Is There A Place for Gay Muslims?

Progressive…  Traditional…  Liberal…  Radical…  Fundamentalist…  Modern…  Tolerant…  Moderate…  Extremist…
Which one is the real Islam?  And what is Islam’s real stance on homosexuality?  From Iranian Supreme Leader Khomeini’s fatwa allowing sex-change operations to recent homo-phobic ’emo’-hunts in Iraq, there are a lot of claims to that title.
Here follows a discussion between “Brave Power”- a Buddhist male, “Hari”- a Muslim male, “Safety”- a Muslim female, and myself.  It starts with an article about Islam, sexuality and Islam’s relevancy in the modern age.  As usual there’s something to shock and intrigue everyone, but no voice is ever silenced.
Qahirii, every angle, every side…


SAFETY:  the threat within……………. may ALLAH rectify them and guide them back.

Progressive Muslims Launch Gay-Friendly, Women-Led Mosques In Attempt To Reform American Islam

At first, the devout Muslims who gathered in a Washington, D.C., conference center seemed like they could have come from any mosque…
HARI:   I would be interested to hear their arguments. Imam Malik said women could serve as judge – in any type of court. Abu Hanifa said they could too – but in civil, not criminal courts. The way we are told things have to be and not always the only way they could be.
SAFETY:  Agreed on the last part of the statement, however in terms of what they are doing, women leading men/ women shoulder to foot with men/ and favorable reception of homosexuality as a norm doesn’t fit into the first part of the statement. truth is relative in some situations- Not these though. whatever their argument may be, it wont jive along side of sunni tradition/ sharia law. at best it’s a way liberal exceedance
BRAVE POWER:   I am grateful for my gay friends, their partners, and their husbands and wives. They are good, ethical, generous people (though I am sure that there are others who are not.) They are solid members of out community who are as worthy of love, acceptance, and celebration as anyone. If a holy book instructs us to judge and revile a huge group of people who we have never met – it is time to question its validity and holiness. If tradition causes one to harm those who are harming no one, it is a tradition to be abandoned or replaces with a tradition of kindness. If a tradition cannot be questioned, it is just another form of oppression.

Dr. Sherman Jackson responds to an audience question regarding Gay Muslims and homosexuality in Islam.

SAFETY:  Brave Power, you wrongly assume that religious instruction as to the way’s certain aspect’s of life are carried out (by some ppl) instructs other ppl to leave off love and compassion. Not the case @ all…. also homosexuality isnt THE necessary aim of address here, in this particular article it’s homosexuality, mixed ranks, and a woman leading a mixed prayer. this article aside though, islam aims to address all of the behavioral short comings of mankind. the persuit of real success would have mankind bend himself to fit religion. and ask ones self candidly how much good there can be in a religion that bends to fit the whims of it’s followers? islam does address human need, but it can’t be confused with new wave norm/ everything goes ideology.that established, the point you’re arguing seems to be whether homosexuality is a behavioral short coming or not. for that matter the same questioning can be applied regarding strange men and women praying side by side and or being led by a female imam in mixed company, to which i’d say there will always be limit pushers, but that (i.e. limit pushing) doesn’t create a new standard. religion put’s an acountability on human behavior and condition in all aspects of life. public and personal. inner AND outer the same. the blueprint is no more in need of being laid. a working on the self is more in need so that the human being is malleable enough to adjust his/her actions according to what’s divinely expected of him/her. and again this standard addresses all aspects of the inner/ outer being. Not just homosexuality. lying, stealing, envy jealousy, greed, ect ect ect…. are also encompassed in this struggle to fix up the self.
BRAVE POWER:  Safety,  I am not certain that I understand all of your post. I seems that you take the position that one can simultaneously persecute, love, and have compassion for someone. Some fundamentalist Christians claim to love and have compassion for “confused” Muslims at the same time that they are willing to bomb them to get oil. I suspect that you do not believe their claims of love. Why is this different?You also seem to present the tired old false dichotomy that one must rigidly follow ancient religious texts OR act on whim (without wisdom) and accept that “anything goes”. How can intelligent people see this as the only choice? This is insulting to humankind, for it gives people no credit for ability to make wise choices without looking it up in a book. I also aspire to follow a blueprint found in texts that are millennia old. As with all such paths, it requires effort, discipline and wise behavior. This tradition has also been male-oriented because, like Islam, it arose at a time and in a culture that were that way. However, the founder of this tradition said that only when one personally knows that a certain teaching is skillful, blameless, praiseworthy, and conducive to happiness, and that it is praised by the wise, should one then accept it as true and practice it. This is neither new age or implies that “anything goes”. It does allow me to see anti-homosexual prejudice for what it is – not “conducive to happiness”, “blameless”, or “praiseworthy”. Persecution of anyone – gays, blacks, Muslims, atheists (the list is huge) is not praised by the wise, but by the indoctrinated. And abandoning such behavior does not open the door for lying, stealing, jealousy and greed.
HARI:  Safety,  I am not disagreeing with you – but you know I was on an masjid executive committee years ago and quickly learned one thing- you have to be extremely cautious and defensive when speaking to the media, because they may print sonething totally against the spirit of what you meant, by choosing select comments without context – so I wonder if they are being represented accurately. And I am also curious how they came to the positions they have.
HARI:  OK, I just read the article. This quote kinda says it all: “I think Shariah [law] is totally made up,” shot back Zonneveld. ” She either does not know our history or is just not that smart.
QAHIRII:  We can argue back and forth about the acceptability of homosexuality, so let’s test both of these hypotheses:
A.  From Newsweek:  A New Gay Disease?
Before you read further, make sure you’ve actually read the above links. At least browse them. It’s not what I want to believe, it’s what anyone can find online, from a variety of websites. This is science, well-sourced, well-researched biology, plain and simple.Whether we like it or not, homosexual SEX (not the identity or inclination), like other behaviors forbidden in Islam (adultery, fornication, promiscuity), exposes the individual, and the unsuspecting society, to physical harm. In fact, as the above cases indicate, such activities are the SOURCE of this harm. This is in keeping with the 1400-year-old prophecy that when promiscuity increased, we would see appearance of new diseases that never existed before. Modern science confirms this prophecy.So, if it is a question of tolerance, Islam does not judge a person for homosexual feelings, any more that it judges a person for the desire to steal, kill, commit fornication or commit adultery. A person cannot control what is in their heart, but they can control their actions. There is substantial material in the Qur-aan and ahaadeeth (prophetic narrations) dealing with the purification of the self and softening of the heart.In the case of forbidden sexual relations, whose effects are claiming millions of lives, orphaning children, infecting unsuspecting jilted spouses, victimizing innocent newborns and possibly being used as biological warfare, even still Islaam tolerates it. It is only the act which is so brazen, so shameless that four reliable people are witness to it, to the very act of penetration, that Islam does not tolerate. This is beyond the limit, a limit which must be upheld for corruption not to spread until it becomes a norm. This word, limits, in Arabic is “hudood”, often wrongly translated is punishment. There is indeed a punishment, a severe one, but no more severe, and in fact much less than the damaging effects of the activities it discourages.So homosexuality will never be a part of Islam. It is not a part of a guided way of life, nor of a peaceful way of life. But societies have taken such a turn that pleasure has become a way of life, and whole masses consider themselves enlightened, blind to the fact that they are grovelling slaves to gratification, a humiliating slavery that numbs the intellect, deadens the heart, and leave the soul susceptible to manipulation by whoever can control the means to pleasure. This lifestyle below even the instincts of animals, yet we consider it better because of the cave man’s logic that “newer is better”.“…But when there come unto you from Me a guidance, then whoso followeth My guidance, he will not go astray nor come to grief.
But whosoever turns away from My Reminder, verily for him is a life narrowed down…”
– Qur-aan 20.124-5
BRAVE POWER:  Sexual promiscuity (as well as breast milk) is what transmits HIV. It (sexual promiscuity, not breast milk) is not wise in any group and is rejected by gays much as it is rejected by heterosexuals (check CDC data about promiscuity). You fail to mention that a huge proportion of all HIV-tainted relationships are heterosexual – many transmitted in heterosexual male-dominated cultures which vilify prostitutes and give the men who visit them a free ride. According to the World Health Organization, of the 34 million people with AIDS in 2010, over 20 million were women and children. Surely you’re not suggesting they got it from lesbians.One can only see HIV/AIDS as a “gay disease” by cherry-picking the statistics. It is just as wrong as saying that AIDS is a “black man’s disease”. The CDC data show that African Americans are more susceptible to HIV than other groups, and most of the world’s HIV transmission is by heterosexual men in Africa (UN data). How would you respond to having AIDS labeled a “black man’s disease”?What you say about the downsides of being “slaves to gratification” certainly has truth to it. But it is no different for gays than for anyone else. Why pick on gays when they in no way define the much larger problem? Does Islam reject wealthy people, too? If not, why not? Does Islam categorically reject people who play addicting video games, live in big houses, use air conditioning, and go shopping at the mall a bit too often? What about people who are addicted to their own self-concept of holiness – who are influential in their mosques (or other place of worship) but do not get the point?You are correct that there are many spiritual benefits of renunciation. However, renunciation is what a person chooses for himself/herself not what is chosen by someone else for him.
QAHIRII:  Well I’ll never bite the hand that fed me knowledge.
BRAVE POWER:   ‎: ) You’re a good man, Qahirii. It’s OK when we do not agree.
QAHIRII:  So please allow me to respectfully submit that I have mentioned promiscuity as one of the activities that is also banned in Islam. If the Islamic edicts regarding sex and intoxicants were upheld, then HIV/AIDS would not be infecting breastfeeding mothers, blood donors/recipients or any ethnic community. Further, going back to our original topic, there is significant research, of which I have presented only a sample, specifically linking certain diseases- and/or heightened risks to these diseases- to homosexual sexual activity.
As such, and as usual, the sharee’ah bans that which has a greater harm than benefit to individuals and communities. In the example of falling from a plane without a parachute, there will inevitably be someone who survives it. However, most people will die or be hurt, and there is little if any benefit to it. The same goes with smoking and alcohol. Similarly, while there are benefits we can debate, and exceptions that we can establish, fornication, adultery, homosexual sex, as well as other activities (including, as you wisely point out, inner states of being) are of a greater harm than benefit, to individuals and communities. So they are forbidden, but we, as commanded by Allaah, are not to go spying on or unduly suspecting each other. And while we continually strive to purify and uplift our selves and communities, we are free to enjoy the wide array of permissible alternatives, which are more numerous and plentiful than what is restricted to us.
HARI:   I would be interested in any argument for accepting homosexuality as a legal practice from a sharia’ perspective – if any have heard of one, I would appreciate you posting a reference. I have never heard of one, but there is a chapter on the topic in a book I have – Ill take a look when I can.
All comments welcomed…

11 comments on “Is There A Place for Gay Muslims?

  1. Pingback: Shariah and Sexuality: A Seeker’s Findings | qãhırıï

  2. Sigh, I really didn’t want to get sucked into this, because I thought I made my stance clear. Or rather Brave Power pretty much handily refuted your line of reasoning in an articulation you were unable to challenge. So I’m waiting on that….

    While I wait, let me pose some questions to you. I’m pessimistic about convincing you, and there is a deep sterility about these debates that indicate they won’t be solved through proof texts. But lets dig into the epistemological roots of some of your arguments.
    1. What exactly constitutes “Islamic evidence” that marks it off from other kinds of evidence? And how do you know how to use Islamic evidence in relation to non-Islamic or extra-Islamic evidence? Its an old debate. We could check out al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd for the beginnings of an answer. We might look at Jonathan Brown’s excellent book on Hadith, or the several good histories of Islamic jurisprudence. For instance we would need to answer, whether and how the absence of prohibition constitutes a permission. We would need to establish whether a prohibition was local and specific or meant to be put into action universally. We would need to determine the contexts in which a legal ruling can be made about an issue as complex as that involving human sexuality. Since you have not done any of that, I don’t consider the issue ‘proved’. You can’t cite a Newsweek article about a new disease associated with gays, or an article about the origins of HIV, and then read it back into the past to ‘confirm’ the Quran! Surely you are aware how simplistic that is?! (which, if you’re interested to know more about HIV/AIDS, you should read The River. The disease did not begin with gays (you did not argue this, but I’m just saying), but with improperly prepared vaccines.)

    In my opinion, you, like many, fall victim to a epistemologically naive mode of thinking, which a detailed grounding in either non-Western modes of non-dualistic philosophy, or even some reading in analytic philosophy (try Bertrand Russell or A.J. Ayers, for starters, btw, what happened to that Masters in Philosophy from Howard, my dude?) Post hoc ergo propter hoc is just one of the many logical errors involved in your response. A similar line of really sadly flawed reasoning is on display in the Bilal Phillips in the article you cited. I understand its appeal to you, as I read your blog semi-regularly, and know a little bit about your beliefs. You are regularly defending Islam from people you believe it is under attack from, and you try to clear up misconceptions people may have about verses from the Quran and beliefs in Islam. But from the perspective of someone striving for very high levels, inshallah, of logical clarity and epistemological consistency (as I know you do as well), your proofs in this case seem laughably ignorant and even slightly bigoted (though you may not intend to be). My guess is that they are supposed to convince other Muslims, but as a form of dawah for the reason and logic of Islam to non-Muslims they fall way short of establishing a proof.

    2. Is it necessary to derive every aspect of your moral behavior from the Quran?
    Interesting that you started by asking if there is a place for gays in Islam. My short answer at one time, was no, there doesn’t seem to be, based on a particular reading of several verses from Quran, and the consensus of the scholars. But again, things are not as simple as they seem. The question, like the question of inheritance, gender relations, abolition of slavery, permissibility of lay interpretation, raises a question of epistemology and hermeneutics. Is Islam ONLY what the Prophet brought and the Companions practiced? Who gets to define what ‘Islam’ is? Again, this is a complex question that I cannot do justice to here. Let me provide a brief example, inshallah.
    On the basis of the ayat, “مَّا فَرَّطۡنَا فِى ٱلۡكِتَـٰبِ مِن شَىۡءٍ۬‌ۚ”, (“Nothing has been left out of this Book”) and the kind of straightforward logical derivation of proof from the Quran that you are asking for, you’d be justified in believing that the Quran contains everything the believer needs, self-sufficiently, without reference to any outside source. But I’d be willing to try to prove to you that though you say you believe the above ayat, it is impossible for any living Muslim to strictly abide by it, for the Quran does not contain everything necessary even for basic worship obligations (consider the 5 prayers, for instance). The appeals to the Prophet’s authority were meant to do certain kinds of “moral authority work” to create a sense of community after the Prophet’s death. The appeal to the Prophet is also an ideal expressing our desire to live by certain morally exemplary qualities in preparation for what lies beyond. In that respect, I find it a praiseworthy ideal (that is, the desire to live by the Prophet’s example) but it is not (as is commonly assumed) submittable to logical scrutiny, unless time in your logical system is made into a static variable that does not impact morality and moral codes.

    3. What do you mean by the ‘neutrality’ of the article you cited?
    Is this neutrality in perspective? Do you mean this as shorthand for being scientific? You write, “You’re not even being true to the science that confirms Islam, or science at all, when its conclusions make you uncomfortable.” Which science is this that I am being untrue to, again? I am confused. What I’m uncomfortable with is not science, nor even the teachings of the Quran. And please please please spare me the straw man of secular liberalism. It is to Muslim bloggers what the bourgeois was to Communists–a convenient scapegoat for their misguided apologetics. What I am uncomfortable is with your poorly constructed proofs and bigoted associations being associated with Islam. (for example the Bilal Phillips article you cite is woefully out of date. You’re a smart guy, you should read Nature (the journal), not Bilal Phillips, for scientific evidence.)

    Lastly, I should clarify my own conviction and what I believe, so you have something to respond to, other than my critiques of your points. Based on what I know about human and other kinds of sexuality, sexuality exists on a continuum, as do sex characteristics. What were are arguing about is essentially the proper gender roles for human beings, as opposed to sex. Gender, like race, or intelligence is a social construct, it is not immutable. If it were immutable, transexuals, hermaphrodites and other beings with dual sex characteristics or hormonal characteristics would not exist, biologically speaking. I have no doubt that the Quran proscribed certain gender norms for the society it lived in, and these can be considered as a general guide to many aspects of human behavior. But I believe its foolish to argue that one can derive epistemologically certain rules for every aspect of human sexuality from the Quran, and the revulsion Muslims exhibit towards same-sex attraction is one example of the shortcomings of such logic.
    I usually find the attempts to derive these moral maxims, to define what “Islam” says about such-and-such, mostly harmless, and often praiseworthy, but occasionally I disagree. Gender discrimination against same-sex attraction has important real world implications for governance and human rights. And the right of those with same-sex attractions to enjoy open and committed relationships, is one right, that after a long consideration, I believe should be granted to them. One should feel free to disagree with their moral choices, but I do not believe any state can take a position in opposition without encouraging modes of violence antithetical to same sex individuals health and safety. And that is my position, may Allah guide me where I am in error.

  3. So being gay=anal sex? Thats laughable, dude, it really is. And really think murdering someone is the moral equivalent of same sex attraction? I’ve obviously upset you by implying your arguments were Orwellian, but they are worse than that. They are wrongheaded, tinged with anger and spite, and very ignorant. Find me some compelling rational arguments and I am all ears.
    “The truth is an offense.”

    • No, I think I’m beyond getting upset over things like this, and I can’t afford to anyway, considering the more significant matters I have to navigate. But I appreciate your apology nonetheless, it shows that you don’t intend offense.

      It’s hard for two people to agree on anything. It’s much easier to argue, or just walk away. You’ve shown some admirable concern for the issue by remaining involved in the discussion this long. Considering their name, it really is strange to quote the Butthole Surfers in this discussion, but it really is as they said in their song Pepper: You never know just how you look through other people’s eyes.

      As for a direct response to your comments, to be honest, I expect more from an academic. It’s not that you had to enter this discussion, but since you have, apply some academic and intellectual rigor and standards:

      1) I have made it a point to offer scientific evidence from neutral sources. You should either discredit them in some way, or disprove their logical link to the arguments I include them in. You have not done this. Can you? If so, I welcome you. If not,…

      2) I have made it a point to offer Islamic evidence. You should either prove them invalid (weak/fabricated hadeeth, mistranslation of Qur-aan, taken out of context, etc.), or present the evidences and views of scholars that counter the conclusions I’ve drawn. Lastly, you could show that there is no logical link between my evidences and conclusions. Can you do this? If so I welcome you. (It shouldn’t be difficult anyways: I am not a scholar.) If not,…

      3) You have signally failed, in any discussion I can recall, to offer any Islamic, scientific or even factual evidence. This is not the first time I have mentioned this to you. As an academic, I am sure you are used to going beyond emotions, slogans, and strings of adjectival phrases, so used to it, in fact, that your normal discussions would reflect that. So I am waiting for you to divulge the source of your views, and to demonstrate their logical and or practical validity, with sources.

  4. @Qahiri, dear brother, I didn’t need to, Brave Power already pointed it out. At the end of the day, there is nothing to debate really. You either stand for the rights of all, without regard to race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, or you reproduce various forms of “love the sinner/hate the sin”, which, even if it has the most pious intentions, still tacitly accepts various forms of bigotry and discrimination. I’m simply stating the perspective I’m in support of. I definitely don’t have all the answers, or even many of them.
    @Talib, Indeed Allah does, and I’m glad its in Her hands instead of ours!

    • The question of rights and “love the sinner/hate the sin” are not antithetical.
      I recognize everyone’s rights to life, religion, wealth, lineage and honor. EVERYone’s.
      I respect freedom of conscience, but there is no one who respects full freedom of action.

      I don’t condemn a person who has murderous thoughts, proclivities or even intentions, but I believe punishment is due if they commit murder. Is this unreasonable? Do you feel differently. Is this “hating the sin”? Is there something wrong with punishing a person for causing harm? Does that violate their rights?

      I don’t condemn a person for being tempted to steal, or intending to steal. I don’t even concern myself with people’s thoughts. But I believe a thief, except the one who steals to meet a need, should be punished, after a trial. Is this irrational? Is it inconsistent with modernity or posterity?

      I don’t interfere with what people think, or even what they do, unless it spreads harm. We can join hands across the globe and sing “kum-ba-ya” all we want, but science (secular rationale, objective evidence, and linear logic) confirms that anal sex is a disease-prone behavior. I showed a sampling of links from an array of non-Muslim articles, that include statements by people who practice this, as a sampling of the evidence behind this. Did you read them? Do you have any objection to their validity, neutrality or journalistic standards? Yes, I know the discomfort the implications allow: that some people will not be free to pursue some of their desires, because they are harmful. That doesn’t fit with modern secular liberal values.

      You can label it however you like, but there is no denying that Islam does not allow homosexual sex. There is no proof for any other view, and if I am wrong, I welcome the correction. (Incidentally, while I appreciate the books you have recommended to me, you have never once presented a proof from a canonical text (Qur-aan, Hadeeth, etc.) in support of your views.) You want to be Muslim, and you want other things also, so you try to make Islam what you want it to be, but that cannot be done in any credible way. Sufism isn’t a catch-all, miscellaneous other category. Tareem isn’t Kathmandu, a place people project their mystic, spiritual values upon. Muslims can not make Islam what they would like it to be.

      Islam is the height of science (logic, evidence, reason and intelligence), yet we discard all reason, logic, evidence and intelligence when dealing with it. It’s a double-standard, really. You’re not even being true to the science that confirms Islam, or science at all, when its conclusions make you uncomfortable. You’ve been driven to a form of extremism, an adherence to platitudes and slogans no matter how impractical or unrealistic. I’ve been through the same education style you have. I’ve even taught rhetoric. You can argue your way in and out of anything. But in between our lies and our illusions lies reality. In between that with which we deceive and that by which we are deceived lies the truth. And the truth is you can’t hide from the truth ’cause the truth is all there is.

      Bob Marley is quoted as saying ” if I was educated I would be a damn fool.” (Time Will Tell (1992) a documentary by Declan Lowney)

      Beware of the man who knew too much, more than there even was to know…

  5. The debaters did not necessarily respond to the question directly, which asked, ‘Is there a place for gay Muslims in Islam?’ Islam did not become one of the world’s largest religions because of intolerance; on the contrary, it spread because of its message of mercy and compassion to humanity. This is not to say that homosexuality is allowed in Islam. Islam is clear about its stance, as are the other Abrahamic faiths and nearly all religions. However, many people miss the point, which is to say: Islam has room for anyone and everyone, yet it also gives parameters for living an ethical life. Islam prohibits killing and stealing, yet (unfortunately) there still exist Muslims who kill and steal.

    If one has a good understanding of Islam, he or she will recognise that this world was never meant to be a utopia. Paradise is meant only for the Afterlife. This life is a path to that Afterlife, and it is thus a test: of actions, of intentions, of thoughts and deeds, of principles and ethics. None of us are perfect, and we will all surely make mistakes. The difference is whether we arrogantly believe ourselves to be absolute legislators and better than others, or humbly acknowledge that only God has the right to judge us and only He knows our ending. Islam gives us boundaries by which to guide our existences; although it prohibits certain outward actions, its doors will always be open to all…

    And Allah knows best.

  6. It is good to see a reasoned debate on the subject anathema to so many. I’m very impressed by Brave Power’s clear and compellingly reasoned arguments. Unfortunately the other debaters engaged in various forms of logical fallacy and Orwellian doublespeak. It is very sad to see Muslims reproducing forms of right wing Christian discourse on this subject.

    • Talib (whose comment is below) is a student of Tareem, maa shaa-a-llaah. His view, as shown in his comment, and in our own conversations on the subject, does not support your claims of “logical fallacy and Orwellian doublespeak” (which you did not point out clearly) on the part of the Muslims in the discussion. He confirms that we are not, in fact, “reproducing forms of right wing Christian discourse”, but repeating, in our own words, the views that come from some of the most respected scholars, in one of the most respected schools, of Islam today. You once extended a greeting to me on behalf of the people of Tareem, but it is clear that your views do not come from there. You should check where they do come from, to know what they are leading you to.

      In what way could your logic be fallacious?
      Whose discourse are you reproducing?

      “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find that you can get what you need.” (Rolling Stones)

      You can’t always gain the approval of non-Muslims, but if you’re willing to be brave, you can always have their respect…

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