LGBT in Islam

LGBT in Islam is influenced by the religious, legal, social, and cultural history of the nations with a sizable Muslim population, along with specific passages in the Quran[1][2] and hadith, statements attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

The Quran cites the story of the "people of Lot" destroyed by the wrath of God because they engaged in lustful carnal acts between men. Homosexual acts are forbidden in traditional Islamic jurisprudence and are liable to different punishments, including the death penalty, depending on the situation and legal school. However, homosexual relationships were generally tolerated in pre-modern Islamic societies,[3][4] and historical record suggests that these laws were invoked infrequently, mainly in cases of rape or other "exceptionally blatant infringement on public morals".[5] Homoerotic themes were cultivated in poetry and other literary genres written in major languages of the Muslim world from the eighth century into the modern era.[6][4] The conceptions of homosexuality found in classical Islamic texts resemble the traditions of Graeco-Roman antiquity, rather than modern Western notions of sexual orientation.[5][7] It was expected that many or most mature men would be sexually attracted to both women and male adolescents (variously defined), and men were expected to wish to play only an active role in homosexual intercourse once they reached adulthood.[5][7]

In recent times, extreme prejudice persists, both socially and legally, in much of the Islamic world against people who engage in homosexual acts. In Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia (in some southern regions), Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen, homosexual activity carries the death penalty.[8][9][10][11][12][13]

In other countries, such as Algeria, Bangladesh, Chad,[14] Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia and Syria, it is illegal.[15][16][17][18][19][20] Same-sex sexual intercourse is legal in Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Niger, Tajikistan, Turkey, and most of Indonesia (except in Aceh and South Sumatra provinces, where bylaws against LGBT rights have been passed), as well as Northern Cyprus.[21][22][23][24]

Homosexual relations between females are legal in Kuwait, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, but homosexual acts between males are illegal.[21][25][26][27]

Most Muslim-majority countries and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have opposed moves to advance LGBT rights at the United Nations, in the General Assembly or the UNHRC. In May 2016, a group of 51 Muslim states blocked 11 gay and transgender organizations from attending 2016 High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS.[28][29][30][31] However, Albania, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone have signed a UN Declaration supporting LGBT rights.[32][33] Albania provides LGBT rights protections in the form of anti-discrimination laws, and discussions on legally recognizing same-sex marriage have been held in the country.[34] Kosovo as well as the (internationally not recognized) Muslim-majority Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also have anti-discrimination laws in place. There are also several groups within Islam around the world who support LGBT rights and LGBT Muslims. [31]

Scripture and Islamic jurisprudence

In the Quran

Messengers to Lot

The Quran contains several allusions to homosexual activity, which has prompted considerable exegetical and legal commentary over the centuries.[35] The subject is most clearly addressed in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (seven verses) after the city inhabitants demand sexual access to the messengers sent by God to the prophet Lot (or Lut),.[35][36][37][38] The Quranic narrative largely conforms to that found in Genesis.[35] In one passage the Quran says that the men "solicited his guests of him" (Quran 54:37), using an expression that parallels phrasing used to describe the attempted seduction of Joseph, and in multiple passages they are accused of "coming with lust" to men instead of women (or their wives).[35] The Quran terms this an abomination (Arabic: فاحشة, translit. fāḥiša) unprecedented in the history of the world:

"And (We sent) Lot when he said to his people: What! do you commit an indecency which any one in the world has not done before you? Most surely you come to males in lust besides females; nay you are an extravagant people. And the answer of his people was no other than that they said: Turn them out of your town, surely they are a people who seek to purify (themselves). So We delivered him and his followers, except his wife; she was of those who remained behind. And We rained upon them a rain; consider then what was the end of the guilty."[7:80–84 (Translated by Shakir)]

Later exegetical literature built on these verses as writers attempted to give their own views as to what went on; and there was general agreement among exegetes that the "abomination" alluded to by the Quranic passages was attempted sodomy (specifically anal intercourse) between men.[35]

The sins of the people of Lut (Arabic: لوط) subsequently became proverbial, and the Arabic words for the act of anal sex between men (Arabic: لواط, translit. liwāṭ) and for a person who performs such acts (Arabic: لوطي, translit. lūṭi) ironically both derive from his name (even though Lut wasn't the one demanding sex).[39]

Zina verse

Only one passage in the Quran prescribes a strictly legal position. It is not restricted to homosexual behaviour, however, and deals more generally with zina (illicit sexual intercourse):[40]

"And as for those who are guilty of an indecency from among your women, call to witnesses against them four (witnesses) from among you; then if they bear witness confine them to the houses until death takes them away or Allah opens some way for them (15). And as for the two who are guilty of indecency from among you, give them both a punishment; then if they repent and amend, turn aside from them; surely Allah is oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful. (16)"[4:15–16 (Translated by Shakir)]

Most exegetes hold that these verses refer to illicit heterosexual relationships, although a minority view attributed to the Mu'tazilite scholar Abu Muslim al-Isfahani interpreted them as referring to homosexual relations. This view was widely rejected by medieval scholars, but has found some acceptance in modern times.[35]

Cupbearers in paradise

Some Quranic verses describing the paradise refer to "immortal boys" (56:17, 76:19) or "young men" (52:24) who serve wine to the blessed. Although the tafsir literature does not interpret this as a homoerotic allusion, the connection was made in other literary genres, mostly humorously.[35] For example, the Abbasid-era poet Abu Nuwas wrote:[41]

A beautiful lad came carrying the wine
With smooth hands and fingers dyed with henna
And with long hair of golden curls around his cheeks ...
I have a lad who is like the beautiful lads of paradise
And his eyes are big and beautiful

Jurists of the Hanafi school took up the question seriously, considering, but ultimately rejecting the suggestion that homosexual pleasures were, like wine, forbidden in this world but enjoyed in the afterlife.[35][5]

In hadith and athar

The hadith (sayings and actions attributed to Muhammad) show that homosexual behaviour was not unknown in seventh-century Arabia.[42] However, given that the Quran did not specify the punishment of homosexual sodomy, Islamic jurists increasingly turned to several "more explicit but poorly attested"[35] hadiths in an attempt to find guidance on appropriate punishment.[42]

While there are no reports relating to homosexuality in the best known hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim, other canonical collections record a number of condemnations of the "act of the people of Lot" (male-to-male anal intercourse).[5] For example, Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi (compiling the Sunan al-Tirmidhi around C.E.884) wrote that Muhammad had indeed prescribed the death penalty for both the active and also the passive partner:

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Prophet said: If you find anyone doing as Lot's people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: If a man who is not married is seized committing sodomy he will be stoned to death.

Ibn al-Jawzi (1114–1200) writing in the 12th century claimed that Muhammad had cursed "sodomites" in several hadith, and had recommended the death penalty for both the active and passive partners in homosexual acts.[43]

It was narrated that Ibn 'Abbaas said: "The Prophet said: "... cursed is the one who does the action of the people of Lot."

Musnad Ahmad:1878

Ahmad narrated from Ibn 'Abbas that the Prophet of Allah said: "May Allah curse the one who does the action of the people of Lot, may Allah curse the one who does the action of the people of Lot," three times.

Musnad Ahmad: 2915

Al-Nuwayri (1272–1332) in his Nihaya reports that Muhammad is "alleged to have said what he feared most for his community were the practices of the people of Lot (although he seems to have expressed the same idea in regard to wine and female seduction)."[42]

It was narrated that Jabir: "The Prophet said: 'There is nothing I fear for my followers more than the deed of the people of Lot.'"

Other hadiths seem to permit homoerotic feelings as long as they are not translated into action.[44] One hadith acknowledges homoerotic temptation and warns against it: "Do not gaze at the beardless youths, for verily they have eyes more tempting than the houris"[45] or "... for verily they resemble the houris".[46] These beardless youths are also described as wearing sumptuous robes and having perfumed hair.[47]

In addition, there is a number of "purported (but mutually inconsistent) reports" (athar) of punishments of sodomy ordered by early caliphs.[5] Abu Bakr apparently recommended toppling a wall on the culprit, or else burning him alive,[48] while Ali bin Abi Talib is said to have ordered death by stoning for one sodomite and had another thrown head-first from the top of a minaret—according to Ibn Abbas, the latter punishment must be followed by stoning.[42]

There are, however, fewer hadith mentioning homosexual behavior in women;[49][50] but punishment (if any) for lesbianism was not clarified.

The hadith collection of Bukhari (compiled in the 9th century from earlier oral traditions) includes a report regarding mukhannathun, effeminate men who were granted access to secluded women's quarters and engaged in other non-normative gender behavior:[51]

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Prophet cursed effeminate men; those men who are in the similitude (assume the manners of women) and those women who assume the manners of men, and he said, "Turn them out of your houses." The Prophet turned out such-and-such man, and 'Umar turned out such-and-such woman.

In hadiths attributed to Muhammad's wives, a mukhannath in question expressed his appreciation of a woman's body and described it for the benefit of another man. According to Everett Rowson, none of the sources state that Muhammad banished more than two mukhannathun, and it is not clear to what extent the action was taken because of their breaking of gender rules in itself or because of the "perceived damage to social institutions from their activities as matchmakers and their corresponding access to women".[51]

Traditional Islamic law

According to traditional Islamic law, homosexual activity cannot occur in a legal manner because it takes place outside of marriage and between partners of the same sex.[52]

The paucity of concrete prescriptions to be derived from hadith and the contradictory nature of information about the actions of early authorities resulted in lack of agreement among classical jurists as to how homosexual activity should be treated.[5][4] Most legal schools treat homosexual intercourse with penetration similarly to unlawful heterosexual intercourse under the rubric of zina, but there are differences of opinion with respect to methods of punishment.[53] Some legal schools "prescribed capital punishment for sodomy, but others opted only for a relatively mild discretionary punishment."[4] The Hanbalites are the most severe among Sunni schools, insisting on capital punishment for anal sex in all cases, while the other schools generally restrict punishment to flagellation with or without banishment, unless the culprit is muhsan (Muslim free married adult), and Hanafis often suggest no physical punishment at all, leaving the choice to the judge's discretion.[3][53] The founder of the Hanafi school Abu Hanifa refused to recognize the analogy between sodomy and zina, although his two principal students disagreed with him on this point.[5] The Hanafi scholar Abu Bakr Al-Jassas (d. 981 AD/370 AH) argued that the two hadiths on killing homosexuals "are not reliable by any means and no legal punishment can be prescribed based on them".[54] Where capital punishment is prescribed and a particular method is recommended, the methods range from stoning (Hanbali, Maliki), to the sword (some Hanbalites and Shafi'ites), or leaving it to the court to choose between several methods, including throwing the culprit off a high building (Shi'ite).[53]

For unclear reasons, the treatment of homosexuality in Twelver Shia jurisprudence is generally harsher than in Sunni fiqh, while Zaydi and Isma'ili Shia jurists took positions similar to the Sunnis.[5] Where flogging is prescribed, there is a tendency for indulgence and some recommend that the prescribed penalty should not be applied in full, with Ibn Hazm reducing the number of strokes to 10.[3] There was debate as to whether the active and passive partners in anal sex should be punished equally.[55] Beyond penetrative anal sex, there was "general agreement" that "other homosexual acts (including any between females) were lesser offenses, subject only to discretionary punishment."[4] Some jurists viewed sexual intercourse as possible only for an individual who possesses a phallus;[56] hence those definitions of sexual intercourse that rely on the entry of as little of the corona of the phallus into a partner's orifice.[56] Since women do not possess a phallus and cannot have intercourse with one another, they are, in this interpretation, physically incapable of committing zinā.[56]

Since a hadd punishment for zina requires testimony from four witnesses to the actual act of penetration or a confession from the accused repeated four times, the legal criteria for the prescribed harsh punishments of homosexual acts were very difficult to fulfill.[3][55] The debates of classical jurists are "to a large extent theoretical, since homosexual relations have always been tolerated" in pre-modern Islamic societies.[3] While it is difficult to ascertain to what extent the legal sanctions were enforced in different times and places, historical record suggests that the laws were invoked mainly in cases of rape or other "exceptionally blatant infringement on public morals". Documented instances of prosecution for homosexual acts are rare, and those which followed legal procedure prescribed by Islamic law are even rarer.[5]

Modern interpretations of scripture and sharia

In her 2016 book, Kecia Ali observes that "contemporary scholars disagree sharply about the Qur'anic perspective on same-sex intimacy." One scholar represents the conventional perspective by arguing that the Qur'an "is very explicit in its condemnation of homosexuality leaving scarcely any loophole for a theological accommodation of homosexuality in Islam." Another scholar argues that "the Qur'an does not address homosexuality or homosexuals explicitly." Overall, Ali says that "there is no one Muslim perspective on anything."[57]

Many Muslim scholars have followed a "don't ask, don't tell" policy in regards to homosexuality in Islam, by treating the subject with passivity.[2]

Mohamed El-Moctar El-Shinqiti, director of the Islamic Center of South Plains in Texas, has argued that "[even though] homosexuality is a grievous sin...[a] no legal punishment is stated in the Qur'an for homosexuality...[b] it is not reported that Prophet Muhammad has punished somebody for committing homosexuality...[c] there is no authentic hadith reported from the Prophet prescribing a punishment for the homosexuals..." Classical hadith scholars such as Al-Bukhari, Yahya ibn Ma'in, Al-Nasa'i, Ibn Hazm, Al-Tirmidhi, and others have impugned the authenticity of hadith reporting these statements.[58]

Faisal Kutty, a professor of Islamic law at Indiana-based Valparaiso University Law School and Toronto-based Osgoode Hall Law School, commented on the contemporary same-sex marriage debate in a March 27, 2014, essay in the Huffington Post.[59] He acknowledged that while Islamic law iterations prohibits pre- and extra-marital as well as same-sex sexual activity, it does not attempt to "regulate feelings, emotions and urges, but only its translation into action that authorities had declared unlawful". Kutty, who teaches comparative law and legal reasoning, also wrote that many Islamic scholars[60] have "even argued that homosexual tendencies themselves were not haram [prohibited] but had to be suppressed for the public good". He claimed that this may not be "what the LGBTQ community wants to hear", but that, "it reveals that even classical Islamic jurists struggled with this issue and had a more sophisticated attitude than many contemporary Muslims". Kutty, who in the past wrote in support of allowing Islamic principles in dispute resolution, also noted that "most Muslims have no problem extending full human rights to those—even Muslims—who live together 'in sin'". He argued that it therefore seems hypocritical to deny fundamental rights to same-sex couples. Moreover, he concurred with Islamic legal scholar Mohamed Fadel[61] in arguing that this is not about changing Islamic marriage (nikah), but about making "sure that all citizens have access to the same kinds of public benefits".

Islamist journalist Muhammad Jalal Kishk found no prescribed punishment for homosexuality in Islamic law[62][63] Several modern day scholars, including Scott Kugle, argue for a different interpretation of the Lot narrative focusing not on the sexual act but on the infidelity of the tribe and their rejection of Lot's Prophethood.[64]

In a 2003 book Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle asserts "that Islam does not address homosexuality."[65] Therefore, he adds that we should be "suspicious of statements like 'Islam says . . .' or 'The Shari'ah says . . .' as if these abstractions actually speak." Whatever is said about these sources "are interpretations of them" and interpretations are "always by fallible people." Fugle reads the Qur'an as holding "a positive assessment of diversity." With this reading, Islam can be described as "a religion that positively assesses diversity in creation and in human societies."195 In keeping with this positive assessment of diversity, "gay and lesbian Muslims" view homosexuality as representing the "natural diversity in sexuality in human societies."[66]

In Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle's 2010 book on homosexuality in Islam, he addresses the teaching of sacred texts including the Qur'an about homosexuality. Kugle notes the Islamic "tolerance for diversity of interpretation of sacred texts."[67]

Kugle quotes the Qur'an: "O people, we created you all from a male and a female And made you into different communities and tribes So that you would come to know one another Acknowledging that the most noble among you Is the one most aware of God." Qur'an 49:13 (Kugle's translation). Then Kugle continues, "the implication of this verse is that no Muslim is better than another," even "a gay or lesbian Muslim."[68]

Regarding interpreting the Qur'an, Kugle notes that "it is always human beings who speak for the Qur'an" and "they always interpret its words" and "interpretation is always ambiguous and contested." Such ambiguity allows "gay, lesbian, and transgender Muslims" to interpret the Qur'an in "sexuality-sensitive" ways, ways they believe produce a "fuller and better interpretation."[69]

Regarding the Qur'an's treatment of same-sex acts, Kugle says that "where the Qur'an treats same-sex acts, it condemns them only so far as they are exploitive or violent." More generally, Kugle notes that the Qur'an refers to four different levels of personality. One level is "genetic inheritance." The Qur'an refers to this level as one's "physical stamp" that "determines one's temperamental nature" including one's sexuality. One the basis of this reading of the Qur'an, Kugle asserts that homosexuality is "caused by divine will," so "homosexuals have no rational choice in their internal disposition to be attracted to same-sex mates."[70]

Regarding the story of Lot, Kugle observes that if the "classical interpreters" had seen "sexual orientation as an integral aspect of human personality," they would have read the narrative of Lot and his tribe "as addressing male rape of men in particular" and not as "addressing homosexuality in general."[71]

A critique of Kugle's approach, interpretations and conclusions was published in 2016 by Mobeen Vaid.[72]

In a 2012 book, Aisha Geissinger[73] writes that there are "apparently irreconcilable Muslim standpoints on same-sex desires and acts," all of which claim "interpretative authenticity." One of these standpoints results from "queer-friendly" interpretations of the Lot story and the Quran. The Lot story is interpreted as condemning "rape and inhospitality rather than today's consensual same-sex relationships."[74]

Abdessamad Dialmy[75] in his 2010 article, "Sexuality and Islam," addressed "sexual norms defined by the sacred texts (Koran and Sunna)." He wrote that "sexual standards in Islam are paradoxical." The sacred texts "allow and actually are an enticement to the exercise of sexuality." However, they also "discriminate . . . between heterosexuality and homosexuality." Islam's paradoxical standards result in "the current back and forth swing of sexual practices between repression and openness." Dialmy sees a solution to this back and forth swing by a "reinterpretation of repressive holy texts."[76]

History of homosexuality in Islamic societies

Societies in Islam have recognized "both erotic attraction and sexual behavior between members of the same sex." However, their attitudes about them have often been contradictory: "severe religious and legal sanctions" against homosexual behavior and at the same time "celebratory expressions" of erotic attraction.[4] Homoeroticism was idealized in the form of poetry or artistic declarations of love from one man to another. Accordingly, the Arabic language had an appreciable vocabulary of homoerotic terms, with a dozens of word just to describe types of male prostitutes.[77] Schmitt (1992) identifies some twenty words in Arabic, Persian and Turkish to identify those who are penetrated.[78] Other related Arabic words includes Mukhannathun, ma'bûn, halaqī, baghghā.[79]

Pre-modern era

There is little evidence of homosexual practice in Islamic societies for the first century and a half of the Islamic era.[5] Homoerotic poetry appears suddenly at the end of the 8th century CE, particularly in Baghdad in the work of Abu Nuwas (756-814), who became a master of all the contemporary genres of Arabic poetry.[5][80] The famous author Jahiz tried to explain the abrupt change in attitudes toward homosexuality after the Abbasid Revolution by the arrival of the Abbasid army from Khurasan, who are said to have consoled themselves with male pages when they were forbidden to take their wives with them.[5] The increased prosperity following the early conquests was accompanied by a "corruption of morals" in the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and it can be inferred that homosexual practice became more widespread during this time as a result of acculturation to foreign customs, such as the music and dance practiced by mukhannathun, who were mostly foreign in origin.[42] The Abbasid ruler Al-Amin (809-813) was said to have required slave women to be dressed in masculine clothing so he could be persuaded to have sex with them, and a broader fashion for ghulamiyyat (boy-like girls) is reflected in literature of the period.[42]

The conceptions of homosexuality found in classical Islamic texts resemble the traditions of classical Greece and those of ancient Rome, rather than modern Western notions of sexual orientation.[5][7] It was expected that many or most mature men would be sexually attracted to both women and adolescent boys (with different views about the appropriate age range for the latter), and men were expected to wish to play only an active role in homosexual intercourse once they reached adulthood.[5][7] Preference for homosexual over heterosexual relations was regarded as a matter of personal taste rather than a marker of homosexual identity in a modern sense.[5][7] While playing an active role in homosexual relations carried no social stigma beyond that of licentious behavior, seeking to play a passive role was considered both unnatural and shameful for a mature man.[5][7] Following Greek precedents, the Islamic medical tradition regarded as pathological only this latter case, and showed no concern for other forms of homosexual behavior.[5]

During the early period, growth of a beard was considered to be the conventional age when an adolescent lost his homoerotic appeal, as evidenced by poetic protestations that the author still found his lover beautiful despite the growing beard. During later periods, the age of the stereotypical beloved became more ambiguous, and this prototype was often represented in Persian poetry by Turkish soldiers.[5] This trend is illustrated by the story of Mahmud of Ghazni (971–1030), the ruler of the Ghaznavid Empire, and his cupbearer Malik Ayaz.[5] Their relationship, which was sketchily attested in contemporary sources, became a staple of Persian literature comparable to the story of Layla and Majnun.[5] Poets used it to illustrate the power of love, pointing to Mahmud as an example of a man who becomes "a slave to his slave", while Malik Ayaz served as "the embodiment of the ideal beloved, and a model for purity in Sufi literature".[81][82]

Other famous examples of homosexuality include the Aghlabid Emir Ibrahim II of Ifriqiya (ruled 875–902), who was said to have been surrounded by some sixty catamites, yet whom he was said to have treated in a most horrific manner. Caliph al-Mutasim in the 9th century and some of his successors were accused of homosexuality. The popular stories say that Cordoba, Abd al-Rahman III had executed a young man from León who was held as a hostage, because he had refused his advances during the Reconquista.[42]

Mehmed the Conqueror, the Ottoman sultan living in the 15th century, European sources say "who was known to have ambivalent sexual tastes, sent a eunuch to the house of Notaras, demanding that he supply his good-looking fourteen-year-old son for the Sultan's pleasure. When he refused, the Sultan instantly ordered the decapitation of Notaras, together with that of his son and his son-in-law; and their three heads … were placed on the banqueting table before him".[83] Another youth Mehmed found attractive, and who was presumably more accommodating, was Radu III the Fair, the brother of the famous Vlad the Impaler, "Radu, a hostage in Istanbul whose good looks had caught the Sultan's fancy, and who was thus singled out to serve as one of his most favored pages." After the defeat of Vlad, Mehmed placed Radu on the throne of Wallachia as a vassal ruler. However, Turkish sources deny these stories.[84]

According to the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World:

Whatever the legal strictures on sexual activity, the positive expression of male homeoerotic sentiment in literature was accepted, and assiduously cultivated, from the late eighth century until modern times. First in Arabic, but later also in Persian, Turkish and Urdu, love poetry by men about boys more than competed with that about women, it overwhelmed it. Anecdotal literature reinforces this impression of general societal acceptance of the public celebration of male-male love (which hostile Western caricatures of Islamic societies in medieval and early modern times simply exaggerate).[85]

European travellers remarked on the taste that Shah Abbas of Iran (1588-1629) had for wine and festivities, but also for attractive pages and cup-bearers. A painting by Riza Abbasi with homo-erotic qualities shows the ruler enjoying such delights.[86]

"Homosexuality was a key symbolic issue throughout the Middle Ages in [Islamic] Iberia. As was customary everywhere until the nineteenth century, homosexuality was not viewed as a congenital disposition or 'identity'; the focus was on nonprocreative sexual practices, of which sodomy was the most controversial." For example, in "al-Andalus homosexual pleasures were much indulged by the intellectual and political elite. Evidence includes the behavior of rulers . . . who kept male harems."[87] Although early islamic writings such as the Quran expressed a mildly negative attitude towards homosexuality, laypersons usually apprehended the idea with indifference, if not admiration. Few literary works displayed hostility towards non-heterosexuality, apart from partisan statements and debates about types of love (which also occurred in heterosexual contexts).[88] Khaled el-Rouayheb (2014) maintain that "much if not most of the extant love poetry of the period [16th to 18th century] is pederastic in tone, portraying an adult male poet's passionate love for a teenage boy".[89]

El-Rouayheb suggest that even though religious scholars considered sodomy as an abhorrent sin, most of them did not genuinely believe that it was illicit to merely fall in love with a boy or expressing this love via poetry.[90] In the secular society however, a male's desire to penetrate a desirable youth was seen as understandable, even if not lawful.[91] On the other hand, men adopting the passive role were more subjected to stigma. The medical term ubnah qualified the pathological desire of a male to exclusively be on the receiving end of anal intercourse. Physician that theorized on ubnah includes Rhazes, who thought that it was correlated with small genitals and that a treatment was possible provided that the subject was deemed to be not too effeminate and the behavior not "prolonged".[92] Dawud al-Antaki advanced that it could have been caused by an acidic substance embedded in the veins of the anus, causing itchiness and thus the need to seek relief.[93]

Modern era

The Ottoman Caliphate "ruled the Sunni Muslim world for centuries." It was "much more open-minded regarding the homosexual issue" than is the current Turkish government although it "claims to emulate" the Ottoman Caliphate. "The Ottoman Empire had an extensive literature of homosexual romance, and an accepted social category of transvestites." It could be argued that the Ottoman sultans "were social liberals compared with the contemporary Islamists of Turkey, let alone the Arab World."[94]

During the Ottoman Empire, homosexuality was decriminalized in 1858, as part of wider reforms during the Tanzimat.[95][96]

Before the modern era, Islamic nations were not so opposed to same-sex relations. For example, a ruler in Persia in the 11th century advised his son "to alternate his partners seasonally: young men in the summer and women in the winter." Many eighth-century love poems by Abu Nuwas in Baghdad and by other Persian and Urdu poets seem to have been "addressed to boys." In mystic writings of the medieval era, such as Sufi texts, it is "unclear whether the beloved being addressed is a teenage boy or God." European chroniclers censured "the indulgent attitudes to gay sex in the Caliphs' courts."[97]

The modern rejection and criminalization of "homosexuality in Islam gained momentum through the exogenous effects of European colonialism. . . . " European thought at the time treated homosexuality as "against nature."[98]

Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle has argued that, while "Muslims commemorate the early days of Islam when they were oppressed as a marginalized few," many of them now forget their history and fail to protect "Muslims who are gay, transgender and lesbian."[99]


While friendship between men and boys is often described in sexual ways in classical Islamic literature, Khaled El-Rouayheb and Oliver Leaman have argued that it would be misleading to conclude from this that homosexuality was widespread in practice.[55] Such literature tended to use transgressive motifs alluding to what is forbidden, in particular homosexuality and wine.[55] Greek homoerotic motifs may have accurately described practices in ancient Greece, but in their Islamic adaptations they tended to play a satirical or metaphorical rather than descriptive role.[55] At the same time, many miniatures, especially from Ottoman Turkey, contain explicit depictions of pederasty, suggesting that the practice enjoyed a certain degree of popularity.[55] A number of pre-modern texts discuss the possibility of sexual exploitation faced by young boys in educational institutions and warn teachers to take precautions against it.[55]

In modern times, despite the formal disapproval of religious authority, the segregation of women in Muslim societies and the strong emphasis on male virility leads adolescent males and unmarried young men to seek sexual outlets with boys younger than themselves—in one study in Morocco, with boys in the age-range 7 to 13.[100] Men have sex with other males so long as they are the penetrators and their partners are boys, or in some cases effeminate men.[101]

Liwat can therefore be regarded as "temptation",[102] and anal intercourse is not seen as repulsively unnatural so much as dangerously attractive. They believe "one has to avoid getting buggered precisely in order not to acquire a taste for it and thus become addicted."[103] Not all sodomy is homosexual: one Moroccan sociologist, in a study of sex education in his native country, notes that for many young men heterosexual sodomy is considered better than vaginal penetration, and female prostitutes likewise report the demand for anal penetration from their (male) clients.[104]

It is not so much the penetration as the enjoyment that is considered bad.[105] Deep shame attaches to the passive partner: "for this reason men stop getting laid at the age of 15 or 16 and 'forget' that they ever allowed it earlier." Similar sexual sociologies are reported for other Muslim societies from North Africa to Pakistan and the Far East.[106] In Afghanistan in 2009, the British Army was forced to commission a report into the sexuality of the local men after British soldiers reported the discomfort at witnessing adult males involved in sexual relations with boys. The report stated that though illegal, there was a tradition of such relationships in the country, known as bache bazi or "boy play", and that it was especially strong around North Afghanistan.[107]

Modern laws in the Islamic world


According to the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) seven countries still retain capital punishment for homosexual behavior: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria.[108][109] In United Arab Emirates it is a capital offense.[10][11] In Qatar, Algeria, Uzbekistan, and the Maldives, homosexuality is punished with time in prison or a fine. This has led to controversy regarding Qatar, which is due to stage the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Human rights groups have questioned the awarding in 2010 of the right to host the competition, due to the possibility that gay football fans may be jailed. In response, Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA, joked that they would have to "refrain from sexual activity" while in Qatar. He later withdrew the remarks after condemnation from rights groups.[110]

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Chad since August 1, 2017 under a new penal code. Homosexuality between consenting adults had never previously been criminalized prior to this law.[111]

In Muslim-majority countries, open gay life rarely exists, but "the closet is spacious." Even countries with strict laws against homosexual people "have flourishing gay scenes at all levels of society."[97][112]

In Bahrain, police in Bahrain arrested scores of men in February 2011 at a "gay party".[97]

In Egypt, openly gay men have been prosecuted under general public morality laws. (See Cairo 52.) "Sexual relations between consenting adult persons of the same sex in private are not prohibited as such. However, the Law on the Combating of Prostitution, and the law against debauchery have been used to imprison gay men in recent years."[113]

Islamic state has decreed capital punishment for gays. They have executed more than two dozen men and women for suspected homosexual activity, including several thrown off the top of buildings in highly publicized executions.[114]

In India, which has the third-largest Muslim population in the world, and where Muslims form a large minority, the largest Islamic seminary (Darul Uloom Deoband) has vehemently opposed recent government moves[115] to abrogate and liberalize laws from the British Raj era that banned homosexuality.[116]

In Iraq, homosexuality is allowed by the government, but terrorist groups often carry out illegal executions of gay people. Saddam Hussein was "unbothered by sexual mores." Ali Hili reports that "since the 2003 invasion more than 700 people have been killed because of their sexuality." He calls Iraq the "most dangerous place in the world for sexual minorities."[97]

In Jordan, where homosexuality is legal, "gay hangouts have been raided or closed on bogus charges, such as serving alcohol illegally."[97]

In Pakistan, its law is a mixture of both Anglo-Saxon colonial law as well as Islamic law, both which proscribe criminal penalties for same-sex sexual acts. The Pakistan Penal Code of 1860, originally developed under colonialism, punishes sodomy with a possible prison sentence and has other provisions that impact the human rights of LGBT Pakistanis, under the guise of protecting public morality and order. Yet, the more likely situation for gay and bisexual men is sporadic police blackmail, harassment, fines, and jail sentences.[117]

In Saudi Arabia, the maximum punishment for homosexual acts is public execution by beheading, which is often carried out.[118] The government will sometimes use lesser punishments—for example, fines, time in prison, and whipping—as alternatives.

In Turkey, homosexuality is legal, but "official censure can be fierce". A former interior minister, İdris Naim Şahin, called homosexuality an example of "dishonour, immorality and inhuman situations".[97]

Death penalty

In 2016, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) released its most recent State Sponsored Homophobia Report. The report found that thirteen countries (or parts of them) impose the death penalty for "Same-sex sexual acts". These countries comprise 6% of the countries in the United Nations. Of these thirteen countries, four are in Africa: Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Mauritania. Nine are in Asia: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, UAE, Iraq, and Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) territories. None are in the Americas, Europe, or Oceania.[119] The full report with details about countries imposing the death penalty can be read at State Sponsored Homophobia 2016.[120] This report omits that Brunei also punishes homosexuals with death[121] and that Brunei tolerates anti-gay vigilante attacks.


The Ottoman Empire (predecessor of Turkey) decriminalized homosexuality in 1858. In Turkey, where 99.8% of the population is Muslim, homosexuality has never been criminalized since the day it was founded in 1923.[122] And LGBT people also have the right to seek asylum in Turkey under the Geneva Convention since 1951.[123]

Same-sex sexual intercourse is legal in Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Iraq (except those parts controlled by the Islamic State), Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Niger, Tajikistan, Turkey, West Bank (State of Palestine), most of Indonesia, and in Northern Cyprus. In Albania, Lebanon, and Turkey, there have been discussions about legalizing same-sex marriage.[124][125] Albania, Northern Cyprus and Kosovo also protect LGBT people with anti-discrimination laws.

In 2016, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) released its most recent State Sponsored Homophobia Report. The report found that "same-sex sexual acts" are legal in 121 countries. These countries comprise 63% of the countries in the United Nations. Of these 121 countries, twenty-one are in Africa, nineteen are in Asia, twenty-four are in the Americas, forty-eight are in Europe, and seven are in Oceania.[126] The full report with the names of countries in which same-sex acts are legal or illegal can be read at State Sponsored Homophobia 2016.[127]

Same-sex marriage

In 2007 there was a gay party in the Moroccan town of al-Qasr al-Kabir. Rumours spread that this was a gay marriage and more than 600 people took to the streets, condemning the alleged event and protesting against leniency towards homosexuals.[128] Several persons who attended the party were detained and eventually six Moroccan men were sentenced to between four and ten months in prison for "homosexuality".[129]

In France there was an Islamic same-sex marriage on February 18, 2012.[130] In Paris in November 2012 a room in a Buddhist prayer hall was used by gay Muslims and called a "gay-friendly mosque",[131] and a French Islamic website[132] is supporting religious same-sex marriage.

The first American Muslim in the United States Congress, Keith Ellison (D-MN) said in 2010 that all discrimination against LGBT people is wrong.[133] He further expressed support for gay marriage stating:[134]

I believe that the right to marry someone who you please is so fundamental it should not be subject to popular approval any more than we should vote on whether blacks should be allowed to sit in the front of the bus.

In 2014 eight men were jailed for three years by a Cairo court after the circulation of a video of them allegedly taking part in a private wedding ceremony between two men on a boat on the Nile.[135]

Extremist attacks targeting LGBT people

Several violent attacks by Islamic terrorists against LGBT people in the West have taken place

  • In 2012, in the English city of Derby, some Muslim men "distributed . . . leaflets depicting gay men being executed in an attempt to encourage hatred against homosexuals." The leaflets had such titles as "Turn or Burn" and "God abhors you" and they advocated a death penalty for homosexuality.[136] The men were "convicted of hate crimes" on January 20, 2012. One of the men said that he was doing his Muslim duty.[97]
  • December 31, 2013 - New Year's Eve arson attack on gay nightclub in Seattle, packed with 300+ revelers, but no one injured. Subject charged prosecuted under federal terror and hate-crime charges.[137]
  • February 12, 2016 - Across Europe, gay refugees facing abuse at migrant asylum shelters are forced to flee shelters.[138]
  • April 25, 2016 - Xulhaz Mannan, an employee of the United States embassy in Dhaka and the editor of Bangladesh's first and only LGBT magazine, was killed in his apartment by a gang of Islamic militants.[139]
  • June 12, 2016 - At least 49 people were killed and 50 injured in a mass shooting at Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in the second deadliest mass shooting by an individual and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history. The shooter, Omar Mateen, pledged allegiance to ISIL. The act has been described by investigators as an Islamic terrorist attack and a hate crime.[140][141][142][143][144][145][146][147] Upon further review, investigators indicated Omar Mateen showed few signs of radicalization, suggesting that the shooter's pledge to ISIL may have been a calculated move to garner more news coverage.[148] Afghanistan,[149] Algeria,[150] Azerbaijan,[151] Bahrain,[152] Djibouti,[153] Egypt,[154] Iraq,[155] Iran,[156] Pakistan,[149] Saudi Arabia,[157] Turkey,[158] Turkmenistan and United Arab Emirates condemned the attack.[159][160] Many American Muslims, including community leaders, swiftly condemned the attack.[161][162] Prayer vigils for the victims were held at mosques across the country.[163] The Florida mosque where Mateen sometimes prayed issued a statement condemning the attack and offering condolences to the victims.[164] The Council on American–Islamic Relations called the attack "monstrous" and offered its condolences to the victims. CAIR Florida urged Muslims to donate blood and contribute funds in support of the victims' families.[161][165]

Chechnya concentration camps

Since February 2017, over 100 male residents of the Chechen Republic (part of the Russian Federation) assumed to be gay or bisexual have been rounded up, detained and tortured by authorities on account of their sexual orientation.[168] These crackdowns have been described as part of a systemic anti-LGBT "purge" in the region. The men are held and allegedly tortured in concentration camps.[169][170]

Allegations were initially reported in Novaya Gazeta on April 1, 2017[171] a Russian-language opposition newspaper, which reported that over 100 men have allegedly been detained and tortured and at least three people have died in an extrajudicial killing. The paper, citing its sources in the Chechen special services, called the wave of detentions a "prophylactic sweep."[171][172] The journalist who first reported on the subject has gone into hiding,[173][127] There have been calls for reprisals for journalists reporting on the situation.[174]

In response, the Russian LGBT Network is attempting to assist those who are threatened to evacuate from Chechyna.[175][176] Human rights groups and foreign governments have called upon Russia and Chechyna to put an end to the internments.[177]

Public opinion among Muslims

In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council passed its first resolution recognizing LGBT rights, which was followed up with a report from the UN Human Rights Commission documenting violations of the rights of LGBT people.[178][179] The two world maps of the percentage of Muslims per country and the countries that support LGBT rights at the UN give an impression of the attitude towards homosexuality on the part of many Muslim-majority governments.

The Muslim community as a whole, worldwide, has become polarized on the subject of homosexuality. Some Muslims say that "no good Muslim can be gay," and "traditional schools of Islamic law consider homosexuality a grave sin." At the opposite pole, "some Muslims . . . are welcoming what they see as an opening within their communities to address anti-gay attitudes." Especially, it is "young Muslims" who are "increasingly speaking out in support of gay rights".[180]

Opinion polls

In 2013, the Pew Research Center conducted a study on the global acceptance of homosexuality and found a widespread rejection of homosexuality in many nations that are predominantly Muslim. In some countries, views were becoming more conservative among younger people.[181]

Age and views on homosexuality
Country 18-29 30-49 50+

should be accepted

% % %
Turkey 9 7 10
Egypt 3 2 3
Jordan 5 1 1
Lebanon 27 17 10
Palestinian territories 5 3 --
Tunisia 3 2 1
Indonesia 4 2 3
Malaysia 7 10 11
Pakistan 2 2 2
Senegal 5 2 2

A 2007 survey of British Muslims showed that 61% believe homosexuality should be illegal, with up to 71% of young British Muslims holding this belief.[183] A later Gallup poll in 2009 showed that none of the 500 British Muslims polled believed homosexuality to be "morally acceptable". This compared with 35% of the 1001 French Muslims polled that did.[184]

According to a 2012 poll, 51% of the Turks in Germany, who account for nearly two thirds of the total Muslim population in Germany,[185] believe that homosexuality is an illness.[186]

In a 2016 ICM poll of 1,081 British Muslims, 52% of those polled disagreed with the statement 'Homosexuality should be legal in Britain' compared with 11% of the control group; 18% agreed compared with 73% of the control group. In the same poll, 56% of British Muslims polled disagreed with the statement 'Gay marriage should be legal in Britain' compared with 20% of the control group and 47% disagreed with the statement 'It is acceptable for a homosexual person to be a teacher in a school' compared with 14% of the control group.[187]

American Muslims - in line with general public attitudes in the United States - have become much more accepting of homosexuality over recent years. In a 2007 poll conducted by Pew Research Center, only 27% of American Muslims believed that homosexuality should be accepted. In a 2011 poll, that rose to 39%. In a July 2017 poll, Muslims who say homosexuality should be accepted by society clearly outnumber those who say it should be discouraged (52% versus 33%).[188]

Muslims leaders opposing same-sex relations



  • Iran's current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has stated that "There is no worst form of moral degeneration than [homosexuality]. ... But it won't stop here. In the future, not sure exactly when, they will legalize incest and even worse."[190] Mohammad Javad Larijani, Khamenei's close adviser, stated "In our society, homosexuality is regarded as an illness and malady," whilst adding "Promoting homosexuality is illegal and we have strong laws against it," Larijani said, according to the conservative news website Khabaronline. He added, "It [homosexuality] is considered as a norm in the West and they are forcing us to accept it. We are strongly against this."[191]
  • Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq has stated "It is not permissible for a man to look at another man with lust; similarly, it is not permissible for a woman to look at another woman with lust. Homosexuality (Ash-shudhûdh al-jinsi) is harãm. Similarly, it is forbidden for a female to engage in a sexual act with another female, i.e. lesbianism."[192]

LGBT movements within Islam

Defunct movements

The Al-Fatiha Foundation was an organization which tried to advance the cause of gay, lesbian, and transgender Muslims. It was founded in 1998 by Faisal Alam, a Pakistani American, and was registered as a nonprofit organization in the United States. The organization was an offshoot of an internet listserve that brought together many gay, lesbian and questioning Muslims from various countries.[193] The Foundation accepted and considered homosexuality as natural, either regarding Qur'anic verses as obsolete in the context of modern society, or stating that the Qu'ran speaks out against homosexual lust and is silent on homosexual love. After the Alam stepped down, subsequent leaders failed to sustain the organization and it began a process of legal dissolution in 2011.[194]

In 2001, Al-Muhajiroun, a banned and now defunct international organization who sought the establishment of a global Islamic caliphate, issued a fatwa declaring that all members of Al-Fatiha were murtadd, or apostates, and condemning them to death. Because of the threat and coming from conservative societies, many members of the foundation's site still prefer to be anonymous so as to protect their identity while continuing a tradition of secrecy.[195] Al-Fatiha has fourteen chapters in the United States, as well as offices in England, Canada, Spain, Turkey, and South Africa. In addition, Imaan, a social support group for Muslim LGBT people and their families, exists in the UK.[196] Both of these groups were founded by gay Pakistani activists.

Active movements

The coming together of "human rights discourses and sexual orientation struggles" has resulted in an abundance of "social movements and organizations concerned with gender and sexual minority oppression and discrimination."[197]

Gay prayer room in Paris

In November 2012, a prayer room was set up in Paris by gay Islamic scholar and founder of the group 'Homosexual Muslims of France' Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed. It was described by the press as the first gay-friendly mosque in Europe. The reaction from the rest of the Muslim community in France has been mixed. The opening has been condemned by the Grand Mosque of Paris.[198]

Islamic ex-gay groups

There are also a number of Islamic ex-gay (i.e. people claiming to have experienced a basic change in sexual orientation from exclusive homosexuality to exclusive heterosexuality)[199] groups aimed at attempting to guide homosexuals towards heterosexuality. A large body of research and global scientific consensus indicates that being gay, lesbian, or bisexual is compatible with normal mental health and social adjustment. Because of this, major mental health professional organizations discourage and caution individuals against attempting to change their sexual orientation to heterosexual, and warn that attempting to do so can be harmful.[200][201] People who have gone through conversion therapy face 8.9 times the rates of suicide ideation, face depression at 5.9 times the rate of their peers and are three times more likely to use illegal drugs compared to those who did not go through the therapy.[202]


Nur Wahrsame has been an advocate for LGBTI Muslims. He founded Marhaba, a support group for queer Muslims in Melbourne, Australia. In May 2016, Wahrsage revealed that he is homosexual in an interview on SBS2's The Feed, being the first openly gay Imam in Australia.[203]

Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity

The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD) in the United States began on January 23, 2013. It supports, empowers and connects LGBTQ Muslims. It aims "to increase the acceptance of gender and sexual diversity within Muslim communities."[204] On June 20, 2016, an interview with Mirna Haidar (a member of the MASGD's steering committee) was published in The Washington Post. She described the MASGD as supporting "LGBT Muslims who want or need to embrace both their sexual and religious identities." Haidar said that the support the MASGD provides is needed because a person who is "Muslim and queer " faces "two different systems of oppression": Islamophobia and homophobia.[205]

Muslims for Progressive Values

Muslims for Progressive Values, based in the United States and in Malaysia, is "a faith-based, grassroots, human rights organization that embodies and advocates for the traditional Qur'anic values of social justice and equality for all, for the 21st Century."[206] MPV has recorded "a lecture series that seeks to dismantle the religious justification for homophobia in Muslim communities." The lectures can be viewed at MPV Lecture Series.[207]

Safra Project

The Safra Project for women is based in the UK. It supports and works on issues relating to prejudice LGBTQ Muslim women. It was founded in October 2001 by Muslim LBT women. The Safra Project's "ethos is one of inclusiveness and diversity."[208]


Salaam is the first gay Muslim group in Canada and second in the world. Salaam was found in 1993 by El-Farouk Khaki, who organized the Salaam/Al-Fateha International Conference in 2003.[209]

Sarajevski Otvoreni Centar

Sarajevski Otvoreni Centar (Sarajevo Open Centre), abbreviated SOC, is an independent feminist civil society organization and advocacy group which campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people and women rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[210][211] The organization also gives asylum and psychological support to victims of discrimination and violence.[212]

The Pink Report is an annual report made by the organization on the state of the Human Rights of LGBTI People in the country and is supported by the Norwegian Embassy.[213]

Toronto Unity Mosque / el-Tawhid Juma Circle

In May 2009, the Toronto Unity Mosque / el-Tawhid Juma Circle was founded by Laury Silvers, a University of Toronto religious studies scholar, alongside Muslim gay-rights activists El-Farouk Khaki and Troy Jackson. Unity Mosque/ETJC is a gender-equal, LGBT+ affirming, mosque.[214][215][216][217]

Media designed to reduce prejudice

The religious conflicts and inner turmoil with which Islamic homosexuals struggle have been addressed in various media.

Channel 4

The goals of Channel 4 include (1) stimulate public debate on contemporary issues, (2) reflect cultural diversity of the UK, and (3) champion alternative points of view.[218] One of Channel 4's productions is a documentary on Gay Muslims, broadcast in the UK in January 2006. It can be viewed on YouTube in six parts: Gay Muslims - UK - Part 1 of 6, Gay Muslims - UK - Part 2 of 6, Gay Muslims - UK - Part 3 of 6, Gay Muslims - UK - Part 4 of 6, Gay Muslims - UK - Part 5 of 6, Gay Muslims - UK - Part 6 of 6

Unity Productions Foundation

The Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) works for "Peace through the Media" by producing films "to break down stereotypes and enhance understanding" of Muslims and Islam. UPF films have been seen by approximated 150 million people. UPF has "partnered with prominent Jewish, Muslim, Christian and interfaith groups to run dialogues nationwide." Videos of non-Muslims speaking up for Muslims as "fellow Americans" are online at Non-Muslims Speak Up.[219]

Muslim Debate Initiative

The Muslim Debate Initiative (MDI) made up of Muslims "with experience in public speaking, apologetics, polemics, research and community work." One of its aims is "to support, encourage and promote debate that contrasts Islam against other intellectual and political discourses for the purpose of the pursuit of truth, intellectual scrutiny with respect, and the clarifying accurate understandings of other worldviews between people of different cultures, beliefs and political persuasions."[220] One of its broadcasts was on BBC3's "Free Speech" program on March 25, 2014. The debate was between Maajid Nawaz and Abdullah al Andalusi on the question "Can you be Gay and Muslim?" It is on YouTube at "Gay and Muslim?".[221]

A Jihad for Love

In 2007, the documentary film A Jihad for Love was released. It was produced by Sandi Simcha DuBowski and directed by Parvez Sharma. As of 2016 the film has been shown in 49 nations to four million plus viewers. [222] See two parts of the film at A Jihad for Love Part 1[223] and A Jihad for Love Part 2.[224] Also a video about A Jihad for Love is at "About a Jihad for Love".[225]

A Sinner in Mecca

In 2015, the documentary film A Sinner in Mecca was released. It was directed by Parvez Sharma. The film chronicles Sharma's Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia as an openly gay Muslim. The film premiered at the 2015 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival to great critical acclaim.[226] The film opened in theaters in the US on September 4, 2015 and is a New York Times Critics' Pick.[227]


My.Kali is a Jordanian pan-Arab LGBT publication published in English in Amman, Jordan. It started publication online in 2008. It is named after openly gay model Khalid, making major headlines, as it is the 1st LGBT publication to ever exist in the MENA region.[228][229] The magazine regularly features non-LGBT artists on their covers to promote acceptance among other communities and was the first publication to give many underground and regional artists their first covers like Yasmine Hamdan,[230] both lead singer and violinist of band Mashrou' Leila, Hamed Sinno[231] and Haig Papazian, Alaa Wardi,[232] Zahed Sultan[233] and many more.[234]

Books supporting LGBT Muslims

This section contains material from books and articles supporting LGBT Muslims.

Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism

In Chapter Eight of the 2003 book, Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle asserts "that Islam does not address homosexuality." In Fugle's reading, the Qur'an holds "a positive assessment of diversity." It "respects diversity in physical appearance, constitution, stature, and color of human beings as a natural consequence of Divine wisdom in creation." Therefore, Islam can be described as "a religion that positively assesses diversity in creation and in human societies." Furthermore, in Kugle's reading, the Qur'an "implies that some people are different in their sexual desires than others." Thus, homosexuality can be seen as part of the "natural diversity in sexuality in human societies." This is the way "gay and lesbian Muslims" view their homosexuality.[235]

In addition to the Qur'an, Kugle refers to the benediction of Imam Al-Ghazali (the 11th-century Muslim theologian) which says. "praise be to God, the marvels of whose creation are not subject to the arrows of accident." For Kugle, this benediction implies that "if sexuality is inherent in a person's personality, then sexual diversity is a part of creation, which is never accidental but is always marvelous." Kugle also refers to "a rich archive of same-sex sexual desires and expressions, written by or reported about respected members of society: literati, educated elites, and religious scholars." Given these writings, Kugle concludes that "one might consider Islamic societies (like classical Greece) to provide a vivid illustration of a 'homosexual-friendly' environment." This evoked from "medieval and early modern Christian Europeans" accusations that Muslim were "engaging openly in same-sex practices."[236]

Kugle goes a step further in his argument and asserts that "if some Muslims find it necessary to deny that sexual diversity is part of the natural created world, then the burden of proof rests on their shoulders to illustrate their denial from the Qur'anic discourse itself."[237]

Islam and Homosexuality

In 2010, an anthology Islam and Homosexuality was published.[238] In the Forward, Parvez Sharma sounded a pessimistic note about the future: "In my lifetime I do not see Islam drafting a uniform edict that homosexuality is permissible." Following is material from two chapters dealing with the present.

Rusmir Musić in a chapter "Queer Visions of Islam" said that "Queer Muslims struggle daily to reconcile their sexuality and their faith." Musić began to study in college "whether or not my love for somebody of the same gender disgusts God and whether it will propel me to hell. The answer, for me, is an unequivocal no. Furthermore, Musić wrote, "my research and reflection helped me to imagine my sexuality as a gift from a loving, not hateful, God."[239]

Marhuq Fatima Khan in a chapter "Queer, American, and Muslim: Cultivating Identities and Communities of Affirmation," says that "Queer Muslims employ a few narratives to enable them to reconcile their religious and sexual identities." They "fall into three broad categories: (1) God Is Merciful; (2) That Is Just Who I Am; and (3) It's Not Just Islam."[240]

Sexual Ethics and Islam

Kecia Ali in her 2016 book Sexual Ethics and Islam says that p xvi "there is no one Muslim perspective on anything." Regarding the Qur'an, Ali says that modern scholars disagree about what it says about "same-sex intimacy." Some scholars argue that "the Qur'an does not address homosexuality or homosexuals explicitly."[241]

Regarding homosexuality, Ali, says that the belief that "exclusively homosexual desire is innate in some individuals" has been adopted "even among some relatively conservative Western Muslim thinkers."100 Homosexual Muslims believe their homosexuality to be innate and view "their sexual orientation as God-given and immutable."123 She observes that "queer and trans people are sometimes treated as defective or deviant," and she adds that it is "vital not to assume that variation implies imperfection or disability."[242]

Regarding "medieval Muslim culture," Ali says that "male desire to penetrate desirable youth . . . was perfectly normal." Even if same-sex relations were not lawful, there was "an unwillingness to seek out and condemn instances of same-sex activity, but rather to let them pass by . . . unpunished."[243]

In an article "Same-sex Sexual Activity and Lesbian and Bisexual Women" Ali elaborates on homosexuality as an aspect of medieval Muslim culture. She says that "same-sex sexual expression has been a more or less recognized aspect of Muslim societies for many centuries." There are many explicit discussions of "same-sex sexual activity" in medieval Arabic literature.[244]

Gender variant and transgender people

In Islam, the term mukhannathun is used to describe gender-variant people, usually male-to-female transgender. Neither this term nor the equivalent for "eunuch" occurs in the Quran, but the term does appear in the Hadith, the sayings of Muhammad, which have a secondary status to the central text. Moreover, within Islam, there is a tradition on the elaboration and refinement of extended religious doctrines through scholarship. This doctrine contains a passage by the scholar and hadith collector An-Nawawi:

A mukhannath is the one ("male") who carries in his movements, in his appearance and in his language the characteristics of a woman. There are two types; the first is the one in whom these characteristics are innate, he did not put them on by himself, and therein is no guilt, no blame and no shame, as long as he does not perform any (illicit) act or exploit it for money (prostitution etc.). The second type acts like a woman out of immoral purposes and he is the sinner and blameworthy.[245]

While Iran has outlawed homosexuality, Iranian Shi'a thinkers such as Ayatollah Khomeini have allowed for transgender people to change their sex so that they can enter heterosexual relationships. This position has been confirmed by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and is also supported by many other Iranian clerics.

Iran carries out more sex change operations than any other nation in the world except for Thailand. It is regarded as a cure for homosexuality, which is punishable by death under Iranian law. The government even provides up to half the cost for those needing financial assistance and a sex change is recognized on the birth certificate.[246]

On the 26th of June 2016, clerics affiliated to the Pakistan-based organization Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat issued a fatwa on transgender people where a transwoman (born male) with "visible signs of being a woman" are allowed to marry a man, and a transman (born female) with "visible signs of being a man" are allowed to marry a woman. Muslim ritual funerals also apply. Depriving transgender people of their inheritance, humiliating, insulting or teasing them were also declared haraam.[247]

See also

Rights activists



  1. "The Qu'ran and Homosexuality". Internet History Sourcebooks Project. Fordham University. Retrieved 7 November 2013. Richard Burton suggests the following Qu'ranic verses as relevant to homosexuality:
  2. 1 2 Ali, Kecia (2006). Sexual Ethics & Islam. Oxford, England: OneWorld Publishing. p. 90. ISBN 978-1-85168-456-4.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Bearman, P.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C.E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W.P., eds. (2012). "Liwāṭ". Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Brill. (Subscription required (help)).
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Everett K. Rowson (2004). "Homosexuality". In Richard C. Martin. Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World. MacMillan Reference USA.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 E. K. Rowson (2012). "HOMOSEXUALITY ii. IN ISLAMIC LAW". Encyclopedia Iranica.
  6. Khaled El-Rouayheb. Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World 1500–1800. pp. 12 ff.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Ali, Kecia (2016). Sexual Ethics And Islam. Oneworld Publications (Kindle edition). p. 105.
  8. "Lesbian and Gay Rights in the World" (PDF). ILGA. May 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 August 2011.
  9. "UK party leaders back global gay rights campaign". BBC Online. 13 September 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2013. At present, homosexuality is illegal in 76 countries, including 38 within the Commonwealth. At least five countries - the Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania and Sudan - have used the death penalty against gay people.
  10. 1 2 "United Arab Emirates". Retrieved 27 October 2015. Facts as drug trafficking, homosexual behaviour, and apostasy are liable to capital punishment.
  11. 1 2 "Man Accused of "Gay Handshake" Stands Trial in Dubai". Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  12. Ottosson, Daniel. "State-Sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Laws Prohibiting Same-Sex Activity Between Consenting Adults" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-11-22.
  13. Bearak, Max; Cameron, Darla (16 June 2016). "Analysis - Here are the 10 countries where homosexuality may be punished by death" via
  14. The official text of Article 354 in French (Code Pénal Tchad, page 20):
    Est puni d'un emprisonnement de trois mois à deux ans et d'une amende e 50.000 à 500.000 francs, quiconque a des rapports sexuels avec les personnes de son sexe.
  15. "Maldives Penal Code, s411". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
  16. Anderson, Ben (2007). "The Politics of Homosexuality in Africa" (PDF). Africana. 1 (1). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 July 2011.
  17. Ottosson, Daniel (2013). "State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults" (PDF). International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). p. Page 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 July 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  18. Ready, Freda. The Cornell Daily Sun article Retrieved on December 4, 2002
  19. "Syria: Treatment and human rights situation of homosexuals" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  20. "Pakistan Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860)". Pakistani. Retrieved 2014-02-12.
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