” As long as it remains behind closed doors (i.e., private), then it’s no body else’s business whatsoever. In fact, the Shari’a explicitly forbids us from butting our noses into people’s private homes to see what they are doing. But that’s NOT what this is all about, and everyone knows that quite well. It is about a PUBLIC moral claim made in the name of the religion against the Muslim community, and the demand for PUBLIC and official APPROBATION of acts that are prohibited in our religion. When you say, We want Muslim LGBT spaces or “inclusive” mosques, etc., that’s exactly what the demand is: that the community change or ignore the religion’s teachings on same-sex behavior in order to be “inclusive” of Muslims who do not wish to follow these teachings.

      Again, consistency: we would not do this for any other haram behavior. You want to drink alcohol on your own time and in your own space, go ahead. But the day you show up at the masjid with an open container and set up a table selling wine at Eid, that is not going to be accepted or tolerated — nor should it be — since you are openly and brazenly flouting religious norms (in religious “spaces” mind you too!). And that IS explicitly forbidden in the Shari’a. It’s called al-jahr bi-l-ma’siya: being open and public about acts of disobedience prohibited in the religion. You want to commit zina, go ahead. But don’t show up at the masjid flaunting the fact and presenting your significant other, live-in partner, or whatever as a legitimate relationship and expect people to just be magnanimously “inclusive” of you.

      You could also turn this whole argument around and say to the LGBT community: Why are you making such a fuss and turning the whole country upside down, causing social division, demanding a radical redefinition of the institution of marriage, etc., when all these other people around the world are suffering so much more than you are? Why don’t you put all the time, energy, and millions/billions of dollars you’ve spent on this issue into helping end poverty in Africa, donating to victims of war, rape, and genocide all over the world, etc., etc.? Your behavior has already been normalized and largely accepted in Western societies. Why push the envelope to this ridiculous extreme? Is “marriage equality” really THE human rights issue of this generation that we keep being told it is?

      This particular article is about homosexuality in Islam. We who are reading and commenting on this article are clearly interested in this issue and think it deserves due attention. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care about other issues or that we don’t recognize that there are “worse” things going on in the world. I deplore ISIS. But you know what, you tell me what you think I should be doing about ISIS from my computer screen sitting here in the West? Entire coalitions of Western and Arab governments, with all their fine military and so forth have been unable to stop them. What do you want ME to do about it? I deplore them, but I cannot affect the situation. On the other hand, I can participate in a debate about homosexuality in Islam, and perhaps even have some influence on the way this debate goes in our community and the terms in which it’s conceived. And if anyone here thought that were inconsequential, they wouldn’t be on this board to begin with, right?

  43. Ahmad B. says:

    Assalamu ‘alaikum Br. Mitchell,

    As you mention, the original article by Daniel Jou doesn’t address in any detail the proofs and arguments for the prohibition of same-sex acts in Islam. He simply states, over two paragraphs early on, that this has been the consensus view (which is a fact) and that, for this reason, he is not going to take up that issue itself but assume it as a given and go from there. The rest of the article is an attempt to show how Muslims can defend this view against secular/liberal critiques that it is irrational, ungrounded, etc.

    [I’m not sure, by the way, what you’re referring to when you say the understanding of the story of Lut (as) has changed over time. Whether this is true or not, no Muslim scholar has ever taken a position on same-sex acts — sodomy or lesser — other than prohibition; so that much, at least, has not been subject to development and change. Of course fiqh rulings, as I have detailed in a previous post, are the result of many different dalils and factors, not solely the tafsir of certain Qur’anic verses — though that is, of course, a very important and central element.]

    I understand that you, however, are asking for a larger discussion on the question of the prohibition itself. Though the article itself doesn’t go into this question, Br. Matthew Johnson and I have been engaged in a very lengthy and detailed discussion of precisely this point over the past week or so. He has largely been arguing the Scott Kugle thesis that the verses about Lut are not really about same-sex behavior per se, etc., and I have been attempting to respond to this revisionist view from the perspective of the established fiqh on the issue.

    Since you have just recently started posting, you may not have had the chance to read through all these exchanges, but I do believe they represent just the type of discussion you are requesting. I agree with you that there must be some spaces somewhere where just about anything can be discussed and questioned, as long as people bring a sincere intention and good adab (and the two are often linked, mind you). I believe this board has been providing just that sort of platform. The exchanges between Br. Matthew and me have been cordial, inquisitive, mutually challenging, I hope mutually beneficial as well, and I believe we have both ended up with a great deal of respect and liking for each other. (This is definitely the case for me, and is what I sense from Br. Matthew as well).

    This is an open discussion and anyone is welcome to participate, so why not “come on in”? I think you should, however, take the time to read through the exchanges that have already taken place above, since many aspects of the question you are asking have already been hashed out in substantial detail (on both sides).

    One point you raise which I have not addressed is the question about biological correlations for homosexual attractions and what role this should (or should not) play in our understanding and interpretation of the texts. I will try to address this point in another posting soon, insha’Allah.

    Wassalamu ‘alaikum,
    Ahmad B.

    • Mitchell says:

      Wa Alaykum Salaam Br. Ahmad,

      Thank you for your well- thought and respectful response, it is refreshing to have someone who has a welcoming tone. I will comb through the large amount of posts later on, but I’m hoping InshaAllah that the conversations from here on out are in good adab. May the Almighty guide us.

      As for the doctrine- from my extensive readings, it does seem that it has changed. Was there a consensus on it being prohibited? That I am unsure of and I do not want to misguide anyone with bad information. However, like Dr. Scott Kugle, there are several scholars that agree with him on the interpretation- and some that cannot be revealed due to “homosexuality” being such a controversial issue. When these scholars do support the different interpretation- they are largely discredited as kuffar and their work is not looked at as a serious scholarship anymore. We are starting to see a shift from that to a more open discussion and debate on this- as opposed to 20 years ago when it would just be washed off as haram and never spoken of again.

      I have always tried to use logic and reason when forming a judgment about something, and as a scientist I have to remove myself and rely on data- not interpretations. When the natural world has presented us with overwhelming evidence for so many things, It becomes clear to me that there are people who are born with this trait, and who are not. We aren’t sure what triggers it, but we know its real (obviously). The vast majority of research done on celibacy and “conversion therapy” gives us grim numbers, largely showing that people are miserable and turn to vices such as drugs, alcohol, and at worst suicide. And, conversion therapy doesn’t work.

      My friends think I’m crazy for continuing on with a religion that they say wants nothing to do with me, and to some extent they are right. I get exhausted having to explain what its like to be gay after 20 years of this it gets old, and you burn out. What I really would like to see is an engagement of our “super sheikhs” the ones with the YouTube channels, Blogs, and have larger voices in the community to sit down with LGBTQ Muslims and try to see what our lives are like. I want the people who post on these blogs to make friends with gay muslims. I don’t think thats too much to ask.

      I found this article beneficial http://islamicommentary.org/2015/07/same-sex-relationships-the-fluidity-of-marriage-in-islamic-history-by-ali-a-olomi/

      I hope you take care and may Allah the Merciful guide you.

      JazkAllah Khair

      • Hyde says:

        Wow! That pile of inane trash is coming from somebody who is a graduate student?!?!? I can’t even get into the utter disregard for Sharia and Fiqh rulings…it’s a like tumbler blog post. This is what constitutes higher learning these days.
        And then again it doe snot surprise, you went and got the first longer than three paragraph essay you could find to justufy your actions. If hundreds Islamic scholars write something that you did not like, you would ignore and then an ‘grad’ student writes some wishy washy homoerotic love tale, it’s all of sudden a defense and justification for you ?
        Maybe your friends are correct after all.

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Assalamu ‘alaikum Br. Hyde,

        Please allow me to suggest that this whole discussion might be more productive — and more pleasant — if we could all try to make our points as objectively and factually as possible, and avoid highly charged and vituperative language. I also found the article cited by Ali Olomi to be very weak and to suffer from basic conceptual and logical flaws, but referring to it as “inane trash” doesn’t help move the discussion forward and only makes your interlocutor feel disrespected. Perhaps point out its major shortcomings calmly for the benefit of all, or else just say you found it weak and move on?

        If this discussion becomes personal, then it loses its value. Note that the Prophet (saas), even when warning the worst of the kuffar of the direst of outcomes (Hell), never took low blows at or spoke with vituperation to anybody. He had been sent to deliver a message, speak the truth, and to do so in the best possible manner. It was never personal. Truth appears much more compelling when presented with adab on the strength of its own merits.

    • Hyde says:

      Salaam, I shall abide by your advice sir.

  44. Mitchell says:

    Hyde,

    Don’t be afraid of a grad student- you can toss his scholarly work out the window since it is “inane trash” to you.

    Heres some more articles and websites that obviously came from a tumblr blog. Your rebuttals are actually amusing to me. I find it quite refreshing along with a cup of copy and my daily Qur’an reading! Keep up the good work.

    http://religiondispatches.org/an-open-letter-to-american-muslims-on-same-sex-marriage/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fathima-imra-nazeer/homosexuality-its-time-we_1_b_7810274.html?1437058143

    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/07/29/opinion/mustafa-akyol-what-does-islam-say-about-being-gay.html?ref=opinion&_r=2&referrer

    Theres more to come. Don’t worry, times are changing and we’re going to be just fine. You and everyone else can keep on the blinders as long as you like. Take care, best of health and luck to you.

    Wa Alaykum Salaam

    • Hyde says:

      LOL, you think I don’t know the times are a changing? You think I’m part of some of large movement? I swear to you this is your world. Have sex with whatever you like. What little opposition you think you face will be obliterated soon enough, I promise you. I guarantee you. You will be more than just fine, you will be fabulous when people like me are dead :) Hang in there for just a bit longer.
      (Don’t give me pathetic secular woe-me stories from HuffPo or Religion Dispatches, I’ve read them all. Bottom Line: If a hardcore atheist makes a case for homosexual muslims, you will take it as a religious ruling because it befits you. Simple.)

      • Mitchell says:

        I feel like I’m feeding the troll under the bridge. And this isn’t just about sodomy- or me!

        But thank you for making me feel special as always =)

      • Hyde says:

        If you want to call someone a troll to justify your own actions, then go ahead, but remember it is always about you. You never think about others really.

  45. Luqman, the Black American says:

    It seems to me as if The Muslim Skeptic should go by the moniker The Muslim Apologist. I suppose it depends on the point of reference though.

    But onto substantive matters: that this particular issues should generate so much righteous indignation and commentary is rather telling of the extent to which Muslims fallen both intellectually and morally. I’m sure much smarter and wiser people than I am have brought to the fore the incestuous Zoroastrians of Eastern Arabia and Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s ruling about the situation. The origins of homosexuality and its genesis within a person are, to me, rather irrelevant (though I honestly think it’s certainly NOT a matter of choice). It’s a reality and a source of struggle for our brothers and sisters in Islam and in society at large; and since it’s a reality there should be no debate it. Islam and Shari’ah are suppose to deal with human realities, not fictional purities. Therefore, the supposed moral repugnant nature of homosexuality or lack thereof notwithstanding, the question we SHOULD be asking is how can we find a way within the Muslim legal edifice to include them into the polity, Muslim or otherwise, as Ibn al-Qayyim did with the Zoroastrians back in the 14th century, DESPITE his moral outrage? That homosexual unions are forbidden in Islam is evident; what is less evident and hence requires much more patience and thought is how we maintain the traditional stance while 1) maintaining some semblance of cultural relevance in the modern West, 2) NOT denigrating and robbing people of the inherent nobility Allah placed in them as Bani Adam, and 3) NOT pushing them away from the deen of Allah, all things which I think most Muslims, including some of those commenting here, don’t seem willing to do or have the capacity to do.

    Perhaps, instead of deconstructing the prevalent ideological space of modern Western society – something Muslims are so wont to do even as some of them benefit from the West – maybe we should do some in-house reflection to locate ways within our own tradition to deal with this reality in a way that is most pleasing to God. In this way, we need Muslim Thinkers, not Muslim Skeptics. Allahu’Alim.

    • Hyde says:

      Your, right, let’s bend and waver in anyway possible to include and exonerate everybody. It’s my choice what I feel to morally repugnant too so who are you to say what I consider an abomination or not ? If you actually read the essay, you’d be rather open to see that Daniel is indeed dealing with the situation at hand. Sorry if it is not on the same page as that of Reza Aslan. (A Skeptic is a Thinker)

      • Luqman, the Black American says:

        LOL! I think you meant “you’re,” brother (or sister or whatever). Also, I’m not convinced you actually read what I wrote – not surprising. There’s no suggestions of wavering in anything or exonerating anyone: as I’ve said, the orthodox position is clear. And I humbly suggest you look up the classic definitions of what skeptic and skepticism. Not the same as a thinker…

        What the author has done is, as I’ve said, is deconstruct the ideology surrounding much of the gay acceptance in the West from some semblance of Muslim metaphysics, which is all fine and good as far as deconstruction goes. However, then the question becomes – once again – what does one DO with those people who happen to gay whom Allah guides to Islam or with gay individuals in any polity period? Do you conduct the hadd (“capital”) punishment? If so, how do you that seeing that the burden of proof (same as fornication or adultery) is SO high? And how do you that in a secular society? Do you convert them to heterosexuality? That has been PROVEN to be a sham and often causes more harm than good. Suggest celibacy? How, seeing that celibacy in Islam is also discouraged? Deconstruction and moral repugnance are simply not enough to deal with the issue.

  46. Ahmad B. says:

    Assalamu ‘alaikum Br. Mitchell,

    With all due respect, the pieces you have linked to are very weak and unable to sustain the burden you wish them to carry (i.e., of arguing that same-sex acts are not religiously prohibited in Islam). I have expounded in numerous posts above how even Scott Kugle’s work is open to devastating criticism on any number of grounds, and these one-off articles don’t even come close to his work in terms of argument and sophistication.

    The Olomi article, for example, uses the term “Islam” in a calculatedly ambiguous manner to refer not to the normative religious tradition (which is how it is normally understood, and definitely how it is being used in Daniel’s article and on this comment board), but simply to anything Muslims as a culture happen to have done in their history. Needless to say, Muslims have done many things in their history which have nothing to do with Islam as a normative tradition, and even violate that norm. For example, Olomi constantly links “young male lover” with “drinking wine” as found in the poetry and images he features, but are we to understand that “Islam” therefore has an ambiguous position on the morality of drinking wine? Certainly, we can draw the conclusion from this evidence that Muslim SOCIETIES have not been uniformly puritanical in the way of, say, modern-day Saudi Arabia, but that simply means that, socially and politically, there were spaces where vice was permitted to flourish. That does not amount to an argument that such actions were ever approved of in the deen itself from a normative religious perspective. The debate here is not a historical or sociological one as to whether Muslims, as a civilization, have shown any evidence of same-sex relationships or practices in their history (they certainly have), but rather, what the normative position of Islam, as a religion, is on these practices, i.e., what is Allah’s command with respect to them.

    Pre-modern Muslim cultures, from very early on, differentiated not just “male” and “female” in terms of sexual attraction, but “female,” “grown male,” and “(younger) beardless youth,” this latter referred to as an AMRAD (أمرد). It was taken for granted that a normal grown man could be susceptible to being attracted (in addition to women) to a good-looking amrad, who still exhibits some of the more feminine features of boyhood, like smooth cheeks, a higher voice, etc. There is a lot of literature on this (the best, probably, being Khaled El-Rouayheb’s book, “Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800”). Love of and attraction to such beardless youths was often celebrated in poetry and in images like the ones that accompany the Olomi article, and even many religious scholars seem to have considered such emotions and attractions — towards the amrad, mind you, not towards a grown male — to be, in and of themselves, unobjectionable.

    BUT — and this is a big “but” — a very firm and clear distinction was always made between FEELING these things toward the amrad (which, again, many seem to have accepted as normal for a grown man) and ACTING upon them (by seeking out sexual or other romantic contact with the amrad), which was invariably considered haram, strictly forbidden. I repeat, no Muslim scholar has ever held that engaging in actual sexual relations with a member of the same sex — be it a grown man and an amrad, two grown men, two grown women, or whatever — is anything but HARAM in the sight of Allah. Any person who “consecrated” his love for an amrad was guilty of a serious religious and moral offense, especially if this entailed outright sodomy (a grave offense in the Shari’a).

    Now, this doesn’t mean, as a matter of sociological fact, that such actions never occurred, and indeed anyone who knows anything about the contemporary Muslim world — not just including, but according to some reports especially, a place like Saudi Arabia (Google “The Kingdom in the Closet” to see what I mean) — knows that plenty of this type of behavior goes on, as well as zina, and wine drinking, and cheating, and corruption, and Internet porn, you name it! But the important point for this particular discussion is that NONE of these behaviors have ever been considered by any Muslim scholar to be other than haram. You seem to feel that there was some debate or discussion as to the moral status of same-sex acts. This impression is probably created by the type of sloppy articles like the Olomi piece. Otherwise, I would be interested to see a reference to even one recognized Muslim scholar who is known to have differed on this point (I mean, of course, a properly trained Muslim scholar, not secular-trained Western academics, whose paradigm I have critiqued in a previous post).

    So widespread literary references to lovely beardless youths and to the poet’s or writer’s (or indeed sometimes even the scholar’s) pining for them cannot, given the social context, be taken as evidence for MORAL APPROBATION of same-sex sexual ACTS, since they were neither meant that way nor understood that way within their sociological context. There are scholars who enthusiastically spoke in favor of the former (the attraction and love) while nonetheless always viciously denouncing the latter (the same-sex acts). This is all in El-Rouayheb, and this is one of the ways, incidentally, in which the article you cite is calculatedly ambiguous: Either the author doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or else he’s deliberately misleading his reader to make conclusions that he ought to know were not drawn in the context to which he appeals.

    Those poets and writers who did celebrate actual “consummation” through physical acts were libertines (like Abu Nuwas, also cited in Olomi as an example of how “Islam” has historically looked at such matters) who also celebrated wine and drunkenness, sensual pleasures in general, did not feel the need to pray or practice the religion in any fashion, and were sometimes openly derisive of it. Such figures, of course, are not the kind one would normally appeal to in making a normative RELIGIOUS argument to other Muslims (in any age, mind you) regarding the MORAL status of a given act in the eyes of Allah. Nor, for that matter, is an ex-Muslim atheist, Fathima Imra Nazeer, to whom you have also linked and who refers to Allah’s recounting of the story of the people of Lot (as) in the Qur’an as “ancient myths” and, again, as “myths in ancient texts” and who dismisses the sunna of the Prophet (saas) as merely “the example of an imperfect man in the 7th century.”

    If anything, the pre-modern Muslim reality highlighted by Olomi as a beacon of ambiguity and tolerance for homosexual behavior actually undermines the case of modern figures, like Kugle, who seek the normalization of homosexual relationships and behaviors in Islam, for if anything, the pre-modern example shows that scholars had no problem admitting: (1) the “naturalness” of certain sexual attractions and desires (such as that of a mature male towards and attractive beardless youth), and (2) the fact that such could even lead to emotions of fondness, love, infatuation, desire for intimacy, etc., but that NEVERTHELESS, and while admitting and looking these realities fully in the face, they (3) unanimously declared any and all same-sex sexual ACTS to be haram without qualification — again, quite irrespective of the “naturalness” of the desire (with respect to the amrad) and the nobility of the accompanying emotions of love, etc., which were often celebrated by the very same people who denounced the consummation of such by forbidden acts.

    So go back to those images now in the Olomi article. What are those young boys really doing next to their older “companions”? Is this a depiction of chaste love, Platonic infatuation (which much of the poetry and image actually is about)? Or is it a boy looking gazing up at his “companion” in anticipation of physical consummation of whatever love or relationship they have between them? And even if it’s this latter, how does that serve as evidence for a normative MORAL argument in Islam, especially given the presence of the celebrated wine pitcher sitting right between them?

    The issue of homosexuality, especially by those who experience it as a deep-set inclination, is not an easy one for the person who has to deal with it, as I am fully aware and as I have iterated repeatedly in a number of my earlier posts. But just from one brother to another, akhi, if I were you, I would look into this whole issue from ALL sides — including the normative religious side — a LOT more carefully than it seems you have done, and not bank my reckoning on the Day of Judgment on half-baked, flimsy articles by Muslim authors in secular academies who try to insinuate large normative moral claims on the basis of misinterpreted sociological data. If you are a scientist as you say, you owe it to yourself to carry out a much more honest and rigorous examination of the deen’s position on this issue than what these articles are providing. They by no means measure up to anywhere near the “scientific” standards I assume you would insist on, as a scientist, in other realms of serious inquiry.

    His whole point about “ideas of marriage” changing over Islamic history, and how this somehow opens the door to same-sex marriage today, is also a very febrile one which I have discussed thoroughly in a previous post as well.

    May Allah bless us all and guide us all to His truth, His love, and to ultimate success on the Day on which we stand before Him. Ameen!

    Wassalamu ‘alaikum,
    Ahmad B.

  47. Mitchell says:

    As Salam Alaikum Br. Ahmad,

    May the Merciful guide us always and bring us closer to him in ways that are beneficial to all man-kind. I must commend you on keeping tactful adab- it is a very good characteristic to have.

    First- Olomi is not comparing it to wine- these are only images, not created by Olomi, but by Safavid artists and its an example of Islamic Societies. It is true that there has been a consensus in the literature about any sex outside of marriage (save it what your right hand possesses in war i.e. slavery) on the basis of sodomy. These however, do not go over things like oral sex, other forms of pleasure to the best of my knowledge. The author of this article is taking a critical stance against the orthodox interpretations and I would argue he had solid ground because, no where in the Qur’an does it say that “Homosexuality is forbidden” it doesnt exist,the only act that is impermissible is zina- in that there is no question. The Hadith however, have quite well laid out that gays are to be put to death and mostly the method differs.

    The artwork is not what the author intends for you to grasp, its the content. Imagery is supposed to be a visual aid- any basic communications class teaches this- think of when you give a power point. The end of his article about how Islam is not a monolith in regards to traditional marriage in this fashion is true, and thats something I wish that you might have walked away from it with.

    As for you pointing out my scientific training, as I claim I have- you are forgetting something about science, it requires tangible, empirical, proof. When the natural world that has been investigated by biologists finds a cure for a disease- everyone rejoices, because it is no longer going to be the end of life. However, when in Sahih Bukhari the use of “black cumin ” as a cure for all diseases except death- we do not adhere to this. Why? Because science has largely shown its wrong, and doesn’t cure ANY disease. There is no empirical or tangible proof in that hadith, that makes me raise my eyebrow. I’m not here to discredit hadith as sahih or da’if, I’m just pointing out that we should re-examine the sayings that were transmitted down that at attributed to the prophet. When the realm of science has very much so pointed towards homosexuality as not an “inclination” but an in-born behavior that is a combination of nature and nurture, maybe we need to re-examine the hadith as well on this.

    If I may relate my own personal story. I was raised christian, I knew I was gay when I was about 11. I converted to Islam in college and thats that. The amount of gay converts to Islam is astounding in comparison to christianity, why is that? I was having a discussion with a colleague on it but to save myself from being grilled we left it at “because Allah guides whom he wills”. These things I find to be a phenomenon because, its not like there is a great track record with Islam and Sexuality in general- but there are those who are willing to re examine the history and narratives. I once read that if science finds something that contradicts the Qur’an, its not the Qur’an that is flawed, it’s our interpretation of it. So dear brother, with an open heart I ask you to hear your brothers and sisters in this Ummah who are gay or bisexual and listen.

    AsSalaamWaAlaykum.

  48. Hyde says:

    “how Islam is not a monolith in regards to traditional marriage in this fashion is true”… LOL I suppose worship of one God is also not monolithic in Islam too LOL.

  49. Ahmad B. says:

    Assalamu ‘alaikum Br. Mitchell,

    Thank you for your latest response. A few points of detail, then some more general reflections. I understand that Olomi didn’t produce the images, that they are from Safavid Iran. All I was saying was that the mere depiction of a given type of relationship only shows that such relationships were a sociological fact in the Muslim world (which no one is denying). It says nothing about the moral status of the act or relationship in the Shari’a. The images depict the factual existence and consumption of wine as well, but no one would argue that that has any relevant implications for the Shari’a’s stance on alcoholic beverages.

    It is not correct that only sodomy has been prohibited outside of legal channels (marriage or concubinage), but rather that ALL sexual or erotic contact has been prohibited outside of these boundaries. The Shari’a, as it turns out, does not distinguish categorically between “same-sex” and “opposite sex” acts, as this is a purely modern (even 20th century) way of looking at things. Rather, it simply distinguishes between licit (“halal”) sexual relations (between a male and a female) and illicit (“haram”) ones. This latter category can be further broken down into penetrative intercourse, which includes male-female intercourse (zina) as well as male-male sodomy (liwat), both of which are considered “major sins” (kabira). Some scholars consider liwat a subcategory of zina and punish it, by analogy, in the same manner. Others consider zina and liwat as two separate crimes/sins, in which case they have disagreed over the punishment of liwat due to the inconclusive textual evidence on the punishment of liwat if treated as its own category (and not as a branch of zina). This doesn’t mean they don’t consider it haram (as the Akyol article you forwarded suggests), just that for those who didn’t technically consider it a form of zina, there was disagreement as to the punishment (ranging from capital punishment to a mere 10 lashes). There has been consensus, however, that this particular act is prohibited, and that it is a “kabira.”

    All other sexual activities between two persons (regardless of gender) who are not legally “halal” to each other are classified as “haram,” though not as “kaba’ir.” Jurists mention things like intercrural sex (“mufakhadha” — between the thighs) and such. They usually don’t mention oral sex explicitly, only because they seem to have considered that to be an inherently disgusting practice (even between a married couple) and so didn’t see the need to address it specifically in the texts (as if they just assumed that no one with a sound fitra would even want to lick someone else’s genitals such as to require a fatwa as to whether it’s halal or not). But if the question were to be asked, then certainly if it’s forbidden for a man to rub his penis between another man’s (or a woman’s) thighs, then it would clearly be haram to engage in oral sex as well. It wouldn’t be a “kabira,” but that doesn’t mean it would be halal. (In fact, scholars disagree as to whether oral sex as we normally understand it is even halal between a husband and a wife, since it often involves the introduction into the mouth of fluids that are considered unclean and ritually impure, and there is a prohibition on doing that.)

    [continued below]

  50. Ahmad B. says:

    [continued from above]

    Regarding your statement that the Qur’an nowhere says, “Homosexuality is forbidden,” in those words, or, as you mentioned in a previous post, that “there’s nothing absolutely nothing that says homosexuals can’t get married in the Quran,” how could it say that when the terms “homosexuality” and “homosexual” are modern inventions that make categorizations and distinctions that were not made in previous times (or even now in other societies outside of the cultural West)? “Homosexuality” is not a Shari’a or a Qur’anic category, though acts that we would today categorize as being “homosexual” definitely ARE. The Qur’an, as it turns out, explicitly forbids sexual relations between men, so this makes the whole point about homosexual marriage moot. Marriage, by the Qur’anic definition and the unanimous consensus of the umma, is of necessity a male-female affair. This is practically the consensus view, in fact, of all humanity up until about 15 years ago in the West.

    But these are details (all of which I have expounded at length in earlier posts, so I don’t want to repeat myself unnecessarily). The larger question that you raise here, which I’d like to take up now, is what you keep referring to as the science on homosexuality and sexual orientation. It is clear that no one consciously chooses to have same-sex attractions, also that the exact nature, intensity, exclusivity, and fixity of such desires are not necessarily the same for all persons affected (i.e., there are multiple “homosexualities,” if you will, not just one). There is as of yet no clear understanding of what precisely gives rise to homosexuality in any given case (as you yourself remarked in an earlier post), but that it certainly is “real” (obviously) and to the best of anyone’s knowledge right now, seems to result from a complex combination of factors, possibly including a genetic or otherwise inborn predisposition.

    The question is, however, what moral conclusions are to be drawn from these facts? Science may certainly shed light on the empirical facts of our world (and its understanding of those facts is constantly shifting, mind you), but what we make of those facts morally is an entirely different question, one which science is inherently capable of answering, or even posing. Science, for example, has also shown that human beings as a species are — with a clear biological basis for this — a naturally polygynous species, meaning that human males are, as a general rule, hardwired to desire to mate with numerous females. (The opposite is not true, however: humans are NOT polyandrous, i.e., it is NOT natural and hardwired for human females to desire to mate with multiple males. Of course no one really needed science to tell them either of these facts, now, did they? So much for ideologically driven equality feminism!) This polygynous tendency is true of many primates closely related to us humans, and appears to have some direct correlation with the ratio of the average size of the testicles to overall body size in the species in question.

    Historically speaking, the vast majority of human societies seem to have accepted and incorporated this natural feature of human sexuality by allowing for some form of polygyny (but only very rarely polyandry). Western society, however, regards polygamy as completely repugnant and immoral, and has no problem banning it, giving all sorts of moral and legal arguments as to why human biology here is no guide to morality and, in fact, must be suppressed and made subordinate to what it considers larger moral considerations, interests, etc. If you present a Westerner (or modernized Muslim or anyone else deeply affected by Western cultural norms and values) with the scientific evidence showing the “naturalness” and verifiably objective physiological basis of polygynous tendencies in humans, and point to the prevalence of polygyny in the natural world, etc. — i.e., among animals — they will normally just look at you with disgust and disdain, sharply declare that “we are not animals but humans,” that polygamy is “just wrong” (despite our species’ strong built-in biological proclivities towards it), that we may have any number of tendencies but that our ability to control and direct what we do (or not do) with them is the very hallmark of being human, etc., etc.

    So the mere “naturalness” of a desire — or, in the case at hand, of what we have come to refer to as a “homosexual orientation” — is not necessarily and automatically an indication of the moral permissibility of acting on that drive. (Islam, in point of fact, permits polygynous unions but prohibits homosexual ones, while contemporary Western culture does precisely the opposite — and this despite the fact that both drives can be argued to have a verifiable physiological basis.) ALL sexual drives, in fact, have some type of biological base, and are also susceptible to modification — or at least control — to some degree through the decisions we make about behavior, habituation, moral habit, our larger worldview and values, etc. In any case, as Muslims, we normally turn to our Sacred Law rather than mere brute biological facts to discover which of the many tendencies and drives that we may find within ourselves we are permitted to indulge and which we are not.

    Implicit in the notion that science has definitively settled the moral question here is the assumption that the Shari’a has prohibited homosexual acts primarily (or exclusively) on the consideration that they are “unnatural” — in the particular sense of having no “objective physiological basis.” But it is not at all clear that this is the case. The notion of “unnatural” that may apply, as mentioned toward the end of Daniel’s article, is more of an objectivist, rather than a subjectivist, notion, i.e., such acts are considered “unnatural” in the sense that they violate the natural, objective teleology of the male and female reproductive organs, as well as the objective complementarity of the sexes (this can also be transposed to a metaphysical, as well as a purely biological, plane), etc. The fact that someone might have an innate tendency to act contrary to this teleology simply meant that the person had a (subjective) innate tendency to do something that was (objectively) unnatural. Whatever basis this tendency may have had, and whether it was under the person’s conscious control or not, didn’t change this fact, since the fact itself was seen as objective and not dependent on the personal disposition of the individual in question.

    In this sense, it seems clear to me that the Shari’a is judging and regulating the morality of acts — specifically sexual acts — on the basis of just such an objectivist view of the teleology of the body, of sexuality, and so forth (again, I expound upon this at length in a previous post, so I’ll refer you here to the previous exchange between me and Br. Matthew Johnson). And the really interesting thing is that scholars seem to have consistently maintained this stance throughout our history, even when they were aware that, indeed, certain individuals may well have had certain innate sexual tendencies or proclivities (perhaps what we today are referring to as an “orientation”?) which might predispose them to desire certain forbidden acts. In no case, however, were the acts ever considered to acquire a different (objective) moral status on the basis of the fact that some people (subjectively) possessed a strong desire — even an innate one — to partake in them. Does that make any sense?

    In his article “The Effeminates of Medina” (which you can get online), Everett Rowson speaks of the well-known category of the “mukhannath,” a male with effeminate mannerisms, voice, gait, etc. He remarks that at the time of the Prophet (saas), such men were recognized as not having any “need” for women (and it seems that such are what Allah may be referring to in Surat al-Nur (24:31), but were not necessarily presumed to have “need of” men. By Umayyad times, and definitely in the Abbasid period, however, he remarks that it had come to be taken for granted that such men typically not only did not desire females, but actually did desire men (making them closer, it seems, to what we would refer to as a “homosexual” today). The really interesting thing to me is that Imam al-Nawawi, who lived in the 13th/6th century, has a passage (cited in Rowson) about the mukhannath, in which he explicitly says there are two kinds: one for whom this condition is “khilqi” (which means precisely “inborn,” part of one’s natural constitution), and one who purposely puts on such effeminate airs in order to attract men for base purposes (like having sex with them for money). About the first, Imam al-Nawawi explicitly says that “there is no sin or blame on him (due to his condition), so long as he avoids forbidden acts.” As for the second one (i.e., the one who gets involved in sexual acts), he says, that is the one who is sinful and has done wrong.

    What I find interesting here is: (1) the explicit recognition of an inborn tendency that we might today refer to as “homosexual” (especially considering the fact that, according to Rowson, such “effeminate” men by al-Nawawi’s time were normally considered to be desirous of other men); (2) the recognition that such a tendency, in as far as it lies beyond a person’s conscious control, incurs neither sin nor blame (meaning that no one should pass judgment on or mistreat such a person merely on account of this tendency); but that (3) such a person is nevertheless still under the obligation to observe the Shari’a’s limits on sexual behavior — specifically here it’s prohibition of same-sex relationships and erotic activities — presumably because the status of such acts was considered to be so clearly established in the texts and tradition, but also because, once again, of what they undoubtedly seem to have considered to be the OBJECTIVE wrongness of such acts (as I explained above). Such a person may be (subjectively) in an unenviable position, but that fact was not taken as capable of abrogating or undoing the OBJECTIVE nature of the acts in question.

    Another example given in El-Rouayheb’s book is that of the “ma’bun,” a male who specifically desired to play the passive role and be penetrated by other males. Scholars typically considered this a medical condition (called “ubna”), again considering it as something that someone experienced quite beside themselves, something that befell one, not something they chose or brought upon themselves. Nevertheless, no one ever took the view that someone with this “condition” was therefore justified in going out and satisfying the desire that he had to contend with (through no conscious control of his own). He even mentions some scholar or literary figure or someone who kept a wooden dildo in order to relieve his “itch” for such penetration. (I don’t remember if that was considered permissible or not, but I do remember getting the impression that he may have been excused if the desire was very strong. But note, it was not considered permissible for him to seek out an actual male companion to take care of this need for him.)

    So this whole notion that it is only through the advances of modern science that we have just now “discovered” this notion of an innate “homosexual” orientation (which “obviously” must be taken to imply the moral acceptability of homosexual acts) and that people in former times regarded such acts as prohibited only because they didn’t believe them to have a “natural” physiological basis (with the implication that had they been alive at our time, they would have taken a different moral position) does not seem, to me, to be well founded. They did not have modern science and so maybe were not able to describe such tendencies or their bases in the same language we would use today, but the fact that they did recognize a “khilqi” (‘innate’) basis to them, at least for some persons, is what really counts. I mean, we still don’t know exactly what causes homosexuality, so in a sense, we’re not even that much further along today than their notion of an (unexplained) “khilqi” dimension to the tendency.

    So I think that the real factor that has changed in the way many contemporary people view this issue is not, in fact, the discovery of new empirical facts that force us to recognize this “innate” (khilqi) dimension which was already acknowledged at least 800 years ago, but rather, the much larger philosophical shift in modern culture from an objectivist view of acts based in a notion of the natural teleology of a God-created universe to the very typically modern stress on the personal, the individual, and the subjective — to which we have been taught to turn instinctively for meaning and value in the midst of a worldview that, in pure materialistic fashion, regards the natural universe as having no inherent teleology or purpose (God is effectively stripped away from His creation). This is exactly the philosophical stance which, if only implicitly, stands at the very heart of modern science, which means that we must always be very careful to distinguish between the raw facts that science allows us to discover, on the one hand, and the heavy dose of philosophical materialism that is often served up along with them.

    You, Br. Mitchell, seem to automatically assume that, if God’s creation “naturally” contains individuals with certain innate sexual tendencies, then this “obviously” means that acting on such tendencies is morally unobjectionable, and that Scripture must be reinterpreted accordingly (even if we must implausibly read into the texts things that are not there or qualify them in ways that it is hard to see as other than abusive — like holding that qawm Lut is really just about rape and coercion — again, I have expounded this at length in previous posts). But Muslim scholars in the past (and now), while they take the objective facts of the empirical world into account, do not necessarily collapse revelation completely into these facts. If revelation (and the unbroken consensus of the umma, etc., etc. — as I have expounded previously) clearly prohibits same-sex acts in and of themselves, and they simultaneously discover that some persons may have strong innate tendencies towards performing such acts (as Imam al-Nawawi seems to have recognized in the 13th century), they draw from that the conclusion either that sex and sexuality, while powerful forces in human life, do not occupy the absolutely central place we have given them in modern culture, or that certain individuals have been tested with a special challenge in light of which their moral life and their struggle for the sake of Allah is to be carried out.

    [last segment below]

  51. Ahmad B. says:

    [final segment]

    Now, I imagine you might be thinking, “This is all fine and great, but how does this help me? You still don’t know what it’s like to walk in my shoes.” As I have said in post after post (both to you and before you joined on), I am very aware of — and very sympathetic to — the difficult situation faced by people who discover in themselves a strong homosexual orientation. I do not at all believe that such persons should just be shut out, ignored, ridiculed, or preached to insensitively, as if they should just “get on with their lives already.” I am aware of the confusion, pain, and internal conflicts that can arise very sharply, and I believe that we as a community should be much better in having a nuanced view of the reality of (unchosen) homosexual desires; a clear distinction between persons with a certain tendency, on the one hand, and acts that they may or may not do, on the other (I know you may disagree with making precisely such a distinction); and a desire to support our sincere brothers and sisters in living their lives for the pleasure of God in the midst of whatever challenges they may face.

    But if you have appealed for me to “listen with an open heart,” I would also like to appeal to you and to other Muslims in your shoes that our discussion of this issue likewise take due account of the larger parameters of our shared religion, and be willing to discuss seriously the deeper underlying issues at play here that go way beyond the single issue of homosexuality. I have explained in earlier posts to Br. Matthew how, for example, pushing certain forced interpretations of the Qur’an would, if taken seriously and applied consistently, serve to undermine many other fundamental aspects of our deen (again, refer to previous posts to see exactly how and why), and I don’t think it is fair to expect Muslims to concede to this on pain of being called hateful, bigoted, intolerant, backwards, unscientific, or insensitive to the plight of Muslims struggling with homosexuality.

    I also think that we must agree to discuss deep philosophical issues, like this whole notion of objective versus subjective views of truth, of moral action, of how we read revelation in light of empirical reality, when and how empirical reality — as a general rule, and not just with homosexuality — should impinge upon our understanding of Scripture, etc. Muslims demanding radical revisions in the halal and haram of sexual behaviors should admit the full extent of the implications this would have for so many other things, and be willing to agree to discuss those candidly and to explain why, for example, we should today automatically consider innateness of desires to equal moral acceptability. And is this true only for homosexual desires or for all sexual desires? And if so, why? Etc. So if there really is going to be a dialogue on these issues, it’s going to have to be an honest one where revisionists take seriously these various problems and concerns and address them forthrightly, rather than just demanding radical changes in doctrine or practice without seeming to care much for the larger implications.

    Again, brother, I end with du’a that Allah guide you, and me, and the entire umma to what is good, true, right, and most pleasing unto Him subhanahu wa ta’ala. Thank you for “listening.”

    Wassalamu ‘alaikum,
    Ahmad B.

    • Edralis says:

      Hi, a non-Muslim here. Although I don’t agree with your stance on homosexuality (and probably on many other things, being an agnostic/atheist) I would just like to express my sincere appreciation of the way you communicate with people here. You manage never to stoop to personal attacks; you manage to remain respectful – even when replying to people whose communication is far less constructive, and very emotional -, and what is more, your responses I think are kind and understanding, and seem really well-meaning and sincere, and your arguments are very well put (even though again, I don’t agree with them, as I don’t consider Qur’an to be an authority, in anything really), and a pleasure to read. I am trying to learn more about Islam, and needless to say, there are many places on the internet where one encounters people whose level of communication in general – and in the matters of faith especially – is rather off-putting for a skeptical, liberal, egalitarian agnostic like me. So, even though I remain utterly unconvinced, I would just like to applaud you for the way you hold conversation with people; it was truly inspiring to read your comments. Thanks again, and have a peaceful day :)

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Dear Edralis,

        Thank you for your very kind and supportive comments, which I have just come across now for the first time (nearly two months after their publication). The fact that you seem to have read not only Mr. Jou’s original article but the many very lengthy discussions that have ensued thereafter up to the point of your intervention here is quite commendable and shows, to me, that you seem to be sincerely searching for the truth.

        I’m not sure if you’ve actually read the Qur’an for yourself, but it can sometimes be impenetrable for someone not used to it due to its unconventional format and logic (i.e., neither chronological like the Bible, nor thematically arranged). For a good, deep, but also concise overview, I would recommend the book “Major Themes of the Quran” by Fazlur Rahman. Not everything he says in there in his own voice accords with mainstream Islamic doctrine, but the work overall is, I think, profound and quite thought-provoking. If you’re really serious about understanding the Qur’an — and much indeed about Islamic belief, thought, practice, law, and spirituality — you may want to consult the recently released Harper Collins Study Quran, which provides a careful new translation, very extensive footnotes highlighting the vast range of the Islamic exegetical tradition, and a number of very informative essays at the back of the volume. The editors argue at places for a soteriology that contradicts established Muslim consensus, but in other respects the volume faithfully represents Quranic teaching and the many diverse schools of thought in Islam that have reflected upon it. Since you refer to yourself as a “liberal, egalitarian agnostic,” you may take special interest in the essay entitled “Quranic Ethics, Human Rights, and Society” beginning on p. 1785 of the Study Quran, authored by Maria Dakake, one of the editors who herself is responsible for a full third of the translation and commentary. Dr. Ingrid Mattson’s “The Story of the Quran: Its History and Place in Muslim Life” is also a very nice read.

        I find many people in our times tend to ignore metaphysical questions and approach religion critically from what we might call a “social” angle, finding in it certain teachings which conflict with current-day liberal sentiment and rejecting religion as implausible on those grounds alone. I think this is somewhat superficial, however, especially given how unstable and, it seems, practically rudderless the liberal “consensus” on any number of issues has proven to be over time. Antecedent to questions of egalitarianism, justice, etc. remain those old-fashioned questions of a more directly metaphysical nature, particularly the question of whether the world we know to exist can plausibly be accounted for without positing an immaterial, intelligent creator that transcends it. A being transcendent to our universe would not, by definition, be amenable to direct scientific observation, but this does not mean that we do not have very strong rational grounds for inferring the existence of such a being as a necessary antecedent to the existence of the world as we know it. Check out, if you haven’t already, Antony Flew’s “There IS a God,” documenting his rejection of atheism after being one of its main philosophical proponents and champions for 50 years. His reversal on the issue of the existence of God neither stemmed from nor led to a religious conversion based in faith, but was adopted by him as the only defensible philosophical position purely on the grounds of logical considerations, particularly in light of the astonishing empirical knowledge that modern science continues to engender on a regular basis. After arguing for decades that “the burden of proof lay on the theist,” since it was the theist alone who posited the existence of a being beyond that whose existence the theist and atheist agreed upon (namely, the world), he publicly reversed his position to hold that the burden of proof lies squarely on the atheist, since it is the atheist who has no plausible means of accounting for the existence of the world that we know (barring the brute-fact argument that “it just does,” which is hardly a satisfying response).

        If your skepticism is primarily directed at the integrity of religious texts such as the Bible, you should know that, as a matter of objective fact, there is very little that the history of the Biblical text has in common with the history, transmission, and preservation of the Qur’an. The majority of non-Muslim Western academic scholars who work on the Qur’an and early Islam agree with the Muslim scholarly tradition that the Qur’anic text we possess today can reliably be dated to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (570-632 c.e.). Academic views that posit for the Qur’an the type of gradual coalescence over time of a disparate document penned by numerous hands similar to the case of the Bible are considered wildly speculative, all the more so in light of recent empirical finds, such as stash of Qur’anic manuscripts analyzed last year in Birmingham, England and the year before in Tübingen, Germany that can be dated with a very high degree of confidence to the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad and slightly thereafter. The Qur’anic text in these manuscripts is identical to the written version of the Qur’an that has been standardized among Muslims across the globe for all of Islamic history, including today. In any case, transmission of the Qur’an has always been as much oral as written, and the mechanisms devised by the Muslim community for preserving and transmitting the original text in its exact form are entirely unique in human textual history, and give Muslims a solid, scholarly-based confidence that the promise of God in the Qur’an to preserve the text without alteration for all subsequent generations of humanity has been fulfilled. In other words, Muslim belief in the integrity of the revealed text is no mere theological dogma, but a rational stance that is entirely plausible given the Qur’an’s textual history, even when viewed from the perspective of a critical academic framework. Many people in the West are not aware of this, but since the Qur’an claims to be the word of God the Creator Himself directed to — and of direct relevance to — the mind, heart, and soul of every human being He has created, we feel that it is people’s right to be informed of this, which is why I mention it to you here. Mattson goes into this in some detail. A more complete and more technical presentation can be found in “Variant Readings of the Qur’an: A Critical Study of Their Historical and Linguistic Origins” by Ahmad ‘Ali al-Imam and “The History of the Qur’anic Text: From Revelation to Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments” by Muhammad Mustafa al-Azami. (Azami’s somewhat polemical tone should not distract from the academic integrity and meticulousness of his work on the Quran. On the other hand, he is not a specialist in Biblical studies, so the second half of his volume can safely be left aside in favor of more specialized scholarship on those texts.)

        Again, I appreciate your writing in, and appreciate the time and care you have taken to actually read through so much material on this board. I feel your sincerity and good will, and sincerely hope one day to be able to call you a brother of mine in the beautiful faith of Islam (as often maligned by its detractors as, alas, distorted and misrepresented by its own adherents). All the best to you in your researches!

        With peace,
        Ahmad B.

  52. Matthew Johnson says:

    Salaam one and all

    While I am back I also wanted to say something about Daniels’ original comments especially in regard to his comparison to “otherkins” which has been rankling me for a while. Suffice it say Daniel your tactic here is a Reductio ad Absurdam. Just because a (tiny) group lay claim to a bizarre view of their own nature does not prove anything about a different ( much more significant now and historically) group who make a really quite mundane claim about their sexuality. Although it may be incorrect, there is nothing inherently absurd about the notion that one has a sexual orientation and this is an important part of ones identity: whereas the claims of otherkins are frankly ludicrous.

    • Ahmad B. says:

      Assalamu ‘alaikum Br. Matthew,

      Nice to hear from you again; I thought people had basically stopped commenting on this article, which is why I haven’t been checking in very regularly anymore.

      I agree that the comparison with Otherkins is over the top and doesn’t come off as very convincing; it’s too extreme and too weird. Closer to the topic at hand, however, I was wondering if you had seen the following article that came out this past week:
      http://www.salon.com/2015/09/21/im_a_pedophile_but_not_a_monster/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

      This is the story of someone who describes what it’s like having a pedophiliac sexual orientation, whereby he is only attracted to youngsters and feels no sexual or romantic attraction to adults (of either sex). This person believes it is morally wrong to act out on his desires (though there is, it seems, a debate on that among others who share his “orientation”) and says, as a result, that he has always been and will always remain celibate. He describes how he discovered this “orientation” inside himself with no choice on his part whatsoever, and how distressed and depressed it has made him, and how much he hates having it and wishes he could be normal, and how this has been a huge burden for him to have to carry.

      Obviously many people will point out that this is very different from the case of homosexuality, since the people this guy’s attracted to — children — cannot meaningfully consent, should not be sexualized, there’s a huge power differential between an adult and an unsuspecting child, the ensuing relationship constitutes gross abuse with traumatic emotional and psychological consequences for the child, etc., whereas in the case of two consenting adults of the same sex, none of these considerations apply.

      I do not deny these significant differences in terms of the effect of the behavior in the two cases (leaving aside, for the moment, the question of the spiritual effects of disobeying God and the potential effects of that on one’s status in the Hereafter), but I would actually like to make a different point here. Much of the homosexual argument rides on the fact that homosexual behavior should be accepted and normalized not merely because it (allegedly) causes no apparent harm, but because a “homosexual orientation,” it is claimed, is a perfectly “natural,” normal “variant” of human sexuality. Its alleged “naturalness” in turn rests almost entirely on the consideration that the desires, at least in their origin, seem to lie quite beyond a person’s conscious control or choice, can be difficult or impossible for some to change or significantly diminish, etc., etc.

      The thing that is very striking about the above article, however, is that this guy describes the origins and subjective experience of his pedophiliac “orientation” in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY as people describe their homosexuality. Again, I’m not saying the effects of acting on the two desires are the same, but from a psychological and subjective perspective, they seem to be exactly parallel. I mean, read the article; it’s really striking. So do we say that a pedophiliac orientation is also a God-created, “natural, normal variant” of human sexuality, just one that it is immoral to act upon? Or do we say that the “orientation” itself, the desires themselves, are disordered, unnatural, and try to find out what has caused them, how they might be alleviated, and, if none of this works, try to support the person, at the very least, to live without indulging them, since to do so would be morally wrong?

      It does not seem to me that you can treat these cases differently. To say that homosexuality is a “normal orientation” and a “natural variant” but pedophilia is not, despite the fact that both are described and experienced by their subjects in exactly parallel terms, is purely arbitrary. Again, one can argue that homosexuality is “okay” while pedophilia is not due to the harm caused by one to the exclusion of the other, but not that one is NATURAL and a normal variant while the other one is not. Now, I doubt many people would be comfortable categorizing pedophilia as a natural sexual variant, rather than as a developmental disorder, a psychological / emotional disorder, or the like. But if we can apply these descriptions to pedophilia, then we can also apply them to homosexuality (unless you can come up with an objective difference between the two), which seriously undermines much of the case for the social and moral normalization of homosexuality, and totally undermines the case for viewing homosexual desires as “natural” or the related behaviors as simply the outworking of a normal sexual “variant.”

      One might argue that pedophilia is obviously disordered because a person who cannot form emotional and sexual relationships with adults is simply incapable of using his sexuality correctly, according to its true purpose. Clearly, the argument goes, there is no “point” in an adult only being sexually attracted to young children, so this can’t be “natural” for that reason and must be treated as a disorder of sorts. But the very same can be said about homosexual desires, as I have pointed out in earlier posts. They similarly make no “sense” in that they fail to honor the natural purposes of sexuality and the teleology of the male and female bodies, etc., as I have elaborated earlier. And this is, in fact, precisely why homosexual behavior has usually been considered to be so wrong, INHERENTLY wrong (i.e., wrong in and of itself, not just on consequentialist grounds related to the nefarious effects upon another party, like a child in the case of pedophilia).

      So are homosexual and pedophiliac desires both natural and normal orientations, or are they both unnatural and inherently disordered (regardless of the fact that acting on one of them might entail more harm to another person than acting on the other — that has nothing to do with the naturalness or disordered nature of the desires themselves)? This, I think, is a very important question to answer in order to get the terms of the debate in order.

      Next, regarding the morality of acting on one’s desires. Let us agree that “naturalness” is not a relevant criteria. Again, if they are both natural, then we have one “natural” desire, pedophilia, which it is immoral to act on, and another, homosexuality, which most “progressive” or “reformist” (or, you may prefer, “revitalist”) people want to argue that it is moral to act on. If, on the other hand, they are both unnatural, then still, you have one unnatural desire being considered immoral to act upon while the other, despite being unnatural and disordered, is given a pass. Clearly, the relevant criteria being used here is not “naturalness,” but things like consent and the consequences of acting on the desires. But I’ve already showed in previous posts that those criteria are not sufficient to make the religious argument. We can agree that there is a general religious (and more general moral and ethical) obligation to avoid bringing about harmful consequences to others — which is why pretty much everyone, religious or not, agrees that it would be wrong for the pedophiliac to act on his sexual orientation. Similarly, forcing a sexual act in the absence of consent may plausibly be held to amount to harm that one should avoid. But the presence of consent alone is never a sufficient basis for deciding on the morality of a sexual act in Islam. “Consent” has been adopted as the sole relevant criteria for sexual acts in the West since the 1960s, but that definitely has nothing to do with the criteria at work within an Islamic framework (or that of any other integrated religious or moral system). Again, zina is indisputably haram in Islam despite the full consent of the participants, so the “consent” argument simply won’t work for us as a community. Doing a haram act with “consent” does nothing to change the moral status of the act itself. In fact, doing the act with consent is the very pre-condition for being held morally and legally responsible for it (i.e., if you were coerced you would not be held morally responsible).

      Furthermore, I think that when most people consider the desires of the pedophiliac, they do not oppose them simply because of the harm that might be visited upon a child. Imagine a case where the person were constantly kept away from children and there were no chance of this harm coming to pass at all. Would people then be likely to say, “Well, okay, as long as no children will get hurt, it’s perfectly fine for that person to be sexually attracted to children and fantasize about them.” I think most people would agree that even this is morally wrong and disordered, which is simply another way of saying that they hold it to be INHERENTLY wrong, regardless of consequences. This rejoins one of Daniel’s arguments that across societies and cultures, there are things that people simply hold to be inherently wrong on the basis of any of a number of abstract moral commitments and values that have nothing to do with direct harm or consequences.

      Another test case is the case of incest. Most people will say, “Well, there are clear medical harms to incest for genetic reasons, etc.,” but are we willing to allow a brother and a sister to marry if one or both are sterile? Or a son to marry a mother who is past menopause? Or, now that we have gay marriage, is it morally acceptable for two brothers to marry each other? If one is willing to bite the bullet and admit these cases, then at least one’s position is consistent (regardless of how morally objectionable). But if one feels justified in saying that, “No, I’m sorry; incest is just wrong — that is, INHERENTLY wrong — regardless of ‘consequences’,” then I don’t see how it is consistent to hold that position to be reasonable and justified, while the position that homosexual behavior is inherently disordered and wrong is not reasonable and justified. Homosexual behavior only appears morally unoffensive if one considers sexual morality to amount to nothing but a question of mutual consent (a criterion which would not exclude consensual incest and which, as mentioned, is anyway irrelevant in Islamic sexual morality), that gender complementarity is irrelevant or “arbitrary” or “socially constructed” (which many of our contemporaries actually do hold, seemingly with a straight face), that sexuality has no inherent teleology which one can use as some type of indication for judging acceptable from unacceptable acts, and, most importantly, that sexual morality is unconnected with and irrelevant to the Will of God as communicated to us through revelation.

      But since all of these assumptions fly in the face of our basic worldview commitments as Muslims, derived from the overall message as well as the specific provisions of the Islamic revelation, I still fail to see how a consistent and principled case can be made for homosexuality in Islam — based on Islamically acceptable criteria, not the criteria that happen to be dominant in the contemporary West of the post-Sexual Revolution period. I mean, we’re dealing with a clear and unambiguous textual prohibition, backed up by full consensus, and all these arguments advanced in the interest of changing this position seem to fall apart so easily under rational scrutiny.

      Wallahu ta’ala a’lam. May He guide all of us to the truth. Ameen!

      Wassalam,
      Ahmad B.

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Assalamu ‘alaikum all,

        A follow-up article on the one I cited in my last post.

        http://www.salon.com/2015/09/30/im_a_pedophile_youre_the_monsters_my_week_inside_the_vile_right_wing_hate_machine/

        Again, while fully recognizing the much greater harm caused by a pedophiliac acting out on his desires compared to a consenting adult homosexual, the profile, perception, experience, and vocabulary used to describe both conditions, or “orientations,” is exactly the same. One of the most striking quotes from the article, in my opinion, is:

        “These ultra-conservatives reject the notion of pedophilia being a sexual orientation not on scientific grounds but on purely political ones. They resist the word that best fits our sexuality (which many experts are now using themselves); in so doing, they are assuming that people are too dumb to understand that a term does not justify an activity. It is merely recognition of a state of being.”

        So there you have it: “scientific evidence” can lead “experts” to acknowledge the presence of a deep-seated pedophiliac “orientation” in some individuals, a fact which constitutes their irreducible “sexuality” (which very well may not be amenable to change, as the author has tried to do so by all available means). Nevertheless, no one should be “too dumb” to understand that a term — and, by extension, the reality to which it refers (in this case, the deep-seated sexual orientation) — does not “justify an activity.”

        Amen! Isn’t this precisely what Muslims have been saying with regard to homosexuality all along? And now that we can see so clearly that merely having inclinations, even if they are deep-seated and ineluctable enough to qualify as a “sexual orientation,” is not sufficient to justify behavior, why are we even having this debate anymore — especially since our religion is so clear when it comes to the prohibited nature of homosexual acts? Again, I am NOT EQUATING homosexuality with pedophilia. I am NOT SAYING that the non-celibate homosexual causes as much harm as the non-celibate pedophiliac. I am simply saying that, for us as Muslims (as well as all religious communities until literally yesterday), both are haram and cannot possibly be normalized or morally justified within the religious community.

        To make my point crystal clear, all Muslims agree that murder is prohibited and that, for example, drinking wine is prohibited. Simply pointing this out — and digging our heels in if, for instance, groups started throwing something like the clear prohibition of wine or, say, of zina into question — does not mean that anyone is equating murder with drinking a glass of wine with your dinner (or even getting drunk). I am simply pointing out here that the vast majority of the REASONS given, as well as all the DISCOURSE and NARRATIVE about sexual desires, orientations, etc. that has grown up over the past few decades in the West to normalize homosexuality is — as should now be clear to everyone when you compare all of that to what we are now reading in these articles about pedophilia — simply IRRELEVANT to the question of the moral nature of acts, particularly for religious communities that have clear guidance on the issue in the guise of transcendental divine norms. The many tight parallels between what we have been hearing about the homosexual condition for decades and what we are now starting to hear about the condition of people with a pedophiliac “orientation” should make this crystal clear to all.

        As Muslims, we need to be deeply reflective and deeply analytical people, rather than just jump onto the bandwagon and start repeating the same things everyone else is saying uncritically, and uncritically adopting the same unstated assumptions, “truths,” and “obvious implications” of this or that which our surrounding (secular) society builds its discourse and indoctrination around. Allah tells us repeatedly in the Qur’an that the message is meant for “ulu al-albab,” those of discerning intellect, and He asks repeatedly, “Do they not reflect?” “Do you not reflect?”

        May Allah guide us all to a way that is straight and give us deep understanding and penetrating insight into the realities of this complex and often confusing matrix in which He has created us to test us. Allahumma arina l-haqqa haqqan wa-rzuqna ttiba’ah, wa-arina l-batila batilan wa-rzuqna jtinabah! (O Allah, show us truth as truth and grant that we may follow it, and show us falsehood as falsehood and grant that we may avoid it!).

        Ameen ya Rabb!

        Wassalamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullah,
        Ahmad B.

      • Matthew says:

        Salaam Bra Ahmed B and everyone

        Without wishing to write at great length ( currently being on holiday in Andalusia – where the traces of the once great Islamic polity are omnipresent) I just wanted to say that the complexities of things like paedophilia etc that you quote are highly problematic to disentangle and while your points are well made as ever I feel there is much more that could be said. I still do not think the Quranic source is as unambiguous as you believe – especially when the negative evaluations are actually made by the prophet Lot – after allprophetic criteria do change, alongside social mores, scientific discovery, and what we might call cultural evolution.
        I also just wanted to point out something about zina that seems to get overlooked. While it’s clear that zina is a sin, no where is it exactly defined. It is simply ” illegal” sexual inter course. What legalised it in the time of the Prophet was a particular social institution ( not a sacrament of any type please note).
        What constitutes legality then is actually a socially determined arrangement. I wonder for example what one should make of muslim couple who married in a civil ceremony? Are they guilty of zina? I would have thought any sensible person would say not. But clearly a civil marriage differs in any number of respects from what constituted “nika” at the time of the Prophet. And as I understand it “nika” essentially just means legitimate sexual congress. So there is a circularity of legitimising argumentation going on it seems.
        So perhaps we should regard zina in the modern context as being legal or legitimate in our own context – this would require scholarly elaboration but would as a first sketch bar rape, co-sanguity, congress based upon deception or coercion, use of intoxication as aid to addiction, fecklessness with regard to progeny, paedophilia etcetera . These are just initial thoughts – but you see my drift here? I realise this will go down extremely badly with the orthodox minded but has the great advantage that it would make sense to many young Muslims caught between the extremes of the black and white traditional distinctions on one hand and the apparent utter lack of sexual morality seen in western cultures on the other. And I also think this kind of approach might be taken in the case we have been debating ie homosexuality.

  53. Emily says:

    With all due respect, I am here to learn about the Islamic religion, not to speak. However I feel I must clear something up, as a Christian. You claim we share the same values in many areas, but Christianity is a very diverse religion with the majority being very accepting of others. I was taught by my church family not to judge others and that others sins (excluding crimes) are between themselves and god. 20 years ago in canada, in the united church, we were led my a lesbian minister, and I was taught bible study by a gay man. These people have made me the welcoming, caring, accepting person I am today. As I said I am here to learn about your religion and therefore lack the knowledge of it’s diversity, but I can tell you, here in Canada the vast majority of Christians do not share your view on this topic, and other controversial subjects. If you are going to defend the oppression of others, please do not include my religion off handedly as some sort of proof that others agree with you. I am sorry, I just am tired of reading “Christians too…” I admire many aspects of your religion and have met many exemplary Muslims with whom I have great respect.

    • Malik Matiyahu says:

      Yes you are right I believe, many (by no means all) Christians have found ways to allow their understanding of their religion embrace rather than reject homosexual love. It is my hope and belief that this will become, and in fact is, increasingly true of Muslims (but again not all will do so of course). I would only like to add that it is really nice to see a Christian like you taking the time to see what sort of conversations Muslims are having on these issues. We all have things to learn from one another. The Prophet Mohammed, upon whom be peace, was asked which other Prophet did he identify most strongly with , and his answer was Jesus, peace be upon him.

    • Lenna says:

      With all due respect, Islam and Christianity are the same in having a doctrine that defines homosexuality as a sin. Just as some Christians choose to warp or ignore this doctrine in favor of “tolerance,” so do some Muslims. So there is a parallel in the doctrine and a parallel in the diverse ways people relate to the doctrine, and the flavors of practice that arises from these approaches.

      Here is an article you might find interesting:

      Dishonest Christians who say the Bible doesn’t condemn homosexuality
      https://mystic444.wordpress.com/2015/08/03/dishonest-christians-who-say-the-bible-doesnt-condemn-homosexuality/

      • Malik Matiyahu says:

        Just a point you seem unaware of. Christians believe that the previous ( Old Testament) revelations were superceeded by the Gospels, except where specifically confirmed. All the quotes in the article are from very old parts of the Old Testament. There is no condemnation of homosexuality in Jesus’ teaching, just as there is none in Mohammeds’s tThe Quranic condemnation, such as it is, is by the prophet Lot many thousands of years before) and there is no evidence of Mohammed ever enacting any punishment for male to male sex, even though it must surely have occurred. Probably it was not usually of much concern since there was no possibility of procreation.

        • Lenna says:

          Just a point you seem unaware of. Christians believe that the previous ( Old Testament) revelations were superceeded by the Gospels

          I’m aware, though for two reasons I don’t think that means very much. First, some Christians pick and choose different parts of the OT which they see as revelant:

          The “But That’s Just the Old Testament!” Cop-Out
          http://www.loonwatch.com/2011/05/the-but-thats-just-the-old-testament-cop-out/

          Second, the OT isn’t the only part of the Bible which can be read as condemning homosexuality. For example:

          Romans 1:26-27: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”

          The point of setting a standard in scripture is to prevent humans from adapting their morals to shifting winds. Some religious people go to great lengths to deny what the scriptures, in my view, say very clearly. That’s their choice but I don’t find their arugments the least bit convincing. Homosexual behavior is sinful. Scholarly consensus (or near consenus) in Islam has never waivered on this matter. People sin so if people want to indulge in this sin, that’s up to them. There is no reason for others to give them a moral seal of approval, now or ever.

          • Malik Matiyahu says:

            But note that just as its Paul not Jesus saying these things, so indeed it is other Muslim scholars not the Prophet who condemned homosexuality.
            What the emergent traditions made of Prophetic revelation is very different from revelation itself – which anyway speaks to succeeding generations in differing ways. Failure to grasp this point lies at the heart of many of our problems today.

  54. Bro. Isa says:

    AsSalaamuAlaikum,
    To the author, I know you may never see this since it’s so long after you original post but could you please list your sources and references for your article? You began the article talking about how Islamic clerics to often just speak of why homosexuality is wrong but don’t say as to why, but you seem to have done the same thing. While you pointed to a lot of sources and heavily involved Islamic and philisophical teachings, you didn’t include any quotes, diagrams, in-depth explanation, or even links in your argument. Making this seem effectively as an opinion piece (even simply including quranic verses would have sufficed to clearly portray the Islamic beliefs.) Especially considering the length of the article I would have appreciated a lot more direct quotes and citations than what seemed to be just introducing the theories and philosophies in a general since.

    I’m a firm believer that the act of homosexuality is impermissible but when speaking to people who have no Islamic context or background the understand why, we have to be able to break the topic down to the level that a 5th grader can understand.

    Again, I know you may never see this since it’s so long after you original post but inshAllah I hope it reaches you because I’d love to read the source material to gain a better understanding of the topic. JZK

    • Malik Matiyahu says:

      Perhaps the reason for the omission of references is that it is is the long standing consensus of scholars rather than a close reading of the sources in the light of modern knowledge that is actually the determinant here? Even if they don’t agree with Scott Kugles’ arguments, I think anyone that read his book would have to admit that there is a lot more ambiguity than the scholarly consensus allows for.

      Can I also, with respect, point to a logical inconsistency in your request? You are asking for references etc which implies that you are not all that familiar with them yourself. In which case, why are you so convinced a priori of the impermissibility of homosexuality?

  55. Alex says:

    First off let me say I am an Atheist liberal and supporter for gay rights. I read maybe 65 -70% of the article. I found it to be very well written and not offensive as many anti – gay articles are. I would say it would be better to have a shorter article that would get to the points more quickly and clearly. This was a bit confusing to say the least. I am still a bit confused on the main points against legalizing homosexuality. I have trouble understanding the logic behind banning homosexual acts.

  56. Fatimah says:

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    I have not read all of the comments to this article, but I take issue with a number of points from the article and the various comments I have read:
    First of all, no one “chooses” to be gay – sexual attraction is not a choice. Does someone truly want to be a minority that is bullied and attacked (verbally and physically)? It also has nothing to do with culture. If it did, you would not find Muslims in the most conservative Muslim countries and cultures who are gay, who live with the fear of being “identified” and punished by jail sentences or death. Would someone *choose* this? No.
    Second of all, this article and subsequent comments zeroes in on “sex.” Here’s a wake-up call to people – the world does not revolve around “sex” and sexual intercourse. Marriage and relationships do not bear a neon sign that says “sexual intercourse.” It is an *assumption* that all married individuals engage in a sexual relationship. All intelligent people know though, that companion marriages are common. And due to the issue of anti-gay sentiments, individuals who are gay (again, they do not *choose* to be gay) often engage in a marriage with a companion of the opposite sex who is also gay. No one knows that they do not have a sexual relationship. No children are born? Perhaps they have a fertility problem. And that’s the end of the discussion or gossip amongst others (which of course, gossip is not proper behaviour of someone who is Muslim).
    Third, on the heels of the previous comment, just like straight people fall in love with someone and want to spend their lives together, so too do gay people (the term “gays” is quite derogatory, I would take that term and say it’s equivalent to calling an overweight person “fatso”). Why should gay people not be allowed to fall in love and spend their lives with the person they love? No one knows whether they have sexual intercourse in their bedroom any more than they know if their straight neighbours in the house across the street are engaging in sexual intercourse.
    Fourth, adoption of children by gay couples. The comments have shown that this is just the most terrible thing to occur, second only to the first issue that there is a couple who are of the same sex. How many of you as children witnessed any sexual activity of your parents growing up? I’m certain that your parents did not engage in sexual activity on the couch while you were sitting at the dining room table doing your homework, did they? No doubt you saw your parents give each other an affectionate hug or a kiss on the lips when one was leaving the house for work. I doubt any of your parents were actively “making out” while you sat next to them in the living room watching tv or reading a book. Do you think just because the parents are of the same sex, they are engaged in any of these activities in front of their children and are thereby exposing them to “disgusting sexual conduct?” It’s not uncommon to see relatives of the same sex give an affectionate hug or even a kiss on the lips when they haven’t seen each other for some quite some time. Everyone gets together for a family celebration after Ramadan – how many male relatives give each other affectionate hugs or kisses on the cheek? I know I’ve seen it.

    I think it’s time that people separate sexual intercourse from reference to gay individuals. A person hears someone is gay and there goes the neon sign flashing in front of them of the two fellas standing in front of them engaging in sexual activity. The issue is not on the side of the two fellas standing in front of that person, it is the person standing in front of *them* that sees this neon flashing sign. That person has no idea whatsoever what type of affectionate relationship the couple in front of them have between themselves. There are many aspects of an affectionate relationship that two people want to share only with that one other person such as cuddling together each night when they go to bed, holding each other, etc. that has nothing to do with sexual activity but they want only the other person in their life with whom to do that. It is called *love.*

    Observant gay Muslims who choose to be in a relationship with someone they love, will make a choice as to “how far” one goes in anything that would be considered “sexual.” There are many observant gay Muslims who are in loving relationships and want the rights of formal marriage to protect their other half in terms of financial, medical, etc issues should something happen to one, the other will automatically be considered the next of kin and will not be shut out by homophobic relatives. Just as a man and a woman who decide to marry, sit down before marriage and discuss what they each would like in their relationship, two men or two women who decide to marry and remain observant Muslims will sit down and say “we are not going to engage in any sexual activity that is forbidden by the Qur’an or Sunna.” And these couples have as great a relationship as the man and woman who also sit down and say the same thing.

    If someone wants to focus on the issue of anal sex – yes, it is forbidden by the Qur’an but you will notice that in countries that permit what some would consider “female circumcision” which I personally refer to as female genital mutilation, some women are so damaged by their “circumcision” that they cannot engage in “normal sexual intercourse” and their husbands who consider themselves devout Muslims still want to engage in a sexual relationship and within marriage, will engage in anal sex with their wife. That has been statistically proven, all you need to do is look up the statistics online. These same men, if approached by a man to have anal sex would turn that person over to authorities if being gay is a punishable offense in their country. They do not want to have anal sex, think it unnatural with another man, yet they think nothing of it to have it with their wives to satisfy their sexual desires since they cannot engage in “normal sexual intercourse” due to a cultural practice (unrelated to religion yet still condoned by Islamic clerics).

    Food for thought!

    • Jonaid says:

      Thank you Fatima for this post. One thing to note from your post that’s key is how we define our terms. I think we must always make a key distinction from the onset when discussing homosexuality. “Gay” can be used to mean 1) someone with homosexual orientation (exclusive, predominant or even bisexual), 2) it can be used to refer to someone who engages in the act even if they are predominantly heterosexual in orientation or behavior. One major issue we have on any given topic, not just homosexuality, is that we fail to have a clear cut definition for the terms we all use. I wrote a comment today and I attempted to distinguish between the different manifestations of sexual orientation. Once everyone agrees on what exactly each term means, the level of disagreement tends to diminish (unless some people have ulterior motives).

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Assalamu ‘alaikum Jonaid,

        Thank you for your perceptive comment. Terms and categories are essential, and you are absolutely right about the need to be very clear. As I tried to explain in my recent post, “homosexuality” (as well as “gay” and related terms) is too large of a category that includes too much stuff under one umbrella: feelings, emotions, passions, desires, on the one hand, and related physical acts, on the other. It takes the first set as basic and considers the related acts to flow therefrom as if automatically, subject to no independent moral evaluation of them as discrete ACTS. It is critical, however, for us to maintain the distinction between desires and acts that our deen always has, and to do that, we need to avoid using sloppy terms like “gay” and “homosexual” that do not fit into an Islamic framework, that have no direct equivalents in our native Shari’a terms and categories, and that complicate the discussion by: (1) essentializing persons on the basis of their feelings and desires, which we have NEVER done, and (2) eliding distinctions (like that between desires and actions) that are critical to our moral discourse and perspective on this issue as well as others, both sexual and non.

        One thing that confuses me — which goes back, in the end, to terminological sloppiness and the use of ambiguous phraseology — are the calls we sometimes hear that “we” — that is, we collectively, as a community — need to be “accepting and tolerant of our gay brothers and sisters,” and such. I’m having trouble putting my finger on what is meant by this exactly. If by “gay” we mean someone who feels attractions to his or her own sex (but does not act on them), then how would anyone know if a brother or sister is “gay” in this sense? It’s an internal reality and struggle that one is not likely to announce openly in one’s masjid. Especially if one is not acting on it and does not plan to, what would be the benefit of letting everyone know that one has such desires, especially given the taboo involved (perhaps unjustly)? A brother or sister who is “gay” in this sense wouldn’t show up as different from any other brother or sister, so there’s no doubt they would be treated the same as everyone else — i.e., there would be no need for any type of special “acceptance.” [Of course, such a person should be able to confide his or her struggle with homosexual desires to a trusted individual(s) and be met with support, compassion, and understanding since it can be a very difficult trial, and if this is what is meant by “support and acceptance,” then I’m all for it, 150% — though again, this would most likely play out privately in the imam’s or counselor’s office and not be worn on the person’s sleeve, just like any other personal problem or particular struggle of whatever kind anyone else might confide in such a person. It sill wouldn’t make of it something that demands special “acceptance” by the community as such. I’m having trouble understanding what that would even mean.]

        But, if someone in our current culture openly identifies as “gay” and wears that label on his or her sleeve, this usually implies that the person has taken the (Islamically problematic) step of basing his very identity on his sexual desires, which almost always implies a smuggling in of the acceptance and moral approval of same-sex romantic relationships and sexual behaviors, and that the person himself most likely engages in such openly, or intends to. This, obviously, is not something that can be accommodated within the community — be it in the name of “tolerance,” “acceptance,” or what not — since it flies in the face of the Shari’a values and prescriptions that we are morally bound to uphold as normative. We would not “accommodate” a brother or sister who, for example, is openly living with a member of the opposite sex without being married, as this would amount to an approval of zina, which is a major crime in Islam. There would be no grounds for running such a person, as an individual, out of the masjid (as long as he does not flaunt or is open about his illicit behavior), but I don’t think we would — or could reasonably be expected to — take very kindly to such a person shoving his illegitimate relationship in our faces by showing up with his zina-partner “as a couple” at mosque functions, Eid parties, etc. Same goes for someone who drinks alcohol on his own time. No one’s going to excommunicate him or prevent him from praying at the mosque, but we certainly would not tolerate him drinking on masjid grounds or setting up a wet bar at the next community picnic.

        But when people call for the “acceptance of our gay brothers and sisters,” I sometimes get the impression that they are calling for precisely this: not a compassionate embrace of individuals struggling with certain temptations, but a toleration of prohibited relationships and behaviors in a way that we would never consider extending to other prohibited relationships or behaviors, like the ones mentioned above. It’s almost as if we’re being called upon to endorse a double standard and somehow treat gay relationships, which are strictly prohibited in our religion, as a special case that somehow deserves a free pass. A brother can’t show up at a function with a sister he’s not married to, but he can show up with a brother he’s romantically involved with, well, because he’s gay, right? That’s just “who he is” (as opposed to “what he does”).

        These are the some of the many dangers and ambiguities that will continue to arise if we are not careful in maintaining a discourse that centers on the Shari’a permissibility or impermissibility of discrete acts (which is what the deen is primarily concerned with and what our discourse on this issue has always been a function of), as opposed to slipping into the (historically and culturally contingent) terms and categories presented to us by contemporary secular society, with its insistence on “homosexuality” as something that someone primarily IS, as opposed to same-sex acts and behaviors viewed as something that a person (as a male or female, but not as a “homosexual”) DOES.

        This issue is becoming more and more of a fitna for some in our community and has already ravaged practically all other religious communities. May God protect us and guide us to what is right and pleasing to Him. Ameen!

        Wassalam,
        Ahmad B.

    • Ahmad B. says:

      Assalamu ‘alaikum Fatimah,

      Thank you for your thoughtful post. I agree that we need to separate forbidden sexual acts (which are things that people engage in voluntarily and are therefore morally responsible for from a Shari’a perspective) from things like feelings of love, attraction, desire, etc. (which are often involuntary and not under a person’s direct control). It’s enlightening to know that classical scholars regularly made this distinction, condemning the former (the acts) but not necessarily viewing the actual desires, passion, and attractions as being themselves pathological or immoral. Going through the literature, one often gets the impression that the presence of same-sex desires among human beings was simply taken for granted as part of the human condition. No one seems to have been particularly shocked or scandalized by the thought that two men or two women might be attracted to each other sexually. Further, no one was ever categorized merely on account of their desires or the gender of the person(s) to whom they might be attracted. There is no Shari’a category and no word in Classical Arabic that means “gay” in the sense we use it today.

      But — and this is very important to underscore in our current context — no one has EVER disagreed that it was haram for two people of the same sex to engage in any type of PHYSICAL intimacy of a romantic or sexual nature with each other. This includes especially — but not only! — full-on intercourse (in the case of males), but also genital rubbing in the case of women (called “sihaq” in Arabic), and even hugs and kisses that express romantic and/or sexual passion and desire that go beyond the brotherly and sisterly hugs and kisses — devoid of shahwa — that it is customary for members of the same gender in many Muslim cultures to exchange. It is true that only male-male anal intercourse is considered a “kabira” on the order of male-female zina, but that doesn’t mean that lesser same-sex behaviors are not also categorically prohibited. Heck, it’s even haram to look at the ‘awra of any human being who is not halal to you through a valid legal contract (opposite-sex, of course).

      Again, it is crucial to realize that, in Islam, sexual feelings and desires are one thing, but same-sex physical intimacy (of ANY sort) is quite another. Our religion has universally upheld this distinction (particularly with regard to sexual feelings and acts) for its entire history, and we must be aware of what the teaching is. Modern society elides this inclinations-vs.-acts totally, taking feelings as basic and viewing the related acts as following from them as if automatically, not subject to any independent moral evaluation on their own as ACTS. This stance, for reasons that are obvious, undermines the entire foundation of human moral responsibility as delineated in the Shari’a, so it can by no means be abandoned by us Muslims just because contemporary secular society has chosen to view sexual expression as answerable to no standard of conduct or moral judgment other than the willful consent of the parties involved.

      With these considerations in place, I’d like to take a stab at answering some of your questions:

      YOU SAY: First of all, no one “chooses” to be gay – sexual attraction is not a choice. Does someone truly want to be a minority that is bullied and attacked (verbally and physically)? It also has nothing to do with culture. If it did, you would not find Muslims in the most conservative Muslim countries and cultures who are gay, who live with the fear of being “identified” and punished by jail sentences or death. Would someone *choose* this? No.

      RESPONSE: You are correct here. People do not typically choose who they are attracted to, and there is considerable ambiguity about the degree to which such attractions can be changed (for some individuals, it seems, they can be altered to a substantial degree, for others not). The good news is that Islam has no category into which people are shoved on account only of feelings and inner inclinations, nor does the religion stigmatize or hold anyone responsible for anything that is beyond their control.

      YOU SAY: Second of all, this article and subsequent comments zeroes in on “sex.” Here’s a wake-up call to people – the world does not revolve around “sex” and sexual intercourse. Marriage and relationships do not bear a neon sign that says “sexual intercourse.” It is an *assumption* that all married individuals engage in a sexual relationship. All intelligent people know though, that companion marriages are common. And due to the issue of anti-gay sentiments, individuals who are gay (again, they do not *choose* to be gay) often engage in a marriage with a companion of the opposite sex who is also gay. No one knows that they do not have a sexual relationship. No children are born? Perhaps they have a fertility problem. And that’s the end of the discussion or gossip amongst others (which of course, gossip is not proper behaviour of someone who is Muslim).

      RESPONSE: This analysis is based on a category error. While no one knows what goes on between any given married couple, as you state, the fact of the matter is that sex is absolutely a paradigmatic part of the marriage relationship, is normative, and is implied both by custom and by law whenever a couple is married. If a couple is not having sex for whatever reason, that is their choice and no one needs to know about it (and if one partner is withholding it from the other, that is grounds for divorce), but it is absolutely legitimate and normal for people to assume that, in all likelihood, a married couple IS having sex. Sex in marriage is normative and paradigmatic to the relationship, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous. An Islamic marriage contract is very explicitly one whose main effect is to bring about the legitimacy of an ensuing sexual relationship, so to say that we can contemplate “marriages” between, say, two members of the same sex while refraining from making any assumptions as to whether they are having sex or not is not consonant with the conventional notion of marriage in any society, and certainly not within Islam. It follows that approving of marriage between two people of the same sex is tantamount to approving of sex between them, which is haram and therefore impossible for the community to endorse as a normatively acceptable practice.

      YOU SAY: Third, on the heels of the previous comment, just like straight people fall in love with someone and want to spend their lives together, so too do gay people (the term “gays” is quite derogatory, I would take that term and say it’s equivalent to calling an overweight person “fatso”). Why should gay people not be allowed to fall in love and spend their lives with the person they love? No one knows whether they have sexual intercourse in their bedroom any more than they know if their straight neighbours in the house across the street are engaging in sexual intercourse.

      RESPONSE: Two people of the same sex who are attracted to each other and/or fall in love should NOT “spend their lives with the person they love” because this would almost invariably involve them in the commission of intimate acts that are contrary to the Will of God. Again, we have no category of “same-sex intimate relationship” that is other than just a very close and warm friendship — without being sexual or erotic — between, say, two brothers or two sisters. We have no paradigm or arrangement whereby, say, two such “friends,” however, would set up house together and live their lives together as a male-female couple would. Despite the pervasive presence of literature, poetry, legal discussions, etc. about same-sex desires and behaviors in our tradition, there is no precedent anywhere for such relationships being taken as the basis of founding a household (since they’re not even legitimate to begin with).

      YOU SAY: Fourth, adoption of children by gay couples. The comments have shown that this is just the most terrible thing to occur, second only to the first issue that there is a couple who are of the same sex. How many of you as children witnessed any sexual activity of your parents growing up? I’m certain that your parents did not engage in sexual activity on the couch while you were sitting at the dining room table doing your homework, did they? No doubt you saw your parents give each other an affectionate hug or a kiss on the lips when one was leaving the house for work. I doubt any of your parents were actively “making out” while you sat next to them in the living room watching tv or reading a book. Do you think just because the parents are of the same sex, they are engaged in any of these activities in front of their children and are thereby exposing them to “disgusting sexual conduct?” It’s not uncommon to see relatives of the same sex give an affectionate hug or even a kiss on the lips when they haven’t seen each other for some quite some time. Everyone gets together for a family celebration after Ramadan – how many male relatives give each other affectionate hugs or kisses on the cheek? I know I’ve seen it.

      RESPONSE: This is irrelevant. No one thinks that gay couples have sex in front of the children they are raising. The point is that their living together as if married implies a sexual relationship. A child with two “dads” who sleep in the same room together has every right to assume — again, just as a function of what marriage, paradigmatically, is all about — that they are having sex together, which is morally offensive and therefore unfair to subject a child to. Any Muslim child with a properly formed moral conscience should not be expected to sleep under the same roof as two people who are engaged in acts of gross disobedience to Allah (particularly in the case of two males who engage in penetrative anal intercourse, which is one of the biggest sins a Muslim can commit).

      YOU SAY: I think it’s time that people separate sexual intercourse from reference to gay individuals. A person hears someone is gay and there goes the neon sign flashing in front of them of the two fellas standing in front of them engaging in sexual activity. The issue is not on the side of the two fellas standing in front of that person, it is the person standing in front of *them* that sees this neon flashing sign. That person has no idea whatsoever what type of affectionate relationship the couple in front of them have between themselves. There are many aspects of an affectionate relationship that two people want to share only with that one other person such as cuddling together each night when they go to bed, holding each other, etc. that has nothing to do with sexual activity but they want only the other person in their life with whom to do that. It is called *love.*

      RESPONSE: As as I mentioned in my introductory comments, you’re fixating on full-on genital contact, without realizing that all the other things you mention are haram as well, even if comparatively less serious. Any “affectionate relationship” that a same-sex “couple” is having is illegitimate and prohibited, even if they’re not having full-on sex. The type of close relationship that is allowed between two men or two women is the type of brotherly/sisterly “hubb fi’Llah,” or “love in / for the sake of Allah,” which has formed the object of a lot of reflection in the Islamic tradition (Imam al-Ghazali, for example, has a beautiful section in his Ihya’ ‘ulum al-din about this). Whatever differentiating factor that would make of two such friends a “couple” is, practically by definition, haram, so I don’t see how it’s coherent for us to talk about male-male or female-female “couples,” even if the relationship includes no genital contact. You may consider “cuddling each other when they go to bed” or “holding each other” to be simply expressions of * love * that constitute no “sexual activity,” but it’s certainly a stretch to argue that such actions are a legitimate expression of that KIND of love (al-hubb fi’Llah) that is alone permissible between two members of the same sex. (By the way, it’s explicitly forbidden for two members of the same sex to lie with each other under the same sheet, so sharing a bed with a romantic same-sex partner, even if only for the purpose of “cuddling,” expressly runs counter to the Shari’a.)

      [continued below]

    • Ahmad B. says:

      [continued from above]

      YOU SAY: Observant gay Muslims who choose to be in a relationship with someone they love, will make a choice as to “how far” one goes in anything that would be considered “sexual.” There are many observant gay Muslims…

      RESPONSE: I take issue with your claim that one can coherently speak of an “observant gay Muslim who choose[s] to be in a relationship with someone they love.” Since such relationships are prohibited in the religion, it follows that choosing to be in one compromises one’s observance of the faith. If that person still prays the five prayers, fasts, gives zakat, avoids alcohol, pork, etc., then he (or she) is clearly observant in many things, but radically non-observant in one very important aspect of life as well. And if this is a state that someone has consciously entered into and made into a permanent, publicly asserted arrangement, then it would only make sense to say something like, “Many otherwise observant gay Muslims” (or something like that), same as you would say if someone were doing all the fara’id and avoiding the major sins except, say, they drink wine openly as a regular part of how they live. One wouldn’t in this case speak of “an observant Muslim who drinks wine openly at dinner,” but at most “an otherwise observant Muslim who nevertheless drinks wine openly at dinner.” The way you express it makes it sound like choosing to live with a same-sex romantic partner is a morally neutral act in Islam, one which has no bearing on the degree to which one is or is not observant of the faith.

      YOU SAY: There are many observant gay Muslims who are in loving relationships and want the rights of formal marriage to protect their other half in terms of financial, medical, etc issues should something happen to one, the other will automatically be considered the next of kin and will not be shut out by homophobic relatives.

      RESPONSE: An Islamic marriage (nikah) contract is only valid between a man and a woman. Since there is no such thing as a “formal marriage” between two people of the same sex in Islam, I assume you are talking here about Western secular law for Muslims who live in such jurisdictions. Where such marriages are legal, Muslims as free citizens cannot be prevented from engaging in them as a civil affair, but this would in no sense make them “married” Islamically and would provide no basis for the Muslim community as such to view or treat them as a “married couple.” If one of them dies, then normatively his or her wealth (other than the 1/3 of it which a person may bequeath to whomever he likes) would be divided according to the stipulations of Islamic inheritance law, which does not allot portions to same-sex spouses, since such persons are not recognized by the Law (much as Western law would not recognize a Muslim man’s second or third wife since, even if they are legally married Islamically and therefore Islamic law would allot each wife her due share of the inheritance, Western law simply has no concept of multiple spouses such that it could treat them as beneficiaries of any particular rights or privileges).

      If such a person circumvents Islamic inheritance laws altogether via a secular testament in a Western country, depriving his blood relatives of their legitimate God-given shares of his wealth in favor of an individual whom the law doesn’t even recognize as a legitimate beneficiary to begin with, I’m honestly not sure if, legally speaking, such a person would still be considered Muslim in any meaningful sense. In fact (and one would obviously have to check this with a faqih), I’m not sure that the very act of engaging in a (secular) same-sex marriage might not be considered tantamount to a formal rejection of Islam as well. Muslims may follow conventional, secular laws in non-Muslim jurisdictions (like in the West) only on condition that doing so does not violate the express stipulations of the Shari’a (unless a person is legally forced). But here we’re dealing with a situation where Muslims, under no compulsion or duress whatsoever, are conscientiously choosing secular law over Islamic law in order to do something that Islamic law prohibits, and this not on a side matter, but in an area of central concern to the Shari’a and its social and moral vision — namely, marriage, sex, family relations, lineage and the many mutual rights and duties that obtain thereby, etc.

      Finally, I take strong objection to your use of the slur “homophobic” in reference to people’s Muslim relatives who, in adherence to the dictates, priorities, goals, and moral teachings of Islam, do not yield to the expectation that they are somehow under an obligation to accept a relative’s same-sex partner (not recognized in the deen to begin with) as a legitimate “spouse” — especially when it comes to legal rights and duties that are stipulated in Islamic Law and are therefore an inseparable part of the Islamic faith and what it means to be committed to it and live it out. Maintaining good relations with such a relative (as an individual) is one thing, but there’s a real question involved here as to how far one can go in accommodating such a person’s same-sex relationship and/or partner before reaching the point of effectively endorsing the legitimacy of such and, in doing so, violating one’s own moral commitments and obligations. I think it is unreasonable for same-sex attracted Muslims who decide to go down this route to expect their believing relatives to simply go along with it and accommodate them at every turn, with no consideration of their own moral conscience and duty to strive for the upholding of God’s Law and standard in their lives, homes, families, masjids, and larger communities.

      YOU SAY: Just as a man and a woman who decide to marry, sit down before marriage and discuss what they each would like in their relationship, two men or two women who decide to marry and remain observant Muslims will sit down and say “we are not going to engage in any sexual activity that is forbidden by the Qur’an or Sunna.” And these couples have as great a relationship as the man and woman who also sit down and say the same thing.

      RESPONSE: Again, I don’t think it’s coherent to speak of people “remain[ing] observant Muslims” while consciously deciding to marry outside the bounds of the Shari’a and openly live in a relationship that is Islamically illegitimate. They would not be “married” in Islamic terms anyway, so you’re mixing paradigms here to speak of “two men or two women who decide to marry [not possible in Islam] and remain observant Muslims [incoherent as a description for someone who has “married” a same-sex partner in open violation of central and unanimously agreed upon Islamic norms and teachings].

      As far as deciding not to “engage in any sexual activity that is forbidden by the Qur’an or Sunna,” the term “sexual” is ambiguous here as I have noted above. In any case, ANY and ALL sexual activity between such persons is, as it stands, “forbidden by the Qur’an and Sunna,” as well as the lesser activities you classified above as being non-sexual (like cuddling when going to bed together at night, etc.), so this whole issue is sort of a moot point.

      YOU SAY: If someone wants to focus on the issue of anal sex – yes, it is forbidden by the Qur’an but you will notice that in countries that permit what some would consider “female circumcision” which I personally refer to as female genital mutilation, some women are so damaged by their “circumcision” that they cannot engage in “normal sexual intercourse” and their husbands who consider themselves devout Muslims still want to engage in a sexual relationship and within marriage, will engage in anal sex with their wife. That has been statistically proven, all you need to do is look up the statistics online. These same men, if approached by a man to have anal sex would turn that person over to authorities if being gay is a punishable offense in their country. They do not want to have anal sex, think it unnatural with another man, yet they think nothing of it to have it with their wives to satisfy their sexual desires since they cannot engage in “normal sexual intercourse” due to a cultural practice (unrelated to religion yet still condoned by Islamic clerics).

      RESPONSE: Anal sex is prohibited between married couples (sometimes referred to as “minor liwat,” in contrast to “major liwat,” which is anal sex between two men). In the case of a woman incapable of having vaginal intercourse, it is possible that anal intercourse might be considered a legitimate alternative (though I’m not sure; I would have to research this point). A woman whose genitals have been mutilated to the point of rendering her incapable of intercourse has suffered a great wrong and injustice, one which is categorically prohibited by Islam. How could it not be, when Islam considers female sexual fulfillment to be an indefeasible right of the wife? This type of major labial cutting is cultural and mostly limited to east Africa (where it is engaged in by Muslims, Christians, animists, and others as a cultural practice), while not being practiced by Muslims in practically any other part of the world, including (as far as I know) in very conservative countries like Saudia Arabia or Afghanistan. Any circumcision that might be considered Islamically legitimate (and there is reference in some of the sources to the circumcision of women) would be the equivalent of what circumcision amounts to for a male, which in the female would involve no more than the removal of extra skin above and / or around the clitoris, but not excising the clitoris itself, let alone any part of the labia, major or minor (wallahu a’lam). I’m not saying this is a religiously mandated practice and I’m not specifically calling for it to be observed — especially in light of the gross abuses that happen under the name of “female circumcision” — but only pointing out what reasonable circumcision in a female — if such is thought to exist — might consist of. Wallahu ta’ala a’lamu bi-l-sawab.

      Wassalamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullah,
      Ahmad B.

      • Dear Commenters

        Please try and keep comments concise.

        Best Regards
        Comments Team

      • Jonaid says:

        Salam Alaykum.

        “Anal sex is prohibited between married couples (sometimes referred to as “minor liwat,” in contrast to “major liwat,” which is anal sex between two men). In the case of a woman incapable of having vaginal intercourse, it is possible that anal intercourse might be considered a legitimate alternative (though I’m not sure; I would have to research this point).”

        Nothing Ahmed wrote was surprising or new or even “offensive” to someone like myself. What I quoted above, however, really goes to show the hypocrisy of certain muslims and why ultimately innocent people end up leaving their faith. You make many legal statements here and no doubt you have your “proofs” in precedent and Islamic jurisprudence. However, do you think why there is a massive difference between the Qur’anic narrative and that outlined by “Islamic Law.” So many rules that should be “recommended” or “preferred” have become “mandatory” and you forget what the essential message of Islam is. You are quick to open the possibility of anal sex with a woman if she is incapable of vaginal intercourse. How convenient (for you). Yet, a man who is by no choice of his own homosexual, has endured years of mental stress & depression and who knows what else, is committing an utter abomination if he cuddles a male lover when sleeping. By God this kind of reasoning is what has brought us to our state.

        You need to stop espousing your “sophisticated” theological positions and go back to the Qur’an itself. The essential message of the Qur’an is to FIRST bring people to God. It is between God and the individual after that. I’ve already pointed out the dilemma of 1400 years of unanimity on this subject. I don’t know if you read my post way above (dated Jan 7) but if you have, remember one thing: empathy. The Prophet (peace be upon him) won people’s hearts and those that he brought in through relative “force” eventually became true believers in their hearts by seeing his and his sahaba’s ethics and capacity to be empathetic.

      • Malik Matiyahu says:

        One point that keeps being made is that “no one has ever held that homosexuality is acceptable in Islam”, referring to juridical opinion.

        So the argument seems to be that if a consensus has been established it can not be overturned?

        So let me ask those who know more than me: can you name me a scholar from the middle ages who held that slavery should be abolished as an institution? Can you name me a scholar who believed that women were not possessions that men had non negotiable sexual rights over by virtue of a nika and bride price? Or who believed rape was possible within a legal marriage?

        As I have said before, the Quranic evidence on homosexuality is not a strong as is assumed, relying upon a single “historical” episode that is open at the very least to a plurality of interpretations, and the Hadith…well…that opens the whole issue of Hadith…but suffice it to say none of the ones that address such issues are massively transmitted ( very few Hadith are).

        Perhaps one of the problems here is simply that, faced with new knowledge and new social paradigms, its very hard for traditions (of whatever hue) to accept they may have been wrong – or more accurately, that what they believed in the past is no longer appropriate now? Because of course that risks undermining more than just the traditional position on the issue at hand.

      • Ahmad B. says:

        Assalamu ‘alaikum Br. Jonaid,

        Well, it is clear that I *have* offended you, and for that I do apologize. I did read your January 7 post, which I found both moving and insightful. Have you read my response to it?

        Regarding the issue of anal intercourse with a wife who is incapable of having vaginal sex, I was not “quick” to bring up anything. I was merely responding to the scenario mentioned by Sr. Fatimah. There is a minority Shi’i opinion that considers anal intercourse with a wife to be halal even without need, and apparently Imam al-Shafi’i also initially held a position close to this before abandoning it in light of further evidence. This is the only reason why I said *perhaps* it might be a permissible alternative in the case mentioned by Fatimah but, as I mentioned, I don’t know if that’s the case or not since I’ve never looked into the issue or heard it discussed by scholars.

        Also, I never said — and I’m sorry if I implied — that someone is committing an “abomination” if he “cuddles with a male lover when sleeping.” As I mention in my response to your Jan. 7 post, the Shari’a categorizes discrete acts, without making any categorical distinction between “same-sex” and “opposite-sex” behaviors as such (this is a purely modern Western distinction). Only penetrative male-female zina, as well as penetrative male-male intercourse (liwat), are considered “kabiras” (or “abominations” if you prefer), and there seems to be a disagreement as to whether liwat (male-male) is a more or a less serious offense than (male-female) zina, or the same. Non-penetrative acts fall outside of the category of “kabira,” even if they take place between two members of the same sex. So a guy having sex with his girlfriend is committing a major sin in Islam — despite the fact that the act is a “heterosexual” one — while a guy cuddling with another at night is not — despite the fact that the act is a “homosexual” one. I think many Muslims would be surprised to hear things put this way, but that is the conclusion we would have to draw if we’re sticking to our deen (and not to cultural or other preconceptions, be they among Muslims or others).

        Finally — and you may not believe this judging only from my response to Fatimah — but I am well aware of the very difficult situation faced by people in your situation and, in fact, have a great deal of empathy (not to mention respect) for those having to deal with it. I am ready to embrace (literally) any individual who struggles on sincerely as a Muslim (regardless of the issue) and who manifests the integrity I read in your January 7 post. We are all on different levels in our various struggles in this life, and I do not believe that someone dealing with homosexuality is categorically worse (or better) than any other Muslim. My post to Fatimah was about the discrete question of publicly approving forbidden behaviors as a community ONLY, not about extending (or withholding) love and support to (from) sincere individuals striving to do their best with the cards they’ve been given.

        In any case, I do apologize if I came across as harsh, judgmental, or unsympathetic. May Allah bless you and grant you success and happiness in this life and the next.

        Wassalam,
        Ahmad B.

  57. Jonaid says:

    I wasn’t offended – perhaps a bit disheartened. You come across as sincere and I appreciate that. I didn’t mean it literally when I said that two male lovers cuddling would be considered an “utter abomination” or “kabira.” The point I was making was that in the case of male-male cuddling – regardless of a fixed homosexual orientation – is an absolute no but possible exceptions may be made – and have been made – for otherwise illicit sexual behavior if the couple is heterosexual and unable to enjoy vaginal intercourse. If you are as sincere as you want others to be, you’d accept that this is a reflection of heterosexual (and thus with some degree of innate bias against homosexuals) men finding exceptions to the general rule when it seems the circumstances warrant it. On what grounds – and I mean Qur’anic or Prophetic tradition and common sense – can you rule out ANY and ALL forms of male-male intimacy if the couple is homosexual without any fault of their own. I can claim that a man engaging in anal sex with his wife is more likely to repeat it with another man than two men who sleep together without engaging in penetrative intercourse. Furthermore, the mere fact that such an exception is possible – even if it’s a tiny minority of scholars’ opinion – for heterosexual couples but nothing is allowed for a homosexual couple would almost certainly cause many homosexuals to distance themselves from their faith and engage in activities that they otherwise would not have. Justice and mercy are both key to ensure that people’s iman remains strong. Homosexuals tend to get neither in traditional cultures these days (I’m referring to “EHO” individuals). What’s the result? LGBT organizations now demand more than what they otherwise would have dreamt of: adoption rights, marriage recognition (as opposed to a civil union), pride parades etc etc.

    Be practical.

    Salam Alaykum.

    • Jonaid says:

      I’m not suggesting that we issue a fatwa legalizing certain forms of homosexual behavior for certain individuals. What I am suggesting is an absolute stance on an issue which is far more nuanced today than it was 1000 years ago is only going to continue to hurt Islam. At the very least, a scholar should say: I cannot say what you do is halal but if your circumstances are as you describe, then make sure you don’t do that which IS absolutely forbidden (anal sex) and remember that it’s better if you refrain from as much possible without hurting your iman. Seek forgiveness as there’s no guarantee that anything done is acceptable in the eyes of God and make sure your intentions are good. Ultimately it’s the intention that counts. Also keep things private – you should minimize the number of people who know about your relationship. Finally, if you are not being 100% sincere about your orientation or your ability to control yourself, than know that Allah sees and knows all and you’re going to be guilty in His eyes. Etc etc.

      Something like this would be practical AND would not require departure from any absolute injunction of the Qur’an and the Prophet.

  58. Jonaid says:

    BTW it’s been said before and I think it is a key distinction to make: the Qur’an says the people of Lut practiced “their lusts on males” instead of females or “approach males” leaving aside those God created for them. I read one of your comments above where you highlight the clearcut verses which leave no room for avoiding the obvious: gay sex is haram. I have to agree – it’s really not possible to twist it any other way without lying to yourself or others. That being said, it does not (and why would it?) ever say or even hint that loving another man (I don’t mean strictly platonic) is wrong or forbidden. Also, the clear implication in these verses is that Lot’s people left women for men. No person with an exclusively homosexual orientation ever decides to “leave” women and prefer the men instead (those are bisexuals).

    Keep in mind that illicit acts are not necessarily harmful in themselves but lead to greater harm for the individual and the society. Love, however, is not harmful in anyway whatsoever provided it does not turn into “lust.” I have been in love with a man and I know that my feelings are as pure and natural as the Prophet’s love for Khadija. I would be the happiest person around if I could just be with this person for the rest of my life, without ever having sex. Cuddling? Sure. Would I ever desire to do more? Probably but because I love the person I would not do anything which I know is forbidden and which I consider to be demeaning. It’s as if you fall in love with a woman who you cannot have sex with (for whatever reason). What harm could come out of such a relationship? If anything, it protects you from the actual sin: illicit sexual behavior.

    Perhaps there was a time when even loving a man like this was to be frowned upon but the world has degenerated to such an extent that if you forget the essential message and stick to rules only, you will alienate others instead of bringing them closer. What’s ironic is Muslims of all people have the actual example of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who tolerated certain immoralities when it was necessary to do so. Islam tolerated slavery for nearly 1400 years but would any scholar now condone it? Homosexuality is in a way the opposite of slavery. In a culture where gay marriage is now recognized, your repeating your 1400 year old stance – even if it’s 100% true and for the benefit if society – is bound to come across as “bigoted,” “hate,” “intolerance,” “homophobic” etc. Those with ill-intentions will deliberately use your being true to your convictions as proof of your intolerance (and Islam’s incompatibility with modernity). Ask yourself: what’s better, that we have “gay muslims” who are otherwise practising or if we have ex-Muslim gays who are now free of any limitations whatsoever and feel at liberty to judge for themselves what’s allowed and what isn’t.

    • Ahmad B. says:

      Assalamu ‘alaikum Br. Jonaid,

      Thank you for your thoughtful and extensive responses. I am thinking about the points you have raised and hope to respond at greater length to some of them, though I am unable to do so immediately. I know that you are probably checking in here daily, however, so I did want to acknowledge receipt of your posts.

      In the meantime, I would be interested to know what you make of the following: https://aeon.co/essays/why-should-gay-rights-depend-on-being-born-this-way (to be read in tandem, perhaps, with some of the historical studies of homosexuality in Muslim cultures that I linked to in my response to your January 7 post way above). It seems highly implausible to me that “EHO” individuals as we understand them today existed throughout history but somehow never show up as such on the radar screen before the late 19th century (in the West). Yet I am inclined to believe that the brute desires and inclinations have always existed (at least in some form or another), so were these people literally just silenced for centuries, or could it be that they conceived of their own desires — and of sex, gender, family, relationships, intimacy, friendship, marriage, etc. — in terms so different from all the (culturally bound) ways we see those things today, and the cultural script that accompanies them, that such desires were simply much less consequential than they have come to be for us, and therefore less fraught, less imperial, less likely to provoke crisis, dilemma, and pain? If we believe that Allah’s legislation is just and perfect, and that He has commanded and prohibited with full knowledge (obviously) of the true nature of human desires, then perhaps there’s something much bigger that we’re missing here. Could it be that the entire quandary faced by individuals such as yourself could be remediated not by “curing” this thing called “homosexuality,” but by reorienting our perspectives and evaluations?

      There’s a lot to be said here, obviously, but I would be interested to know what you make of the article. Take care!

      Wassalam,
      Ahmad B.

      • Jonaid says:

        Salam Alaykum.

        You bring up a very important point about the history of EHO individuals and their prevalence today. This was one major reason which triggered my atheism: I know that sexual orientation varies on a spectrum but because mine is EHO I KNOW it exists and it exists without a conscious choice & despite your attempts to change it. Obviously I was biased towards all homosexuals and other minorities and to my mind EHO must have always existed but obviously suppressed vehemently until civilization “progressed” to where we are now. I was wrong and I swear by God Almighty that He gave me the answers to these questions directly, through inspiration as well as by directing to revelant material. Below is a quote from the article you cited and then I’ll elaborate further:

        “It will not satisfy those who wish that we would all unquestioningly accept that sexuality is, simply, a natural phenomenon, nor will it placate those who wish to identify the LGBT community as a symptom and cause of moral ills.”

        I’m gay (in my orientation) and fully aware that I’m stating this in a public forum and this could come back to bite me one day. However, God has given me more than I could have imagined in a dozen lifetimes because I have been uncompromisingly honest even when it has hurt me. I’m sorry to say that the LGBT community – by which I mean individuals like me – ARE a “symptom” and result (not “cause”) of moral ills. However, they weren’t our ills. We are victims or other people’s deviances. Their is genetic heritibiliy and environmental influence. I’ve inherited the good and the bad from my parents, grandparents, and so on. I mentioned in my first post here that there is a direct link between sociopathy (diminished empathy or complete lack thereof) and sexual “fluidity” (turning bisexual). My own experience dealing with sociopaths and my extensive research on this topic has left me near certain that departure from “normal” expression of sexuality originates with these devils (that’s what they really are – we just don’t call them that because there is no “empirical” proof that sociopathy is the end result of following the Devil’s path). Power is what drives their sexual desires ultimately. Gender eventually becomes irrelevant. Like everything else, these people will pass their traits on to their offspring in two ways: 1) genetic predisposition (higher probability of developing a certain trait), 2) the upbringing (children of such individuals are not raised in an ideal, loving environment…it can vary from diminished empathy & love or outright abuse or somewhere in between). I am near certain that homosexual orientation is a result of sociopathic tendencies in the previous generations of an individual.

        Perhaps you can see now why EHO seems to be absent or far less prevalent in ancient cultures. Sociopathy develops gradually – both at the individual level and, by extension, at the societal level. Gradually the culture becomes more and more “free” – free to commit deviations publicly under the guise of liberation by using GENUINE victims of other people’s sins (i.e. EHO or transgender individuals). We should not be suprised: the Prophet (PBUH) foretold how cultures will degenerate over time. What we need to realize, however, is that individuals are not all responsible for this. I inherited a “deviation” yes. I can turn around and blame God but that’s what Iblis did. No, my family, my friends, my society went down the wrong road and I have to put up with some of that now. This is my test. God did not promise paradise on Earth nor did He say that everyone will start off on an equal footing in this world. Allah can and will “correct” for the discrepancies and will judge each individual based on their intentions and their capacity to bear and overcome whatever it is they have been tried with.

        Allah knows best.

        Jonaid

      • Jonaid says:

        This is why I also said that the unanimity amongst Muslim scholarship on this issue is now no longer a justification for the same old stance. We now KNOW that some individuals are not “deviating” but have inherited – or have been predisposed – to an exclusively or predominantly homosexual orientation. To me it’s obvious what our position should be: do not compromise on the original principle but be practical, empathetic and more flexible with certain individuals. The original principle is that the only manifestation of sexuality that is original and pure is a heterosexual one within the context of marriage. That is the Truth affirmed by God Almighty in the Qur’an and while I was honestly disputing that as atheist, now that I know the Word of God is true, I would be lying – intentionally or not – if I said otherwise. However, that does NOT mean that therefore all individuals with EHO or Predominantly homosexual orientation (PHO) should be told that they can never be in a relationship or that if they have sex it’s the same crime committed by the people of Lut. There are degrees. We must emphasize, I think, that no matter what anal sex is haram and no matter what your orientation it should be avoided. Beyond that, it should be left to the individual. It is impractical and destructive the tell an EHO or PHO that they need to be celibate or enter into a fake marriage with the opposite gender. The sincere amongst us will do our utmost to protect ourselves from what is forbidden or discouraged. If we fall short, we’ll feel guilty and repent, InshaAllah. However, being told by non-homosexuals who cannot truly imagine being in our shoes that you can’t ever do X or you’ll be committing a major sin will, in my opinion, drive people to commit more sins than they otherwise would have.

        Thank you and God knows best.

        Jonaid

      • Jonaid says:

        Why do you think Allah says “they have plotted a mighty plot…” several times in the Qur’an. “They” here refers to the Kufar and shayateen. Think about this one: psychos / devils deviate sexually and cause others to deviate. Their actions result in certain individuals inheriting or being predisposed to doing the same. These poor victims are left wondering why they’re shunned by the “Godly” for something beyond their control. They blame God and / or become disillusioned and leave the faith. Who’s ultimately at fault here? The chief deceiver and his minions. Who should know better and be strategic in countering this as much possible (it cannot be reversed, Shaytan will ultimately “win” in this world as we know since everyone will eventually be a disbeliever one day): those who profess to believe in God and serve him. Yes they are human and don’t have all the information but now that you DO have it, it is folly to not be practical and sophisticated in our approach because our tradition is unanimous thus far on this issue. Again, unanimity on the principle should and must remain in the interest of honesty but our policies and strategy must change.

      • Jonaid says:

        Apologies I forgot to add:

        When the victims are, in their ignorance, blaming God and leaving the religion, these same devils use these same victims – victims of THEIR actions – as tools to caricature God, Islam and religious morality by saying “look how destructive religion is.” I would have concurred with them – out of ignorance and disillusion, not ill-intention – until a few months when God Almighty guided me to His way.

        If you’re sincere you should say & do what you genuinely feel is required, not what you’ve been told (even if that’s by a 1000 ulema). Men can go wrong but how could God let a sincere person go wrong and cause others to go wrong?

        I’ll stop bombarding now. Thanks for reading.

  59. Jonaid says:

    No need for apologies I didn’t sense any ill-intention. Also, I wasn’t offended albeit a bit disheartened. I did write three lengthy responses and I received an email confirming they were posted but they haven’t been posted.

    Moderators: please check email sent on 1/16/15 around 1:10 pm – my messages were not posted although the email said it was.

  60. […] following are some of my thoughts and reflections on the essay Debating Homosexuality by Daniel […]

  61. Tobias says:

    I am a gay Muslim man and I have never had relations with someone of the same gender. Instead to honor my faith I have remained celibate as I believe my sexuality to be a challenging trial from God. But there are no words to describe how terrible and miserable my life feels. It’s obvious that anyone who hasn’t experienced my suffering can truly comprehend it’s difficulty. You can claim to have empathy and compassion but you have no idea unless you experience the tormenting loneliness, isolation and suffering that your condemned to when you take the path I’ve been burdened with. I don’t call this a life, I have completely isolated myself away from society because it hurts me to see couples, families and people living their lives everywhere I look. And as much I agreed with everything the author wrote, it saddens me to read his assumption on what causes homosexuality. I am not a confused or incompetent person, while my peers were expressing interest in the opposite sex during puberty, I was mirroring the same feelings towards those of the same gender. I tried to hide it, deny it, ignore it but nothing worked. There is no difference between a homosexula attempting to reject their sexuality as a heterosexual trying to reject theirs. For a while I pretended to find females interesting and tried dating but the truth is I never felt the slightest bit of attraction towards them and it even repulsed me when they tried to kiss me. But when I see a guy that I find attractive walk past, I don’t even have to think or try, my heart just flutters with the emotion of love. But that initial feeling is quickly replaced with resentment, frustration and sorrow as I once again realize it’s the life I will never have. I feel cursed to have all these human emotions but no outlet to express it. I just keep trying to bury it everytime it resurfaces but at the cost of my own physical and mental health. Everyday I wish I was never born but I’m stuck with what I have and I try to do the best I can with it. It would help just a little more if people tried to understand my position. I have exactly the same emotions of love and attraction as you do, and those feelings most likely developed around the same age as the rest of you, except mine happened to be unfortunately directed at the wrong gender. You guys have chosen to pursue and indulge in the feelings generated by your sexuality whereas I’ve had to keep fighting against it to supress it. And unfortunately with time it doesn’t get any easier as the author suggested. It only deteriorates you more. But I can only trust in Allah’s decision and continue to endure.

  62. Your Brother in Islam says:

    I was very touched by the comments of brothers who struggle with their attraction to the same gender. I understand your struggle and I know exactly what you are talking about, so this is not coming from the perspective of someone who is attracted to the opposite sex and is showing empathy. I am like you. But please, let us remember a few things:

    (1) Your sexual feelings neither define who you are nor control what you do. This is fundamental, and it applies to everyone. Sex is just an energy of life, not an identity (which is why I do not use the words ‘gay’ and ‘homosexual’ which the West has invented with the intent to oppress people). Do not obsess about it, even if you find many people around you are indeed obsessed.

    (2) Let us not victimise ourselves. Instead of wasting our time trying to find a reason for this attraction let us accept it. Accept it as background noise and move on with your life. The human mind is incredibly malleable if you allow it to be, so focus on what makes you confident and hopeful, and leave the rest behind.

    (3) Your attitude will changes over time. It is not a coincidence that the age of 40 is explicitly mentioned in the Quran as a special moment. It is. It is the moment you realise that nothing actually matters, particularly not the small and brief pleasures brought about through the physical act of sex for example.

    So please do not give things an importance they do not deserve. It is okay if you feel attracted to the same sex. Whether you act on that or not is your choice, i.e. the choice of how you use your sexual energy. That choice, believe me, will change as you grow up and understand that your impulses can not control you, but you can control them instead. The fact that the Quran says that two men caught having sex should be “left alone if they repent and reform” (Surat An-Nisa, verse 16) is very telling. It says that you always have the choice and nothing is ever set in stone.

    God bless you in this holy month of Ramadan. Keep an open mind and stop worrying about this, it’s not an issue.

  63. Abdullah says:

    Jazakallahu Khairan for another excellent post!
    You mentioned that there is no scientific proof for the existence of the Fitra but I think this article might be relevant: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/3512686/Children-are-born-believers-in-God-academic-claims.html
    The Oxford study concludes that faith is not necessarily based on transferred knowledge but kids have it at birth. This supports the concept of the Fitra that Allah created us upon.
    Would love to hear your feedback.

  64. […] Some of these have focused on the scriptural evidence (here) and moral justifications (here) for Islam's prohibition of same-sex acts and relationships, while others (here and here) have […]

  65. saba mariam yasir says:

    asslam alikum .
    so i am a biology student .and according to what ever we’ve been taught in the classes klienfelters syndrome is a chromosomal genetic disorder .
    i’ve had doubts about this in the islamic prospective always .i have no proper sources to know about this ,so it would be of great help if u would let me know in further detail about this .
    jazak allah.

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