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From a Same-Sex Attracted Muslim: Between Denial of Reality and Distortion of Religion

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Br.Yousef  is the moderator of www.straightstruggle.com

MuslimMatters has carried a number of articles over the past few years related to the topic of homosexuality. Some of these have focused on the scriptural evidence (here) and moral justifications (here and here) for Islam’s prohibition of same-sex acts and relationships, while others (here and here) have offered perspectives on the stance Muslims should take with respect to the larger gay rights movement. Yet other pieces (here and here) have dealt with the issue from a more pastoral angle.

While all these pieces deal admirably with the topic of homosexuality from an Islamic point of view, none of them seek to acquaint the reader with an “insider’s perspective” on the issue, that is, the perspective of a faithful Muslim who actually experiences same-sex desires and attractions. This perspective is important, however, for two reasons. First, many Muslims today are seeking a way to respond to the question of homosexuality that is both principled and compassionate, particularly when it comes to fellow Muslims who may be dealing with same-sex inclinations. At the same time, Muslims, like all members of society, are constantly being bombarded from all quarters by a strident and increasingly aggressive “gay affirmative” public discourse that presents itself as the only reasonable, just, or even moral response to the phenomenon of human same-sex desires and attractions. It is no wonder, therefore, that Muslims – both those who experience same-sex attractions and those who do not – have recently begun ceding to this pressure at the expense of their religious integrity and Islamic moral commitments. With very few voices to counter the dominant narrative, many Muslims today have become sincerely confused, and troubled, over this issue.

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In these circumstances, the voice of an insider to the same-sex struggle is perhaps uniquely qualified to put a human face on this issue and to tell us how we as a community can best be of help to our brothers and sisters who need it. When such a person is also a practicing Muslim committed to dealing with his or her same-sex attractions in light of the teachings of Islam, their witness can also provide perhaps the most credible, and nuanced, alternative to the one-sided, black-and-white public narrative currently shouting down all other considered and principled perspectives on this issue.

The essay below is written by Br. Yousef, a Muslim with same-sex attractions who, along with many other Muslims in his shoes, has committed to living his life on the basis of established Islamic moral and spiritual teachings. In addition, Br. Yousef has moderated an online support group for same-sex attracted Muslims (www.straightstruggle.com) for the past 13 years, giving him a wealth of experience and a unique perspective from which to address this topic. His essay is addressed to imams, chaplains, Muslim activists and community leaders, to the Muslim community at large, and to other fellow Muslims who find themselves dealing with same-sex desires and attractions.

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In the late 1990s, one of North America’s most prominent Muslim leaders was giving a lecture at a large convention. In that lecture, he described how disgusted he was that he had been sitting next to a gay man on his flight over to the lecture. An 18-year-old Muslim experiencing same-sex attractions was at that lecture, and the words like raining bullets are stuck in my head till this day.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Yousef and I write to you as a Muslim who has experienced same-sex attractions since adolescence. I am currently married with children, al-hamdu li’Llah, and have been working for many years now as a professional. My same-sex attractions, while still present, have diminished significantly over the years, and I have been blessed to enjoy a healthy relationship with my wife, whom I love. (As a side note, while marriage was definitely the right decision for me, it may not be right for every person who has same-sex attractions; no single rule applies to all situations.) I have also been the moderator of an online support group for Muslims with same-sex desires, called Straight Struggle, for about 13 years now. In that time, I have transformed, grown, and evolved in my thinking many times over, specifically with regard to the topic of homosexuality and Islam.

Critical Terms and Concepts

I will be using two main terms in this essay: same-sex attractions (SSA) and same-sex encounters (SSE). I believe these terms more accurately describe the relevant issues with respect to the topic of homosexuality, particularly for us as Muslims. The terms “homosexual,” “gay,” “LGBT,” “queer,” etc. in today’s culture are labels that mean different things to different people, whereas there is no mistaking what is meant by “same-sex attractions / desires” and “same-sex encounters.”

It is also important for me to stress that I do not believe that my same-sex attractions are my identity. Same-sex desires are feelings that I, and others, have that I contend with in my daily journey towards Allah. They do not make me different in any essential way from any other Muslim. For this reason, I reject the idea that Muslims who experience same-sex attractions should be given a special label or that we should “self-identify” as “LBGT,” “gay,” “homosexual,” or “queer.” I believe these labels isolate people with such attractions and, from what I have seen, sometimes force them to conform to certain lifestyles even if they do not really want to. Also, these labels have the effect of elevating sexual desires – basically shahawat – and making them part of the “core of who I am” as a person. This seems arbitrary to me and something that I find hard to justify from an Islamic perspective, both legally and spiritually.

To be clear and upfront: there is absolutely nothing haram or to be ridiculed about anyone just having SSA (same-sex attractions). What is forbidden in Islam are SSEs (same-sex encounters and behaviors). No one that I have met over the years ever chose to be attracted to the same sex. Let me repeat: not one single person among the dozens and dozens that I have interacted with over the years ever wanted to have SSA or chose to have SSA. This needs to be understood and taken into account when thinking about your brothers and sisters who are dealing with this issue.

It is also critical that people in the Muslim community understand that there is a very important difference between SSA and SSE, between attractions and actions. Practically all of our religion rides on this distinction, not just in the sexual realm but across the board. I am not judged for merely experiencing a desire (to the extent that it is beyond my control), but only for what I choose to do – or not to do – with it. A person is not cursed or diseased or a walking sin just because they experience SSA. Only an action can be haram, not a person. Rather, they are people just like anyone else who are dealing with a particular difficulty or test in life, and they are doing the best they can with their life and faith. They have failures and successes just like everyone else. Of course, if we apply the distinction between desires and actions consistently, then we who experience SSA also have to concede that just because we have these desires – which can be very strong, as sexual desires often are – this does not justify us acting on them in defiance of Allah’s command.

Who Are Your Brothers and Sisters That Struggle with SSA?

I have thought long and hard about what to write in this essay and it has been something that, in some ways, has been years in the making. I thought I might proceed by giving you some examples of the brothers and sisters that I have encountered over the years. I could tell you about the brother who, from a very young age until he was a young adult, was sexually abused by his older neighbor. I could tell you about the guilt he had since the abuse “felt good” at the time, along with the attention. Or maybe I can tell you about the brother who attempted suicide twice since his family found out about his SSA. Or the sister who lost her job because of rumors about her SSA. Or the brothers who contracted HIV as a result of SSEs.

On the other hand, I could tell you about the imam who chose his faith over his desires and continues to preach, practice, and live as a pious Muslim on his path towards Allah even while keeping his desires in check. Or the community leader who chose a life of celibacy while learning and teaching the faith to others. Or the man who was living a homosexual lifestyle with his partner and who left it all for the sake of Allah when he converted to Islam. Or the number of university professors and doctors and other professionals who made the conscious decision to defeat their nafs and who chose Allah above all else in order to attain the ultimate reward. These brothers and sisters, myself included, firmly reject the idea of making religion conform to one’s needs and desires and rather struggle against themselves in order to follow the teachings of our faith.

What Causes SSA and Can It Be Changed?

The question sometimes comes up as to what causes a person to have SSA. There has been a lot of discussion and research on this issue, and the fact is that no one really knows. It seems that it is most likely due to many convergent factors that are different for each person. Also, the exact nature and intensity of one’s SSA can vary from person to person. I have learned through my long experience that no two people’s profiles are exactly the same. Some people with SSA experience attraction to their own sex as a rule but are not positively repulsed by the other sex. Some of these might be able to see themselves with an opposite-gender spouse one day, if the right person and conditions came along and they had their SSA firmly under control, were confident they wouldn’t fall into SSEs while married, etc. This, in fact, has been my experience and that of a number of others I have known. Other people have no attraction toward the opposite sex at all and may even cringe at the thought of engaging them romantically. Conventional marriage, needless to say, would not be an advisable option for such a person, at least as long as this remains their state.

Also, some people really feel a need to “get to the bottom of” their SSA, to try to understand it and figure it out: what it is, where it came from, why it’s there, what it “means.” Others don’t care much how it got there or why they have it, but prefer just to focus instead on how to manage it effectively and get on with their lives. Personally, I have come to belong more to this second camp. When I was younger, I did spend time trying to figure out why I was this way or what “went wrong.” Eventually I stopped because I figured I didn’t really need to know the “why” of it, but rather just the “how” of how to deal with it. And even this “how” is not something I can explain in any scientific way. It is just things that have worked out for me over the years – mostly through following the Sunna, learning how to outsmart my nafs through the practice of tazkiya, and a fair amount of good old trial and error.

All this raises another common question, namely, can SSA be “cured”? If “cure” means total elimination and 100% “heterosexuality,” then probably not. Statistically, it seems uncommon for someone who has experienced predominant or exclusive same-sex attractions consistently past the age of adolescence one day to have zero SSA susceptibilities and to become fully “heterosexual.” But this goal isn’t just unattainable (for most); I also believe that it is unnecessary. Nothing in Islam says that I have to be “heterosexual” (in fact, we don’t even have a word for that in our deen), but only that I must refrain from prohibited sexual acts (which are named and specified in our deen). Past scholars, for example, differed over whether it was blameworthy for a mature man to be enticed by the beauty of a younger male (typically a “beardless youth,” or amrad). Some thought that such susceptibilities were indeed blameworthy, but many apparently did not – as long as no haram actions were committed.

This last point about avoiding haram actions has been agreed upon by all Muslim scholars. This is why it is so important for us to keep in mind the distinction between desires and actions. As Muslims, we know that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will ask us about what He has put under our control. This always includes our actions, as well as our thoughts and fantasies to the extent that we have control over them. Taklif (moral accountability) would be meaningless if Allah had not given us jurisdiction over our actions and made us fully responsible for them. Of course we will all mess up and make numerous mistakes along the way, whether we are people who happen to be tested with same-sex desires or not. This is exactly what Allah has made tawba (repentance) for. It is also why Allah refers to Himself eight times in the Qur’an as “al-Tawwab al-Rahim,” the Merciful One Who ever turns back to His repenting servant, and assures us no fewer than 72 times (!) that He is “Ghafur(un) Rahim,” the Ever Forgiving, Merciful One – subhan Allah! Therefore, no amount of sin should cause a person to lose hope in the Mercy of Allah. At the same time, our chances of receiving Allah’s help, and earning His ultimate pleasure, are always greater when we minimize our sins as much as we can.

Coming back to the question of change, the fact remains that many people with SSA have experienced meaningful change over time in the intensity of their desires and the hold their same-sex attractions have over them, and/or in the role these desires and attractions play in their lives and their sense of who they are. Sometimes this may happen on its own. Sometimes it is the result of long-term spiritual discipline and self-control. Sometimes it’s a question of changing how you conceive of and define yourself in relation to your desires and to others, particularly those of your own sex. More often than not, any progress a person makes on the path of dealing with his or her SSA will usually come about through a combination of techniques and approaches. Some have benefited from professional, faith-friendly therapy in learning to understand and address their same-sex desires and related emotional and psychological issues that many people with SSA are often also struggling with. Others have reported benefiting greatly from books, programs, and resources meant specifically for addressing, comprehending, mastering, and reducing or minimizing one’s SSA. (A wealth of useful, principled, and thought-provoking information – grounded in a Christian, but also a more generally religious, perspective that Muslims can derive benefit from as well – can be found, for example, at sites such as www.samesexattraction.org or www.peoplecanchange.com.) But again for me, the real goal is not “heterosexuality” per se, but rather contentment, fulfillment, and being at peace with Allah, myself, and others.

Islam as a Middle Path: Avoiding Extreme Narratives

“I Am a Walking Monstrosity and Allah Hates Me for Existing” vs.“Out and Proud: It’s Okay to Be Gay!”

I believe a key step in reaching equilibrium in the process of dealing with SSA is learning to avoid two common extremes: the extreme of despising ourselves for mere desires and attractions we did not ask for and the extreme of “identifying with” these desires as somehow defining who we are as human beings and as Muslims. Islam, as always, is a Middle Way, and it can be very liberating when we learn to get beyond all the false scripts we’ve been fed by our modern culture and to conceive of our particular moral struggle as no different in essence from the moral struggle of any other Muslim. When we do this, we can then learn to see ourselves as no worse, no better, nor even different in any fundamental way from any other sincerely striving servant of God on this planet.

We also reject any attempt on the part of anyone to pressure or to bully Muslim communities, imams, leaders, mosques, schools, or other institutions into accepting what Allah has clearly made haram in the name of “tolerance,” “affirmation,” “acceptance,” “inclusion,” “diversity,” or any of the other buzz words that are normally used for this purpose. 

This talk of extremes – which are always un-Islamic – brings me to another point. Many Muslims dealing with same-sex attractions find themselves stuck today between two sharply opposing forces. The first, which has been debated and now effectively refuted on the level of Islamic teachings (see M. Vaid, “Can Islam Accommodate Homosexual Acts? Qur’anic Revisionism and the Case of Scott Kugle”), are self-described “progressive Muslims” who have taken it upon themselves to offer distorted interpretations of the Qur’an and who reject or dismiss ahadith and the consensus of Muslim scholars, all in an attempt to make SSEs – same-sex acts, encounters, and relationships – permissible in Islam. This group, however, is appealing to some because it offers a “safe space” for Muslims with SSA and offers them a lifestyle that they can easily identify with. Of course, the biggest drawback is that the life such Muslims would be leading is likely to be sinful in many ways. I feel I have to say it clearly here once again: I and many other same-sex attracted Muslims that I have encountered over the years completely reject such attempts to manipulate our religion in order to “accommodate” our (or anyone else’s) “sexuality.” We also reject any attempt on the part of anyone to pressure or to bully Muslim communities, imams, leaders, mosques, schools, or other institutions into accepting what Allah has clearly made haram in the name of “tolerance,” “affirmation,” “acceptance,” “inclusion,” “diversity,” or any of the other buzz words that are normally used for this purpose. The meaning of Islam is “submission,” and my submission to Allah and my faith come above all else, including my own desires, sexual or otherwise. This is the test that Allah has chosen for me and I accept it from Him in hopes of attaining His pleasure and His reward, insha’Allah. Allah mentions in the Holy Qur’an in Surat al-Baqara (2), verses 155-157:

 

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And We shall surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when affliction strikes them, say, “Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him will we return.” Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.

According to the tafsir of this verse, these tribulations from Allah come in many forms that we have no control over. It is only Allah that can choose what these tribulations look like. The only control that we have is how we respond to them. Will we give in to temptation? Will we give up? Or will we persevere with patience and remind ourselves of our ultimate goal in the journey towards Allah? Then Allah can count us among the muhtadeen, the rightly guided who deserve Allah’s blessings and mercy.

So how do we know that we will be tested even if we believe, and that tests and trials are actually proof that we do believe?  In the Qur’an in Surat al-‘Ankabut (29), verses 2-7, Allah says:

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Do people think they shall be left to say, “We believe” and they shall not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars. Or do those who do evil deeds think they can outrun Us? Evil is what they judge. Whoever hopes for the meeting with Allah – indeed, the term decreed by Allah is coming. And He is the Hearing, the Knowing. And whoever strives only strives for [the benefit of] himself. Indeed, Allah is free from need of the worlds. And those who believe and do righteous deeds – We shall surely remove from them their misdeeds and shall surely reward them according to the best of what they were wont to do.

These verses are very clear in their message that belief will be met with trials. Accepting that these are trials and striving against them for the sake of Allah is what is of utmost importance as a statement and proof of our faith, because ultimately it is Allah’s meeting that we seek in the Hereafter no matter what hardship we face in this life on our path towards Him.

So, on the one side are people who try to distort the deen by changing its clear teachings, but then on the other side there is often the culture of hate and stigma within the Muslim community with respect to people who experience SSA: whether it be the fact that this topic is hardly ever discussed – leading Muslims dealing with it to find themselves in bubbles where many young people think that they are literally the only people in the world that could be dealing with it – or the fact that if the topic ever is “discussed,” it is likely by imams who describe how “the punishment of homosexuality is death” and how evil the people of Lut 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) were. Other ways it is “discussed” are with groups of friends who seem to find it okay to make fun of, ridicule, and put down “gays.” (Even for many of us who don’t act on our same-sex desires and reject the notion of self-identifying as “gay,” we still feel that people like us are being targeted by these kinds of comments.) In my many years, I can only recall twice when someone who spoke about the topic of homosexuality in Islam was actually compassionate and understanding enough to say that these are our brothers and sisters and they need our support and help. Twice is not enough. This needs to be the mainstream message that is presented the majority of the time to ensure that people get the correct understanding.

Our Responsibility as a Community

It is no longer – and really never should have been – acceptable that we sweep this issue under the rug. We are losing far too many of our brothers and sisters because of the ignorance of those in places of authority and the indifference and carelessness of the general community. Where are the khutbas and durus where this topic is properly addressed and correctly presented so that people have the proper understanding of the issue from an Islamic perspective? Where are the imams and scholars explaining that the presence of a spontaneous desire is not sinful in and of itself and unpacking the amorphous categories of “homosexuality” and “LGBT” into the more concrete – and religiously faithful – distinction between SSAs and SSEs? Where are the khawatir telling people to watch their tongues when speaking about “gays and lesbians” and “homosexuals” so as not to hurt the feelings of their brothers and sisters who are suffering in silence (even as we reject these identity labels and caution the community against taking them over from secular culture)? Where is the research to allow parents properly to guide their children so they can come to them with such an issue? And where are the tools parents need to be able to help their children who do end up coming to them with the issue of SSA?

Until we, the mainstream Muslim community, find a way to offer a safe environment for people dealing with same-sex attractions to open up to caring and compassionate individuals among us, we will be losing many of our brothers and sisters to a falsified understanding of Islam, or to leaving the religion altogether, or even to suicide (wa’l-‘iyadhu bi’Llah). Now, I certainly do not mean that people should start waving the rainbow flag, wearing pink triangles, and proclaiming their same-sex attractions publicly. What I do mean is that we need to end the isolation and the misinformation about SSA, on the one hand, and the twisting of the deen, on the other, by way of imams and leaders propagating the correct understanding presented above about same-sex attractions (SSA) versus same-sex encounters (SSE) in terms of halal and haram. I also mean that imams, leaders, and parents should acquire the tools necessary to be able to support their children if/when they disclose their SSA to them. If we cannot count on our leaders and our communities both to uphold the integrity of our faith and at the same time to support us – your brothers and sisters who are dealing with same-sex attractions – with wisdom, discretion, and compassion in this test that Allah has chosen for us, then who can we count on?

Please note that I am not asking for anyone’s pity. What I am asking for is some compassion – true compassion rooted in proper Islamic teachings that ensure our welfare as Muslims both in this life and the next. When someone, especially a young person, hears things like “gays should be killed” or “gays are disgusting,” I don’t think one can exaggerate the lasting effects such words can have on a confused and vulnerable soul. No wonder so many of our youth are leaving the deen over this issue or else going over to groups that “affirm” them – however misguidedly – in a gay identity and lifestyle. We as a community should feel sadness and a sense of culpability on both counts. But in addition to the true compassion of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)– who was the most merciful of all mankind yet never compromised in warning people against violating the command of Allah – I am also asking for respect. It is my right as your brother in faith to have your full respect and support. This includes respect and support for brothers who might be effeminate in their behavior or sisters who might be masculine in theirs through no fault of their own. Imam al-Nawawi raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) has stated, concerning a male with effeminate mannerisms (mukhannath):

“The scholars have said that the mukhannath is of two types. The first is one who was created like that; he did not deliberately take on the characteristics of women, their appearance, speech, and mannerisms. Rather, this is a disposition (khilqa) upon which Allah created him. For this [person], there is no blame, no rebuke, no sin, and no penalty, and he is excused as he has no hand in that. The second type of mukhannath is the one who was not created upon that disposition (khilqa). Rather, he deliberately takes on the characteristics of women, their mannerisms, appearance, and speech, and adopts their dress. This is what is blameworthy and has been reported in authentic hadiths as cursed [behavior]. This accords with the meaning of another hadith: ‘Allah has cursed men who (deliberately) imitate women, and women who (deliberately) imitate men.’”

Imam al-Nawawi is clear here that there is no blame on a person for such tendencies as they have little or no control over. (Scholars agree that a person whose mannerisms mismatch their biological sex should try to recondition their mannerisms to the degree possible, but that they are not blameworthy for what lies beyond their capacity in this domain.) So long as someone is not committing haram acts – and really, even if they are – they are still your brother or sister in faith and there is absolutely no justification for disrespecting or bullying them. As long as they are not trying to justify or to normalize any haram behaviors – like same-sex acts – or calling to them publicly, they should be accepted and treated just like anyone else.

Words of Advice to Fellow Muslims Dealing with SSA

In closing, I would like to offer some nasiha to my many brothers and sisters who read this that also deal, as I do, with unrequested same-sex desires. First of all, you should know that you are not alone. There are many of us out there just like you, who know exactly what you are going through – the confusion, the pain, the isolation. We are here to lean on and to support each other with helpful words of advice, an ear to listen, and brotherly/‌sisterly encouragement along what we know through experience can be a very difficult path. Secondly, as all help and support ultimately come from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), I cannot stress how critical it is to maintain one’s relationship with the One Who created us, to trust in Him, and to remain as close to Him as possible – no matter how many times one may have messed up or fallen flat on one’s face in managing one’s sexual desires. Many factors are necessary in dealing effectively with SSA, as I have mentioned, but in my experience, the single most important overriding factor for me has been my faith in Allah,subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and my unwavering faith in and commitment to His deen. Without this critical element, I do not believe I would be anywhere near where I am today in all of this, wa’l-hamdu li’Llah. Finally, I would like to point out that there is no “one path” on the struggle with same-sex desires, no single place that every individual will end up in this life. Every person will walk his or her own path, and every person will have to live with his or her own choices.

The truth of the matter is that neither I nor anyone else has a complete and total solution for SSA. But the good news is, based on what I have seen and experienced, we really don’t need one in order to carry out our lives and to fulfill our mission as God’s khalifa on this earth. All we need to have are the key facts. And the key facts are that Allah has created us to worship Him, that He tests each of us with something unique to him or her, that He has concern for us and wants to see us succeed in our path to Him, that He has made certain actions halal and others haram, that He has given us the gift of moral agency and has made us responsible for our actions, and that, as He has promised us in the Qur’an in numerous verses, He “never burdens a soul with more than it can bear.” We can and we should use whatever means are available out there that work for each of us to help us control our actions and behavior first and foremost, as this is what Allah has made us responsible for in front of Him, and to address and work through our various issues as best we can. How our individual lives end up after that, what Allah ultimately has in store for each of us here below (not to mention “there above”) when we struggle patiently in His Way, with faith and trust in Him – all of this is in the hands of Allah, our Master, Who says in the Qur’an: “No soul knows what joy is kept hidden for it as a reward for that which they used to do” (Surat al-Sajda, v. 17).

Walking the Straight Path

I think, in sum, that this is a way forward: self-control and self-discipline. And no, I am not saying that we “pray away the gay,” but that we learn how to tame and control our nafs such that it doesn’t govern our actions. This is what Allah has asked of us – no more, but also no less. What happens beyond that is open and is different for each person according to what Allah has decreed. Some may one day find marriage a viable option and go down that path. Others will remain celibate and continue on that path. Some will use their time and their talents to pursue Islamic knowledge and community work and go down that path. Each person’s road to Allah is unique and specific to him or her, but we believe firmly in the words of our Lord when He says: “Those who struggle (jaahadu) for Our sake, We shall surely guide them to Our ways. Truly God is with those who practice virtue (al-muhsineen)” (Surat al-‘Ankabut, v. 69).

As we all affirm as Muslims, Allah’s path – which we ask Him to guide us to a minimum of 17 times a day in our daily prayers – is none other than the Straight Path (al-sirat al-mustaqim). It is for this reason that we Muslims who have been given the test of same-sex attractions refer to our struggle as the Straight Struggle. In reality, we as Muslims are all engaged in the Straight Struggle – the struggle to remain on the Straight Path of our Lord and Maker. We each have our own challenges to deal with and our own hurdles to overcome along the way, but our road in the end is one, just as our Goal is One.

In reality, we as Muslims are all engaged in the Straight Struggle – the struggle to remain on the Straight Path of our Lord and Maker. We each have our own challenges to deal with and our own hurdles to overcome along the way, but our road in the end is one, just as our Goal is One.

To the Muslim community as a whole I would like to say: the time to act on this issue was yesterday. Let us catch up now, because I might be the person standing next to you in the masjid. I might be your coworker, your friend, your blood brother, or your spouse. I might be your child or your parent. Who knows? I might even be you.

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102 Comments

102 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Tariq

    August 22, 2016 at 8:23 PM

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is what our Ummah has needed. You should write a book, give speeches, get more of this word out.

    • Avatar

      Yousef

      August 25, 2016 at 10:31 AM

      Salam thank you for your kind words. Please help us by spreading this link around and raising awareness on the issue.

      • Avatar

        Mubashir Ziauddin

        August 30, 2016 at 12:39 PM

        Assalamo Alaikum wa rehmatullahe wa Barakatahu!

        Br. This is the truest Jihad… The most difficult Jihad… I pray to Allah (swt) to keep you firm on Sirat-e-Mustaqeem, May He (awj) reward you immensely and make you a ‘Waseelah’ for among the Ummah who face these trials similar to you. JazakAllahu Khairen Katheera!

    • Avatar

      Heba

      August 28, 2016 at 7:11 PM

      Jazak Allah Khair for getting your voice out. This is what the Muslim community, particularly those active in social justice matters don’t get to hear and frankly they buy into and assert thr dominant narrative quite forcefully. Insha Allah the community can come together to provide a greater level of support for people who experience SSA so that they don’t have to rely on Christian services as helpful as they have been for many who have found no other alternative.

    • Avatar

      Shahid

      September 14, 2016 at 7:39 AM

      I find sex with the opposite sex disgusting. So I should lead a lonely life, unfulfilled? That is your advice? I was born this way, Allah made me this way from birth. If someone loves me am I to reject his love . Allah is not so cruel to his children. He made me and made me so. I didn’t.

      • Avatar

        Br. Yousef

        September 14, 2016 at 10:45 AM

        Salam dear Shahod,
        Thank you for your comment. I pray that Allah leads us towards whatever is best.
        I think that equating love with sex is incorrect.
        Also I think that looking at sex as a cure for loneliness is a terrible line of thinking.

        Whether or not we are born this way is not really relevant to the discussion about what is allowed and what is not allowed in Islam. Allah creates what He wills and tests is how He wills in order for us to attain his ultimate reward.

        Like I mentioned I know people who managed to marry and I know others who lead celebrate and fulfilled lives and are very much loved and are leading successful and happy lives.

        This is life dear brother we do our best and we strive as pick ourselves up if we fail and continue on our journey towards our Creator.

        Wassalamu alaikum

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        Aisha

        September 22, 2016 at 3:04 AM

        Salam alaykum….shahid Br. yusuf said it all in his comment but i’d like to remind you that we are servants of ALLAH S.W.T not children not offspring but servants.

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    Asiah

    August 22, 2016 at 8:44 PM

    This is brilliant! So well written and so needed! I often have been so sad that there seems to be no answer for those who struggle with SSA. This is something we can all get behind. How can we encourage support in our own communities? Do you do trainings? If not, you should. If you don’t know where to start, I would suggest reaching out to Hartford Seminary, IIIT, Claremont – these places have Imam training programs. I know they would probably be so interested to do a seminar or something with this type of input and experience you could give. Do you need funding? I mean, I want to know so much more and how we can help!

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      Yousef

      August 25, 2016 at 10:33 AM

      Salam thank you for your kind words and suggestions. It is definitely something to look into! Please reach us on the group if you are able to help out.

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    HELEN

    August 23, 2016 at 1:02 AM

    Thank you for sharing your honesty regard a weakness, I see that you use your strengths to deal with it. It’s attainable to over come and give hope to those that have the struggle. I see this human weakness is one of the reasons Islam encourage us to cover our bodies and lower our gaze to cover the natural beauty of male and the female to keep our desires down and in control. Jazakhallahair

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    imas

    August 23, 2016 at 5:03 AM

    Alhamdulillah thank you….Barakallah..Jazakhallahair khazzanah travel

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    Like to be annoynmous

    August 23, 2016 at 6:26 AM

    Beautiful post, br. Yousef helped me so much in the situation I was in when I found out about my husband’s ssa.

    Lots of du’as for you brother.

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      Yousef

      August 25, 2016 at 10:38 AM

      It’s wonderful to hear from you I pray that all is well.

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    Ana

    August 23, 2016 at 6:33 AM

    Thank you for this essay– one of the best I have ever read (and I have read many). In your article you ask where are the tools for parents to be able to guide their children. There is one tool available–CanaVox is an inter-faith grassroots marriage movement, mostly led by mothers, who get together in private reading groups in their homes to read and talk about sexual integrity from an inter-disciplinary, natural law, practical wisdom point of view. You can see our leaders and our reading syllabus (free online) at http://www.canavox.com. We have some Muslim women involved who meet in a mosque, and would love more of our Muslim sisters / mothers to be involved and helping to build it.

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      Yousef

      August 25, 2016 at 11:06 AM

      Thank you I have checked your website and it’s quite interesting thank you very much for sharing.

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    Dalih

    August 23, 2016 at 6:37 AM

    May I translate this into Indonesia to be shared later on?

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      Yousef

      August 25, 2016 at 11:07 AM

      Salam please specify that it is your own translation and not that of the author/website when you do translate it.

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    Alwaani

    August 23, 2016 at 8:32 AM

    JazakAllahu Khairan for a very apt, balanced, finger on the pulse and helpful article. Please forgive me if I sound like a creep, but What I would like know is What would be termed as a SSA? ie. would it be that upon sighting someone attractive from the same gender, becoming inclined towards them? In addition, would that inclination mean to be, aroused? Or would it be developing really strong (excessively, to the extent of being indifferent to ones spouse and almost ‘in-love’ with -though without sexual- feelings towards- that individual. Would it mean for an older person to have an obsessive inclination towards younger SS individuals ? i’d really appreciate a perspective from anyone who could enlighten.

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      Zayan

      September 6, 2016 at 2:56 AM

      You’re over complicating things unnecessarily. The same way you feel about women, that’s how we feel about men.

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    jake

    August 23, 2016 at 1:03 PM

    Very detail and beautifully written. I admire the writer that he was able to manage his desire and stay married with kids. It is even not that easy for some of us. May be faith is not strong enough. But it seems like there is no compassion, no love from anyone in the community. Even the street dog is often treated better than LGBT Muslims. I know you prefer no label and I don’t either. I think many Muslims would have been better off if they had the compassion. I think many lie whole their life which push them to do more sin.

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    Farhana

    August 23, 2016 at 2:46 PM

    One of the most brilliant and thorough articles I’ve read on the subject. It makes complete sense.

    Whether people believe SSA’s are innate or not (as per above comment) is largely irrelevant.

    The point is that Allah tests us in different ways and that the struggle to submit to Him is where true reward and salvation lies.

    Those of our community who express bigoted views, and negatively judge those experiencing SSA are also being tested. Theybjust don’t realise it. They are being tested – for their holier than thou attitudes, their arrogance at thinking they are superior in some way, and their unwillingness to open their minds to the breadth and diversity of human experience. Sadly, they are failing the test if they continue to collude with narrow minded views and in doing so join in the ostracism and exclusion of people experiencing SSA.

    I commend you on writing this much needed article. As an ummah we have a responsibility to address this issue and other social issues e.g. child sexual abuse, domestic violence etc.

    Because the isolation / shame / blame / denial culture helps no-one. If anything it continues to perpetuate and make acceptable the overt and covert victimisation of those affected and leaves them to ensure even more suffering as they attempt to deal, often completely on their own, with the lifelong impact and consequences of their situations.

    Thank you so much and may Allah reward you greatly for your efforts; both personal and otherwise. Aameen.

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    anon

    August 23, 2016 at 4:15 PM

    Is there anyway to contact Brother Yusuf to discuss personal problems.

    • Avatar

      Yousef

      August 25, 2016 at 11:10 AM

      Salam please find me at the group website and we can either correspond one on one or on the group page. http://www.straightstruggle.com

      • Avatar

        Anon

        September 20, 2016 at 2:57 PM

        Salam Brother,

        I am struggling to join the group. It comes up with an error each time I try to join. Could you look into why there is a problem.

  12. Avatar

    Freedom2B

    August 23, 2016 at 5:57 PM

    Salam
    How in the name of all that is good and green do you live with yourselves, promoting is kind of dangerous, toxic nonsense?? We Muslims are supposed to use science, not reject it. Uplift the oppressed, not oppress further!

    What is WRONG with you people??
    -Freedom2B

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      August 23, 2016 at 7:39 PM

      Freedom2B,

      So Muslims are supposed to “not be able to live with themselves” for counseling compassion and understanding in helping each other live an Islamic life in accordance with God’s will? This is what you’re calling “dangerous, toxic nonsense”? I’m afraid I don’t get it. (Did you even read the article?)

      By the way, we Muslims are also supposed to “use” revelation too and not reject it. Allah sent it to guide us and to teach us His will for us. And regarding the science you mention, do you care to be specific about what exactly you’re referring to? Maybe you missed the major 143-page report that came out just yesterday on what science does and does NOT say about sexual orientation, transgenderism, and related issues. Based on over 200 peer-reviewed studies in these fields, it turns out that most of what is claimed to be “scientific truth” on these topics is unsupported by the actual science. Google The New Atlantis, Special Report: “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences.”

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    Nishaz

    August 23, 2016 at 11:34 PM

    Jazakallahulkhair for this. Much needed point of view for our Ummah.

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    Sajdah Nubee

    August 23, 2016 at 11:44 PM

    This was a compelling read. Thank you for sharing and tackling a difficult subject so eloquently. I certainly agree with the points you have raised. I do want to offer a different perspective regarding your mention of a person understanding where SSA comes from as a nonessential function. I believe there is added value in understanding one’s own sexual development, in the same way that we would understand our emotional or physical development, specifically when experiencing a struggle. Like with any trial, uncovering the root can potentially do wonders in effectively battling an issue. There may be cases where SSA is rooted in past hurt or trauma, and healing the pain lends itself to managing desires. There is an African-American psychologist by the name of Dr. Umar Johnson, who works exclusively with Black adolescents and teenagers. He has found that 95% of the children in that population who struggle with SSA have some abuse in their past. His theory is that many of these young people take on the identity as gay and say they are born that way b/c it is too difficult to deal with the pain that precipitated it. I think it would be a worthwhile undertaking for Muslim psychologists to also look at human sexual development and the driving forces behind orientation, and offer this as training as well to Muslim leaders. To really expel the shame that some may experience for having SSAs, it is vital to uncover and heal other feelings that may be tied to it.

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    Rofiat

    August 24, 2016 at 2:18 AM

    Jazakallahu khairah fii duniya wal aqirah,well appreciated

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    Mark

    August 24, 2016 at 5:13 AM

    Poorly written essay. The author creates a new term and then abbreviated it to SSA. Afraid to write the words homosexual, bisexual and lesbian. The author self admits he his a closeted bisexual. And you get a sense of his fear, as if using the words homosexual or bisexual will taint him. Sad. But, Maybe the religion called Islam is to blame? Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Pakistan and Iran have muslim males who secretly practice homosexuality. Pakistan is number one in gay internet pornography searches according to Google. Why is that? Repression of sexuality and biology failed. The natural biological urge for sex cannot be contained. All that sexual energy will find a way to be expressed. Think people. Has how you practice religion taken you to the heights or to the depths? Muslim countries are third world countries, just take a look and face facts. Repression, strict adherence to legends has gotten you nowhere

    • Avatar

      R

      August 24, 2016 at 10:15 AM

      There is a world of difference between a poorly written essay and an essay with which you disagree. As someone who does struggle with SSA and is a Muslim, I found this to be scripturally spot on. It doesn’t mesh with the agenda for the western so-called modernists who, like the LGBT movement in the west doesn’t want acceptance, it wants endorsement.

      Please learn to differentiate between an article that doesn’t agree with your position and a poorly written article.

    • Avatar

      Ziad

      August 25, 2016 at 9:10 AM

      You mention that the author “creates a new term” (same sex attraction) and is in “fear” of using terms like homosexual, etc. Not only does this make the mistake of assuming someone’s psychological state and intentions, but the term “homosexual” itself was a new term of the late 1800s signalling what western medics perceived as a “perversion”. Today, of course, it means something entirely different. It is therefore just as constructed as other terms. I think it’s wise for the author to use the term SSA, which is unadulterated by a history of medical, sociological and identity politics. More importantly, he has the right to use whatever term he feels is correct for his* experience. Secondly, no doubt sexual frustration exists in Muslim countries and manifests in undesirable ways. But this has much more to do with how those countries consider, speak about, and teach sex. Such countries unfortunately have strong shaming mentalities, overly strict segregation, and other cultural (not necessarily religious) practices which lead to such problems. Therefore, it’s not as simple as “repression = porn-fest”. It’s about education and cultivating a positive spirit towards sexuality and sexual issues – something which this article generously succeeds in doing.

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      Mona

      August 26, 2016 at 11:52 AM

      Islam could have been blamed if it was the only religion against homosexuality or the only religion whose followers had the inclinations. That is not the case as Christianity and Judaism also are not in favor. The reason for more interest in muslim countries you mentioned is because it is being swept under the rug by the religious authorities, same way it was done by the Christian and Judaism religious leaders till it was or of their hands. Muslims better open a dialog on it soon as this issue is not going away.

      • Avatar

        Mr Mike

        September 1, 2016 at 2:50 PM

        Well Islam can be blamed, but of course as you say, it’s not the only religion that has caused problems for homosexual people.

        The reason homosexuality has been more accepted in Christianity, on average, is because, on average, the interpretations of it have been changed enough for it to become accepted, so either the words against homosexuality are ignored, or they are ‘overridden’ by other passages that claim ‘god loves you anyway’, etc.

        The problem would be nowhere near as great for people who are Muslim, if Islam didn’t exist. But it does exist, so as you say, the only way to deal with it is open a dialague, and hope enough people with influence in the Muslim world, can somehow ‘talk away’ the problems that the Quran (and many religious books) cause with homosexuality.

    • Avatar

      Heba

      September 1, 2016 at 10:41 AM

      Mark, there is no fear. He states that he refuses the category and refuses being bullied by progressive liberals like yourself into the category or to self identify as such. Respect that and move on. Stop dictating to people what sexual urges they can and cannot contain, If you wish not to contain yours feel free- clearly the reality expressed in this essay makes you uncomfortable. Your insecurities are your own. don’t project them onto others. This brother is nothing but secure in his identity as a man of faith and that radiates from his writing.

      • Avatar

        Mr Mike

        September 1, 2016 at 2:56 PM

        It’s not being bullying, to tell someone what they are, if they are that.

        You are a human being. It doesn’t matter how many times you might say ‘oh I don’t label myself as a human being, don’t bully me’, it wouldn’t change the fact that you are a human being – in English, that is the label used to describe the species you belong to.

        You could scream ‘I’m not a human being’ till you were blue in the face, it doesn’t make a difference. You are a human being.

        Someone with sexual urges only for the opposite sex, is heterosexual.

        Someone with sexual urges only for the same sex is homosexual.

        Someone with sexual urges for both sexes, is bisexual.

        ‘Containing the urges’ has literally zero to do with what sexuality someone is in the first place.

    • Avatar

      عاصم

      September 7, 2016 at 3:51 AM

      Hi Mark,

      You seem to be overlooking what the author has, in my view, made sufficiently clear – the avoidance of using these terms is not out of fear, or intent to distort, rather it is to free the discussion from the connotations of these terms by the manner in which they are used in the present era; the avoidance of these terms has been accompanied by the use of 2 new terms which provide the necessary distinction between attraction and action, contrary to the imprecise definitions of terms like “gay” and “homosexual”.

      Criticism is fair enough where the reasons are justified, but yours has been centered around a weak basis.

      As for your following comments, you are entitled to form your own conclusions but these are not necessarily true. Neither do they directly discuss the author’s article as you go on to use a more general rather than individualistic approach. You go on about demographics, whereas the author’s article discusses no such thing; the focus here is and always was on personal identity. Your criticism thus doesn’t really seem logically consistent as a response to it. Furthermore, what you say about attraction versus religion shows that you seem to have not comprehended the Islamic aspects discussed in this article of life being more than the foremost pursuit of desires. You make the common mistake of assuming Islam to be primarily a set of restrictions, a dry external case that has no relation to the inner self and is merely in place to block out the light. This is untrue to a Muslim that truly engages with his/her faith rather than practicing it because they feel that they have to due to social pressures and the like.

      I apologise in the case that my tone has seemed unintentionally harsh. I simply intended to get some points across.

  17. Avatar

    Asmeeni

    August 24, 2016 at 10:31 AM

    Amazing and well written article Mashaallah. Something that needs to be discussed.

  18. Avatar

    Daniel Haqiqatjou

    August 24, 2016 at 11:40 AM

    Great piece mashaAllah. JazakAllah khayr Br. Yousef for being brave enough to share your experiences and your struggles. Completely agree that the onus is on us as a community to support those who are wrestling with their desires. It is not just about same sex attraction — opposite sex attraction is also a source of personal turmoil and difficulty, but our community in the here and now hasn’t even figured out a scalable, reliable way to get young Muslims into stable marriages, let alone address all the other myriad temptations and desires the majority of the community is constantly up against. Lot of work ahead of us.

    • Avatar

      Yousef

      August 25, 2016 at 11:32 AM

      Jazana wayakom. Thank you for your message and I do agree there is lots of work ahead.

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    Nobody chooses SSA

    August 24, 2016 at 1:26 PM

    BarakaAllahu feek Br. Yousef.

    As a person who have suffered from SSA for as long as I can remember this particular piece is an incredibly encouraging read, mashaAllah walhamdulillah.

    I would have loved to read it ten, fifteen or twenty years ago when my SSA disabled my entire existence making me suffer from severe depression for years.

    Like most other Muslims who are challenged by SSA but who doesn’t want to extradite this natural inclination or preference of theirs, I managed to stay away from committing SSE, alhamdulillah.

    However, I was all by myself and very lonely all the way to where I am now, which is a good place, alhamdulillah.

    I would have appreciated to be able to seek guidance, understanding and comfort from my fellow Muslims and community leaders. But till this day I have never revealed my SSA to any of my Muslim brothers and sisters.

    Instead I have found compassion and understanding and respect for my struggle from a Christian therapist who have helped me a lot in terms of accepting my destiny and taught me how to live by it by continuing to refrain from SSE.

    At some point my therapist suggested that I seek counsel from a community leader or an Islamic scholar as my therapist wasn’t able to provide me with an Islamic perspective on my problem. However, I could not make myself bring my problem to the mosque.

    And here is why:

    SSA or homosexuality awakes very strong emotions with all kinds of Muslims. People suffering from this problem are most likely to be condemned, discriminated against and demeaned severely just by stating that they are carriers of this condition.

    What Muslims in general need to understand, however, is that we didn’t choose to be like this and that a lot of us – if not most of us – are refraining from comitting the sins that are as natural as eating and sleeping to us. This is a lifelong burden that Allah subhanahu wa ta a’la has layed upon some of us.

    Muslims don’t demean fellow Muslims whom Allah has given a burden for simply carrying that burden. Muslims are supposed to ease each others burdens instead of worsening them.

    My hope and prayers for the future generations to come is that they be able to seek the guidance and comfort of their Muslim brothers and sisters instead of turning against non-Muslims or living in total isolation and loneliness. They should be able to go to the mosque, present their problem and get the brotherly guidance that they are entitled to without fearing to be subjugated to outbursts about how disgusted their fellow Muslims are by them for merely carrying a burden given to them by The Creator of all mankind Himself.

    Wasalamu alaikum.

    • Avatar

      Dada

      August 24, 2016 at 3:27 PM

      Just wanted you to know that I love you in the love of Allah, may Allah increase you in all ways and send you the right people from the Ummah.Why don’t you try to reach out to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf? God bless you.

      • Avatar

        Nobody chooses SSA

        August 24, 2016 at 5:19 PM

        JazakAllahu khairan for your kind, loving and brotherly message and dua, mashaAllah walhamdulillah.

        I don’t live in the US. Though, I have tried to write an email to two other shuyukh, both of which responded politely and shortly that I should contact a local imam in order to get proper one-on-one counseling.

        But as I’ve written above I could never do that. I could never bring my problem to the mosque in person in fear of being rejected, demeaned and demonized by my own community.

        In order for me to reach out for the much needed personal guidance from my fellow Muslims I need them to reach out for me first by simply stop talking about people like me as if we were uncontrolable and immoral animals.

        How can I put trust in an Ummah that by far consists of individuals who never fail to utter their immediate contempt for people suffering from SSA whenever the topic is brought up?

        I have had this problem for over thirty years now and I have been a Muslim and lived among Muslims all along. I have never witnessed other Muslims mention this burden as a test from Allah or stated that people suffering from this condition deserve love, support and compassion.

        Instead, I have overheard Muslims say that carriers of this condition should be ashamed of themselves and that they deserve to burn in the eternal fire, as if we have chosen to be like this ourselves.

        What I am trying to say is that the Muslim environment is so hostile against Muslims with SSA that for us to seek guidance from our fellow Muslims – something that we would love to do and need to do – our fellow Muslims must turn they approach to us upside down first. From immediate condemnation to invitation. From harshness to compassion. From contempt to respect.

        And I think that we deserve it, as we are suffering every single day by not giving in to what our inclination; our natural, God-given burden is telling us to do.

        Thank you again for your kind and loving comment.

  20. Avatar

    Dada

    August 24, 2016 at 3:21 PM

    What an amazing testimony!God bless you brother and your efforts! I’ve always said the we should not lose our precious brothers and sisters because of our ignorance of their struggle!I testify that I love all my brothers and sisters struggling with SSE and I pray Allah eases their test!you’ve définitely gotlove and compassion from me!

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    Ama

    August 24, 2016 at 8:08 PM

    Thank you for sharing your perspective and expertise on this matter.
    I wish you were able to share with us more of your personal journey and struggles on the matter. About your same sex attraction, how you felt, how did it start for you, what did you do about it, your self talk, and how did you decide to marry and deal with it! I was waiting to read that personal narrative to gain more of an insight and feel your raw emotions and pain- rather than tackling the subject from an academic structured stance… However; I salute your bravery and admire the authenticity you displayed in writing about such a taboo issue.

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      Yousef

      August 25, 2016 at 11:34 AM

      Salam thank you for your kind words. That might be a topic for later and insha’Allah it will encourage others to speak up.

  22. Avatar

    Ismail Mayat

    August 25, 2016 at 4:16 AM

    Jazakallah for an excellent and much needed insight into this issue may Allah reward you for your honesty and courage.

  23. Mobeen Vaid

    Mobeen Vaid

    August 25, 2016 at 11:44 AM

    Jazak Allah khayr Br. Yousef for this excellent article. May Allah bless your efforts.

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      Br. Yousef

      August 25, 2016 at 11:57 AM

      Jazana wayakom and you as well brother.

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    developer

    August 25, 2016 at 12:11 PM

    One thing that Muslims often fail to equate and mention is that even straight men and women have to learn to control their desires. Its not like straight men and women can just freely practise sex and intimacy. There is just as much control for a straight person as there is for a gay person. Besides gay people can still go to the opposite sex for intimacy, if you control yourself long enough and it gets seriously pressuring then they could easily go to the correct halal procedure to deal with their needs. I know many straight men who have not married and had to deal with desire just as much as any gay or lesbian person and where not able to find comfort with another person for their needs. So people need to realise that we are all in this together. Many straight people go through hell cause they cant find or afford marriage and are left to deal with it by resisting it for decades. These days it is difficult o even get married for many people in the west and they end up in haram relationships , straight or otherwise. So we are all experiencing the same battle, its not easy for anyone

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      Asiya

      August 30, 2016 at 12:47 PM

      Salam alaikom, I completely agree, or have to go through a lifetime of being married to a partner who does not take the rights of intimacy seriously leaving a huge struggle of the nafs. Sometimes this occurs when marriages take pace against the wishes of the bride or/and groom leaving them both oppressed. As a community we have to take these issues seriously & not make the arena of sexual intimacy ‘taboo’.

      Fi amanillah

    • Avatar

      Zayan

      September 6, 2016 at 2:54 AM

      Yes straight people have their desires but you guys are technically allowed to get married to the gender you want and fulfill your desires. Taking all other personal factors out, you are ALLOWED to love eventually love the way you want. Youre also not ridiculed and shamed for having heterosexual desires. You get help and advice and imams are open to listening. I have been so feminine my entire life that I can’t even go to a mosque or be around Muslims. I’m afraid they will know that I have same sex attractions. The thought of marrying a woman disgusts me. So I have to be celibate and alone my entire life. Would you ever be okay with marrying a man? No, you wouldn’t. So don’t simply say that SSA Muslims can get married when that’s not always the case. I agree you have to struggle to keep your nafs in check, but don’t say having heterosexual desires is the same as having SSA. That’s laughable. If my family knew I’m attracted to the same sex, I would be kicked out and isolated. You wouldn’t be for having heterosexual desires. I’m honestly baffled by your comment. This is a much harder test than being a straight Muslim. You could technically marry four women if you wanted to.

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    Sulaiman

    August 25, 2016 at 6:09 PM

    While I commend the author for shedding light on this important issue, I would also like to disagree and make a few observations. To treat same sex attractions on the same terms as opposite sex attractions seems like an attempt to normalize something that is not normal to begin with. I don’t think anyone who has SSA should be condemned or should be considered sinful (for merely being born with something) but this condition should be treated as an aberration, not as something normal (unless there is data to support that this is a widespread issue affecting a very large portion of people).

    It is as much an aberration as is the tendency in some people to be sexually attracted to other always-haram things, I wouldn’t name any but you get the point. Since this is not something normal, it is almost like a mental illness in the sense that it deserves our sympathy (not our condemnation) but none of this means that it should be accepted as a normal human tendency. I say this because this affects a very small amount of people in the natural sense while other people who develop these attractions do so due to societal conditioning.

    Also, to use the texts of the scholars about the mukhannath to normalize this is a mistake. This is a completely off analogy to say the least. Additionally, the scholars mentioned the case of men being attracted to young boys not because they had same sex attractions but rather because young boys resemble girls (with their obvious feminine traits) and are more accessible to men. To say the scholars of the past accepted this as a normally occurring behaviour needs more proof.

    Until then, it should be treated as any other mental condition would be treated hence there is no need to insist on accepting it as a “normal”.

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      August 26, 2016 at 10:40 AM

      Assalamu ‘alaikum Sulaiman,

      I’m not sure where you’re reading the author as “normalizing” SSA or equating with opposite-sex attraction. About the beardless youth, some scholars did find such attractions reprehensible, precisely because the youth were males and not females (showing that they did take the gender into account). Many thought those attractions were normal, but simply not be acted on. I agree that this is not analogous to what we mean by homosexuality today, since modern homosexuals are attracted to adult members of their own sex, men *because* they are men, not because they retain feminine traits. But then why aren’t average men in the modern West spontaneously attracted to beardless youth? THEY would certainly consider that “homosexual” because, well, it’s one male attracted to another (and they don’t make the same age and development distinction that a lot of classical peoples did).

      In any case, I think the author’s point was not to say that homosexuality in the modern sense is normal, just another variant of sexuality as heterosexuality, but that, very specifically, a person who finds these desires in himself spontaneously is not, for that reason, sinful or morally reprehensible, especially if it is beyond his control. He only incurs sin if he acts on it. I think this is an important point because a lot of people with SSA have very low self-esteem and a lot of self-hate simply on account of these desires which they didn’t ask for, even if they have never acted upon them.

      Also, I don’t see the point you’re making about the author’s mention of the mukhannathin. He didn’t tie that to homosexual desires, whether to “normalize” them or not, but simply used it to say that a person should not be mistreated (or even assumed to be gay, frankly) on account of effeminate mannerisms, since scholars realized that this can be innate in some persons and may be hard for them to change. Wallahu a’lam.

      • Avatar

        Sulaiman

        August 26, 2016 at 12:16 PM

        Ahmad B.,

        I disagree with your observation that this is “just another variant of sexuality as heterosexuality”. This is the textbook definition of normalizing something. I’m afraid for you to deny he is normalizing it and say this is just another variant of sexuality [just] as heterosexuality is contradictory. This is precisely my contention with the way this issue is being discussed in this article.

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      Aisha

      September 22, 2016 at 3:37 AM

      Salam alaykum Sulaiman thank you for that

  26. Avatar

    Sulaiman

    August 26, 2016 at 12:17 PM

    *Assalamu alaikum!

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      August 26, 2016 at 12:25 PM

      Salam Br. Suleiman,

      Please read my comment again. I specifically said: “I think the author’s point was NOT to say that homosexuality in the modern sense is normal, just another variant of sexuality as heterosexuality, BUT that… ”

      None of us, I think, are disagreeing on anything here.

      Wassalam..

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      August 26, 2016 at 4:35 PM

      The author also mentions seeking therapy and making use of various resources to address root causes, try to diminish one’s SSA to the extent possible, etc. This advice presupposes that same-sex desires are not just a neutral variant of opposite-sex ones, as one would never suggest that someone seek counseling to “address” his heterosexuality.

      But this change is often very hard and usually doesn’t result in what we would call heterosexuality. While the person’s drives might therefore remain outside what is normal and/or normative, the person cannot be blamed for what is beyond his control, and therefore shouldn’t hate himself or be despised by others for it.

      That’s what I got out if it anyway, and it seems we agree on that point. And Allah knows best.

      Wassalam

  27. Avatar

    Abu Abbaad

    August 27, 2016 at 10:58 AM

    Br. Youssef,

    May Allah elevate your status, and empower you to infuse others to embrace this struggle and enjoy sacrificing their wants for the wants of Allah. This is why we are alive; to examine who will give precedence to what Allah loves over what they love. I pray to meet you under Allah’s shade my brother, for you stood your ground on an emotional battlefield that most fled from. Allahu Akbar.

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  29. Avatar

    M

    August 27, 2016 at 10:39 PM

    Jazak Allah Khair for this piece brother, I have been looking for something like this for ages. But most of the resources I found were for people who want to conform the religion to their desires not the other way around. So Jazak Allah Khair for taking this initiative!

    I do see that the site you mentioned is actually a yahoo group and I am assuming that we need a yahoo ID to sign in and join. Or did I get something wrong?

    • Avatar

      Br. Yousef

      August 28, 2016 at 4:36 AM

      Salam yes you can join and create an ID and also an email address if you wish by clicking on the link and following the instructions.

  30. Avatar

    S

    August 28, 2016 at 2:46 PM

    The issue now is not just of individuals with SSA or SSE but the families suffering due to the taboos of society in which a person is forced to marry and pretend to live normally with a woman. Though for the society everything appears very normal but day and night that women suffers mentally physically emotionally because she is the only way to take revenge from society. The children suffer. So in name of religion one person is forced on the path of religion but 3 to 4 leave once for all that same path because the only question that keeps coming to mind is the quranic verses that for pious man there is pious women or the opposite.
    Today where the complete focus is on other religions , muslim need to focus on the issues within islam. If your own house is burning you are not going to check what type of program the neighbours are watching on t.v. Today there is need of such laws that give strength to women and children suffering at hands of such men who just marry to fool the society but never give up their activities.
    If the society stop targeting them and leave them alone how many lives or imaan will be saved. At least children will not be born in such an abusive environment.

  31. Avatar

    Vicki

    August 29, 2016 at 12:47 AM

    As a muslim revert who was intimate with other woman i found zero support for my situation. Thank God my husband is supportive. At first he was traumatized but after a while he came to realise im the same woman hes always admired just with different feelings. We need seminars for otjers going through this and we need to create safe places for our bros and sisters to come for councelling and help

  32. Avatar

    M

    August 30, 2016 at 7:08 AM

    Thank you for such an insightful essay. Jazakallah kheir. It is something i have wanted to read my whole life.

  33. Avatar

    Asiya

    August 30, 2016 at 12:30 PM

    Assalamu alaikom,

    Thankyou for an honest and brave article, it seems to me that in a way, it is a blessing of being tested – the jihad of the ‘nafs’ and successful in that is true success. Every muslim has tests of the nafs, I think it only shows a determined & committed attitude to Allah when you are consciously & constantly seeking Allah above all else, isn’t that what we are all supposed to do?

    May Allah grant you [all] , us all, success in this dunya and the ahquirah, and may He guide every step of your journey. ameen.

    Fi amanillah

  34. Avatar

    AnonymousSSA

    August 31, 2016 at 4:38 PM

    I wish I had discovered this before I went down the path of SSE. It’s slowly taking over me. A few days, I would stay away from it but a long term situation becomes seemingly impossible.

    I wish Allah had been kinder to me and had me discover this perspective before I went down the path.

    • Avatar

      Br. Yousef

      August 31, 2016 at 5:36 PM

      Salam,
      I, too, wish I had had clearer insights when I was younger but alhamdulillah it really is never too late to try to get back to Allah especially after we have sinned. Remember that we are all working towards our final goal in front of Allah and it certainly bodes better for us in front of Allah if we worked and tried even if we failed before.

  35. Avatar

    Munirah

    August 31, 2016 at 10:27 PM

    My husband and I were discussing about what to do if our kids have this inclination. We were not really sure about an answer from a Muslim perspective but you have helped us there alhamdulillah! Thank you for the article. We pray that Allah bless you and all Muslims who are experiencing struggles everywhere.

  36. Avatar

    Muslim Gay Conversion camp

    September 1, 2016 at 1:34 PM

    Salaam,

    From reading the article and many of the comments it would seem like there’s no clear Islamic answer to helping Muslims struggling with SSA. A few people have suggested going to therapy or a Christian counselor to help work through and talk about the feelings they have. This has been done extensively in the US and it really hasn’t worked: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD4sWQG2DnQ

    If you tell a group of people that there is inherently something wrong with them they will always feel stigma from the community surrounding them, this is just a human fact.

    If Muslims struggling with SSA want to look at what their going through as a test from Allah they’re welcome to it but should know that other interpretations of the Qur’an exist:

    Does Islam approve of homosexuality?

    It definitely does. There is nothing in the Quran that says anything against it. It does talk about men who have no desire for women and about non-reproducing women. Also in Sura 24, verses 31 and 32, in particular verse 32, it says “marry the unmarried among you” even if they are “among male and female slaves”. The Quran does not suggest gender for marriage. During my research in Saudi Arabia, I found positive interpretation on homosexuality in Quran. But the literature coming out from Wahhabist and Salafist schools, puts an incorrect interpretation on it.

    Are Wahhabi and Salafist interpretations of Islam a problem in the world today?

    Yes, it is a problem. The Gulf and Saudi oil money has helped to promote narrow interpretations of Islam. They want Muslims to go back to a mythological pristine Islam. There is no pristine Islam. It is important to remember how Islam came about in a historical context. Some of the things that were practised then can’t necessarily be relevant today. The beauty of Quran is that it says it will meet the needs of humans for all times. So a better, liberal interpretation of Quran for modern times and lives is possible too. As Saudi runs out of oil, they won’t be as efficient in their propagation of radical Islam as they have been.

    • Avatar

      Br. Yousef

      September 1, 2016 at 2:18 PM

      Salam I have approved your comment but removed references to resources that I do not want my post linked to. People who choose to ascribe to your way of thinking can freely find those out by themselves.

      Your incorrect statement that Islam approves of homosexuality (by which I assume you mean same-sex acts and encounters) has already been thoroughly refuted here:
      http://muslimmatters.org/2016/07/11/can-islam-accommodate-homosexual-acts-quranic-revisionism-and-the-case-of-scott-kugle/

      I am not sure what your point is of bringing up Wahhabism (a 20th century phenomenon) where ALL Muslim schools of thoughts agree and have agreed for centuries on the prohibition of same-sex acts.

      I urge you to do a bit more research on the matter before proclaiming your expertise. The Quran quick reference you talked about “men who have no desire for women” actually doesn’t mention women at all it is about “men who have no desire”. Moreover, as in in the article linked to above, the crime of same-sex acts is highlighted over and over again in references to the story of the people of Lut in the Quran as being the main crime that they committed and were punished for.

      Salam

  37. Avatar

    Edna wellthorpe

    September 1, 2016 at 5:15 PM

    Excellent use of the word queer, any other derogatory terms you can dig up? I’m appalled.

  38. Avatar

    Nunnya

    September 1, 2016 at 10:27 PM

    Dude you are so wrong. I think you are going straight to hell. Stop trying to make this crap normal.

    • Avatar

      Zayan

      September 6, 2016 at 2:47 AM

      Did you actually read the article? Be honest

  39. Avatar

    Fizza

    September 2, 2016 at 4:21 AM

    This is so perfect. Thank you!
    Barakallahu fikum.
    Though I’ve never personally experienced the SSA struggle, this put all my thoughts into words and even better. Been looking for such a piece since years.
    May Allah reward you for your efforts immensely and ease your straight path.

  40. Avatar

    Asad

    September 4, 2016 at 5:22 PM

    Assalam o alaikum Yousef. May Allah bless you for your efforts in this regard. I do have a couple of questions. Should we still try to hide our SSA from everyone? If I do plan to marry, should I share my SSA matters with my wife? Should I tell her about my SSA prior to our marriage so that she can choose to reject me? I have been very close to SSE in physical and have encountered it online many times, but I have always felt a Divine help in stopping me to go further down this path. I believe in Allah’s existence and I can actually feel Him around me sometimes, including when I’m writing this to you, but I have always found it useless to pretend to pray when I know He knows that I am not satisfied with what He has made me. I thank Him for being better than the most but this particular problem has directed me away from Him, with a want to turn towards atheism, although I can feel Him, I want to ignore Him. How can you help me with it?

    And I love you brother. It’s nice to find people I can relate with. I also turned towards anonymous and Gay apps to find relatable beings but all the people I could mostly find were a lot more into SSE and had no guilt for it apparently. Thank you, Jazak Allah.

    Can I add you as a friend on Facebook? I would really like to know that I can communicate with you whenever I want to.

    • Avatar

      Br. Yousef

      September 4, 2016 at 5:34 PM

      Salam brother
      Why don’t you join us in the yahoogroup first and we can discuss this further inshallah. Marriage is a huge topic that requires much thought and conversation. Join us at http://www.straightstruggle.com

    • Avatar

      Haroon

      September 13, 2016 at 5:54 AM

      Salaam Aleikum brother Asad, I pray to Allah to guide you overcome some of these challenges you are struggling with and to help all of us overcome our own. Allahuma ameen.
      While i may not be the best person to answer some of your queries in this area, one specific part of your question caught my eye. Should I tell my wife to be? My simple advice is a simple no! If you are making a sincere effort and prayer to Allah to overcome this challenge of SSA and SSE, then Allah and other people He has given the knowledge to help you should be privy to this challenge you have.

      This is the religion of Islam. All Allah requires is our sincere effort to submit to Him. Then He will guide us. There is no obligation for a sincere Muslim to confess His sins to any one else except Allah who already Knows them and only requires your prayer to facilitate the healing process for your soul. I think Allah is saying something similar to this when He mentions in the Quran”Allah does not love that evil should be mentioned in open speech, except where injustice hath been done; for Allah is He who Hears and Knows all things”. Surat An-Nissa 4:148

      If you sincerely strive and turn to Allah, you will overcome this challenge inshaa Allah. No one except the experienced Muslim counselor who supports you in this process should know about your struggles.

      Another point in this context that may benefit other readers is the matter of those people who go around publicly talking about the struggles of other Muslim(or even non muslim) brothers with any kind of evil. Whether what you are spreading against another person be right or wrong, you are playing on the edge of the fire of Hell!! Allah warns in the Quran”Those who love (to see) scandal published broadcast among the Believers, will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: Allah knows, and ye know not. Surat Al -Noor 24:19

      Let us sincerely follow the guidance of Allah if it is Him we serve! May Allah make your journey to Him easier. And may He guide us all to His straight path and maintain us ion that path parmanently untile we leave this temporary world! Ameen.

    • Avatar

      Imam Asad Zaman

      September 12, 2019 at 5:39 PM

      Jazakum Allah Khair for writing this article. Please consider writing an article as a resource for imams to counsel people in our masjids.

  41. Avatar

    N

    September 10, 2016 at 3:11 AM

    I haven’t read the article because it is far too long but I assure you that we are overcomplicating things. Sometimes we can have strong emotions for a person but that doesn’t mean you want to sleep with them. The current social attitudes are confusing millions of kids. They are just feelings. You are not your feelings.

    There have been studies to show the straight people respond to visual stimuli of either gender though men generally less so with other men. This is why we should lower our gazes. And shaitan is ever ready to ensnare us in this dunya:
    ” Verily, I will mislead them, and surely, I will arouse in them false desires; and certainly, I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and indeed I will order them to change the nature created by Allah.” And whoever takes Shaitan (Satan) as a Wali (protector or helper) instead of Allah, has surely suffered a manifest loss.” 4:119

    I have been there, and sincere belief and dua has helped me, knowing that Allah has not made any human gay, that they are just passing feelings, I am a million times better than I used to be.

    And most importantly people, the truth is ALL feelings come from our thoughts alone.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6k4CVRuJ9tg

    Trust in Allah and do not indulge in your fantasies. In time it fades as the neural pathways become defunct the less you think about it.

    • Avatar

      Haroon

      September 15, 2016 at 10:37 AM

      I agree with you N. And thanks for quoting that verse from the Quran. It helps us see more clearly who our true enemy is! Shaitan.

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  43. Avatar

    Matt

    September 12, 2016 at 11:29 PM

    What a wonderfully thoughtful post. Thank you for it. I read it as a Christian who has had many friends seek to discern how to respond to unwanted same-sex attraction. There are so many parallels here, and we have much to learn from one another.

  44. Avatar

    Haroon

    September 13, 2016 at 5:07 AM

    Salaam Aleikum brothers and sisters in Islam. And peace to all those who have joined this discussion from other faiths too.
    Allow me to first of all thank Brother Yousef for approaching this difficult subject from a very unique angle. I must admit it is the first piece on this topic that seems to be truly objective while also sincerely striving to present an accurate Islamic view. It must also have taken alot of courage to come out against feelings that one acknowledges to still hold just to help others overcome them too. May Allah strengthen and guide you, and enable the rest of us to approach the difficult struggle to overcome earthly different desires in the same way. Allah huma ameen.

    I specifically wanted to add my comment on this statement ”To be clear and upfront: there is absolutely nothing haram or to be ridiculed about anyone just having SSA (same-sex attractions). What is forbidden in Islam are SSEs (same-sex encounters and behaviors). No one that I have met over the years ever chose to be attracted to the same sex”. May Allah guide me in this effort.

    I agree with you that no person should judge another based on the feelings they entertain in their minds and not act upon! So we should be more sensitive to and pray for our brothers and sisters struggling with SSA. However in order to support this struggle against SSEs like all other haram encounters, we must appreciate that all haram acts (including SSEs or Anal sex & Zina among heterosexuals etc) start from Haram feelings or ideas……even if no one chooses to have those ideas pop into their minds….in the first place. We must however choose to fight them from the level of thought rather than the action level.

    Allah tells us in the Holy Quran ”And pursue not that of which you have no knowledge; for every act of hearing or of seeing or of feeling in the heart will be inquired into (on the Day of Reckoning) Surat Al-Isra 17:36.

    When we strive at this level of fighting any temptation to even entertain thoughts on desires that are haram, keep away from all activities and environments that evoke such thoughts and memories then Allah will Inshaa Allah guide us with His unlimited power over hearts and Forgive the few times and moments these feelings linger in our minds from His unlimited Mercy! But a successful struggle against any haram desire must atart from fighting thoughts……not just actions! That does not mean we shall be punished for all our thoughts…..for indeed Allah is most gracious most Merciful. This verse is just to warn us that in order to successsfully fight sin, we must start from striving sincerely to purify our thoughts…then Allah will come to our rescue when we turn to him.

    Indeed Allah goes further to guide us in the Holy Quran on a starting formula to fight Haram desires at the level of thought”If a suggestion from Satan assail thy (mind), seek refuge with Allah; for He heareth and knoweth (all things).Those who fear Allah, when a thought of evil from Satan assaults them, bring Allah to remembrance, when lo! they see (aright)!” Surat Al- Araf 7:200-201.

    So whether it be SSAs,( or Zina, being attracted to your neighbors wife or husband, envy for what Allah has given another etc) and other unlawful desires the struggle of a sincere muslim must start at the level of thoughts! We must strive to purify our thoughts constantly. There are other Duas in the Quran for this purpose which we shall share later inshaallah in addition to the short statement from Quran above. But one simple one is the Surat Nas the last surat which we all know…saying it before going to bed and at other times.

    To all my brothers and sisters struggling with SSAs and all other desires and feelings that Allah has made unlawful, I say do not lose hope nor despair! Allah Knows how shaitan is trying to insite you to go astray, He knows all your struggles and difficulties perfectly….and He acknowledges every small step you take towards Him. Let not those who treat you with disdain make you despair nor lose hope in the Mercy of Allah! For He is indeed Most Gracious Most merciful….and on sincere repentance He forgives all sins! Am going to quote a verse that i like most in the Holy Quran because am a human being too…..so am a sinner!

    Our loving Lord says”O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.And follow the best of (the courses) revealed to you from your Lord, before the Penalty comes on you – of a sudden while ye perceive not! Surat AZ-Zumar 39:55-56. You should read this whole section to feel the same emotions it steers whenever i recite it. One of the renowned reciters of Quran sheikh Sudais actually cries whenever he reaches this surat!!!

    Now for those brothers and sisters who are so busy judging other people. It is important to remember that non of us is an angel. If you were one, you would have no business on earth!!! Allah says ”If Allah were to punish men according to what they deserve. He would not leave on the back of the (earth) a single living creature: but He gives them respite for a stated Term: when their Term expires, verily Allah has in His sight all His Servants.” Quran Surat Fatir 35:45

    Focus more on striving to purify your own faith and soul rather than in judging other people. Whenever you vie out in the area of spreading good and forbidding evil….Islam….use the best of words like brother Yousef has so beautifully done in this post may Allah reward him with increase in Knowledge and faith.This is advice from the Quran. We must all have hope in the Mercy of Allah regardless of the nature of the sins we are striving to overcome. We must have hope in His Mercy and Grace if at all we have true sincere faith in Allah unlimited Power, unlimited Knowledge and Justice.

    I wish you all the guidance and Mercy of Allah. Ameen

    • Avatar

      Haroon

      September 13, 2016 at 5:19 AM

      Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knows best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. Quran Surat An-Nahl 16:125

      Calling other Muslims names just because they have a different nature of sin and temptation they are struggling with compared to you does not seem to fit well within this framework of Discourse advised by Allah the All Knowing most Gracious Most Merciful Himself. Let us try to submit to his advice when we invite others nearer to the straight path inshaallah.

  45. Avatar

    Br. Talib

    September 18, 2016 at 1:12 PM

    Any article that brings up this issue of this filth that is homosexuality without citing the verses in the Qur’an about this issue or the hadiths from Muhammad about this issue is nothing but an article from Shaitan, period.

    Muslimmatters.com publishing this trash on the face that there is some inherent ‘piety’ to it is non-sense.

    • Avatar

      Br. Yousef

      September 18, 2016 at 4:39 PM

      I tries to understand where you were coming from but I honestly couldn’t and can only say that you should be ashamed of yourself for posting such a comment. You may re read the article and see that it cites another article were the verses and ahadith were delved into thoroughly.

      • Avatar

        Br. Talib

        September 18, 2016 at 7:45 PM

        This article right here is written without a single mention, unless I missed it, of the Qur’anic position on homosexuality. There is no mention of the words of Prophet Lot, as revealed by Allah, on this issue of homosexuality and practice of Sodom and Gommorah. Instead, this article is framed in a manner to skirt around the vile nature of what is being discussed and housing the discussion in the same propaganda that has nurtured and made room for homosexuality to ravish the Christian communities.

        This approach itself is Shaitanic guised under ‘piety, love, understanding’.

  46. Avatar

    Ahmad B.

    September 19, 2016 at 12:59 AM

    Br. Talib,

    I’m confused. It’s true that the article doesn’t cite the verses and ahadith directly, but it reiterates many times that homosexual behavior is haram in Islam, categorically rejects — several times — the claims of anyone who would dare to suggest otherwise, and even has a whole section about how Muslims should be aware of falling for the propaganda that is going around today under the guise of pseudo so-called “liberal Muslims.” The author also says several times that he, and others who experience unwanted same-sex desires, resolutely reject any twisting of the deen or changing its clear teachings on this issue. And, as the author has stated in his answer to you above, he links to an extremely thorough, 45-page article that examines every single verse on this issue, and much else besides, and which thoroughly debunks the crack “scholarship” by Kugle and others trying to make a place for homosexual behavior in Islam. How did you miss all of this?

    Wassalam,
    Ahmad B.

  47. Avatar

    Mr.Hyu

    September 19, 2016 at 11:25 PM

    peace be upon on all of u….i love to read this article very much….it was very useful for me to find who actually i am….may allah bless us day by day for everything that we will face it….may llah ease evrything for us…

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  49. Avatar

    Anonymous

    February 28, 2017 at 12:18 PM

    One of the best pieces I have read on this topic!
    JazakAllah for this! Your perspectives are extremely helpful. Thank you.

  50. Avatar

    Thoughtful

    April 4, 2017 at 9:52 PM

    Thanks for opening up this conversation from a more sympathetic viewpoint in a very conservative community. One thought or question that I’d like to leave here, is that it strikes me that this conversation is one that often speaks through the lens of the privilege of private counselors and anonymous essays and forums to deal with these questions – as well as male autonomy. Can there really be a conversation going forward about dealing with what you term SSA, when women are considered highly suspect and often left extremely culturally confined if they do not marry? Is there currently space within “conservative American Islam” for women who wish to remain celibate, whether they be asexual or experiencing SSA, or is the reality a community that prefers forcing people into sham marriages with individuals who cannot consummate them? Is there really space for people to be able to privately tell their families and friends that they are simply not attracted to the opposite sex, without this resulting in broken relationships, fake exorcisms, and being kicked out of one’s job? A conversation about moving forward can’t only be about the “rulings”, so to speak – it also has to be about what this means in real-life effects.

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      April 10, 2017 at 2:03 PM

      Dear Thoughtful,

      Thank you for your comment. Maybe I’m missing something, but I think what you mention is exactly what Br. Yousef’s article is calling for, no?

  51. Avatar

    Mokaddes Khan

    April 21, 2017 at 12:32 PM

    Assalamualaikum brother. A very thoughtful, insightful, timely and necessary essay. You are right to ask for respect that is deservedly yours as a brother in faith. You have mine. May we all have the courage and blessing to successfully overcome the trials set by our Lord. Ameen.

  52. Avatar

    leila

    November 13, 2017 at 7:39 PM

    A great read! This is relevant not only for those suffering with SSA or SSE’s but also for those suffering for any other desires or addiction. Jazakallah for your wisdom and insight and may Allah reward your patience.

  53. Avatar

    KM

    April 3, 2018 at 8:34 PM

    Wow! You are an incredible and courageous human being. May Allah (swt) reward you tremendously for your struggles for His sake and the amazing work you’re doing.

  54. Avatar

    mori

    June 4, 2018 at 7:30 PM

    first of all, thank for your time to writing this, really this is helping me a lot :'( .
    really, im so exhausting day by day, year by year seeing my colleague one by one getting married, having kids, seeing my parents getting old and you cant do anything.
    im not looking for any man nor im act like a girl, it just tiring when everyone asking u, talking behind u, mocking u over and over.
    i believe im become ssa because of my father not being there for me when im a kid, and my mother always angry to me (please brother, love your kid, ask him, praise him).
    im so sad, when people from brother muslim choosing the gay path, (please fortify your heart!).
    bismillah, may Allah swt always keep me from the sin of nafs. Amin

  55. Avatar

    Imam Asad Zaman

    September 12, 2019 at 5:43 PM

    Jazakum Allah Khair for writing this article. Please consider writing an article as a resource for imams to counsel people in our masjids.

  56. Avatar

    Latifa

    March 4, 2020 at 5:44 PM

    As Salaamu Alaika,
    Wow, this is the first time I’ve seen a writing that speaks to me so well, this really hit home! I know so many that leave the Deen to “live their best life” and “be free to love who they want” or “refuse to be in a religion that condemns their lifestyle” and I feel so bad. I don’t want to see my friends suffer in the akhirah over sexuality. I was starting to think I was the only person that views these SSAs as a test that I must overcome to please my Lord and gain HIS pleasure to enter jennah, the ultimate goal! It’s such a breath of fresh air to finally not feel alone! I have so much emotion flowing right now that I’m going to stop here before I write a novel lol. Thank you for putting this article forward and challenging our ummah to have a more compassionate discourse of this topic. May Allah reward you for your efforts, make you successful in your endeavors guiding other SSA individuals to the proper understanding of the difference between SSA & SSE, and bless you in this life and the next, Ameen Allahumma Ameen!

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Undisputed And Undefeated: 13 Ways Khabib Nurmagomedov Inspired Us To Win With Faith

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Many fans anxiously watched UFC 254 with bated breath as Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov went head-to-head with Justin “The human highlight reel” Gaethje. The latter had just come off a spectacular TKO win against a formidable and feared fighter in the form of Tony Ferguson, beating him over 5 nerve-wracking rounds by outstriking him with a combination damaging head shots and crippling low kicks.

We all knew what both would do – Khabib would go for the takedown, and Gaethje would try to keep the fight on the feet and opt for stand-up striking – which fighter’s strategy would prevail? Alhamdulillah, it was Khabib, in a mere 2 rounds.  We weren’t in the fight, but we are all nervous and supplicating, making du’a to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to give him another victory.

And so it was that after the win, he collapsed in the middle of the ring to cry, as this was his first fight after the loss of his father due to complications with Covid-19. He cried, and many a man cried with him, feeling his pain. Gaethje revived from his triangle choked slumber and consoled his former foe, telling Khabib his father was proud of him.

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We were all sure when “The Eagle” got on the mic, he would say he wanted to fight GSP, George St Pierre, and then retire 30-0, as he had said in previous press conferences leading up to the fight.  Instead, he surprised us all by announcing his retirement at 29-0, and I couldn’t help but marvel that not only was he turning away from a lucrative final fight, but the way in which he announced his retirement reminded us of our faith, our deen, our religion, Islam.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Qur’an

“And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers.”

Throughout his MMA career, Khabib has proudly worn his faith on his sleeve. As he has risen to become the current pound-for-pound #1 fighter in the world and arguably the GOAT, the greatest of all time, his unwavering example as a practicing Muslim transformed him into a global phenomenon and role model for many of us by reminding us to be better worshippers, to be closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Let’s look at a few of the ways he did this:

1. Beginning with Alhamdulillah

The announcer at UFC 254 began by congratulating Khabib on a job well-done yet again by praising him, stating, “The world is in awe of your greatness once again…your thoughts on an epic championship performance, congratulations.” Khabib didn’t immediately begin talking about himself. Instead, he said:

“Alhamdulillah, SubhanAllah, God give me everything…”

After stating this, he went on to announce his retirement, his reasons for retiring, and thanked everyone who supported his professional MMA journey.

The Reminder

Alhamdulillah is literally translated into “All Praise Belongs to God”. Khabib begins by thanking Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), pointing out that his talents and abilities are a gift, a blessing from the Most High. When we have any blessing from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), we must remember that whatever our own effort, our abilities, our support, and our achieved outcomes ultimately tie back to support from our Rabb, our Lord, who controls all.

Khabib pointing to Allah

It’s not from me, it’s from Him

If you’ve ever seen Khabib point at himself, shake his finger back and forth as if to say, “No” and then point up to the sky, this is a nonverbal way of him saying, don’t think all these great things you see are from me – they’re from Allah above.

2. The Prostration of Thankfulness – Sajdat al-Shukr

You may have noticed at the end of Khabib’s victory, when the announcer states that he’s the winner of the bout, he falls into a prostration known as Sajdat al-Shukr – the Prostration of Thankfulness (to Allah).

Khabib and his sons prostrating

The Reminder

Performing this is recommended when someone receives something beneficial (eg good news, wealth, etc) or if they avoided something potentially harmful (e.g. job loss, healing from a disease, etc). The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would do this when he received good news. The believer should remember to be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as much as they can.

See also:

3. Establishing the 5 Daily Prayers

Khabib and me, don’t be jelly

Years ago (early 2018), Khabib visited my local masjid in Santa Clara, California (not far from where he was training in San Jose at the AKA gym). Many at the masjid didn’t know who he was, but we heard he was the #1 contender for the UFC Lightweight championship belt, at that time held by Tony Ferguson.

He did a Q & A with the community, and someone asked him a general question about what he would recommend for the youth.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing:

Take care of your prayers, if you come to Day of Judgment not take care of your prayers, on that day you will be smashed.

The Reminder

The second pillar of Islam that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has commanded us to follow is to pray to Him 5 times daily. Khabib was no doubt referencing the following statement of the Prophet (saw):

“The first action for which a servant of Allah will be held accountable on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayers. If they are in order, he will have prospered and succeeded. If they are lacking, he will have failed and lost…”

 

 

Shaykh AbdulNasir Jangda notes that when the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) first began his mission of da’wah and faced devastating rejection from family and community, Allah told the Prophet to stand and pray. The reason for this is because when we are weak and suffering, the place to turn to for strength is back to Allah in prayer. There is no doubt Khabib’s strength came from his connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) which in turn came from his 5 daily prayers.

Praying multiple times daily, consistently, can be challenging; when it was legislated by Allah to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) kept telling him to go back and ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for a reduction, saying, “Your people will not be able to handle it.”

Khabib is a great reminder that no matter how high you climb in life and career, no matter how busy you think you are, worshipping Allah is the most important deed one can do, and this discipline is the most important habit to build.

4. Strong Wrestling Game

Some say Khabib is already 30-0 for wrestling a bear

In a sport that sees far more striking and kicking than it does wrestling, Khabib came to dominate the lightweight division of the UFC with a strong grappling style that is a combination of sambo (a Soviet martial art), judo, and wrestling. Famously, he outwrestled a bear when he was much younger.

During his fights, he doesn’t close out his bouts by pummeling his opponents and causing them damage as most strikers would. Most of his hits open up his opponents to being forced to tap out via submission. Even his last opponent, Justin Gaethje, noted that he was much happier to be choked out in a submission, as all he would get is a pleasant nap, as opposed to striking, which could have long-term health consequences.

The Reminder

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was not only able to wrestle, he took down the strongest wrestler in Makkah. Rukanah, the famed Makkan wrestler, challenged RasulAllah because of his hatred for the da’wah. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) accepted his challenge and took him down multiple times, body slamming him again and again. It was said that after the conquest of Makkah, Rukanah accepted Islam.

5. Fighting / Training through Sickness and Injury

During the post-fight press conference with UFC President Dana White, it was revealed that Khabib had broken one of his toes 3 weeks before the fight. Prior to that, he had taken two weeks off upon arriving at Fight Island having contracted mumps, according to AKA trainer and coach Javier Mendez. Khabib is quoted as having told Mendez, “My toe may be broken, but my mind is not.” In addition to this, his father had just passed away months earlier, and this would be his first fight without his father present.

Mumps, broken toes, and the emotional turmoil of family tragedy

The Reminder

In addition, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has told us, “A strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone…” This strength includes strength of body, mind, and spirit; not just when conditions are perfect, but when trials surround you from every conceivable direction.

6. Relationship With His Father

After defeating Justin Gaethje, Khabib went to the center of the ring and cried, and everyone cried with him. We all knew his father’s death weighed heavily on his mind and his heart, and this was his first fight without him. His father was his mentor and trainer, whom everyone could obviously see he both loved and greatly respected.

In the post-fight question and answer with Dustin Poirier, Khabib was asked, “What’s your message for your young fans out there who look up to you so much?” he responded:

“Respect your parents, be close with your parents, this is very important. Parents everything, you know, your mother, your father, and that’s it, and everything in your life is going to be good, if you’re going to listen to your parents, mother, father, be very close with them, and other things come because your parents gonna teach what to do.”

The Reminder

There isn’t enough space in this article to go over how much emphasis our faith places on respecting our parents. Allah says in the Qur’an:

Your Lord has commanded that you should worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say no word that shows impatience with them, and do not be harsh with them, but speak to them respectfully. [17:23]

7. Relationship With His Mother

Our parents ultimately want us to succeed, but also want us to maintain our well-being. Without his father’s presence, it was clear that Khabib’s mother didn’t want him continuing in the Octagon (the UFC ring). After 3 days of discussion, Khabib gave his word to her that this would be his final fight. After beating Justin Gaethje in UFC 254, Nurmagomedov announced he was retiring because he promised his mother that he would retire and that he’s a man of his word.

The Reminder

This hearkens back to a statement of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) about how much respect mothers deserve. A man asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, “Who is most deserving of my good company?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Then who?” He (saw) said “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet again said, “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet finally said, “Your father.”

Khabib easily had millions more to make on a journey to hit 30-0 in his professional fighting career and decided to hang it all up to make his mother happy. This is true respect and obedience, and for that matter, the love of a mother for her son and his well-being over monetary gains.

8. Respect for Muhammad Ali

When asked about the comparisons between himself and Muhammad Ali, Khabib stated that it was an inappropriate comparison. He noted that Muhammad Ali didn’t just face challenges in the ring, but challenges outside of it due to racism, and that he was an agent of change with respect to bringing about greater civil rights for African Americans.

The Reminder

In his final sermon, Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”

From the 7th century until today, our faith recognizes that people are not judged by their race, but by their actions and the intentions behind those actions. In the video above, Khabib recognized both the wrongness of racism, and the challenge it posed along the way of Muhammad Ali’s own journey, and that his contributions to social justice transcended his involvement in sport.

9. His Conduct with Other Fighters

With the exception of the fight with Conor McGregor, Khabib always dealt with his opponents with respect. He hugs them, shakes their hand, and says good things about their accomplishments and strengths both before and after fights. In a sport known for heavy trash talking and showboating to build hype, Khabib kept his cool and his manners.

Champion vs Champion, the respect is mutual

The Reminder

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“The only reason I have been sent is to perfect good manners.”

Maintaining good character and conduct during press-conferences was Khabib’s calling card; even when trash talkers like Tony Ferguson tried to go after him, he would still recount Ferguson’s formidable stature as a fighter.

When reporters tried throwing him a softball opening to insult Ferguson’s mental health, Khabib responded that he didn’t want to talk about Tony Ferguson’s problems if he they were real; if Ferguson truly has a problem, then we should help him, as we all have problems.

10. Fighting Those Who Dishonor Faith and Family

As mentioned above, Khabib is known for being very respectful of his opponents during press conferences. He speaks well of their strengths, shakes their hands, hugs them; he even runs up to his opponent after a fight and hugs them, consoling them and wishing them well. After his win against Poirier, he traded shirts with him and donated $100k to Poirier’s charity.

Khabib vs Dana’s boy, the chicken

The exception was the infamous UFC 229 which Muslim fans watched holding years, maybe decades of pent up anger at the type of crass secular arrogance represented by Conor. We desperately wanted Khabib to maul the mouthy McGregor. The latter had gone after his family, his faith, his nationality, anything and everything to hype up the fight and try to get under the champ’s skin. Some people lose their calm, and others, well, they eat you alive.

Khabib made it clear he wasn’t having any of that. He took the fight to Conor and choked him out with a neck crank. We then learned why he was called “The Eagle” as he hopped the cage and jumped into the audience to go after other members of Conor’s team who had spoken ill of him, giving birth to “Air Khabib”.

The Reminder

When our faith and family is spoken of in an ill fashion, it’s not appropriate that we sit there and take it. Khabib never cared when it was criticism against him, but once it went to others around him, he took flight. We as Muslims should never give anybody who tries to attack and dehumanize us a chance to rest on their laurels. We should strive ourselves to take the fight back to them by whatever legal means necessary, as Khabib did, whether it is cartoons of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) or political pundits and satirists who monetize hatred against Muslims.

11. Shaking Hands and Training with Women

In numerous public instances, Khabib reminded us that our faith demands we don’t shake with the opposite gender. As one of my teachers taught us, the Qur’an instructs us to “lower our gaze” when dealing with women. If we shouldn’t even look at them out of respect for Allah’s command, how can we take it to the next level and touch them?

Extended to this is even more serious physical contact like training at the gym. Cynthia Calvillo, one of Khabib’s teammates at AKA gym, said the following about Khabib and his unit:

“It’s a little bit weird because of their religion and stuff…They don’t talk to women you know. I mean we say ‘hi’ to each other but we can’t train with them. They won’t train with women…I don’t think any other woman does.

The Reminder

Our faith places stricter physical and social interaction boundaries between men and women. Keeping matters professional and respectful with the opposite gender need not include physical contact. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was said to have never touched non-mahram women. It was narrated that he said,

“It is better for you to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle than to touch the hand of a woman who is impermissible to you.”

For this reason, the majority of scholars prohibited physical contact between men and women with some exceptions (e.g. old age). Watching Khabib maintain this practice, even in public where it could potentially embarrass him and cause undue negative attention, gives us all inspiration to deal with this issue in the workplace better. He encourages us to strive for better tolerance and awareness of our faith rather than forcing us to conform.

12. Not Making a Display of The “Trophy” Wife

If you follow Khabib’s Instagram, you won’t find lewd pics of him and a significant other. In fact, you won’t find any pictures at all of him and his wife. Who she is is a mystery to all. In an age and a sport where many post photos with their romantic partners, Khabib again is a standout with his gheerah, his honorable protectiveness for his significant other.

Khabib and his wife

The Reminder

We are again reminded that a part of manhood is to have protective ghayrah, jealousy over one’s spouse. Ibn al-Qayyim also said, bringing in the concept of chivalry,

“The dayyuth / cuckold is the vilest of Allah’s creation, and Paradise is forbidden for him [because of his lack of ghayrah]. A man should be ‘jealous’ with regards to his wife’s honor and standing. He should defend her whenever she is slandered or spoken ill of behind her back. Actually, this is a right of every Muslim in general, but a right of the spouse specifically. He should also be jealous in not allowing other men to look at his wife or speak with her in a manner which is not appropriate.”

13. Owning His Mistakes, Looking to Be Forgiven

Finally, it should be noted there is no real scholarly disagreement on prohibiting striking the face. Recognizing this, Khabib stated when asked if “he thinks the AlMighty will be satisfied with him for taking part in haram fights for money,” he replied, “I don’t think so.”

In an interview with the LA Times, he said:

“You go to mosque because nobody’s perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, and we have to ask Allah to forgive us. This is very important mentally, to be clear with Allah. This is not about the UFC. There is nothing else more important to me than being clear with Allah. And being clear with Allah is the No. 1 most hard thing in life.”

The Reminder

We as human beings aren’t perfect – perfection is only for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). We all make mistakes, sometimes small, sometimes large, but in the end, He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is ready to forgive us if we’re willing to recognize our failings and ask to be forgiven.  Allah says in the Qur’an in 2:222:

“Allah loves those who always turn to Him in repentance and those who purify themselves.”

There are no sins so great that redemption is beyond any of us. Whatever Khabib’s flaws, his value as a positive change maker and faith-based role model globally outweighs his negatives.

Part of seeking forgiveness is the process, and the first part of that process is acknowledging the mistake. This means not being in denial about it or not justifying it, just owning it. As Khabib has owned his mistake publicly, there is no need for us to try and justify it either.

We can own that there are problems with MMA and the industry, in participating as well as watching and supporting. At the same time, we can do as Dr Hatem al-Hajj said about Muhammad Ali:

Concluding Thoughts

While UFC pundits will forever debate over the greatest of all time, there is in doubt that Khabib Nurmogomedov, the first Muslim UFC champion, will always be our GOAT.

I ask that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accepts the good from what Khabib has done, rewards him tremendously for the inspiration he’s given us all to better focused on the akhirah, the next life, and continues to make him a powerful sports icon who uses his platform as Muhammad Ali did to teach Islam and exemplify it in the best way for all of us to benefit and follow.

Ameen.

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The Khabib Halal/Haraam Ratio: Good Character, Bad Sports, And The Conundrum of Muslim Representation 

Zainab (AnonyMouse)

Published

Note: This article was reviewed and approved by Shaykh Younus Kathrada for religious content

The Muslim Ummah has spent the last several years celebrating the rise and success of MMA fighter Khabib Normagomedov, a Muslim Daghestanti fighter who emerged to become an undisputed victor. On the day of his 29th victory, he also announced his retirement from MMA, referencing a promise that he made to his mother.

Muslims went wild in their praises, showering him with adoration, expressing their admiration of his obedience to his mother, his public demonstrations of sajdah ash-shukr after every match, his humility and remembrance of Allah, and his lowering of the gaze around inappropriately dressed women at public events. Undoubtedly, these are all praiseworthy behaviours and characteristics that should be encouraged in all Muslims, especially Muslim men. 

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However, there has been a near-deafening silence on the underlying problematic foundations of the entire phenomenon of Khabib Nurmagomedov and his popularity amongst Muslim men. To begin with, his entire career as an MMA fighter is considered sinful and prohibited according to the Shari’ah. It is well-known that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

وَعَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ‏- رضى الله عنه ‏- قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ ‏- صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏-{ إِذَا قَاتَلَ أَحَدُكُمْ, فَلْيَتَجَنَّبِ اَلْوَجْهَ } مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْهِ.‏ 1‏ .‏

‏1 ‏- صحيح.‏ رواه البخاري (2559)‏، ومسلم (2612)‏ واللفظ لمسلم، ولتمام تخريج 

“When any one of you fights, let him avoid (striking) the face.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, al-Fath, 5/215).

Scholars have agreed that any sports which involve striking of the face, and in addition, those which involve several physical harm and injury to its participants, are haraam. As per the hadith, and established legal maxim, “laa darar wa laa diraar” (There is no harming of others nor reciprocation of harm), this prohibition extends to sports such as boxing, MMA, American football, and any other sport where the athletes deliberately and regularly inflict and receive physical injury. 

On The Ropes

This is not a matter to be taken lightly. Indeed, it is disturbing and unfortunate that this fact has been minimized to such an extent that many Muslims – including and especially the Muslim men who are such avid fans of these sports – are not even aware of this prohibition. Perhaps most alarming is that many of those who are considered scholars, imams, shuyookh, and leaders in the Muslim community, who are aware of this prohibition, have neglected to mention these rulings even as they publicly praise those such as Muhammad Ali or Khabib Nurmagomedov for their prowess in these arenas, and hold them to be role models to follow. When even religious authorities are publicly cheering on such athletes and celebrating their victories, how can the average layman be expected to know that these sports are detested by the Shari’ah? It is a grave shortcoming that so many religious teachers and leaders have failed their fellow Muslims on a matter that has been extremely public and popularized. 

It is also necessary for Muslims to consider that the way that professional boxing, wrestling, MMA, and similar prohibited sports are conducted is a far cry from the casual (and permissible) fighting-for-sport that existed at the time of RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Today, the sports industry boasts billions upon billions of dollars spent in promotional material and events that involve no small amount of music, alcohol, vulgarity, and nearly-naked women being used solely to titillate the male gaze; sponsors of teams and athletes include beer companies. 

Glutton For Punishment

Male and female ‘awrah alike is revealed, openly and blatantly, normalized as part of the sports environment. Concern over the male ‘awrah being revealed cannot be overstated when we have an Islamic tradition that emphasizes modesty for believers, male and female. The greatest of all human beings, the Messenger of Allah, was described as “… more modest than a virgin in seclusion”

(Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5751, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2320). The Prophet Musa (‘alayhissalaam) was known to be so modest that he kept his body covered at all times (Sahih Tirmidhi); the Companion ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan (radhiAllahu ‘anhu) was described as having such modesty that the Messenger of Allah himself said, “Should I not be shy of the one whom the angels are shy of?” (Sahih Muslim 2401)

Related to modesty is the reminder to Muslim women who have been watching his matches (or any other entertainment) to lower their gazes. Bluntly speaking, it does not behoove a believing woman to be enjoying the sight of half-naked men (especially the very fit, athletic, and often attractive type) to be grappling away at each other. Muslim women are certainly not immune to the fitnah caused by the flaunting of undressed men all over social media feeds and through other entertainment.

The warnings regarding zina of the eyes apply to Muslim women just as they do to men; the Qur’an has already said:

{And tell the believing women to lower their gazes and guard their private parts…} (Qur’an 24:31) 

It is unfortunate that this has been forgotten about to such an extent that even scholars have neglected to address this particular issue.

Rolling With The Representation Punches

While Khabib himself has been praised for his lowering of the gaze around inappropriately dressed women at events that he is present at, we should be cognizant of the fact that neither he nor any other Muslim man (or woman) should be putting themselves in the position of being at such events to begin with. The truth of the matter is that his presence at these events was a necessary part of his career; his income, derived from this haraam sport and this haraam environment, can bluntly be considered haraam rizq, and no different in legal ruling than those who make money from liquor stores or running brothels. That Muslims have been blithely ignoring the serious spiritual ramifications of this raises the question of just how seriously we take the issue of blessed rizq in the first place. 

It is clear that many Muslim men, and in particular the religiously observant, find in Khabib a type of Muslim representation that they crave: someone who is publicly and unapologetically Muslim, who has demonstrated impressive physical skills and capability (perhaps they’re living through him vicariously?), who has displayed exemplary conduct outside the ring, who has constantly held fast to publicly and unashamedly remembering Allah and speaking of Islam. 

In and of itself, this is admirable. The Muslim Ummah has had a dearth of heroic contemporary role models, and no one can be faulted for feeling love for someone who seems to embody such laudable character and conduct. However, we cannot simply stop there. It is necessary for us to ask ourselves the question of what kind of Muslim representation is the kind of Muslim representation worth having – and how, and where, that representation takes place. 

When Muslim women have entered the public space, providing “representation” in the form of a muhajjabah in Playboy magazine, a hijab wearing model in a beauty pageant and the modeling industry, a hijabi in Olympic sports, and plenty of non-hijabis in many other areas, there has been a great deal of valid, legitimate criticism regarding the concept of “Muslim representation” and what it entails. Amongst conservative Muslims, there is a shared belief that “representation” at the cost of upholding the halal and turning away from the haraam is not representation worth having. Indeed, such “representation” comes with a significant amount of damage to the collective social and spiritual health of the Ummah: there is normalization of platforms that are antithetical to Islamic values, of dressing and conduct that go against our Shari’ah, and encouraging younger generations to engage in those behaviours and to pursue those types of careers. 

Why, then, are we not holding our Muslim brothers to the same standard? No matter how inspiring Khabib’s conduct is, no matter how admirable his public representation of his Muslim identity, his career and all that comes with it cannot be considered permissible, acceptable, or encouraged in Islam. Unfortunately, we have had many Muslim men encouraging one another to watch his matches, to the extent of arranging watch parties in the masjid! (Someone, please, answer me truly: how would RasulAllah consider the enthusiastic watching of a haraam sport in the House of Allah?)

Blow-By Blow: Izzah of the Ummah?

Furthermore, the excuses made for Khabib’s career choice are, frankly, flimsy – he has not brought ‘izzah to this Ummah in any tangible way other than making Muslim men feel good about themselves (I mean, hey, I get it, but sorry, this ain’t it); he is not “intimidating the kuffaar” (let’s be real: the kuffaar at the UFC are making more money off of him than you could ever dream of having in a lifetime); his victories in the ring are not a victory for this Ummah (please, go ask the oppressed Muslims in Burma, Somalia, Yemen, East Turkestan, Palestine, Kashmir, and elsewhere how much of a victory his matches have been for their well-being). Indeed, questions have risen regarding his public appearances with Vladimir Putin and his possible political allegiances with Russia, which has a long history of brutalizing Muslims in their surrounding regions. 

At the end of the day, Khabib Nurmagomedov is a paid athlete, whose millions of dollars come from a prohibited sport, in an industry that reeks of filth from beginning to end. He is our Muslim brother, and what should be celebrated is that he has finally chosen to leave the industry. What we should not have done, nor continue to do, is to hold his career as an MMA fighter to be exemplary for Muslims in any way, shape or form. We should pray for his guidance as a Muslim, his forgiveness for his previous sins, and remind our Muslim brothers – no matter how emotionally swayed they may be – that true ‘izzah comes not from participating in prohibited sports or careers (despite how successful one may be at it!), but from obeying the Law of Allah and His Messenger and abstaining from transgressing the boundaries laid by the Shari’ah.

Further resources on rulings:

https://islamqa.info/en/answers/10427/ruling-on-boxing

https://www.islamweb.net/en/fatwa/429082/boxing-is-forbidden-even-without-striking-the-face

https://www.islamweb.net/en/fatwa/329518/going-to-gym-that-has-yoga-lessons-boxing-and-sauna

Is Watching Boxing Allowed in Islam?

Punching or Striking the Face

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Pursuing Public Policy as a Field of Study: A Few Principles, Tips, and Advice

Ahmad Raza, Guest Contributor

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Witnessing people rise up, speak out against injustices, and protest, is a life-changing experience. It definitely was one for me. A decade ago, barely a few months into college, watching the unravelling of the Arab Spring inspired me to change my career goals and embark on a journey to better understand the world of government and public policy. While my journey is still young, I’ve learned a few lessons and principles along the way that may be of benefit to anyone starting theirs.

Consider your options

The first principle in pursuing a path in public policy is to take steps to keep your options open for your source of income. Why? There are a few factors at play. The first is the reality of the job market. Government jobs pay the best in the space, but they can be scarce (and unlike the private sector, there’s no startup ready to disrupt the space).

Government jobs, of course, aren’t the only option (and for many people, it’s not what they want to do). Another route is to work at non-profits, or think tanks. Pay in these areas will greatly vary, depending on the prestige (and donor base) of the organization. As with the public sector, here too jobs can be scarce.

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How do you keep your options open? Investing in skills that can translate (or even aren’t relevant to public policy) is a good place to start. Software programming, communications, or data analytics are some examples of skills that will provide you with options to fall back on. Learning an in-demand language is another option.

While thinking of your income isn’t, and honestly shouldn’t, be the motivation for entering public policy (I always dodged the ‘how will you make a living?’ questions in college), it is a practical consideration that will eventually catch up with you. This can come in various ways, and is unique to each individual’s circumstances. The worst-case scenario is if one starts to consider bending their ethical framework when they find themselves in a financial squeeze. The freedom to be able to walk away from something in order to maintain your ethical code is extremely powerful, and skills that keep your job options open help greatly.

Maintaining your ethical code is of the upmost importance in this space (and remember that you can still influence policy discussions regardless of your job title).

Take on a non-career mindset

Another principle to keep in mind is to avoid thinking of what you’re doing primarily as a career. The idea that you’ll just work your way up and increase your income, job title, or employer benefits has to be dropped before setting out on this journey.

Why is this important? Many major life decisions are made with the idea of a linear career trajectory in mind. People take out mortgages and car loans with the expectation of an increase in purchasing power as their careers progress. This can’t be the expectation in the public realm. While this advice is arguably applicable in other sectors, I believe it is absolutely critical for anyone considering working in public policy before beginning the journey.

Political winds constantly shift, and will be faced with difficult choices. It is important to fit your work to your ethics, and not the other way around. Dropping the mindset of a linear career, combined with investing in skills that give you the option to walk away if needed, are two ways to make that happen.

Avoid insiderness

The world of public policy is complex, and it requires effort, study, and a keen eye to understand the social role that public agencies play. At times, the ideas and concepts become overly technical and inaccessible to a general audience. This can bring with it a sense of ‘insiderness’, and a general feeling of ‘being in the know.’ Knowing the lingo and talking points is important, but it can disconnect you from the people that you have set out to serve (at worst, it can be a way to intimidate those who aren’t ‘in the know’).

Having a sense of humility, of course, is necessary for any aspect of a Muslim’s life. A field in which you’re expected to provide solutions to society’s problems, and to convince others of your solutions, arguably has an inherit conflict with that sense of humility. But that doesn’t have to be the case. The key is to finding a way to engender a countervailing experience against the highs of insiderness. The one that I believe in, and ties in to the point earlier on building skills for optionality, is to learn a language.

Why learn a language? There are several reasons. The most relevant one here has to do with the process of learning a language itself. This brings with it the experience of having to learn to ‘speak’ again. You put yourself in a context where your words, and in some ways your ability to be heard, are taken away from you. This alone can engender a different sense of humility.

Learning a language also grounds you with the experience of not having your voice understood by others. It builds an appreciation for people whose voice might not be heard in the policy process. Simultaneously, your new language will open the door to learning from new voices and perspectives.

Learn from tradition

Public policy is a secularized space, but that doesn’t mean that our tradition can’t inform our mindset stepping into it. One particularly salient area is keeping in mind how to view success. Stepping in with a commitment to your ethics naturally means discarding the idea that success means a specific title or position associated with your name.

How then should you view success? It begins with accepting that you may not live to see the fruits of your labor. Your name may never be known in this world. Success in a worldly sense isn’t why you’ve stepped on this path.

This doesn’t mean not being ambitious. It’s important to have ambition. Just don’t let your ambition override your values in deciding what to do. Learning the stories of historical figures from our tradition who’ve faced similar struggles helps with this. Examples include, just to name a few, Imam Shamil of Dagestan who resisted Russian imperialism, Imam Malik Ibn Anas who refused to change his beliefs when pressured by political authorities, and Nizam al-Din Awliya whose family were made refugees due to the Mongol invasions and had to subsequently build a new life in India.

Another area to learn, as Imam Dawud Walid suggests in Towards Sacred Activism, is studying usul-ul-fiqh and aqeedah, which will help complement your policy studies and further ground your knowledge of the world.

 

Aim high in whatever good you seek to do. Just keep in mind who truly provides success. And then, get ready for the journey you’re about to take.

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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