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

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~ 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….

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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.

Zuereka
TheHealingCircle.sg

*Note: All names have been changed.

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Misguided Wisdom

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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”

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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.

 

Conclusion:

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.

Disclaimer:
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

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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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Hidden Voices: Lives of LGBT Muslims

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Emily Moser
Staff Writer

 

In the EUC Auditorium on April 6 from 6-7 p.m., Faisal Alam presented the lecture “Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims.” Alam, a Pakistani Muslim gay man, is an activist and has been dubbed an
“Innovator” by Advocate Magazine, a “Founding Father,” by Genre Magazine and was chosen as one of the 30 “Young Visionaries Under 30” by Utne Reader. Additionally, Alam has been featured in
the New York Times, BBC and the Washington Post.

During his presentation, Faisal offered an account of a demographic often undiscussed in mainstream LGBT discourses; gay Muslims. In the first portion of his lecture, Alam emphasized the importance of recognizing the complex diversity of the Muslim world. There are approximately 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and 56 countries in which Islam is the dominant religion. In the United States alone, there are between two and four million Muslims. As such, Faisal cautioned the generalization of Muslims, and emphasized that there are hundreds of Muslim groups with differing cultural influences and viewpoints.

Alam then spoke of a shift towards the recognition of women in positions of leadership throughout the Abrahamic faiths of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. If women, Alam said, are able to be open and accepted leaders of churches, synagogues and mosques, then LGBT members of these communities will soon follow to a similar degree. To Faisal, this change will potentially open new possibilities for Muslim women and LGBT Muslims.

In the final portion of his presentation, Alam spoke of his own personal experience as a gay Muslim and activist. When he was ten years old, his family moved from Pakistan to the small town of Ellington, Connecticut. Growing up, he described encountering homophobia in the Muslim community, and experiencing confusion as a result. Alam pushed through the homophobia, he recounted, and threw
himself into work at his mosque.

Joining several different Muslim Youth organizations, Alam told of organizing many events within his community. In high school, Alam said his graduating class consisted of 100 people: 95 of them, white, four African-American and him. He spoke of his “intersections of life” that define who he is: a brown, gay, Muslim, Pakistani that was born in Germany and a generation and a half first American.

Once Alam moved to college, the internet was just beginning. In this time, there were several email groups for people with similar interests, backgrounds and lifestyles with which he was able to connect. Hoping to find others like himself, he created a group on social media analogous to a Facebook
or Google group, entitled: “gay-Muslims.” Still involved in multiple organizations, he anonymously sent out the invitation for others join. Within minutes, others were joined in and many people filled the group.

Soon after this, at just 19, Alam founded Al-Fatina. Open from 1998-2008, this organization offered counseling services, an open conversation and most importantly, a safe place for gay Muslims to gather.

Now, Alam is the founder of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity. Their mission statement reads: “The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity works to support, empower and connect LGBTQ Muslims. We seek to challenge root causes of oppression, including misogyny and xenophobia. We aim to increase the acceptance of gender and sexual diversity within Muslim communities, and to promote a progressive understanding of Islam that is centered on inclusion, justice and equality.”

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