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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.

themuslimskeptic

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.

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.

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219 Comments

219 Comments

  1. Avatar

    DAUDA ALIYU ABBA

    July 20, 2015 at 11:16 AM

    SakalLaahu khairan

  2. Avatar

    Chuck Anziulewicz

    July 20, 2015 at 12:12 PM

    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?

    • Avatar

      Mosaman

      July 20, 2015 at 2:55 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Abdullah Oredegbe

        July 20, 2015 at 9:55 PM

        Mosaman, it doesn’t change the fact that Chuck is suffering from a disease of the heart.

    • Avatar

      Matthew Johnson

      September 18, 2015 at 6:42 AM

      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

    • Avatar

      Jonaid

      January 6, 2016 at 4:00 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Malik Matiyahu

        January 7, 2016 at 7:32 AM

        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”.

      • Avatar

        Jonaid

        January 8, 2016 at 1:57 AM

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

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        Ahmad B.

        January 8, 2016 at 10:15 AM

        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.

      • Avatar

        Slave of Allah

        February 28, 2016 at 11:17 AM

        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. Avatar

    Norma Tarazi

    July 20, 2015 at 1:02 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Kamal R.

      July 21, 2015 at 1:54 AM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Irfan

        July 21, 2015 at 8:58 PM

        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.

      • Avatar

        elza

        July 22, 2015 at 3:13 AM

        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.

      • Avatar

        Faz

        July 26, 2015 at 5:56 AM

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

  4. Avatar

    Caroline

    July 20, 2015 at 1:05 PM

    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. Avatar

    Lara

    July 20, 2015 at 1:18 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Daniel Haqiqatjou

      July 20, 2015 at 1:52 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Lara

        July 20, 2015 at 7:04 PM

        Thanks for listening and changing the image.

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        Ismail

        July 21, 2015 at 5:15 AM

        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.

      • Avatar

        naveed shaikh

        July 22, 2015 at 5:05 PM

        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

    • Avatar

      Wael Abdelgawad

      July 20, 2015 at 4:31 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Lara

        July 20, 2015 at 7:02 PM

        Yes, it has been changed.

    • Avatar

      Conviction2Change

      July 20, 2015 at 11:41 PM

      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. Avatar

    Ibrahim

    July 20, 2015 at 2:05 PM

    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. Avatar

    Buddy

    July 20, 2015 at 3:20 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      M.Mahmud

      July 23, 2015 at 12:31 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Matthew Johnson

        July 24, 2015 at 10:38 AM

        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. Avatar

    Ahmad

    July 20, 2015 at 4:21 PM

    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

    • Avatar

      Daniel Haqiqatjou

      July 20, 2015 at 4:44 PM

      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. Avatar

    Siraaj

    July 20, 2015 at 5:36 PM

    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

    • Avatar

      Daniel Haqiqatjou

      July 20, 2015 at 6:02 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Sheharyar

        August 8, 2015 at 9:29 AM

        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. Avatar

    Sam

    July 20, 2015 at 8:47 PM

    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. Avatar

    Zane

    July 20, 2015 at 9:02 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Sam

      July 20, 2015 at 9:42 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Zane

        July 21, 2015 at 10:30 AM

        “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.

    • Avatar

      Zeeshaan Ahmad

      July 20, 2015 at 10:11 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Zane

        July 21, 2015 at 9:40 AM

        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?

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      Dr. Atkuzzaman

      July 21, 2015 at 1:31 AM

      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.

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        Zane

        July 21, 2015 at 10:31 AM

        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.

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        Vamanos

        July 21, 2015 at 9:33 PM

        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.

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        Vamanos

        July 21, 2015 at 9:35 PM

        That’s a good scientific-based argument.

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        Oberyn Martell

        July 22, 2015 at 9:31 PM

        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’.

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        Ahmad B.

        July 22, 2015 at 11:13 PM

        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).

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      H. Bint-Robert

      July 27, 2015 at 8:21 PM

      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.

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    Blue

    July 20, 2015 at 9:33 PM

    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.

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      Daniel Haqiqatjou

      July 20, 2015 at 9:56 PM

      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/

      • Avatar

        Blue

        July 21, 2015 at 12:23 AM

        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?

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      Amatullah

      July 21, 2015 at 7:21 AM

      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.

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    Amatullah

    July 20, 2015 at 10:24 PM

    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!

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    Amina

    July 20, 2015 at 11:44 PM

    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?

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      ifthikar hassen

      July 21, 2015 at 10:37 AM

      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.

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        Student

        July 21, 2015 at 4:10 PM

        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.

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        Matthew Johnson

        July 21, 2015 at 6:09 PM

        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.

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        Sharif

        July 22, 2015 at 1:08 AM

        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.

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        Sharif

        July 22, 2015 at 1:22 AM

        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.

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    Conviction2Change

    July 20, 2015 at 11:49 PM

    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.

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      Umm Muhammad

      July 21, 2015 at 8:14 PM

      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.

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      Zeeshaan Ahmad

      July 21, 2015 at 10:14 PM

      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.

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    Salman

    July 21, 2015 at 12:01 AM

    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.

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    SALAUDEEN

    July 21, 2015 at 2:00 AM

    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.

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    Dr. Atikuzzaman

    July 21, 2015 at 2:15 AM

    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. Avatar

    DefeatingLies

    July 21, 2015 at 5:13 AM

    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.

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      zul

      January 5, 2016 at 9:26 PM

      ” . . . . 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. Avatar

    Mohammed Khan

    July 21, 2015 at 8:13 AM

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

  21. Avatar

    Rosalinda Wijks

    July 21, 2015 at 12:39 PM

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      Abu Milk Sheikh

      July 21, 2015 at 2:48 PM

      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.

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      Hyde

      July 25, 2015 at 1:37 PM

      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. Pingback: Reading [Debating Homosexuality] | A Certain Astral Project;Ion

  23. Avatar

    Omar Jamal

    July 21, 2015 at 1:58 PM

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

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    Ghalib Moseti

    July 21, 2015 at 2:51 PM

    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.

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      Daniel Haqiqatjou

      July 21, 2015 at 6:52 PM

      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. Avatar

    SG

    July 21, 2015 at 3:29 PM

    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.

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      Sharif

      July 21, 2015 at 5:44 PM

      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).

    • Avatar

      Matthew Johnson

      July 21, 2015 at 6:28 PM

      “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.

      • Avatar

        Umm Muhammad

        July 21, 2015 at 8:01 PM

        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.

        • Avatar

          Matthew Johnson

          July 24, 2015 at 12:34 PM

          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. Avatar

    hamesh

    July 21, 2015 at 4:20 PM

    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..

    • Avatar

      Sharif

      July 21, 2015 at 6:00 PM

      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. Avatar

    Fatima

    July 21, 2015 at 6:33 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Daniel Haqiqatjou

      July 21, 2015 at 6:46 PM

      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.

    • Avatar

      Hyde

      July 21, 2015 at 7:35 PM

      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?

    • Avatar

      Umm Muhammad

      July 21, 2015 at 7:45 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Hyde

        July 21, 2015 at 10:04 PM

        Spot on response!

    • Avatar

      Vamanos

      July 21, 2015 at 9:42 PM

      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.

    • Avatar

      Hassan

      July 21, 2015 at 10:05 PM

      Homosexuality is choice.

      • Avatar

        Student

        July 22, 2015 at 5:00 PM

        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.

      • Avatar

        Hassan

        July 23, 2015 at 4:16 PM

        No it does not.

    • Avatar

      Student

      July 22, 2015 at 5:19 PM

      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.

    • Avatar

      M.Mahmud

      July 23, 2015 at 1:01 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Hyde

        July 25, 2015 at 1:41 PM

        “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. Avatar

    Shireen

    July 21, 2015 at 10:12 PM

    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

    • Avatar

      Abu Milk Sheikh

      July 22, 2015 at 12:41 AM

      @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.

      • Avatar

        Matthew Johnson

        July 24, 2015 at 11:07 AM

        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. Avatar

    Mike

    July 22, 2015 at 1:55 AM

    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. Avatar

    Andy

    July 22, 2015 at 2:20 AM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Matthew Johnson

      July 24, 2015 at 4:56 PM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        July 25, 2015 at 12:09 AM

        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. Avatar

    Muslimah

    July 22, 2015 at 2:27 PM

    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. Avatar

    Oberyn Martell

    July 22, 2015 at 10:46 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Straight Struggle

      July 23, 2015 at 2:53 AM

      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

    • Avatar

      Hyde

      July 23, 2015 at 8:27 PM

      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.

    • Avatar

      Matthew Johnson

      July 24, 2015 at 1:09 PM

      Dear Oberyn

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

      Best Regards

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        July 24, 2015 at 6:30 PM

        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.

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        July 24, 2015 at 10:50 PM

        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.

        • Avatar

          Matthew Johnson

          July 25, 2015 at 4:39 AM

          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.

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        July 25, 2015 at 7:30 PM

        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.

        • Avatar

          Matthew Johnson

          July 30, 2015 at 5:10 PM

          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

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        July 25, 2015 at 8:23 PM

        (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. Pingback: » Open Letter to Muslims Regarding Islam, Homosexuality, and The American Way of Life

  34. Avatar

    Hassan Ali

    July 23, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    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.

  35. Avatar

    Matthew Johnson

    July 24, 2015 at 11:20 AM

    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.

    • Avatar

      renewalist

      July 24, 2015 at 8:12 PM

      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.

  36. Avatar

    Noor

    July 24, 2015 at 11:58 AM

    >>>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.

    • Avatar

      Hyde

      July 24, 2015 at 6:44 PM

      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.

    • Avatar

      Hyde

      July 24, 2015 at 6:46 PM

      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””

  37. Avatar

    Amer Rizvi

    July 25, 2015 at 4:08 AM

    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

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      July 25, 2015 at 10:50 AM

      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.

  38. Avatar

    Matthew Johnson

    July 25, 2015 at 6:54 AM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      July 26, 2015 at 12:16 AM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Matthew Johnson

        July 26, 2015 at 6:04 PM

        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.

      • Avatar

        Umm Muhammad

        July 27, 2015 at 3:16 AM

        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!

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        July 27, 2015 at 5:44 AM

        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.

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        July 27, 2015 at 6:57 PM

        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.]

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        July 27, 2015 at 7:03 PM

        [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.

    • Avatar

      Abu Milk Sheikh

      July 27, 2015 at 2:39 AM

      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.

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        July 27, 2015 at 5:35 AM

        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.

        • Avatar

          Matthew Johnson

          July 28, 2015 at 4:01 PM

          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.

      • Avatar

        Matthew Johnson

        July 28, 2015 at 6:17 PM

        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]

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        July 29, 2015 at 8:18 PM

        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.

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        July 29, 2015 at 11:30 PM

        … 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).

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        July 30, 2015 at 12:16 AM

        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.

  39. Avatar

    Bronson Hanson

    July 27, 2015 at 8:27 PM

    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.

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      July 28, 2015 at 1:34 AM

      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