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

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.

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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[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n 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.

97 / View Comments

97 responses to “From a Same-Sex Attracted Muslim: Between Denial of Reality and Distortion of Religion”

  1. Tariq says:

    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.

    • Yousef says:

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

      • Mubashir Ziauddin says:

        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!

    • Heba says:

      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.

    • Shahid says:

      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.

      • Br. Yousef says:

        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

      • Aisha says:

        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.

  2. Asiah says:

    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!

    • Yousef says:

      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.

  3. HELEN says:

    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

  4. imas says:

    Alhamdulillah thank you….Barakallah..Jazakhallahair khazzanah travel

  5. Like to be annoynmous says:

    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.

  6. Ana says:

    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.

  7. Dalih says:

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

  8. Alwaani says:

    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.

  9. jake says:

    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.

  10. Farhana says:

    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.

  11. anon says:

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

  12. Freedom2B says:

    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

    • Ahmad B. says:

      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.”

  13. Nishaz says:

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

  14. Sajdah Nubee says:

    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.

  15. Rofiat says:

    Jazakallahu khairah fii duniya wal aqirah,well appreciated

  16. Mark says:

    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

    • R says:

      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.

    • Ziad says:

      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.

    • Mona says:

      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.

      • Mr Mike says:

        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.

    • Heba says:

      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.

      • Mr Mike says:

        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.

    • عاصم says:

      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. Asmeeni says:

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

  18. 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.

  19. Nobody chooses SSA says:

    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.

    • Dada says:

      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.

      • Nobody chooses SSA says:

        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. Dada says:

    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!

  21. Ama says:

    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.

  22. Ismail Mayat says:

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

  23. Mobeen Vaid says:

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

  24. developer says:

    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

    • Asiya says:

      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

    • Zayan says:

      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.

  25. Sulaiman says:

    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”.

    • Ahmad B. says:

      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.

      • Sulaiman says:

        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.

    • Aisha says:

      Salam alaykum Sulaiman thank you for that

  26. Sulaiman says:

    *Assalamu alaikum!

    • Ahmad B. says:

      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..

    • Ahmad B. says:

      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. Abu Abbaad says:

    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.

  28. […] From a Same-Sex Attracted Muslim: Between Denial of Reality and Distortion of Religion […]

  29. M says:

    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?

    • Br. Yousef says:

      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. S says:

    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. Vicki says:

    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. M says:

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

  33. Asiya says:

    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. AnonymousSSA says:

    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.

    • Br. Yousef says:

      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. Munirah says:

    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. Muslim Gay Conversion camp says:

    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.

    • Br. Yousef says:

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

  38. Nunnya says:

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

  39. Fizza says:

    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. Asad says:

    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.

    • Br. Yousef says:

      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

    • Haroon says:

      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.

  41. N says:

    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.

  42. […] white vigilantes showed up with clubs and chains and tire irons while Police stood aside.” | From a Same-Sex Attracted Muslim: “Do people think they shall be left to say, “We believe” and they shall not be tried?” | […]

  43. Matt says:

    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. Haroon says:

    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

    • Haroon says:

      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. Br. Talib says:

    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.

    • Br. Yousef says:

      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.

      • Br. Talib says:

        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. Ahmad B. says:

    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. Mr.Hyu says:

    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…

  48. […] Matters recently published a tl;dr piece on “Muslims And Same Sex Attraction” by a Brother Yusuf. I’ll be honest – I didn’t read it. I’ve heard this all […]

  49. Anonymous says:

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

  50. Thoughtful says:

    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.

    • Ahmad B. says:

      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. Mokaddes Khan says:

    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. leila says:

    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.

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