Recently, a statement signed by many speakers and scholars, “Navigating Differences: Clarifying Sexual and Gender Ethics in Islam,” was released about the Islamic stance on the LGBT movement. The response to this statement was diverse, and this is an article analyzing the statement and the reaction to it: “Navigating Defilement: Thoughts on the Navigating Differences Statement.” I suggest reading both links.
LGBT contains two ideas to be concerned about: 1) homosexuality and 2) transgenderism. This article will answer some common questions related to these topics.
- Is homosexuality a sin?
- Was the crime of Lut (AS)’s people rape rather than homosexual relationships?
- Is it allowed for men to transition to women?
- Harm Principle and Body Ownership
- Why does God care about what consenting adults do in private?
- Do Muslims advocate vigilante violence against people?
- Is Islam homophobic and transphobic?
- Is it allowed to support homosexual relationships or transitioning?
- Is it allowed to support political rights like same-sex marriage?
- What should someone with homosexual desires do?
- What should someone with a desire to be the other gender do?
- Is it allowed to identify as gay, lesbian, etc.?
- Is it allowed to befriend people with these desires?
Is homosexuality a sin?
The consensus of the known Islamic scholars from the past and present based on clear verses of the Quran and authentic teachings from the Prophet’s Sunnah is that romantic and sexual homosexual relationships are sinful but homosexual desires are not sinful in and of themselves.
In the Quran, this is based primarily on the story of Lut (AS). Allah narrates that he sent Lut (AS) to a group of people that used to have homosexual relationships and Lut (AS) strongly criticized them for this act and called it immorality, transgression, and ignorance:
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?
Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people.”Quran 7:80-81
And [mention] Lot, when he said to his people, “Do you commit immorality while you are seeing?
Do you indeed approach men with desire instead of women? Rather, you are a people behaving ignorantly.”Quran 27:54-55
Other verses in the Quran mention more sins that the people of Lut (AS) committed, but the above verses are clear that the homosexual relationships were themselves considered a sin as well.
To be absolutely clear, having homosexual desires is not sinful. It is only acting on those desires and forming homosexual relationships that is sinful. Desires are not sinful since they may not be within control. What you do with your desires is within your control.
The Prophet (SAW) said:
“Allah has forgiven my followers the evil thoughts that occur to their minds, as long as such thoughts are not put into action or uttered.”Sahih Bukhari
Was the crime of Lut (AS)’s people rape rather than homosexual relationships?
Some people argue that the crime of the people of Lut (AS) was not homosexual relationships; they say it was actually rape.
This argument originates in the Bible, because the Bible does not mention the preaching of the Lut (AS) to his people. The Bible only mentions the incident of the people trying to sleep with the angels that came to bring punishment.
The Quran also mentions this story:
And when Our messengers, [the angels], came to Lot, he was anguished for them and felt for them great discomfort and said, “This is a trying day.”
And his people came hastening to him, and before [this] they had been doing evil deeds. He said, “O my people, these are my daughters; they are purer for you. So fear Allah and do not disgrace me concerning my guests. Is there not among you a man of reason?”
They said, “You have already known that we have not concerning your daughters any claim, and indeed, you know what we want.”
He said, “If only I had against you some power or could take refuge in a strong support.”
The angels said, “O Lot, indeed we are messengers of your Lord; [therefore], they will never reach you. So set out with your family during a portion of the night and let not any among you look back – except your wife; indeed, she will be struck by that which strikes them. Indeed, their appointment is [for] the morning. Is not the morning near?”Quran 11:77-81
- Angels came to the house of Lut (AS) in the appearance of handsome men
- The people of Lut (AS) came to his house intending to seduce them
- Lut (AS) told them not to do this and offered them his daughters in marriage
- They refused to accept his daughters in marriage
- The angels revealed to Lut (AS) that they were angels and do not need him to protect them
It is easier to understand how someone can interpret the above story as being about rape although there are still some hiccups in the interpretation because of Lut (AS) offering them his daughters; obviously, he did not mean to offer them for rape but for lawful marriage.
The Bible only has this story about Lut (AS) and does not quote the message of Lut (AS) before the angels were sent like the Quran does. So, the Quran does not leave any room for doubt that they were, in fact, being criticized for homosexual relationships as well, not just rape.
[Lut AS said]: “Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people.”Quran 7:81
The phrase that leaves no room for doubt is “instead of women.” If the intention was to criticize them for rape, that would mean Lut (AS) is telling them it is ok to rape women. That is obviously absurd. The only possibility is that he was criticizing them even for consensual relationships with the same gender.
The only recourse liberals have in interpreting away these verses is to ultimately deny them directly or indirectly. Muslims should be able to look through such false interpretations.
Is it allowed for men to transition to women?
It is not allowed for men to transition to women, for people born with male features to act like women, or for people born with female features to act like men.
It is reported that:
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) cursed the women who imitate men and the men who imitate women.Sunan Tirmidhi
Allah says: “And the male is not like the female.” (3:36)
Modern discourse distinguishes between sex and gender, saying sex is the physical characteristics while gender is identity and roles in society. They say the words male and female refer to sex, while the words man and woman refer to gender.
This distinction is invented by modern activists and philosophers of the LGBT movement, and it is not supported anywhere in Islam.
Islamic texts assign people with the male sex certain gender roles and people with the female sex certain gender roles. There is no way of transitioning between the two that Islam supports.
Sheikh Mobeen Vaid has written excellent, detailed articles on the entire gender nonconformity movement that you may read for more information: And the Male Is Not like the Female: Sunni Islam and Gender Nonconformity (Part 1) and “And the Male Is Not like the Female”: Sunni Islam and Gender Nonconformity (Part 2). He also gave a lecture explaining the topic in a more summarized format: Islam and Transgenderism: What Does the Shariah Say? With Ustadh Mobeen Vaid.
Harm Principle and Body Ownership
The harm principle is the idea that “A person can do anything he wishes as long as he does not harm other people.”
The body ownership principle is that “A person can do whatever he wants with his own body since he owns it.”
We, as Muslims, do not accept either of these principles.
We believe our bodies are temporary loans given to us by God. We do not have the choice to do whatever we want with them. To invert a common phrase: “God’s body, God’s choice.” God owns everyone and He decides the rules we must follow.
We do not believe God gave people permission to do whatever they want as long as it does not harm other people. Rather, God has given us many limitations even if they do not cause direct harm.
The main problems with the harm principle is that it fails to account for spiritual harm, long-term harm, and societal harm. Most of the time, those who use the harm principle only worry about short-term physical harm.
But, sins like homosexual relationships cause spiritual and societal harm even if they do not seem to cause short-term physical harm, and in fact, seem pleasurable in the short-term. This is no different to how Zina (extra-marital relationships) seems pleasurable in the short-term.
God is ultimately wise, and He is the ultimate owner of our bodies. So, He gets to command us both because His commands are better for us (even if we do not understand why) and because He owns us.
Why does God care about what consenting adults do in private?
Firstly, God owns people’s bodies more than they own themselves. He created them, gave them life, fed them, and sustains their every breath.
The liberal worldview is based on consent morality. If you asked them “Can you do something to someone without their consent if you make sure they are not harmed,” they would say “No, because it is their body.” Then, how can they allow people to do things with God’s owned bodies without His permission?
It is not for a believing man or woman—when Allah and His Messenger decree a matter—to have any choice in that matter. Indeed, whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has clearly gone ˹far˺ astray.Quran 33:36
Secondly, the idea that God should not worry about some things is ridiculous. God pays attention to everything in existence.
If He stopped paying attention to humans and sustaining them, they would cease to exist in a moment. God cares about everything, from the smallest ant to the largest galaxy. If He forgot about the universe for even a moment, it would fall apart.
Indeed, Allah holds the heavens and the earth, lest they cease. And if they should cease, no one could hold them [in place] after Him. Indeed, He is Forbearing and Forgiving.Quran 35:41
So, why would sexuality get a special pass from God’s attention and law?
Thirdly, sexuality is not a small matter. It is the building block of society. The fundamental building block of a society, the family, is built on sexuality. Almost every religion regulates it to some extent, because it is impossible to imagine God would not give us guidance about this vital topic.
God tells us even what consenting adults are allowed to do in private because that affects society at large. God has forbidden consensual extra-marital relationships even with the opposite gender. God has forbidden masturbation and porn even if by consenting adults.
Consent does not make something immune from being immoral or from being ultimately harmful to society. Acts can be immoral even with consent, and homosexual relationships and transitioning are some of those acts.
And [the inheritors of Paradise are] they who guard their private parts
Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed –
But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors –Quran 23:5-7
People do not have a moral right to do whatever they desire. Allah says:
But if the Truth had followed their inclinations, the heavens and the earth and whoever is in them would have been ruined. Rather, We have brought them their message, but they, from their message, are turning away.Quran 23:71
But if they do not respond to you – then know that they only follow their [own] desires. And who is more astray than one who follows his desire without guidance from Allah? Indeed, Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.Quran 28:50
Have you seen the one who takes as his god his own desire? Then would you be responsible for him?Quran 25:43
People were created to worship Allah in submission to Him, not to follow their desires.
Do Muslims advocate vigilante violence against people?
Muslims do not advocate for vigilante violence against anyone. Even if someone commits a sin, we do not advocate that any vigilante violently attack them or physically harm them for that sin.
We will treat people with common courtesy and expect to be treated with the same courtesy. It is not allowed to randomly curse people, yell at them, or act in an otherwise rude manner. However, we are clear that we consider their acts sins and that we consider those who commit them sinful.
A sin is something that goes against God’s commands and warrants punishment from God in the afterlife. We do not wish for people to commit sin, so we hope that they stop doing those actions and return to the guidance of God.
Is Islam homophobic and transphobic?
The word phobia originally referred to an excessive and irrational fear of something, but it is common to see it used nowadays to refer to a hatred or prejudice towards something or someone.
The second meaning is where the words homophobia, transphobia, and even Islamophobia come from. They respectively mean prejudice against homosexual people, transgender people, and Muslims.
If homophobia and transphobia mean advocation of vigilante violence against these groups, Islam does not support that.
If homophobia and transphobia refer to not supporting marriage rights or transitioning rights, then we do not support marriage rights or transitioning rights.
If homophobia and transphobia refer to something as small as believing acting on the desires is sinful, then we do believe acting on the desires is sinful.
Unsurprisingly, a large portion if not the majority of the LGBT community believes even considering their actions sinful to be phobia or prejudice against them.
Muslims should not be afraid of believing and speaking the truth even if that means being branded with names by other people.
O you who have believed, whoever of you should revert from his religion – Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him [who are] humble toward the believers, powerful against the disbelievers; they strive in the cause of Allah and do not fear the blame of a critic. That is the favor of Allah; He bestows it upon whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.Quran 5:54
[…] This day those who disbelieve have despaired of [defeating] your religion; so fear them not, but fear Me. This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. […]Quran 5:3
That is only Satan who frightens [you] of his supporters. So fear them not, but fear Me, if you are [indeed] believers.Quran 3:175
It is possible to try arguing that homophobia and transphobia only refer to advocating vigilante violence against them, but it is contrived to argue with people about the definition of words they themselves coined.
However, the strategy that is being played can be pointed out. By using the same word to describe both vigilante violence and simple verbal criticism, they intend to stifle verbal criticism using the fear of being lumped in with vigilantes.
Many Muslims have overused and misused the term Islamophobia without realizing that it is a term popularized by the same tradition of liberals that coined terms like homophobia and transphobia. It is preferable to use words like anti-Islamism or anti-Muslimism when possible
Is it allowed to support homosexual relationships or transitioning?
It is not allowed to be happy at these sinful acts or support them.
Allah says in the Quran:
[…] And help each other in righteousness and piety, but do not help each other in sin and aggression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.Quran 5:2
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:
“Whoever amongst you sees an evil, he must change it with his hand; if he is unable to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest form of Faith”Sahih Muslim
The last choice is to simply hate the evil in your heart. That is the lowest level of faith.
In the story of Lut (AS), the wife of Lut (AS) is left behind and dies in the punishment because of her support for the crimes of her people.
So We saved him (Lut AS) and his family, except for his wife; she was of those who remained [with the evildoers].Quran 7:83
It is narrated that the wife of Lut (AS) used to inform people about the male guests her husband had in his house so they could get a chance to seduce them. She supported her people’s actions and did not see anything wrong with them. Because of her support, she was destroyed among those who were destroyed.
Her fate is a warning to all people who support or accept this sin. The very least that is required of every Muslim is to believe in his or her heart that this is an evil action.
Denying something known in the religion by necessity can make a Muslim into a disbeliever. Denying that homosexual intercourse is sinful is denying something known in the religion by necessity, so anyone who denies it is at risk of losing his very faith. They might be resurrected on the Day of Judgement and treated as disbelievers because of denying clear verses of Allah.
And never be of those who deny the verses of Allah and [thus] be among the losers.Quran 10:95
Is it allowed to support political rights like same-sex marriage?
It is impossible for Muslims to support so-called rights if they go against the rights Allah has given people. Judgement of rights only belongs to Allah, and there is absolutely no room for rights to sins like homosexual relationships in Allah’s law.
And judge, [O Muhammad], between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations and beware of them, lest they tempt you away from some of what Allah has revealed to you. And if they turn away – then know that Allah only intends to afflict them with some of their [own] sins. And indeed, many among the people are defiantly disobedient.
Then is it the judgement of [the time of] ignorance they desire? But who is better than Allah in judgement for a people who are certain [in faith].Quran 5:49-50
Some Muslims tried to argue that we could support their rights in exchange for our own, if such an alliance arises. This, however, is not acceptable as a compromise.
What should someone with homosexual desires do?
A person with homosexual desires should control himself and refrain from forming homosexual relationships no matter how much he desires them.
These desires are a test like all the tests in the world, and they may even be a particularly difficult test. The more difficult the test, the larger the reward.
And We will surely test you until We make evident those who strive among you [for the cause of Allah] and the patient, and We will test your affairs.Quran 47:31
Those who avoid what Allah prohibited them even though they desire those things will be rewarded.
Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire – of women and sons, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land. That is the enjoyment of worldly life, but Allah has with Him the best return.
Say, “Shall I inform you of [something] better than that? For those who fear Allah will be gardens in the presence of their Lord beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally, and purified spouses and approval from Allah. And Allah is Seeing of [His] servants –
Those who say, “Our Lord, indeed we have believed, so forgive us our sins and protect us from the punishment of the Fire,”Quran 3:14-16
Someone might say: Staying away from homosexual relationships is too difficult of a test since humans need companionship.
We would respond: It is a difficult test, but it is not impossible. Humans desire companionship but they do not need it to live. They can also seek other types of companionship like friends and family to fill that hole, and they can most importantly seek comfort in their love for Allah.
Allah never gives people tests they cannot fulfill. If someone has homosexual desires, it is because God knew they could fulfill the test of avoiding forbidden relationships. Allah says: “Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity.” (2:286)
The Prophet Yahya (AS) lived his life abstaining from women. Allah says:
So the angels called him (Zakariyya AS) while he was standing in prayer in the chamber, “Indeed, Allah gives you good tidings of John, confirming a word from Allah and [who will be] honorable, abstaining [from women], and a prophet from among the righteous.”Quran 3:39
What should someone with a desire to be the other gender do?
A person with the desire to be the other gender should control himself to whatever extent he can control himself. He should not intentionally dress, speak, or act like the opposite gender no matter how much he desires it. He should seek out help and support if he needs it to feel comfortable in his own gender.
Any unintentional mannerisms that come out which are difficult for him to control are forgiven by Allah. Allah is very forgiving to people’s genuine mistakes.
It is always possible for a person to repent even from the worst sins imaginable. Homosexual relationships are no different to other sins. It is possible to repent from them if someone leaves them, regrets them because they are disobedience to God, and plans not to do them again.
Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”Quran 39:53
Repentance is possible repeatedly even if someone keeps slipping and falling into the sin after some time.
However, the act of homosexual intercourse like the act of any extra-marital sexual intercourse is a major sin and is liable to huge punishment in the afterlife if someone dies without having repented from it. Anyone who commits a major sin should repent as soon as possible or his fate in the afterlife is at stake.
Is it allowed to identify as gay, lesbian, etc.?
It is not allowed for Muslims to take identities based on desires they have towards evil. That should be self-explanatory.
When it is necessary, it is allowed for someone to say that he has homosexual attraction. But, taking the desire as an identity is problematic and needs to be avoided.
Is it allowed to befriend people with these desires?
If someone only has these desires but refuses to act upon them because he wishes to follow God’s commands, it is absolutely allowed to befriend them. In fact, it is good to befriend them.
If someone has these desires, makes that their identity, has homosexual relationships openly, and commits sins openly, then being friends with such people should be avoided like being friends with any openly sinful person should be avoided,
We need to choose our friends carefully as they will affect our own conduct and faith.
And the Day the wrongdoer will bite on his hands [in regret] he will say, “Oh, I wish I had taken with the Messenger a way.
Oh, woe to me! I wish I had not taken that one as a friend.
He led me away from the remembrance after it had come to me. And ever is Satan, to man, a deserter.”Quran 25:27-29
The Prophet (SAW) said:
A man follows the deen of his friend; so each of you should consider whom he makes his friend.Sunan Abi Dawud
The meaning of the hadith is that a person’s way of life is influenced by his friends, so everyone should choose their friends carefully. Being friends with openly sinful people will affect your own faith.
And Allah knows best.