Question 8-2023 from Anonymous

My son has gay tendencies since he was 12 years old … we had advised him, sent him for counselling twice at ages 14 and 16. Now at 19, he is still the same … what must we do now?

[This question was submitted via Slido to our Selamat Pagi Jumaat session with Sujimy Mohamad on 24 Jun 2022 on Facebook Live. But we were not able to answer due to time constraint. However, we feel a reply is much needed.]

It is significant to note that this question is not from a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person nor one who is questioning his sexuality [LGBT+], but a parent of one. As for the former, you may want to check out questions 3 and 4, where we addressed a Muslim lesbian and gay respectively, as to what they can do as Muslims. However, as their parents – and for that matter, siblings, friends, counsellors, and significant others – what we need to do regarding this issue is quite a different matter.

For starters, we acknowledge that the sexual phenomenon is created by Allah swt to host human souls on Earth and then to generate and sustain the formation of marriages, families and kinship in which souls may grow as they journey through Earthly Life towards the Hereafter. That creation belongs to Him and He alone defines how it is to be used. Gay sex is antithetic to this purpose and as explained by authoritative sources, it is haram in Islam. However, their judgmentand punishments are for Allah s.w.t to execute in the Hereafter and Islamic legal authorities to administer here on Earth. As for us without such authority, we have a different role to play – for their sake in this world and the Hereafter, as much as it is for ours. We would like to share three principles that have guided us as we deal with Muslim LGBT+ clients: 

1] Faith in Allah s.w.t is the ultimate priority

Exacerbated by the taboo nature of sex itself, many Muslims deem gay-sex as the ultimate abomination which is unforgivable in Islam. This is not true. According to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, Allah Forgives as He wishes, except the sin of syirik , or equating Him to others

Surely, Allah does not forgive that a partner is ascribed to Him, and He forgives anything short of that for whomsever He wills. Whoever ascribe a partner to Allah commits a terrible sin.

(al Nisa 4:48)

Because of this, whatever we do, most important is not to repel fellow Muslims from their faith in Islam through our action, attitude, or treatment towards them. The abhorrence of gay-sex may lead some to belittle an LGBT+ Muslim’s faith or deride their prayers, fasting or charitable acts as useless. Our discomfort may lead us to make their presence unwelcome in our mosques or religious classes and events. LGBT+ Muslims are more prone to such exclusions than other Muslim sinners like say drug-abusers, alcoholics or womanisers. Considering that all of us Muslims are actually sinners – as no one is perfect in behaviour – there are no grounds to discriminate and ostracise anyone for being a known sinner. Instead, our role as fellow Muslims is to help one another be as best a Muslim as we can, notwithstanding each other’s sins; and this requires a tolerant and inclusive attitude towards everyone striving towards Allah swt.

We realise the LGBT+ presence in an Islamic congregation can be tricky when ambiguity of their gender comes into play in their use of public lavatories or their position in jama’ah or skin contact with the biologically opposite sex, among others. But fiqihi positions are for fiqihi authorities to stipulate. The problem is reluctance to accept the fiqihi position due to discomfort and long-held biases and presumptions. So, no hukum or fatwa will be of any use without the willingness to tolerate other people’s perceived sins as we altogether strive towards Allah swt with all our own daily sins we commit and keep to ourselves.

2] Do not judge

              It is interesting to note that while we know of the sin committed by our LGBT+ brothers and sisters, they are very likely not to know the kind of sins the rest of us commit daily. Nor do we have to reveal. For certain, we all sin. But Allah’s Mercy and Compassion is vast and wide. This is best exemplified by the Prophet’s ﷺ stories of a prostitute and a serial murderer attaining Jannah through their small initiative and Allah’s vast Mercy. We will never know what is the ending of an LGBT+ Muslim. It could well be better than ours. In the meantime, if we had spent our life passing judgment on their faith and character or making their life as a Muslim difficult, that might just be our downfall in the Hereafter. The Prophet’s ﷺ story of the muflis (bankrupt) on the Day of Judgment comes to mind.

3] Know the limits of your responsibility

Parents of an LGBT+ person tend to over-emphasise their sense of responsibility. Due to the severity of the act, many grew worried that they themselves would be dragged to Hell for their offspring’s unforgivable act. The ensuing panic causes them to react irrationally and initiate measures that in turn repel the latter further from Islam; not least exacerbated by their immediate society’s judging looks and snide remarks concerning their purported parental incapability. But none of these are congruent with this Quranic verse:

No soul burdened with sin will bear the burden of another. And if a sin-burdened soul cries for help with its burden, none of it will be carried—even by a close relative. …

(Fatir 35:18)

              Instead, they need to limit their sense of responsibility to the extent of providing adequate guidance, advice, knowledge, even encouragement and emotional support to the latter. Ultimately, the LGBT+ person must carry the responsibility over their choice of sexual lifestyle, and no one else. Firstly, if you believe your provisions are already adequate, the LGBT+ person must be given space to think and act according to their conscience. In fact, even if a parent feels that they had neglected their upbringing duties, it is unwise to parent a grown-up offspring as if they are still children. It is wiser to acknowledge their responsibility over their choices as adults and maintain familial relationship even as you make it clear that you disapprove of their sexual behaviour, on Islamic grounds. Whatever advice or counsel would only be productive when they come asking. As a separate matter, the failed parent can acknowledge, repent, and seek forgiveness to Allah s.w.t for their apparent failings.

              We always abide by these three principles when counselling Muslim LGBT+ cases. We see our task as journeying with them as they sort out their feelings, analyse their situation, review their options as well as understand the religious implications of their decisions. It starts with listening emphatically as they narrate the circumstances that brought them to that juncture or ventilate over their frustrations with social prejudices or express their fears, hopes, plans and such. Ironically, many of our cases were supported by other gays who could empathise much better with their sense of guilt and confusion concerning their sexuality – in comparison to family, significant others and the Muslim community in general who are prone to pass judging looks, snide remarks, and unsolicited advice.

This is not some kind of a long-term strategy to change their homosexual behaviour. We do not believe anyone can, except they themselves. Instead, it is about helping them make a fully informed decision based on reliable information from the scientific, medical, emotional, relational, spiritual and any other points of view they wish to hear. But without the opportunity to be listened to, they will not be open to alternative points of view.

Admittedly, our own counselling experience has been with LGBT+ youths who have somehow been nurtured towards that lifestyle either by grooming or traumatic circumstances. However, there are possibly others who feel that they have been born gay. We have also heard reliable anecdotes – from prison and drug-rehabilitation centre counsellor friends – about situational gays who engage in gay sex out of desperation despite their heterosexual preferences. Conversely, there are individuals with same-sex attraction who willingly struggle to reconcile their sexual orientation with their religious conscience. But all the same, as explained by this scholar, the traditional Islamic stance towards the LGBT+ person or community has always been “live and let live” whereas punishments have always been reserved for recalcitrant committers of public indecency.

              However, our advocacy for tolerance must not be mistaken for acceptance. The unacceptability of gay-sex and the gay Muslims’ responsibility to themselves, others and their religion have been explained in answers 3 and 4. However, the complexity of human sexuality disqualifies any human from passing judgment on another person’s faith and religiosity. This is a matter between individuals and Allah swt who gave us freewill to exercise. He alone Knows to what extent we behave out of our choices or due to His Design. He alone creates whatever He wishes and permits and forbids whatever He wishes and He alone will reward us for our struggles, hardships and sacrifices in the Hereafter.

              Here, our collective responsibility as Muslims – gays, straight and the complicated alike – is to support one another to be the best Muslim we possibly can, in the spirit of this verse:

Allāh does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. …

“Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred …

Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear.

And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us …”

(al Baqarah al Baqarah 2:286)