The interaction with homosexuals in society is an issue that concerns many of us. We often find ourselves struggling to determine how exactly we ought to respond to such members of society. There are those of us who are so disturbed by homosexuality that evading any and all dealings with its doers seems to be the only fitting thing to do.
“And Lut who said to his people: ‘Do you do what is indecent and filthy, though you see its iniquity? Lustfully seeking men rather than women? Verily, you are a people grossly ignorant.'” (27:54-55)
Like all major world religions, the Islamic position on homosexuality is clear – morally condemned and strictly forbidden. However, the interaction with homosexuals in society is an issue that concerns many of us. We often find ourselves struggling to determine how exactly we ought to respond to such members of society. There are those of us who are so disturbed by homosexuality that evading any and all dealings with its doers seems to be the only fitting thing to do. Others may go as far as to ignore their very existence. And many will even completely overlook the sexual inclination of such individuals, either truly unconcerned or choosing to remain seemingly impassive.
The question remains, what is the appropriate behavior in the societies in which we live and interact? Is it proper to take homosexuals in our midst as friends, or is their sin so grave that we should attempt to dissociate ourselves from any acquaintance with those both indulging in and propagating it?
The famous saying of Imam Ali (peace be upon him) becomes important here: “People are of two types – either your brothers in faith, or your equals in humanity.” While we stringently reject the act of homosexuality itself, we must avoid rejecting homosexuals as individuals, and we must especially avoid falsely justifying this rejection based on the teachings of Islam. At the same time, it is important to remember that Islam encourages us to be mindful of whom we associate with, and the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) indeed tells us, “One always absorbs the thoughts and beliefs of his associate and companion.” It thus goes without saying that at work, at school, or in any aspect of our everyday life, it would be wise for a believer to limit involvement and interactions with homosexuals to that extent which is absolutely necessary.
Indeed as Muslims, we must respect their humanity and refrain from any form of hostility, yet we must also make sure to never give the impression that we approve of their actions, or even accept them to any measure. Homosexuals today constitute very powerful agencies and lobby groups that have strong political and social ties, which are collectively working hard to make homosexuality an acceptable and legitimate lifestyle. They have seeped the phenomenon so deep into society that it is now common for any resistance to be automatically stamped as prejudice and intolerance. Accordingly, it is imperative for one to be vigilant in society and abstain from taking steps that may land us into trouble. However, at an individual level, we must continue to stand firm to resist such perversions that are endlessly imposed on us. Again, this resistance should never be in the form of aggression or hatred against any individual or groups of people, but rather through taking a firm and principled stand against society’s supposedly “modern” and “progressive” values that give rise to the very acceptance of homosexuality.
This is the conduct we should aim to observe when dealing with non-Muslim homosexuals. Sadly, recent times have shown an upsurge in the number of homosexual Muslims also, many of whom have attempted to remove the taboo and self-proclaimed it to be Islamically permissible. Not only has this act spread far and wide across many Muslim communities around the globe, but such Muslims are becoming increasingly comfortable with disclosing their homosexuality in public. For mainstream Muslims this can be extremely unsettling, and the struggle to figure out how to respond to homosexual “believers” becomes a task all the more grueling.
Certainly we have a duty to perform Nahi Anil Munkar – stopping others from committing evil. Yet we must bear in mind that there are conditions that need to be met in order for this to become obligatory upon us. In any form of nahi anil munkar, Islam teaches us that we should be confident that there exists some possibility of actually having a positive influence on the person indulging in it – regardless of how small this possibility is. Furthermore, if there is any risk that performing nahi anil munkar will put our own faith in jeopardy, endanger our values, and/or leave us in a state of confusion, we should not act upon it. So albeit each of us has a different degree of faith and certainty, as a general rule, we should only attempt to guide these individuals if we ourselves are completely confident of not being influenced by their arguments and believe we possess the spiritual certitude and intellectual capacity necessary to counter their arguments and influence them to change their ways.
Sadly, there are homosexual Muslims (and groups of Muslims) who have tried to twist Islam in order to validate their actions and endorse them in the public domain. Because of these counter-values being advocated, we have a duty to defend what true Islam stands for and ensure the protection of its divine values – by promoting them with harmony, wisdom, and conviction.
To those homosexual believers who may be guided, we must impart Allah’s compassion and impartiality that He will change the condition of the people only if they themselves put forth the effort (Holy Qur’an, 13-11). To battle and to resist is what purifies the heart and elevates the human soul, and it is not the desire itself which incurs sin, but actually manifesting it into actions and allowing it to persist. We should seek to emphasize this, along with the fact that our religion is one which regulates our lives, and thus from Islam alone we should derive our values.