Staff Note I: This is a controversial issue with varying perspectives. Our guest author is expressing one perspective; we encourage others to respectfully discuss their own perspective in the comments or submit your thoughts as a guest piece. This article is meant to open up a discussion on this issue, rather than be a definitive stance on homosexuality.
Staff Note II: Comments have been closed on this post. We encourage positive and fruitful discussions, which we feel has already taken place in the comments of this article.
By Mohammed Yusuf
Muslims, I find, tend to be quite good at avoiding open discussions about deeply personal matters affecting our communities. The problem is, it is exactly this attitude that leads to the circulation of myths and the subsequent worsening of the original matter. Muslim communities tend to treat such deeply personal matters as elephants in the room. One such elephant is, of course, homosexuality—that someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender can also be a devout Muslim.
I am a student at a British university. I have not come out as homosexual and I happen to be quite active with my Islamic Society (ISoc) on campus. When I’m in the company of other students in the ISoc, I do hear a few “gay jokes” being made (although this is a wider societal problem too). In relation to these so-called jokes, do you think I enjoy that these jokes are essentially about someone like me? To those who make these jokes, given that no one has their sexual orientation stamped on their forehead, you’ve most probably already prayed alongside a homosexual without realizing. Let me ask you, was there anything ‘lesser’ about these people?
To those who have a conservative attitude towards homosexuals, given the homophobic rhetoric, attacks and social exclusion that a homosexual often has to put up with, do you genuinely believe that someone like me would have actively chosen to be gay rather than straight?
The number of times I have previously wished that I wasn’t homosexual…but that’s the whole point: you cannot choose to be homosexual (to put it another way, how many of you actively chose to have feelings for the opposite sex rather than the same sex?)
Homosexuality isn’t a choice. Muslim communities should stop sweeping the topic under the carpet and start providing the right kind of support and advice.
For starters, does your local mosque provide a confidential online or drop-in advice service? (Not a service run by a traditional-minded scholar who can barely speak English, but by someone who is fully aware of the contemporary environment, is a good communicator, and someone young people can relate to.) Does the Islamic Society at your university only ever discuss topics such as perfecting your prayers and how you can do charity? Or does it openly acknowledge that university is a time when you may have a whole range of personal issues, and therefore advertises suitable welfare services? Do our community leaders shun discussion of very personal problems or do they lead the way in acknowledging that personal problems do exist, and create initiatives to tackle these problems in an effective and Islamic way?
Ask yourself each of those questions and you will see that as a community we need to be doing far more to support the homosexuals among us.
Fortunately, I met an extremely knowledgeable Muslim who’d given a few talks at my university. I got to know this person, their open-minded nature, and knew I could approach them to discuss my homosexuality. The day we met up and I told them, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I no longer had to struggle on my own but could talk to somebody if I needed to. I then told a couple of my closest friends at university who I also knew I could trust. One of them afterwards gave me a hug, and that meant the world—knowing that this person wasn’t going to treat me any differently.
I’m now at a stage where being homosexual no longer bothers me as it once did, and I can now focus on the more important things in life. I have the odd struggle, but I guess sexuality just isn’t a straightforward thing. Having been through all the mental anguish though, I do feel for those who are on their own right now, unable to turn to anyone for advice and support. If you’re a Muslim struggling with your sexuality, I’m not going to offer you some generic advice as some scholars might, and then avoid your actual concerns altogether. I really wish I could point you in the right direction—but that’s part of the point of this article, that the Muslim community needs to do more to support those of us who are homosexual and Muslim.
I will say, though, that you’re definitely not alone. There is an Islamic viewpoint that says the having of same-sex feelings is itself no sin. And contrary to how others may make you feel, you’re no less of a human being or a good Muslim. I wish you all the best, and really hope you find the support you need.