An Islamic Examination of Homosexuality as an Identity

Our society trains us to think in a certain way (“If you disagree with me, then you’re hateful!”) and imposes limiters on our minds as we quote back popular talking points (“Love is love!”) without always examining them first or showing a willingness to consider different arguments. So I’m writing today, not as some moral authority, because I’m likely guilty of the same biases, but simply in an effort to share another argument, one that examines the queer identity on an interpersonal rather than societal level, in hopes that the following ideas might help people entrenched in Western culture think about the Islamic stance on homosexuality.

Throughout human history up until rather recently, homosexuality was considered an act, not an identity. Its recent reframing is a social construct based in Western society. That doesn’t make the identity “not real,” but it does make it not as rigidly inherent as people often talk about it being, which has certain philosophical implications (but that’s for another essay). There are even proponents of queer theory who argue that since sexuality is a spectrum on which people can fluidly shift, sexuality as an identity label therefore might not be the most useful way to conceptualize the subject.

Turning specifically to the Islamic conceptualization, it’s no surprise that homosexuality is inharmonious with Islam; Islam is a way of life in which one strives to achieve a balance between the spiritual and the physical. To define one’s very identity by one’s sexual attractions tips that balance sharply to the physical. Though such identities have become normalized in Western culture, think about the implications of believing that the most crucial, defining bit of information you have to share about yourself is what you’re into, what “gets you off.” Why does anyone other than one’s partner (let alone all of society) need to know such an intimate detail about a person anyway? Defining oneself based on one’s most animal-like moments is reductive to one’s capacity as a human. For this reason, even “straight” as an identity label is not Islamically sanctioned; we are all just humans.

A life so heavily focused on worldly pleasures is a life that seeks to hold value only in this super temporary world. One might argue back, “It’s not about pleasures, but love.” But the homosexual identity starts from a place of ruling out the possibility of all physical relationships other than same-sex ones, before ties are even established with a specific person. Setting the parameters for love based on lust invalidates such counterarguments.

One final thought, having said all this: it is the act that is not allowed in Islam, not the people who are seen as inherently different and therefore rejected. In fact, they are not inherently different at all, and that’s the point. But so long as they continue to identify as such, it’s also important to note that Islam teaches Muslims to always treat others with respect, even if their way of life differs greatly from the Islamic one. In one Quranic passage describing the tale of Prophet Lot, whose people were engaging in homosexual acts, he notably said to them not “I hate you,” but “I hate what you do.” Though this subject is complex and understandably touchy, I hope folks have found these ideas not offensive, but helpful. We are all trying our best to come to the truth and live in the best way. Jazakum Allah khair.

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4 thoughts on “An Islamic Examination of Homosexuality as an Identity

  1. Rashaad

    I read this with and open mind. Allah is Just. He is the Creator of everything including Mankind. I do feel the hurt and the pain for all men and women who are between a Rock and a hardplace. Some of you were born in way of a Male in a female body visa versa. Some were abuse by a family member or a stranger. For no fualt at you at all.
    My take on this. Do look after your own Soul. Because you are responsible for for your own Deeds. Good or bad.
    No one can promise Heaven or say you are going to hell.
    That lay’s in the Hands of God . Even myself can not say I will get heaven. We all live in hope and fear.

    Reply
    1. Ikram Hawramani

      I understand your point and your wish for tolerance and acceptance of non-conforming individuals, but the point is invalid because Muslims throughout the world who have studied Islam agree that God disapproves of homosexual lifestyles and that His wrath is upon such a lifestyle. We cannot make this aspect of Islam go away. So even though God is forgiving and merciful, when He clearly and explicitly forbids something, warns us against it and promises punishment for it, the conclusion of every reasonable Muslim should be that they are not supposed to engage in that behavior.

      This is not a judgment on any homosexual. It is a statement of the Islamic view of the matter. Islam is not forced on people (I hope), so people are free to either accept Islam as it is or to abandon it. But it is false and unanimously rejected by Muslim thinkers to suggest that there is any place in Islam for making homosexual lifestyles acceptable. References to God’s mercy or natural instincts are irrelevant here. A person may have a natural instinct for desiring alcohol, and God is forgiving, but it is false to say this should mean that Muslims should start to approve of alcohol to accommodate such people.

      So we leave the judgment of individuals who engage in a homosexual lifestyle to God. We do not judge them. But we say that Islam disapproves of homosexuality the way it disapproves of alcohol. We reject attempts to bend the interpretation of the Quran or Sunna by referring to God’s mercy or natural tendencies to make it seem like there can be an accommodation of homosexual lifestyles within Islam. There is no such accommodation the way there isn’t such an accommodation for drinking alcohol. People must either freely choose Islam and abide by its restrictions, or freely leave it, or stay Muslim and engage in a homosexual lifestyle knowing that God’s wrath is upon people who do that and that they are engaging in a great sin. They may or may not attain God’s forgiveness and mercy, but the point is that the sinfulness and unacceptability of such a lifestyle is part of Islam; it is not a matter about which there is any disagreement among the overwhelming majority of Muslims.

      So there are two different questions here that should not be confused. One is our understanding and interpretation of Islam regarding homosexuality, which I discussed above. The other is the fate of individuals who live a homosexual lifestyle, which is something we leave for God to judge.

      The point of religion is to make an honest effort to understand God’s wishes and to abide by them. We have tried to do that and have concluded that God does not approve of homosexual lifestyles. This is not a judgment on homosexual people; this is a restriction that we freely choose to place on ourselves. We love and respect those who due to no fault of their own have homosexual desires, we do not judge them, but we also tell them that God does not want them to act according to those desires according to what Islam has taught us.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Great article however, if you are discussing identity, you should not use the term homosexuality. I cannot believe that the article tagged LGBTQ but does not consider LGBTQ as the identity and prefer using the term homosexuality as identity. “I do not hate you,” LGBTQ but “I hate what you do,” homosexuality. All I want to say is that homosexuality is not an identity. Using it as an identity is offensive and does not align with the spirit of forgiveness.

    Reply
    1. Yussra Ebrahim Post author

      Thanks for reading! I’ve reread your comment several times, and I still can’t make out what you’re trying to say or what the source of your misconceptions might be, but if I understand you correctly, then let me assure you: “homosexuality” is not an offensive term. It’s not a slur, it’s not derogatory, and I wouldn’t use it if it were. It’s simply a word used to describe the state of same-sex attraction, a word used in fact by the LGBTQ+ community as well as society at large. And it would have been inaccurate of me to use the term “LGBTQ” in this article, because homosexuality is merely a subset of that broader categorization, and in my article I don’t discuss other queer groups falling under that banner, such as transgender or asexual people.

      Reply

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