NOT LONG AFTER answering questions on Islam’s position towards homosexuality for a young journalism student who had contacted me through my local mosque with the aim of writing up an article on the topic, I curiously began to hear of Nur Warsame, Australia’s first openly-gay Imam.
I had always suspected we would have an Imam of such a persuasion but was never quite sure when. Given that the two experiences occurred within the same week, I was left pondering over the notion that as well as being a topic worthy of greater openness and discussion, this was perhaps one which people might potentially have a certain degree of confusion about and might thus require greater clarification.
This was highlighted by the fact that one of the questions which I was asked by the young journalist, who interestingly enough originated from a Muslim background but (to my understanding) no longer identified himself as a Muslim.
His question was, “Can someone be Muslim and gay at the same time?” I was initially struck by the simplicity of the question –in that homosexuality has always been seen as a great sin, to the extent that Ibn Al-Qayyim (d. 1350) said:
There is no sin that causes more corruption than the sin of homosexuality.
This being said, homosexuality has nonetheless never actually been perceived as a nullifier of faith altogether. Thus, as far as technicalities are concerned, it is possible for one to be homosexual and Muslim at the same time.
But for the sake of the full picture, I did note that homosexuality was unquestionably prohibited as far as classical discourse was concerned –to the extent that it might conceivably become more logical for one to leave Islam altogether than to justify the wholesale adoption of homosexuality using Islamic sources.
What I should have added however, in hindsight, is that a Muslim troubled with homosexual inclinations might perhaps be regarded as spiritually superior to their brethren in faith provided they not act on these inclinations. The Prophet ﷺ said:
Allah decreed good deeds and bad deeds; then He explained that. Whoever thinks of doing a good deed then does not do it, Allah will write it down as one complete good deed. If he thinks of doing a good deed and then does it, Allah will write it down [as counting] from between ten and seven hundred fold or many more. If he thinks of doing a bad deed then he does not do it, Allah will write it down as one complete good deed, and if he thinks of it then does it, Allah will write it down as one bad deed.
Like the infuriated individual who refuses to act on his anger or the lecherous that reject their base desires, those troubled with homosexual thoughts and desires will also be rewarded for whatever he/she chooses not to act on.
Despite such a blessing –albeit one which requires a struggle– many, such as Scott Kugle, an openly gay Muslim academic, argues that Islamic law must be altered in order to match the current societal paradigm towards homosexuality:
If Muslims do not adapt to new circumstances by changing some rulings of the Shari’ah, then increasingly many will opt for secular solutions. They may hold that the Shari’ah need not be followed out[side] of the field of ritual norms for worship, or they may leave Islam altogether in frustration…
Much like Kugle, was an anonymous gay Muslim based in Brisbane whom my interviewer –in order to give me greater context regarding what he was writing in his article– informed me of. This individual apparently held similar views in that he, like Kugle, took the position that the Quran never explicitly forbade homosexuality.
In a sense, perhaps he was correct in that the Quran has never used the word ‘homosexuality’ (i.e. liwâṭ). However, this absence of the term is most likely due to the fact that the Arabic word for homosexuality is derived from the name of the very prophet (Arabic Lûṭ; English Lot) who was sent to warn his people against such lewd behavior; thus the Quran might have avoided utilizing a form of his name in such a manner –in order to maintain his honor.
Additionally, it may also be argued that homosexuality, as a concept, may not have been as well-known as it is today. Louis Crompton (d. 2009), a pioneer in the instruction of “queer studies,” writes:
Homosexuality seems to have been comparatively little in evidence among the Bedouins of Arabia in pre-Islamic times. It has been suggested that Arab attitudes toward sex underwent a change as they conquered more advanced and sophisticated empires, especially Sassanian Persia.
When one examines the prohibition, as found in the Quran, one cannot ignore (or reinterpret) how Prophet Lot refers so negatively to the transgression committed by his people:
Indeed, you practice your lusts on men instead of women. Nay! You are but a people transgressing beyond bounds. [Sûrat Al-Aʿrâf, 7:80-81]
A cursory reading of this story, even if it is done through the aid of a translation, settles any reasonable doubt that the deeds which Lot objected to were explicitly homosexuality and not merely rape, as is claimed by those who justify homosexuality within the context of Islam.
The Prophet ﷺ said:
There is nothing I fear for my ummah more than the deed of the people of Lot.
It goes without saying that aḥâdîth of such a nature –despite being typically authenticated by an overwhelming number of specialists and forming the basis for several scholarly views– are routinely critiqued by non-specialists such as Bin Jahangir (an economist) who claims:
Most [a]hadith that are used to condemn same-sex relationships are of a dubious nature and most opinions of jurists indicate a lack of appreciation for this issue.
Given the vast societal changes which have occurred within the last few decades, including the acceptance of homosexuality as a norm, the greater question which Muslim communities –particularly those in the West– must come to terms with is,
How do we deal with people who argue that homosexuality is not condemned in Islam?
The fact is, there has been a consensus historically, which is alluded to by Imam Al-Baihaqi (d. 1066) in his compilation of prophetic traditions, [among other scholarly works]. Accordingly, it would be not only intellectually dishonest but also spiritually disingenuous for us to claim an acceptance of a homosexual norm.
Even if current [non-Muslim] societal norms appear to give freedom to such a lifestyle, this way of thinking restricts the freedom to respect those who take a different moral position, shunning the perspective of anyone who advocates otherwise. To those who accept the authority and wisdom of Allah and his messengers, the Quran warns:
And if you obey most of those upon the earth, they will mislead you from the way of Allah. They follow not except assumption, and they are not but falsifying. [Sûrat Al-Anʿâm, 6:116]
In our time especially, a critique of homosexuality is tantamount to bigotry. Norman Geisler, a Christian apologist, defines bigotry as a “pre-judgment without any reasons or grounds for the objection.” Thus, we must be willing to acknowledge that there is admittedly often a fine line which is traversed by members of our community as one cannot entirely claim to understand what our brethren are going through and the shame they may have perhaps experienced when admitting to this kind of problem.
The ummah has never historically had to deal with the wholesale legitimization of such behavior other than in our own times. Thus, what some Muslim communities can and perhaps should be doing is changing the manner in which they approach homosexuals–as opposed to focusing on the prohibition itself.
Likewise, the authors of The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality have suggested that, first of all, one take care in not denigrating members of such a persuasion. And furthermore we must similarly not confuse a moral position with an evil such as prejudice and intolerance.
Such a fine-tuned approach is, no doubt, consistent with the Qur’anic commandment of implementing wisdom and fair preaching:
Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided. [Sûrat Al-Naḥl, 16:125]
Having said this, it would be prudent to differentiate between those that publicly preach a message contrary to the well-established norms required by Islam and those that ‘quietly suffer’ whilst acknowledging the status of such a prohibition.
Regarding the relationships ”straight’ Muslims may potentially maintain with such people, one of the final questions asked of me by my interviewer was whether it would be acceptable for someone who identifies himself or herself as gay or lesbian to attend prayers. As Muslims, we should never feel comfortable with ‘barring’ someone from a place that is intended to foster a relationship with one’s Creator, even if that person knowingly or unknowingly were to persist in what would be deemed as sinful behavior.
Like anyone who falls into sin or deviancy, we should be praying for their spiritual wellbeing and we should be proactive in helping them overcome through understanding, kindness– and of course persistence. Thus the issue becomes one regarding how we wish to ‘orientate’ ourselves for the purposes of conveying the message truthfully.
 Al-Jawâb Al-Kâfi, pp. 240-245.
 Al-Bukhâri (no. 6491) and Muslim (no. 131)
 Kugle, Scott, Homosexuality in Islam, Oneworld Press, 2010, p. 185.
 Crompton, L., Homosexuality and Civilization, Harvard University Press, 2003, p. 170.
 Al-Tirmidhi (no. 1457) and Ibn Mâjah (no. 2563). This hadith was classed as sahih by Shaykh Al-Albâni (may Allâh have mercy on him) in Sahîh al-Jâmi’, no. 1552.
 Habib, S., Islam and Homosexuality, vol. 1, ABC-CLIO, 2010, p. xlvii.
 Geisler, N.L., Christian Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Opinions, Baker Academic, 2010, p. 296.
 Dallas, J. & Heche, N., The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality, Harvest House Publishers, 2010, p. 150.