HOMOSEXUALITY, BLASPHEMY AND APOSTASY IN ISLAM

HOMOSEXUALITY

 MUSLIMS ARE ALL AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS.

There is no denying it. Some Muslims are homophobic. But this is not a remarkable admission in light of the fact that most endeavors to restrict the civil liberties of the LGBTQI community in the U.S. have been led not by Muslims but by Christians . . . It’s also important to stress that the only two Muslims in Congress, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana, are fierce advocates of LGBTQI rights. Last year, Carson helped to introduce the Equality Act, which would extend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. For his part, Ellison was named by Think Progress in 2012 as one of the most pro-LGBTQI members of the House of Representatives . . . For many years, members of the L.G.B.T.Q.I. community have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community against any acts of hate crimes, Islamophobia, marginalization, and discrimination. Today we stand with them shoulder to shoulder. The liberation of the American Muslim community is profoundly linked to the liberation of other minorities – blacks, Latinos, gays, Jews, and every other community. We cannot fight injustice against some groups and not against others. Homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia – we cannot dismantle one without the other . . . In the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, for instance, American Muslims launched a crowd-funding campaign for the victims and their families. The campaign, Muslims United for Victims of Pulse Shooting, cites a Qur’anic verse and Hadith, or saying of Muhammad [PBUH]. In less than two weeks, they raised more than $75,000. (Source: American Muslims Send A Powerful Message Of Solidarity To Orlando Victims, Carol Kuruvilla, 14 June 2016, Huffington Post)

DOES ISLAM ACCEPT HOMOSEXUALITY?

In an interview with a leading Islamic scholar in America, following the Orlando shooting, Sheikh Humza Yusuf had the following to say: As we say in the Orlando statement, we are committed to Abrahamic morality, but it should not be imposed on others. America is about choices, including those to live certain lifestyles . . .

I have studied the tradition, and the vast majority of Muslims would never accept the lawfulness of an active homosexual lifestyle. I don’t see that happening. But there is also no authority in the tradition for any individual to take things into his own hands and impose their version of the religion on someone else. (Source: Muslim leaders: ‘We will not allow the extremists to de ne us’, by Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor, 15 June 2016, CNN)

SO MUSLIMS HATE HOMOSEXUALITY?

While Islam and many other religions including the other two Abrahamic faiths have a clear position on homosexuality, in an excellent summarised response to the issue, interfaith presenter, Sajdah Nubee sums up a key point when it comes to the matter at hand:  Muslims [as individuals] do not condemn homosexuality. Who are we to judge? Islam meanwhile does not condone homosexual relationships [and the Qur’an very clearly condemns it] but every Muslim [also] believes in free will to act and that our actions will be judged by God on Judgment Day. If we’re doing good, as we should, the correct narrative will take care of itself because we’re already a visible force to combat untrue rhetoric. (Source: What It Means to Me to Be Unapologetically Muslim by Sajdah Nubee, 10 March 2016, Huffington Post)

BUT THE JUNE 12 ORLANDO PULSE NIGHTCLUB MASS SHOOTING KILLING 49 AND INJURING 53 CLEARLY PROVES MUSLIMS ALL HATE HOMOSEXUALS.

Religiously motivated legislation from the right-wing Christian lobby has been trying to stifle gay civil liberties ever since the gay rights movement came into existence.

The Christians, not Muslims are against LGBTQI equality. If conservative Christians truly cared about the fate of LGBTQI people, one ought to shed some light on the Church’s contribution towards LGBTQI discrimination and stigma for years let alone decades. (Source: Conservatives Try To Scapegoat Islam To Avoid Responsibility For Perpetuating Anti-LGBT Violence, 13 June 2016, Zack Ford, Think Progress)

As an example: A Baptist Pastor Roger Jimenez spewed a hate- filled, homophobic sermon just hours after the Orlando massacre . . . praising the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, Florida . . . Video footage of the sermon, which was uploaded to the Verity Baptist Church’s YouTube account, showed Jimenez telling churchgoers, “I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. As Christians, should we be mourning the death of these 50 vile, perverted predators?” . . . Jimenez doubled down on those remarks in an interview with The Sacramento Bee, noting, “All I’m saying is that when people die who deserve to die, it’s not a tragedy.”. He was later removed from his church. (Source: Pastor Who Praised Orlando Shooting May Lose His Church, 23 June 2016, Curtis M Wong, Huffington Post)

AT LEAST 10 MUSLIM COUNTRIES (YEMEN, IRAN, IRAQ, MAURITANIA, NIGERIA, QATAR, SAUDI ARABIA, SOMALIA, SUDAN AND THE UAE) and ISIS – SAY HOMOSEXUALITY IS PUNISHABLE BY DEATH THEREFORE, ISLAM IS CLEARLY AGAINST HOMOSEXUALITY.

There are no verses in the Qur’an that specifies the punishment for homosexuality. Surah Al-Nur refers to “men who are not in need of women”, without condemning them. In the story of Lut (A.S), the Qur’an describes the punishment Allah sent to the deviant people of Prophet Lut (A.S) who were not only homosexuals but polytheists, alcoholics, pedophiles, etcetera.

On the issue of “Mukhannath” (hermaphrodite) even Muhammad (PBUH) recognised hermaphrodites around him, without ever enforcing the punishment (hudud) upon them. Therefore in accordance to Shariah, being a hermaphrodite is not a sin because this is considered the creation of Allah. It is thus also in reference to the 13th century Syrian scholar Al-Nawawi who once said: “If a person is gay, we have to treat them with mercy”.

Having said that, there is a following Hadith (narrated sayings and actions of Muhammad (PBUH), which is classed as genuine (saheeh) but comes with qualifiers: Al-Tirmidhi (1456), Abu Dawood (4462) and Ibn Maajah (2561) narrated that Ibn ‘Abbaas said: Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Whoever you find doing the action of the people of Lut (A.S), execute the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.”

QUALIFIERS: This Hadith indicate the permissibility of executing gays caught in the act of perpetrating this heinous sin. Which establishes that the Shar’iah does not necessitate absolute execution in every single case. The Jurists mention that such hadith merely indicate to the permissibility of execution in the event that the leader or government of a certain place deem it to be the best course of action for that particular society. The matter is to the hands of the leader and government officials. If they deem it politically beneficial, they are permitted to execute the homosexual caught perpetrating the act. Similarly, if they deem it better to counsel and advise the perpetrator to repent from the sin or to apply another form of punishment, they are permitted to take that course of action as well.

Secondly, in the realm of the Islamic criminal law, penalties (hudud) in Islam are mainly meant to act as a deterrent factor and not to be widely applicable without keeping in mind the strict restrictions and meticulous conditions that should be carefully considered before the execution of such penalties. Any rising speculations regarding meeting one or more of the conditions of applying the penalty leads it to be at halt.

One of the major common elements in most of the major penalties to be applied is the element of the “availability of trust worthy and honest eye-witnesses” to testify to the validity of the crimes committed and the existence of a specific state of affairs. If that state of affairs is not present, the hudud is not to be imposed. Therefore there are important qualifiers to meet before any capital punishment is to be handed out.

Islam is an ultra-benevolent religion. There’s firmness but no harshness. There are laws but to serve more as a deterrent. Lest we forget some of the strongest advocates for Islam at the time of Muhammad (PBUH) were formerly the biggest enemies, hypocrites, wrongdoers and sinners against Islam.

For example, homosexuality is considered a major sin in Islam but so is disrespecting parents; having sex outside marriage; severing ties of kinship; theft – all considered equally grievous along with 10 other major sins on the list of 15 major sins in Islam. Yet disproportional condemnation is reserved exclusively towards homosexuality and not nearly as much passionate intolerance directed towards some of the other major sins listed above, laying bare the hypocrisy among some Muslims today.

Therefore, self-labelled Islamic majority countries or extremist groups where they cane, hang or throw homosexuals off buildings are simply doing this based on their whims framing it dishonestly as an Islamic law when this is not strictly based upon injunctions from the Qur’an or Hadith, the only two sources where jurists studying Islamic law are supposed to derive its rulings from

BLASPHEMY IN ISLAM


 WHAT IS THE EXACT POSITION OF ISLAM ON BLASPHEMY?

Blasphemy laws historically began in Christian Europe as a means to prevent dissent and enforce the church’s authority. They were exported to Muslim majority nations via British imperialism. Today, just about every Muslim majority nation that has blasphemy laws can trace them back to British statute from centuries prior.(Source: This is what the Qur’an actually says about blasphemy, Qasim Rashid, 12 May 2017, The Independent)

Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan too, has pointed out that:

“There are more than 200 verses in the Qur’an, which reveal that the contemporaries of the prophets repeatedly perpetrated the same act, which is now called “blasphemy or abuse of the Prophet” but nowhere does the Qur’an prescribe the punishment of lashes, or death, or any other physical punishment.” (Source: Blasphemy and the law of fanatics by Fareed Zakaria, 8 January 2015, Washington Post)

Yet thousands of misinformed, easily manipulated Muslims sympathise with murderers and mobs who kill or imprison individuals accused of blasphemy when the fact remains:

That the Qur’an prescribes no punishment for blasphemy. Period.

The misguided idea that Islam requires that insults to Muhammad (PBUH) [or religious edicts] be met with violence is a creation of politicians and clerics to serve a political agenda, and ironically, nowhere are these archaic blasphemy laws more abused than some Muslim-majority countries with the worst records for fair governance such as Pakistan, Nigeria and Sudan. (Source: Blasphemy and the law of fanatics by Fareed Zakaria, 8 January 2015, Washington Post)

Yasir Qadhi, an assistant professor of Islamic studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee takes a more nuanced view: “Loving the prophet (PBUH) is a necessary requirement of (faith). Defending his honor is a sign of belief. This is done by following his teachings and practice, not by murdering in his name,” Qadhi wrote in a widely shared Facebook post. “Even for those who believe that the penalty for blasphemy should be death: by unanimous consensus of all the scholars of Islam, this must take place after a legitimate trial, by a qualified judge, appointed by a legitimate Islamic state. Under no circumstances does Islam allow vigilante justice”.

Therefore even if a punishment is to be vetted out for blasphemy, one ought to ask where in the world are you going to find a legitimate Islamic state, not a Muslim-majority country that pretends to be Islamic but a true Islamic state like those during the Islamic renaissance or during and after the advent of Islam?

This is precisely why notable scholars like Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naʿim have written extensively about the place of Shariah (Islamic religious law) in predominantly Muslim societies of the world. In his book, Islam and the secular state, he argues: “The coercive enforcement of Shariʿa by the state betrays the Qurʿan’s insistence on voluntary acceptance of Islam. Just as the state should be secure from the misuse of religious authority, Shariʿa should be freed from the control of the state. Showing that throughout the history of Islam, Islam and the state have normally been separate, An-Naʿim maintains that ideas of human rights and citizenship are more consistent with Islamic principles than with claims of a supposedly Islamic state to enforce Shariʿa. In fact, he suggests, the very idea of an “Islamic state” is based on European ideas of state and law, and not Shariʿa or the Islamic tradition, according to an introduction prepared by the Harvard University Press.

Therefore it is easy to blame Islam and ordinary Muslims for transgressions undertaken by politicians (such as in the 2017 case of ethnic Chinese, Christian Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Purnama who was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy against Islam in Jakarta, Indonesia), countries with Muslim-majority population (13 of which punish blasphemy by death) and the extrajudicial killings that such laws inspire (such as for example in Pakistan and Bangladesh, among others) or individuals with a Muslim name who commit acts of terror – but is this really fair when the Qur’an and Hadith, read in context and clarity, remains the best form of refutation in terms of what is morally right and wrong, permissible and forbidden.

Evidently it therefore appears: “Blasphemy laws don’t exist to protect God: they exist to protect the fragile egos of corrupt clerics”, in the succint words of Qasim Rashid that captures the essence of this entire debate. (Source: This is what the Qur’an actually says about blasphemy, Qasim Rashid, 12 May 2017, The Independent)

 

APOSTASY IN ISLAM


WHY IS THE APOSTATE KILLED IF HE OR SHE DECIDES TO LEAVE ISLAM?

To understand apostasy, it may be best to start by referring to the example of Thumana ibn Uthal, from the time of Muhammad (PBUH). Thumana pretended to come into Islam and when presented with an opportunity, killed a group of Muslims but was soon after captured and tried for his crimes. Muhammad (PBUH) however decided to forgive him instead and ordered his release. Seeing this, Thumana accepted Islam and became a real Muslim. This eventual conversion of course was not always the case.

At the time of Muhammad (PBUH), many tribes were against Muhammad (PBUH) and his small but fast-growing number of Muslims. In order to dissuade, disburse and/or make a dent in the overall number of people joining Islam and forming a true Islamic state, the opponents of Muhammad (PBUH) developed a strategy of nominating people from within their tribes and asking them to falsely accept Islam and when faced with the right opportunity, kill as many Muslims as they possibly could get their hands on

(note: shades of similarity with a common strategy used by Islamophobes today who enlist the help of certain ex-Muslims or “reformed” Muslims who conflate fact with fiction and present their misinterpreted version of Islam to prevent people from really understanding the religion).

It is however important to note, no one was ever killed under this law during the time of Muhammad (PBUH), since the purpose of this law was not only to protect Islam, but the freedom of conscience for those of all faiths, which was being threatened at the time. Nonetheless and given the particular circumstances at the time, it successfully acted as a useful deterrent.

WHAT IS THE LOGIC NOW OF IMPOSING CAPITAL PUNISHMENT FOR LEAVING ISLAM AS IF, HE OR SHE IS COMMITTING TREASON?

In modern day societies, we call the act of entering a state as a citizen and betraying it treason, which is often punishable by death, life imprisonment without pardon or solitary confinement. The following excerpt however provides an interesting counterpoint on the subject: The most commonly heard argument heard in favor of punishment for apostasy posits this: That apostasy is tantamount to treason, which is a capital crime in most nations in the world, including secular Western ones . . . This argument can be rejected outright based on the fact that Muslims throughout the world are already divided into nation states that have their own treason laws, as well as into sects and intra-sectarian denominations. In the absence of a global community or leadership there is no rational basis for a treason argument . . . The Qur’an has stated in its singular eloquence “There is no compulsion in matter of faith: distinct is the way of guidance now from error” (2:256). It is time, we as Muslims, lived up to that ideal. (Source: Empathy For Apostasy: The Acceptance Of The Ex-Muslim Is Long Overdue, Khwaja Khusro Tariq, 8 March, 2017, Huffington Post)

However since this matter relates to theology, it is best to include an excerpt from an article that explains the entire controversy relating to apostasy:

The death penalty for apostasy relies at the core of it on an authentically verified Hadith from Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] who said, “Whoever changes his religion kill him.”

This statement, however, would seem to contradict numerous verses in the Qur’an that guarantee freedom of belief, few of which include “There is no compulsion in religion” [2:256], and “Whoever so wills may believe and whoever so wills may deny” [18:29] . . . How could one reconcile the Qur’an with the Hadith in this issue without committing an inconsistency whereby the Hadith is rejected out of hand, even though the same transmission rules for accepting veracity of any other Hadith were applied to this one?

Moreover, one could ask whether it is an Islamic objective to artificially inflate the numbers of Muslims by including those who would not be so if they had the option . . .

Although the above-mentioned Hadith is authentic, it is also established that Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] never ordered the death penalty to be carried out on people known during his time to have apostatised. Of such people was a Bedouin man who came to Medina (during a time of political and military power for Muslims) to announce his Islam, but apostatised and left the city a short period later without receiving any penalty for his subsequent rejection. Given how the Prophet [PBUH] treated individuals who entered and left Islam, and the numerous verses in the Qur’an guaranteeing freedom of belief, the Hadith decreeing a death penalty for apostasy becomes more puzzling.

This can be resolved by turning to another authentic Hadith where this penalty is mentioned, but with a qualifier: “. . . the one leaving his religion and abandoning the group”. In addition, another verse in the Qur’an, which can further resolve this conundrum speaks to a strategy adopted by a rival sect in Medina in one of their attempts to create a schism within the nascent Muslim community by pretending to enter Islam in the morning, then leaving it in the evening [3:72] . . .

It is interesting to note here that prior to entering Islam, the two biggest tribes in Medina were engaged in a lengthy civil war that only ended when their allegiances were redefined from the tribal to the religious. If these new allegiances were jeopardised, it was highly likely to lead to civil strife and loss of life again.

Hence, the Hadith about the death penalty is not about apostasy in the strict sense of no longer believing in Islam per se. Rather, it is about what can be considered in modern terms political treason.

In his book The Empathic Civilization, social critic Jeremy Rifkin notes the evolution of human social units over time and how that affected our a affiliations and allegiances. In our early history we began with blood ties, progressed to tribal allegiances, then to religious associational ties and finally today to national ties. Contemporary Muslim scholar Abdallah bin Bayyah previously commented on a problem in how modern Muslims approach scriptural sources where they “misunderstand the text, ignore the context, and thus misapply the ruling”. (Source: Islam, Saudi and apostasy: Does Islamic law really proscribe the death penalty for apostasy? By Mohamed Ghilan on 10 May 2014 on Aljazeera.com)

WHY THEN DO SOME MUSLIM-MAJORITY COUNTRIES IMPOSE THE DEATH PENALTY FOR APOSTASY?

Here is another article (excerpts only) that talks about Sudan (but is just as equally applicable to many, many Muslim-majority countries today), which has a government that claims to be “Islamic” but has done little to demonstrate just that:

Governments like that of Omar al-Bashir’s love to use religion to legitimise their authority and call themselves and believe to be Islamists. It appears that whatever directive is taken, be it legal, social or military, it uses religion as the underlying justification and legitimisation for it. But as with all like-minded, undemocratic governments, such rulings are based on twisted truths and the bending of religious teachings to suit political needs. (Source: Sudan: A misconception of apostasy: Sudan’s recent apostasy death sentence is a manifestation of the wrongful use of religion in politics by Dallia M Abdelmoniem, Aljazeera.com)

In a nutshell, calling yourself an Islamic country does not make you “Islamic” and therefore, countries that claim to call themselves Islamic do it for political and diplomatic reasons more than religious reasons.

To illustrate this point, to kill a human being for allegedly eating beef when this is more communal or politically motivated does not mean India where the majority of citizens are Hindus, is behaving like a rogue Hindu state. On the contrary, this is about politics, pure and simple and less to do with religion.

Coming back to the issue of apostasy, implementing a punishment for apostasy that was never once handed out even at the time of Muhammad (PBUH) calls into question the basis of what these so-called “Muslim” countries like Nigeria, Saudi, (Aceh) Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, etcetera, are pretending to do.

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