By: Hamim Ilyas
In Islam, like in other religions, it develops a standard or orthodox view that the correct sexual orientation is heterosexual. Other sexual orientation whether homosexualism, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgender or transsexual are seen a deviation and a punishable crime. While in science since the 60s, other sexual orientation is not seen as an illnes, and therefore it is normal orientation, not a deviation.
These two conflicting views become a reference in determining an attitude and action towards those who have non-heterosexual orientation. Some see them as criminals who should be punished and some others regard them as normal and have the right to marry their partners. Then in between the two conflicting attitudes, there is a central attitude that sees them as people with sexual problems that should be assisted in overcoming the problem.
The Standard View
In the Islamic orthodoxy there is a standard view expressed by all Islamic religious figures. This view is derived from a belief about human nature that is created in pairs (QS. adz-Dzariyat : 49; QS. Fathir : 11). The couple is a man and a woman (QS. an-Najm : 45). Ia relation to sexual orientation, the view believes that among the potential that God has given to men in His creation is a sexual potency including sexual desires, tendecies, and power. Al-Quran calls sexual desires syahwah which original meaning is an interest of soul in what she/he wants (Ar-Raghib Al-Asfahani: 277). When telling a warning to the Sodom and Gomoro, it is mentioned inna kum la ta’tūnar rijāl syahwatan min dūnin nisā’, actually you screwed man with a passion (to him), not to a woman (QS. al-A’raf : 81).
Because it was given in the process of creating, it is believed that the sexual desire becomes something instinctive and natural for humans. Instinct in al-Quran is called revelation, such as maternal instinct to breastfeed the new child birth (QS. al-Qashash : 7). Then, because the instinct can guide the human behavior and human life, Abduh called it guidance. He stated that in order to live their lives, people were given four clues: instinct (al-hidayah al-fitriah), the five senses (al-hawass guidance), intellect (al-aql guidance), and religion (ad-din guidance) (Rasyid Ridha, I: 62-63).
As an instinct, sexual desire certainly will encourage its owner to have sexual orientation and behavior. There are two sexual orientation and behavior mentioned in al-Quran. First, ‘heterosexual’. This orientation is mentioned in QS. ali-Imran : 14, which states zuyyina lin nāsi hubbus syahawāti minan nisā … (beautified for men to love syahwah to women …). Second, homosexual, which is mentioned in the story of Prophet Luth above.
Those who support this standard view believed that axiologically, the goodness and the truth of heterosexual has been proven in history. Axiological postulate states that the denial of the truth will inevitably lead to destruction. Ancient history has proven that the Sodom and Gomorah people met a destruction as practicing homosexualism and contemporary history shows that gay people are at high risk for the deadly disease AIDS. Nature around humans also supports the truth. Animals and plants that are not familiar with the culture and created in pairs like humans, mating as heterosexual. The two things indicate that sexuality (read: heterosexual) is natural, not a social construction. If not natural, of course the denial will not cause catastrophic for human life.
The Un-standard View
In addition to the standard view of the orthodoxy, some contemporary Moslem scholars made a view that was not popular among the people. One of them is Faris Malik who said that al-Quran explicitly recognizes the third gender, not men and women. That explicit recognition according to him is contained in QS. asy-Syura : 49-50, which he translated as follows: “to Allah swt. belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows female upon whom He wills, and bestows male upon whom He wils. Or He bestows both males and females, and He renders bareen whom He wills”. Faris also reinforced his view by using an analog of plants that God creates in pairs, but there is partially unpaired (Yasir Alimi: xv-xvi).
Then in relation with homosexualism and lesbianism, Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle, Omar Nahas, and Amreen Jamal stated that the story of Prophet Luth is not specifically related to homosexual relationships. According to them, the story is associated with people who have been convicted of various forms of prohibited sexual behavior, including free sex and pedophilia; bad deeds to the guests; abuse of power; rape and intimidation. Besides, they also connect homosexual relationships with an overview of al-Quran about life after death. Some verses mention a promise to those who believe that in heaven they will be accompanied by beautiful women and handsome men (angels). According to them, these verses can be interpreted as referring to homosexual relationships in heaven (ibid: xxiv).
Until now, the standard view of orthodoxy still exists and probably will continue to be dominant among the Moslems. That view is difficult, not to say it impossible, to accept transexualism, homosexualism, and lesbianism as a normal reality. However, it should be realized that now religion is not justifies to suppress the sexual orientation with coercion and violence. If the unpopular view is unacceptable, Moslems must respond the reality by referring Islam as a religion of mercy, which aims to realize the real goodness of the whole universe.
In realizing a real goodness, Islam does not always use the legal approach. It also uses da’wah and humanitarian approach. Da’wah approaches are applied to realize the good quality (al-khair) in all areas of life (QS. ali-Imran : 104), including sexuality. Da’wah is basically an awareness activity conducted by persuasive, not coersive with violence. Awareness is not only related to the intellect and the mind, but also with the heart and feeling, because da’wah for people with sexual problems is done to achieve the good quality in all areas of their lives, not only sexuality. Then if they want to change their sexual orientation, then it is not because of coercion and fear, but because of the awareness of their own minds and hearts.
Da’wah is in line with the humanitarian approach that is undertaken by respecting humans as humans with an attempt to glorify them. Humanitarian approach is emphasized in QS. al-Maun with the activities and objectives of the activities mentioned by the phrase: “not rebuking the orphans” not only means “not saying rude to a child whose father has died,” but can be expanded to include other subjects and practices with good quality of their lives, as a matter of fact their condition must be considered.
The expansion of the meaning can be “insulting and underestimating of the weak who have no protectors”. Expansion of this meaning is based on the fact that orphans are a real representation of the weak human and their needs that cannot be fulfilled by themselves. At the time of the Prophet in the past besides there are disease, crime, and men who are not responsible, there are also many wars, between tribes and states and the are many wanderings. Considering this, it stands to reason that at that time many children had become orphans not only because his parents died because of illness, became a victim of a crime or were killed on the battlefield, but also because their fathers are the men who were not responsible or went for wandering and not came back again to the house. That is why the definition of orphan in the days of the Prophet is certainly not limited to “children being left by their fathers death” only. Besides, in the treasures of Arabic wisdom, there is a development of definition of orphan which is not associated with economic need fulfillement, but connected to science and morality. It states: “The orphan is not someone whose father has died, but one who does not have the knowledge and character”.
Based on this interpretation, in the humanitarian approach, the orphan who becomes the subject who is respected by humanitarian and is aimed to have noble life, not only economically displaced children, but also children who abandoned education, health care, and moral development. Then, by taking into account the substance of orphan hood, that is ‘solitude’, then the people who are ostracized by the society with a specific reason, such as illness and sexual orientation, can be classified as the orphans. They are PLWHA (people living with HIV/AIDS), lesbian, gay, and transgender.
Embracing those who have nonheterosexual orientation as persons with sexual problems with da’wah and humanitarian approach does not mean to discriminate against them. This is because they tried to be embraced for their better-qualified and noble life.
Source: SA Magazine (Special Edition) May 2014