Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is one of the most brilliant contemporary Islamic scholars from Pakistan. In a country festering with the hatred of minorities, he has upheld a rational approach to religion. Recently, in a seemingly Australia-based video, he argued against same-sex unions on the basis of purity and the protection of the family.
While he honours the classical scholars, he respectfully expresses his opinions on matters where he disagrees with them. It is in that same spirit of respectful dissent that I would like to state my reservations with this grand teacher.
Ghamidi argues that any sexual relationship must be based on pakeezgi (purity). He believes that homosexual intercourse is bereft of purity, as the same act is forbidden with wives. He opines that purity in sexual relationships is important, for the human soul must be purified to enter Heaven.
According to him, sexual relations must be restricted between a husband and wife for the protection of the institution of the family. He argues that this institution is paramount for the rearing of children and that its sanctity can only be maintained through loyalty and iffat (chastity). He is also concerned that any leeway would compromise the sanctity of a great institution.
It is evident from Ghamidi's words that he is alluding to anal intercourse as the impure act that is even prohibited with wives. However, this act is irrelevant for many LGBT persons. There are many gay men who find it unappealing for a myriad of reasons including personal taste and comfort. This is true even for casual same-sex encounters in the freest of societies and spaces.
In contrast, with the proliferation of online pornography, this act is increasingly practiced within heterosexual relationships, to the extent that Islam FAQ websites list concerns of Muslim women whose husbands insist on it.
Past Muslim jurists deemed the act as impure due to pollution arising from excrement. They reasoned that vaginal intercourse is prohibited during menstruation due to temporal impurity but anal impurity is permanent. Regardless of this reasoning, minority Maliki jurists allowed for the act. While some Shia jurists deem the act strongly disliked to avoid harm to the wife, others allow it contingent on the permission of the wife. Infact, in one of his many opinions, Imam Shafi argued that there is no strong evidence for or against the act.
However, the point remains that human relationships are not based on a single sexual act. So far as sexual acts other than anal intercourse are concerned, they are not viewed as inherently qabih (evil) but simply prohibited outside the boundaries of a legal contract. As such, the issue at stake is not the permissibility of a single sexual act. After all, those who engage in anal intercourse do not necessarily need a fatwa (legal opinion) on permissibility just as those who avoid it, do not need a fatwa on prohibition.
Scholars like Ghamidi are concerned about the protection and sanctity of the family in a culture of online hook-ups. Free flowing consensual relationships that traverse gender and sexual orientation are at loggerheads with the heteronormative family institution that has been culturally and jurisprudentially sustained. However, both Muslim culture and jurisprudence have also been able to accommodate sexual minorities without compromising on the sanctity of the family.
The recent fatwa on the marriage of transgender persons in Pakistan is an example of one such accommodation that has precedent in Islamic jurisprudence on the marriage of the khuntha muskhil (intersex persons). How much different would it be to accommodate constitutional gays and lesbians?
The concern on creating slippery slopes to all forms of polyamorous conduct is unfounded, for accommodating sexual minorities does not open the doors for the heterosexual majority to do as they please. After all, unorthodox relationships will be viewed through the strict lens of Islamic law and ethics. Moreover, those who partake in sexual licentiousness are not dissuaded even by the strictest of ethical codes enforced by fear of draconian punishments.
So far as tazkiyya nafs (purification of the soul) to enter Heaven is concerned, we need to understand what this concept really entails. Is it more pure to live an authentic life with affection and companionship or to live with the constant angst of the closet or sham marriages?
There are other online videos, wherein Ghamidi blames the use of medicines in the past decades, childhood experiences and ensuing addictions for the cause of homosexuality. He feels that science has not provided a conclusive position on the matter and that from a religious perspective homosexuality should be treated as a test from Allah.
However, there is painstakingly detailed scholarship available to Muslim professionals and religious scholars that confirms that Allah creates whatsoever He wills, that something as beautiful as affection for others could not arise from something as ugly as sexual abuse and that Islamic law does not cause asr (undue hardships).
Lives are at stake. I receive messages for help from young Muslim females, whose affinity to their understanding of the Islamic moral code can be gauged by their wearing of the headscarf in times of increasing anti-Muslim bigotry. I also receive messages from highly educated men, around their forties, who not only face immense family pressure for marriage but also feel unwelcome in LGBT subspaces.
Religious leaders like Ghamidi are like shepherds in the Muslim community. It is their responsibility to watch over vulnerable members of the community. While social norms can inflict oppression on the marginalized, zulm (oppression) in the name of the sharia (Islamic law) is unconscionable.
Abandoning faithful Muslim gays and lesbians to trials and tests is oppressive. But can Ghamidi and other compassionate scholars affirm their legitimate human need for intimacy, affection and companionship?
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