“Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire — of women and children, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, and cattle, and fertile land. These are the pleasures of this worldly life, but with Allah is the finest destination” (Quran 3:14).
In this verse from Surah al-Imran, Allah tells us that love for, and attraction to, the pleasures of this life are natural. This love and attraction make our lives enjoyable and interesting, and without these, life would have been very dry, boring, and monotonous. Our test in this world, however, is to keep these desires in check and act on them with balance and moderation, through the lens of divine guidance. Allah has created humans with a special status, with desires, ambitions, and purpose. We are unlike angels, who have a purpose in their life but no desires, and unlike animals, who have no purpose and only instinctive desires. We also have the free will to choose our actions, and Islam is the religion of “fitra” (innate nature), by which we fulfill our natural desires and needs in accordance with the divine ways prescribed by Allah SWT. If we follow Allah’s guidance on these matters, there is great reward for us.
In view of the above, we can articulate the Islamic perspective on the LBGTQ community. To do this, there are two layers to unpack: 1) the religious stance; and 2) the rights of individuals.
The Religious Stance Islam has a very clear stance and provides us with proper understanding of the institution of marriage and the nuclear family. Marriage and the marital relationship have a more significant meaning than just fulfilling individual desires. It is considered a very sacred relationship that seeks to provide a nurturing and moral environment for the worship of Allah SWT and for the upbringing of future generations. Marriage and family life form the foundation for local communities and the worldwide ummah.
A healthy society is rooted in higher moral and ethical values that are built upon the goal of seeking Allah’s pleasure. No society can be healthy if its ethos is unconstrained indulgence of desires and inclinations. As humans, we all have inclinations, some of which are good and others bad, so we use our faith and values to filter, monitor, and control which of them we act on and which of them we avoid. The mere existence of a desire does not mean it should be acted on.
Secondly, in human history, the marital relationship has always been between a man and woman. But more importantly, this is the guidance provided to us by the Qur’an and Sunnah. The divine rules do not follow what the majority says, even if 7.5 billion people go against the divine ruling; what Allah has commanded is the truth.
The Rights of Individuals
Another key element of this discussion is the respecting of the rights of all human beings.
● Islam emphasizes the importance of respecting the rights of individuals as well as their beliefs. If someone believes in something different than we do, we must still approach them with respect and hopefulness, rather than hatred and unkindness.
● The primary focus in Islam is on the moral integrity of the society at large, so it is not anyone’s place to micromanage what is happening in the private homes of people, but sin and immorality in any public setting is discouraged.
● In any society, every individual has his or her private comfort zone, and no government should intervene in this private zone of its citizens. Further, no one can force any particular belief or practice in that domain of privacy. No one can or should force anyone to accept beliefs or engage in practices they do not agree with.
● In addition, we as a community and society should create platforms where we can have civil conversations and find ways to foster greater understanding, emphasize what we have in common rather than what divides us, and further, to help and support all people.
● In Islam, there is no compulsion. However, if one joins the religion, he or she has agreed to follow the rules of the religion. There is no room for personal interpretations or looking for loopholes for personal desire or convenience. What Allah has decreed is what we follow and obey as believers, even if it differs from what the majority around us believe.
As Muslims, the verdict on the LBGTQ issue has already been presented in the Qur’an and Islamic tradition. We have no right to amend the verdict given by Allah SWT, so we must take what He has commanded and act upon it with maturity and wisdom (hikmah). We must work to understand the religious guidance while also taking into account the law of the land and its various dimensions.
As Muslims, our policies related to the LGBTQ community should be well thought out. We need to give our opinion only when it is appropriate and necessary, rather than using every platform available, without a thorough understanding of the issues at hand.
If we come into a situation where we encounter LGBTQ members in our community, we should not deal with them with hate and rejection. Instead, we should approach them with a sympathetic mindset as they have been given a test from Allah and they are pulled between a society who tells them to act on their desire and a faith that tells them to restrain themselves. They are in a tough position and by providing our sympathy and support we can help them, insha’Allah, remain steadfast on the right path. We must find the balance between having a firm boundary while also showing compassion and kindness in our interactions with them.
Root Cause of this Behavior
There has been a long-running societal change in the West involving the separation of church and state, which encouraged secularism and atheism. In addition, other destructive influences have come forward in our culture including the modern rejection of community-based religion, New Age teachings that there is no judgment or right or wrong as long as it follows a person’s individual “truth,” and an emphasis on individualism which moves us away from focusing on collective interests and the common good.
It is within this massive societal change we can better understand the LGBTQ community and its aim to normalize any and all personal inclinations related to gender, sexuality, identity, and behavior.
In addition, a very large contributor to these issues is the destruction of the family system. We are seeing more and more homes where internal conflicts and even violence are becoming the norm. This has resulted in people running away from their familial responsibilities and towards alternative avenues for fulfilling their desires.
Contributing to the destruction of the family system is a capitalist and consumer society that prioritizes work for both parents, for men and women, over the development of their family relationships and the nurturing of families as building blocks of society. In addition, there is the increasingly young age of exposure to corrupt literature and media that promote self-indulgence, alcohol and drugs, and promiscuity.
These societal changes affect everyone, including those in the Muslim community. We notice that the topics of discussion in our community are getting more and more problematic. These discussions have led us away from hayaa (modesty) and slowly desensitizes us to the haraam happening in our own homes and communities.
What Can We Do?
• Educate: We live in a world of individualism, but as Muslims we must take a collective stand on our values and moral beliefs. It is our responsibility to educate families and communities around us on the benefits of preserving the family unit and allowing it to be a means to strengthen our society at large. The more comprehensively we address this issue today, the better, as it will only get more complex and difficult as time passes.
• Empower: As a community, we must empower our youth to speak out instead of just turning a blind eye to what is happening around them. A young person in this society can respect all people while also not endorsing or engaging in un-Islamic acts. Allah has provided us with the blueprint for a healthy family and society — a blueprint that lays a foundation of steadfastness in faith and then builds on mutual encouragement to do good and remain on the path of guidance. Once we stray from this path, Shaytaan will find us all kinds of haraam alternatives to fulfill our desires.
• Be Firm: In Western history, we see a correlation between turning away from religion and the breakdown of the family system. This has inevitably led to a breakdown in society at large. A healthy community operates under the guidance of its values and morals and doesn’t allow itself to follow just any desires or inclinations. Without divine guidance and its moral code, there would be no checks and balances and we would descend into confusion and chaos. Allah has provided us with all the guidance and sound wisdom we need; now it is our job to follow it regardless of what the people around us say or do. All people have been given the test of controlling their desires; we all have thoughts and inclinations, but we are only held accountable for our actions.
As a reminder, the world of this life is a test from Allah, and we work every day to understand our relationship with Allah and the position/responsibilities He has given us. True success for us is to accept that we are on a temporary journey as the servants of Allah, that we must live through this life with the best morals and in accordance with His guidance. With this mindset, we can control any desires and inclinations as we know something far better awaits us in the next life.