LGBT Muslims Guide from the Perspective of Progressive Islam

LGBT Muslims Guide from the Perspective of Progressive Islam

LGBT Muslims are welcome in Islam, says Imam Daayiee Abdullah, arguing that those claiming the Quran condemns are wrong.

Over my forty-plus years of being a Muslim and living in several Muslim-majority countries, I learned that LGBT Muslims are wonderful.

Around the world today, LGBT Muslims challenge traditional interpretations of Islam regarding gender and sexuality. They spark conversations about inclusivity, acceptance, and reinterpretation within the faith.

In my experience, individuals claiming the Quran condemns LGBT people or their sexualities are interpreting the text based on their own understanding and perspective.

The reality is different, as you will see throughout this guide.

LGBT-related Acronyms

If you are interested in LGBT Rights, you already know there are several acronyms. The acronym “LGBT” stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender.

In the United States, this is the most commonly used and recognized acronym to represent the diverse spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities.

That said, there are variations and expansions of that acronym, including LGBTQ+. In this variation, there is Queer and/or Questioning added, as well as the plus sign to be inclusive of other identities.

LGBTQIA+ adds Intersex and Asexual, as well as the plus sign, which, once again, is broadening the umbrella.

Other variations depend on the context and inclusivity goals of the community or organization using the acronym.

LGBT Experience in Islam

In 2015, Mustafa Akyol authored an excellent article in The New York Times. The article discusses the complexities of homosexuality in Islam, citing Turkey’s Gay Pride Parade and subsequent intolerance.

While Turkey’s secular laws are relatively tolerant compared with non-Muslim nations in the region, other Muslim-majority nations harshly penalize homosexuality.

The Quranic story of Sodom and Gomorrah, akin to the biblical narrative, depicts the destruction of those who engaged in same-sex relations. While some interpret this as divine punishment for homosexuality, others argue it was for aggression against Lot and his guests.

Unlike the Old Testament, Akyol correctly points out that the Quran does not prescribe punishment for homosexuality. Instead, it comes from Hadiths, oral stories attributed to Prophet Muhammad first published some 200 years after his death.

In most cases, homophobia in Muslim communities today has to do with the Hadiths combined with colonialism, which introduced homophobic laws.

If you would like to read longer material on these issues, I invite you to Scott Kugle’s book, “Homosexuality in Islam.” Kugle challenges traditional interpretations, arguing against the stigmatization of homosexuality in the Quran.

Kugle examines the historical context of hadith and advocates for more inclusive interpretations rooted in justice and diversity.

LGBT Muslims

Progressive Islam and LGBT Rights

According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), openly LGBT Muslims often face exclusion in mainstream mosques due to cultural norms and traditional interpretations of sacred texts.

That said, over half of American Muslims support societal acceptance of LGBT life, according to HRC.

Some Western Islamic scholars are re-evaluating teachings on LGBT issues, while organizations like MECCA Institute provide alternative messages.

It is also interesting to note that transgender acceptance varies globally, with some Islamic cultures more tolerant than others.

Acceptance of gender reassignment surgery exists in some Islamic contexts but can lead to social and cultural rejection. For example, countries like Iran and Egypt officially support transgender persons in their journey for transitioning.

I contributed to a report by the HRC, and I invite you to download “Coming Home to Islam and to Self.”

I will share more resources later.

LGBT Muslims at MECCA Institute

MECCA Institute is front and center for the fight for LGBT Rights in Islam today. I’m openly gay, and I’m currently the Executive Director of MECCA Institute. Therefore, LGBT Rights are personal to me.

Over the past forty-plus years of my life as a Muslim, I learned more about LGBT Muslims. In fact, I became an imam only because there was no one to offer funeral prayers for a gay Muslim.

At MECCA Institute, we also focus on Women’s Rights and Youth Rights, although they can and do intersect with LGBT Rights.

That is, MECCA Institute is not an LGBT organization, but we are an organization that follows Progressive Islam, which means we welcome all Progressive Muslims.

If you are or know of someone who is a member of the LGBT community, make sure to send them to MECCA Institute.

LGBT Muslim Resources

There are various resources available for LGBT Muslims, including organizations, media, and online communities.

Organizations include the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD) and The Inner Circle. MASGD is in the United States and provides support, advocacy, and education for LGBTQ+ Muslims.

The Inner Circle is a major support group for LGBT Muslims in South Africa. It offers community, resources, and discussions.

I’m closely familiar with both of these organizations and can vouch for their great work.

Books “Queer Jihad: LGBT Muslims on Coming Out, Activism, and the Faith” by Afdhere Jama and “Living Out Islam: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims” by Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle.

I’m included in both of these books.

If you have the time, watch the “A Jihad for Love” documentary. It presents LGBT Muslims from 12 countries in nine languages to share their stories.

For communities, I would encourage you to join MECCA Institute Community, our online platform to serve Progressive Muslims.

Conclusion

Islam accepts and welcomes LGBT Muslims. LGBT Muslims are a diverse group of people who bring a beautiful diversity to our faith.

Things are changing for the positive today. As noted previously, over half of American Muslims support societal acceptance of LGBT people.

Just two decades ago, I was the only openly gay imam in the United States, but today, there are so many!

May Allah continue to guide us all.

Imam Daayiee Abdullah is the Executive Director of MECCA Institute and the author of “Progressive Islam,” a historic book that defines Progressive Islam. 

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