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This Conservative Muslim Scholar Does Not Represent My Islam

09/19/2015 09:07 EDT | Updated 09/19/2016 05:12 EDT
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Young muslim man praying in mosque

Muslim scholar Yasir Qadhi recently posted a video on LGBT issues in "modern Islam." He views the issue of same-sex relationships primarily through the lens of "urges" and the singular act of "anal intercourse" between males. However, the lens of 'sexual orientation' and 'intimacy between same-sex spouses' can replace this jurisprudential outlook, which rests on medieval assumptions extraneous to Islamic texts.

Qadhi tempers his opinion on prohibiting same-sex relationships by advising that "we need to be more tolerant to people with SSA (same sex attraction)." He also admits: "(the) majority of Christians and Jews in America have now embraced this ... these inclinations are not just normalized, they are celebrated." This indicates that scholars like Tariq Ramadan will no longer be able to argue that there is "consensus" amongst world religions against "homosexuality."

Qadhi acknowledges how the LGBT community has stood by the Muslim community. He clearly states: "in political issues, honestly those (LGBT) people are most understanding of our plight and the most supportive of campaigning against Islamophobia."

However, it is apparent that his admission is based on opportunistic homophobia, for he states: "the more freedoms any group is given, the more freedoms we are given, so in some ways it is helpful for the American Muslims to ally with the LGBT community."

Qadhi does not speak for other Muslims, many of whom he discredits through implicit takfir (excommunication). In contrast, the Hanafi jurist Ibn Abidin opined that deeming the permissibility of liwat (anal penetration in the context of superfluous desire) with male slaves did not necessitate kufr (disbelief). He also warned that those who level charges of disbelief were mainly writers of a lesser calibre.

Qadhi provides LGBT Muslims no respite other than sympathy for a test imposed by God. However, it is also true that Islamic law does not imposeusr (undue hardship) on Muslims. Indeed, in their polemics, Muslim preachers often assert that in contrast to other faiths, Islam is cognizant of human needs, when it allows for the legal satisfaction of the human need for intimacy.

Alluding to a Sahih Bukhari text, he insists that "there is a clear la'an (curse)" on the mukhannathun (transgender people). However, the work Tahdhib al-Kamal suggests weakness of this text, as one of the narrators in the transmission chain, Ikrima, was accused of lying and another, Yahya ibn Abi Kathir, had been accused of fabrication.

Conflating gay and transgender persons, Qadhi states: "there have always been people that have this desire within them ... but typically they were hidden, outcast." In contrast, the 15th century scholar Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani mentioned a mukhannath in the Prophet's time who was initially allowed in female quarters owing to an absence of sexual attraction toward women and was only later exiled either for exposing private matters of women or because he began exhibiting sexual desires for females. Thus, the issue of exile relates to impropriety rather than innate disposition. As such, one expects a scholar like Qadhi not to simply regurgitate texts but to present a nuanced understanding of them.

Qadhi mentions: "you will not find a single alim (scholar)" who interpreted the verses on Lot's people to be about "only rape." However, past scholars held that the phrase 'ata'toona rijaala (approaching men) in verses like 7:81 and 27:55 is addressed to active (penetrating) partners with superfluous desire and not receptive (penetrated) partners, deemed to be suffering from ubna, a disease of the anus.

An overwhelming majority of past scholars held that males by default could only be active partners, and that since no male could legitimately desire or ask to be penetrated, it follows that the receptive male partners in the story of Lot were sexually violated.

Qadhi perpetuates past rulings based on such false assumptions, for we now know that there is no such disease as ubna. Scholars like him are not motivated to update those assumptions, as long as they feel the law is tolerable. Indeed, why should they reflect a better understanding of human sexual orientation, when they view Western advances with contempt and when a vulnerable minority can be sidelined to satisfy their extremely conservative followers.

Qadhi opines that the issue is qati al dalala/qati al thubut (definitive by text and meaning). He takes the phrase "approaching men lustfully instead of women" as the illa (ratio legis) to uphold the prohibition of same-sex relationships. However, the exegetical literature situates this action of Lot's people in the context of their wives.

Qadhi's opinion ignores the fact that the supposed prohibition is based on qiyas (analogy), a contested and zanni (probabilistic) approach in general. A holistic approach indicates that Lot's people had forbidden him from protecting outsiders (15:70), committed highway robbery and evil deeds in public assemblies (29:29) and demanded that Lot relinquish his guests (angels in human form)(11:79). Since this abuse and violence is not found in loving same-sex relationships, tadabbur (deeper reflection) reveals that it would be inappropriate to equate committed same-sex relationships with the conduct of Lot's people.

Qadhi's approach is similar to taking verses like 5:51 out of context to reject taking Jews and Christians as friends. Will scholars like him similarly claim there is no distinction between contemporary Jews and Christians and those of a specific time and context? Will they claim that the phrase in verse 5:51 provides the ratio legis and that the issue is qati al dalala/qati al thubut?

In short, by taking phrases out of context and threatening fellow Muslims with charges of disbelief, scholars like Qadhi seem to embrace the approach taken by extremists.

Muslims cannot continue to parrot past texts without nuance or deeper reflection. They cannot deny a life of intimacy, affection, and companionship to their LGBT family members if they wish the same life for themselves.

The silent Muslim majority will have to decide whether they wish to leave their faith to loud conservatives -- who bully others with takfir and oppress vulnerable LGBT Muslim youth -- or stand up and wrest their faith from them.

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