I’m not a scholar of Islam: I have not memorized all of the verses of The Qu’ran; I don’t understand Classical/Qu’ranic Arabic; I have only passive knowledge of the accounts of Prophet Mohammad’s life [hadith]; and I certainly couldn’t give you a breakdown of Islamic jurisprudence [fiqh] on various matters.
Yet, many folks, well intentioned and not, have asked me to justify my support advocacy for Two-spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and other folks on the gender & sexuality spectrum (2sLGBTQ+) in light of my Muslim identity.
But the truth is, I don’t need to. I mean, I don’t HAVE to, of course, because I do not owe anyone but myself and God a justification for my beliefs, but also, I don’t feel like I need to justify my support & advocacy of 2sLGBTQ+ folks in terms of my faith because… well because that’s not how it’s ever worked for me!
Let me explain.
My dad came out as gay when I was less than a year old. He entered a relationship at the time and remained in that relationship for almost 20 years. So, for the first 20 years of my life, I knew my dad was/is gay, and saw with my own eyes the making a homosexual relationship — which was no different than a heterosexual one, if you take out the homophobia spewed by the community.
What I’m trying to say is that my 2sLGBTQ+ support & advocacy is non-negotiable; it’s not only a matter of love but, as someone who is Queer-spawned, it’s also a matter of survival! I am who I am because God [الله] made me and my family members who and what we are. I know both scientifically and spiritually that God [الله] *made* my dad gay. My dad didn’t CHOOSE his sexual orientation — in fact, I’m pretty good proof he tried his darnedest to be straight — yet here we are!
Being in a loving, supportive same-sex relationship has made my dad a happier and overall better person, a better dad. That’s in no small part thanks to his husband’s, my Baba’s, love and support.
So when I was learning about Islam, not with any intention to convert by the way, I was coming at the literature with a mindset that my relationship (my love, support & advocacy) with the 2sLGBTQ+ community was immovable — because it is!
The first hint I had that maybe Islam could be for me came when I read the very first line of The Qu’ran as it is most commonly compiled:
In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.– Qu’ran
Translation to English by Rashad Khalifa, The Final Testament
This line above, transliterated to latin letters as “Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem” is the most repeated line of the Qu’ran, appearing a total of 114 times. It is the opening line for 113 of the 114 chapters of the Qu’ran and appears TWICE in the opening chapter, The Key [Al-Fatiha] — a verse repeated 2–4 times during each of the 5 daily ritual prayers [salaat].
A Muslim who performs the 5 ritual prayers [salaat] regularly would pronounce this phrase at MINIMUM 34 times on a day — 12,410 times per year!
As someone who tries to embody radical compassion, it was not lost on me that The Divine, according to Islam, deliberately emphasized Their Godly attributes as Grace & Mercy so much so that the most devout amongst them might repeat the phrase 30+ times per day. It was and is vital to my spiritual path [deen].
See, to me, religion is a means to an end. I don’t think The Divine needs *us* to believe in Them or requires a specific path. And I don’t believe humans *need* The Divine to fundamentally understand what is good or bad. I believe that, at our core, humans are fundamentally GOOD but incredibly ignorant. Therefore we rely on our parents, our communities, faith doctrines, etc, to enlighten us where we are short on answers.
Don’t get me wrong, not *everyone* feels the need to seek answers through faith. In fact, I personally don’t rely on faith alone to find answers either! But it’s one of many avenues that we, as humans, have found to make sense of the senseless, be it love, lust, death or tragedy.
So when it comes to my personal belief system, I couldn’t have wanted to explore a spiritual path had it not centered compassion and empathy — grace & mercy.
I read and view the world through that lens. Knowing that The Qu’ran was compiled by humans, the accounts of Prophet Mohammad’s life [hadiths] were narrated and compiled by humans, the jurisprudence [fiqh] was developed by humans…
…and humans. are. flawed.
So I have to sparse through what makes sense to me and what doesn’t! We *all* pick and choose. So how do I decide what to believe and what to toss aside? I ask myself simply: would that be the Will of A Divine who is “Most Gracious, Most Merciful”?
To me, it is clear that The Divine [الله] has indicated to believers that spirituality [deen] should be guided by compassion and empathy, and that’s how I engage with 2sLGBTQ+ support & advocacy and everything else in my life: am *I* being merciful? Am I being compassionate? To whom? And to whose benefit?
Of course, my views about Islam are not shared by all Muslims or even all Muslim communities — with BILLIONS of us, there are bound to be many who don’t understand their spiritual path to be the same as mine.
For those folks, I cite chapter 109 of the Qu’ran, The Unbelievers [Al-Kafirun]:
In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Say, “O you disbelievers. I do not worship what you worship, and neither do you worship what I worship; nor will I ever worship what you worship, nor will you ever worship what I worship. To you is your religion, and to me is my religion.”– Qu’ran, The Unbelievers [Al-Kafirun], chapter 109, verses 1–6
Translation to English by Rashad Khalifa, The Final Testament
Some would argue these verses apply to those who are non-Muslim, but those same people will often define me (and those who, like me, support 2sLGBTQ+ folks and communities) as a non-believer or not a “true believer” of Islam.
And that’s *their* loss. I know where my community and my support is.
To the folks who want to label me as “non-Muslim” because their idea of Islam does not permit support for 2SLGBTQ+ folks, I want to remind them that if I simply wanted to follow “the consensus”, I would have remained Christian. And if I wanted to blindly “follow the rules”, I wouldn’t have chosen a religion that *I* believe DEMANDS that we assess our beliefs critically.
The choice, to me, is simple: 2sLGBTQ+ folks don’t get to choose their identity. I, however, *choose* to believe there is only ONE Divine and that Prophet Mohammad was one of many messengers of The Divine. I also *choose* to support and advocate for 2sLGBTQ+ folks — for us, really, as they are my friends, my family (chosen and otherwise) — and I believe that we make up the very fabric of humanity, and not a stain or misstep. 2sLGBTQ+ are a part of the The Divine just like I and everyone else is and I simply cannot and would not support A Divine that does not show us all Grace & Mercy… just the way They Created us…
If you or someone you know wants to read more about 2sLGBTQ+ affirming Muslim communities and scholarship, please refer to Muslims for Progressive Values USA and their recommended readings on LGBTQI identities and Islam.