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Muslims Can, And Need To, Affirm Bisexuality In Islam

It is not easy to address the issue, but it is important to do so if we are to adopt an intersectional approach to human concerns.

09/20/2017 18:18 EDT | Updated 09/21/2017 11:12 EDT
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A great body of contemporary Islamic theological work affirms gay Muslims. Conservative Muslim scholars, both Sunni and Shia, already affirm transgender Muslims. However, the conversation on bisexual Muslims has not received proper attention.

Just as conservative Muslim scholars find it difficult to affirm gay Muslims, LGBTQ Muslim scholars and activists have not effectively addressed bisexuality in Islam. It is not easy to address bisexuality in Islam, but it is important to do so if we are to adopt an intersectional approach to human concerns.

Gay Muslims argue that their sexual orientation is innate and cannot be changed. They believe that it would be hypocritical to enter into sham marriages and oppressive to remain permanently celibate.

As such, Muslim arguments based on darura (necessity) and raf al harj (repelling harm) serve to alleviate their concerns and allow them access to same-sex unions.

Mark Blinch / Reuters
A woman carrying a sign that reads, "Queer, Muslim and Proud" marches during the Gay Pride parade in Toronto July 1, 2012.

However, such arguments have not been used to affirm bisexual Muslims. This is perhaps because of counter-arguments that bisexual Muslims have the alternative of being in a heterosexual relationship and that it would not be unduly onerous for them to focus on that relationship.

However, we will have to recognize that bisexual Muslims do not always have the alternative of being in a heterosexual relationship. Consider the case of bisexual single Muslim women, who are either single mothers or who are advancing in their age. For many of them, a relationship with a male may simply be infeasible.

Likewise, in some cases of Muslim bisexual widowers or those who never married due to financial responsibilities, there may be a potential for a deep relationship with another man but not with another woman.

In their context, a same-sex relationship is not an alternative but a requirement. Such a relationship cannot be explained away by temporal urges. It becomes a necessity based on a deep longing for human touch, affection and companionship.

Rulings on human lives are not based on decontextualized phrases, which Muslims easily reject on a hermeneutic basis, just as they reject "beating wives" and "not befriending Jews and Christians."

The absence of such a relationship would pose an undue burden on such Muslims. Such harm is not countenanced in Islam, as scriptural oppression is still oppression. Moreover, an unreasonable burden is deemed unnecessary and useless in Islam.

This means that the arguments based on necessity and repelling harm are also applicable in some cases to bisexual Muslims.

Even in a general context other than that of widowers or single mothers, bisexual Muslims may experience a stronger connection with member of the same gender. The argument to realize mawadda (affection) would allow for the validity of a legal contract in such cases.

The arguments to justify polygamous relationships for bisexual Muslims could parallel those for heterosexual Muslims. This means the context of taking care of orphans would allow a bisexual Muslim man to marry a widower with young children and limited financial means. The same would hold for bisexual Muslim women.

Prophet himself never addressed homosexuality or bisexuality

We will also have to recognize that the story of Lot's people has no bearing on sexual orientation. The Qur'an goes to great length to elaborate on Lot's people cutting the highway, committing evil deeds in public assemblies, forbidding Lot from offering hospitality, and rushing towards his home to demand access to his guests.

The Lot's people story is not about gays or bisexuals engaging in same-sex relationships. Indeed, the Prophet never addressed homosexuality or bisexuality, which left later generations of Muslims to quibble on the subject based on their social mores and medical knowledge.

The whole story is about comforting the Prophet that just as the people of the past nations were destroyed for their oppression against God's Messengers, so too would the arrogant Meccans face the same consequence.

Indeed, contemporary Muslim conservatives have to drastically ignore the Qur'anic passages to focus exclusively on a decontextualized phrase "you approach men with desire instead of women" to condemn gay and bisexual Muslims.

But even the decontextualized phrase does not connote bisexual and gay relationships. The phrase is simply devoid of the context of intimacy, affection and companionship.

It rests solely on desires, urges and whims and relationships are not based on temporal desires, urges and whims.

Rulings on human lives are not based on decontextualized phrases, which Muslims easily reject on a hermeneutic basis, just as they reject "beating wives" and "not befriending Jews and Christians."

In essence, Muslims can hermeneutically address bisexuality in Islam and affirm bisexual Muslims.

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