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Safra preview January 22, 2006

Posted by Rasheed Eldin in Media, Shari'ah.
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The poster called “Imaan” in the MPACUK discussion reproduced (from where I know not) an article by Tamsila Tauqir, Chair of the Safra Project, an organisation promoted by a recent article in the Times [response], along with Imaan. I expect her organisation will also be given the thumbs up by Monday’s documentary, which she has had a chance to preview…

Edit: Oh, here it is.

Over the sinister introductory music to the programme, presenter Sonia Deol says: ‘Islam is fierce in its condemnation of homosexuality.’ Let’s be fair, antagonism towards homosexuality is no more exclusive to any one community than favouring men, the able-bodied and those with wealth and power.

No, the condemnation of homosexual acts is not exclusive to Islam. But as far as I’m concerned, bias towards men, the able-bodied and the wealthy is excluded from Islam as a scripture-based religion – even if not from Muslim communities.

There are diverse perspectives on homosexuality amongst Muslims, ranging from condemnation through to the Muslim Canadian Congress’s welcome for legislation redefining marriage to include same-sex partners. In fact, a number of Islamic scholars point out that the Qur’anic verse, ‘we created you as partners’, need not be limited to male-female couples. There have also already been Muslim gay marriages (nikahs) in the USA, Canada and India.

Yeah, the views are diverse for those who move in these perverse circles. Who really cares what the Muslim Canadian Congress says, when the man at the head of that one-man show has shown himself up and alienated even his “progressive” partners? [See Dr. Maxtor’s rather OTT but amusing list, and check out who’s numero uno.]

I wonder who these “scholars” are, to whom Tauqir refers? It would be very interesting to read their justifications for such a claim. The word “azwaaj” (pairs, partners) has been researched and explained by specialists in the Qur’anic sciences, including the Arabic language. If these homosexualists’ “scholars” wish to make extraordinary claims, they should come up with extraordinary evidence, if we are to cast aside centuries of scholarly, popular and linguistic consensus. See the following verse: {And Allah has given you spouses (azwaaj) of your own kind, and has given you, from your spouses, sons and grandsons, and has made provision of good things for you. Is it then in vanity that they believe and in the grace of Allah that they disbelieve?} [16:72]

This shows that the spouse/partner/pair (zawj) is, among other things, a means for the continuation of lineage: and same-sex partners are not that. If more proof is needed, see how the Prophet Lut (Lot, peace be on him) addressed his transgressing people, the men of whom were having sex with other men. Note the distinction made here between those males whom they were satisfying themselves with, and the men’s rightful partners, clearly their womenfolk: {“What! Of all creatures do ye come unto the males, and leave the spouses (azwaaj) your Lord created for you? Nay, you are a people exceeding limits.”} [26:165-6]

Back to Tauqir:

In fact, this diversity lies at the heart of traditional Islamic practice. In the formation of the different Islamic schools of thought, which have now become different denominations, such as Maliki and Shaefi, scholars accepted there could be different interpretations of Qur’anic Arabic and people could align themselves to whichever they felt represented them most. So the modern-day call of the politico-religious right for a homogeneous Islam is a new invention, and not at all fundamental.

First of all, the four agreed-upon schools of jurisprudence (Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanafi and Hanbali) are not “denominations” at all. They differ on specific applications of Islamic law, but not on belief. They certainly do not disagree on the prohibition of homosexual acts, because that is a matter established by texts (nusoos) and not subject to independent juristic reasoning (ijtihad). I am quite sure Tauqir knows that none of these mainstream schools of thought agrees with her novel “interpretations”. Neither do the exegeses known and accepted by the world’s Muslims. It’s one thing recognising natural diversity and divergence of opinions, but as soon as you claim that anything goes, that is quite another thing – and I for one am not having it.

The diverse ways of understanding of the Qur’an are echoed in the programme by Dr Scott-Siraj Al-Haqq Kugle, of Swarthmore College in the USA, currently a research fellow at Leiden University in Holland. He asks a question which is not asked often enough: what do we mean by Shariah? Shariah – Islamic law – is determined by male jurists whose interpretations of Islamic texts are based on cultural assumptions situated in particular times, and particular political and geographical locations? It’s not divine. It offers us different avenues to live our lives as Muslims, depending on who’s doing the interpretation. Importantly, Kugle also points out that there is no word in the Qur’an for ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’, and no mention of lesbians.

We’ll have to come round to analyse Kugle‘s assertions at a later juncture. In short, the fact of “gay” and “homosexual” not being mentioned in the Qur’an is indeed significant, but for reasons other than he would have us think, as explained in an earlier post. It certainly does not mean that the Qur’an is silent on the issues in question. And Shari’ah, by the way, means the “path to water” and refers to the divine revelation, i.e. the Qur’an (the word of God) and the Sunnah (“trodden path”) of His Messenger, Muhammad (peace be on him). What is human is referred to as fiqh, i.e. scholarly understanding.

Some 200 lesbian and gay Muslims were contacted by the programme makers but only a handful were willing to be interviewed, and most of those insisted on keeping their identities hidden. Only one was prepared to show his face and give his true name. He was Adnan Ali, an activist on issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) Muslims.

Of course, they didn’t contact those whom they would define as “lesbian and gay” but don’t label themselves that way, seeking a way forward that is based in faith – i.e. the sort that StraightWay works with.

The interviewees speak of their commitment to and belief in Islam, though instead of having their beliefs supported by their community and family, they face being ostracised. ‘Razeem’ speaks of his pain at being denied access to the children of his previous marriage, despite having a legal right to access and the fact that his wife ran away with another man. He also wishes there were more role models, like Adnan Ali, for gay Muslims.

Maybe if they gave their belief in Islam its full rights, and reconsidered their attachment to fulfilfing homosexual desires, they would realise that there are lots of role-models to be found in history and today, and they are much better than Adnan Ali.

‘Shakir’ and his parents find it easier to accept lesbianism than gay men’s homosexuality. ‘Farah’ contemplates going back into the closet, to lie about her sexuality to ease the tension in her relationship with her parents. Presenter Sonia Deol says that the gay Muslim group, Imaan, supports the idea of ‘keeping sexuality a private matter’.

Not a bad idea. But people should not feel afraid to ask for help and advice. The problem is, they risk being misunderstood, and facing over-reactions from family and community. Education is lacking! 

Of course there are other voices out there, which are not heard in the programme, like the mothers, children and siblings of LGBT Muslims who come along to gay Muslim events. There have been active LGBT members of Muslim societies and communities for generations, who now want their relationships and responsibilities recognised just like their heterosexual counterparts. They are not asking for special treatment but for justice.

…according to a particular non-Islamic framework of thinking. As I wrote elsewhere:

One problem we face is that when the whole debate hinges on the concept of gay rights, the views of religious people don’t get a fair hearing, and we’re made to sound just like backward and unkind people. Who would deny a people their rights? Well that is not the only discourse, and I feel it’s a misleading one. I want gay people to have rights, but I don’t agree with all the things they claim as rights. For their partnerships to be given an equal status to marriage – well, as well as being totally preposterous from the Islamic view, I believe it is harmful to our concept of family as British people.

I guess that needs clarification and elaboration, but it’ll have to wait.

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Comments»

1. Akram - December 8, 2008

you say you want gay people to have rights, would you please explain what rights you what gay people to have?

2. Rasheed Eldin - December 15, 2008

To answer that question fully, we’d need to discuss what we mean by rights generally, as it’s a word thrown around quite carelessly most of the time.

There are recognised human rights that should apply to everyone regardless of their sexual preference/activities, such as the right to life. Yes this is a universal right, yet we acknowledge it doesn’t apply to someone who does a crime for which capital punishment is stipulated (such as murder, according to Islamic law).

A man who considers himself to be homosexual has, in principle, the same right to marry as anyone else. But marriage, we maintain, is defined as being between a man and woman, so this right should not be translated as applying to what he may *call* marriage – a certain contract with another man. Again, everyone acknowledges that there are limits to whom we can marry, as we find incest repugnant and “marriage” to animals ridiculous, and “marriage to inanimate objects” almost beyond the imagination!

So if a man says to me, “I demand the right to marry my gay partner,” I will say this is not a question of rights, but a question of institutions as well as one of morality. You cannot demand from God that He change His rules for you. You can chant about rights all you want, but some day (like the Day of Judgement) that chanting is going to be impossible.

That being said, I would like to emphasise that homosexuals just like everyone else have the right to live without being attacked or harassed, so in that sense we oppose homophobia. Banning gay marriage is not, in my understanding, homophobic in any negative sense.

3. fatimah - May 12, 2010

there is no sanctity of marriage
10 year old girls in yemen are married off and its acceptable in islam which is why no one is doing anything about it
how can we say its ok to allow children marriage but not allow two consenting adults marriage
marriage is simply giving two people certain benefits like taxes and visiting the hospital and all that other good stuff

Rasheed Eldin - May 12, 2010

The homosexualist movement isn’t fighting for better tax rights! Religious institutions can never sanctify what God has prohibited in the strongest terms.

John Paracletus - July 8, 2010

I haven’t seen a logical Naahi ‘anil Munkar like you in my life. May Allaah reward you for your Nahi ‘anil Munkar in Dunyaa and Aakhirah.


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