Homosexuality & Accountability

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// October 31st, 2006 // Blog

Entry modified from a comment i made on Seeking Utopia, 31/10/2006.

As with the other Abrahamic faiths, active and open homosexuality in the community is not condoned under Islamic law, as homosexual practices are considered as sinful. The word “sin” will hit a nerve with some, but simply see it as a term that is used to describe a sort of crime, which itself can be defined as an activity that causes harm either to oneself or to society at large, depending on the context. One cannot say it is a crime against God, as we are told again and again in the Qur'an that we cannot harm Allāh [God] with our deeds, we only harm ourselves. So God's commands are for our benefit and not just to make our lives difficult.

One of the greatest mistakes that both Muslims and non-Muslims make when discussing the topic of homosexuality, is the matter of accountability, which i believe can be broken down into three levels:

Level 1 – a person has homosexual tendencies, but has not committed any homosexual acts. This person is not a 'deviant' or crazy or possessed and is not at all worthy of blame or liable to prosecution. God does not hold people accountable for thoughts or desires whether they be in passing or long-term. There are many reasons why people may have such thoughts. I cannot make a claim as to whether such thoughts are “natural” in origin, but at the least it can be said that such thoughts are typical for whatever reason.

Level 2 – a person has homosexual tendencies but has acted upon them in secret.
Now the person has crossed the line of accountability, but even here it is with God alone. God is the only One who sees all and knows all, so a sin committed in secret will only be known to God and the sinner. Although Islam will never encourage sinful behaviour, it does acknowledge an individual's weakness. If one strays into sin the best thing to do is stay quiet, repent to God in private – the One who is always ready to forgive – and resolve not to repeat your mistake. If repentance was sincere, it is as if the sin never happened. If one was to stray again then the whole process of repentance begins from scratch.
Notice that no public confession is required. That concept is anathema to Islam. For one, what someone does secretly and perhaps in the privacy of their home is their own business – or should i say, it is between them and God. There are no witch hunts in Islam. Spying, suspicion and accusations without evidence are absolutely impermissible and in certain cases, the one who falsely accuses is himself liable for criminal punishment.
Secondly, from a wider point of view, as soon as you publicise your sin, it is the start of a slippery slope to that sin becoming acceptable in wider society. The argument begins with “so-and-so is doing it, so why can't I?”. Not everyone in society, even one that is 100% Muslim, is equal in their piety. Some people stay away from sin because they fear God, some stay away because they fear criminal punishment/being ostracised, but the majority are those who fear both. So many people are going to be affected when a sinful act goes public, and not just the minority who originally committed the sin. This leads onto level 3.

Level 3 – a person is openly and actively homosexual. They may not be “recruiting” others to join their cause (but i notice TV programs such as Queer Eye are implying it's “cool” to be gay) but my previous point explains how simply “coming out” affects larger society. This is especially true with influential individuals such as politicians and “celebrities”. Under Islamic law, such a person would be liable for criminal prosecution because now they are harming society and not just themselves. It is important to note that such prosecution can only take place where the state is an Islamic one, i.e., where the citizens of the state have accepted to live under the rule of Islam and be governed according to its laws.

I would like to ask at this point, does any of this go against your own ideas of accountability, whether you agree or disagree on the issue that being gay is a sin? To recap:
1) Having homosexual or other “bad” thoughts does not make you a bad person;
2) What you do in private is your own business;
3) You are liable to prosecution by the state when your actions harm/ endanger other citizens. This applies to all cases where people have sinned or have committed crimes against society.

Having explained all this, you can see why i say it is a shocking tragedy for people to be driven to self-harm and suicide because they are made to believe that having certain thoughts and desires makes them a bad person. Although Islam strongly speaks out against homosexuality, it never says that bad thoughts makes bad people, and offers a second chance to those who have already succumbed to their desires in secret.

9 Responses to “Homosexuality & Accountability”

  1. Arthur_Vandelay says:

    I cannot be sure of the backgrounds of all the commentators, but i feel the strongest voices have been that of athiests/ secular humanists.

    Not necessarily. I think you get that impression because very few commenters have been appealing to religious doctrines in presenting their views on homosexuality.

    There’s a very good reason for that, but it has nothing to do with the possibility that many of the commenters are atheists. In the context of a debate, in which everyone is trying to convince everyone else to accept their point of view, you’re not going to get very far if you simply say “Homosexuality shouldn’t be condoned because Islam/Christianity considers it sinful.” That presupposes that your interlocutors accept the truth of Islam or Christianity–and many of them will not. You’re much better off basing your argument upon reason and evidence–since these are likely to be understood and accepted by all, regardless of their religious background.

    I imagine most commenters at Seeking Utopia–regardless of their religious backgrounds–understand this: hence the lack of Biblical quotations in their comments.

    I know the word “sin” is going to hit a nerve with some, but simply see it as a term that is used when describing a sort of crime.

    But it is only a crime against religious laws, not secular laws (at least not in most parts of the West). And the word “sin” means nothing outside the context of a religious belief system. For me to accept the notion that homosexuality is sinful, I would first have to accept the belief system that holds homosexuality to be sinful.

    In the end my comment may only be relevant to existing muslims, as anyone who is non-muslim & pro-gay will try to undermine it by asking: why does Islam consider being openly gay a crime?

    There are more interesting questions than this to ask, I think. For instance: in a secular society, why should laws regarding homosexuality reflect religious doctrine? Or perhaps: if you’re trying to convince others (Muslims and non-Muslims alike) to adopt your point of view regarding homosexuality, why cut off the non-Muslim section of your audience by only presenting Islamic doctrines on homosexuality in order to support your position (which they are unlikely to accept)?

  2. iMuslim says:

    Dear Arthur

    Thank you for your comments.

    I completely understand and agree with what you’re saying. In fact i was in two minds about joining in the dialogue as for someone to understand/accept what i’m saying they would also have to accept that there was some truth in Islam being a revealed religion.

    That is why i ended my post the way i did. I thought there might be other muslims out there who also happened upon the same blog (i found it through random browsing) and might be wondering what Islam had to say on the matter.

    I was also encouraged to post by the statement on the index of Daniel’s blog saying: “Comments supporting or suggesting ways to improve our world are strongly encouraged.” I and other muslims believe Islam was revealed to improve the world and the quality of people’s lives – muslim and non-muslim. Even though Islam does not condone active homosexuality, I wanted to present the balanced way this issue is dealt with in islamic law, as it may help people be more open to the idea that there is truth in Islam. As i mentioned, people are put off religion as a whole these days due to their bad experiences with man-made religious institutions. Everyone in the West has heard of Islam but few people know what it’s about and their aversion to religion means they do not take the time to find out whether all religions are the same in all aspects.

    Anyway, maybe i made a mistake in introducing Islam via this particular debate! But then again i would join any discussion of human nature from an islamic point of view – does this mean i can never contribute? I know you weren’t suggesting that – it is an open question posed firstly to myself.

    The other reason i decided to post was because dominant points of view were based on the assumption that man is an animal, and some were quoting examples from the animal kingdom to justify their claims for homosexuality being natural or unnatural, and thus acceptable or unacceptable. I didn’t touch upon this in my comment thinking about it.

    Islam as well as other faiths and even objective observation clearly shows that man is above animal, in that although we share certain desires and have basal instincts, we are not subject to them and have an ability to control our actions. So i do not agree that one can justify homosexuality because there are “gay” animals, and alternatively one cannot say because there are “straight” animals it is unnatural for humans to be gay. There are many modes of reproduction in the animal kingdom, including ones that do not involve any sex (trust me, I’m a biologist). The whole argument is based on an incorrect premise that we are animals, and so we should or should not do as animals do or do not do. Lions commit infanticide when they take over a pride, does that mean a step-father can kill or abuse his step-children? Of course not, and it would be absurd for a lawyer to defend his client with such an argument in court. People are tempted to use such reasoning when they believe that man has evolved with all the other animals. I am well aware i am about to stray into an entirely new debate about the theory of evolution! In short, Islam doesn’t have an opinion about the theory of speciation of animals, plants and other life forms. It is left for the scientists to prove. However we do clearly believe that humans did not evolve, but were created by God in the form we see now, i.e., we are all descendants of Adam and Eve (peace be upon them), although the story isn’t exactly as you may know from the Bible.

    Without writing an entire essay on the subject (besides there are better ones out there to read) in the end, you are correct Arthur. My only real reason to reject homosexuality is because Islam says so. If God had not commented on the subject or said it was OK then things would be different. That is why i say the real question for any non-muslim reading my comment is: why do i believe that Islam has the authority to speak on behalf of God? That is a big statement and we know the consequences of people taking it lightly. For me, a molecular biologist, [in English, a scientist] to believe anything, i need evidence and the arguments for Islam being what it claims to be should sit easily with my reason. Upon examination, and repeated re-examination, i am certain it does. So by posting on the forum, i am asking others to do the same work: http://www.islamalways.com. All is required is an open mind and love for the truth. Not a desire for the truth to be convenient, but simply a desire to be aware of it at all, and no longer be blinded by any internal or external factors.

    For anyone to accept anything i have to say they have to live in the same world. I live in a world created by God – where do you live?

    Best wishes,

    iMuslim

  3. Arthur_Vandelay says:

    some were quoting examples from the animal kingdom to justify their claims for homosexuality being natural or unnatural, and thus acceptable or unacceptable.

    I agree that this is problematic, but I don’t think the references to animal homosexuality were in fact being used to justify human homosexuality in the debate on Seeking Utopia. They were raised only in order to rebut one commenter’s claims that homosexuality doesn’t occur elsewhere in the animal kingdom.

    Islam as well as other faiths and even objective observation clearly shows that man is above animal, in that although we share certain desires and have basal instincts, we are not subject to them and have an ability to control our actions.

    Human beings are members of the animal kingdom, and to deny this is to deny reality. That doesn’t make what you say entirely incorrect, however. Humans are unique in the animal kingdom insofar as we do possess the ability to reason and to control our actions (at least to a far greater extent than can other animals). Our uniqueness, like the uniqueness of every other creature, is the product of evolution.

    In short, Islam doesn’t have an opinion about the theory of speciation of animals, plants and other life forms. It is left for the scientists to prove. However we do clearly believe that humans did not evolve, but were created by God in the form we see now, i.e., we are all descendants of Adam and Eve (peace be upon them), although the story isn’t exactly as you may know from the Bible.

    Can you understand how, from a non-Muslim perspective, this is a contradictory position? If the scientists are a priori mistaken regarding the development of the human species, what grounds do you have for accepting their findings regarding other species? If they get it so wrong regarding humans, are they not likely to be just as unreliable when it comes to other animals?

    Without writing an entire essay on the subject (besides there are better ones out there to read) in the end, you are correct Arthur. My only real reason to reject homosexuality is because Islam says so. If God had not commented on the subject or said it was OK then things would be different.

    Can you understand how, from a non-Muslim perspective, this seems entirely unreasonable?

  4. Arthur_Vandelay says:

    By the way, iMuslim: I know I probably should have mentioned this before, but I have it on good authority that I am a (ahem) “small-minded predator who pretends to be ever so nice until you cross [me] or disagree with [me].”

    So you’d best be careful in the manner in which you address my points, or I’m likely to go all “dishonest” and “malicious” on you. :)

    In the interests of a civilised Blogosphere, cheers!

  5. Yousef says:

    Assalamu alaikum dear sister,
    You and your readers may find the following blog, where such ideas are discussed, interesting. http://www.gaymuslims.org

  6. Bruce says:

    In the end my comment may only be relevant to existing muslims, as anyone who is non-muslim & pro-gay will try to undermine it by asking: why does Islam consider being openly gay a crime?

    It worries me that you think that such questions would be used to undermine anything. It is the basic tennet of reason that all asertions require justification. It isn’t out of a desire to undermine that questions are asked, but rather to ascertain a truth state.

    It’s a legitimate question that really requires an answer without appeal to authority, antiquity etc.

    Bruce

  7. iMuslim says:

    Dear all,

    My latest entry is in part a response to your comments. It is titled “Disclaimer & Justification”.

    I pray you find it useful.

    Best wishes,

    iMuslim

  8. iMuslim says:

    Dear Bruce,

    Thank you for your comments. I agree that my use of the word “undermine” was incorrect and i have edited my post accordingly.

    I am sorry i am not equipped to fully explain why Allah (through Islam) has said homosexuality is a sin, though my post “Disclaimer & Justification” may help you to understand why i trust this is so. I admit to having some ideas, but these as yet are untested. I also admit that i haven’t spent much time pondering the subject, except for the past few days of course! You may scoff to hear a religious person say this, but i believe it would be incorrect to air such views until there was clear evidence to support them, i.e., it would be conjecture at this point.

    Once again thank you for correcting me. May Allah always keep my eyes open.

    Best wishes,

    iMuslim

  9. Bruce says:

    Hi iMuslim,

    I wouldn’t presume to correct you on your own position (nor will I scoff). Reading (often under-represented) Muslim perspectives is an education for a lot of us non-Muslims, so I’m not in a position to pre-judge or jump to conclusions about what you say.

    It’s also why I’m likely to ask a lot of questions. :)

    Best Wishes,

    Bruce

    PS. I liked the notion of sin being about crimes against people, not against God. It seems very much like the utilitarian principal that states that the action that creates the most harm to the most people is the least moral action.

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