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Why Gay Imams Are Better for Muslim Women

Why Gay Imams Are Better for Muslim Women

Daayiee Abdullah, America’s first openly gay imam, is spicing up a pot of bland Muslim soup. The monolithic, homogenous character of mainstream Muslim mosques is a result of politics and cultural hegemony, far from the embodiment of “true” Islam as these ideologies claim. Through a historical analysis, we can better contextualize mainstream Islamic expression today and understand the power dynamics behind its development. While this is a worthwhile endeavor and vital for anyone who wants to understand Islam, instead of looking to the past to understand the present, this particular piece will look at the present in hopes of affecting our future.

Daayiee Abdullah was the only imam willing to perform the janazah (funeral rites) for a Muslim who died of AIDS. This Muslim was rejected an Islamic burial by other Muslim imams because he had been gay. Abdullah oversaw the cleansing and dressing of the deceased’s body and led a prayer at his grave. These were Abdullah’s first acts as an imam. His reason for doing so, as told to Aljazeera America, is:

“I believe every person, no matter if I disagree with you or not, you have the right as a Muslim to have the proper spiritual [rites] and rituals provided for you. And whoever judges you, that will be Allah’s decision, not me.”

The fact that a gay brother today will be rejected his funeral rights by fellow Muslim imams solely due to his sexuality is disturbing, to say the least. Why does a person’s sexuality override her or his religious belief? Are heterosexual Muslims collectively better than homosexual Muslims, regardless of each individual’s moral character?

If one didn’t know better (a.k.a, if one didn’t have some knowledge of the Quran and of Prophet Mohammad’s teachings), one would assume that the answer to that question is yes.

This is seen in the extreme marginalization of Muslims who identify as LGBTQ. The topic of sexuality is already taboo, and anything other than heterosexuality is feared and despised.

What sinful, licentious acts happen in the mosque Imam Abdullah leads?

At the Light of Reform Mosque in Washington, D.C., where Abdullah serves as imam and education director, women and men pray side-by-side and women may lead prayers.

These are the controversial actions that have received rejection, condemnation, protests, and even bomb threats from Muslims worldwide, ranging from Al-Azhar sheikhs to local American Muslims. This was seen in the reaction to Amina Wadud, professor of Islamic studies at Virgina Commonweath University, leading a mixed Friday prayer congregation — ironically, in an Anglican Church in New York after being repeatedly rejected by several mosques.

As quoted by the BBC, a man named Nussrah commented to the Associated Press on Wadud: “She is tarnishing the whole Islamic faith. If this was an Islamic state, this woman would be hanged.”

Here we see a familiar face: that of the angry patriarch, which we Muslim women have seen the ugly side of far too many times. Here lies the link that bonds the struggles of Muslim women with those of homosexual Muslims. Both groups are targeted, marginalized, and made second-class based exclusively on their sexuality. Interestingly enough, the Quran and the Prophet do not exclusively or emphatically talk about homosexuality or women’s sexuality specifically, as one would assume based on dominant arguments in Islamic debate.

Islam is a tradition that is very open about sex and marital relationships. It does indeed emphasize upright sexual morality across genders and, although the Quran and the Prophet’s teachings are very clear and direct about these things, neither source talks much about the things most emphasized by the mainstream today.

In regards to the highly emphasized topic of hijab, embodying female chastity, there is only one verse in the Quran that even mentions it and, due to its ambivalence, is hotly debated. Why, then, is hijab an obsession for religious clerics [read: male authorities]?

The one mention of what we have interpreted to be homosexuality in the Quran is found in the story of Prophet Lut. It includes the account of two angels visiting Lut disguised as young males. The men of the town showed interest in having sexual relations with these handsome strangers. Lut reprimanded them for such lewdness and instead of acknowledging his words, Lut’s people preferred to drive the visitors out of the city. The town was then destroyed as a punishment from God.

There are many lessons to be learned from this story. One would be to remain faithful to your partner, unlike the men who chose to pursue extra-marital sexual relations while neglecting their wives at home. Another would be to not view persons as sexual objects. The angels in disguise were completely objectified by the townsmen. Another lesson we can learn deals with respect and hospitality. Not only did these men make sexual objects out of Lut’s guests, but they were so rude as to suggest driving the guests out of the city for “professing to be pure.” These actions were unfair to the men’s spouses and families, disrespectful to Lut and his guests, and extremely inhospitable to the visiting angels. One finds in the story of Lut the condemnation of rape, sexual abuse, infidelity, humiliating others, and inhospitality — but not explicitly, or even necessarily, homosexuality. It could be inferred from the maleness of the angel visitors and the maleness of the men who desired to use them, but the specific issue of them being men desiring sexual relations with other males is in the context of several other problematic issues. I think what is simple enough to understand is that it is not acceptable to force sexual acts onto others. Especially someone else’s guests. Especially young boys. Especially if you’re married.

These men of Lut’s town seem to me more like heterosexual men imposing their dominance on sexually vulnerable people. But maybe that’s just the pseudo-psychologist in me speaking.

Imam Abdullah, in an interview with MetroWeekly, says:

“There’s nothing in the Koran that speaks against homosexuality. The Lut [a.k.a. Lot] story speaks about heterosexual men who use homosexual sexual acts as a form of punishment. When you read it literally, it says, ”men who turn away from their wives or mates.” Gay [men] don’t tend to have [female] mates unless it’s a cultural situation they’re forced into, by family or culture.”

Another taboo uncovered reveals debatable religious legitimacy albeit powerful cultural hegemony. Patriarchy necessitates hetero-normativity. Because when you take away the “manliness” of a man, you might get a more level playing field between men and women (God forbid!).

The fact that women and men are able to worship equally under the leadership of a gay imam is not entirely serendipitous, because it makes sense. The subordination inflicted on Muslim women within “traditional” Islam is inherently tied with that of gay Muslims. Both groups challenge the patriarchal hierarchy, and have the potential to reveal its contradictions.

The now-deceased, influential Al-Azhar sheikh Sayed Tantawi’s opinion regarding women’s rights in the mosque is reflected in his comment: “When she leads men in prayer… it’s not proper for them to look at the woman whose body is in front of them.”

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Ah yes, because a woman’s body is nothing more than a sexual temptation for men thus relegating women to a hidden and passive role in the masjid.

So when Muslim brothers and sisters pray alongside each other one would expect sexual chaos to ensue and the entire prayer to be disrupted, right? According to this logic if a woman gives the khutbah (sermon), no man will benefit any good due to his natural and uncontrollable need to have sex with the khatibah (she who gives the sermon).

Does this in any way reflect the ideals the Prophet so ardently struggled for? Are those who objectify women to the degree that they cannot even pray beside one not parallel to those who sexually objectified Lut’s guests?

Warm images of the Prophet who created an open, welcome and safe space for all seeking knowledge, come to mind. His masjid where women and men, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, contributed to discussion, asked questions, learned from the Prophet and from each other with no mention of or concern for anyone’s sexuality. This atmosphere seems to be better replicated in Imam Abdullah’s mosque than in Al-Azhar mosque, one of the world’s top Islamic institutions. Maybe this gay imam is doing a better job of respecting the Prophet’s legacy of justice, equality, and humanity.

Abdullah on America Tonight said:

“We do not limit people by their gender or their sexual orientation, or their particular aspect of being Muslim or non-Muslim… They’re there to worship.”

The Imam also says, “It is our relationship with God and our relationship with each other that really establishes our faith.”

As a Muslim woman, I would feel much more comfortable praying at the Light of Reform mosque than at the Institution for Islamic Education in Illinois, for example, founded by Muhammad Abdullah Saleem, a prominent conservative Islamic scholar in the U.S. charged with sexually exploiting his female students and employees.

As discussed in the article, keeping women hidden and silent for the purpose of chastity only perpetuates women’s objectification/dehumanization, making it easier to exploit them. At least in a space like that of the Light of Reform, my sex is not the measure of my humanness and my sexuality is not the measure of my Muslimness.

To sum up here, I’m just going to go ahead and say it: In the paradoxical situation of Islam today, every Muslim woman needs a gay imam.

View Comments (32)
  • You seem to be implying that the story of Lut (a) does not explicitly condemn the act of homosexuality by peppering it with other random notions like “not being hospitable.” But in actual fact it was the act of Homosexuality that is condemned. “Imam” Daayiee spews this nonsense about it being about rape. Why then did Prophet Lut offer his daughters for the men to marry? Why would he ask rapists to marry his daughters? This had to do with homosexual relationships and them being condemned in Islam.

    So what this all boils down to is a Khutbah? With that logic no woman would ever give a speech or a lecture in Islam for fear of being sexualized and eaten alive by men. They would not be scholars who are respected by thousands of people. Oh wait, they are. The Khutbah, like prayer is an act of worship and remains the same because Allah knows best and has made it as such but if you’d like to march on up there before or after the Khutbah or at any other Muslim event in the world where thousands more are in the audience than at one measly Jumuah gathering, you go right ahead.

    I have to say I’m quite shocked at how this was some how decided to benefit Muslim women, it is not empowering at all and surprising coming from Muslim Girl. Transferring power from a straight male to a gay male makes no sense. Why can’t Muslim women benefit and empower themselves? Skip the gay imams and go straight for the sheikha, they exist.

    • Sarah, you’re reading of those verses is based in the same assumptions and traditions that prevent sheikhas from doing their work. The same forces and rhetoric that keep Muslim Women down also keep Muslim LGBTQ people down. That was the point of the article. There is nothing in the explicit or literal reading of the Qur’an that outright condemns homosexuality. I would also remind you that the laws of the Shariah have changed for communities over time. It was completely permissible for Jewish/Christian Muslims to drink alcohol at the time of their prophets but it was prohibited for us. In the same vein, the Qur’an contains no other declarative prohibiting non-binary gender/sexuality. In fact, you’ll find more verses that talk about the diversity and complex beauty of Allah (SWT)’s Creative Index.

      • you would think that this god of yours would have known that the male scholars would do this and therefore made his point more clear. isn’t there a belief in predestination in islam, as in allah knows all. he knows what every person will ever do and say. so he foresaw this injustice and did nothing to correct it, like write a better surah?

    • y’all have a prophet who ‘offers’ his daughters to a bunch of gay guys? did the daughters have any say in this?

        • quite the wali this lut was. I guess as long as they don’t speak he can turn them over to the mob. silence is considered consent in the perfect religion that is islam.

      • keep in mind this was decades ago, of course life style and culture changed during time, back then it was permissible and fine.

        • yes I understand changing social mores. but my understanding of the god of islam is that it is everlasting. should not its moral attitudes, as demonstrated through its prophets be consistent throughout time?
          so allah was ok with lut turning his daughters over to a mob to appease their sexual desires?
          or are you being sarcastic, it just hit me, you said decades ago?

  • Have always marvelled how we women have great friendship and regard for gay men in the office. They are kind, more gentle than straight men, are not threatening, they do all the parties (and clean up afterwards). They are the ones who will tell you that your tag at the back of your top is sticking out, etc. As far as religion is concerned, Gay men are the ones who will defend women more readily. Why? because they too are considered “minority”. So, I have great optimism about the future as far as Muslim women are concerned. They are educated, articulate and don’t have many taboos. The Muslim woman of the future will be more accepting of gay men — InshaAllah! Because we are all creatures of God!

  • Is this a freakin’ joke ?
    Do you realize what kind of chaos the world would be if all muslims were like you ?
    I’m so shocked and offended by your post, I can’t even

    Where were you raised ? At a gay bar ?

  • Ohk sister I get your point and I think we should think of Islam a little openly but I dont agree with your analysis on Lut’s story as Sarah said its clearly a story that condemns gay acts …
    and btw dont you have any admins on here why do we have so many non-believers and haters ?? If you want to get a point across dont be rude about it we’re all here to discuss guys…

  • This was straight fire, sister! I loved it. Especially the way you ended this. I had to stop reading and sip my tea. “So when Muslim brothers and sisters pray alongside each other one would expect sexual chaos to ensue and the entire prayer to be disrupted, right? According to this logic if a woman gives the khutbah (sermon), no man will benefit any good due to his natural and uncontrollable need to have sex with the khatibah (she who gives the sermon).

    Does this in any way reflect the ideals the Prophet so ardently struggled for? Are those who objectify women to the degree that they cannot even pray beside one not parallel to those who sexually objectified Lut’s guests?”

  • Great article, it’s hopeful to see these kinds of posts.

    Also Lun yes I can confirm that 100% of gays raise their children at gay bars

  • What kind of article is this? I will never support it and clearly the imam did not do enough research on the Quran saying “There’s nothing the Koran that speaks against homosexuality”. Are you kidding me? Go read Surah An-Naml verse 55. Do research on that verse and tell that “imam” to do some more research as well. Being a woman, if I have a problem that needs to discussed, I will NEVER go to a “gay imam”, rather I will go to a Sheikha. Whatever is indecent will always be indecent even if the whole world starts to agree or “follow it”.

  • Worst article I have ever read. What a disgrace you are to the Muslim Ummah. Makes me never want to bear children in this world so I’ll never need to expose them to this disgust. It was one problem having Western society accepting gays. Now we have so called “muslim gay imams” and idiots supporting them… The end of time needs to HURRY UP

  • Thank you for this article, I don’t agree with everything (especially men and women praying together) but it was a refreshing new perspective. I’ve been struggling with this issue a lot, since I’m a revert and I’m from a western society that is generally open minded. I don’t want to question Allah’s swt rules or encourage anything haram, but my understanding is that assigning partners to Allah swt is the biggest sin in Islam and I think if homosexuals (or people with homosexual tendencies, if you will) were more educated about this, maybe they would feel more welcome and at least avoid this biggest sin. I was on the wrong path before I came to Islam, but since I’m heterosexual I wasn’t condemned or stigmatized by the Muslim community and instead felt very welcome alhamdilallah. i have someone close to me who identifies as homosexual and they do not believe in God, probably because they believe that God hates them. It’s just sad that people make some sins seem worse than others when only Allah swt knows best. I wish we could try harder to hate sin and hate the shaaytan instead of hating people.

  • Excellent article! I’m a pagan/atheist and a lesbian born in Lebanon (living in the US) and although I have no plans, if I ever were to convert to Islam, I would never start sleeping with men instead! I am neither sinful, nor flawed, nor a sexual object. However I am very disappointed by the hateful comments you have received. It’s a shame when people, especially women, are in a position to be more tolerant and open but chose bigotry instead. In today’s climate, Muslims and LGBTQ people need to stand stand near each other against discrimination and racism. You are one of the people who is capable of making this happen, of choosing friendship over war, or choosing love over hatred. Muslims should be proud of a person like you! And you really make me have faith in humanity.

  • These comments of overly sensitive people are so hilarious. You read an article that challenges you to think critically and you all explode or implode, whatever it is. Just goes to show how dogmatic and vapid the mainstream Muslim community is. So a guy inserting his junk into another guy is apparently enough for God to destroy a whole city? You’re making your God out to be more irrational than he actually he is. Let me tell you that the biggest problems facing Muslims today is not gay people or even women praying alongside men. It’s the misogynist patriarchs whose Kool Aid you have been drinking for so long.

  • what the hell ?? sodomy A.K.A homosexuality is a major sin in islam , cursed in the quran itself, all the muslim sects sunni , shia , ibadi , salafi , ashari , ismaili , ban it , i don’t know how someone who claims to be a muslim support this disgusting act.
    supporting the so called LGBT u r bowing to the so-called western lifestyle.
    u should be ashamed from urself , please remove the title muslim from ur blog’s name

    • But their a doing it Anyway! See the al asiri butt bomber brothers from a few years back!(their imam said as long as they were doing jihad they could repeatedly soromize the one to carry the bomb, until it fit!) Plus look up the dancing boys of Afghanistan, or just look at real stories of muslims in Sweden…it’s pretty Obvious!

  • I’m sorry, MuslimGirl, but you completely misunderstood the story of Lut(peace be upon him), and need to revise that chapter of the Qur’an. While it is true that Allah is the only judge, you(whether intentionally or unintentionally) are misleading fellow Muslims by saying that homosexuality is allowed, that the hijab is not mandatory, that women should be allowed to lead the prayer if men are included, and that men and women should be allowed to pray side by side. If, after having properly researched the answers to your questions, it is still your opinion that some aspects of Allah’s religion are unjust and/or unreasonable, then that is fine. Please refrain, however, from posting your erroneous conclusions on any blog, and potentially leading other Muslims astray. Islam is the true religion, and will not ever need to be reformed, especially by people following society’s relaxed moral standards. Thank you.

    • This is not a valid rebuttal. You cannot say “go research this”, which is equal to “go google it.” Where are your EXACT supporting points that disparage any of the points she made in this article? Please cite your references, sources, which you are welcome to research.

  • Salaams Sister Mira, reading up on your founder Amani has lead me to this page and while I do find it as an excellent source of empowerment for muslim women, there are of course certain things I need to point out (FYI I do not intend to start an argument but merely a logical and peaceful discussion among us muslims)
    Firstly to provide a clear cut proof that homosexuality is indeed forbidden in Islam, here is a verse directly from the Qur’an
    “And (remember) Loot (Lot), when he said to his people: ‘Do you commit the worst sin such as none preceding you has committed in the ‘Aalameen (mankind and jinn)?

    Verily, you practise your lusts on men instead of women. Nay, but you are a people transgressing beyond bounds (by committing great sins)’”

    Source: (Surah al-A’raaf 7:80-81)

    The interpretation for the above verse is that , ‘ you left women whom Allah created for you and instead had sex with men Indeed, this behavior is evil and ignorant because you have placed things in their improper places. Lut, peace be upon him, said to them’ Source: Tafseer Ibn Katheer (One of the most reputed sources for Quranic Interpretation).

    There are various other credible sources I can cite but i chose this one because it is directly extracted from the Qur’an. I understand what you are trying to say in terms of muslims adapting to the modernist times that we live in and we should make changes as long as it is in the confines of islamic law but this goes completely against the fold of Islam and contradicts the core of our islamic values. The majority held opinion among the scholars and especially the ones based in USA like Dr. Yasir Qadhi, is that we cannot go around assaulting and verbally abusing the LGBTQ community but neither can we encourage the notion of their practices, in short the islamic law is clear on its stance of the existence of the LGBTQ community but it does not mean we can go around enforcing our opinion on people, we live and let live.

    My final humble request to you is that, the Quran is a beautiful and miraculous gift sent to us from Allah, so let us not take lightly the wisdom it conveys and especially not to contradict or twist its message and verses without completely understanding the meaning behind them.

    I sincerely hope that you will take this into consideration.

    Your Brother in Islam

    • The Quran explicitly states that it’s LUST, not Love, those two are simply different things.
      Lust is to please your sexual desires. Love does not limit to only sexual desires but a personal and romantic relationship which can exist even without sex, and can exist within marriage and such.

      And again, you can have sex with someone because you love them, you don’t always need a sexual desire for it.

      • If it was true that Allah accepts homosexuals, then he would have made it to where they can reproduce, but he reserved it for heterosexuals which is the right way. No prophet ever in Islam was gay Astagfar Allah. I give no credit to a person who is a gay as an Imam because this is not the way of the prophets or the way that Islam implies for. A man or woman should accept Islam as it is a religion from God. If most of the people on Earth were gay, then there would be extinction because of the fact that gay people can’t reproduce. If you want to live the right way. Look to the prophets who all have chosen women to marry. Read the Quran, and know the Allah subhana wa talla is the All-Knowing and he knows what will harm us and what will benefit us. He made Hawa for Adam for comfort, this is Allah’s decree, then why would you stray away from that. If you want to follow Islam then look at the Quran and what the Hadith says about gays, it is against Islam I guarantee. If you are interested in knowing the Hadith that is against homosexuality visit the website and search homosexuality in the search box after you pick English as the custom language for the website. How can one call themselves Islam and go against Allah the All Wise, when he condemns those females who act like males or males that act like women. When you are gay, this is exactly what you are doing, you are acting the opposite of what you should be doing. I ask Allah subhanu wa Tala to guide me and guide all those who seek the truth without any blemishes and hope that we all go to Jannah. A True Imam is best for women never a gay one that is ultimately going against what Allah ordained. That is why they are a minority and will remain a minority because the majority of Muslims know better.

  • Quran explicitly forbids homosexuality and condemns those men who lusted after other men.

    Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

    “And (remember) Loot (Lot), when he said to his people:
    ‘Do you commit the worst sin such as none preceding you has committed in the ‘Aalameen (mankind and jinn)?

    81. ‘Verily, you practise your lusts on men instead of women. Nay, but you are a people transgressing beyond bounds.’

    82. And the answer of his people was only that they said:
    ‘Drive them out of your town, these are indeed men who want to be pure!’

    83. Then We saved him and his family, except his wife; she was of those who remained behind (in the torment).

    84. And We rained down on them a rain (of stones). Then see what was the end of the Mujrimoon (criminals, polytheists and sinners)”

    [Surah al-A’raaf 7:80-84]

    There are also Prophetic hadith which condems homosexuality:

    Ahmad (2915) narrated from Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “May Allaah curse the one who does the action of the people of Loot.”

    Quran describes the act of sodomy as “the worst sin” (al-faahishah – definite) in surah al-A’raaf 7:80

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