LGBT in Islam

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Shah Abbas of Iran with a page (1627).

LGBT in Islam is influenced by the religious, legal and cultural history of the nations with a sizable Muslim population, along with specific passages in the Quran[1][2] and statements attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad (hadith).

The traditional schools of Islamic law based on Quranic verses and hadith, and influenced by Islamic scholars such as Imam Malik and Imam Shafi, consider homosexual acts a punishable crime and a sin.[3] The Qur'an cites the story of the "people of Lot" destroyed by the wrath of God because they engaged in lustful carnal acts between men. Nevertheless, homoerotic themes were present in poetry and other literature written by some Muslims from the medieval period onwards and sometimes homoeroticism in the form of pederasty was seen in a positive way.[4]

Extreme prejudice remains, both socially and legally, in much of the Islamic world against people who engage in homosexual acts. In Afghanistan, Brunei, Gaza Strip, Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen, homosexual activity carries the death penalty.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12] In others, such as Algeria, Maldives, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia and Syria, it is illegal.[13][14][15][16][17] Same-sex sexual intercourse is legal in 20 Muslim-majority nations (Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Niger, Tajikistan, Turkey, West Bank (State of Palestine), and most of Indonesia (except in Aceh and South Sumatra provinces, where bylaws against LGBT rights have been passed), as well as Northern Cyprus.[18][19] In Albania, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Turkey, there have been discussions about legalizing same-sex marriage.[20][21] Homosexual relations between females are legal in Kuwait, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, but homosexual acts between males are illegal.[18][22][23][24]

Most Muslim-majority countries and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have opposed moves to advance LGBT rights at the United Nations, in the General Assembly or the UNHRC. In May 2016, a group of 51 Muslim states blocked 11 gay and transgender organizations from attending 2016 High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS.[25][26][27][28] However, Albania, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone have signed a UN Declaration supporting LGBT rights.[29][30] Albania provides LGBT rights protections in the form of non-discrimination laws, and discussions on legally recognizing same-sex marriage have been held in the country.[31] Kosovo as well as the (internationally not recognized) Muslim-majority Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also have anti-discrimination laws in place. There are also several groups within Islam around the world who support LGBT rights and LGBT muslims.

Scripture and Islamic jurisprudence

Main article: Quran and violence

This section is divided into two subsections. The first contains passages from the Quran, the primary source for this section, relating to homosexuality. The other subsection comes from secondary sources and contains interpretations of the Quran in relation to homosexuality.

Passages from the Quran relating to homosexuality

The Quran contains seven references to fate of "the people of Lut", and their destruction by God is associated explicitly with their sexual practices:[32][33][34]

"And (We sent) Lot when he said to his people: What! do you commit an indecency which any one in the world has not done before you? Most surely you come to males in lust besides females; nay you are an extravagant people. And the answer of his people was no other than that they said: Turn them out of your town, surely they are a people who seek to purify (themselves). So We delivered him and his followers, except his wife; she was of those who remained behind. And We rained upon them a rain; consider then what was the end of the guilty."[7:80–84 (Translated by Shakir)]

The sins of the people of Lut (Arabic: لوط‎‎) became proverbial, and the Arabic words for homosexual behaviour (Arabic: لواط‎, translit. liwāṭ‎) and for a person who performs such acts (Arabic: لوطي‎, translit. lūṭi‎) both derive from his name.[35]

Only one passage in the Qur'an prescribes a strictly legal position. It is not restricted to homosexual behaviour, however, and deals more generally with public practice of adultery:[36]

"And as for those who are guilty of an indecency from among your women, call to witnesses against them four (witnesses) from among you; then if they bear witness confine them to the houses until death takes them away or Allah opens some way for them. And as for the two who are guilty of indecency from among you, give them both a punishment; then if they repent and amend, turn aside from them; surely Allah is oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful."[4:15–16 (Translated by Shakir)]

Because the Quran is also a legal document, there are several major sins outlined in the text. Two of these consider sexual misconduct. They are Zina and Liwat.[2] Zina literally means "adultery". It is "sex between a man and a woman who is neither his wife nor his slave—the most serious of sexual transgressions described in the Qur'an".[2] Liwat is "anal intercourse between men or anal sex between a male and a female 'stranger'—that is, a woman who is neither his wife nor his slave over whom he has no sexual rights". The issue of homosexuality comes more from a standpoint of legal sexual rights.[2]

Interpretations of the Quran in relation to homosexuality

According to the laws of Shariah, Muslims found guilty of homosexual acts should repent rather than confess[citation needed]. While some interpret this as permission to tolerate homosexuality, it is not allowed in Islam[citation needed]. Many Muslim scholars have followed this idea of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy in regards to homosexuality in Islam, by treating the subject with passivity.[2] Comparisons have been made between the imperative nature of the secrecy of homosexual acts and the secrecy of women in many Islamic societies. In other words, women have to live under a certain amount of secrecy (whether that means being veiled or otherwise), and homosexuals must keep all of their transgressions and acts a secret.

Outside of the Quran, there were varying opinions on how the death penalty was to be carried out for such sexual transgressions. Abu Bakr apparently recommended toppling a wall on the evil-doer, or else burning alive,[37] while Ali bin Abi Talib ordered death by stoning for one "luti" and had another thrown head-first from the top of a minaret—according to Ibn Abbas, this last punishment must be followed by stoning.[38] However, according to Abu Hanifa, homosexual acts are not hadd, but ta'zeer (maximum 39 lashes).[39]

The Hadith and Seerah

The hadith (sayings and actions of Muhammad) show that homosexuality was not unknown in Arabia.[38] Given that the Qur'an is allegedly vague regarding the punishment of homosexual sodomy, Islamic jurists turned to the collections of the hadith and seerah (accounts of Muhammad's life) to support their argument for Hudud punishment.[38]

Abu `Isa Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi compiling the Sunan al-Tirmidhi around C.E.884 (two centuries after the death of Muhammad) wrote that Muhammad had prescribed the death penalty for both the active and also the passive partner:

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Prophet said: If you find anyone doing as Lot's people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.

The overall moral or theological principle is that a person who performs such actions (luti) challenges the harmony of God's creation, and is therefore a revolt against God.[35]

Ibn al-Jawzi (1114–1200) writing in the 12th century claimed that Muhammad had cursed "sodomites" in several hadith, and had recommended the death penalty for both the active and passive partners in homosexual acts.[40]

Al-Nuwayri (1272–1332) in his Nihaya reports that Muhammad is alleged to have said what he feared most for his community were the practices of the people of Lot (although he seems to have expressed the same idea in regard to wine and female seduction).[38]

The following tradition also speaks to non-traditional gender behavior:

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Prophet cursed effeminate men; those men who are in the similitude (assume the manners of women) and those women who assume the manners of men, and he said, "Turn them out of your houses." The Prophet turned out such-and-such man, and 'Umar turned out such-and-such woman.

Later medieval jurisprudence

“Medieval jurists were unable to achieve a consensus. . . .” Thus, there were legal schools which “prescribed capital punishment for sodomy, but others opted only for a relatively mild discretionary punishment.” However, there was “general agreement” that “other homosexual acts (including any between females) were lesser offenses, subject only to discretionary punishment.”[41]

The four schools of shari'a (Islamic law) disagreed on what punishment is appropriate for liwat. Abu Bakr Al-Jassas (d. 981 AD/370 AH) argued that the two hadiths on killing homosexuals "are not reliable by any means and no legal punishment can be prescribed based on them",[42] and the Hanafi school held that it does not merit any capital punishment, on the basis of a hadith that "Muslim blood can only be spilled for adultery, apostasy and homicide"; against this the Hanbali school inferred that sodomy is a form of adultery and must incur the same penalty, i.e. death.[35][page needed]

Modern legal views

Same-sex intercourse illegal:
  Up to life in prison
  Unenforced penalty

With few exceptions all scholars of Sharia, or Islamic law, interpret homosexual activity as a punishable offence as well as a sin. There is no specific punishment prescribed, however, and this is usually left to the discretion of the local authorities on Islam.[43] Mohamed El-Moctar El-Shinqiti, a contemporary Mauritanian scholar, has argued that "[even though] homosexuality is a grievous sin...[a] no legal punishment is stated in the Qur'an for homosexuality...[b] it is not reported that Prophet Muhammad has punished somebody for committing homosexuality...[c] there is no authentic hadith reported from the Prophet prescribing a punishment for the homosexuals..." Hadith scholars such as Al-Bukhari, Yahya ibn Ma'in, Al-Nasa'i, Ibn Hazm, Al-Tirmidhi, and others have impugned these statements.[44]

Faisal Kutty, a professor of Islamic law at Indiana-based Valparaiso University Law School and Toronto-based Osgoode Hall Law School, commented on the contemporary same-sex marriage debate in a March 27, 2014, essay in the Huffington Post.[45] He acknowledged that while Islamic law iterations prohibits pre- and extra-marital as well as same-sex sexual activity, it does not attempt to "regulate feelings, emotions and urges, but only its translation into action that authorities had declared unlawful". Kutty, who teaches comparative law and legal reasoning, also wrote that many Islamic scholars [46] have "even argued that homosexual tendencies themselves were not haram [prohibited] but had to be suppressed for the public good". He claimed that this may not be "what the LGBTQ community wants to hear", but that, "it reveals that even classical Islamic jurists struggled with this issue and had a more sophisticated attitude than many contemporary Muslims". Kutty, who in the past wrote in support of allowing Islamic principles in dispute resolution, also noted that "most Muslims have no problem extending full human rights to those—even Muslims—who live together 'in sin'". He argued that it therefore seems hypocritical to deny fundamental rights to same-sex couples. Moreover, he concurred with Islamic legal scholar Mohamed Fadel[47] in arguing that this is not about changing Islamic marriage (nikah), but about making "sure that all citizens have access to the same kinds of public benefits".

Islamist journalist Muhammad Jalal Kishk found no prescribed punishment for homosexuality in Islamic law[48][full citation needed][49] Several modern day scholars, including Scott Kugle, argue for a different interpretation of the Lot narrative focusing not on the sexual act but on the infidelity of the tribe and their rejection of Lot's Prophethood.[50]

There are several methods by which sharia jurists have advocated the punishment of gays or lesbians who are sexually active. One form of execution involves an individual convicted of homosexual acts being stoned to death by a crowd of Muslims.[51][page needed] Other Muslim jurists have established ijma ruling that those committing homosexual acts be thrown from rooftops or high places,[52] and this is the perspective of most Salafists.[53]

Interpretations always fallible
In a 2003 book Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle asserts “that Islam does not address homosexuality.”[54] Therefore, he adds that we should be “suspicious of statements like ‘Islam says . . .’ or ‘The Shari‘ah says . . .’ as if these abstractions actually speak.” Whatever is said about these sources “are interpretations of them” and interpretations are “always by fallible people.” Fugle reads the Qur'an as holding “a positive assessment of diversity.” With this reading, Islam can be described as “a religion that positively assesses diversity in creation and in human societies.”195 In keeping with this positive assessment of diversity, “gay and lesbian Muslims” view homosexuality as representing the “natural diversity in sexuality in human societies.”[55]

“Sexuality-sensitive” interpretations
In Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle’s 2010 book on homosexuality in Islam, he addresses the teaching of sacred texts including the Qur'an about homosexuality. Kugle notes the Islamic “tolerance for diversity of interpretation of sacred texts.”[56]

Kugle quotes the Qur'an: "O people, we created you all from a male and a female And made you into different communities and tribes So that you would come to know one another Acknowledging that the most noble among you Is the one most aware of God.” Qur'an 49:13 (Kugle’s translation). Then Kugle continues, “the implication of this verse is that no Muslim is better than another,” even “a gay or lesbian Muslim.”[57]

Regarding interpreting the Qur'an, Kugle notes that “it is always human beings who speak for the Qur’an” and “they always interpret its words” and “interpretation is always ambiguous and contested.” Such ambiguity allows “gay, lesbian, and transgender Muslims” to interpret the Qur'an in “sexuality-sensitive” ways, ways they believe produce a “fuller and better interpretation.”[58]

Regarding the Qur'an’s treatment of same-sex acts, Kugle says that “where the Qur’an treats same-sex acts, it condemns them only so far as they are exploitive or violent.” More generally, Kugle notes that the Qur'an refers to four different levels of personality. One level is “genetic inheritance.” The Qur'an refers to this level as one’s “physical stamp” that “determines one’s temperamental nature” including one’s sexuality. One the basis of this reading of the Qur'an, Kugle asserts that homosexuality is “caused by divine will,” so “homosexuals have no rational choice in their internal disposition to be attracted to same-sex mates.”[59]

Regarding the story of Lot, Kugle observes that if the “classical interpreters” had seen “sexual orientation as an integral aspect of human personality,” they would have read the narrative of Lot and his tribe “as addressing male rape of men in particular” and not as “addressing homosexuality in general.”[60]

“Queer-friendly” interpretations
In a 2012 book, Aisha Geissinger[61] writes that there are “apparently irreconcilable Muslim standpoints on same-sex desires and acts,” all of which claim “interpretative authenticity.” One of these standpoints results from “queer-friendly” interpretations of the Lot story and the Quran. The Lot story is interpreted as condemning “rape and inhospitality rather than today’s consensual same-sex relationships.”[62]

No one Muslim perspective
In her 2016 book, Kecia Ali observes that “contemporary scholars disagree sharply about the Qur’anic perspective on same-sex intimacy.” One scholar argues that the Qur'an “is very explicit in its condemnation of homosexuality leaving scarcely any loophole for a theological accommodation of homosexuality in Islam.” Another scholar argues that “the Qur’an does not address homosexuality or homosexuals explicitly.” Overall, Ali says that “there is no one Muslim perspective on anything.”[63]

Reinterpretation needed
Abdessamad Dialmy[64] in his 2010 article, “Sexuality and Islam,” addressed “sexual norms defined by the sacred texts (Koran and Sunna).” He wrote that “sexual standards in Islam are paradoxical.” The sacred texts “allow and actually are an enticement to the exercise of sexuality.” However, they also “discriminate . . . between heterosexuality and homosexuality.” Islam’s paradoxical standards result in “the current back and forth swing of sexual practices between repression and openness.” Dialmy sees a solution to this back and forth swing by a “reinterpretation of repressive holy texts.”[65]

History of homosexuality in Islamic societies

Societies in Islam have recognized “both erotic attraction and sexual behavior between members of the same sex.” However, their attitudes about them have often been contradictory: “severe religious and legal sanctions” against homosexual behavior and at the same time “celebratory expressions” of erotic attraction.[41] Homoeroticism was idealized in the form of poetry or artistic declarations of love from one man to another. Accordingly, the Arabic language had an appreciable vocabulary of homoerotic terms, with a dozens of word just to describe types of male prostitutes.[66] Schmitt (1992) identifies some twenty words in Arabic, Persian and Turkish to identify those who are penetrated.[67] Other related Arabic words includes Mukhannathun, ma'bûn, halaqī, baghghā.[68]

Medieval era

Ottoman illustration depicting a young man used for group sex (from Sawaqub al-Manaquib)

The centuries immediately after Muhammad's death led to a rapid growth of the Islamic empire accompanied by increased prosperity. Some Muslims bemoaned the general "corruption" of morals in the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and it's clear that homosexual practice continued (in a subterranean manner) despite its growing condemnation by the religious authorities. In fact, it seems to have become less hidden as the process of acculturation sped up, such as in the area of music and dance where mukhannathun were prevalent. The arrival of the Abbasid army to Arabia in the 8th century seems to have meant that tolerance for homosexual practice subsequently spread even more widely under the new dynasty. The ruler Al-Amin (809-813), for example, was said to have required slave women to be dressed in masculine clothing so he could be persuaded to have sex and produce an heir.[38] Abu Nuwas (756-814), born in the city of Ahvaz in modern-day Iran, became a master of all the contemporary genres of Arabic poetry; sharing Al-Amin's love for men and composing poems celebrating such love.[69]

There are other examples from the following centuries. The Aghlabid Emir Ibrahim II of Ifriqiya (ruled 875–902) was said to have been surrounded by some sixty catamites, yet whom he was said to have treated in a most horrific manner. Caliph al-Mutasim in the 9th century and some of his successors were accused of homosexuality. The popular stories say that Cordoba, Abd al-Rahman III had executed a young man from León who was held as a hostage, because he had refused his advances during the Reconquista.[38]

Mahmud of Ghazni (971-1030), the ruler of the Ghaznavid Empire, had a Turkish slave named Malik Ayaz as a companion. Their relationship inspired poems and stories.[70][71]

Mehmed the Conqueror, the Ottoman sultan living in the 15th century, European sources say "who was known to have ambivalent sexual tastes, sent a eunuch to the house of Notaras, demanding that he supply his good looking fourteen year old son for the Sultan’s pleasure. When he refused, the Sultan instantly ordered the decapitation of Notaras, together with that of his son and his son-in-law; and their three heads … were placed on the banqueting table before him".[72] Another youth Mehmed found attractive, and who was presumably more accommodating, was Radu III the Fair, the brother of the famous Vlad the Impaler, "Radu, a hostage in Istanbul whose good looks had caught the Sultan’s fancy, and who was thus singled out to serve as one of his most favored pages." After the defeat of Vlad, Mehmed placed Radu on the throne of Wallachia as a vassal ruler. However, Turkish sources deny these stories.[73]

According to the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World:

Whatever the legal strictures on sexual activity, the positive expression of male homeoerotic sentiment in literature was accepted, and assiduously cultivated, from the late eighth century until modern times. First in Arabic, but later also in Persian, Turkish and Urdu, love poetry by men about boys more than competed with that about women, it overwhelmed it. Anecdotal literature reinforces this impression of general societal acceptance of the public celebration of male-male love (which hostile Western caricatures of Islamic societies in medieval and early modern times simply exaggerate).[74]

European travellers remarked on the taste that Shah Abbas of Iran (1588-1629) had for wine and festivities, but also for charming pages and cup bearers. A painting by Riza Abbasi with homo-erotic qualities shows the ruler enjoying such delights.[75]

“Homosexuality was a key symbolic issue throughout the Middle Ages in [Islamic] Iberia. As was customary everywhere until the nineteenth century, homosexuality was not viewed as a congenital disposition or ‘identity’; the focus was on nonprocreative sexual practices, of which sodomy was the most controversial.” For example, in “al-Andalus homosexual pleasures were much indulged by the intellectual and political elite. Evidence includes the behavior of rulers . . . who kept male harems.”[76] Although early islamic writings such as the Quran expressed a mildly negative attitude towards homosexuality, most muslim societies treated the subject with indifference, if not admiration. Few literary works displayed hostility towards non-heterosexuality, apart from partisan statements and literary debates about types of love (which also occurred in heterosexual contexts).[77] Khaled el-Rouayheb even maintain that "much if not most of the extant love poetry of the period [16th to 18th century] is pederastic in tone, portraying an adult male poet's passionate love for a teenage boy".[78]

El-Rouayheb suggest that even though religious scholars considered sodomy as an abhorrent sin, most of them did not genuinely believe that it was illicit to fall in love with a boy or expressing this love via poetry.[79] But in the secular society, a male’s “desire to penetrate desirable youth was seen as perfectly normal”, even if not lawful.[80] On the other hand, men adopting the passive role were more subjected to stigma. The medical term ubnah qualified the pathological desire of a male to exclusively and continually be on the receiving end of anal intercourse. Various physician theorized on this condition, including Rhazes who thought it was correlated with small genitals and that a treatment was possible provided that the subject was deemed to be not too effeminate and the behavior not "prolonged".[81] Dawud al-Antaki advanced that it could be caused by an acidic substance embed in the veins of the anus causing itchiness and thus the need to seek relief.[82]

Modern era

The Ottoman Caliphate “ruled the Sunni Muslim world for centuries.” It was “much more open-minded regarding the homosexual issue” than is the current Turkish government although it “claims to emulate” the Ottoman Caliphate. “The Ottoman Empire had an extensive literature of homosexual romance, and an accepted social category of transvestites.” It could be argued that the Ottoman sultans “were social liberals compared with the contemporary Islamists of Turkey, let alone the Arab World.”[83]

During the Ottoman Empire, homosexuality was decriminalized in 1858, as part of wider reforms during the Tanzimat.[84][85]

Before the modern era, Islamic nations were not so opposed to same-sex relations. For example, a ruler in Persia in the 11th-century advised his son “to alternate his partners seasonally: young men in the summer and women in the winter.” Many eighth-century love poems by Abu Nuwas in Baghdad and by other Persian and Urdu poets seem to have been “addressed to boys.” In mystic writings of the medieval era, such as Sufi texts, it is “unclear whether the beloved being addressed is a teenage boy or God.” European chroniclers censured “the indulgent attitudes to gay sex in the Caliphs' courts.”[86]

The modern rejection and criminalization of “homosexuality in Islam gained momentum through the exogenous effects of European colonialism. . . . ” European thought at the time treated homosexuality as “against nature.”[87]

Although “Muslims commemorate the early days of Islam when they were oppressed as a marginalized few,” but many of them now forget their history and fail to protect “Muslims who are gay, transgender and lesbian.”[88]


Main article: Pederasty

Despite the formal disapproval of religious authority, the segregation of women in Muslim societies and the strong emphasis on male virility leads adolescent males and unmarried young men to seek sexual outlets with boys younger than themselves—in one study in Morocco, with boys in the age-range 7 to 13.[89] Men have sex with other males so long as they are the penetrators and their partners are boys, or in some cases effeminate men.[90]

Liwat can therefore be regarded as "temptation",[91] and anal intercourse is not seen as repulsively unnatural so much as dangerously attractive. They believe "one has to avoid getting buggered precisely in order not to acquire a taste for it and thus become addicted."[92] Not all sodomy is homosexual: one Moroccan sociologist, in a study of sex education in his native country, notes that for many young men heterosexual sodomy is considered better than vaginal penetration, and female prostitutes likewise report the demand for anal penetration from their (male) clients.[93]

It is not so much the penetration as the enjoyment that is considered bad.[94] Deep shame attaches to the passive partner: "for this reason men stop getting laid at the age of 15 or 16 and 'forget' that they ever allowed it earlier." Similar sexual sociologies are reported for other Muslim societies from North Africa to Pakistan and the Far East.[95] In Afghanistan in 2009, the British Army was forced to commission a report into the sexuality of the local men after British soldiers reported the discomfort at witnessing adult males involved in sexual relations with boys. The report stated that though illegal, there was a tradition of such relationships in the country, known as bache bazi or "boy play", and that it was especially strong around North Afghanistan.[96]

Homosexuality laws in majority-Muslim countries


According to the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) seven countries still retain capital punishment for homosexual behavior: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria.[97][98] In United Arab Emirates it is a capital offense.[10][11] In Qatar, Algeria, Uzbekistan, and the Maldives, homosexuality is punished with time in prison or a fine although in the Maldives anti-gay vigilante attacks are tolerated.[99] This has led to controversy regarding Qatar, which is due to stage the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Human rights groups have questioned the awarding in 2010 of the right to host the competition, due to the possibility that gay football fans may be jailed. In response, Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA, joked that they would have to "refrain from sexual activity" while in Qatar. He later withdrew the remarks after condemnation from rights groups.[100]

In Muslim-majority countries, open gay life rarely exists, but “the closet is spacious.” Even countries with strict laws against homosexual people “have flourishing gay scenes at all levels of society.”[86][101]

In Bahrain, police in Bahrain arrested scores of men in February 2011 at a “gay party”.[86]

In Egypt, openly gay men have been prosecuted under general public morality laws. (See Cairo 52.) “Sexual relations between consenting adult persons of the same sex in private are not prohibited as such. However, the Law on the Combating of Prostitution, and the law against debauchery have been used to imprison gay men in recent years.”[102]

Islamic state has decreed capital punishment for gays. They have executed more than two dozen men and women for suspected homosexual activity, including several thrown off the top of buildings in highly publicized executions.[103]

In India, which has the third-largest Muslim population in the world, and where Muslims form a large minority, the largest Islamic seminary (Darul Uloom Deoband) has vehemently opposed recent government moves[104] to abrogate and liberalize laws from the British Raj era that banned homosexuality.[105]

In Iraq, homosexuality is punished with vigilante executions. Saddam Hussein was “unbothered by sexual mores.” Ali Hili[106] reports that “since the 2003 invasion more than 700 people have been killed because of their sexuality.” He calls Iraq the “most dangerous place in the world for sexual minorities.”[86]

In Jordan, where homosexuality is legal, “gay hangouts have been raided or closed on bogus charges, such as serving alcohol illegally.”[86]

In Pakistan, its law is a mixture of both Anglo-Saxon colonial law as well as Islamic law, both which proscribe criminal penalties for same-sex sexual acts. The Pakistan Penal Code of 1860, originally developed under colonialism, punishes sodomy with a possible prison sentence and has other provisions that impact the human rights of LGBT Pakistanis, under the guise of protecting public morality and order. Yet, the more likely situation for gay and bisexual men is sporadic police blackmail, harassment, fines, and jail sentences.[107]

In Saudi Arabia, the maximum punishment for homosexual acts is public execution, which is often carried out.[108] The government will sometimes use lesser punishments—for example, fines, time in prison, and whipping—as alternatives.

In Turkey, homosexuality is legal, but “official censure can be fierce”. A former interior minister, İdris Naim Şahin, called homosexuality an example of “dishonour, immorality and inhuman situations”.[86]

Death penalty as of 2016

In 2016, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) released its most recent State Sponsored Homophobia Report. The report found that thirteen countries (or parts of them) impose the death penalty for “Same-sex sexual acts”. These countries comprise 6% of the countries in the United Nations. Of these thirteen countries, four are in Africa: Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Mauritania. Nine are in Asia: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, UAE, Iraq, and Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) territories. None are in the Americas, Europe, or Oceania.[109] The full report with details about countries imposing the death penalty can be read at State Sponsored Homophobia 2016.[110] This report omits that Brunei also punishes homosexuals with death [111] and that Brunei tolerates anti-gay vigilante attacks.


The Ottoman Empire (predecessor of Turkey) decriminalized homosexuality in 1858. In Turkey, where 99.8% of the population is Muslim, homosexuality has never been criminalized since the day it was founded in 1923.[112] And LGBT people also have the right to seek asylum in Turkey under the Geneva Convention since 1951.[113]

Same-sex sexual intercourse is legal in Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Iraq (except those parts controlled by the Islamic State), Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Niger, Tajikistan, Turkey, West Bank (State of Palestine), most of Indonesia, and in Northern Cyprus. In Albania, Lebanon, and Turkey, there have been discussions about legalizing same-sex marriage.[20][21] Albania, Northern Cyprus and Kosovo also protect LGBT people with anti-discrimination laws.[114]

In 2016, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) released its most recent State Sponsored Homophobia Report. The report found that “same-sex sexual acts” are legal in 121 countries. These countries comprise 63% of the countries in the United Nations. Of these 121 countries, twenty-one are in Africa, nineteen are in Asia, twenty-four are in the Americas, forty-eight are in Europe, and seven are in Oceania.[115] The full report with the names of countries in which same-sex acts are legal or illegal can be read at State Sponsored Homophobia 2016.[110]

Same-sex marriage

In 2007 there was a gay party in the Moroccan town of al-Qasr al-Kabir. Rumours spread that this was a gay marriage and more than 600 people took to the streets, condemning the alleged event and protesting against leniency towards homosexuals.[116] Several persons who attended the party were detained and eventually six Moroccan men were sentenced to between four and ten months in prison for "homosexuality".[117]

In France there was an Islamic same-sex marriage on February 18, 2012.[118] In Paris in November 2012 a room in a Buddhist prayer hall was used by gay Muslims and called a "gay-friendly mosque",[119] and a French Islamic website [120] is supporting religious same-sex marriage.

The first American Muslim in the United States Congress, Keith Ellison (D-MN) said in 2010 that all discrimination against LGBT people is wrong.[121] He further expressed support for gay marriage stating:[122]

I believe that the right to marry someone who you please is so fundamental it should not be subject to popular approval any more than we should vote on whether blacks should be allowed to sit in the front of the bus.

In 2014 eight men were jailed for three years by a Cairo court after the circulation of a video of them allegedly taking part in a private wedding ceremony between two men on a boat on the Nile.[123]

Islamic extremist attacks targeting LGBT people

Several violent attacks by Islamist radicals against LGBT people in the West have taken place

  • In 2012, in the English city of Derby, some Muslim men “distributed . . . leaflets depicting gay men being executed in an attempt to encourage hatred against homosexuals.” The leaflets had such titles as “Turn or Burn” and “God abhors you” and they advocated a death penalty for homosexuality.[124] The men were “convicted of hate crimes” on January 20, 2012. One of the men said that he was doing his Muslim duty.[86]
  • December 31, 2013 - New Year's Eve arson attack on gay nightclub in Seattle, packed with 300+ revelers, but no one injured. Subject charged prosecuted under federal terror and hate-crime charges.[125]
  • February 12, 2016 - Across Europe, gay refugees facing abuse at migrant asylum shelters are forced to flee shelters.[126]
  • April 25, 2016 - Xulhaz Mannan, an employee of the United States embassy in Dhaka and the editor of Bangladesh's first and only LGBT magazine, was killed in his apartment by a gang of Islamist militants.[127]
  • June 12, 2016 - At least 49 people were killed and 50 injured in a mass shooting at Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in the deadliest mass shooting by an individual and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history. The shooter, Omar Mateen, pledged allegiance to ISIL. The act has been described by investigators as an Islamist terrorist attack and a hate crime.[128][129][130][131][132][133][134][135] Upon further review, investigators indicated Omar Mateen showed few signs of radicalization, suggesting that the shooter's pledge to ISIL may have been a calculated move to garner more news coverage.[136] Afghanistan,[137] Algeria,[138] Azerbaijan,[139] Bahrain,[140] Djibouti,[141] Egypt,[142] Iraq,[143] Iran,[144] Pakistan,[137] Saudi Arabia,[145] Turkey,[146] Turkmenistan and United Arab Emirates condemned the attack.[147][148] Many American Muslims, including community leaders, swiftly condemned the attack.[149][150] Prayer vigils for the victims were held at mosques across the country.[151] The Florida mosque where Mateen sometimes prayed issued a statement condemning the attack and offering condolences to the victims.[152] The Council on American–Islamic Relations called the attack "monstrous" and offered its condolences to the victims. CAIR Florida urged Muslims to donate blood and contribute funds in support of the victims' families.[149][153]

Chechnya concentration camps

Since February 2017, over 100 male residents of the Chechen Republic (part of the Russian Federation) assumed to be gay or bisexual have been rounded up, detained and tortured by authorities on account of their sexual orientation.[154] These crackdowns have been described as part of a systemic anti-LGBT "purge" in the region. The men are held and allegedly tortured in what human rights groups and eyewitnesses have called concentration camps.[155][156]

Allegations were initially reported in Novaya Gazeta on April 1, 2017[157] a Russian-language opposition newspaper, which reported that over 100 men have allegedly been detained and tortured and at least three people have died in an extrajudicial killing. The paper, citing its sources in the Chechen special services, called the wave of detentions a "prophylactic sweep."[157][158] The journalist who first reported on the subject has gone into hiding,[159][110] There have been calls for reprisals for journalists reporting on the situation.[160]

In response, the Russian LGBT Network is attempting to assist those who are threatened to evacuate from Chechyna.[161][162] Human rights groups and foreign governments have called upon Russia and Chechyna to put an end to the internments.[163]

Public opinion among Muslims

World Muslim population by percentage (Pew Research Center, 2014).
LGBT rights at the United Nations
Support Countries which have signed a General Assembly declaration of LGBT rights and/or sponsored the Human Rights Council's 2011 resolution on LGBT rights (94 members).
Oppose Countries which signed a 2008 statement opposing LGBT rights (initially 57 members, now 54 members).
Neither Countries which, as regards the UN, have expressed neither official support nor opposition to LGBT rights (46 members).

In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council passed its first resolution recognizing LGBT rights, which was followed up with a report from the UN Human Rights Commission documenting violations of the rights of LGBT people.[164][165] The two world maps of the percentage of Muslims per country and the countries that support LGBT rights at the UN give an impression of the attitude towards homosexuality on the part of many Muslim-majority governments.

File:Nottingham Pride MMB 37 Pride march meets homophobic Muslims.jpg
Islamic protester at a LGBT Pride march in Nottingham, England

The Muslim community as a whole, worldwide, has become polarized on the subject of homosexuality. Some Muslims say that “no good Muslim can be gay,” and “traditional schools of Islamic law consider homosexuality a grave sin.” At the opposite pole, “some Muslims . . . are welcoming what they see as an opening within their communities to address anti-gay attitudes.” Especially, it is “young Muslims” who are “increasingly speaking out in support of gay rights”[166]

Opinion polls

In 2013, the Pew Research Center conducted a study on the global acceptance of homosexuality and found a widespread rejection of homosexuality in many nations that are predominantly Muslim. In some countries, views were becoming more conservative among younger people.[167]

Age and views on homosexuality
Country 18-29 30-49 50+

should be accepted

 %  %  %
Malaysia 7 10 11
Turkey 7 9 10
Palestinian territories 5 3 --
Indonesia 4 3 2
Jordan 5 1 1
Egypt 3 2 3
Tunisia 3 2 1
Pakistan 2 2 2
Source: "The Global Divide on Homosexuality" (Website). PEW Research. 4 June 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-13. 

A 2007 survey of British Muslims showed that 61% believe homosexuality should be illegal, with up to 71% of young British Muslims holding this belief.[168] A later Gallup poll in 2009 showed that none of the 500 British Muslims polled believed homosexuality to be "morally acceptable". This compared with 35% of the 1001 French Muslims polled that did.[169]

According to a 2012 poll, 51% of the Turks in Germany, who account for nearly two thirds of the total Muslim population in Germany,[170] believe that homosexuality is an illness.[171]

In a 2016 ICM poll of 1,081 British Muslims, 52% of those polled disagreed with the statement ‘Homosexuality should be legal in Britain’ compared with 11% of the control group; 18% agreed compared with 73% of the control group. In the same poll, 56% of British Muslims polled disagreed with the statement ‘Gay marriage should be legal in Britain’ compared with 20% of the control group and 47% disagreed with the statement ‘It is acceptable for a homosexual person to be a teacher in a school’ compared with 14% of the control group.[172]

In 2016, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) published its 2016 Global Attitudes Survey on LGBTI People. The principal subject surveyed was “sexual orientation.” [173] Some of the questions and statistics about responses follow.

Child in love with someone of the same sex?
When asked “if their child told them that they were in love with someone of the same sex,” 68% of the world (78% Africa, 77% Asia, 64% Americas, 61% Europe, 44% Oceania) would be upset (‘very’ or ‘somewhat’).[174]

Human rights for LGBTI people?
When asked whether “human rights should be applied to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” 67% of respondents globally said yes. By regions, affirmative responses were 62% in Africa, 63% in Asia, 69% in the Americas, 71% in Europe, and 73% in Oceania. Negative responses were 59% in Africa, 49% in Asia, 40% in the Americas, 37% in Europe, and 24% in Oceania.[174]

Support for marriage equality?
When asked whether they supported “marriage equality,” respondents globally were “32% in favour, 45% against and 23% who do not know.” By “regional subdivisions” the affirmative answers were 19% in Africa, 26% in Asia, 35% in the Americas, 41% in Europe, and 56% in Oceania. The negative answers were 59% in Africa, 49% in Asia, 40% in the Americas, 37% in Europe, and 24% in Oceania. All other responses were “don’t know.”[174]

Being LGBT a crime?
When asked should “being LGBT be considered a crime,” respondents in “Africa 45% agreed (should be criminalized), and 36% were against criminalization, and 20% neither agreed nor were against. In Asia, 34% agreed, 45% were against criminalization, and 21% neither agreed nor were against. In the Americas, 15% agreed to criminalization and 60% disagreed, and 25% neither agreed nor were against. In Europe, 17% agreed, 65% disagreed, and 18% neither agreed nor were against. In Oceania, 14% agreed, 65% disagreed, and 22% neither agreed to nor were against considering being LGBT a crime.[175]

Feeling if neighbour were gay or lesbian?
When asked, “how would you feel if your neighbour were gay or lesbian,” on a global level, “65% of people in the world would have no concerns” with a gay or lesbian neighbour. Broken down by regions, In Africa, 43% of respondents “expressed having no concerns, 18% would feel somewhat uncomfortable, and 39% stated they would be very uncomfortable.” In Asia, “52% of respondents had no concerns,” 21% said they would feel “somewhat uncomfortable,” and 28% said would feel “very uncomfortable.” In the Americas, “81% of respondents had no concerns,” 11% would feel somewhat uncomfortable, and 8% would feel very uncomfortable. In Europe, “74% expressed no concerns to a LGB neighbor, 14% with some, and 12% feeling very uncomfortable.” In Oceania, “83% of those surveyed expressed no concerns, 9% some, and 8% very uncomfortable.”[176]

Same-sex desire a Western world phenomenon?
When asked, "is same-sex desire a Western world phenomenon?" in Africa 47% agreed (Western world phenomenon), with 30% disagreeing and 24% neither agreed nor against. In Asia, "42% agreed, with 34% disagreeing and 25% neither agreed nor against agreed nor against." In the Americas, "only 21% agreed, with 38% disagreeing and 40% neither agreed nor against." In Europe, "24% agreed, with 44% disagreeing and 32% neither agreed nor against." In Oceania, "20% agreed, with 40% disagreeing and 40% neither agreed nor against."[177]

The full report can be read at The ILGA-RIWI 2016 Global Attitudes Survey on LGBTI People in Partnership With Logo (2016).

Muslims opposing same-sex relations

  • An online article “The Islamic understanding of homosexuality” says that “there is a consensus among Islamic scholars that human beings are naturally heterosexual. Homosexuality is seen as a perverted deviation from the norm and all schools of thought and jurisprudence consider homosexual acts to be unlawful.”[178]
  • Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has served as chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, was asked how gay people should be punished. He replied that “there is disagreement,” but “the important thing is to treat this act as a crime.”[179]
  • A Muslim cleric, Sheikh Khalid Yasin asserts that “God is very straightforward” that the ” “punishment for homosexuality” is death.[180]
  • An article “What is Islam's position on the treatment of homosexuals?” says that “Islam goes beyond merely disapproving of homosexuality. Sharia teaches that homosexuality is a vile form of fornication, punishable by death.”[181]
  • Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi asserts that “the crime of homosexuality is one of the greatest of crimes, the worst of sins and the most abhorrent of deeds”[182]

LGBT movements within Islam

Float for gay Muslims at Pride London 2011.

Defunct movements

Members of Al Fatiha at the LGBT Pride parade in San Francisco 2008.

The Al-Fatiha Foundation was an organization which tried to advance the cause of gay, lesbian, and transgender Muslims. It was founded in 1998 by Faisal Alam, a Pakistani American, and was registered as a nonprofit organization in the United States. The organization was an offshoot of an internet listserve that brought together many gay, lesbian and questioning Muslims from various countries.[183][verification needed] The Foundation accepted and considered homosexuality as natural, either regarding Qur'anic verses as obsolete in the context of modern society, or stating that the Qu'ran speaks out against homosexual lust and is silent on homosexual love. After the Alam stepped down, subsequent leaders failed to sustain the organization and it began a process of legal dissolution in 2011.[184][non-primary source needed]

In 2001, Al-Muhajiroun, a banned and now defunct international organization who sought the establishment of a global Islamic caliphate, issued a fatwa declaring that all members of Al-Fatiha were murtadd, or apostates, and condemning them to death. Because of the threat and coming from conservative societies, many members of the foundation's site still prefer to be anonymous so as to protect their identity while continuing a tradition of secrecy.[185] Al-Fatiha has fourteen chapters in the United States, as well as offices in England, Canada, Spain, Turkey, and South Africa. In addition, Imaan, a social support group for Muslim LGBT people and their families, exists in the UK.[186][non-primary source needed] Both of these groups were founded by gay Pakistani activists.

Active movements

File:El-Farouk Khaki nomination campaign launch Apr5-07.jpg
El-Farouk Khaki, founding member of Salaam group and the Toronto Unity Mosque / el-Tawhid Juma Circle
File:Ludovic Mohamed Z.jpg
Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, founder of the group 'Homosexual Muslims of France'

The coming together of “human rights discourses and sexual orientation struggles” has resulted in an abundance of “social movements and organizations concerned with gender and sexual minority oppression and discrimination.”[187]

Gay prayer room in Paris

In November 2012, a prayer room was set up in Paris by gay Islamic scholar and founder of the group 'Homosexual Muslims of France' Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed. It was described by the press as the first gay-friendly mosque in Europe. The reaction from the rest of the Muslim community in France has been mixed. The opening has been condemned by the Grand Mosque of Paris.[188]

Islamic ex-gay groups

There are also a number of Islamic ex-gay (i.e. people claiming to have experienced a basic change in sexual orientation from exclusive homosexuality to exclusive heterosexuality)[189] groups aimed at attempting to guide homosexuals towards heterosexuality. A large body of research and global scientific consensus indicates that being gay, lesbian, or bisexual is compatible with normal mental health and social adjustment. Because of this, major mental health professional organizations discourage and caution individuals against attempting to change their sexual orientation to heterosexual, and warn that attempting to do so can be harmful.[190][191] People who have gone through conversion therapy face 8.9 times the rates of suicide ideation, face depression at 5.9 times the rate of their peers and are three times more likely to use illegal drugs compared to those who did not go through the therapy.[192]


Nur Wahrsage has been an advocate for LGBTI Muslims. He founded Marhaba, a support group for queer Muslims in Melbourne, Australia. In May 2016, Wahrsage revealed that he is homosexual in an interview on SBS2’s The Feed, being the first openly gay Imam in Australia.[193]

Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity

The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD) began on January 23, 2013. It supports, empowers and connects LGBTQ Muslims. It aims “to increase the acceptance of gender and sexual diversity within Muslim communities.”[194] On June 20, 2016, an interview with Mirna Haidar (a member of the MASGD’s steering committee) was published in The Washington Post. She described the MASGD as supporting “LGBT Muslims who want or need to embrace both their sexual and religious identities.” Haidar said that the support the MASGD provides is needed because a person who is “Muslim and queer “ faces “two different systems of oppression”: Islamophobia and homophobia.[195]

Muslims for Progressive Values

Muslims for Progressive Values is “a faith-based, grassroots, human rights organization that embodies and advocates for the traditional Qur’anic values of social justice and equality for all, for the 21st Century.”[196] MPV has recorded “a lecture series that seeks to dismantle the religious justification for homophobia in Muslim communities.” The lectures can be viewed at MPV Lecture Series.[197]

Safra Project

The Safra Project for women is based in the UK. It supports and works on issues relating to prejudice LGBTQ Muslim women. It was founded in October 2001 by Muslim LBT women. The Safra Project’s “ethos is one of inclusiveness and diversity.”[198]


Salaam is the first gay Muslim group in Canada and second in the world. Salaam was found in 1993 by El-Farouk Khaki, who organized the Salaam/Al-Fateha International Conference in 2003.[199]

Sarajevski Otvoreni Centar

Sarajevski Otvoreni Centar (Sarajevo Open Centre), abbreviated SOC, is an independent feminist civil society organization and advocacy group which campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people and women rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[200][201] The organization also gives asylum and psychological support to victims of discrimination and violence.[202]

The Pink Report is an annual report made by the organization on the state of the Human Rights of LGBTI People in the country and is supported by the Norwegian Embassy.[203]

Toronto Unity Mosque / el-Tawhid Juma Circle

In May 2009, the Toronto Unity Mosque / el-Tawhid Juma Circle was founded by Laury Silvers, a University of Toronto religious studies scholar, alongside Muslim gay-rights activists El-Farouk Khaki and Troy Jackson. Unity Mosque/ETJC is a gender-equal, LGBT+ affirming, mosque.[204][205][206][207]

Media designed to reduce prejudice

The religious conflicts and inner turmoil with which Islamic homosexuals struggle have been addressed in various media.

Channel 4
The goals of Channel 4 include (1) stimulate public debate on contemporary issues, (2) reflect cultural diversity of the UK, and (3) champion alternative points of view.[208] One of Channel 4's productions is a documentary on Gay Muslims, broadcast in the UK in January 2006. It can be viewed on YouTube in six parts: Gay Muslims - UK - Part 1 of 6, Gay Muslims - UK - Part 2 of 6, Gay Muslims - UK - Part 3 of 6, Gay Muslims - UK - Part 4 of 6, Gay Muslims - UK - Part 5 of 6, Gay Muslims - UK - Part 6 of 6

Unity Productions Foundation
The Unity Productions Foundation (UPF) works for “Peace through the Media” by producing films “to break down stereotypes and enhance understanding” of Muslims and Islam. UPF films have been seen by approximated 150 million people. UPF has "partnered with prominent Jewish, Muslim, Christian and interfaith groups to run dialogues nationwide." Videos of non-Muslims speaking up for Muslims as “fellow Americans” are online at Non-Muslims Speak Up.[209]

Muslim Debate Initiative
The Muslim Debate Initiative (MDI) made up of Muslims “with experience in public speaking, apologetics, polemics, research and community work.” One of its aims is “to support, encourage and promote debate that contrasts Islam against other intellectual and political discourses for the purpose of the pursuit of truth, intellectual scrutiny with respect, and the clarifying accurate understandings of other worldviews between people of different cultures, beliefs and political persuasions.”[210] One of its broadcasts was on BBC3's “Free Speech” program on March 25, 2014. The debate was between Maajid Nawaz and Abdullah al Andalusi on the question “Can you be Gay and Muslim?” It is on YouTube at "Gay and Muslim?".[211]

A Jihad for Love
In 2007, the documentary film A Jihad for Love was released. It was produced by Sandi Simcha DuBowski and directed by Parvez Sharma. As of 2016 the film has been shown in 49 nations to four million plus viewers. [212] See two parts of the film at A Jihad for Love Part 1[213] and A Jihad for Love Part 2.[214] Also a video about A Jihad for Love is at "About a Jihad for Love".[215]

A Sinner in Mecca
In 2015, the documentary film A Sinner in Mecca was released. It was directed by Parvez Sharma. The film chronicles Sharma's Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia as an openly gay Muslim. The film premiered at the 2015 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival to great critical acclaim.[216] The film opened in theaters in the US on September 4, 2015 and is a New York Times Critics' Pick.[217]

My.Kali is a Jordanian pan-Arab LGBT publication published in English in Amman, Jordan. It started publication online in 2008. It is named after openly-gay model Khalid, making major headlines, as it is the 1st LGBT publication to ever exist in the MENA region.[218][219] The magazine regularly features non-LGBT artists on their covers to promote acceptance among other communities and was the first publication to give many underground and regional artists their first covers like Yasmine Hamdan,[220] both lead singer and violinist of band Mashrou' Leila, Hamed Sinno[221] and Haig Papazian, Alaa Wardi,[222] Zahed Sultan[223] and many more.[224]

Books supporting LGBT Muslims

This section contains material from books and articles supporting LGBT Muslims.

Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism
In Chapter Eight of the 2003 book, Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle asserts “that Islam does not address homosexuality.” In Fugle’s reading, the Qur'an holds “a positive assessment of diversity.” It “respects diversity in physical appearance, constitution, stature, and color of human beings as a natural consequence of Divine wisdom in creation.” Therefore, Islam can be described as “a religion that positively assesses diversity in creation and in human societies.” Furthermore, in Kugle’s reading, the Qur'an “implies that some people are different in their sexual desires than others.” Thus, homosexuality can be seen as part of the “natural diversity in sexuality in human societies.” This is the way “gay and lesbian Muslims” view their homosexuality.[225]

In addition to the Qur'an, Kugle refers to the benediction of Imam Al-Ghazali (the 11th century Muslim theologian) which says. “praise be to God, the marvels of whose creation are not subject to the arrows of accident.” For Kugle, this benediction implies that “if sexuality is inherent in a person’s personality, then sexual diversity is a part of creation, which is never accidental but is always marvelous.” Kugle also refers to “a rich archive of same-sex sexual desires and expressions, written by or reported about respected members of society: literati, educated elites, and religious scholars.” Given these writings, Kugle concludes that “one might consider Islamic societies (like classical Greece) to provide a vivid illustration of a 'homosexual-friendly' environment.” This evoked from “medieval and early modern Christian Europeans” accusations that Muslim were “engaging openly in same-sex practices.”[226]

Kugle goes a step further in his argument and asserts that “if some Muslims find it necessary to deny that sexual diversity is part of the natural created world, then the burden of proof rests on their shoulders to illustrate their denial from the Qur’anic discourse itself.”[227]

Queer Visions of Islam
In 2003, Rusmir Musić’s Master of Arts thesis Queer Visions of Islam was accepted at New York University. Musić described his thesis project as his “own faith exploration, a definitive rebuttal to claims that my love and desire toward someone of the same gender disgusts God and will surely propel me to hell.” He recalled that at the Millennium March on Washington, D.C. in May 2000 he chanted, “God doesn’t hate.” He said that “writing this paper has been my effort to authenticate” those words. Musić then observed that “many queer Muslims” face the issues he addressed in his thesis. They struggle “to lead a life rooted in faith and embracing their sexuality.” However, “religion need not be abandoned, just rearticulated.”[228]

In his reading of Islam’s sacred texts, the Qur'an and the hadith, Musić recognized that all readings are “an interpretation, thus allowing and even calling for new meanings appropriate to each generation.” Thus, to say the “Qur’an says” really means “this is what we think the Qur’an says.” Musić also studied the hadith, that is, Prophet Muhammad’s sayings or deeds, his contemporaries as recorded by his contemporaries. He was seeking to understand “God’s intentions” within the ambiguities of the Qur'an. However, as with the Qur'an, Musić found that “the hadith literature incorporates a spectrum of attitudes and opinions”[229]

After his study of the Qur'an and the hadith, Musić concluded that “deeper analysis reveals that internal inconsistencies may be extremely valuable to queer-friendly rearticulations of the scripture.” He reads the Qur'an, as “unequivocally committed toward human liberation, erasing biases between people(s).” Comprehended under this axiom, the sacred texts can indeed become a powerful moral tool, showing incredible freshness in “providing hope and strength to the oppressed.”[230]

Musić began the rearticulation he said was needed to enable queer Muslims to retain their faith “with the Qur’anic story of humankind’s origins, tracing all humans to one primordial soul.” He concluded that “the division of this primordial soul was not intended as a perfect separation: each pair carries a piece of the other. Consequently, two souls need not imply a binary tension, since they both trace back to one nafs and ultimately One God.” This view of creation suggests that “desiring sexual acts, regardless of the partner’s gender, does not contrast Islamic morality” and that “God is not angered at same-gender sex.”[231]

For Musić, the fact that neither the Qur'an nor the hadith contains “a monolithic prohibition against same-gender sexuality” contributes to his “central argument that Islam as a religion is not inherently homophobic, but could, on the contrary, be explicitly recognizing and regulating same-gender desire.” In addition to his central argument that as a religion Islam is not “inherently homophobic,” Musić, pointed out the fact that “same-gender sexual acts . . . have always existed within Islam.”[232]

In the concluding summary of his thesis, Musić said that he had “attempted to show” (1) that “the gender and sexuality continuum” finds support in Islam’s sacred texts and (2) that the laws finding “fundamental incompatibility in same-gender relationships, are products of human biases.”[233]

Islam and Homosexuality
In 2010, an anthology Islam and Homosexuality was published.[234] In the Forward, Parvez Sharma sounded a pessimistic note about the future: “In my lifetime I do not see Islam drafting a uniform edict that homosexuality is permissible.” Following is material from two chapters dealing with the present.

Rusmir Musić in a chapter “Queer Visions of Islam” said that “Queer Muslims struggle daily to reconcile their sexuality and their faith.” Musić began to study in college “whether or not my love for somebody of the same gender disgusts God and whether it will propel me to hell. The answer, for me, is an unequivocal no. Furthermore, Musić wrote, “my research and reflection helped me to imagine my sexuality as a gift from a loving, not hateful, God.”[235]

Marhuq Fatima Khan in a chapter “Queer, American, and Muslim: Cultivating Identities and Communities of Affirmation,” says that “Queer Muslims employ a few narratives to enable them to reconcile their religious and sexual identities.” They “fall into three broad categories: (1) God Is Merciful; (2) That Is Just Who I Am; and (3) It’s Not Just Islam.”[236]

Sexual Ethics and Islam
Kecia Ali in her 2016 book Sexual Ethics and Islam says that p xvi “there is no one Muslim perspective on anything.” Regarding the Qur'an, Ali says that modern scholars disagree about what it says about “same-sex intimacy.” Some scholars argue that “the Qur’an does not address homosexuality or homosexuals explicitly.”[237]

Regarding homosexuality, Ali, says that the belief that “exclusively homosexual desire is innate in some individuals” has been adopted “even among some relatively conservative Western Muslim thinkers.”100 Homosexual Muslims believe their homosexuality to be innate and view “their sexual orientation as God-given and immutable.”123 She observes that “queer and trans people are sometimes treated as defective or deviant,” and she adds that it is “vital not to assume that variation implies imperfection or disability.”[238]

Regarding “medieval Muslim culture,” Ali says that “male desire to penetrate desirable youth . . . was perfectly normal.” Even if same-sex relations were not lawful, there was “an unwillingness to seek out and condemn instances of same-sex activity, but rather to let them pass by . . . unpunished.”[239]

In an article “Same-sex Sexual Activity and Lesbian and Bisexual Women” Ali elaborates on homosexuality as an aspect of medieval Muslim culture. She says that “same-sex sexual expression has been a more or less recognized aspect of Muslim societies for many centuries.” There are many explicit discussions of “same-sex sexual activity” in medieval Arabic literature.[240]

Gender variant and transgender people

In Islam, the term mukhannathun is used to describe gender-variant people, usually male-to-female transgender. Neither this term nor the equivalent for "eunuch" occurs in the Qur'an, but the term does appear in the Hadith, the sayings of Muhammad, which have a secondary status to the central text. Moreover, within Islam, there is a tradition on the elaboration and refinement of extended religious doctrines through scholarship. This doctrine contains a passage by the scholar and hadith collector An-Nawawi:

A mukhannath is the one ("male") who carries in his movements, in his appearance and in his language the characteristics of a woman. There are two types; the first is the one in whom these characteristics are innate, he did not put them on by himself, and therein is no guilt, no blame and no shame, as long as he does not perform any (illicit) act or exploit it for money (prostitution etc.). The second type acts like a woman out of immoral purposes and he is the sinner and blameworthy.[241]

While Iran has outlawed homosexuality, Iranian Shi'a thinkers such as Ayatollah Khomeini have allowed for transgender people to change their sex so that they can enter heterosexual relationships. This position has been confirmed by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and is also supported by many other Iranian clerics.

Iran carries out more sex change operations than any other nation in the world except for Thailand. It is regarded as a cure for homosexuality, which is punishable by death under Iranian law. The government even provides up to half the cost for those needing financial assistance and a sex change is recognized on the birth certificate.[242]

On the 26th of June 2016, clerics affiliated to the Pakistan-based organization Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat have issued a fatwa on transgender people, trans males with “visible signs of being a male” being allowed to marry women or a trans woman with “visible signs of being a female” and vice versa, while Muslim ritual funerals also apply. Depriving transgender people of their inheritance, humiliating, insulting or teasing them were also declared haraam.[243]

See also

Rights activists



  1. "The Qu'ran and Homosexuality". Internet History Sourcebooks Project. Fordham University. Retrieved 7 November 2013. Richard Burton suggests the following Qu'ranic verses as relevant to homosexuality: 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Ali, Kecia (2006). Sexual Ethics & Islam. Oxford, England: OneWorld Publishing. p. 90. ISBN 978-1-85168-456-4. 
  3. [1] 3, 2010/ Archived June 3, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Khaled El-Rouayheb. Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World 1500–1800. pp. 12 ff. 
  5. "Lesbian and Gay Rights in the World" (PDF). ILGA. May 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 August 2011. 
  6. Abu Dawud 32:4087
  7. Sahih Bukhari 7:72:774
  8. Ibn Majah Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1903
  9. "UK party leaders back global gay rights campaign". BBC Online. 13 September 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2013. At present, homosexuality is illegal in 76 countries, including 38 within the Commonwealth. At least five countries - the Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania and Sudan - have used the death penalty against gay people. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "United Arab Emirates". Retrieved 27 October 2015. Facts as drug trafficking, homosexual behaviour, and apostasy are liable to capital punishment. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Man Accused of "Gay Handshake" Stands Trial in Dubai". Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  12. Ottosson, Daniel. "State-Sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Laws Prohibiting Same-Sex Activity Between Consenting Adults" (PDF). 
  13. Anderson, Ben (2007). "The Politics of Homosexuality in Africa" (PDF). Africana. 1 (1). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 July 2011. 
  14. Ottosson, Daniel (2013). "State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults" (PDF). International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). p. Page 7. Retrieved 26 February 2016. 
  15. Ready, Freda. The Cornell Daily Sun article [2] Retrieved on December 4, 2002
  16. "Syria: Treatment and human rights situation of homosexuals" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  17. "Pakistan Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860)". Pakistani. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 "In response to anti-LGBT fatwa, Jokowi urged to abolish laws targeting minorities". The Jakarta Post. 18 March 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2015. 
  19. "Indonesia: Situation of sexual minorities, including legislation, treatment by society and authorities, state protection and support services available (2013- June 2015)". Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 8 July 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Lowen, Mark (30 July 2009). "Albania 'to approve gay marriage'". BBC News. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Rough Guide to South East Asia: Third Edition. Rough Guides Ltd. August 2005. p. 74. ISBN 1-84353-437-1. 
  22. Lucas Paoli Itaborahy; Jingshu Zhu (May 2014). "State-sponsored Homophobia - A world survey of laws: Criminalisation, protection and recognition of same-sex love" (PDF). International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. Retrieved 25 February 2016. 
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