I recently read a post where a reformist Muslim, with whom I would differ on many issues, argued the story of Lut (as) is not the right evidence or angle to take when it comes to homosexuality. In the comments section, many Muslims sought to refute his points.
This time I think the author made a valid point.
Homosexuality is a much more complicated and a wider ideological phenomenon than what the story of Lut (as) seems to be addressing.
Consent, Freedom, Love, Relationships and Ideology
Consent, freedom, love and relationships as understood by a Secular Liberal West are totally alien to Islam.
Our struggle is a deeper struggle. If non-Muslims stopped promoting LGBT but continued to teach our children secular-liberal notions of sex, marriage, love, freedom etc. would we suddenly be ok with it and relax? Of course not.
Focusing on LGBT in the manner we often do misses the point and makes us appear intolerant or even oppressive to a minority. The reality however couldn't be further from the truth.
Does Islam even group people in this way according to sexual identity? Absolutely not.
What is Islam's position on the matter?
As far as Islam's "oppression of homosexuals," we should note classical Islamic scholars did not have a conception of "heterosexuality" let alone "homosexuality" akin to other cultures, including Europe up until the late 19th century.
In Islamic law anal intercourse between two males (or female actions) done with sexual desire are forbidden. Public acts of sexual intimacy and indecency between two men are forbidden (haram) - that has always been clear. However, public acts of sexual intimacy and indecency between a man and a woman are also forbidden.
These sexual norms were on the books for centuries, despite the fact same-sex activity did occur in Muslim-majority lands throughout history. Even though people were engaging in same-sex activity, they did not self-identify as "homosexuals" or as a separate category of people that could have even become a subject of systematic oppression.
So when I'm asked for my position on homosexuality, the most honest short answer I can give is Islam doesn't have one. If you mention one without the other you give a distorted impression of Islam - i.e., we pick on one sin more than another based on something other than Islam.
This is why it requires a longer discourse. It is crucial what the audience hears is what we intend to say.
Confusing the Message
Muslims used to say we don't eat pork because it's a dirty animal. Or praying 5 times a day is to practice discipline. Or fasting in Ramadan empathises with the poor. These claims inadvertently set up false premises that are easily refuted.
What if I rear a chemically clean pig in a lab? What if army training has made me already disciplined? What if I am already poor and know how it feels?
Worse, those aren't genuine reasons, creating a false and misleading explanation of what is going on.
The correct position is to explain that human beings have problematic and contradicting ideas when it comes to any issue in life. Hence, the only sensible and practical way to live together is to refer back to the Creator of the Universe. We pray and fast because our Creator told us to. That's it.
When it comes to relationships, we need people to understand WHY Islam makes it a sin for two loving, consenting adults, of even the opposite sex, to be in a intimate relationship outside of a specific contractual agreement that is linked to rights and obligations that go way beyond the immediate couple to include their children, matters of education, custody, inheritance and so on.
I'm talking about a man and a woman and I'm talking about "marriage" but not as the western audience would understand it. Sadly, Muslims and non-Muslims have given marriage a new definition that is so alien to the Islamic concept of marriage it's laughable. Then Muslims attempt to resolve all their Western or Eastern marriage problems according to Islamic solutions. Of course that's going to fail. The contradictions are everywhere.
Right now, there are people being sinful all around us in their relationships. Friends and colleagues who have children with their partners outside of any formal contract or arrangement. I don't see Muslims hatefully demonstrating or campaigning specifically about this and we probably shouldn't. We seem ok to live and work together no problems.
Some Muslims however seem to be giving off the incorrect impression we are tolerant of one type of sinful relationship and we hate the other type.
This gives secularists and modernists grounds to argue we should be consistent, tolerant of ALL types of relationships. In response, we try to articulate why we are specifically against LGBT. This is wrong.
We need to tackle presuppositions.
Presuppositions that ALL of these relationships are wrong. They are ALL problematic and lead to all the issues we see in society - widespread relationship failure and the fallout that comes with that on your mental, physical and financial well-being. That doesn't mean we hate anyone. It's the opposite. We want to help.
The reason why they fail is because people carry twisted ideas of consent, freedom and love. We need to articulate the Islamic positions on these.
Everyone is sinful in Islam. We are human. We sin. I'm sinful, my mother is sinful. I don't hate my mum. I love her. Sinful in Islam doesn't mean hate - this is a red herring used to give an impression to non-Muslims that Muslims are hateful and intolerant because of Islam.
What you are born with is irrelevant. When you argue people are not born attracted to the same sex, you tacitly accept the idea how people are born is somehow important or relevant to legislation. Apparently, some people are born with a higher tendency to be violent. However it's still forbidden to murder someone.
How you act and live is about values and systems. We shouldn't entertain this by arguing people are or are not born with any predisposition towards anything - because, for example, Islam requires a naturally introverted person to speak out against injustice - regardless of their personality.
Group identity and identity politics is a type of tribalism. That is haram and Islamic rulings must be understood in this context. So if my son came to me and said he's gay, then I would say to him that what he means is that he's attracted to other men... but never ever let anyone tell you that you're "gay". It's a loaded term that is a phenomenon that exists within a secular liberal paradigm - and comes with the predefined notions of love, consent and freedom.
Western society historically shunned a deep love between two men. We never had this problem. If my son feels a strong emotional love towards another boy, that's perfectly fine and Islamic. We don't have any issues with this. Men love each other. I tell my brothers I love them as encouraged by the Prophet (saw) even though some Western Muslims find it uncomfortable. Whereas today, a boy who has feelings towards another boy will immediately be encouraged to consider whether he is intrinsically some type of fixed sexual identity.
Marriage is a formal contractual agreement. It forms the basis for a wider socio-political and economic structure. If you want to have a marriage between two consenting, loving adults in isolation, you would have to live a solitary life on some island. If you live in a society then it's impossible to do that. So now we would have to redefine what we mean by "marriage" and the implications of that new definition. I'd rather return to the Islamic notions of marriage.
That leads nicely to my last point.
Human Beings cannot draw objective moral lines. We end up being arbitrary and easily influenced by whatever is trending in society. So I could ask someone who claims to be gay, even my own son, is it ok for a man to be intimate with another man before marriage or should he wait? What age is the correct age of consent? What about just holding hands and hugging but no sex? How many men can he marry at once - one, two, three or four? Do you see the point here? Where do you draw the line?
Being attracted to men doesn't tell you how to contextualise it or how to act or what to do about it. The secular liberal ideology tells you how to contextualise it, how to act and what to do about it. Islam also tells you how to contextualise it, how to act and what to do about it - and it's a completely different way of life to the western way of life.
This is the real issue we too often miss and come across as superficial, intolerant ideologues with nothing to offer society other than an ill-conceived, defensive refutation (and we too easily fall into so many traps the enemies of Islam lay out for us).
Where's the articulation of the beautiful future alternative civilisation? I see Muslims articulate this amazingly when it comes to economics or politics.
We need to have the same level of clarity and objectivity in our discourse when it comes to LGBT and not come across as people who hate some sinful people more than others - when we don't at all (or we shouldn't if we are truly referring to Islam instead of some sort of Muslim tribalism).
We are here to help ourselves and humanity out of darkness through the light that has been given to us by Allah (swt) without any concept of individual superiority on our part.
Islam does not have a position on homosexuality as it does not group people according to sexual identities. Public acts of sexual intimacy and indecency between two men or even two women are forbidden (haram) - that has always been clear. Moreover, public acts of sexual intimacy and indecency between a man and a woman are also forbidden. Sexual relations are confined to marriage.
How we act and live is about values and systems. Regardless of our predispositions or personalities, our values determine what is acceptable or not, thus Islam requires a naturally introverted person to speak out against injustice and the aggressive person to always show kindness and mercy to his parents.
Group identity and identity politics is a type of tribalism. If someone is attracted to the same sex, they are not "gay", a loaded term that claims one is intrinsically some type of fixed sexual identity that comes with predefined notions of love, consent and freedom - an oppressive notion to the individual and society that has to then re-engineer its entire social system around genders and relationships.
Homosexuality is a controversial subject prevalent in today's society. You may be wondering about the Islamic position on homosexuality in the face of radical gay activism versus fundamentalist Christian teachings.
Islam considers same-sex marriages to be invalid, thus all homosexual activity is extra-marital.
Islam forbids all sexual activity outside of marriage. Therefore, homosexual acts are considered to be a sin. More specifically, Islam forbids "lewdness" between men and men, women and women, and men and women who are not married to each other (See Holy Qur'an, 4:16-17).
In addition, numerous hadith of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) condemn sodomy as hateful in the sight of God.
This position against homosexuality supports the Islamic teaching of chastity and of the sanctity of sex within marriage.
In general, it is consistent with a Muslim's goal of always seeking his or herself and spiritual development and leaving aside those things which attract the lower, baser side of human beings' nature.
You may have questions about gay rights and the fight for equality, and you may wonder whether discrimination against gays because of their sexual preference is right or wrong. It is important to point out that gay activists are seeking rights on the same grounds as African-Americans, women and other minorities; namely that their sexual preference is as innate as a person's skin color or gender. As this is not so, African-Americans, women and others should be wary of joining with gay activists in their political fight because their rights are not due on the same grounds.
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