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Michael Mumisa: misunderstood? May 2, 2006

Posted by Rasheed Eldin in Islam, Media, Proggies, Shari'ah.
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You may remember the name of Michael Mumisa from an early post, in which Mujahid refuted an obscure and untenable opinion he cited, while not describing it as either his (Mumisa’s) own opinion, and certainly not the “standard interpretation”:

Interestingly, the radio segment also features one Michael Mumisa of the Al-Mahdi Institute, Birmingham. He refers to an interpretation of the Qur’anic narrative on the People of Lut (peace be on him), namely that they were punished for “molesting someone’s guests”, i.e. the angels who had come to Sodom. What is so preposterous about this claim (apart from the idea that a lack of hospitality warranted the unique triple-destruction dealt to the Sodomites by God) is that the angels had been sent by God for punishment for their sins! See this passage from Surah Hud (11), especially after verse 77. What were the “abominations” (sayyi’aat) [v.78] that Lut’s people had been engaged in before rushing to the handsome angels? Why did the angels say to Abraham (peace be on him) beforegoing to Sodom: “The decree of thy Lord hath gone forth: for them there cometh a penalty that cannot be turned back” [v.76]?

The radio segmentin question was from BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme, and was presented by Shazia Khan. Khan says, after the quote we hear from Mumisa:

“Shaykh Michael believes that the Qur’anic text is open to various interpretations and that there is no clear answer as to whether homosexuality is morally wrong or unacceptable according to Islam. Even the Sharia, or Islamic Law, which prohibits homosexuality, is, in his view, no more than a collection of interpretations from jurists.”

Naively, we took Shazia Khan’s word and assumed that Sh. Michael is of the same ilk as Scott Kugle and others. This was further suggested by the mention by Tamsila Tauqir’s Safra Project that they met with the man in question in January 2006. More remains to be known, but since coming across a particular publication by Mumisa, it seems that the Radio 4 reporter has misrepresented his views, most likely on purpose. Either that, or Mumisa must be rather confused.

The Effect of Homosexuality and Pornography on Society

The book is available for purchase from various outlets, but it’s also available onlinein a rather awkward format. By the way, the host site and the institute Mumisa works for, appear to be of Shia thought. Anyway, here we reproduce the relevant extract, from the end of the book:

Homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality have been condemned in all the great religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The constant tradition of the scriptures in these religions, especially the traditional texts condemn homosexuality. Before examining what Islam says about al-liwât (homosexuality) or the âmal (practice) of Qaum Lût, we shall quickly cast a glance at the Christian and Jewish view. […]

Islam looks at homosexuality and lesbianism as unnatural act of sex to satisfy one’s passion. The Qur’ân gives the example of the people of Lut, (Prophet Lut) who, in spite of the warning from Prophet Lut they committed sodomy and their entire society became involved in it.

The Qur’ân speaks of them in the following words:

We also sent Lût; he said to his people: ‘Do you commit adultery as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For you practise your lusts on men in preference to women: you are indeed a people transgressing beyond limit.”

Islam therefore considers homosexuality a great sin and a crime punishable by Islamic law.Muslim jurists however differ regarding the nature of punishment. According to the Hanafi school of legal thought, the act of sodomy does not amount to adultery and therefore there is no specified punishment to be given to the offender and the decision will be left to the judge and the court. The Mâliki school on the other hand argues that haddpunishment will be applied whether the offender is married or not. Shafi’i, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaibani maintain that the married offender will face the the hadd of stoning to death while the unmarried will face the Ta’azir[any penalty the judge decides to apply]. According to Sayyid al-Khoi of the Ja’fari school of jurisprudence, the offender will be treated in the same way as the one committing adultery and must face the hadd.

There are aspects to be criticised in his presentation of the rulings, particularly the definition of homosexuality as an act, rather than its real usage as a supposed “orientation” that must be resolved into actions and attractions before an Islamic ruling can be sought.

All this aside, however, it must be agreed that this is a mainstream view, not at all something acceptable to the likes of Al-Fatiha, Imaan or Safra. So it looks like yet another bright hope for a scholar on their side has fallen through. Wait and see on all those still supposedly standing.

What do Safra have to say? And what does Shazia Khan have to say for herself?

======
UPDATE:
Shazia Khan has responded! We received this on July 5th:

I was concerned to read that you felt I had deliberately/otherwise misrepresented the views of Michael Mumisa. It prompted me to re-establish contact with Michael Mumisa and clarify what his views are on the subject of homosexuality within Islam. In fact I only spoke to him last week.
 
I questioned him about the book you mentioned in your article, entitled “The Effects of Homosexuality and Pornography on Society”. He said his views have shifted since the book was published. He told me he used to share the mainstream view but that NOW he is not convinced that the mainstream view is absolute. I quote from my notes of our telephone conversation last week:

“The mainstream position can’t claim to have the key to absolute truth on this issue. As someone who has been brought up in the mainstream, i think people can have legitmate questions to ask about whether it is a sin. It is an area that is debatable. It is not absolute that the Qur’an considers homosexuality to be a sin.”
 
He said there are various interpretations of the the story of Lot, one of which relates to male to male rape and inhospitality towards guests. He does not say which interpretation he personally subscribes to but says he can offer an analysis of the various interpretations and that there is definitely scope for questioning traditional interpretations.
 
That being said, I have in NO WAY misrepresented (deliberately or otherwise) the views of Michael Mumisa. I never once suggested or implied in my script that he was “of the same ilk as Scott Kugle and others”. I said he believes  “the Qur’anic text is open to interpretation and that there is no clear answer as to whether homosexuality is morally wrong or unacceptable in Islam. Even the shariah, or Islamic law, which prohibits homosexuality, is in his view, a collection of interpretation from jurists”. This is completely in accordance with the views he reiterated to me on the phone last week. He believes the mainstream view is debatable and the text open to interpretation.  

Well, well! Compare this with the comment left by Zaynab below.

What are we to believe? Is Mumisa saying different things to different people? It doesn’t help that he has so far ignored my e-mails to him.

And what of this forthcoming book: will it be something we have to refute here?

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Comments»

1. ZAYNAB ROBINSON MUHAMMAD - June 20, 2006

I attended a seminar by Shaykh Michael Mumisa at one of the UK universities at around the same time his BBC Radio Four interview was done and when the question of Homosexuality came up his response was:

“It is difficult to find reference in either the Qur’an or Sunna on Homosexuality as a category of sexual orientation or identity. The Qur’an however discusses the actually sexual act between members of the same sex. This is what according to classical Muslim scholars is condemned. Theologically, it would be wrong to expect either the Qur’an or Sunna to say anything about orientations or identities. Islam or Islamic theology does not condemn people on the basis of their orientations, desires, or fantasies as long as they do not act them out. In other words, if I desire or fantasise about killing someone, that will not make me a condemned murderer until I act out my desire and fantasy. This position is based on the hadith of the Prophet recorded by Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Abdullah Ibn Abbas Ibn Abd al-Mutalib: “The Prophet reported directly from God that God has written and defined good actions as well as the bad actions. If any person desires to do a good action but was unable to do so, God will still reward and record the action as done. If he succeeds in doing the action, God will record and reward him/her many folds. If a person desires to do a bad action and then is not able to or he/she changes his/her mind, God will reward and record it as a completed good action. If he/she desires to do a bad action and then goes on to fulfil his/her desire, God will record it as a single bad action.” Thus, according to the Qur’an, traditions of the Prophet, and interpretations of all classical scholars, a person’s bad desires or fantasies are not condemned or recorded until they are actually acted out. This, however, does not mean that it is allowed to have such fantasies or desires, it simply means that Islam, Islamic theology, or the Shari‘a do not legislate on the basis of individual or collective fantasies and desires but on the basis of actions…” [Direct quote from Shaykh Michael Mumisa]

I think we can fairly say that Shaykh Michael Mumisa’s position was either genuinely misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented. He also mentioned that he is in the process of writing a new book on the topic which he hopes will objectively critically examine the views and interpretations from all perspectives and positions.

2. Rasheed Eldin - June 21, 2006

Sister Zaynab,

I thank you wholeheartedly for sharing this quote. The position quoted, while not a comprehensive answer, is completely agreeable to the Qur’an and Sunnah as we understand it, based on interpretations of other trusted scholars.

It is good that he is working on a book, as are we. It would be nice if we can cooperate!

3. Shazim Husayn - November 22, 2007

Dear Moderator.

The Al-Mahdi Institute has lectures from diverse backgrounds and disciplines. While all lectures at the Institute are free to express their own views and opinions, this however in no way reflects the views and opinions of the Al-Mahdi Institute as a recognised educational establishment.

Shazim Husayn
Principal
Al-Mahdi Institute


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