A Response to the Huffington Post article, “Why Gay Marriage May Not Be Contrary To Islam”
There is a big push for Muslims to accept homosexual relationships as normal, even as “Islamic’. Various articles have been written including one recent article in the Huffington Post which attempts to muddy the waters between Islam, recognising it as a sin – and whether that means we should oppose state laws that legalise so-called gay ‘marriages’.
The full article can be found here http://m.huffpost.com/ca/entry/5044372?utm_hp_ref=tw but can be summarised as follows:
1. We live in the west and not in a Muslim society.
2. We should afford human rights and equality to all whether gay or not.
3. There’s a difference between sin and criminalisation by law
4. Ibn al Qayyim permitted Zoroastrian incestuous marriages.
1. Normalisation of the sin – We can see that homosexuality is being aggressively normalised in the West and particularly within the Muslim community because it is linked to a specific viewpoint on life i.e. liberal secularism. It is in this context that a debate is created about Muslims and homosexuality – it is about changing and secularising Islam. Any aspect of Islam that doesn’t conform to liberal secular values is to be negated or changed. In this manner, secularism becomes the basis, the fundamental paradigm of determining what is right and wrong to assimilate and integrate Muslims to secular liberalism. The current discussion on homosexuality needs to be viewed in this ideological manner.
2. A ‘sin’ or a ‘crime’ – Although we live in the West but we do not leave our Islam in the Muslim world. Islam views any form of illegal sexual relationship as a grave sin – and a punishable crime, if proven under an Islamic political authority/judicial system. Just because we live somewhere outside of Shariah jurisdiction on this judicial aspect, we should not become normalised to such a grave sin.
3. Responding appropriately according to Islam – In origin, there’s no difference in interacting with a person who has committed sex outside of marriage, committed adultery or a person who engaged in homosexual acts. They are all sinful actions – and (in absence to a State that enforces law and order) what is needed is a discussion and sincere advice, enjoing what is right and forbidding what is wrong. Interaction in the sphere of trade or education doesn’t mean we discriminate by virtue of the particular sin committed as we are still obliged by Islam to interact with them based on the values and morality Islam has dictated.
4. Offering sincere advice about sins – Were a sinful act to be committed by a non Muslim, one response would be to engage them in the dawah, when appropriate, to convince him or her of the Islamic belief and therefore the laws of Islam as a system to regulate his or her life.
If the sinful act were perpetrated by a Muslim, again we need to remind them of their purpose in life and clarify the Islamic ruling and help them to overcome any wrongful transgression that are liable to punishment in the Hereafter. This would include advising about how Allah SWT loves sincere tawbah and people seeking His forgiveness.
Neither approach means ignoring sinful actions – but rather seeking to forbid it with our words, criticise it, provoke thought and explain the correct Islamic position in order to help people change their behaviour for the better. However while discussing or interacting with them on other issues we should not distinguish how we treat them compared to other human beings. E.g. A doctor should not say he won’t treat a person who committed fornication because he believes the action is sinful.
5. A ‘human right’? – The term ‘human rights’ refers to a specific ideological view of justice and rights that conforms to liberal secular rights. For example ‘Personal Freedom’ is the right to act how one feels without restrictions from the State. So if a person performs an action that does not physically harm others then the state should not criminalise that act. It would then follow that if homosexuality is an act between two consenting adults that does not “harm” others, such a relationship would be a “human right.”
Although Islam does not take the ideologically loaded perspective on ‘human rights’ from a liberal secular philosophy, it does believe that humans have certain key rights. Therefore a Muslim’s ontological basis in determining rights for humans is anchored in the Islamic texts and not changing tastes within secular philosophies. Two consenting adults who do not physically harm others do not necessarily have the right to perform an action unless accepted by the Islamic texts. Whereas the inevitable consequence of a liberal view (two consenting adults who do not harm others) would be the permissibility of incest, arguably the next great taboo to be legalized – or as we find in Denmark the permissibility to engage in bestiality so long as the animal remains unharmed!
6. The logical conclusion and societal confusion! – If such an argument were taken to its logical conclusion we’d find some very strange consequences that don’t accord to liberal secular tastes in the UK as they currently stand – but which might one day be argued for based on a liberal secular right to perform such acts.
By contrast Allah SWT clearly states that our laws do not emanate from our desires or those tastes that are relative to the current fashions within society:
“And that you should judge between them by what Allah has revealed, and do not follow their vain desires, and be cautious of them, lest they seduce you from part of what Allah has revealed to you;” [Quran TMQ 5:49]
7. Labeling sexual identity is flawed and divisive – Interestingly secular societies attempt to identify people by their sexuality. This has become an identity above and beyond being human – leading to identities such as a British, white, lesbian, transgender androgynous female. Applying such distinctions turns the treatment of the individual to viewing and interacting with them based on their sexuality above all else. Ironically people will then ask for separate treatment by viewing themselves as a specific and distinct identity based on their sexuality above and beyond being human – whilst at the same time complaining they aren’t being treated like everyone else! As Muslims our interaction with other people isn’t defined by a self-imposed identity. Rather we treat humans as humans defined by the Islamic text.
In addition, comparing sexuality with ethnicity is a false analogy and an attempt to claim that criticism of homosexual acts is akin to being racist. Would anyone say criticism of a person committing adultery is akin to being racist? Sexual acts are acts people choose to perform and are not compelled to engage in. Hence the criticism is against the choice of performing an action that contradicts the legalisation that Allah SWT has laid down whether that violation was to freely choose to perform an act of homosexuality, fornication or missing an obliged prayer.
8. In Islam sins need privacy and remorse, not a public celebration – If a person engages in any sin and tries to keep it private, then Muslims do not seek to expose them nor to ‘out’ them for their sin. In fact it is sinful to expose another persons privately committed sins. This doesn’t mean we accept it as a legitimate lifestyle choice, ignoring the sin of homosexuality.
9. Protection of society trumps individual freedoms in Islam – The essence of secularism is the idea that individuals must separate their personal views on morality from that of State law. It is argued if any person sees an act as sinful they must not seek to enforce their moral code onto others.
However Islam does not operate according to this secular paradigm. A munkar (evil), as defined by Allah and His Messenger, is forbidden in law by the State – and if proved by due process, there is a hadd (prescribed punishment) or there is a taazeer (discretional punishment) adopted by the Islamic State. The evidences for this are numerous but just to quote one verse from the Quran on this:
“Those who, should We establish them in the land (I.e. the rulers), will establish the prayer and pay the zakat and enjoin good and forbid evil; and Allah’s is the end of affairs.” [Quran TMQ 22:41]
This verse obliges the rulers to forbid evil using the mechanism of the State, this point has been mentioned by numerous tafsirs (exegesis) e.g. Ibn Kathir quotes from a speech by Umar Bin Abdal Aziz (rh) who said:
الَّذِينَ إِنْ مَّكَّنَّـهُمْ فِى الاٌّرْضِ
“(Those who, if We give them power in the land….) Then he said, “This is not obligatory only for those who are in authority, it also applies to those who are governed by them. Shall I not tell you what you can expect from your governor, and what duties those who are ruled owe to him Your rights over your governor are that he should check on you with regard to your duties towards Allah and restore the rights that you have over one another, and that he should guide you to the straight path as much as possible. Your duties towards him are that you should obey him without cheating and without resentment, and you should obey him both in secret and openly.”
One cannot claim that in Islam a munkar (evil) cannot be forbidden by the State, rather this is an obligation upon the State to forbid openly committed evil acts to help protect the society’s Islamic values.
One famous narration of the Prophet (saw) exemplifies this point:
The Prophet (SAW) said, “The example of the person abiding by Allah’s order and restrictions in comparison to those who violate them is like the example of those persons who drew lots for their seats in a boat. Some of them got seats in the upper part, and the others in the lower. When the latter needed water, they had to go up to bring water (and that troubled the others), so they said, ‘Let us make a hole in our share of the ship (and get water) saving those who are above us from troubling them. So, if the people in the upper part left the others do what they had suggested, all the people of the ship would be destroyed, but if they prevented them, both parties would be safe.” (Bukhari)
The narration explains that those who violate the limits and laws set by Allah SWT should be forbidden and prevented by Muslims lest the whole society falls into destruction.
So individuals actions are not seen in isolation from the wider society. Individual acts do affect others even if there’s no direct physical harm done by the action e.g. verbal bullying and stalking may not result in direct physical harm but clearly these actions affect others. Similarly even Western societies recognise the dangers and problems of mass pornography available to children and adults alike. Here one person’s free choice does have knock on effects on the rest of society. Islam recognises this and within the paradigm of Islamic values (maqasid as shariah/aims of the shariah) seeks to regulate outward open expression within society to help protect and promote these values.
This perspective of protecting societal values through the application of Islamic law naturally exists within an Islamic society under the Khilafah.
Muslims in the West do not live in a society where a political authority enacts Islamic law; and many would welcome the application of Islamic law within the Muslim world. However, the debate being forced onto the Muslim community isn’t about any political concerns that Muslims may seek to enforce Islamic laws in the UK.
It is about changing the beliefs of Muslims living in the UK under the guise of integration and assimilation. Hence we should be aware of the ideological challenge we face to our beliefs living in the West, which seeks to change the framework, and basis upon which we act.
10. Using pseudo-jurisprudence – It was argued that Ibn al Qayyim permitted Zoroastrian incestuous marriages.
The argument is as follows: Muslims didn’t prohibit a sinful act of incestuous marriage between non Muslims, therefore Muslims do not seek to enforce their religious views on society. Thus gay marriages should not be opposed by Muslims and accept its establishment in society.
There are a number of strange twists going on, not least the opinion of Ibn al Qayyim on the matter. Firstly the verse of Quran 22:41 mentioned above clearly shows a relationship between what Islam commands and prohibits and the necessary implementation by State law.
Secondly, Ibn al Qayyim discussed a minority view in his book ‘Ahkam Ahlel Dhimmah’ (Laws related to the non Muslims who live under the Islamic State) specifically related to the Zoroastrians based on an assumed evidence from the Sunnah.
There were two views attributed to Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, the majority opinion being that such marriages (incestuous marriages of the Zoroastrians) should be prohibited by the Islamic State even if conducted between non Muslim dhimmah. The second opinion attributed to him was that such marriages conducted by the Zoroastrians that accords to their belief is allowed for them unless they seek arbitration in an Islamic court which would then rule their marriage as invalid. This minority opinion was based on an evidence from the time of the Prophet (saw) where he did not explicitly nullify by the State such marriages amongst the Zoroastrian. However in the Khilafah of Umar (ra) all ‘self marriages’ by the Zoroastrians were explicitly nullified. Ibn al Qayyim discussed why Umar (ra) did this and why it seems the Prophet (saw) didn’t explicitly forbid and nullify such marriages by the non Muslims. His conclusion was that dominance of the Islamic authority over Persia hadn’t fully materialised during the time of the Prophet (saw) and therefore he (saw) couldn’t exercise such authority to nullify these invalid marriages. If the Prophet (saw) had such political authority to nullify such self marriages he (saw) would have done so. However, it was only during the Khilafah of Umar (ra) that this authority had become manifest and thus the Islamic State had now the capability to enforce the law upon the Zoroastrians.
Ibn Al Qayyim then goes on to say about Umar’s (ra) forbiddance of these incestuous marriages, “This is amongst his (Umar) best and strongest ijtihads (Islamically derived opinions), one that is most beloved by Allah and His Messenger, for it is one of the most vilest acts, hated by Allah and His Messenger, that a man should marry his daughter, his mother or his aunt. There cannot be any doubt to remove this practise from existence is more dearer to Allah and His Messenger than to confirm it… (Umar’s view) is dearer to us than what is reported on this matter on the authority of Ahmad (ibn hanbal)” Ahkam Ahlel Dhimmah
Ibn al Qayyim does not seem to be justifying the recognition and permission for non Muslim incestuous self marriages (in fact he believes it’s Umar’s (ra) best and strongest ijtihads to forbid it). However there is a minority difference of opinion on the subject of Zoroastrian self marriages. But such ikhtilaf (difference of opinion) cannot be a reason to then justify a completely separate issue of gay marriages. Interestingly in ‘Close Relationships: Incest and Inbreeding in Classical Arabic Literature’ By G. J. H. Van, it discusses in detail the issue of Zoroastrian self marriages and the Islamic view on this, but also explicitly makes the point that all the Islamic jurists agreed that homosexuality should be banned whether done by Muslims or non Muslims and that the minority ikhtilaf based on a specific ruksaa (exemption to the general rule) for Zoroastrians can never be used to justify homosexuality.
Clearly then Ibn al Qayyim didn’t approve of self marriages and supported the abolishment of such practises by the Islamic State and that such a discussion was never used to justify homosexual acts upon which all the scholars agreed it needed to be forbidden by State authority.