This is part II of a 2-episode series with Sh. Mustafa Umar addressing contemporary issues and Shar'i perspectives related to same-sex attractions and gender identity issues.
Is Islam a "homophobic" or "transphobic" religion? Where do we, as Muslim communities, stand on "LGBT rights" and same-sex marriage? Is it permissible for me to attend a same-sex marriage? How do we deal with "progressive" or "reformist" Muslims pushing pro-LGBT agendas on our communities? How do we deal with Muslim reverts who identify as part of the LGBT community? How do we deal with particular workplace rules and regulations that are pro-LGBT and may be in direct contradiction with our Islamic values? These and other relevant questions are explored in this episode.
Assalamu alaikom warahmatullahi ta’ala wabarakatuh, and welcome to a new episode of “A Way Beyond the Rainbow”, this podcast series dedicated to Muslims experiencing same-sex attractions who want to live a life true to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and Islam. I am your host, Waheed Jensen, and thank you for joining me again in today's episode. Today's episode is part two of our discussion with Sh. Mustafa Umar on the Shar’i perspectives and contemporary issues. As you guys remember, in the last episode, we spoke about a lot of relevant themes pertaining to parents and family members, as well as punishments, sin and the Islamic perspectives on these issues. And in this episode, we're going to be talking about same-sex relationships and marriages as well as the “LGBT rights movements”, and dealing with relevant workplace issues, as well as issues that might come up with friends, relatives, and the community at large. Sh. Mustafa and I will be continuing this discussion from where we left off last time. So let's get started inshaAllah.
We are accused of being a “homophobic” or “transphobic” religion. How do we unpack this accusation? How do you answer that as Sh. Mustafa Umar? I know it's very difficult and it needs a whole episode, but how do you answer that?
Sh. Mustafa 02:07
Yeah, what I would first say is that we differentiate between same-sex attraction and between homosexuality as an act and as a practice. And, likewise, we differentiate between gender dysphoria and the practice of transitioning, whether it's social, physical, or whatever it may be. So that's the first thing, and we need to clarify and say we are against the practice and the manifestation of that, because not every desire that somebody has, or every feeling that someone has, is good for them, good for society, and more importantly, acceptable in the sight of God.
So, once we differentiate that, we are not “SSA phobic”, and we are not “gender dysphoria phobic”, right? First of all, it's not a phobia, we're not afraid of them, nor is there a hatred towards them, right? If we go back to our principles, that's like accusing Islam of being like, you know, “alcohol phobic” or something like that. We don't consume alcohol, we believe it's harmful to society, we believe it's something that God wants us to avoid. Now, does that mean that we are against every single person as a person because they're drinking alcohol? That's like the majority of the entire population! That's not the case. So to label us and to reduce us to being that is really just a political tactic to try to demonize Muslims and to demonize the religion of Islam. And it's disingenuous. It's a cheap shot against Islam and against Muslims and against anyone else who tries to say “We believe that this behavior is wrong.”
Same when it comes to fornication. I mean, look, we're against dating, right? We're against premarital relationships, relationships outside of marriage, right? That makes us like a minority of a minority in the Western world, because that's like the norm, absolutely the norm. So we're like, you know, we're looking like weird aliens or something like that. But does that mean that we're against sex? Are we against intercourse because of that? No, we're just saying that it needs to be done in the correct way, the proper method, with certain conditions and all of that.
So, yeah, my response to that is, that is an unfair attack. And actually what it does, it actually causes more harm than good, because what's going to happen is, there are Muslims who don't differentiate between same-sex attraction and homosexuality. And when you do not allow us to differentiate between the two, you're just going to put the idea into Muslims’ minds that “Yes, we need to be against everything, we need to be against SSA, and we need to be against gender dysphoria, and we need to blame people for their feelings of that.” And that's actually going to harm people much more. So, having that political rhetoric is actually going to create confusion also in the minds of Muslims, which is going to harm even that community of people with SSA and gender dysphoria even greater.
Amen! Jazak Allah khairan! Beautifully said. I think we alluded to this a while back, but if we can just ask this once more, if someone is involved in a same-sex relationship, or they are married in a secular society with a same-sex marriage, but they want to participate within the Islamic community, let's say they want to attend community functions, or they want to show up to the mosque with their partner, how would we handle that?
Sh. Mustafa 06:03
So, you know, what I would say is that you have to respect any boundaries in a particular space. I had a friend of mine, you know, a while back, he was a convert and he was into the whole natural movement; everything should be natural, like normal, primitive style and everything. So he would walk around the city without shoes on. So, he didn't believe in wearing shoes. So every time I tried to go somewhere with him, we go to a grocery store to buy something, you know, feed the homeless, we go to a restaurant or something, oftentimes, they won't allow him to go into the place, unless he puts shoes on. So I'm like, “You know, we're getting kicked out every single time because you're refusing to put shoes on and people don't like that.” So eventually, he started carrying around a pair of socks with him. And he's like, “Okay, fine, I'll put on the socks, even though I don't believe in them. I'll put them on just so I can get inside.” So I'm like, “Alright, fine.”
So I was trying to explain to him like, “Look, you may have this belief, but there's certain principles, that you have to follow the principles of a space the way that they're defining it, whether or not you agree with how they're defining it”, right? So when it comes to a restaurant, it says “No shirt, no shoes, no come in!”, I see signs like that in restaurants. So you're like, “Well, you know what, I just came from the beach, you know, who are you to tell me to put a shirt on? I was swimming, you know, there's nothing wrong with that!” Well, this is the culture that we want to create in the restaurant. The masjid is the exact same way, right? There are cultures that masjids have created.
And sometimes there are good aspects to the culture that they've created, and sometimes they're harmful - maybe the women's places like you know, in some, you know, shed in the back somewhere, no mic, no speaker sound or whatever, that's a problem, right? That's a culture that you can say, “Hey, we need to challenge that culture.” But if there's a culture, it's like, you know what, you can bring your water bottle into the masjid, but you can't bring your beer can into the masjid, right? That's just simply not allowed. If someone’s like, “It's not affecting the carpet, I'm not gonna spill it, I'm not gonna do this”, it doesn't matter. You know, you shouldn't be walking into the masjid with something like that. The same if you're wearing a t-shirt, and the t-shirt has a naked picture or something illicit, you shouldn't be walking into the masjid with that t-shirt on, you should cover it up.
So it falls into the same category that someone wants to show up with their partner, and they come to the masjid. If you want to go inside the masjid lobby and you're like, “Yeah, we're gonna be intimate, or we’re gonna hug and kiss”, or something like that, that's not even appropriate for a heterosexual couple in the masjid culture, right? It may be fine in a mall, but it's not okay in a masjid culture, depending on you know, to what level that's happening. So the culture of a masjid should be respected. Now, this is much easier when it comes to a gay couple than when it comes to someone who's transgender, right? So when it comes to a gay couple, if they park their car, and they get out of the parking lot, and they're walking in together, no one can really tell, I mean, unless they have some indication on them, no one can actually tell that they're a gay couple, maybe unless they know them. Two guys walk out of a car, and they're walking towards the masjid, it's not a problem, right? And no one's going to think that.
But now if they start walking hand-in-hand, in the American context - in the Middle Eastern context, they do that anyways, right? But in an American context, it's very different. So now it's gonna be like, “Oh, wait, they kind of seem like they're a gay couple” or they give like a peck on the cheek or something like that. Now you're like, “Well, why couldn't you just refrain from doing that?” That's like the person who drinks, there are people who drink alcohol, there are people who smoke marijuana and come to the masjid, but they're not going to wear their Snoop Dogg smoking weed shirt inside the masjid, they're not going to bring their joints and stuff, they're going to leave their cans of beer inside the car, which is fine. Leave it in the car, but you're not going to like, “I'm going to carry it around inside the masjid”, so people need to respect the culture, that's really what it comes down to.
So I think it can be done. They can pull up in the car together, but they should just kind of, unless somebody knows that they're a gay couple, they don't need to announce it. They don't need to show any indication that “Hey, this is who I am, this is what I do”, because it's kind of like then “Well, you know, you need to accept what I do”, or you know, “There's no problem with what I'm doing.” So that should be respected. When it comes to transgender, that's where it becomes very challenging. I don't know how long you want to go on that one, but it's a kind of like, well, you know, which bathroom do you use, and where do you stand and all of that. All of that becomes a very serious issue when it comes to a transgender coming and attending the masjid.
Absolutely. We'll address that, inshaAllah, in the other episode when we talk about this in detail on the transgender fiqh. Yeah, absolutely. Another question is, where do we stand on LGBT marriages or “rights for non-Muslims” in secular societies, particularly when LGBT communities in the West are supporting Muslims’ rights as fellow minority groups, right? And is this statement even true to begin with, because a lot of people argue that it's a questionable assumption, as, you know, there are some things that are limited to what the LGBT community can support Muslims with. For example, the Trump ban that happened a couple of years ago, you know, all these minority groups were working together to kind of oppose that. But then, when it comes to like LGBT issues, in particular, the LGBT community is going to directly oppose Muslims and other religious groups when it comes to their own issues, right? And a lot of them would wish that they want to pressure our communities to take away our rights, or maybe social and financial status, or our freedoms to practice our religions, and live our lives accordingly, if we are not in line with their values and whatever regulations they want to impose. So how do you answer that?
Sh. Mustafa 12:18
Yes, exactly. So I remember about, you know, over 10 years ago, we were at an interfaith program, you know, and to the right of me was like a gay Christian pastor, and to the left of me was like a lesbian rabbi, and they're like, “You know, we both support Muslims because of our identity, and we have your back, and we know what you're going through in terms of Islamophobia.” And they were actually among the most supportive people in the room during that time, you know, they're going out of their way. One of them later on drove like two hours to meet me, and, basically, I remember his statement, he said, “You know, I believe that Islamophobia is like the new civil rights movement, and I want to be on the side of you guys.” And I was like, really, I was just touched, and I was like, “Wow, this is amazing!” And that was kind of like my first exposure to that. And then after, you know, several years of just reflecting on the issue and then thinking about it, I'm like, “Well, wait a minute.” Now I'm seeing in the Muslim community, this idea from many Muslims, they're like, “Well, they support us on our issues; therefore, we must support them on their issues. And that's just the only way to survive in this country, and that's what should happen.” So anyone who kind of supports us on Palestine, we will support them in their desire to reestablish their own homeland in Vietnam (for example) or some random place.
And the problem with this mentality, this mentality is actually very problematic when you open it up, because Islam addresses several different issues. Islam is a complete way of life, and it has a framework for addressing so many different aspects of the world. And this view is called “intersectionality”. It comes from, you know, philosophy of third wave feminism, and they developed what's called “intersectionality”. It's basically the idea that all minorities are being oppressed by the people who are in power, in terms of the structure. So all the people need to team up with one another, to ally with one another, and to go against the dominant power structure or the dominant narrative on pretty much any issue. Imam Dawud Waleed gives an excellent differentiation between I think it was in an alliance and coalition or something, I forgot the two terms he used, but he's basically saying, when you ally with someone, you're allying with them entirely as an identity on pretty much every issue that they represent as a community. When you are partnering with someone on a particular issue, then that's going to be something very different. That's where we have a problem with the idea of LGBT alliance. In fact, you know, the term LGBTQIA, one of them (i.e. “A”) is allies, they actually incorporated the letter in the term, in the acronym itself, like the LGBT, they got included as allies. So like, you're part of the movement completely. And this is done by design.
So anyway, without lengthening the answer too long. It may seem very tempting to say, “Hey, you know what, the LGBT community supports Muslims and their right to exist, and their rights as minorities in America; therefore, we must also support their rights as well.” And the problem with that idea is two: number one, we don't support people just because they support us. That's simply just disingenuous, there's no ikhlas, there's no sincerity there. This idea is just against the principles of Islam, that we’re just simply going to support you, not because we actually believe in what you're doing, or we care what you're doing, we're just going to do it for our own personal benefit. First of all, I think that's very selfish, right? Extremely selfish. And the second reason why this is problematic is it doesn't define what “support us” means, right? So what does that mean? You support the LGBT community, in what exactly, what are you supporting them in? Are you supporting them in their right to practice, because they're non-Muslims and they're not bound by Shari’a? Does it mean you're supporting them in anti-discrimination, that people shouldn't like yell at them and spit on them and make fun of them or shoot up their nightclub or something like that? Or does it mean that you're supporting them in their attempt, and so far very successful attempt, to normalize the acts and practices of L, G, B, and T, and all of that, within the entire society in which you live?
And this is what many Muslims cannot understand. They think that they're simply supporting them either in anti-discrimination, or they're simply supporting them in their own individual rights to live how they want to live. But, in reality, what they're doing is they're actually supporting the normalization of these values. And not only normalization of the values, but they're supporting the abnormalization of anyone who doesn't agree with these values, to the point where they're going to be discriminated against, to the point where they're going to be looked down upon, they're going to be called “homophobes”, they're going to be called “transphobes”, they’re going to be called all of that. And, basically, it puts Muslims and it puts Islam in a very weak position. So I think it is very problematic to kind of ally hook line and sinker with an entire movement.
Rather, we can be very selective and say, “You know what, we don't agree with bullying of, even if their practice, we don't think it's halal, we don't agree with homosexual acts, but we don't believe in bullying them. We don't believe in that type of behavior, we're against that, that should stop.” So if people could draw the line there, it would be fine. Or people can say, “You know what, you can live life however you want. Like, it doesn't bother us. You want a tax benefit for getting married, you know, that's fine. I guess we get our tax benefits, you can have your tax benefits.” Historically, the Muslim empires when they were in control of non-Muslim populations, like the Zoroastrians, they (i.e. Zoroastrians) used to engage in incestuous relationships, and they were “recognized” in a way where they were not forbidden from having these relationships. And even qadhis (judges) in Shari’a court when they would come to rule and say, “Well, you know, how is this inheritance case going to be dealt with? I'm inheriting as a wife and as a mother”, you know, because of the incestuous relationship, incestuous marriage, they actually dealt with that.
So, this is what I try and tell people: It's not intrinsically wrong to say that we don't have a problem with gay marriage, but it's extrinsically wrong. What do I mean by that? Because if you look at how powerful the movement is, how it's going to shape society, what effect it's going to have on the society at large, which we care about, number one, and number two: Muslims as a whole, in this country and the rest of the world, it's very detrimental when you zoom out and you look at the whole picture. So that's kind of my stance on it. So, there's my theoretical stance of, intrinsically, it wouldn't be a problem, if there was a ballot that says, “Hey, we're trying to ban pork in America.” And Muslims are like, you know, “We don't care if you ban pork”, because Christians are eating pork, Muslims are not eating the pork anyway. So the existence of pork doesn't really affect the Muslim community on any major level. So it's not a big deal. If we’re like “Okay, fine, there's two bills. You know, we want to cut taxes, and we want to promote pork” or whatever it is in society, it doesn't matter if you vote for that bill, because you're trying to reduce taxes, because that's not really going to affect you. But when it comes to the LGBT issue as a whole, it's not just about that. And I think people who thought in the past that it was just about that, they were very politically and societally naive. And we're seeing the ramifications of that now.
Yeah, I agree with you. Absolutely. A very relevant question that comes up is, if we're dealing with “progressive” or “reformist Muslims” who want to push the LGBT agenda onto the community, how do we best deal with those people without caving into their agenda? Again, we're talking about Muslims who are fully in line with LGBT standards and what they're preaching for. So how do we deal with them? And if this Istihlal and calling all of these things halal, and reinterpreting the Qur’an and our religion, if it amounts and it reaches to a point where there is complete rejection of Islam, do we still consider those groups or individuals as part of the Muslim community anyway?
Sh. Mustafa 21:48
Okay, so let me answer the first question first. In general, in terms of how to deal with, you know, progressive Muslim movements and all of that, you know, I think it's very important for us to understand our own community first. And when we look at our community, it is a huge blessing of Allah, which I think we take for granted sometimes, that the majority of the Muslim community - when I say community, I mean like at least a masjid-going community, if you look at the majority of Muslims in the West. And people obviously go to a masjid at some level in some way, shape or form, they are “orthodox”, they're not progressive, they hold generally agreed upon Islamic values. And that actually puts the Muslim community in a position of power relative to the progressive Muslim movement, whose power comes from the outside, it comes from other people like the LGBT movement and all that, who's going to empower them and try to give them a voice and give them money and give them all of these opportunities. But, internally within the Muslim community, you don't really find much of that, which is a huge blessing.
So 1. We need to recognize that reality. 2. There’s very few progressive Muslim public figures who are like scholarly figures, so they're not in line with the Islamic tradition, they're not specialists, you don't see specialists of tafseer and hadith, usul al-fiqh, you know, anything, even the qira’at, recitation of the Qur’an, you don't find anyone, really, very few people who are going to have like progressive values in that field. So, if the dominance of the masjids and the dominance of the Islamic intelligentsia is mostly - whatever term you want to call it – orthodox, traditional, I don't really like any of these terms, but you can just say orthodox, mainstream beliefs, then we need to utilize that to our advantage. So that kind of shapes my perspective on how to deal with the progressive community, which basically is, it's very little toleration of the agendas that they try and push onto our community, because I understand that, when they come to the masjid and they're like, “You have to do this program” or “You have to accommodate this” or whatever it is, I'm usually quite soft on a lot of things, but on this one, I'm not soft, I'm quite tough and I'm like, “Sorry, we're not going to tolerate this type of behavior and you trying to introduce this agenda.” Even if we agree that some of the values you stand for are probably good to modify our masjid culture with, but the whole agenda, absolutely not. And you don't really have the clout to come in and say anything.
So that's generally how I deal with them because they’re not representative of the community. How many masjids do you find where men and women are praying side-by-side in the same row? You simply just don't find it. The Eid congregation of MPV, which is here in California, “Muslims for Progressive Values”, I saw a picture of their Eid prayer, right? It had like 35-40 people in it. Our Eid prayer had 10,000 people in it. Alhamdulillah! So we're talking about like this, they're very powerful in the media, New York Times is going to cover them, you know, Huffington Post is going to write about them. But within the Muslim community, almost nothing. So we should deal with them based upon what value they actually have in the eyes of the community, what clout they have in the eyes of the community, which is almost nothing.
So my way of dealing with them is like, “You know what, no, thank you very much. We don't accept your entire agenda. You know, the few points that we do agree with, we're already working on trying to change our own masjids, our own Muslim communities, we already have those principles, that is part of Islam, we don't need to accept your entire packaging with the poison as well as with some of the nutrients that come along with it!” That's generally how I like to deal with the progressive Muslim community.
Alhamdulillah, I can hear some of the listeners clapping! But actually, if I may go on a tangent, because I remember asking you earlier about the challenges that you've faced as a scholar or community leader. Have you ever faced backlash? Because you're outspoken on these matters, particularly in a very liberal context. Have you ever faced backlash? What do you think the repercussions would be, if not now, then in a couple of years’ time given your position?
Sh. Mustafa 26:39
Okay. Yeah, I mean, yes, I have faced backlash, you mean, primarily from the Muslim community, or the non-Muslim community?
Technically, from the LGBT community, but also from the Muslim community as well.
Sh. Mustafa 26:50
Got it. Yeah, yeah, I mean, definitely, I faced a lot of backlash, no doubt. But again, at the same time, like at the end of the day, what happens is, when people are actually willing to sit down with me, and I explain my position. I clarify, look, this is a nuanced position. This is not the fundamentalist Christian, you know, not to label them all in the same way, but like, this is not the hardcore position of like “You're all going to Hell!” and “People of Prophet Lot were destroyed, you guys are about to be destroyed!” That's not my position. So when I explain to them, it's like, we differentiate between same-sex attraction, between this, and they sit down, and they're just shocked. And they're almost like, “We've never really encountered a stance like this before!” So they're kind of, I think, confused as well. They're like “This is not what we're used to.” How do we deal with someone like this?
So yeah, there is a reaction, you know, by certain people who get emotional, and they're like, you know, “You're living in the past”, and “God created me this way”, and, you know, “You guys this, you guys that”, yes, there are reactions like that. But when I explain that, I think what I try to do is, I try to differentiate, “You probably think that Islam says this”, and I'm like, “No, but it does not say that.” And they're like, “Oh, well, then it must say the LGBT line!” “No, it doesn't say that either!” And then it kind of disarms people.
So yeah, the backlash is there. But you can't.. I don't know who said it, but you know, that witty line, I think, from some rapper, or something, that “haters gonna hate”, right? So that's just my motto. It's like, you know, if you can't speak the truth, then what am I doing in this position? Like, what am I doing reading all this, just for myself? Like, I'm not going to share this with anybody else, that this is what Islam is teaching, and this is our nuanced position and all of that? So, yes, I do face backlash. But it's not as bad as it could be, because my position is more nuanced than others.
In terms of the Muslim community. Yes, I face backlash as well. But again, it's coming from those people who are really progressively inclined, and they don't like many other things about me either. So, you know, there's just nothing I can do about it. And all I can do is just tell them, “You know what, why don't you come and attend some of my classes?” I teach a class on the lives of the prophets - and I've written a book on it, it's about to be published - and study the prophets, study the tafsir, study what your religion is actually saying, and then make your decision. But what's happened is you've made your decision before studying anything, you’ve your decision based on your emotions, based on your ignorance, and you don't even have any interest in studying or even trying to have a discussion or trying to figure out what Islam says. Just be a seeker of Truth and just be open to it. And then that's when they get confused as well. But, you know, that's how I deal with it.
You know, there are people who are going to be upset. I posted like a tweet, or, I think, Instagram post or something like that, not too long ago. And there's certain people who just got really upset, “I can't believe you're spewing this hate!” and this and that, and I'm just like, you know, out of, I don't know, 15 comments, there was like two or three negative comments, and the rest were like “Yeah, MashaAllah. MashaAllah.” So, you know, that's just the reality of our society. And I know many of the “MashaAllah” comments, they're probably on the other extreme of the spectrum, which is that there is no difference between SSA and homosexuality. So, technically, I think people are just not informed. My goal is to educate people. Whether they're going to accept it or not, that's up to Allah and that's up to them. So, I just don't worry about it.
Right. May Allah bless you and always protects you, jazak Allah khairan for everything that you do.
Sh. Mustafa 30:44
Ameen. I’ll add one more thing, there’s a very, very popular Imam, I don't want to mention his name, but very popular Imam, senior guy. And we were on a trip somewhere, and he some of my lectures, and he heard me talking about something like this. And then he said, “You know what, Imam, you got to give this message out! Don't hold back! You say it like it is. Because you know what, I can't do that in my position as a very high-level public figure. I'm not able to do that.” He said “I'm scared to do it” He said that, he said, “I'm scared, and I'm trying to just keep people like in the middle and balanced and keep them connected. And if I speak about this, I'm just afraid of what's going to happen.” And he's like, “I know it's not right, but this is the position that I've taken.”
And then, at the end, he goes, “So you keep doing what you're doing, may Allah reward you, and I promise you that I will visit you when you're in jail.” And he's like, “No, no! I’m just joking! I’m joking!” So, basically, what he's saying is, it's so difficult for you to even say anything about this topic. He was telling me, he's like, “I have lectures in the 80s and the 90s that were recorded, and they're on some website somewhere, some Islamophobic website somewhere, and were just going off! Gay people this and that and all over the place!” And he's like, “All of that came back to haunt us, all of those things that we wish we didn’t say. Now we've just flipped to the opposite, where we're afraid to even be able to see anything.” So he's like, “Specialize in this topic, do that, because there's not going to be too many people to back you up.” So he goes, “You know what, I'm not going to be on the front line with you, but I guarantee you, I'm right behind you, and I'm cheering you on!” And I said, “Alhamdulillah, that really felt good!” I was like, Alhamdulillah, man! I’ll take it!
Alhamdulillah. For sure. Again, may Allah reward you and keep you safe, and you're in our du’aas, inshaAllah. And yeah, we're all in this together, inshaAllah, you're not alone. And Allah is with you and with us, inshaAllah, and we hope that He is, you know, happy with what we do. And, ultimately, it's all for Him, you know, so that's what counts, inshaAllah. Jazak Allah khair.
Sh. Mustafa 33:10
Barak Allah feek.
Wa iyyakom. A couple of questions that come up, they’re relatively new and they haven't been addressed in classical Islamic books or books of fiqh, because of what has recently happened in terms of all of the political changes. So, a lot of people get asked this question, is it haram or halal for me to attend an LGBT wedding, like a same-sex marriage? Whether that's a non-Muslim man getting married to a non-Muslim man, or woman getting married to a non-Muslim woman, but also, if it also applies to Muslims, let's say my brother wants to have a same-sex marriage and invites me to that wedding, or someone, a very dear friend of mine, whether they're Muslim or non-Muslim, wants to get married, and you know, they're having a same-sex marriage ceremony. And I really care about that person, and not being there is going to cause a rift between us, and I really care about them. But at the same time, I don't know how that is perceived Islamically. How would you answer that? And is it a black-or-white question to begin with? Like, are there gray areas, or is it like black-or-white?
Sh. Mustafa 34:15
Right. So it's not black-or-white. It all comes back down to one principle, so it's not a yes or no, it's based on the principle, and this is a very common question, so I tell people the principle and I say “Now you have to kind of apply the principle in consultation with other people, I can’t apply the principle for you.” And the principle is, if your attendance is viewed as condoning that act, condoning the union, condoning homosexuality, condoning transgenderism or cross dressing or whatever it may be, if your presence Is condoning that, then you should not be there. And if your presence is not condoning that, then it's fine for you to be there.
So I like to give people extreme examples so that they understand it's not black-or-white, and then usually there are situations in the middle somewhere. So to give you like two extreme examples, right? If your friend at work invites you and says, “Hey, you know what, I'm getting married to my partner, I'm John, and I'm marrying Bob, can you come to the wedding?” and this is like somebody, you know, who works in your department, and they know very well that you're a Muslim, they know about your values. And he's like, “Look, I know you guys don't really agree with homosexuality and stuff, but you know, all the people from the company will be there, we'll have like a discussion about, you know, company policy, this and that.” And you go in there with, like, your thobe (traditional male dress) and your turban on, and it's like very clear that like, hey, this guy is just showing up as a friend, everyone can understand and knows that, hey, this guy prays, they know the stance of Islam on all this, your presence does not indicate any type of condoning of that behavior at all. You're just showing up for a friend, company, all of that stuff. So that's an example of one side where it would be okay to show up.
Another example would be where your son is getting married to another boy, and you're just afraid, you're not sure where you stand on gay marriage, you know, he's been pressuring you, he's been telling everyone else, the majority of people who show up are going to be of a progressive bent of mind, all the other people in your family have basically said, “You know what, we're not going to show up to that”, no one else is coming, and then your presence somehow, you know, I'm not filling the perfect example here. But somehow your presence indicates that everything is perfectly fine, and I agree with what you're doing, then you shouldn't be showing up. I couldn't think of a more extreme example.
So it really comes back down to this: Is your presence there going to indicate to the person who's getting married that you condone it, and it's going to indicate in general to the people who kind of matter? You know, not that you're going to announce it publicly, but just kind of the people who matter that, you know, this is something like, I have no issue with that? “I recognize this is a valid marriage, and everything's great, here's a gift, we're so happy!” You give a speech, “I remember when John met Bob for the first time and it was so amazing!” All of that will indicate your condoning of that. That would not be allowed.
OK. But I'm also trying to think of - okay, jazak Allah khairan for these examples you gave, they kind of made it clearer, but then again, I think that a lot of people listening might be thinking, “Well, how do I know if my presence is going to be condoning or not? Because, deep down, I'm not condoning this, but I'm there just for them to not feel that I'm rejecting them. Or I really care about them, so I'm there. But I know, Islamically, that I should not be there”, but at the same time, I'm not in control of how others are going to perceive my presence or absence, right? At least my presence rather than my absence, right? How would people be able to answer that? Because I think like, it's a little bit unclear, if that makes sense.
Sh. Mustafa 38:25
Yes, I agree. I agree. And yeah, and that's where the gray area really is. So it's really hard to determine that, you know, it's almost like, you know, the example that I give to people is, it's like attending a wedding where everyone's drinking alcohol. So, when you go there, is your presence saying that “You know, alcohol is okay”? Or like somehow it's known, so if I go there, for example, people would be like, “He’s a sheikh, he doesn’t drink alcohol. He doesn't believe alcohol is permitted.” And yet there's Muslims around me drinking alcohol, right? So at what point do you boycott? At what point are you like, “Hey, you know, I'm the only practicing Muslim figure in this person's life. So this would be like a way to reach out to them.”
So, number one, you know your own niyyah (intention), your niyyah is the number one thing, that's the most important thing. The number two priority is the person you're dealing with, let's say it's your son or daughter, that you should have clarified the line with them, right? If you were so embarrassed and afraid to even tell them that what they're doing is wrong, and you really couldn't even say that, and they think that you're condoning what they're doing, that's a huge problem. Now, when it comes to other people, again, you can’t inform the entire audience, you don't know what they're going to be thinking and all of that stuff. But I mean, let’s say, you're going to your own daughter's wedding and she's a lesbian and she's getting married to another woman. And your uncle is boycotting, your brother is boycotting, but you and your wife and your aunt are attending. What you do, your job is to convey to the rest of the family that we are attending not because we're condoning, we're attending because we're trying to keep the door open. We're trying to keep a relationship here and there. We have advised, we have told them this, we have told them that. The family knows that we're not attending due to condoning, the couple knows that we're not attending due to condoning, and you know your own intention. So the people who need to know know. Now, all the other people who are co-workers and friends and all this, you know, “this is Sarah's friends from college, they were dorm mates” or whatever it is, you don't have to inform them. And it doesn't really matter what they think. Does that kind of clarify it a little bit?
Absolutely, yes. I feel at ease with this now, jazak Allah khair!
Sh. Mustafa 40:44
Alhamdulillah! Wa iyyakom.
Alhamdulillah. Yeah. The other question is, if you have a convert coming to Islam, non-Muslim converting to Islam or “reverting”, or even a Muslim who left Islam and is rediscovering the Deen, let's say. They come into Islam, and they are already in a same-sex relationship. Or they were transitioning, if they had gender dysphoria, they were transitioning or have already completed transitioning. How do we deal with this as individuals and at the community level, how do we react to this phenomenon?
Sh. Mustafa 41:20
Okay, as individuals, it comes back down to: You need to focus on the priorities, right? Like I mentioned before, like the fiqh of priorities, like there are priorities in life. So what I tell people is that, if you believe in Allah and you believe in the Messenger of Allah, and you believe in the Qur’an, then you're a Muslim, right? You should take the step, and you should go ahead and declare that you're Muslim. And if you're like, “You know what, I don't know if I'm going to be able to keep up with these prayers, or I don't know if I can handle the fasting and all that”, like, it's okay, you know, you believe, go ahead and make the declaration [of shahadah, of faith] and come into Islam.
Someone comes along and says, “I have a drinking habit, I don't think I'm gonna be able to give up drinking, this is something that I've been addicted to”, or some of my friends are like, you know, when they came into Islam, “I love pork rinds. You know, I just cannot stop eating them! It's gonna be so difficult to give up pork.” So, it's okay, just come into Islam, and don't worry about it. And in the back of their mind, they're like, “Yeah, but how can I become Muslim if I'm starting out with sin?” And I say, “Well, it's a bigger sin if you don't come into Islam and you know the truth!” So, you have to focus on the priority. So come into Islam, and your Islam and your prayer and your du’aas will help you deal with that other issue. So that's the general principle that we apply to everyone.
So I'll give you a case that I had. So there was a person who came, he’s a biological male, and he came and he said, “You know, I've been studying the Qur’an for two years”, and came with this translation of the Qur’an, all these bookmarks and everything marked up, highlighted and everything. And I said, “You know, tell me your story.” He came in wearing hijab, ‘abaya [female dress], you know, really well done, better than most sisters, I was actually impressed, nice style and everything! But he's got a beard, a physical male and everything. And he's like, “You know, before you judge me, okay, I'm trans, and I'm this”, and I'm like, “It's okay, you know, just tell me, whatever it is.”
So it turns out, the guy was in the army, he was diagnosed with PTSD. His family disowned him because he had become a Jehovah's Witness. He did heroin, he did LSD. I mean, he just gave me this story of like, the saddest story with so many things going on, so much trauma. And he goes, “You know, how can I become a Muslim?” He said, “This transgender issue is non-compromisable for me, like I don't want to be told… I got kicked out of the (I think it was Jehovah's Witness community), I got kicked out of that community because of this trans issue. And I've dealt with that for years, and I'm not going to go through that again. I believe Islam is the truth, I believe that this Qur’an is there. But on the trans issue, I'm not willing to negotiate, this is not acceptable for me. Can I still be Muslim or not?” And I said, “Yes, you can still be Muslim. You believe in Allah, you believe in this Messenger, you believe that this Book that you've been studying is the Word of Allah. Yes, you accept Islam, you focus on your prayer, you focus on your du’aa, and just keep asking Allah to show you the truth.”
And he was still reluctant, he goes, “I don't want to ask to be shown the truth about transgender, I'm clear on this!” I said, “You don't need to specify what you need to be shown the truth of. Just make a general du’aa, “Oh Allah! Guide me towards anything that pleases You, and help me get through my issues and this and that.” And I said, “You need to focus on the PTSD, you need to focus on getting out of the drugs and the addictions and all of that stuff.” And he’s like, “Will Islam help me with that?” Absolutely, it's going to help you with that. And in the back of my mind, I'm like, “Yeah, Islam is obviously going to help you with the transgenderism too!” but he doesn't want to hear it. He simply doesn't want to hear it. And that's okay. You know, some people are not ready.
So the question, basically, it's like, yes, they can be a Muslim, even if they're going to deal with this, they should not think that somehow they cannot enter into Islam, because they're dealing with something that Islam is saying “you shouldn't be doing”, but they're not willing to let it go right now. It's okay, because the priority is accepting the beliefs and focusing on prayer, focusing on fasting, focusing on asking Allah for help. And you know that Allah is going to help you. So you take a few steps, even if you can't take all the steps that you need, some is better than nothing.
Indeed, Amen. So that's at the individual level, but at the communal level, because, you know, the Muslim community, we have a lot of shame going on and pointing fingers and just shaming the other person for not being “good enough” or “Muslim enough” and, you know, all of that that goes on. So how do we deal with this at the communal level and get to the level of maturity to implement what you have said?
Sh. Mustafa 46:34
Yeah, so I mean, on the community level, we need to differentiate between shaming and having boundaries, right? Social boundaries. So that's what people can't understand the difference, they conflate the two. So another example, I had a friend of mine, he was in a gang and he had tattoos all over his body. And I didn't know that. And he used to come to the masjid, and he was wearing these really long tight sleeves that he would put on over his arms. And it was one day 100 degrees [Fahrenheit], it was super hot, and I just asked him, I'm like “This doesn't make sense, man! You must be sweating. Why do you keep dressing like that? You don't need to cover your arms when you come into the masjid.” And he goes, “No, you don't understand Sheikh, I came one time and it was really hot, I came with a t-shirt, but I have tattoos all over my body, my chest, my arms, everything.”
He was crucified [by others]!
Sh. Mustafa 47:29
And he said “Oh man! They just destroyed me!” People were like, “How dare you come to the masjid with tattoos?” And what's ridiculous, it's like, what do you think, should he like take off his shoes, put his shoes in the shoe rack and put his tattoos in the shoe rack, and then collect them when he walks out? Like what really is the solution? People just don't get it! It's like their brain is not functioning properly, because they're just so like “You shouldn't be doing that!” So that type of mentality needs to really be adjusted, because they're not understanding where people are coming from, and it just doesn't dawn on them, like can you imagine how much the laser surgery on a guy with this many tattoos would be? It's not even feasible, he's like “I can't afford the surgery, I have so many tattoos, and it's very expensive, and I would love to do it but I can't!”
So, yeah, the Muslim community really needs to become much more mature on these things, and even if someone is violating it, it’s the way in which you react, and the way in which you correct things, right? So if some kid walks in with like a Snoop Dogg shirt smoking weed or something like that, you know, are you going to start yelling at that kid and be like, “What do you think you're doing coming in the masjid here and this and that?” Just imagine if that kid is in the masjid and he's wearing that shirt, he's probably not the most masjid-going kid. He probably showed up once in a while, so are you going to help him with your reaction, with your sincere niyyah but horrible reaction, to like help the masjid environment? Are you actually helping the environment of the masjid? Because now you're actually alienating people who could potentially become masjid-going people later down the road. So, I mean, it's a wrong response.
You know, when I was a kid, I remember I visited Amsterdam. I was not practicing as a kid. I bought a marijuana t-shirt, I bought one shirt that said “Hard Drugs Café” instead of “Hard Rock Café”, and I went to the masjid, and one guy yelled at me, and I remember that, I’m like “This punk, why do you have to yell at me? Why are people mad in the masjid all the time?!” And I thought about it, I look back and I'm like, “Yes, I was wrong, okay, I shouldn't have done that. But if someone came in and pointed it out to me nicely, rather than getting upset, it would just be different. It would be totally different.” You know, I was a rebellious teenager, you know, I probably wouldn't listen to him. But down the road, I would look back and be like, “You know what, I remember, you know, that guy told me actually in a very nice way”, you know, maybe that kind of would resonate with me rather than having a distaste in my mouth.
That's what we need to develop as a community, while at the same time having certain boundaries. So the boundaries, especially when it comes to transgender is, you know, somebody comes in and this person has not even transitioned, they just were basically cross dressing. So this guy [from the previous example] has a beard, clear beard, and he puts on hijab, and he puts on ‘Abaya, and he goes in and he's praying in the women's rows. And now it becomes a huge problem, because a guy is not supposed to be praying in the women's rows. Now, imagine the women are also uncomfortable standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the guy. And then when it comes time for wudu’ (ablution), he goes into the women's bathroom. So we tried to remedy this, and we told him, we said, “Look, you have to go into the men's bathroom, because you're biologically a male, regardless of how you identify, you should do that.” And he objected and said, “No, I cannot do that! I don't feel comfortable, it's bothering me psychologically”, and all that stuff. We said, “Okay, we're gonna accommodate you, we will open up a private bathroom that we had.” So I said, “I have a bathroom in my office, I'm going to let you use the one in my office, we have another one, you get to use my private bathroom. So make wudu’ there.”
Awww! That’s amazing, honestly!
Sh. Mustafa 51:35
Yeah. So that's the gender neutral bathroom. “Everyone uses that bathroom, so we got one for you!” And, you know, he said, “Okay.” That was working for a while, but then afterwards, he said, “No!” He violated the rule of not using the women's bathroom for wudu’ three times. And we gave him two warnings. And we have video cameras and everything. And sisters were like, “I just saw a guy with a beard and a hijab on that came in and was making wudu’”, and they’re sisters, you know, they're taking off their hijab in the bathroom, and they're making wudu’. So we gave him two warnings, and then the third warning, we're like, “This is the third time, you know, this is not right what you've done, we've tried to accommodate you, we gave you the extra bathroom.” He said, “I'm just not comfortable in there, I'm only comfortable in the women's bathroom.” We said, “You know, that's not right. That's a violation of policies, we have really tried our best to go out of our way to accommodate you somehow.” And he said, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” He became a little bit upset and said, “What are you gonna do about it?” And I said, “We're just gonna have to ask you politely that, in the meantime, you know, until you kind of deal with some of the issues, it's better that you pray at home in the meantime, until you think you're ready to come back and start following the rules in the masjid. Or make wudu’ before you come to the masjid. But going into the women's bathroom like this, every time, is not something that we can allow.”
So the reason why I bring this story, you know, I think the majority people would not fall into this category, but there has to be some boundaries that you put, because it's a public space. And what's happening is, when you violate a public space, you are causing harm to other people, here being the women in the bathroom, their space is being violated, right? They don't want a man looking at them, a biological man witness - regardless of what's going on in the mind - they don't want a man to be looking at them without hijab on. So they have the right to that too. So I think that's where we need to balance between this extreme of, you know, “Don't come in with your tattoos!” versus “I don't care, I'm going to use the women's bathroom, because that's how I identify!”, and we need to be somewhere in the middle.
Beautifully said, jazak Allah khairan. And then the last question pertains to, particularly, workplace issues, and especially during Pride Week/Month, right? You know, companies hosting events or putting out logos. Or even, recently, doctors are being asked to wear rainbow badges just to show support to LGBT patients, even though we know doctors should show support to all patients regardless, this is kind of like in your face, right? So the question is, how do we deal with this as Muslims? We may get to a point where there might be legal repercussions to saying no. Just like that example in the US of the Christian couple who had a bakery, and they were asked to bake a cake for a gay wedding, and they said no, and then there were legal repercussions. How would we deal with that, what is your answer? Should we, you know, attend these company events or whatever, just put on displays, like badges and stuff, or should we say no? And what if they fight back? So it's kind of like a gray area, what would you answer?
Sh. Mustafa 55:06
Yeah. Yes, it comes down to how much ability you have. Allah does not test you with more than your ability. So, if you have the ability to resist these things, then you should resist it. And if you don't have the ability, then, you know what, Allah knows your intention, and Allah knows the situation that you're put in. So that's kind of like the general principle, right? So how do you apply that principle? It's very similar to like jum’aa prayer, when you're working, some companies allow you to go for the Friday prayer, and some companies are like, “No, you can't go to the Friday prayer, we need you and you don't have a disability or whatever it is.” So it comes back down to some companies are like “No, we don't want you to go”, but legally, in California, at least in California I can speak for that, you have a right to be able to go, you have civil rights organizations that will support you, CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations], I think, probably even ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] would support you in something like this.
So when you have that ability, and you have that backing, you should utilize that. When you don't have that backing, and when you don't have that legal right or something like that, and you're being pressured, now it comes back down to, you know, is this part of your livelihood? Can you switch, can you request an exemption? Can you get a religious exemption letter? What are the consequences actually going to be? If the consequences are pretty dire, then you have the license to go ahead and say, “Look, Oh Allah, I did not want to do this, but I'm pressured to do this. And please do not hold me accountable for it.” And, inshaAllah, Allah is not going to hold you accountable for something that was very difficult for you, right? There's exceptions in Shari’a, in Islamic law, on these things.
On the flip side, though, Muslims should not automatically be like, “Oh, well, I didn't even ask for permission to get an exemption. I didn't even put any effort whatsoever into checking if there's some way to like get around this.” So they need to put in some effort to find out if they're able to somehow get around it, skip the company party, whatever it may be, or not, right? If they're able to do that, great. And if they're not, as long as they don't cross any haram boundaries, like clear-cut haram boundaries, then that's going to be fine.
When I visited Japan, the Muslims there were complaining about something similar. In Japanese culture, in every company, they have these parties afterwards, they're drinking parties, and they're almost mandatory for employees to attend. All the company socializing happens, and like, if you don't attend that party, then you're in big trouble. It's hard to function within that company. So obviously, there's a line. The line is, you're not going to drink no matter what, even if they're pressuring you to drink, you're not going to take the alcohol, right? But sitting there, attending the company party, there's no other way to get around, and you try and explain to them like, “No, this is company culture, this is the expectation, you know, you came to that country, you needed the job, you couldn't find another job.” Yes, there's an exception for you there.
And it's the same thing when it comes to the whole Pride Week/Month or being pressured to do certain things, as long as you're not crossing any black-or-white boundaries of haram, and you're trying your best to try to get out of it with a letter or something like that. If you're still not able to, then Allah knows your intention, Allah knows your situation, and, inshaAllah, you can skip it and not worry about it.
Sh. Mustafa, jazak Allah khairan for your amazing insights, I really enjoyed everything that we have discussed so far. And I'm sure that all of the listeners have benefited, and you've answered a lot of our questions. Jazak Allah khairan. Do you have any last messages you would like to share with the listeners as far as all of these ideas are concerned?
Sh. Mustafa 59:03
Just du’aas. We're living through a difficult time, and this is definitely a big challenge for Muslims on so many different levels, societal levels, individual levels. Just always ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to lighten our burden and to make our tests easy for us, and to realize that this is a test, and we ask Allah to help us pass this test in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Ameen, Ameen, inshaAllah. And I ask everyone to keep you in our prayers, inshaAllah. May Allah bless you, Jazak Allah khairan, may Allah keep your steadfast and strong and protect you always. Barak Allah feek.
Sh. Mustafa 59:41
Ameen. Jazak Allah khairan.
And with this, we have come to the end of our episode for today, which is part two of our discussion on the Shar’i perspectives and contemporary issues. And in the next episode, inshaAllah, we will start our series on gender nonconformity, disorders of sexual development, gender dysphoria, and transgenderism. Until next time, stay safe and healthy. This has been Waheed Jensen in “A Way Beyond the Rainbow”, assalamu alaikom warahmatullahi ta’ala wabarakatuh.