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Yes, I Am

Rachel Maddow: “I think the responsibility that we have as gay Americans to the extent that we can — and we ought to be really ambitious about the extent to which we can — we have to be out. That’s the thing that we owe the people who came before us who are the pioneers, and that’s the thing we owe the next generation of gay people in terms of clearing the way and making life easier for them. I think that there is a moral imperative to be out, and I think that if you’re not out, you have to come to an ethical understanding with yourself why you are not. And it shouldn’t be something that is excused lightly. I don’t think that people should be forced out of the closet, but I think that every gay person, sort of, ought to push themselves in that regard. Because it’s not just you. It’s for the community and it’s for the country.”

My name is Ify and this is a part of my story. There is much more to me than this but it’s here none the less. I’ve been asked, “How do you know?” Really, just as you know yourself, it’s the same. You don’t need to try everything else to know what feels most real and authentic to you. No, I was not abused as a child and I feel very blessed and fortunate to have had such a loving and nourishing upbringing.

I lived in fear for many years, afraid of what my family, friends, fiancés, and social circle would say as I tried mightily to discern what God intended for me. I don’t claim to have any answers but what I do have is my faith in God, a loving family, and some sincere friends. I’ve come to understand that these connections are more dear to me than anything else.

Perpetually living in a state of anxiety and fear is an awfully heavy burden to carry alone and a diminished way of experiencing the world. I’ve learned that hiding the truth about an integral part of  myself leads to dishonesty. And dishonesty is a poor foundation for building one’s faith or meaningful relationships. It is a quicksand-like foundation for beginning a marriage.

Anger and sadness became my close companions even as I turned to God seeking and hoping for a way out, struggling to maintain my faith. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom, as I joyfully immersed myself in strengthening my relationship with God and with my community through learning and volunteering. I found a fullness and contentment of faith while cultivating my defense mechanisms. It takes a lot of effort to consistently maintain a neutral facade as those around you confidently express the most ridiculous or hurtful opinions. Over the years, deep fissures appeared in this facade and I unconsciously used anger and sarcasm in an attempt to keep my anxiety at bay.

At one of the last Friday prayers I attended, the imam made an impassioned plea exhorting the congregation to sign their names to a  petition to have a referendum ballot this year on the issue of gay marriage in the state. As a joke at the end of the sermon, the imam said, “We all know that God made Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve,” which received some chuckles from the audience. But I’d like to offer as a correction that God not only made Adam and Eve but he also made Steve and me. That some in our communities readily display an attitude of willful ignorance and harshness rather than gentleness and compassion on a wide array of issues can and does alienate the most vulnerable from their faith.

I try to listen attentively with all of my being to hear the whispers of the divine message in my life. I’ve been deeply inspired by people across faith traditions who in their negotiation of faith have found it within themselves to recognize and respect each person’s inherent dignity and to love for others what they love for themselves. Slowly, I’ve gained the courage to allow my family and some friends in to get to know me and have been surprised to find their hearts soft and open enough to continue to love and embrace me even if it’s not always easy.

I am not giving up on my faith.

83 thoughts on “Yes, I Am

  1. Alhamdulillah that our religion is not left to the opinions of people. You and others may say “these imams are so intolerant” but our religion is clear. Allah says in the Quran:

    ..This day those who disbelieve have despaired of [defeating] your religion; so fear them not, but fear Me. This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.. (al-Maidah)

    Had there been within the heavens and earth gods besides Allah , they both would have been ruined. So exalted is Allah , Lord of the Throne, above what they describe. (al-Anbiyah)

    The Prophet (saw) said: There is nothing that leads to Jannah except that I have taught it to you, and nothing that leads to the Fire except that I have warned you from it. (Bukhari)

    The Prophet (saw) said: If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done. (Abu Dawud)

    For more on Homosexuality and about the death penalty for it see:

    http://wikiislam.net/wiki/Qur'an,_Hadith_and_Scholars:Homosexuality

    There have been many things brought up in blogs like this one that try to “modernize” Islam when in reality any form of changing or attempting to alter the religion is at the best a bid’ah and at worst form of shirk. I ask Allah to preserve the Imams and Da’iys who will never dilute the religion to allow these things to become accepted amongst the Muslims.

    In the Quran Allah says “They have taken their priests and rabbis as Lords besides Allah.” and the Prophet (saw) explained, “As for them, they did not worship them, but rather when they made something lawful for them they considered it lawful, and when they made something unlawful for them they considered it unlawful.” [Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Book of Tafsir, Number 3095, Hasan]

    Even though this is a sin that Allah destroyed the people of Lut (as) with a horrible punishment I want to remind of the following hadith:

    “…and verily one of you performs the actions of the people of the Hellfire, until there is but an arms length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him and so he acts with the actions of the people of Paradise and thus he enters it.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

    The doors of repentance are open until death comes to you or the sun rises from the west.

    May Allah guide us, Ameen.

    1. Salaam alaykum Ali,

      Back in the day, I think our thoughts were more closely aligned. You were and maybe still are the kind of guy a girl like me could marry, which is actually a compliment and a testament to the good I saw in you. I continued studying and learning and think you would have benefitted from many of those classes as well.

      I don’t think Islam needs modernizing but I do think some of the ways in which we understand our faith reflect our own human limitations. The more I learn about Islam, the stronger my faith becomes, and the more tolerant and compassionate my understanding becomes. In my own experience, weak faith, lack of knowledge, and insecurities often manifest in unnecessarily harsh or narrow opinions because we feel threatened or just aren’t even aware of the reality of a situation even though we feel very sure and secure in our judgements.

      Ali, I’ve always wondered when would have been a good time to tell you this. When we first started talking before we were engaged, after our engagement, or after the marriage? And what would have been your response? Perhaps, your response is above but I’ve always wondered about the timing issue. Marriage is often prescribed as a solution, and since you have intimate experience with the situation, what do you think? I’ve always thought it’s a little unfair to keep one party in the dark because no one would want to find himself or herself in that situation.

    2. Well Said, it is quiet disturbing how some people play with the words of Allaah in the name of ‘Interpretation’ or how it is ‘understood’ or ‘perceived’. It is quiet disgusting to see such excuses used and the nerve to push them forward to justify their own lack of knowledge and short comings.
      May Allaah azzwaJal protect us from what Lut (as)’s people engrossed in, whereby Allaah azzwaJal punished them for their inhumane acts.

      Please go ahead justify the haraam, just like the one who drinks justifies drinking, the drug addict justifies his habits and then those who justify the kalaam of Satan (Music)

      Lahola walaQuwata Illa billa.

      Aameen to your dua.

  2. I am so touched by your entry. I recently came across a long essay featured on Islamicity stating the same tendency you quote, rejecting homosexuality and gay marriage, the one as the evilest of scourges and the other as the de facto ushering of the a new era of social disintegration and the sure to come divine ire and punishment. I penned a just as long reply to it that as of 2 days ago, was trying to condense without weakening the arguments I made in it against the essay.
    This is why I don’t judge gay people and rather, support gay rights, especially as an expression of justice, equality and decency.
    1- I do not believe that my relationship with God is any better, or special than anyone else’s. He created everyone as He created me, and has not empowered to judge anyone else for personal choices they make.
    2- Those who say that homosexuality is (always) a choice claim knowledge of God’s creative power and plan, and the extent and expression of His challenges and blessings. I don’t.
    3- All of us face specific challenges, tailored to you by a God who created you and obviously loves and trusts you to be able to shoulder that burden. My burdens are heavy enough for me to dedicate myself to bearing, yours is similarly so to you. If I cannot help you shoulder yours, let me thus not ad to it.
    4- To see each individual as an expression of the divine creative, merciful and loving force, is to extend to each individual the respect, love and compassion that God requires from each one of thus to the other.
    5- What is the value of a heart? Of love? it is not measurable! I know many gay couples who are dedicated to each other in their monogamous relationships, who are patient and loving and supportive, ,and among them who have adopted children, giving them the same love, security and support to these unwanted children, thereby making their lives better. Where would I get the idea that I could and should condemn them?
    Finally, I have always been convinced that the umbrella of the deen is large enough to encompass everyone, for the Quran and the Prophet were sent to humanity until the end of times, Religious knowledge therefore is bound by time and culture. Your imam, as well as mine, will say cringeworthy things from time to time. That’s his right, as well as it is your right and duty to listen to your inner voice, especially if that voice is underpinned by divine hope and not divine fear.

    1. Po, nice to hear from you again.

      I agree with your beautifully worded points and hope you publish them in response to the article you read.

      I’ve always thought it is incredibly unjust and hypocritical to use religious arguments to try to deny rights to another group of people in a civil context. Particularly, when those civil statutes protect your right to practice your faith without the undue imposition of the beliefs of others.

    2. I found your comment about being interested solely by how people stay in Islam rather than why they enter it interesting and enlightening. As a “born ” muslim with a muslim family and a muslim community (Senegal), I was one of those who assume that the reversion is its own fulfillment, that is, that which brings about the conversion/reversion, sustains it, never having even an inkling of the torment and struggles many reverts deal with until I came across Ta’leef collective, which is a lovely organization that focuses on providing education and moral support to reverts.
      I adore conversion stories for they allow me to see the religion through different, fresh eyes. And every story i hear or read, whether from a man or woman, young or old, black or white, a former atheist or mormon,does just that, bring tears to my eyes as it exposes a beautiful side of an infinitely multifaceted diamond, that I ignored, overlooked or took for granted. Furthermore, each revert story reflects the greatness of a God that can bring together so many different people, with so many different inspirations and attitudes, from so many different paths, into one love that says to each: as one and as all, you are mine as I am yours.
      I heard from a trusted source that Al Arabi said he was one of those who fought everyone about everything, being impatient and judgmental, until, that is, he found it (tasawuf, spiritual enlightment through sufism). From then on, he says, there was nothing or no one who couldn’t find refuge in his heart.
      I follow your blog because you inspired me at first read. i saw a light in your words, a very potent combination of trust, truth and self-knowledge without which one cannot lay claim to the holy trinity of islam, iman or ihsan.

    3. Ta’leef is doing some amazing work. I’m considering attending their Mu’allif Mentorship Program, which is designed to train people in pastoral care and in care for converts. I don’t mind hearing a conversion story but I recognize that the story hopefully doesn’t end there. However, for many, it does.

      That’s a very interesting quote be Ibn Al-Arabi, which speaks to something deeper within me.

      I am so happy to hear from and benefit from the words and wisdom of the people who visit this blog. As for your kind words, may Allah make me better than what people think and forgive me for what they don’t know and may Allah help us in this journey towards him.

  3. So, I’m kind of surprised you never told me. And understand and am not surprised that you didn’t. I always thought it would be a challenge for someone who was gay (or had gay family members, friends or supported homosexuality) to accept Islam, given its stance on homosexuality. But I would always hope that they would find the courage to accept Islam and understand that, while it’s a challenge and that they may not understand it (as none of us do), the struggle is rewarded…and that no sin is worse than shirk. We all have our challenges and I believe we all find things in Islam that we don’t understand, but that we accept because of the Source.

    May Allah make this challenge easy for you and make a way out for you. Ameen.

    1. Single Green, I think we all self-censor based on our assumptions of how others may react. We’re friends but from our previous conversations, I gathered, perhaps incorrectly that you weren’t necessarily “safe” for me.

      Accepting Islam was easy for me, it spoke to my soul in a way nothing else ever had or has since. I believe in God and in Islam so when I was in the process of converting to the faith those things I didn’t understand or necessarily agree with weren’t strong enough to keep me out of the faith. As I often say, I’m not that interested in hearing why people convert Islam because I am more interested in hearing how they stay in Islam because that I’ve found requires a deeper understanding and negotiation of faith.

    2. I don’t know if I can reply to your reply…but here’s my reply to your reply…

      I thought about why you probably never told me…the times I professed being against legalizing gay marriage and maybe my talking about transexuality. I have heard others tell me they thought I would judge them regarding X, Y and Z, but those who have shared I think have found me pretty understanding. Not to say that I will be ok with or support something I don’t feel is right, but that I will separate the act (or whatever) from who the person is. But, I am human and may not have reacted the way I “should have” as I have also been known to do.

      That said, I know now and do need to think about what this means. You are the same Ify I’ve known and hung out with for the past 4 years and this new news doesn’t make me hate you. And, there is the issue of your sexual orientation. In Islam, gender separation is meant to keep us away from temptation. How you’ve been able to keep the separation when your temptation was the same gender…subhanAllah. Every man will not be a temptation for every woman, but we gender separate to play it safe, so I can’t imagine what that means for those with homosexual desires who adhere to gender separation. I know in “Complicated” Sh, Waleed said to cover in front of gay men AND lesbians.

      I feel for you in this regard, and don’t know what the answer is for you or any other Muslim facing this challenge. Islam won’t change for us; we have to change for Islam, to follow Allah’s rules, whether we like them or not, to attain His pleasure and be rewarded and avoid His displeasure and punishment. We cannot change or bend the rules to fit us. Islam has a clear stance on homosexuality and if “conservative” Muslims do not support your “coming out”, it’s not for lack of care for you, but for not wanting to go against Allah’s laws.

      We all need to be careful when we seek others’ approval or change in the Ummah. There are many things amiss in our Muslim communities and things that need changing AND acceptance of homosexual relationships is not one of them. Seek Allah’s guidance, ask Him to help you. May Allah guide us all. Ameen.

      P.S. I am also concerned for your safety. Please be careful out there, my friend. May Allah protect you, Ameen.

    1. Hussein, it was a pleasure to meet you at the reading for your book, which I learned a lot from, saw many commonalities, and enjoyed thoroughly. Thank you.

  4. Asalaam Aleikum,

    Two cents that I tell my young Muslim padawans when asked about the question of Homosexuality:

    Islamic law does not prohibit homosexuality, or fornication, or drinking, or porn for that matter. Islamic law prohibits public acts (fyi, I’m not talking about Islam or morals, I’m taking about law and legal system). What a person does in his or her private life is between him/her and Allah, and up to Allah to judge. It’s so beautiful that Allah’s law doesn’t allow man to judge man for that which he or she does in private — only for that which has public influence on the community.

    As Muslims, we should only do that which benefits us after we enter the grave, and compared to the possible punishment it might have, and I don’t see how coming out has benefit in the hereafter.

    The prophet (saw) said: “Leave that which give you doubt, for that which give you no doubt”.

    I am not trying to admonish you; I just want to give some sincere advice. A lot of us struggle with things that make us feel like hypocrites, though on the day of judgement we only have to answer to Allah. Why not just address the issues you want to address, without coming out to the world?

    1. Wa alaykum salaam.

      Thank you for the advice, I appreciate it. I have struggled with the question of whether or not to be open about this for much of my life, even before I converted to Islam. I chose to hide and even deny for many years. But I’ve come to realize, hiding and denying leads to lying and all sorts of dishonesty, which is harmful to one’s Islam, integrity, and emotional stability.

      It’s also unfair to any number of people. Can you imagine, I was very close to getting married with what I think is a pretty serious secret that anyone would want to know before embarking on a life together. Who would want that? Even I’d want to know but the advice we give is to ignore and pretend like it doesn’t exist hoping or not caring about the impact on the marriage and the unsuspecting spouse.

      It is somewhat disingenuous of me to address issues while ignoring my own experience, which is what I’ve done over the years and can be seen in a number of my earlier posts and comments. Sometimes we go to an extreme because we feel threatened and are trying to cope or reconcile that we become even more abrasive than the real homophobes. Can you imagine what that cognitive dissonance must do to a person’s faith and sanity? Generally, what I’ve seen is that can be a cause for people to leave Islam behind completely.

      I don’t intend to leave Islam, may God protect everyone’s faith including mine, but I could no longer go on hiding out fear of what people might say more so than out of fear of the displeasure of God.

      I’ve sat very quietly for many years and listened to utter nonsense and sometimes really ignorant or hateful statements from many people, friends, family, imams, co-workers, teachers, etc. Afraid to challenge. Even to the point where someone indicated he intentionally tried to physically harm gay people. I’ve sat quietly while gay Muslims have sought spiritual and pastoral care that was not at all helpful and watched as they slowly drifted away from their faith. I didn’t say a word. Afraid and cowed into silence about not publicizing sin. God created all of us and the fact that we exist is not sinful nor something that needs to be hidden. When we are truthful, we not only help ourselves but also help reduce ignorance and hate, which I think is beneficial in this world and the next, insha’Allah.

  5. Amani, it’s really nothing personal, part of the reality of being closeted is that you’re hiding from everyone not only from those who have expressed anti-gay remarks. Many people just assume everyone is hetero so I felt no reason to disabuse them of that assumption. And sometimes it’s just easier to “pass,” although in reality, that trying to “pass” exacts a very high price. What did gnaw at me was the level of ignorance, bigotry, dehumanization and lack of compassion expressed in so many discussions (not necessarily from you), which was given a pass. I reject that in the strongest terms for any group of people. My parents didn’t raise me to be a bigot.

    I’m not looking for validation from people, for that I look to God. No doubt, we’re human and it’s nicer not to be looked down upon, condemned, insulted, made fun of, shunned, backbitten, and so on, which is very common. I don’t buy the conservative party line about some supposed claim to piety in defense of the level of vitriol often reserved for and directed towards the lgbt community. People feel at ease to condemn and dehumanize others when they see them as other or because they think no will stand up and challenge them. Do you hear the same level of vitriol directed towards people who don’t pray or fast or who deal in interest? You don’t. Research has demonstrated that people tend to decrease the level of dehumanization, grow in compassion, and moderate their views when they are confronted with someone they know. This the part of the basis for so much of our interfaith work as Muslims, letting our neighbors get to know us.

    Men and women are different and I think our communities have a lot of insecurities and hang-ups around issues of gender interaction. Part of my issue with gender segregation is how when taken to an extreme it dehumanizes us and reduces us to nothing more than the sum of our private parts. We tend to only look at people as sex objects and not as full human beings. I have always favored personal responsibility, regardless of who we’re attracted to, we still need to lower our gaze. Think of it like this for yourself, so you’re attracted to men, you work, go to school, and interact in various situations with men, do you feel like that’s hard for you?

    Sexuality is a part not the sum total of everyone’s life. That’s one reason why this was not an impediment in my converting to or remaining in Islam and it’s why I don’t find it that difficult to interact normally with my friends. I look at people, both women and men, as full human beings and not solely as sex objects. When you think of or introduce yourself to others, what do you say? Not to put words in your mouth but you probably describe your ethnic background, nationality, the place where you currently live, your job, your age, something in relation to your family, etc. Nowhere in that list is your sexual orientation. But so often, we focus on sexuality to exclusion of all else, which I think it rather unfair. That being said, I generally keep my hijab on, that’s my habit and comfort level and don’t begrudge anyone who wants to do that but they don’t need to do it for my sake.

    1. I understand and I do think that homosexuality is targeted far more than other sins. I thought about why and came to some ideas:
      1) Homosexuality is a practice that is widespread, publicized and becoming more accepted, whereas murder, rape, adultery, etc. are, for the most part, done secretly by individuals and unsupported by all. People do not have Thieves pride parades or go on talk shows to explain how they had to confess to their parents that they murdered someone, in hopes of gaining support.
      2) We’ve become desensitized to the shock of all other sins, but not homosexuality, probably because people “rationalize” other sins but cannot rationalize homosexuality. “I engage in Ribaa because I need a house and we live in America and…” “I steal because the economy is bad and…”
      3) Besides shirk, homosexuality was one sin that a nation was destroyed for. None of the other nations were destroyed because they all stole, committed adultery, etc.
      4) It’s a societal issue that affects the public. While the murders in Colorado and Wisconsin may have shocked the nation and made everyone more apprehensive, it’s not something that each individual has to deal with. But homosexuality, because it’s becoming more acceptable and widespread, affects marriages, before and after. If more men identified as heterosexual, there would be more potential husbands for women. There wouldn’t be broken marriages because of one spouse coming out. People wouldn’t be concerned about their children feeling it’s OK to be homosexual and to act on their desires.

      Those are just some thoughts, not research.

      I’ve noticed that you keep your hijab on (as I’ve never seen you without it) and was thinking whether this was a reason.

      I do find men at school, work and general life a fitnah and while I don’t have to be careful about just regular interaction or looking at them, I do have to be careful how I speak with them, how long and about what (for my sake more than theirs). It’s about how emotionally (and physically) close I get with them. I would never hang out with a guy, for example. And I certainly wouldn’t uncover in front of him. I honestly don’t know what it’s like to have homosexual feelings, so I don’t know what I could/could not handle with regards to being around the same gender if that were the case. I would assume I would have to draw limits in my interactions with friends, but again, just an assumption.

      The biggest questions on my mind is what you’re looking to gain from this outing? Is this is just a catharsis for you, to stop hiding and be honest with everyone? Do you want to show others that one can have homosexual feelings and be a “practicing”, “conservative” Muslim (I don’t like these words, but don’t know how else to describe them)? Are you looking for acceptance from others for this part of yourself?

      As you said, sexuality isn’t really a huge part of most people’s lives, which is what makes me wonder why those with homosexual desires “come out” as gay…as their identity. There are many who keep it to themselves because it’s not anyone’s business and it’s not WHO they are but just a part of their life. So, I wonder why you’re coming out? Is it part of who you are or just a small part of your life?

      And as a final note, I have watched movies/shows on the subject of homosexuality and transexuality, for curiosity and insight. And while I can’t agree with their chosen lifestyle, I do sympathize with the challenge of living with those feelings. I do feel there’s pathologies involved with these traits and instead of embracing and accepting them, I believe they should be treated psychologically (not pharmaceutically).

      I always write more than I intend to…

    2. I hadn’t read your previous post, which is why it was held in moderation.

      Amani, not everything I do is related to being gay. I keep my hijab on for very practical reasons, it’s easier to simply wipe over my hijab when renewing wudu in public or unfamiliar bathrooms, I find it a hassle to have to fidget with or re-do hijab at any time, and I avoid the “ooh, can I touch your hair” fetish.

      People come out for various reasons. In my own case, the emotional and spiritual harm of remaining closeted was simply too great, living with integrity is a part of our religion and one reason I chose to hide is not really out of a fear of God but out of a fear of people, which is problematic theologically. I don’t think those in the majority can adequately measure their own “invisible backpacks” of privilege. You don’t hide so why do you think it’s appropriate to ask others to do so? That’s what bias and privilege do, it blinds us to the reality and humanity of others because we’ve othered them. This is why there is a need for groups like a women’s committee at mosques, black student groups, and groups for specific ehtnicities because the default privileged in-group generally ignores the needs and concerns of others.

      I don’t believe Islam needs to change. Our religious understanding and practice does not exist in a vacuum, it is heavily influenced by the reality on the ground, culture, and by those doing the interpreting.

    3. Hmm, I dunno where my last post went or if it’s waiting moderation, but I have one last thought about this, since it has been on my mind quite a bit.

      I think I understand what you are trying to do. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re trying to change the way Muslims treat homosexuals, not the way Islam views homosexuality. You stated a lot of anger, sadness and disgust at the way Muslims joked about and even threatened gay people. I agree that this social issue is not well handled and remember agreeing with you that YQ’s prescribed “get them married” was not a good solution.
      I have a lot of anger, too, about how Muslims , especially those in positions of power, handle certain issues. I don’t have the answer for how to evoke changes in the Muslim community about this and I also don’t know that this is the best way. Allah knows best.

  6. “You don’t need to try everything else to know what feels most real and authentic to you.”

    Basically, you seem to be saying that truth is based on what you feel to be true. So, I’m wondering how you reconcile your feelings with the Quran verses and hadiths that are apparently against homosexuality. Could you tell us how you deal with particular verses and hadiths?

    1. Reed,

      No, I would not agree with your characterization of my words. What I was trying to get at in the above quote is simply that for many people their orientation is clear to them from an early age without the need for any textual evidence or experimentation. Orientation or thoughts do not necessarily carry any rulings.

  7. Salaam Ify,

    A brave post. I totally agree with you sexuality is just one segment of who we are and its tiresomely seen as being the only defining feature for many in our communities. Particularly, if female or gay.

    It takes courage to be your own person and to be true to yourself. At times like this you really know who your friends and well wishers are (btw that does not necessarily mean they agree with your choices but are willing to respect and defend your right to make those choices) and as for the rest well as my teenage cousin says haters are just going to hate.

    I hope you had a wonderful Eid with family and friends, take good care of yourself and as always my best wishes and prayers are with you.

    1. Wa alaykum salaam Maliha,

      Happy Eid to you and your loved ones. I had an enjoyable day with friends but am brainstorming ideas to create a space or event on Eid open to the community so no one has to feel alone.

      Thank you for your friendship and kindness. I appreciate your words and those from your cousin. I read a quote from I think Will Smith, which said something like “Why do you give so much power to those who do so little for you?” I have to make gaining the pleasure of Allah and my own sanity my focus and trust that he will take care of the people for me.

  8. Love love love love. I send you love and salaams my beautiful sister.

    I am so excited to hear more of what you have to say; what you have learned and what you have experienced. I have been waiting for a voice like yours for some time. I think we have so much learn. Muslims have so far to grow and we need dedicated and sincere mu’mins like yourself. I pray Allah always preserves you, increases you, and grants you the highest level of Jannah. Ameen.

    1. Salam Asiah, thank you so much, really do appreciate your sentiments and ameen to your dua.

      I think our silence allows for a narrative of Islam and Muslims, which is incomplete and sometimes harmful. For so many of us, converting to or returning to practicing Islam after the initial new convert high has worn off can be traumatizing and leads to so many crises of faith and identity. It’s little wonder that so many people leave the faith. My dream is to help create a safe space, virtually and on the ground, for people to feel welcome in community and confident in their negotiation of faith.

      Blessings to you.

  9. Thanks for clarifying your position on feelings. Still, I’m curious. Why would there be verses in the Quran and hadiths that are apparently against homosexuality if people are born with a homosexual orientation? How do you personally deal with these verses and hadiths? For example, the Catholic church says it’s not a sin to be homosexual but it is a sin to engage in homosexual behavior. Do you have a similar perspective? Or a different one?

  10. Reed,

    To answer your question, it seems we must first understand something about Allah. As a Muslim, I believe God has the most exalted and sublime attributes, among these include mercy, love, justice, and wisdom. Therefore, in my opinion, asking why God has chosen to do something is a bit beside the point. Once we accept these attributes, we accept that God as the Creator has created everything for a purpose, even if we don’t fully understand it.

    In a number of issues, I find that I tend to be too conservative for some liberals and too liberal for some conservatives, which I think it a good indication of walking on a middle path. As I mentioned in the above post, I don’t claim to have any answers rather I think people must negotiate their faith.

    What I will say is that I believe orientation falls under the broad sense of the word “thought” and from my understanding of Islam, we are not taken to account for our thoughts. It is my personal view that religion calls upon us to restrain the inclinations of the soul.

  11. My concern is that in revealing this information about your orientation you may be accidentally carrying the flag of the gay-lifestyle movement as it presents itself in America today. If this is not your intention, then I would advise you to carefully distinguish yourself from that. The parts of the movement that are questionable to me islamically would be the promotion of the lifestyle, the public acceptance of the lifestyle, the celebration of the homosexual lifestyle. I get the sense that you are trying to educate Muslims that with 1 billion of us out there it’s likely that some have alternative orientations and to be sensitive to that.

    What other things do you think coming out can gain for the observant sunni Muslim gay man or woman?

    1. Salam Sally,

      We only have the power to shape and control our own actions, our ability to shape the reactions or assumptions of others is limited. Everyone sees the world through the prism of their own experience and beliefs.

      I think the main benefit is to recapture one’s integrity by putting an end to the lying which hiding an integral part of yourself entails. The lies and deception build up and the stress of trying to hold that all together inside is enormous. It takes a spiritual, physical, and emotional and psychological toll. Also, as we live our lives authentically we create a safer space for others that may be struggling to know that they are not alone and that there are viable options. We may even help decrease the level of hatred and vitriol and increase compassion, which I think is a good thing.

  12. As an Bagladeshi British born Muslim I struggled most of my life to reconcile a Bangladeshi upbringing within a British society. I found Islam in my 20’s and it enveloped me made the broken parts of my soul whole and gave meaning to a life I struggled to live. In all of this spiritual enlightment I discovered a deeper truth about my own identity. I am a lesbian Muslima. I was unable to reconcile my sexual identity with Islam I moved away from Islam, falling once again into a non Practicing lifestyle. I see your post and coming out to be brave but there are so many questions I have. I wonder if you can answer some of these for me. You say orientation falls broadly into thought which you believe is not the same as inclination but if that thought becomes action if a gay muslima like me or you falls in love, marries or lives with a woman in a marriage like union, how does this remain in the eyes of God a union without sin?

    1. Salam Maliah, welcome!

      May God bring peace and contentment to your heart. I think the discourse around these issues can very easily alienate us from our religion. The struggle to reconcile or gain an understanding, which resonates is particularly challenging because the common discussion points tend to be rather limited in scope. I attend a good number of Muslim events and almost always without fail, the question of same-sex attraction, gay marriage, and so on comes up, people have so many questions, they’re looking for answers, which reflects a changing dynamic in society, which appears to require some nuance that the old standard answers don’t address.

      I believe thought, inclination, and orientation are in the same category. Both you and Reed have asked me questions, which as I mentioned in the post, I don’t claim to have any answers. How I reconcile my faith and my orientation may not be how another person does so. Our faith like so much else must be negotiated.

      The way I have been taught my faith is through a fairly conservative orthodox Eastern (Gulf/Subcontinent) cultural lens. I can recite the standard opinions and their evidences but I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for because you probably know them just as well as I do. How I understand my faith now is through a more expansive, some might say liberal orthodoxy. That might seem like an oxymoron but it’s not nor is it Progressivism. I believe in strict adherence to Islamic law but not in cultural and historical realities, which have little or no relevance to the particularities of my own life or cultural background.

      I see several different strands running through your question, which would be difficult to adequately address in a comment response. If you want me to email you, drop me a line using the “contact me” box, insha’Allah.

  13. may Allah help you through your struggle and keep your faith strong. may he guide you towards whatever He thinks is best and protect you from unnecessary hate or ridicule, your commitment to your deen is evident to all who have met you and you are our sister:)

  14. JazakAllah khair for sharing that with us sister! May Allah reward you and guide all of us to what is pleasing to Him.
    I think you have a very important role to play now. A lot of Muslims don’t really know or trust what they hear about people with homosexual feelings. You can give us an insight we can trust. May Allah make this a means for you to help others who are in a similar situation.

    1. Ify Okoye. Der’s a lot one could say for or against homosexuality. depends on one’s perceptual orientn. but d picture is very clear as in crystal clear wen objectively seen thru d eyes of islamic legislation; homosexuality, among many other human practices such as extramarital sex, drinkin is forbidden. Long and short of it is dat ders nothin glorious or special about homosexuality. Its just one of dose habits man loves to indulge in but God has seen fit to forbid for him. As a man i love women alot but God has placed a limit to my longings so while i feel d urge to satiisfy a hunger i am supposed to rememba dat God has set limits and so control myself. Dat remembrance and subsequent self control is what would make me pious. So piety is not d absence of temptation but d mastery of it. I pray Allah to help us all in our struggle against temptations.

    2. Salam Cartoon, ameen to you prayer and may Allah reward you with good. I’ve been asked by a few people to clarify how I reconcile my sexual orientation with religion, which I hope to write about in the near future, God willing.

  15. words can’t describe how I admire courage. Unfortunately, May Muslims dangerously fail to handle the issue. The irony is that such ignorance of such important subject easily draws away LGBT’s (Unfortunately) from Islam rather than providing a healthy environment for them to at least admit their struggle. May allah strengthens your faith.

    1. Mohammad, thank you and ameen to your prayer. A number of people have expressed their surprise or disappointment that I would choose to write about these issues in such a personal way. However, I know and others have shared with me that my being open and truthful we create a safer and more honest space for those who may also be struggling. Rather than alienate people from their faith we must strive to support each other as we negotiate our faith.

  16. Ify. I wanted to stop by to say that I love, support and want to encourage you. I’m proud of you for taking this step, one that I know isn’t easy. There really is a lot going through my brain and I can’t write it down. We can talk more in person!

  17. Bismillah.

    As-salaamu alaikum,

    I pray that Allah ta’ala guides you and me and protects us from the shaitan, ameen.
    I’m a blunt person, so forgive me if I hurt your feelings, that’s not my intention- I hope to be of some benefit, in sha Allah.
    Ok, in my opinion based on what I know and have been through, Allah ta’ala knows best, I think you are being too hard on yourself in that you are labeling yourself, what do you think sister? You seem very smart, and as a revert, Islam is a gift that I’m sure you don’t want to lose.
    I think you may be letting shaitan mess with your head- like brother Dawood E mentioned above- everyone has temptations/urges, but it is your self-control that makes you righteous or pious. If there’s a women’s party- they are still Islamically supposed to dress modestly in front of each other- why do you think? because some will get attracted sexually to each other if they dress provocatively. that does not make them gay people, it’s that they get an urge, or perhaps a “waswas”! The shaitan will mess with you if you have one or more of these feelings/urges, and you will succumb if you believe him, then label yourself, and then feel like you’re a liar for hiding it- when in the first place- there’s nothing to hide, subhanAllah! You’re normal for having urges- some people have more, some have less, some have none.

    Remember, Allah ta’ala forgives a believer for what’s in his self as long as he doesn’t speak about it or act on it! So beautiful, right? hang in there, and we should all turn back to Allah ta’ala.

    It’s like people who suffer from making wudhu too much- they over wash- that’s a problem because they are listening to the shaitan. We as believers have to know when he’s getting us- audho billah! I used to have some internal problems, and I realized it’s cuz I was letting it happen- I didn’t know what was the reality. Once I found out, things became so much smoother- I didn’t feel like I had to hide anything anymore. I used to feel hypocritical for things inside of me, but I realized I just needed to learn coping skills when I was stressed out.

    Personally, I feel like you’re sad about this whole thing and trying to come to terms with it- but I see that unfortunately, you are choosing an alternate way that is the wrong way. You probably won’t agree with me if you’re a passionate feeling type (like me)- like “who do you think you are to tell me, stranger?”, but please cheer up if you are sad/upset/confused/whatever, and I hope you will see things rationally and clearly soon, Ameen. Islam is such a blessing in that it is a clear way-you know as well as me that Islam states (not cultures, etc.) that homosexuality is clearly a sin that will not take you to Jannah, just like killing, lying, cheating, adultery, and others. If Allah forgives you, all is well, but it is still something to repent from. It’s an action. You don’t need to repent from feelings or urges unless you act on them. I might say in my head “ooooh, I wish I could ___ and ______”, but if I don’t act on it, I get a reward. If I do some self-therapy/have conviction, that would be the cure. It may sound simplistic, but some solutions are simple (like in math class- some people try to solve easy problems in a complicated way). (The whole marriage solution is not for everyone, even some scholars did not marry until their later years because they didn’t have a need for it. I understand your frustration that you expressed regarding some “help” you’ve probably received.)

    I’ve been thinking about soo many issues that I think are “modern” issues, yet they are not- they’ve always been there and the Qu’ran and sunnah illustrates the right approach to them; it’s best if we follow that clear path- like you said, without cultural interpretation.
    If you are keen to be a believer, a pious believer, the shaitan will try crafty ways to get you- so watch out, may Allah protect us and guide us, Ameen!

    Please, sister, open up your heart and think: Will I fulfill my purpose in life by my actions?
    I just want to remind you to look into yourself, without labeling, and master whatever it is that is bothering you- all while having the Qur’an and Sunnah as your reference, not your/someone else’s opinions. Some of the other posts you’ve put on your blog- which I came across while looking for something else- seem to me like you are struggling to make sense of it all, especially feminine/cultural issues. Some people you refer to are clearly not the best people to be following based on their actions/statements.
    And with Allah is the Taufeeq.

    I wish you all the best, JazakiAllahu Khairan.

    1. Wa alaykum salaam someoneoutthere,

      Ameen to your prayers.

      I think I’ve been hard on myself for many years, which was one reason for my earlier sadness but I’ve been learning and growing in being able to reconcile the various facets of my identity. I’m of the belief that sexuality is on a continuum and not either this or that and that we can fall anywhere on that spectrum. I think we agree that inclinations are not sinful but that seemed to get a little confused in your comments. All of that is very separate from the reality of how poorly women are treated within so much of the Muslim community so let’s not mix the two.

  18. Assalamu alaikum Ify. I really commend your courage and honesty for writing this post. In all honesty, I sometimes wondered why you weren’t married (it was nothing personal or exclusive to you alone), but I concluded that it was because you’re an independent woman, etc. Regardless of all that, i think that way you’re very sensibly dealing with it, not allowing your Iman to be affected by it. May Allah continue to help you, Ameen. But i had a question. did you think of ‘making’ yourself straight through counseling, etc. Do you think it’s possible to get help for yourself? that would be good, right? it really made me sad when i read this, but it’s good to know that this was your natural condition, as opposed to being chosen. You’re in my du’as Ify, Uhibbik fillah :)

    1. Wa alaykum salaam Ihsanist,

      Ameen to your dua and may the one for whose sake you love me also love you.

      People frequently ask me about marriage either for themselves or for me and at one point in my life I was focused on getting married. For the last several years, I’ve been focused on pursuing my educational goals and now with that stage completed, I feel more open to different possibilities. I have a couple friends who’d like to hook me up with a guy, my mother is encouraging me to have a child before my biological clock winds down, so we’ll see, insha’Allah.

      I don’t believe in so-called reparative therapies, most people who have been through them say they are ineffective and psychologically damaging at changing orientation. I worked hard at putting on the “straight facade” for many years and while it is possible to do, it never changed my underlying orientation.

  19. Salam alaikum,

    I hope all is well with you. I am not writing this message to attack you but at the same time I feel it would be wrong to support you.

    As I was reading through the messages above, I noticed you said:

    “I believe in strict adherence to Islamic law…”

    And this is where your problem starts anything else is irrelevant. Homosexuality is not something that is permissible in Islamic law. This is one thing in which there is no gray area whatsoever. We have been given an example of what happened to the nation of Lut.

    One of the reasons why this really upsets me is the fact that this is the first time something like this is being introduced into our community. If this becomes more common other people will start thinking it is the norm also. And know that if someone starts a good practice and other people follow they are rewarded for it but if someone starts something bad and people follow, the person who started it gets bad deeds for everyone who follows.

    If Allah hides your sins you shouldn’t reveal them. I feel like you are over thinking things and are giving this too much attention which is why it is bothering you more. If you ignore it and continue on with your life you will be just as fine. This is definitely just the whisper of the shaytaan.

    Sister, my sincere intention is to help you, whether or not it is something you want to hear. Although others may support you and seem nice, my goal as your sister is not to be nice and say what you want to hear, but to advice you as my sister in islam so Allah may guide us both to the right path, inshallah. I hope you sincerely think about what I have said and may Allah help you through this and guide you.

    1. Wa alaykum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

      I think it is both a sign of naivety and arrogance to take our own ignorance of something as a proof that it does not exist. Most likely there are gays and lesbians all around you even if you do not recognize them. A simple reading of history can dispel the notion that same-sex attraction is a recent phenomenon.

      Pretending or wishing away reality is not an effective coping method. If you’d like to be helpful to your fellow Muslims, a good way to start is by educating yourself to dispel any myths and stereotypes you may have and by not allowing others to disparage or denigrate other human beings. If we as a community can work on these two goals that would be more helpful than empty platitudes.

    2. unfortunately, it is this type of narrative that have drawn many brothers and sisters away. in fact, the problem is that homosexuality is never introduced to the community, most of us are full of ignorance hostility, and stigmatization against non-heterosexuals. what you are suggesting is that one should trap himself alone living with no source of any help from the community for the sake of “not making norm” as if this was a choice.

      It is inevitable that the community would eventually have to confront such matters, people like Ify are that one who were strong enough to wake the community.

      why does it upset you? would you rather her “hide her sin”? could you be more specific?

      My sister, I do not think you have understood what Ify said.

  20. Asalamualaikum,

    There is NO question or doubt about this being haram. Actually, this practice has been going on from years from now as it is mentioned in the Quran about the people of Loot and we know how they were destroyed. I dont know how you have the audacity to “come out” after KNOWING what happened to the people of Loot. What makes you think it is okay for YOU to do this…?

    As for “covering ones sins”, in the deen you are not supposed to bring out your sins that Allah has concealed for you and there was no reason to publicize it. If help is what you needed you should have approached a person/scholar of knowledge which is not hard to reach nowadays alhamdulilah.

    When the shaytaan was kicked out of jannah for disobeying Allah, he promised Allah he would not go to hellfire alone. He would come from the right, left, top, and bottom. He will sit in the pathway that leads to Allah.

    I dont care how many people around us may be gay, the fact is it is still wrong. Practicing homosexuality makes you step out of the folds of Islam. So you take your pick. You either behave as a Muslim, go get help if that’s what you want or intended to write this blog by. But if you are trying to justify practicing homosexuality, there is no need for that as there is no question about it.

    If you think you are just gay and are not practicing it, just keep it to yourself because there is no purpose of mentioning it in public or again, go seek a scholar.

    May Allah guide you and guide us all. I really hope you are not practicing such an act as I would never wish this upon anybody. The better choice would obviously be for you to not practice this and move on with your life normally as this life is just temporary and the doors of repentance are always open until the soul reaches the throat or the sun rises from the west in case you did practice it. My intention is not to turn you away from Islam but I do not accept of the fact that it seems like you are trying to accept such an action into the deen.

    And Allah knows best.

    Salamu alaikum

    1. Wa alaykum salaam wa rahmatullah,

      I don’t know what you mean by saying “this” is haram. The fact that lgbt people exist is not forbidden, it’s simply a reality and fact. I think in these discussions it may be helpful to clearly distinguish between orientation and action.

      I don’t believe God takes us to task for our orientation, which for many people is rather innate. Thus acknowledging this reality is not sinful. I also don’t believe in justifications for having an lgbt orientation.

      The decision to come out is a highly individualized and personal process and it’s not for everyone or for every situation. I’m sure some people would prefer to pretend as though lgbt people do not exist within the Muslim community but this kind of head-in-the-sand attitude is not helpful and in many cases may be quite damaging spiritually and psychologically. I have found in my own experience that being able to speak honestly and openly about various realities is beneficial not only for myself but also for others.

      I’m glad you do not wish to turn me or anyone else away from Islam but, if you’re willing, I’d encourage you to seek to listen and understand first before offering your advice and solutions because you may inadvertently do more harm than good. If you don’t understand why someone would prefer to come out rather than to continue hiding, lying, and living a reduced existence, you haven’t done your work.

  21. I also wanted to let you know that if anyone above is supporting you they obviously do not have an understanding of this part of the deen.

    When an act is haram, it should not be sugar coated.

  22. As-salaamu aleikum Ify, I stumbled upon this post and had to comment. Your braveness is astounding MashaAllah, and you are truely inspirational.

    As for anybody condeming her, there is no grounds at all to condemn a homosexual orientation. Mainstream scholars will fairly universally agree that homosexual acts are haraam, but that is not what she has said about herself. Orientation is not action.

    Furthermore there are many Muslims who are looking critically at definitions of “the sin of Lut’s people” (Which is the crux of any argument about Islam and homosexuality let’s face it). It is far more complex than straight up saying “gay sex is haraam”. (Which, again is nothing to do with orientation)

    “Homosexuality in Islam: Critical Reflection on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims” by Scott Siraj Al-Haqq Kugle Is a great book looking at the status of homosexuality in Islam. If you haven’t read it Ify, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.

    1. Wa alaykum salaam wa rahmatullah S. Ali,

      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting, a friend wrote a post this past week and mentioned how writing is akin to throwing a pebble in the water because we cannot control the ripples as they go outward from the source. It always amazes and humbles me how people stumble upon my words.

      I have been meaning to look into Kugle’s works for some time so I will push this book closer to the top of my reading list, God willing. I’m working on the research for a post I hope to write tentatively titled, Achieving Empathy Amidst Disagreement over Gay Muslims. Wherever one’s views fall on the spectrum of opinion on these issues, it seems to me that for many of us, there is a deficit of civility, which I think stems from arrogance, ignorance, and lack of empathy.

  23. I find it very interesting how many of those who have commented here, saying that this that or the other thing is haram and will take a person outside Islam, speaking with so much assumed authority, have the audacity to sign with some anonymous name. To me that just underscores how important an issue this is, and even more so, how brave you are Ify for putting your name on this often nameless struggle within the Muslim community. I for one applaud honesty and integrity, and I am proud of the sisters and brothers in our community who put themselves out there, knowing full well what onslaught is coming, for the sake of opening dialogue and improving the condition of everyone in the community.

    1. The number of messages I receive using fake names and fake email addresses is remarkable. Some of these anonymous individuals claim to know me but apparently are too scared to speak to me directly so they use layer upon layer of anonymity to hide their identity. It makes it that much more difficult to take their words seriously because I know they may be saying one thing to my face (i.e. nothing at all) but hiding behind their computer screens are making all sorts of bold claims to me. I know that’s a common tactic for those who fear people might suspect they are lgbt but if they’re not, not really sure what they’re afraid of.

      On the other hand, I have received a tremendous outpouring of support from a variety of sources that do believe the time has come for more open and honest discussion about lgbt issues within the Muslim community. I do feel that many of the standard canned responses and copy/paste evidence slams are insufficient as a means of pastoral guidance for lgbt Muslims, which is often the only thing we have to offer as a community.

  24. Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    The moment you justify it, you leave the religion and head to the fire.

    The moment you open up about a sin, you bring it away from repentance.

    The problem is, you can talk about empathy and compassion for our brothers and sisters without opening up about problems within you. You aren’t the first person who had sinful desires. Everyone does. There was a man(I think a youth) at the time of Nabi sallallahualayhiwasalam who wanted zina to be halal.

    As for orientation being something unfixable, well this whole argument is heading the wrong direction.

    [Edited, I read it, thanks]

    It is upon us to purify ourselves. No one can claim purity.

    “I am not giving up on my faith.”
    Yes, continue to do so. When I first read this, I thought about it and eventually remembered this ayah.

    http://quran.com/4/175

    Believe in Allah and hold on to him and you will eventually meet him in a good state.

    1. Wa alaykum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

      I don’t believe in justifications. But I do believe strongly in the power of personal narrative in affecting how we and others view a situation.

  25. Salaam
    Coming out to your family and friends I get. Coming out to the world I don’t get. Could you explain more? What is the benefit to you for coming out to everyone?

    1. Wa alaykum salaam Ain,

      If you are able to discern a benefit in coming out to one’s family and friends then surely you can also understand there is similar benefit in having that level of honesty and integrity with a wider circle.

      Our conversation here and many other conversations I’ve had since coming out with people I know and those whom I’ve never met have been extraordinary. The power of adding one’s unique voice to the conversation reduces the ever-present “danger of having only a single story” and in that we reclaim a part of our humanity.

  26. Another question, can you combine the answer with the other one:

    How do we go about counseling or being in a setting to cousel or even getting counseling for people with lgbt orientations?

  27. Dear Ify,

    you don’t know me, but I have been following your blog for a while. I’m a revert, European, living in Indonesia. This homosexuality issue is very interesting to me. I myself am straight (and married to a non-Muslim, but that’s another issue), but what makes this topic somewhat relevant to me personally is that I have been involved in Gender Studies since the time before I accepted Islam. Contemporary Gender Studies is usually very critical of heteronormativity (the opinion that only heterosexual relationships are normal). Naturally, I struggle to reconcile my new faith with the gender theories I’m familiar with.

    There’s one thing I really like about Islam, it has been mentioned a few times here. It is the fact that what really counts are our acts, not our thoughts and feelings. This makes perfectly sense to me. Feeling and thoughts are spontaneous and often uncontrollable. Being a Muslim does not mean that we have to censor our feelings, but that we have to learn not to let our actions be controlled by mere feelings and urges. For example, it is quite natural that a mother might favor one of her children over the others, but she ought not to act on it, that is to treat that child better. It also is absolutely natural that we feel sexual desire for someone who is not our spouse, be it someone of the same sex or of the opposite sex. The desire itself is not a sin. But it would be a sin to act on it by having extra-marital sex.

    I cannot see why coming out, at least the way you do it in this blog, should be harmful or sinful. All you are doing is admitting that you have desires for other women. It would be different, if, for example, you were talking about living with another woman in a marriage-like relationship, asking other Muslims to accept that. That would be a lot more controversial. But there’s nothing sinful about desires. I don’t see why your case should be judged differently from, for example, a straight man admitting that he does feel desire towards women who are not his wives. Would we condemn that, only because he’s saying it out loud?

    Something very interesting that I have learned form gender theories is that homosexuality is a modern concept that is in no way “natural”, and has not always existed. The French philosopher Michel Foucault has written a series of three books with the title “The History of Sexuality”, with very intriguing insights in this regard. Among other things, he shows how the concept of homosexuality was invented in the 19th century. Certainly there have always been homoerotic desires and acts. But the concept that homosexuality is a permanent orientation is rather new. It was mainly invented by doctors in Europe. Foucault then studies classic Greek texts, and he shows that in classic Greek culture the desire of a man towards another man was not considered as basically different that the desire towards a woman. The concept that heterosexual desire is “natural”, while homosexual desire is “perverse”, did not exist at that time. It is a modern idea.

    For us as Muslims this means that we need to realize that our modern ideas about homosexuality and heterosexuality did not exist during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). I cannot find any homophobia in the Quran or the sunnah. What I mean is, I don’t find the concept that the desire for someone of the same sex is abnormal or perverse. What I do find is the concept that we all have desires that we need to control, and that sexual acts outside marriage are forbidden.

    I don’t think we can really say that “homosexuality is forbidden in Islam”. Anal sex is quite clearly considered haram. Mere desire, homoerotic or not, is – as far as I understand – quite clearly not a sin. But how about two men or two women being close to each other, desiring each other, but not going as far as having sex with each other? Is that considered sinful? I’m now knowledgeable enough to answer that. But is seems to me that the boundaries between what is allowed and what is forbidden are not always that clear.

    To make things even more complicated: I read a very interesting book about Islam and heteronormativity by a man called Georg Klauda – unfortunately it’s only available in German, as far as I know. Among other things, he shows that modern homophobia was actually brought to the Islamic world by European colonialists. During colonial times, it was the local westernized elite who started to consider same-sex relations as perverse, and to distance themselves from practices that were rather common in their culture. I am not saying that homoerotic sex was permitted among Muslims at that time. But it seems that the expression of homoerotic desire was rather more accepted and normal in Islamic cultures of that time that it was for the Western colonialists.

    So I think this is a very complicated issue, and we should not be quick to condemn anyone. Additionally, we should be aware that it is not always easy not to mix up our own cultural conditioning with our faith. For example, we do that when we mix our modern concepts about sexuality with qur’anic laws. The Qur’an does not say anything about homosexuality. It only says something about particular homoerotic acts. That’s a huge difference.

    All the best for you, sister. It’s great to know you, even though it’s only through this blog.

    Love,
    Katrin

    1. Katrin!

      Delighted to meet you here and I am so humbled and thankful for your courage in sharing your thoughts and experiences with me.

      There are so many complex issues and double standards related to these discussions. I was once speaking with someone critical of this post who admitted something very normal to the human condition i.e. that he is attracted to women other than his wife. Yet, I don’t think I was able to convey to him and some others just why I chose to write this piece in this way.

      I am familiar with Foucault’s work and ideas. Undoubtedly, we are a product of the culture and ideas which shape us. For me, the popular language of sexuality is limiting but I feel some obligation to try to make the best of it in order to be understood.

      A similar story of how western colonial mores and law has affected the people and cultures of various lands in relation to views of sexuality can be told from Nigeria to Indonesia.

      What I am reading now and grappling with is how culture and reason shapes our perceptions of Islamic law. People often ask me how I can justify homosexuality and I often reply that I don’t feel a need for justification rather I’m simply relating a reality that exists.

      If I am ever in Indonesia, I do hope we can meet in person.

      Much love to you,

      Ify

  28. Asalamoalaykum Sister,

    I do not need to add to what others have already said because I cannot budge you from what you currently believe but as a sister in Islam will give you 3 pieces of advice. Why? Because I care for you :)

    1. Recite salawaat on the Prophet salalahu ‘alayhi wasalam regularly for Allah SWT sends down His Mercy upon those who do. You and all of us need His Mercy. We need His Mercy to come to terms with our shortcomings. His Mercy re-instills within us the drive to search for the Truth.

    2. Make sure you do morning/evening supplications regularly with proper understanding. Inshaa’Allah He swt will protect you from all harm, physical, spiritual and/or intellectual.

    3. Join a Quraan class of tafseer by a proper teacher and seek such gatherings with a sincere heart which is asking for Allah SWT’s guidance in all your affairs. Increase in memorization and recitation of the Quraan. If you can’t do either, increase in listening to it. I promise you, you will find in this activity something which you may have never ever found elsewhere.

    Perhaps you already do all or some of these but this is a gentle reminder that please don’t lose hope in His Mercy. As you do that with your love for Him, please don’t forget that we are supposed to fear Him as well. Taqwa (God consciousness) includes love, hope and fear – all in balance inshaa’Allah.

    May Allah swt protect us and our generations from Shaytan amongst men and Jinns. Ameen.

    -UmmS.

    1. Wa alaykum salaam Umm Sulaym,

      I’d be interested in hearing your views, otherwise I’m not quite sure what aspect you’d like me to “budge” on. And thank you for the reminder as these are part of my regular practice.

  29. Asalaamu ‘alaikum Ify,

    Are you not scared that you may have made the wrong choice? I understand that you may be tired of fighting what may increasingly seem to you to be an intrinsic part of your being, but is that really an excuse to embrace something which, at the very least, is a sin that, as you put it, is targeted so much. Perhaps there’s a reason why it is targeted so much.

    Also have you considered that this internal battle that you’ve waged may be your test in life from Allaah? You’ll acknowledge that human beings all differ in their sexual appetite. Some are tested in this regard more than others; that is to say, some find it much easier to control their desires by satiating them through the permissible avenues than others. Hence, those others will be feel this is a far strenuous test for them than others. But, that’s just the various intricacies that make up a person’s life which Allaah has created. In the end, a person who is easily tempted by the desires has to work harder in disciplining the soul and fighting those forbidden proclivities. As such, this battle is something that is perpetual, and IMO giving up and acting on these forbidden desires no matter how tempting whilst knowing them to be forbidden cannot be a justified excuse. What makes you think this is somehow different to your personal test?

    This could be a dangerous game of Russian Roulette whereby your placing your chips on one thing may be too bigger a risk in the bigger scheme of things.

    I would urge you to rethink your position in this regard and if you are playing the percentages that you err on the side of caution. After all, this road you have now traversed and are heading down could be that wrong turning point in life; that slippery slope from which there may not be a means of redemption.

    Is it worth it sis?

    1. Wa alaykum salaam Lach,

      I’m not sure which “choice” you are referring to and that you believe I have embraced? But I can assure you that I’ve probably spent more time reading, studying, reflecting and trying to understand the complexities of human sexuality than most of my critics. It’s interesting that so often the sources people quote to me are ones that I’ve been steeped in for many years.

      I don’t believe attraction is necessarily a choice nor do I believe it is sinful. The decision to come out was definitely a choice and is not one that I regret as the spiritual and psychological benefits have been immensely positive. Certainly, I have encountered some difficulties and experienced certain losses but I consider these much less important to what has been gained.

      I do believe life is a test and as life is made up of our experiences, each experience can also be a part of that test. I try not to engage in the “justification” arguments as I don’t see that method of discourse as particularly helpful or even relevant. I’m not sure if you’ve read my words carefully or have simply assumed that because I’ve decided to come out that this must mean I agree with a whole set of arguments and suppositions that purport to justify homosexuality.

      Rather, I reject the sort of illusory black-and-white binary distinctions which bring comfort to many. There’s no need to think that someone who identifies as LGBT is not devoutly religious nor that they have “embraced” or “justified” anything nor that they are doing anything “sinful” nor that they have not considered other points of view.

    2. Dear brother/sister

      Is it worth is living in dispair for the rest of your life suppressing something that no rational argument could be made against it? We are confronted everyday with research and statistics on the danger of denying one’s sexuality on oneself.

      I too once struggled reconciling my faith and sexuality until I got to the point that I don’t care anymore. perhaps others like Ify could find a way to reconcile the two. for me, I couldn’t.

      You ask if it’s worth it. Ask the same question the other way around. Is it worth holding on some belief based on some spiritual revelation against rational arguments?

      If you think Ify or me would go to hell for being gay or lesbian (by this I mean “acting upon it”/embrace it), then could it be that the problem is otherwise with your god?

      Salam,

  30. I’m not sure what to think on this topic, but it’s good to read the reasonable explanations and responses for your position.

  31. A moving piece. I think it’s important to remember that before we are black or white, rich or poor, gay or straight, etc. … we are all humans. We have all come from the same starting point at birth, and we are endowed rights that we should never be made to feel bad or shameful of. That being said, to say that it is the responsibility of today’s homosexuals to be out and bring awareness for the sake of future generations of homosexuals is a lot to ask. With societal pressures and peer pressure, publicly declaring homosexuality is still something that doesn’t come easily to ANYONE. The negative thoughts, opinions, and judgements that are placed on open homosexuals is not something that can be cured by more exposure; it is something that is passed down culturally through generations and learned from others. This unfortunate transfer of non-acceptance is what needs to be solved. It shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of currently private homosexuals to blaze a trail for those of the future. A shift in the gay community is not necessary to promote accaptance. Rather, it is a dramatic shift that needs to occur in the anti-gay community that needs to happen. And I do not believe that more public notice of individual sexual orientation will cause that shift, unfortunately.

    1. Welcome ajrockerspeaks,

      I don’t think it is either my position or that of Rachel Maddow to say that everyone should be out but rather that those who can should. Of course, there is often a level of discomfort involved and self-care and self-preservation are always valid considerations. I do believe and the experience of so many has demonstrated that knowing and loving someone from a stigmatized or marginalized group can and does affect our perceptions and actions.

      That being said, I do agree that always asking the already marginalized to educate the majority or make themselves more open to attack is a form of continued oppression. What then is the solution? I don’t believe the shifts we’ve seen in the attitudes towards lgbt people has happened due to the altruism of people outside of the community but rather through a concerted partnership of people willing to push beyond our own comfort zones.

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