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    Speak up or be forgotten


    The Quran, the holy book of Islam consists of, 114 chapters, 6,236 verses, 77,943 words and 323,620 letters, and not one of every single verse that stated about homosexuality.

    Unfortunately, there are some conservative, fundamentalist Muslims who even think, being gay is haram(forbidden) and that you are no longer consider a Muslim if you are gay or lesbian or trans or queer, and the evidence they get is from the story of Lot.

    I read the Story of Lot time and time again. It mentions in both the holy scriptures (Quran and Bible). To me, it wasn’t making sense. Why would God or Allah destroy a whole town or city including women and children if the menfolk were homosexual? If we were to look at the issues, the mortal heterosexual men desired Angels in the guise of men and there were other issues at play too — power, gluttony, control, rape, promiscuity, incest, consent, tests of faith and loyalty to Allah or God, idolatry and worship of deities, intoxication, and amongst other issues, which had no bearings on being gay itself.

    In Singapore, most lgbtqi Malay Muslims are living in closeted.  Some just did not want to seek help as they think, it is not necessary to be known to the public and others decided to be out of Islam because, that is the best choice for them to be who they are as a gay person, without any religious attachment.

    Through these spectrums, we can see how marginalized the Malay Muslim lgbtqi community here in Singapore. It can even lead to committing suicide or suicidal tendencies when this marginalised community is not being addressed in the more civil and social-minded ways. The trauma of how some must go through conversion therapy, the harsh punishment from their parents, being disowned by their loved ones and teens being bullied by their schoolmates and friends, due to their effeminate tendencies or behaviour. These are the reasons why most Malay Muslims lgbtqi are closeted. The fear of speaking out still exist here in Singapore, and also within their neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.

    In the US, young Muslims who often feel different about homosexuality than their elders are increasingly speaking out in support of gay rights, as religious scholar, Reza Aslan and comedian Hasan Minaj did in an open letter to American Muslims after last year’s Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.

    Even though according to the 2014 Pew research study shows, Muslim Americans are less accepting of homosexuality than Americans as a whole: 47 percent of US Muslims said it should be discouraged while 45 percent said it should be accepted. That itself does not stop the young Muslims American to support gay rights, in fact, it gives them much freedom of expression for them to speak out to the Muslims in America.

    Therefore, as a Young Malay Muslims in Singapore, they should take a stand and voice out their views about lgbtqi, as to whether they supported this lgbtqi community or they are not. It is their future to live within this diverse ethnic community in peace and harmony. With their stand and voice, at the very least, will encourage the closeted Malay Muslims lgbtqi to be more open and receptive. I truly believe the young Malay Muslims here, do have their support toward lgbtqi but with their silence, it will not let the truth prevail.

    As Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs said: “Younger Muslims will be increasingly confronted with the LGBT issue, with society becoming more open.”

    I believe that is an invitation for the young Malay Muslims to come out and voice out their views on lgbtqi.

    A focus group discussion between the lgbtqi Malay Muslims and young Malay Muslims should be encouraged. Furthermore, the progressive values of some Muslims within this community should be addressed as well. To be tolerance without knowing why is not enough, we need to understand why there is a need of tolerance, not just for non-Muslim but also for other Muslims that has a different kind of understanding about Islam.

    We need to find ways to bring our Malay Muslims community united in diversity. Additional to that, we also need to re-look and re-transliterate the story of Lot. To be able to open the minds of some conservative Muslims to understand what is the actual moral of the story, behind this story of Lot in the Quran.

    I hope with this first initiative from The Healing Circle.sg, to start a one step forward to bring the Young Malay Muslims community to speak out or you will all be forgotten due to your silence.

    Zuby Eusofe


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    ~National Coming Out Day ~


    As Richard Eichberg once said:

    Most people think they don’t know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact, everybody does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes.”

    Two days ago, LGBT community celebrated the National Coming Out Day, but to me Coming Out can be any day that you feel you need to be your true self and not letting others coming your way to be who you really are.

    In fact, Deloitte Consulting has conducted research and they found out that 61 percent of people do not reveal their true selves.

    “Fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging.” Dr Brene Brown. Fitting in means adjusting yourself to meet the expectations of others. When people repress themselves, they are likely to repressing their ideas as well, which means that some sizable percent of potential creativity is simply lost.

    However, the bravest people to be coming out of being who they are, isn’t just the LGBT individuals, but, their loved ones who are brave enough to stand with them especially their children or siblings and outed themselves to simply say, “Yes, my parents/sister/brother is gay or lesbian.”

    Because they are not just accepted but embraced the existence of their loved ones who are gay or lesbian.

    They know they will be discriminated and shunned by society for what they have done, but with their coming out, give the confidence to their loved ones to be who they really are in the society at large.

    The fundamental belief is that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance and that once people know that they have loved ones who are lesbian or gay, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views.

    Let’s take this Coming Out moment, to commemorate the day, Zach Wahls’ Coming Out to the mainstream community that his parents are gay.  Zach is the child of two lesbians: Terry Wahls, an internal medicine physician, and Jackie Reger, a nurse.

    In 2011, when Zach was nineteen and a sophomore civil engineering student at the University of Iowa, an organization had invited him to testify before the Iowa’s House of Representatives about a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. This wasn’t his first time outed himself to the public. Back in 2004, Zach outed himself being raised by a gay parent in front of his class.

    So, in that House of Representatives, Zach gave his eloquent argument for equality and told the assembly how his mothers had raised him with good moral character, and with love, and that this love had nothing to do with the fact that they were gay.

    This was his speech on that eventful day in 2011:

    “So what you’re voting here isn’t to change us. It’s not to change our families, it’s to change how the law views us; how the law treats us. You are voting for the first time in the history of our state to Codify Discrimination into our constitution, a constitution that but for the proposed amendment is the least amended constitution in the USA.

                  You are telling Iowans that some among you are second-class citizens who do not have the right to marry the person you love.

                  So will this vote affect my family? Will it affect yours?

                  In the next two hours, I’m sure we’re going to hear plenty of testimony about how damaging having gay parents is on kids.  But in my 19 years, not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple.  And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of my character.”

    “It was a love letter to my parents,” Zach says of that speech. He also felt a sense of duty to stand for others who couldn’t speak for themselves.

    As for me, a lesbian with a 22-year-old son, I totally agree with what Zach Wahl has mentioned that to be a gay parent doesn’t make my children be gay as well.

    Written by:
    Zuby Eusofe,
    The Healing Circle.sg
    13 October 2018



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    Mercy To All Creations: The Muslim LGBT’s dilemma in Religious Spaces – by Zuby Eusofe



    As Muslims, when it comes to religious spaces, the best place is the mosque. A sacred place where every Muslim goes to be one with Allah. A place of seeking peace and calm in a serene environment where you can go into the holistic vortex of communication with Allah.

    But not for LGBT Muslims like me.

    It’s different, even weird, for us to be in a mosque when many people will look at us as if we’re aliens. Firstly, our physical appearance usually shuns us away from the ‘normal’ muslim community.  Secondly, there is too much ‘dakwah policing’ from those who are not even selected nor elected by any mosque committee and their eyes are glued on you as if you’re a criminal that has committed the greatest sin upon Allah’s eyes.

    One of my friends, for example, was chased away because of her butch appearance. She was chased away while trying to put on the prayer garment (telekung). One makcik came towards her, looked at her from head to toe, and gave a sneering remark: “Kamu ni bukan perempuan tulen, tak leh sembahyang kat sini.”  (You are not a “real” woman, so you can’t pray here.)

    My friend’s intention to be in a mosque to find solace with Allah was halted by this makcik, who thinks that what she did will gain her reward in Jannah (Paradise).

    It’s sad but true. This incident is just one of many others that I can tell you about the dilemma and obstacles we, as Muslims from the LGBT community, are facing daily.

    Due to this, some of us will even go to the extent of leaving Islam because some Muslim people within the sphere are convinced that what they did is not wrong.

    During the days when I was closeted and in my hijab, I remember there was a woman in a mosque who specifically policed ladies who just came back from the office and were wearing corporate clothing in short skirts. She would just say bluntly in an authoritative manner: “Ok, if you ladies are coming here, please have the decency to bring along a sarong before entering the mosque, or else don’t come and do your prayer here.”

    Seriously, why do these makciks or pakciks (aunties and uncles) think they have the ‘rule of thumb’ on telling people what to wear and when not to pray within the mosque?

    Since when did Allah need these kind of people to protect Allah from seeing indecency?

    Allah sees us from the beginning of our soul to the day we died, and that is as naked as Allah has seen us as human beings – Allah’s creation.

    [On the authority of Abu Hamzah Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) – the servant of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) – that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said :

    “None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.”

    Related by Bukhari & Muslim]

    This hadith is strongly correlated with the Golden Rule which is “do as to others what you want to yourself.”

    Would these makciks and pakciks want that to happen to them, being hostile and aggressive towards others whom they may assume to lack Islamic knowledge just because they didn’t dress up the way other mosque-goers do?

    Where is the love and kindness that are seemingly obligatory for Muslims to show to everyone, regardless of race, culture, religion, or creed? As mentioned in Quran:

    “We have not sent you except as a mercy to the worlds.” – Surah Al-Anbiya 21:107

    And our Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessing be upon him) reiterated in the hadiths:

    Those who are merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One above the heavens will have mercy upon you.

    Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 1924, Grade: Sahih

    In the word Mercy according to the Islamic context, it derives from two words: Ar-Rahman (Most Gracious-Merciful) and Ar-Rahim (Most Compassion).

    It is the most common name occurring in the Quran. Rahman and Rahim both derive from the root Rahmat, which refers to tenderness and benevolence.

    Thus, this shows that for Muslims, it is important to treat everyone with kindness and tenderness, and this will not happen if the individual does not have the feeling of compassion and love for one another.

    Going back to the issue of religious spaces for LGBT muslims here in Singapore, I can simply state that it is difficult for us to be in the mosque and commune in religious congregations with other Muslims as their ‘fear’ leads to discrimination towards LGBT muslims. They have the privilege to be with the rest of the Muslim community who are already a minority in this country. Us LGBT muslims do not have that privilege. We are the minority within the minorities.

    We are being alienated and accused as an apostate (due to our gender marker) unless the higher Muslim authority are willing to give us that religious space for us to be in oneness with Allah in peace, and to be part of the congregation without prejudice and discrimination from other Muslims.

    I remember the moment I did my umrah (pilgrimage to Mecca). It was around 3 am in the wee hours of the morning. I was wearing a morroccan taub (Morroccan Long Garment for Men) and I also wore my hijab. I was mocked by a young Arab man.  He tried to pull down my hijab and said that my attire did not represent a true Muslimah dressing. At that point of time, I was not comfortable wearing the telekung (the prayer gown worn by muslims women). I was more comfortable with wearing something that is masculine but loose.  I believe that regardless of the attire I am wearing, if I a covered myself decently, it is enough for me and no one has the right to judge or discriminate me whatsoever. My decency belongs to Allah and Allah alone.

    And only Allah that I seek mercy and repentance…

    Rahmatan lil’alamin (Mercy to all creations)


    Zuby Eusofe is an LGBT Muslims activist and the founder of The Healing Circle.
    She and her inspiring team hope that one day, LGBT Muslims will be accepted within the community without prejudice and discrimination from other Muslims.

    She is also a writer and blogger.  She has written two stories for Perempuan and Growing Up Perempuan.

    The article is taken from :  https://beyondhijab.sg/2018/10/25/mercy-to-all-creations-the-muslim-lgbts-dilemma-in-religious-spaces/

    Illustration by Ishibashi Chiharu

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  • Discrimination – Same sex couple being detained at the Singapore Immigration.



    Recently I was detained by the Singapore Immigration Authority when re-entering Singapore.

    It was an unpleasant experience and I was kept and questioned for about 45 minutes.

    I was asked who I’m with and said I’m with my partner who I pointed to waiting for me to come through immigration.   I was asked for my flight details to and from Ireland.  I submitted this but my return to Ireland was still 6 months away.  I was held in a back office while my partner was being questioned. I was able to tell my partner that I will be telling the truth of the situation, knowing full well that I may be deported.  It was a risk I was prepared to take because for too many years I have been treated differently to heterosexual married couples.


    In the meantime, I was sitting and waiting.  Eventually, a different person came to question me.  I was allowed to enter shortly after this.


    What I told immigration:

    “We are a legally married couple and have been married for 10 years.  My spouse works in Singapore and for the past couple of years, I only get to see my spouse for 5 months of the year.”

    This situation put a strain on our marriage and we came to the decision to stay together immaterial of the risk.  As a lesbian married couple, our marriage is not recognized by the Singapore government.  Year one I made certain that I left Singapore before my 3 months was up.  I told immigration they can check my passport and see that I have entry stamps, showing what I have had to do to remain with my spouse legally, albeit is a tourist.

    I was asked where I live if I work in Ireland and what I do to occupy my time.

    I’m retired, I’m a housewife and I work with the stray cats in Singapore.  I was asked if I get paid to work with the stray cats to which I responded does anyone get paid to work with stray cats.


    This situation made me feel less than human, my privacy was violated, and my human rights were violated.


    I’m not asking for special treatment, I’m only asking for my human rights!


    Written by: FEMI

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    THE PRAYER STONE: A Queer Muslim’s Story of Connection


    I tell myself Allah—God—is watching and guiding my life. I used to talk to Him when I was a teenager, before I had a name for Him. I talked to Him before I came out of the closet as a gay man in my early 20s. I talked to Him when I went back in the closet several years later, believing my sexuality would keep me from getting closer to Him on my newfound path as a Muslim. And I talked to Him again last year, when, after nearly 30 years, I finally realized that, for better or worse, it was time to fully own who I am and come back out again.

    The question was, and is, can I really do that and still hang onto my Muslim faith?

    Sometimes after I talk to Him, Allah responds. It’s not always right away. The response comes in subtle ways, through a moment or a sign. He’ll show me something I need to see, or answer a long-held question, or clarify something that’s bothered me for years. One of those moments happened recently, while I was attending for the first time a retreat for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims.

    To be openly gay and Muslim in the 21st century America is, to say the least, to be part of a pretty select group. LGBT Muslims are among the most rejected and least understood minorities on the planet. We are shunned by our mainstream Muslim brothers and sisters, who condemn our authentic expressions of sexuality. And we are met with blank stares by friends and allies in the LGBT community, who cannot understand why we would hold onto a religion with such a violent history of intolerance against us. That’s why the safe space afforded by the annual Retreat for LGBT Muslims and Their Partners, organized by the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD) and now in its seventh year, is so precious.

    Experiencing this space for the first time, as I did one Saturday in October outside Philadelphia, was profound. It was a gathering like none I’d ever attended: a blend of tradition and edge, youth and maturity, freedom and devotion, all with a distinctly Islamic feel. My fellow participants were black, white, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, and everything else in between and beyond. Brothers walked arm in arm, sisters held hands, same sex couples embraced on outdoor benches scattered throughout the park-like grounds. Some heads were covered and some were not, hairstyles were all shapes and colors, tattoos were written in Arabic on legs, chests, and bulging biceps, and body piercings were everywhere.

    There were workshops and plenaries, delicious meals and communal prayers.  We prayed in an old Christian chapel where the long, wooden pews were pushed aside to make room for thick, plush prayer rugs. The prayers themselves were traditional. But men and women prayed side by side instead of in separate sections, and women alternated with men leading those prayers, something that never happens in mainstream mosques. Circling up afterward, we offered spontaneous duas – supplications asking Allah’s blessings. Some were in Arabic, some in English, some traditional, others simply from the heart. It was real and raw and human: a community asking for Allah’s help as it works to claim its space by affirming things the rest of the Muslim world has rejected. It was the most vibrant celebration of love, devotion, diversity and support I’ve ever been part of in connection with my chosen faith.


    I found my own spiritual path more than two dozen years ago, after I’d become disillusioned with the gay life I’d embraced in college. Coming out in the early 1980s was a joyous, exuberant experience, but the supportive gay community that meant so much to me broke apart after we all graduated. I felt increasingly alone and adrift trying to connect with the larger gay community, which at that time was preoccupied with increasingly strident political activism and coping with the AIDS epidemic. The bar scene was no longer working for me, there were no dating apps like Grindr or OkCupid back then, and I lacked the social skills to meet the overwhelming need I felt for nurturing and connection. I began looking elsewhere as the next chapter of my life unfolded.

    I’d long searched for a spiritual teaching that fit for me. The Protestantism I was raised with always felt bland and generic; it failed to help me understand more deeply the Power I felt inside me. In college I studied Zen Buddhism, devoured the mystical writings of Carlos Castaneda, and read books by psychics who claimed to channel spirits from the beyond. After school I checked out a cult whose leader, though later discredited, based his approach on well-respected Hindu teachings. But it wasn’t until I found a community whose teacher preached a clear, practical form of Sufism—the centuries-old mystical tradition that flowered in and around Islam—that I felt like I’d come home. In that community and through those teachings, I found the connection to God and the sense of shared values and safety I craved.

    The one price of admission was the free expression of my sexuality. Not all Sufi teachers frown on homosexuality, but this one did. It was not a hellfire-and-brimstone, gays-should-be-killed kind of thing. But the guidance was clear: a person seeking God won’t engage in this. In my state of disillusionment with gay life, this seemed like a small price to pay for what I got in return: a brand new life in a welcoming community. I let go of the few gay friends I had left, wrapped up life where I was living, found a job near this community, and started over. I immersed myself in Sufi teachings, learned to pray as a Muslim, made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and became an enthusiastic participant in my new life. I struggled in the beginning to put away my gay identity. There were lonely, late-night drives through the gay areas of my new city, and I wrestled with ongoing attractions to other guys. While the yearning never went away, the acceptance and sense of belonging I found in my new community eventually helped ease the pain.  I became comfortable with a new identity, which, while less authentic, allowed me to walk a new path for the next two dozen years.


    During Saturday morning breakfast at the retreat, I sat in on an informal “Converts’ Caucus” then made my way across the wooded campus to attend the Prayer 101 workshop. It was held in a large meeting space and billed as a class for Muslims who, due to discomfort or shaming in their communities, may not have learned salat.  Salat is the formal prayer Muslims everywhere perform each day, standing, bowing, and prostrating as we face the Kaaba, God’s House, located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  Before addressing specifics, the Progressive Muslim scholar leading the workshop had us talk about the different varieties of Islamic prayer. I was struck by the diversity of traditions in the room. There were Sunni Muslims, who pray the way I learned; Shia Muslims, who have a slightly different approach; Ismaili Muslims, who pray three times a day instead of five; and a few Sufis, who, like me, supplement their formal prayers with a form of meditation on God called zikr.

    At one point a woman in the group started talking about the “stone” she uses when she prays. At first this didn’t make sense to me, because I had never heard of stones used in connection with daily prayers. But as she was speaking, it suddenly occurred to me that I may have seen one of these things before. I asked if she had one with her. She did, and as she passed it across the room, a shock of recognition flushed through my body.

    The “stone” was smooth and round and felt soft to the touch, as if it had been lying at the bottom of a stream for centuries. I later learned it wasn’t actually a stone at all. It’s called a Turbah, and it’s made of clay taken from the ancient city of Karbala, located in modern-day Iraq, which Shia Muslims consider a holy place. Shias place them on the ground in front of them when they pray so their heads touch a piece of sacred earth when they prostrate before God. Turbahs are often stamped with some kind of prayer or inscription in Arabic.

    I didn’t know any of this as I held the inscribed disc in my hand. What I DID know—and what that shock of recognition was about—was that I had not only seen one of these before, I actually owned one. And the story of how I got it—where it came from, who gave it to me, and how I’d always wondered what it was—was suddenly connecting two very different parts of my life in a way I could never have imagined.

    There’s a woman I’ve known at work for more than 20 years. I’ll call her Shelley.  We were assigned to work together, and at some point we got to talking. And for whatever reason, in the course of that conversation, she came out to me as lesbian. She had no idea at the time that I been out as a gay man earlier in my life. No one at work did. But for some reason, something in her trusted me enough that she decided to share this part of herself.  We never discussed it further, but somewhere inside, it always bothered me that I’d never reciprocated by opening up about my past.

    A number of years went by, and Shelley and I moved into different jobs at the same company. One evening she came over to my desk and explained she was at a festival recently where there was a Muslim table and she thought of me and picked something up. She said she had no idea what it was—she herself was not Muslim—but she knew it was a Muslim thing, and something told her I was meant to have it. She handed me this smooth, round object with Arabic script stamped into it.

    I was taken aback at first, because I didn’t remember ever discussing my faith with her. And I had no idea what she was giving me. It was clearly outside the Sunni tradition I follow. I recognized the name of Allah on it, so I accepted it and thanked her. But it held little meaning for me. It sat gathering dust on my desk for years. Eventually I relegated it to a bottom drawer and forgot about it.

    Well, my friend had given me a Turbah. But it wasn’t just any friend, it was my GAY friend: one of the only openly gay people I let into my world at a time when I went out of my way to avoid gay people, and one of the only people at work who had discovered I am Muslim. This friend, who had trusted me with a deeply personal part of herself, a part I had long since rejected in myself—THIS was the friend who delivered a mysterious, faith-related gift without even knowing what it was. It was as if she was a vehicle for getting it to me on behalf of someone or something else. How interesting it was that only now, years later—only AFTER I decided to come out again, only AFTER I resolved to welcome back my gay self—would I finally come to know what this object is. That’s all I could think about as I sat holding that Turbah in my hand during our Prayer 101 class at the retreat.

    Allah was speaking to me again.


    I gave up my gay identity in my youth because I accepted a version of Islam that said I couldn’t find Allah and be gay at the same time. With the devotional fervor of a new believer, I created not just a closet but a dungeon for my gay self. And in doing so, I missed an important point: accepting someone else’s teaching about God is not the same as hearing what God Himself, through my own heart, might actually be saying.

    I spent years brushing off uninvited crushes on male co-workers, hiding romantic impulses toward male friends, and fighting off the happier memories of my gay past before I finally woke up to the fact that, despite all the work I’d done, the gay self I’d locked up had never died or gone away. He’d been alive all that time, living underground alongside my well-intended Muslim self and the rest of me. By avoiding and denying him, I’d arrived at the doorstep of middle age with a life half-lived. I finally realized it was time to stop pretending and welcome him back. For better or worse, I told myself, Allah will understand.

    I tell myself the story of the prayer stone, my Turbah, is a sign that He not only will understand, He has understood all along. At a time when my heart was still divided, when I told myself and the world I was no longer gay, He sent a gay friend to come out to me, reminding me gently of my own truth. A few years later, He sent the same friend back with a gift, a reminder that, as much as I had learned about my faith, there was even more I didn’t know. And finally, as my heart opened again on the inside, He opened a door on the outside, in the form of this retreat, and, it seems, delivered a message:

    “I’ve been watching and waiting for years for you to see the completeness of who you are. You can’t return to Me divided. Walk your path fully now, live your truth as the man I created you to be. I’ve always been here and never left. In the end, it will work out okay.”

    Along with that message came example after example—the brothers and sisters I met at the retreat—of how my chosen spiritual path CAN co-mingle with my gay identity. It’s now up to me to choose what that will look like in my own life. And as that work gets underway, my prayer stone has returned to its original place on my desk, infused now with new meaning: a sweet reminder of what was, what is and what always will be.



    NOTE: Khabir Cory uses a pen name to protect the privacy of those who didn’t ask to be part of his unusual journey.


    Image By: Khabir Cory

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    Selamat Hari Raya! Let’s have a “qonversation”

    ~ By Shafeeqah

    On 6 July, Raya Qonversation, an event co-organised by Gender Equality is Our Culture (GEC), LGBTQ organisations Jejaka and The Healing Circle SG, and a support group for Muslim women, Penawar, was held. The event allowed individuals who identify as queer and queer allies to come together and celebrate Hari Raya in a safe space while discussing topics related to gender, sexuality and faith.

    The night opened with a sharing session by some participants on the current scholarship of gender and sexual diversity in Islam. They brought up ideas that were discussed by the scholars, namely, capturing the discussion of sexual diversity through karamah (the concept of dignity in Islam). They discussed how classical and contemporary scholars have shown that there is space in Islam for an understanding of religious texts that are more inclusive (of gender and sexuality) and does not limit interpretations through the perspective of gender binary.

    With the tone set for the night, audience members chimed in with their individual perspectives and personal experiences. Many voiced their hopes for greater inclusivity in mosques, here in Singapore. Such establishments are beginning to crop up in cities around the world. For example, a participant shared her experience of worshipping at The Open Mosque in Cape Town – where there was no gender segregation and prayers were led by an openly gay Imam. While alternative displays of religious practice could raise some eyebrows in the Singaporean Muslim community, it was obvious that many in the room that night shared similar sentiments and aspirations.

    In between bites of rainbow kek lapis and rainbow cookies, the discussion took a more serious turn as participants reflected on the question – is being gay a trial from God? This notion of sexuality as a trial is often used against individuals who identify as queer within the Muslim community. It demands them to reflect, repent and to ‘get back onto the right path’ because many in the community sees homosexuality, or any other sexual orientation that deviates from heteronormativity, as being unacceptable. The audience noted that for some, this notion is more than just self-doubt and self-hatred; it is a form of internalised homophobia, and that working to correct the thinking can be liberating for the individual.

    The event concluded with a hopeful speech by the organisers that there should be more enlightening conversations as the ones had in this session.

    Even though the night was filled with heavy conversations, there was still much joy and cheer as everyone mingled and bonded while snacking on Raya food. Not to mention, everyone came dressed for the event in their best kebaya and baju melayu, it felt like we were having a Hari Raya open house of our own!

    GEC is a project that promotes gender-equitable interpretations of culture within the Muslim community.
    Jejaka is a support group that provides support to gay Malay Muslim men in Singapore.
    The Healing Circle.sg aims to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ Malay Muslims to embrace both their spirituality and sexual orientation.
    Penawar is a support group for women raised in Muslim households.

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    It is okay to speak up my friend….

    Mohamed is a 50-year-old Muslim man who has been gay all his life. He is also living all alone surrounded by six cats, in a tiny HDB flat. He spends his days in a job he thinks is unfulfilling as a telemarketer, and at night he finds purpose and meaning feeding all the stray cats in the neighbourhood. He doesn’t come out to his colleagues or friends about his sexual orientation. Neither does he join support groups or gay parties as he thinks “it is not necessary”.

    In Singapore, most LGBTQI Malay Muslims are living lives in silent existence.  Some just do not want to seek help or be identified with any kind of movement as they think, it is not necessary to be open about their sexual identity.  They live lives of “quiet desperation” as Thoreau describes it.

    There are some Malay Muslims who left Islam because of the negative views of homosexuality in cultural traditions. Through this lens, we can see how marginalised the Malay Muslim LGBTQI community in Singapore is. Living lives of suppressed identities can be unfulfilling at best, or worse, traumatic and dysfunctional. Not being able to reveal or express your truest self, can even lead to depression or suicidal tendencies. The trauma of being forced to undergo religious indoctrination, conversion therapy, harsh punishment from their parents and also bullying (especially for those who display more effeminate qualities for men) by relatives and friends, are the reasons why most Malay Muslims LGBTQI remain in the closet.

    Reza who is a closet gay was blackmailed by one of his friends with exposure to his parents if he does not comply with her unreasonable requests. So guys like Reza and many others live at the mercy of their peers to behave or else they face the threat of punishment or being ostracised by families. The fear of speaking out still exists here in Muslim communities in Singapore, and also within neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.

    In the US, young Muslims are increasingly speaking out in support of gay rights, as religious scholar Reza Aslan and comedian Hasan Minaj did in an open letter to American Muslims after the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in 2016.

    Even though, a 2014 Pew research study shows, Muslim Americans are less accepting of homosexuality than Americans as a whole. 47 percent of US Muslims said it should be discouraged while 45 percent said it should be accepted. That itself does not stop young Muslim Americans to support gay rights. In fact, the young Muslim Americans speak out to the general Muslim public, mostly to their elders, to be more accepting and tolerant of the gay community.

    Young Malay Muslims in Singapore should exercise their right to speak up and voice out their views, as to whether they support the LGBTQI community or not. As young people, they own the future to shape the way Singaporeans live within this diverse community of differences and similarities. With their voices heard, at the very least, it will encourage the Malay Muslims who are gay and silent, to be more supported. A united voice will send a signal to the general public that everyone has the right to live in peace and harmony. I truly believe that the young Malay Muslims here do support and have the love for their Muslim brothers and sisters from the LGBTQI community. But with their silence, such heartfelt feelings will remain buried and forgotten.

    As Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs said: “Younger Muslims will be increasingly confronted with the LGBTQI issue, with society becoming more open.” I believe that is an invitation for the young Malay Muslims to come out and voice out their views on LGBTQI.

    As a start, dialogue between the Malay Muslims LGBTQI community and young Malay Muslims should be encouraged. Furthermore, the progressive values of some Muslims within this community should be addressed as well. To ask for tolerance without knowing why is not enough. We need to understand why there is a need for tolerance for other Muslims that has a different kind of understanding about Islam.

    We should find ways to bring our Malay Muslim community to be united in diversity. In addition to that, we also need to re-look and re-interpret the story of Lot. To be able to open the minds of Muslims to understand what is the actual moral of the story, as stated in the Quran. With more critical thinking based on this story, it will open doors to further discussion and be dissecting that will lead to better understanding of one another.

    I hope with this first initiative from The Healing Circle.sg to take one step forward that brings all members of the young Malay Muslim community together, we will have a more robust, intellectual and courageous exchange of ideas.


    *Note: All names have been changed.

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    Misguided Wisdom

    I was dumbfounded to hear from my godson that after conversing with our Shaykh (religious scholar), they concluded that I had become a lesbian because I was a single parent and was both mother and father to my son.

    This is the most outrageous remark I have ever heard, let alone from a scholar.

    Some things that upset me:

    1. Apparently, 20 years of being a single parent magically transformed me into a lesbian.
    2. Why is it that two men, one of whom has never been a parent, feel the right to presume they know what being a single parent or being a lesbian is like?
    3. Due to his position in the community, the scholar’s nonsensical reasoning is likely to be adopted unquestioningly by many people.

    It will not surprise anybody to learn that there are a lot of single mothers who are heterosexual. It will probably also not surprise anybody to learn that I had feelings for girls not just before I was a single parent, but even before I was married.

    I realised I was a lesbian when I was really young, probably around 6 or 7 years old. I loved playing with boys’ toys, wearing boys’ clothes, and playing with boys. I remember once my mom bought me this big, plastic doll, and I yanked out the doll’s head and used it to play soccer with my brother. I remember when I was undergoing puberty, I wondered when my penis would start to grow from between my legs. Being masculine made me feel most like myself, and gave me the freedom to be who I was.

    I had crushes on girls but suppressed them because I did not know what it was or how I should react to it, especially because most of my classmates had crushes on or were going steady with the opposite gender. Back then, there was no such thing as LGBT or gay or lesbian. But I knew that I was different. I even went for conversion therapy with an Islamic medium to try to be straight or ‘normal’ (more on that story another time).

    I knew that I was not interested in men at all and I did not even think of getting married. Unfortunately, I was matchmade and married to a man whom I didn’t even have the chance to really know well. Five times, I tried to break off the engagement; Five times I failed. As the daughter of an ustazah (religious teacher), I knew that if I came out publicly or lived an authentic life, it would have devastating repercussions for her. She probably would not have been able to stay an ustazah. So even though I knew that I did not want to be married, out of a mix of fear and love, I sought to preserve my mum’s reputation in the community and lived a fairytale life as a married woman. I was trapped in my fake, closeted life.

    It was only after my mother’s death, eight years after my divorce, that I began to accept myself. I finally let myself fall in love, and I came to terms with who I was and who I am.

    But back to the religious scholar and my godson. First of all, both of them know me. If they wanted to know more about me or my sexual orientation, they could easily have asked me. Though I had previously come out to my godson, no one, not even my godson, has the right to treat my life story as a conversation topic, especially when it concerns a very personal and intimate part of my life.

    I would much rather the scholar have clarified with me first. Unfortunately, this rarely happens because women have no right to speak to male scholars directly and need to have a (male) middle person intercede on their behalf. This is the 21st century. Why do we still need men to be the voice of women? Why can’t women have their own voices, their own opinions? I feel this needs to be stopped. At the very least, I would have preferred if the scholar had just concluded that he did not know why I was a lesbian, rather than making assumptions.

    This is especially because his half-baked opinions can have a lot of consequences. His opinions are amplified by the fact that he is well-known and people look up to him. Furthermore, it is common in our culture for people to adopt an ideology wholesale from scholars without using their own personal intellect. They have let the scholars become their Quran and their intellect. This is ironic, given that in the Quran, Allah referred to these people as deaf and dumb.

    “Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason.” (Quran 8:22)

    So all the people he speaks to might go away thinking that all women who become single parents will end up as lesbians. His opinion also characterizes homosexuals as having psychological problems, rather than merely being Allah’s creation. It is baseless and it shows his lack of understanding about homosexuality. There are scholars who have gone to great lengths to explain homosexuality in Islam, such as Samar Habib and Prof Dr Siraj Kugle.

    I really hope that one day, there can be a kinder consensus amongst scholars on the issue of homosexuality in the Quran like there has been on khunsa (intersex) people. We should go through the Quran in more depth, and not take issues of context and language lightly. Even if this consensus never happens, I hope that at the very least, we can refrain from assuming or judging before hearing each other’s stories.


    Written for THC.sg, by Zuereka (5th Feb 2018)
    Edited by edify (9th Feb 2018 )

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    Weakness in the Hadith of “…Whoever imitates a people, he is one of them”

    Prophet Muhammad pbuh (peace be upon him) said: “I was sent with the sword just before the Last Hour so that Allah is worshipped, my sustenance was provided for me from under the shadow of my spear and made inferior, and whoever imitates a people, he is one of them.”


    This Hadith is well known and most quoted in talks and articles, particularly the first part of the Hadith which is always used by some group of Muslims. When another group focuses on the last part of the Hadith which quoted and narrated in Sunnan Abu Dawood when the full Maten (text) of the Hadith is narrated by Al-Imam Ahmad and others by the same Isnaad (chain).


    I understand clearly how the authenticity of this Hadith is sort of undebatable to some Muslims and it almost like a sin to indicate the defects in the narration, however, this does not surprise me as this Hadith is repeated by many speakers and some scholars have ever been authenticated, such as Shaykh Al-Albani.


    As for the followers (Muqalideen) of those scholars are unacceptable in any way to doubt the credibility of this Hadith, as they are holding behind the barriers of the superiority of those scholars. Therefore, it is unlikely to make a mistake and what’s more difficult to accept whether is there any mistake to be hinted by some not well-known scholars or intellectuals.


    The Hadith has few chains where each one of them may have single Isnaad (chain) that is Saheeh (authentic) with no defects. For this different Isnaad (chain) narrating the same text, some scholars authenticated this Hadith by using the method of Shawahid (witnesses).  It is mostly accepted the late Muhaditheen (Scholars of Hadiths) in different level and circumstances in which some of them are more rigid than others in regard to the type of defect, the condition of the narrators and if they have narrated from the same Shaykh which called Mutaba’at(follow-ups), if they are from same country or different land and so on. However, other scholars can be very lenient, authenticating many Hadiths for some different weak chains that this text of Hadith is being narrated.


    As, for many of the early Muhaditheen the way of authenticating Hadiths by Shawahid (witnesses) is not acceptable to make a Hadith as authentic to be debatable or refute, and this is what I consider it to be the crux of the matter. InshaAllah if you read the details below with an open mind and without any discernment, you will understand my argument and you have the right to agree or disagree.


    The first Isnaad (chain):


    حَدَّثَنَا عُثْمَانُ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو النَّضْرِ ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ ثَابِتٍ ، حَدَّثَنَا حَسَّانُ بْنُ عَطِيَّةَ ، عَنْ أَبِي مُنِيبٍ الْجُرَشِيِّ ، عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ ، قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ” مَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِقَوْمٍ فَهُوَ مِنْهُمْ ” .


    أبو داود في السنن


    حَدَّثَنَا هَاشِمُ بْنُ الْقَاسِمِ ، قَالَ : حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ ثَابِتٍ ، قَالَ : حَدَّثَنَا حَسَّانُ بْنُ عَطِيَّةَ ، عَنْ أَبِي مُنِيبٍ الْجُرَشِيِّ ، عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ ، قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ” إنَّ اللَّهَ جَعَلَ رِزْقِي تَحْتَ رُمْحِي وَجَعَلَ الذِّلَّةَ وَالصَّغَارَ عَلَى مَنْ خَالَفَ أَمْرِي , مَنْ تشبه بِقَوْمٍ فَهُوَ مِنْهُمْ ” .


    عُثْمَانُ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ في المصنف


    حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو النَّضْرِ ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ ثَابِتِ بْنِ ثَوْبَانَ ، حَدَّثَنَا حَسَّانُ بْنُ عَطِيَّةَ ، عَنْ أَبِي مُنِيبٍ الْجُرَشِيِّ ، عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ ، قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ” بُعِثْتُ بَيْنَ يَدَيْ السَّاعَةِ بِالسَّيْفِ حَتَّى يُعْبَدَ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ ، وَجُعِلَ رِزْقِي تَحْتَ ظِلِّ رُمْحِي ، وَجُعِلَ الذُّلُّ وَالصَّغَارُ عَلَى مَنْ خَالَفَ أَمْرِي ، وَمَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِقَوْمٍ فَهُوَ مِنْهُمْ ” .


    أحمد في المسند


    As you can see Abu Dawood narrated from Ibn Abi Shaybah from Abu Al-Nadhr whose name is Hisham ibn Al-Qasam, both of Imam Ahmad and Ibn Abi Shaybah narrated from Abu Al-Nadhr the full text in their book, yet Abu Dawood brought the last part of the hadith.


    The same hadith has been narrated by other than Abu Al-Nadhr such as:


    محمد بن يزيد ، وسليمان بن داود ، والفريابي ، وعلي بن عياش ، وغسان بن الربيع


    In fact, they all narrated from the same Shaykh


    عبد الرحمن بن ثابت بن ثوبان ، حدّثنا حَسان بن عطية ، عن أبي مُنيب الجرشي


    So this Isnaad (chain) depends on the reliability of those narrators.


    The first defect:


    عبد الرحمن بن ثابت بن ثوبان


    This narrator is not Thiqah (trustworthy), has been weakened by many scholars though they accepted him as a religious good person but is not reliable in his narration.


    Imam Ahmad said:  أحاديثه مناكير (forbidden hadith = weak hadith)


    Yahya ibn Ma’een said:    لا شىء  ضعيف صالح (there is nothing weak in this hadith)


    The second defect:


    أبي مُنيب الجرشي


    This is from the Tabe’ee(follower who came after the death of Prophet Muhammad pbuh), who but narrated from Ibn Umar yet he did not clearly say that he has heard it from Ibn Umar rather he used the word  A’n which does not mean necessary that he has heard it from Ibn Umar and there is no evidence to prove  that he heard from Ibn Umar, as he might have heard it through another person.


    أَبِي مُنِيبٍ الْجُرَشِيِّ ، عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ


    Although he has been mentioned in the book of Ibn Heebban Ath-Thiqaat but the fact is that he is Majhool (incompetent) although Ibn Heebban listed his name following his ruling of including any Tabe’ee how has been Majrooh(reliable), and those who did Tawtheeq (attestation) to this Tabe’ee followed Ibn Heeban.  Furthermore, it should be known that no Hadith has been narrated through this Tabe’ee in both of Bukhari and Muslim and the four books of Sunnan other than this narration and he is known by his Konyah (roots) only as Abu Moneeb, and not by his name nor his father’s.


    The second Isnaad (chain):


    حَدَّثَنَا عَمْرُو بْنُ إِسْحَاقَ ، ثَنَا أَبِي ، ثَنَا عَمْرُو بْنُ الْحَارِثِ ، ثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ سَالِمٍ ، عَنِ الزُّبَيْدِيِّ ، ثَنَا نُمَيْرُ بْنُ أَوْسٍ ، أَنَّ حُذَيْفَةَ بْنَ الْيَمَانِ ، كَانَ يَرُدُّهُ إِلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ : ” مَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِقَوْمٍ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْهُمْ ” .


    مسند الشاميين للطبراني


    The first defect


    The narrators عَمْرُو بْنُ إِسْحَاقَ and his father are not Thiqa (trustworthy), yet the son is better than the father but the best can be said about him that he is Sadooq (honest). However, the father is described to be Nothing by Abu Dawood and Not Thiqa (trustworthy) by An-Nisaee.


    The second defect


    The narrator is  عَمْرُو بْنُ الْحَارِثِ Majhool (incompetent)


    The third defect


    The narrator نُمَيْرُ بْنُ أَوْسٍ did not hear anything from the Sahabee Hudayfah, so the Isnaad (chain) is Munqat’a i.e.  there is a gap between the Sahabee and this narrator (Nomaar Ben Awa), which means Nomaar heard from another narrator whom we don’t know his credibility, that if the first three narrators mentioned above narrated the correctly which is unlikely.


    The third Isnaad:


    حَدَّثَنَا مُوسَى بْنُ زَكَرِيَّا ، ثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مَرْزُوقٍ ، نا عَبْدُ الْعَزِيزِ بْنُ الْخَطَّابِ ، ثَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ غُرَابٍ ، عَنْ هِشَامِ بْنِ حَسَّانٍ ، عَنِ ابْنِ سِيرِينَ ، عَنْ أَبِي عُبَيْدَةَ بْنِ حُذَيْفَةَ ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ ، أَنّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ : ” مَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِقَوْمٍ فَهُوَ مِنْهُمْ ”


    لَمْ يَرْوِ هَذَا الْحَدِيثَ عَنْ هِشَامِ بْنِ حَسَّانٍ ، إلا عَلِيُّ بْنُ غُرَابٍ ، وَلا عَنْ عَلِيٍّ ، إلا عَبْدُ الْعَزِيزِ ، تَفَرَّدَ بِهِ : مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مزوقٍ


    المعجم الأوسط للطبراني


    حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مَرْزُوقٍ ، قَالَ : أَخْبَرَنَا عَبْدُ الْعَزِيزِ بْنُ الْخَطَّابِ ، قَالَ : أَخْبَرَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ غُرَابٍ ، قَالَ : أَخْبَرَنَا هِشَامُ بْنُ حَسَّانَ ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ سِيرِينَ ، عَنْ أَبِي عُبَيْدَةَ بْنِ حُذَيْفَةَ ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ ، أَنّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، قَالَ : ” مَنْ تَشَبَّهَ بِقَوْمٍ فَهُوَ مِنْهُمْ ” ،


    وَهَذَا الْحَدِيثُ لا نَعْلَمُهُ يُرْوَى عَنْ حُذَيْفَةَ مُسْنَدًا إِلا مِنْ هَذَا الْوَجْهِ ، وَقَدْ رَوَاهُ غَيْرُ عَلِيِّ بْنِ غُرَابٍ ، عَنْ هِشَامٍ ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدٍ ، عَنْ أَبِي عُبَيْدَةَ ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ مَوْقُوفًا .


    البحر الزخار بمسند البزار


    If you read Arabic then you can understand that At-Tabari highlighted the Tafarrod of Ali Ben Ghoraab from Hisham Ibn Hassaan from Ibn Syreen from Abu U’baydah Ben Hudayfah


    The first defect


    The narrator عَلِيُّ بْنُ غُرَابٍ is not Thiqah(trustworthy), Abu Dawood called him weak, An-Nasaee and Abu Hatem said: he is not bad and Ibn Heebbaan criticised him very harshly. However, the best can be said about him that he is Sadooq (honest) yet he was also known as Mudalles (fraud/con man). Therefore, in this Isnaad (chain) he has narrated is considered weak.


    The second defect


    The Tabe’ee whose name is not known yet his known by his Konyah (roots) as,  Abu U’baydah, he is a son of the great Sahabee Hudayfah Ibn Al-Yaman, in general, his state in Hadith like the Tabe’ee in the first Isnaad Abu Muneeb.  Abu Hatem said about him, he is not named, Ad-Daraqtni considered him to be Majhool (incompetent) and Ibn Hajer said he has no biography, yet Ibn Heebban listed him in his book of Ath-thiqaat.



    I can go on and on pertaining to the chain of this hadith. As you can see that most of the barrier of this hadiths are unreliable and not trustworthy. Hence, the conclusion to this hadith is weak and could not be proven to be useful to refute anyone who imitates other people as unlawful or wrongdoing.

    Which then, we need to go back to the Quran, where Allah has commanded mankind to know and learn one another, and bring unity, peace,  and harmony within the community.  They should bring joy and goodness to the world

    I believe that the most appropriate way of understanding and handling today’s social problem goes back to this verse in the Quran:

    “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you people and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (al-Hujurat verse 13)

    I truly believe that the society needs to reconcile and brings unity in humanity regardless of:  race, creed, religion, and gender.

    A true believer in One God will stand united with all people without discernment nor biases. They will hold hands to care and protect one another.  Humiliations will not exist in their daily practices, and not even within their own faith.

    The writer of this website would like to state that whatever has been written in this article is merely for education and guidance, based on the limited knowledge from the writer.

    Whatever knowledge, inspiration, and exploration pertaining to the sacred knowledge that the writer has encountered are solely based on the writer’s personal experiences and understanding.

    It is with due diligent to know that the writer of this article will not be held responsible for whatever misunderstanding or wrongly transliterated words, text or context written in this article.

    – The End –




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    Post Event Review of The First Muslim LGBTQ+ Workshop by The Healing Circle.sg

    The first Muslim LGBTQ+ workshop by The Healing Circle.sg was held as a private event on 10th December 2017. The two main points of discussion was a sharing of learning points from a recent Muslim LGBTQ+ conference in Canada, and a presentation on a neurological perspective on homosexuality and gender non-conforming individuals. The mood was not entirely formal, with personal sharings of personal histories, opinions, and discussions happening during the course of the workshop as well.


    The Muslim LGBTQ+ conference in Canada was a valuable experience for the presenters who shared their thoughts during the workshop session. It was the first ever conference on LGBTQ+ Muslims and the lineup of academics was similarly comprised of scholars who broke ground in a more sexuality- and gender-sensitive understanding of Islam (whether in the historical, social, or theological traditions) and the Qur’an. One of the topics discussed was a re-visit into the Story of Lot, which is the story in the Qur’an that is most frequently cited as an example of Islam’s unfavourable, even hostile, position against homosexuality. A thorough and more nuanced look into the verses, its context, and viewing it contextually within the Qur’an reveals that the story of Lot is more about the punishment of a people who rejected Lot’s prophethood, and most of all, who showed extreme inhospitality to guests by even raping them. This act of rape and power they committed against the male guests therefore cannot be simplistically be understood as consensual sex. Furthermore, the men who committed these acts of rape were straight in orientation, being married with wives.


    The focus on the Story of Lot is interesting. This story which is so foundational to the justification of hostility to same-sex pairings is in fact focused solely on the  “unnatural” pairing of men. In the Islamic tradition, not much is said about female same-sex pairings, or gender non-confirming individuals. Much of hostility directed against individuals under the umbrella of LGBTQ+ therefore, seems to hinge on a body of scholarship that almost exclusively only deals with the unacceptability of male homosexual relations.


    For the scholars, their research has led them to conclude that the Islamic tradition remains largely indifferent to an individual’s orientation and gender-identity. The sin does not lie in one’s identity or orientation, it seems, but actually the act of sex before marriage. Whether the person is straight or not, sex before marriage is considered “zina”.


    One of the presenters shared how she had asked some of the speakers about how to deal with homophobic individuals that queer Muslims and queer Muslim activists will inevitably face. The scholars shared that one of the ways that would minimize personal frustration is to understand that each person has the right to their own opinions, regardless of how offensive we might find those opinions. Each person might also have their own limitations in terms of personal and intellectual understanding. Understanding this means one would be able to detect when continuing to argue would only be pointless, and it would save both parties frustration, and especially emotional exhaustion for the one bearing homophobic  one continuing to argue or reason in a way that they cannot understand.


    Someone had also brought up the question of how to deal with the tension and difficulties that queer individuals face with family members.  The advice given was to try and understand that parents go through a period of grieve and loss, in a sense, because they had held on to an ideal of their child, one where they were expecting their child to grow up, get married, have children, and the general trajectory of participating and fitting in with heteronormative society. Of course, no person should have to suffer from their parents’ belief in such an ideal in the first place, but perhaps understanding that they go through a period of grief and loss for this version of a child that they have to “let go” of might help individuals better understand the way their parents react to them. In the future, let us hope that children can be loved and accepted and not have this care withheld or made difficult because they do not fit into a prescriptive way of being.


    The next presentation was on neurological understandings of homosexuality. The presentation sought to debunk the trivialising idea that sexual orientation was just a choice that an individual makes, implying that it thus can simply be done away with. The presentation however showed the neurological differences that were found in the brains of straight individuals as compared to gay men, women, and trans gender individuals. The development of the brain begins in the womb and continues on until young adulthood. The differences that are observed in the brains of straight individuals as compared to gay and gender non-conforming individuals are crucially made during the development of the brain while the baby is in the womb. During this process, whether certain chemical processes happen or not, or the way they occur, can result in the differences that subsequently affect the individual’s sexual and romantic orientation.  The presenter does acknowledge that of course there is a demographic of queer individuals who may choose queer sexual and romantic relations, and this is fine. However, the scientific findings she shared nevertheless gives strong evidence to prove that for many queer individuals, it is simply not a choice. It is their very biology, and it cannot simply be wished or casted away.


    The final presenter clarified the difference between Islam and Islamic traditions. He had said: “There is no such thing as “Islam says that..” Islam is not a person, it does not wake up in the morning, brush its teeth, go to work. It is Muslims who speak.” And Muslims who speak do so from their own understanding of Islam, drawing from a multitude of Islamic traditions. Islam cannot be understood in a monolithic manner.


    He also mentioned that as long as a certain issue is debated, it cannot be taken as a categorical truth within the Islamic tradition. Only a few things stand as uncontested by scholars of Islam, such six basic beliefs. Nobody debates that the God is not one, and we can thus assume this to be a categorical fact in the Islamic faith.


    He goes on to mention that the Qur’an does make mention throughout the text non-heteronormative individuals. These mentions are done in passing, such as referring to “men who are not in need of women”, and they are done in a non-judgmental manner. The Qur’an thus acknowledges the existence of individuals who do not align with heteronormativity, and passes no judgement on such people.


    The presenter also clarified the difference between (1) biological sex (2) Sexual orientation (3) sexual act (4) gender identity. He noted that most discourse against homosexuality focuses on the third point – the sexual act. He stated the reason that it is perhaps because the sexual act is the point where an act is being committed, and therefore the thing that can be judged as wrong or not. The other factors are not things that can be considered as “wrong” in the sense that people do not necessarily “act” upon those things.

    He clarified however that these four things are not well understood, and that people often do not understand the many “combos” they can come in. The sexual act in itself does not necessarily imply anything about a person’s sexual orientation. One’s biological sex may not align with one’s gender identity. These may be obvious to those who are more educated on gender studies, but not so much in mainstream understanding.


    (The above is a post-event review written by one of the participants attended the workshop.)

    A Special Thanks to the writer ♡



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