Same-Sex Love

Let’s talk about homosexuality, which my previous article does not. I actually don’t like the term “homosexuality,” and I prefer the title of this article, but I’m using the word here because I know you all are searching it when you’re looking for my legal opinions on this website.

No one, not even patriarchal scholars, will dispute that the story of Sodom involves rape. But there are two types of exegetes approaching the recitation: those who read the rape in Sodom as a primary sin, and those who read it as a secondary sin—secondary to the “sin” of same sex relations when projecting their agendas onto the Qur’an. The latter who identify rape in Sodom as a secondary sin are, quite frankly, self-invested and appalling in their implications. Aside from the moral depravity in downplaying how sinful rape is, a Muslim claiming that the story of Sodom is about same-sex relations and not rape is claiming that the Qur’an permits rape as long as it is the rape of women. They are free to state clearly that this is what they mean. They are also free to admit that according to their interpretation, all of the women punished in Sodom were punished because they, too, were commanded not to approach men and instead approach women, rendering their entire interpretation an advocacy of same-sex relationships.

The main verse commonly cited as “evidence” of the Qur’an’s supposed anti-LGBTQ position is 26:165-166 and its refrains (7:81, 29:29), and I want to take a moment to examine it here.

Do you approach males
among the worlds
and abandon what created for you
the God/dess of your spouses?
No! You are a people
transgressing.
—26:165-166

The verse is conveyed in an interesting structure. Rather than stating outright that the people of Sodom love/lust men besides women and that this is the transgression, the Qur’an asks a question. “Do you approach men lustfully besides women?” The recitation then proceeds to answer its question in the negative, affirming that the sin is (1) committed by heterosexual men and (2) rape, not homosexuality. This is consistent with the Qur’anic use of “bal”—“no!”: it is always to negate or correct a previously alleged belief. The sentiment in 26:165-166 is posed as a question, not a statement, and answered in the negative: the rapists of Sodom do not lust foreign men; rather, they subjugate them.

In other verses that adopt this question-answer structure, the translation often reads, “but rather/in fact”: And they said, “Our hearts are wrapped.” But, [in fact], Allah has cursed them for their disbelief, so little is it that they believe. 2:88. The distressed proclamation, “No!” (bal) both emphasizes the direness of a situation and negates its misdirection: they may believe their hearts are wrapped, but really they have been cursed. Take the very next instance it happens in the Qur’an: Is it not that every time they took a covenant, a portion of them discarded it? But, [in fact], most of them do not believe. 2:100. They did not take a true covenant because they had not in fact ever believed. It’s interesting then that translators have chosen to do the opposite in verses concerning the activities in Sodom, in which they’ve frequently chosen the affirmative i.e. “indeed.”

A correct translation of 26:165-166 is “Is it that you approach men lustfully besides women? No! But rather, you are a people transgressing.” It is not out of the human emotion of love or lust that Sodom sins. It is out of a greed for power. The answer that the Qur’an provides to its question corrects the belief that the surah is about homosexuality. It is about rape. The question-answer structure of these Qur’anic verses is routinely a mark of compassion from the God/dess, a gesture that S/he would negotiate and consider human complications in worship.

My disciple Misha and I will be co-writing a full exegesis regarding this in June. Until then—

You can claim same-sex love is an abomination all you want, but don’t pretend your bigotry is sourced from the Qur’an. You’ll have to look elsewhere to justify it. And you do. No one who has argued with me has ever successfully been able to stay Qur’an-focused and resist venturing into pseudoscientific articles to find “support.”

Collecting Myself

One of my jobs is court reporting. It’s just something I do on the side, to afford—as Misha describes—“Spending too much money irresponsibly on questionable mermaid purchases, like literally I feel like you have entire closets of full of random heels and mermaid dresses and random shiny mirrors and galaxy jewelry and crescent moon regalia. And you are always wondering wtfluff happened to your mermaid card balance.” This is not my fault. How else would I stun her?

Red lipstick costs $$$, so your girl really hustles.

The task is essentially to document sometimes heartwrecking accounts. So there I sit besides the judge, typing away while dripping in water that no one can see, blinking it casually from my eyelashes as claimants struggling to obtain disability recount their suicidal thoughts in excruciating detail. We are supposed to guard our facial expressions of course.

I am very absorbent with people’s emotions. When I’m fully immersed/invested in something, I tend to run my hand through my hair and flip the dark length of it to the side. This is not a typical universal warning sign, but my large watery eyes are, and I could have sworn when I first started training that the judge was a filter away from turning around and asking in a very stern tone, “Ms. Nisa, are you alright?” in a remember-yourself-at-once sort of way.

“I am,” I would have responded in a translucent tone.

It is undeniable from this position—I mean, even physically, from this position, where I am literally sitting beside the judge in a courtroom—how much our society has failed so many people. There is a poignant sense of dysfunction in expecting people who have worked harder their entire lives than we have and suffered so much physical pain and emotional turmoil, to recount their experiences and justify that they are deserving to those who cannot begin to understand. The judges at least seem compassionate.

And it reminds me that you just can’t argue empathy at people. They feel it or they don’t. If you have to explain your humanity to a person, they will not understand it. I am so grateful for whom I’ve become, for recognizing when arguing empathy to a person is not a productive use of my time and is not reconciled with the deep love I have for myself. MashaAllah.

A woman has the absolute right to voice her frustrations against a Prophet. Sit. Down.

I am not aware that I love the Prophet. Unless I am in Makkah or Madina, where I can feel him in the mountains and the marketplace, I feel no love for him. (“You do love him then,” you might say, to which I would respond, not nearly significantly enough as I am expected.) I don’t dislike him either. I feel nothing toward him except a passing curiosity, and the usual discernment that I level at male authoritative figures, admittedly softened just a degree. I am certain that had I lived during his time, I would have been a Muslim woman and not have had much interest in seeking out his company, and if I happened to cross him, would confront him unceremoniously about behaviors I found problematic because they directly affected me. Perhaps if I were in a mood and he were alone and unoccupied, I would ask about the geometries of the universe and of paradise. I would ask if he had any questions for me, because I’m fascinating.

If I happen to see him in paradise, I would not tell him that I was pressured my entire life to love him, that in Islamic school social inequities like polygamy were excused away with the words, “But women loved the Prophet” and the unspoken “so you should too.” This would surely embarrass him, and induce guilt for faults that are not his. It had always disgusted me, deep in my primal intestines, these ingratiating demands to love him just as his wives did. He, too, would be violently embarrassed to know his followers create this dynamic between him and women.

Women have a complicated relationship with the Prophet, and we have the right to those complications. We have the right not to love him, and we have the right to challenge those who do without question just “because he’s the Prophet” despite the injustices that the Qur’an itself cites against him. (Do you never challenge those you love? What kind of love is this? Are you capable of it?) It is what women did when he was alive—including his own wife Umm Salama, since the ummah is so insistent on comparing us to them—and it is what we will continue to do for all of eternity. The God/dess gifted us with a Prophet who spoke to men in order to regulate male behaviors. Just as the Qur’an referring to men is something to be humiliated with, not prideful of, because it is nearly always to teach them or correct them or reprimand them for their wrongdoings against women, so is it evident that the Prophet was a man because there was a need to be filled.

This is what men will never understand. They need the Prophet. They need the Prophet. No woman who has disagreed with the Prophet has ever oppressed his followers en masse, ever terrorized his family, ever killed his sons, ever warred for her seat at the caliphate, ever caused his daughter to miscarry. But you claim to love him and terrorize the earth anyway. This is your idea of love. You keep it shoved up the dimness of your existence.

Men think the Prophet occupied himself with them because they were men, but he did it in spite of it. He didn’t like you because you were exceptional human beings to which we should all aspire; he liked you because he was a Prophet and it is in his nature to be merciful and overlook the faults of others. It is no secret that he preferred the company of women. [1] So don’t for a second think too highly of yourself. He was your Prophet. It is not a compliment that you needed one so closely, that you needed him to tell you not to bury your daughters alive, not to rape enslaved women, not to accuse innocent women of adultery—he needed that reminder, too, by the way. Aisha had been furious with him for losing faith in her.

auntie amina wadud came under fire a while ago for classifying Prophet Ibrahim—whose dreams regarding the slaughter of Ismail the Qur’an never claimed—of being a “deadbeat dad.” She is a Muslim woman and has the right to that frustration against a male prophet. My disciple, Misha, has been perplexed that Sulaiman was ready to start a war with Queen Bellekeyce for no apparent reason and heartbroken over and over regarding the treatment of Lut toward his daughters. She has the right to that horror. “Do not strain your heart to redeem him,” I had told her. Do not strain your heart to redeem him. She cites me as saying, “Prophets are not always chosen because they are good people. Sometimes they are chosen as Prophets simply as a test.” And I did. The undeniable truth is we have no idea why they are chosen and we should not pretend to know. She continues, “When we force moral perfection on them, we lose the effects of learning from their crimes.” Yunus was punished by al-Rahman Herself when he deserted his people and his mission. Only the Prophetess Maryam, mother of Isa, is described by the Qur’an itself as having been purified above all others for her task. I have said it to Misha and I will say it again: the moral errors of other prophets are documented in the Qur’an because they are not secrets. Women have a special right to harbor anger through their love, and no man has any right to challenge that.

It is so easy to love the Prophet when you are a man. Your path is without obstacles yet you demand the deceptive peace of “love” from us? Do you think we are the same? Men like this don’t know of love that comes freely, of love that is strengthened through adversity. Do you expect us to never challenge your easy love? It is pitiful, the way you want to outline a relationship between women and the Prophet that you will never understand. What makes you think you can interfere in this? You are weak and have not been chosen for the capacity to understand this.

May the woman who demands the Prophet’s accountability in his injustice against her find herself closer to heaven than the man who loves him at the dismissal of someone else’s suffering.

Muslim women have the right not to love the Prophet. You have the right not to desire his company. You have the right to prefer other men over him.

[1] Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Treat your children equally regarding gifts. If I were to favor anyone, I would have favored women.” In another narration, the Prophet said, “If I were to prefer anyone, I would have preferred women over men.”
Source: Sunan al-Kubrā 11092

Severing a population from its allies and support network is abuse.

There are Muslim men who say things like “only Muslims should be able to comment on sexual assault in the Muslim community” WHILE NOT BEING WOMEN. You’re seriously not registering that you’re asking people of an outside demographic to stop, while being part of an outside demographic? You don’t get to choose our allies for us. Sure, I’d probably tell Ashton and McKenzie to shut it but that’s because I get to choose my allies to save your ass out of a courtesy to you that I don’t owe, and you don’t get to choose them for me.

When Muslims are anti-LBGT, the non-Muslim LGBT community gets to say things unless LGBT Muslims silence them. Straight, cisgender Muslims don’t get to make that decision.

When Muslims are anti-black, black non-Muslims can object and it’s only for BLACK MUSLIMS to tell them to stop. Non-black Muslims don’t get a say in who is or isn’t able to check our anti-blackness.

When Muslims are sexist or gender essentialist ONLY MUSLIM WOMEN AND NB MUSLIMS decide that non-Muslims can’t comment. Muslim men do not. You are looking for a way to dodge accountability so that you don’t have to hear about it. It’s the new respectability politics.

Severing a population from its allies and support network is abuse. It is also (again) a gross misunderstanding of intersectionality, by privileging one identity (in this case the Muslimness of victims) over another (the femaleness of victims), which is the only mindset that can birth such an obnoxious maxim as “only Muslims can comment on sexual assault” while not being a woman. Here’s a newsflash brown men: your little world of oppression is neither all-encompassing nor the only one that exists.

Diaspora Romanticizing Discarded Patriarchal Traditions

Speaking of piercings, my mother informed me recently that in our culture, women used to wear the noluk (septum piercing) to indicate that they were newly married. If the women weren’t already pierced, the bridal party would puncture the ring through the septum on the very day of the ceremony.

Septum rings have never appealed to me aesthetically, though I do think they look better on darker skin. When my mother told me this, however, I was so enthralled to know of it, the somehow novel idea that facial piercings are not taboo in our culture, that in my mind I romanticized the tradition for a few seconds.

“It was absolute torture,” my mother said, wincing. “I’m so glad women stopped doing this.”

“When did they stop?”

“With your great grandmother, I think. My mother didn’t have one. It’s such a relief.” She shuddered.

It was, of course, a patriarchal tradition, and my momentary fascination borne out of a longing for connection explains the egomaniacal mindset of diasporic men and their counteractive behaviors. This was a practice traditional women ended on their own agency, and suggestions of revival are regressive to the legacy of tradition in the exact same way that colonialism halts social progression in the societies it terrorizes. What men of color like this do, essentially, is recolonize. Of course, they won’t see that, because women are the powerless gatekeepers of tradition.

In the Qur’an, the excuses of oppressed men for violence against women are insufficient.

The vast majority of Muslim men, whether from previously/currently colonized nations or otherwise, live in patriarchal cultures; the Qur’an itself addresses this, for example, when demanding to know why men have buried their daughters alive or when protecting women from accusations of adultery. However, when confronted with this reality, men pretend that they weren’t patriarchal before colonialism when history proves otherwise, and when in fact their patriarchal structures facilitated the spread of colonialism.

While Muslim men love to falsely attribute patriarchy to colonialism, on the Day of Judgment Allah (swt) is going to ask men why they were violent toward us, and they are going to answer “because we were ourselves oppressed,” and it’s not going to suffice.
 
Indeed, while taking in death 
those who sin against their souls,
the angels will ask, “In what condition were you?”
 
They will say, 
“We were oppressed on the earth.”
 
The angels will say, 
“Was the earth of the God/dess 
not spacious for you to emigrate therein?”

They will have their sojourn in Hell, 
and it is an evil destination.
Except for the oppressed 
among the men, women, and children unable 
to plan and undirected 
to a way. 

For those, it is expected 
that the God/dess pardon them, 
for the God/dess 
is ever Merciful, 
ever Forgiving.
—4:97-99

The argument made in these verses is that if the oppression inflicted upon you is causing you to damage your soul by inclining you to oppress others, you should seek conditions in which you are no longer imposing harm and oppression onto yourself and others. It is of vital importance that we are aware of the state of our own morality.

(Note here that in this verse and the verses that follow, migration is encouraged and the migrant is valorized as someone who goes so far to save their own soul.)

It is of extraordinary significance that these verses appear in surah nisa, as describing the rights of women, and more specifically the regulation of male behaviors in order to protect those rights. It is not the oppression one endures that is emphasized here, but the harm that it commits against the soul and against others. Yet, contrary to the message of the Qur’an, men can’t comprehend that their approach to oppressions from which they do not suffer needs to be more than “chivalrous.” How can a Muslim only care about something for as long as it benefits him?

According to the Qur’an it is insufficient to dismissively declare that transphobic laws are a result of white supremacy, to falsely claim men were sexist because they were taught by whites, to pretend they weren’t afrophobic and anti-black before they were colonized. Here’s a newsflash: White supremacy is not the worst oppression to have ever happened. Oppressions do not have to be contributed to it in order to matter. There are oppressions other than colonialism. I am not going to choose my words carefully just because colonizers happen to be listening.

In addition to its situation in surah nisa, we know verses 4:97-99 are referring to women and structurally oppressed classes because the Qur’an makes a clear distinction between these two types of actions in response to oppression: those against oppressors and those against the soul. For example, 22:60 states,

And whoever responds [to injustice]
with the equivalent of that harm
and then is tyrannized –
the God/dess will surely aid.
Indeed, the God/dess is Forgiving and Merciful.”
—22:60

These verses assure us that societally tyrannized actions which are clearly a response to oppressors, rather than sins against one’s own, are divinely aided. Comically, the same Muslim men who dismiss violence against women as the work of colonizers will discourage violence against colonizers, effectively inverting both verses of the Qur’an.

Muslim men have adopted the position that their oppression excuses violence against women because the vast majority of “activism” against Islamophobia has relied on the corruption of scholarship of those—Muslim and non-Muslim alike—who descended from matriarchal or gender-equal societies. Subsequently, these men believe they too cannot be held responsible. Like straight men who complain about social expectations that their date will not pick up the cheque at a restaurant, Muslim men want the benefits of equality (and no accountability) without having established a legacy of gender equality in their history.

Immigrants (i.e. more settlers) to settler states adopt black and indigenous scholarship on anti-colonialism without ever being aware that they are living on stolen land, and it results in a belief that they have no culpability when it comes to patriarchy even though they are immigrating from very patriarchal cultures.

If you are indigenous to a place that was colonized that then overthrew the colonizing government, even if you have not yet done away with all of the residual corruption, never forget that there are nations who are still working to overthrow illegal governments, and that you’re on their land by permission of that illegal government. The only way immigrants to Turtle Island can become american/accepted is by signing off on a living legacy of genocide and slavery that requires us to actively perpetuate violence.

Yet in order Muslim men to ever care about oppressions that don’t affect them as long as they can attribute it too white supremacy. Is it so difficult to have empathy for something that has nothing to do with you? And yet they expect empathy in return. It is those whose activism is limited to anti-colonialism who ask questions like, “How can you talk about patriarchy without talking about racism?” when in fact they discuss racism all the time without discussing patriarchy.

The Qur’an in fact describes the arguments that the “oppressed wrongdoers” have with the “arrogant wrongdoers” regarding the actions that signify their disbelief.

But if you could see when the wrongdoers
are made to stand before their Creator,
refuting each other’s words,
Those who were oppressed will say
to those who were arrogant, “If not for you,
we would have been believers.”

Those who were arrogant will say
to those who were oppressed, “Did we avert you
from guidance after it had come to you?
Rather, you were criminals.”

Those who were oppressed will say
to those who were arrogant, “Rather,
a conspiracy by night and day
when you were ordering our disbelief in the God/dess
and attribution of equals to Her.”
—34:31-33

It is consistently emphasized in the Qur’an that oppression is no excuse to perpetuate oppression against one’s soul and community, and those who are oppressed and oppressive are identified as the same class of people—this is, in fact, a revolving identity—in both that the oppressed can be oppressors (the arrogant) and that both are “wrongdoers” whose punishments (“shackles on the necks”) are the same.

There is much to discuss in terms of all of the Qur’anic verses that elaborate on this issue and relate to the verses highlighted here, and I will explore these in upcoming posts.