Religion

The Homophobia of Muslims

Merriam-Webster defines homophobia as an irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. Though I agree, a much accurate version is given by Urban-Dictionary which states it as a severe condition..leading one to inaccurately use bible quoting for the justification of killing homosexuals. The injustice being served to homosexuals in our time is immense. One can not start to fathom the daily struggles a homosexual has to face. The constant fear of being hated, the need to hide oneself under a garb as the revelation of one’s sexual inclination may be misused to paint his entire identity adversely. I can dedicate an entire blog just talking about the issues faced by homosexuals on a daily basis and it will shock people to their core. These are elementary ethical problems. One would expect that with the progress of our society no community will have to face such problems, but it appears, it’s not the case.

Even though many people come up with various reasons to participate in Homophobia, ranging from “If I don’t hate them people may think I’m Gay” to “They are so weird” majority of them use religion. They hate because God said so. Abrahamic religion is the front runner in this case. Jews, Christians, and Muslims, though may always be ready to get into a theological and political debate and cut open each other throats, when it comes to this subject show a surprise unity in their hatred of homosexuals.

Before going further, let me make very clear my religious view of Homosexuality. I am of the opinion that God has kept it very vague making it very hard to come up with a conclusive understanding whether homosexuality is okay or not, and there is a huge wisdom behind this. This gives everyone an opportunity to create their own view based on their temperament and more importantly, it lets them be tolerant enough of other views. My reason for coming up with such an understanding can be divided into three parts

1- It’s generally understood that people of Lot were faced by the wrath of God because they were homosexuals. This is simply incorrect. They faced punishment because of the same reason which people of Noah, Moses, Shuaib, Thamud and Prophet Muhammad faced punishment. For rejecting their Prophet. To think that they were punished because of being Gay would be an incoherent observation.

2- In Chapter 29, verse 29, Qur’an narrates three sins of the people of the Lot. Remember, based on above it’s not for these sins that they faced punishment.

“Do you approach men and obstruct the road and commit evil in your gatherings. And the answer of his people was not but they said, “Bring us the punishment of God , if you should be of the truthful.” (29:29)

It’s not elaborated as to what God means by approaching men, blocking roads and committing evils in the gathering. One understanding would be that they would block roads, kidnap traveling men, take them to their gatherings and rape them. I don’t think anyone will have a problem calling such an act wrong.

In Chapter 7, verse 40 another generic term is used, stating that they were committing immorality. As to what this immorality is and how it was being done, it’s not elaborated.

“And [We had sent] Lot when he said to his people, “Do you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds?” (7:40)

3- Now imagine this for a second, we have a community–the people of Lot–who were sinful. They are about to face God’s wrath. Now, in this scenario look at the approach of Prophet Abraham, the founding father of all the three religions. He boldly comes to their defense and starts arguing/pleading with the angels–sent by God to destroy–for the safety of the people of Lot. We see this in chapter 11, verse 74

Then when the fear had gone away from (the mind of) Abraham, and the glad tidings had reached him, he began to plead with Us (Our Messengers) for the people of Lot.

What is more interesting, is the next verse, God comments on this behavior. A man speaking for the protection of “homosexual people”, guess what God says, he doesn’t rebuke him nor admonish him nor calls him immoral for trying to speak for immoral people, but God praises Abraham for his conduct

Abraham was certainly a forbearing, compassionate, and tender-hearted person

It’s because of the above three points that I feel that far from speaking against homosexuality one should support them right now because of the persecution they are facing, one can have a theological disagreement at the same time speak for their rights. This is a quality of someone who has a clear and clean morality.

But, unfortunately, if we see the behavior of religious people, all around the world, and especially in the West, it’s not the case. Forget about coming forward and supporting them, they have been the front runner in persecuting and subjugating them, and unfortunately, all this is done in the name of God.

For example, Muslims in Indonesia recently asked people to boycott Starbucks for its stand on Gay rights. Just before that, we had a group of Muslims parents from Berlin campaigning that a gay teacher is removed from Nursery. Muslims have called people to protest against the gay marriage bill passed in France early this year, and their call was answered in thousands. A similar thing was done a couple of years back when David Cameron planned for passing gay marriage bill which saw 500 Imaams coming together to protest against it. In 2012, a Muslim group in Malaysia protested Elton John concert over the same gay marriage issue calling it an anti-Islamic thing and something which will corrupt the minds of young people in Malaysia.

So, the question is even though the position of Abraham is so clear and the actual verdict on homosexuality is so unclear why do we have Muslims and other religious groups getting so charged up about this. Why do we not see a similar outburst against other things, especially where the ruling of Qur’an is clearer?

In my opinion, this has nothing to do with religion. This is simply an outburst of emotions because of insecurity. The insecurity that their religion needs a defense and if they fail to protect it, the religion will be wiped out from the face of this earth. The other will take over. As I have demonstrated above, Qur’an itself doesn’t promote such thinking so one can’t and shouldn’t put it on religion. The other thing, which I came across just recently, and I thought was very interesting is that this homophobic nature,

The other thing, which I came across just recently, and I thought was very interesting is that this homophobic nature, especially among Muslims, is a recent development. When we look at the Muslim History–as explained by Mufti Abu Layth–we see that not only they were very accepting of homosexuals and bisexuals but also gave them important status in their world. A Judge (Qazi) can be a homosexual but no one will question his judgment. Let me narrate few examples here.

1- Al Walid Ibn Abd Al Malik or Al Walid I who was amongst the first Caliphs of the Ummayad Caliphate was a known homosexual. The key word here is known. Al Dhahabi writes it clearly in his popular work of Tarikh Al Islam Al Kabir ( Major History of Islam ) where he says Al Walid was a known homosexual. To such an extent that when he was succeeded by his brother Sulayman Ibn Abd Al Malik he says that Al Walid “tried it” on him. Try to imagine this, will Muslims be ready to accept a Caliph who will rule the so called “Global Caliphate” to be homosexual? I bet they won’t, but the Muslim ancestors–who many Muslims look up to, didn’t really have major problems

2- Going forward we move to the Abbasid Caliphate. And it’s known that homosexuality and pederasty was a wide spread phenomenon. Al Amin the son of the popular Caliph Harun Ar Rashid, and later a Caliph himself, was a known homosexual. So much that he didn’t show much interest in his slave girls either. His brother Al Mamun, the other son of Harun was a known bisexual.

3- That were the Caliphs. But it was not just limited there. We have one of the teachers of Bukhari, a famous scholar himself Qadi Yahya bin Aksam who justified homosexuality stating that Qur’an supported it. He quoted Chapter 3 Verse 14 as his justification.

Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire – of women and sons (boys)..

Obviously not many agree with this view, but you get an idea. He was an appointed Judge and was known for his homosexuality. One interesting thing to note here was that Al Mamun (Homosexual himself) sacked Qazi Yahya and that was not because of his homosexuality. It was because they had a theological difference between whether Qur’an was created or it was eternal. Al Mamun belief it was former and Qazi Yahya believed it was latter.

4- When Qazi Yahya got sacked he was replaced by Muhammad bin Dawud, who was not just homosexual but also wrote a book called Kitab Al-Zahra where he states in the foreword that it is dedicated to his male lover. Kitab Al Zahra is still rated as one of the best books written on love in Arab.

Yes, of course, these people were criticized for their views and their conduct, but there was no homophobia around them. They were duly appreciated for their work which had nothing to do with their sexual orientation.

5- One of the classical Arabic poet, Abu Nuwas, a contemporary of Qazi Yahya was a known homosexual. Most of his poetry is about homosexuality. He was not just a poet but also an Islamic Scholar. There is a popular story about him which goes that when he was praised and someone said that may he be rewarded with the Hours in Jannah, he countered saying, “No, I would rather have the boys like pearls, mentioned in Qur’an”. This guy is rated as one of the best Islamic Poets.

The above is just a small example of the presence of homosexuals in our history. The question we need to ask ourselves is how did we come from there to a position where we have developed such phobia where we are keen to call homosexuals as Kafirs, as someone who is out of Islam. This is wrong on so many different levels, firstly, we can’t just call anyone kafir just like that, secondly, how about some empathy? If you don’t like homosexuality, then don’t be homosexual, why is it worrying you what someone else is doing.

What is interesting is that this attitude is only in the western countries. If you look at the Muslim Countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, acts of homosexuality are rampant.

Dr. Jonathan Brown explains in his article explains that it was never homosexuality in itself but particular acts which were deemed as sinful in Shari’a.

 

In the end, I’ll like to reiterate the point which I’m trying to make with all these examples and explanations. Just because you think that your religion speaks against homosexuality doesn’t mean that you get to suppress them, in fact, I’ve quoted enough examples on why one should, in fact, support them as they are a community getting suppressed right now. This is the way of Islam shown by many scholars from our past and also shown by our founding father, Abraham.

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Monopoly in Salvation?

One Major problem with people subscribing to Abrahamic religion is that they tend to condemn the people from other religion to Hell. Sometimes such condemnation happens from within religion for people belonging to different sects, and in some rare cases, people may get condemned even for sharing different views.

In Islam, you have an entire science of Takfeer, where a “legitimate” scholar can declare another scholar or a layman an Apostate because his views are so different that he can no longer be called a Muslim.

There is a joke about this concept which actually is a rip off of a  Christian Joke, the joke is as follows

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Muslim or a non-Muslim?” He said, “A Muslim.” I said, “Me, too! Sunni or Shia?” He said, “Sunni.” I said, “Me, too! Deobandi or Barelvi?” He said, “Barelvi.” I said, “Me, too! Tanzeehi or Takfeeri?” He said, “Tanzeehi” I said, “Me, too! Tanzeehi Azmati or Tanzeehi Farhati?”

He said, “Tanzeehi Farhati.” I said, “Me, too! Tanzeehi Farhati Jamia ul Uloom Ajmer or Tanzeehi Farhati Jamia ul Noor Mewat?” He said, “Tanzeehi Farhati Jamia ul Noor Mewat.” I said, “Die, Kafir!” And I pushed him over.

I just find it amazing how one can simply replace the words like Sunni and Shia with Protestant and Catholic and Kafir with Heretic and the joke fits all the Abrahamic religion across.

This highlights a deeply ingrained mentality very common among the subscribers of Organized Religion. In Qur’anic language this can be called as sect worshipping, where one has such high inclination to the sect he comes from that he arrogantly thinks that only he is right, and everyone else is doomed. Most of the time, this thinking is simply based on prejudice and not on any extended intellectual speculation.

If you question Muslim Scholars they will come up with various excuses to defend this view. Such as

This is only a theological tenant and doesn’t have any impact in practical life. I think this isn’t necessarily true. A person who thinks that people who don’t belong to his sect or religion are doomed to hell will have a very arrogant outlook towards humanity, not just that he will develop an intellectual wall thinking that others are beneath him, and hence isolate himself from listening to alternate understanding. Quoting Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Those who distinguish civil from theological intolerance are, to my mind, mistaken. The two forms are inseparable. It is impossible to live at peace with those we regard as damned; to love them would be to hate God who punishes them: we positively must either reclaim or torment them. Wherever theological intolerance is admitted, it must inevitably have some civil effect.

Then there is a popular verse which is quoted to support such monopoly saying that the only religion acceptable to God is Islam, Chapter 3 Verse 19

Indeed, the religion in the sight of Allah is Islam…

What is interesting about this verse is the understanding of Islam. Almost all the scholars–including those who are committed to this view–will agree that Muhammad was the BEST teacher of Islam. His basic job was to communicate the message of God. There is no way that he left any stone unturned in performing his basic responsibility. Extending this, they will also agree that we are not like Muhammad, as in we can’t communicate the message the same way, at the same level, with the same impact, he did. Not even close. Now with this in mind, think about our concept of plurality. Plurality is mandated by the society when there is no way to reach the absolute truth with 100% certainty. This is the very reason why our society won’t accept nor would need any plurality in basics of mathematics or physics or biology or any science. This is because we have a method of reaching absolute truth. Now, if someone comes up and say 2+2=5, we can’t accept it in the name of plurality. That will be insane.

The basic idea behind sending a messenger is the same. To prove the absolute truth with 100% certainty. Now, you may agree or disagree with the possibility of it, but that’s beside the point. The verse is simply stating the implication of this event. That is the message is proved, the job of the messenger is done, now, no other religion is acceptable. You will either accept the truth or if you have any doubts get it cleared and then accept it.

This luxury ends with the end of the messenger. Because as soon as He is gone, we have the same uncertainty. And, no one disagrees with this too, as Islam understood during the time of Muhammad, was drastically different than how it’s understood now. Sects like Shia, Sunni, Debonad, Salfi, Barelvi, Sufi didn’t exist then, and no one knew anything about it. Things which pass as Islam now so easily, many scholars will argue, didn’t even exist then.

So, to quote the above verse as free from the constraints of time and space would not just be nonsensical but also would be a complete downplay of a very critical verse of Qur’an, which declares the end of Prophecy with Muhammad, hence implying the emergence of Plurality, in Chapter 33 Verse 40

Muhammad is not the father of [any] one of your men, but [he is] the Messenger of Allah and last of the prophets. And ever is Allah , of all things, Knowing.

Apart from this, there is an understanding that Islam criticizes other religion’s beliefs and practices–mainly Judaism, Christianity, and Polytheism–hence implying that it supports Monopoly in Salvation. The words used by Qur’an to describe people of these religions is Kafir–meaning disbeliever–and hence they all are doomed to hell. Example, in Chapter 4 Verse 89

They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies

This again is an improper understanding of the verse, which emerges because of a lack of in-depth study of Qur’an. If you see things which are being criticized in Qur’an in other religion they can be categorized into two

  1. Polytheism which has a negative impact on the society. The main thesis of Qur’an is that people use the garb of Polytheism to run away from being accountable for their bad deeds. That is, someone may cheat at his business but then offer 1 gallon of Milk to a mini-God of Business and hope that this mini-God will come to his aid on the Day of Judgement and will help him in Salvation. It’s this type of Polytheism which Qur’an is critiquing and calling unacceptable. This is also the reason why it insists so heavily on Tawheed–monotheism–implying the same point that there won’t be any aid on the Day of Accountability and everyone will be Judged purely on their merit.
  2. The next form of Criticism is against Organized Religion. This was because of the same reason which Muslim are falling into now. That they claimed a monopoly in Salvation. There are Multiple Verses where God is clearly stating that a particular association to religion is not going to guarantee salvation but true humility and empathy, example, Chapter 2 Verse 62. The two main Organized Religions during the time of Muhammad were Judaism and Christianity, hence Qur’an targets both.

Once we understand the above two points and give the required weight to the presence of a messenger then it’s very clear that the Kafir used for people from other religions is very very specific and doesn’t have a generalized time eternal stand.

Finally, there is this understanding that this is applicable to only those who truly understand Islam and knowingly reject it. This is by far the most idiotic point. What do people mean by True Islam? For some it’s bombarding people mercilessly, is that True Islam? Of course Not! and Who decides what True Islam is? The majority of Muslims don’t even speak the language of Qur’an, so they rely upon the interpretation of other Muslims, so how come one can be sure that his understanding is Ture? Let’s say we somehow figured what True Islam is, how are we even going to conclude that someone rejected it KNOWINGLY. Like how is it even possible? There is no way to convincingly find this out.

So, going back to our main question, is there a Monopoly in Salvation. ABSOLUTELY NOT. If a God exists, and He is Just, then this simply can’t be the case. How on earth can one call a God Just and then talk about a theory where God is basically sitting on a Throne, checking everyone’s passport to see their religion and then deciding if one ends up in Heaven of Hell. This is simply illogical, insane and unIslamic. The Salvation has to be decided based on one’s conduct and one’s honesty to his belief. This is very intuitive and also parallel with the teaching of Islam. As adequately summarized in the following verse, Chapter 2 Verse 62

Indeed, those who believed [now] and [before them] those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans – those [among them] who [truly] believed in Allah and the Last Day[honesty to his belief] and did righteousness [conduct] – will have their reward with their Lord..

Going back to our understanding of the Purpose of Religion. It’s very important to remember that if Religion is not helping us enhance our character and keep our intellecutual integrity pure then it’s being worthless. This entire perspective of deciding others eternal fate is a way of Playing God, something which we aren’t capable of and there is simply no point of trying. We have to understand that we live in the time that the only way forward is a plurality. One can disagree with the other view, one can voice their disagreement as well, but one shouldn’t make judgments. This is the golden rule we have to live with.

 

Religion

The purpose of Religion

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Medicine, Engineering, Law, Dental, Art, and much more. When we think of these fields, we quickly are able to relate to the purpose they are serving. Medicine serve the purpose of human health, Engineering makes human’s life easier, Law provides a sense of order to our chaotic society, Dental helps us smile and keep smiling and Art helps us satisfy our aesthetic urges. Then apart from all these fields, we have the field of Religion. What purpose comes to mind when we think of Religion.

If you ask people randomly on the street, they may give you various answers. For some, it can be

To achieve the goals of salvation, or Moksha, to reconnect with God

For others, it can be

to make humans suffer and live a miserable life and have an overall bad impact on the society

as Steven Weinberg, popularly quoted

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

To understand why we have such a spectrum of opinions we can divide the understanding of religion into three main categories.

  1. Dharmic Understanding

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    If we go by the written records, this is by far the oldest religion which we can prove historically. The oldest–Rig–Veda is from 1200BC, compared that to oldest known Hebrew Bible which is 600BC. Plus you have Sumerian text which dates back to 2600BC. Though the Dharmic religion is way more diverse compared to Abrahamic religion–Judaism, Christianity, and Islam–but if you want to summarize the main understanding of the purpose it will be as follows

    The purpose of Religion as per Dharmic Understanding would be to enable a human being to dive within and dig out one’s soul, to go through various phases of reincarnation, self-realization, enlightenment and in the end, Moksha, where the soul unites with its Origin, God, a timeless, spaceless, entity. This is achieved by freeing oneself from the worldly animal desires, by living an ascetic life, free from the disease of passion and urges. The first stage of this process is called Dharma, where one learns to be at his ethical best, by fulfilling all his obligations as a human living in a society. One may argue, that being good with one’s ethics is the pre-requisite to reach moksha

  2. Scientific Understanding

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    As per this understanding, one would insist on accepting things based on empirical evidence only. At the lack of empirical evidence, one should stay away from making any drastic conclusions, as the possibility of error is very large.

    A person with such an understanding will view religion as worthless and something which should be eradicated completely. The reason being the empirical evidence of all the violence which has been caused for years in the name of religion. For such a person, the purpose of religion is simply to cause pain and suffering to human life. The reason why people still stick with religion is simply that they are not thinking properly and nothing more. We have to understand that the main cause of the critique is caused by the lack of ethics found in humans claiming to be religious or claiming that their bad acts were carried out because God said so. Hence, the main purpose they are trying to achieve by eradicating religion is to improve human ethics and improve humans intellect, his reasoning, his ability to question.

  3. Abrahamic Understanding

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    There is one God who has created human beings, which is just one single species out of the almost infinite species which He has created. They are gifted with an opportunity to be God-like–that is, to become eternal beings, have free will, be able to do whatever they want etc etc. To bring this into action humans are put in a small test and this gift can be achieved if they manage to remain good in this test.

    The purpose of Abrahamic religion then is to enable Humans in winning this gift. By putting certain rituals, certain laws, certain guidance which will help them reach there.

If you notice, in all the above understanding, one thing is common. The human ethics. You can’t reach moksha if you don’t fulfill the phase one of the journey, which is Dharma, that is to be a good human being. The entire argument of the scientific community is that religion is not enabling ethics, hence stressing on the same point, the importance of human ethics. The Abrahamic religion is saying the same thing, in lay man’s terms.

We have to understand, whether we are a religious conservative, a liberal, a progressive, modernist, a mystic, agnostic or an atheist. If our religion or lack of it, is not improving our ethics, if it’s not making us good humans, if it’s not enhancing our concept of empathy and humility every day, if we are getting stagnant to such an extent that our character is getting decayed and our reasoning, our ability to comprehend, deduce and our intellect is getting corroded. Then, it’s time for a change, it’s time to start questioning and to get our questions answered, it’s time to wake up. If we ponder, and after deep intellectual speculation and survey realize that it’s not the case, that all the beliefs we have are based on genuine beliefs backed with rationality and not emotions and fancies, then it doesn’t matter on which path we are, it doesn’t matter which religion we practice, till our heart is convinced, till our intellect is quenched, we are good.

In an interview with Bernard Russell, he was asked, what if He is wrong in his belief of atheism, what if there is a God, what will the answer to that God be, on the Day of Judgment. To this, he answered.

I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!’

and that my friend is how it will be. If there is God and you are convinced–after intellectual investigation within your capacity–that he isn’t, and you kept your ethics intact, then a Just God has to let you be and if there isn’t a God, and you are convinced that there isn’t, then congratulations 2 on 2. Thirdly, if there isn’t a God and you believe that there is, then you lived a peaceful life free from the fear of existentialism, so congratulation anyway.

Either way, it helps us if we meditate on this more and remember not to get insecure about our beliefs. Human Ethics and our intellect. Keep that pure, and we are on the path of salvation, irrespective of the final reality. That is the purpose of religion or lack of it, alike.