Islam and the LGBT Question: Reframing the Narrative
Published: October 7, 2022 • Updated: September 15, 2023
Author: Yaqeen Institute
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Listen to this paper
- How did we get here and why should we care?
- How can we build a conceptual framework on gender, sex, and morality based on Islamic sources?
The proliferation of the LGBT movement
Gender is one of those things everyone thinks they understand, but most people don’t. Like inception. Gender isn’t binary. It’s not either/or. In many cases, it’s both/and. A bit of this, a dash of that. This tasty little guide is meant to be for gender understanding. It’s okay if you’re hungry for more. In fact, that’s the idea.
- Gender identity: how you, in your head, define your gender, based on how much you align or don’t align with what you understand to be the options for gender.
- Gender expression: the ways you present gender through your actions, dress, and demeanor, and how those presentations are interpreted based on gender norms.
- Biological sex: the physical sex characteristics you’re born with and develop, including genitalia, body shape, voice pitch, body hair, hormones, chromosomes, etc.
All human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are or whom they love. @POTUS [the president of the United States] is a champion for the human rights of #LGBTQI persons. #Pride2022 #YouAreIncluded.
Tracing its roots: The sexual revolution
Sexual attitudes in Christianity and Islam
Then in the footsteps of these [prophets], We sent Our messengers, and [after them] We sent Jesus, son of Mary, and granted him the Gospel, and instilled compassion and mercy in the hearts of his followers. As for monasticism, they made it up—We never ordained it for them—only seeking to please Allah, yet they did not [even] observe it strictly. So We rewarded those of them who were faithful. But most of them are rebellious.
The antecedents to the sexual revolution
Homosexuality in the wake of the sexual revolution
After the Ball: The plan to alter America’s sexual morality
Contemporary moral discourse
- Freedom: In popular culture, this is understood as the radical elimination of external barriers to achieve maximum happiness. In Islam, freedom is based on servitude to God, which frees us from serving our desires, material things, and falsehood.
- Individual autonomy: The latter is a word formed from the suffixes auto, meaning “self,” and nomos, meaning “law.” The West’s notion of autonomy literally means “giving oneself the law” whereby each person determines what is right and wrong without recourse to a higher power. In Islam, by contrast, God and His messenger alone have the right to legislate.
- Authenticity: The modern West defines this as complete, unfettered expression of the inner self (thoughts, feelings, desires), whereas in Islam, we are our true authentic selves as human beings only when we have found and submitted to our Creator (in consonance with our fiṭra, that is, natural or inborn, inclinations).
- Consent: The modern world has come to fetishize choice and consent, which are derivatives of the notions listed above. Any action a person takes is legitimized by his choice and consent to do it so long as there is no harm to others, and this is especially the case for sexual activity. In contemporary culture, notions of “moral character,” and particularly any consideration of “virtue,” are deemed antiquated, old-fashioned, and unnecessary for the cultivation of authentic selfhood. In this vein, how a person behaves sexually has no bearing on his or her moral character as long as the acts are consensual. Given the postmodern premise that all notions are socially constructed, the emphasis on consent as the fulcrum of moral validity is utterly incoherent. In Islam, choice and consent are balanced through revelation and reason with other desiderata critical to human flourishing, such as the maintenance of the family, the cultivation of piety, and the repeated divine command to “enjoin good and forbid evil.”
On the creation of the male and female
- And [by] His creation of the male and the female.
- And that He created the two mates: the male and the female.
- And the male is not like the female.
- And of His signs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves so that you may find comfort in them. And He has placed between you compassion and mercy. Surely in this are signs for people who reflect.
- O mankind! Be mindful of your Lord Who created you from a single soul, and from it He created its mate, and through both He spread countless men and women.
Surely [for] Muslim men and women, believing men and women, devout men and women, truthful men and women, patient men and women, humble men and women, charitable men and women, fasting men and women, men and women who guard their chastity, and men and women who remember Allah often—for [all of] them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.
The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those—Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might, Wise.
And do not wish for that by which Allah has made some of you exceed others. For men is a share of what they have earned, and for women is a share of what they have earned. And ask Allah of His bounty. Indeed Allah is ever, of all things, Knowing.
Mind the difference
Islamic sexual morality: “Do not go near zinā”
Protection of family and lineage in the Shariah
Questioning the terms: Homosexuality and LGBT
It is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if anyone disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed gone manifestly astray.
Verses on the people of Lot (pbuh)
And [mention] Lot, when he said to his people, “Do you approach iniquity (fāḥishah) such as none in creation have committed before you? Verily, you come with desire unto men instead of women. Nay, you are a people transgressing [beyond bounds].” But the only reply of his people was to say, “Turn them out from your town. Surely, they are a people who make themselves pure.”
The people of Lot belied the messengers. Behold, their brother Lot said to them, “Will you not be mindful [of God]? Indeed, I am a faithful messenger unto you, so fear your Lord and obey me. I ask from you no reward for it; my reward is only with the Lord of the worlds. Do you approach males from among all creation, leaving what your Lord has created for you from your spouses? Nay, but you are a people transgressing [the bounds].” They said, “Lot, if you do not desist from this, you shall certainly be driven out.” He said, “I am, in truth, of those who loathe your deeds. My Lord, deliver me and my family from what they do!”
And [mention] Lot, when he said to his people, “Do you commit iniquity (fāḥishah) with eyes wide open? Do you indeed come with desire unto men instead of women? Nay, but you are a people behaving foolishly.”
And [mention] Lot, when he said to his people, “You commit iniquity (fāḥishah) such as none in creation have committed before you. Do you indeed come unto men, and cut off the path, and practice evil deeds in your assemblies?” The reply of his people was but to say, “Bring upon us God’s punishment, if you are among the truthful.”
And when Our messengers [the angels] came to Lot, he was anguished on their account and constrained from helping them. And he said, “This is a trying day!” And his people came hastening unto him, and before they had been working evil deeds. He said, “O my people, these are my daughters; they are purer for you. So fear God and disgrace me not with respect to my guests. Is there not among you a right-minded man?” They said, “You know well that we have no claim on your daughters, and indeed, you know what we want.”
Building an Islamic framework
A striver (mujāhid) is he who strives in God’s obedience, and a migrant is he who migrates from sin and error.