Bisexuality and Islam

Inshallah over the course of these specific blogs highlighting some of the Islamic positions of being L (Lesbian) or G (Gay) with the B (Bisexual), the T (Transgender) and the “I” (Intersex) we can all learn a bit more about ourselves and one another. We are separate entities but we can and must come together and actively endeavour to help one another in our struggles because there is a common thread that binds us all, and that is our Islam.

The muslim bisexual flag is based on the following colours:

  • Blue stands for heterosexuality
  • Pink stands for homosexuality
  • Purple, as a result of the mixture of blue and pink, stands for bisexuality with the Islamic Star and Crescent denoting our faith. It should be noted that both in the blue and in the pink area there are invisible purple pixels to represent the unrecognised bisexuality of some people of these groups.

The bisexual community amongst us is one that is often misunderstood and ignored, and we must affirm their existence in our Muslim LGBTI community. There is so much written on the subject of being gay/homosexual in Islam particularly brother Scott Kugle’s magnum opus Homosexuality in Islam, but his work does suffer from his unwillingness to deal with bisexual orientation and the blurred and shifting boundaries between heterosexuality and homosexuality.

Bisexuality, like homosexuality and heterosexuality is an identity category describing oneโ€™s capacity for relating intimately/romantically with others. Like homosexuality and heterosexuality one could look at behaviour to determine oneโ€™s identity.For example, those who have sexual relations only with someone of the other sex are heterosexual, and those who have sex only with those of the same sex are homosexual. When one applies this mechanical definition, however, one finds that many persons do not qualify for the identity they claim in both the hetero and homosexual worlds, and that there is a much wider prevalence of behavioural bisexuality than at first perceived. In fact, the research of the Kinsey Institute showed that human behaviour and romantic inclination span a bell curve. A small percentage are totally straight, a small percentage are totally gay, and the majority of people dwell somewhere in the middle.

That being said, strict behavioural definitions are extremely limited and limiting. They do not reflect the complex array of factors that combine to create an emotionally mature and honest social and psychological identity.

A more complete assessment of sexual orientation identity for all orientations would look at attraction to one or more genders, not just at the actual sexual behaviour. Attraction can be realised on at least four levels: the physical (heart racing, sweating, primary sexual organ engorgement); emotional (romantic feelings, yearning, missing when not around, day dreaming about someone, wanting a future life with someone); spiritual (feeling a mysterious connection, experiencing deep joy and contentment when with someone, having the sense of knowing someone forever, even if you just met); and intellectual (excitement about shared opinions or sparring around different opinions, creative exploration of ideas and projects). Attraction can then be expressed with another through physical intimacy, but it can also be expressed through fantasy, dreams, poetry, song writing, music, chaste friendship, etc. As a result, oneโ€™s sexual orientation identity could be totally divorced from oneโ€™s sexual behaviour. For example, one can be celibate and be heterosexual. One can be monogamous and bisexual. One can have sex with someone of the same gender in certain environments (e.g. prison) or for certain political reasons (e.g. lesbian separatism) and be heterosexual.

Bisexual identity is no more or less complicated than a heterosexual or homosexual identity. Those who claim it state that they recognise, honour, and appreciate their capacity to love beyond gender categories, whether they act upon it or not.

So when it comes to the Qur’anic understanding of sexuality I think the distinction has to be made, not based on same-sex feelings, but rather based on the presence or absence of arousal with the opposite sex. That is how you identify essential gay people in the centuries before the category of homosexuality existed and in accordance with the Kinsey research that shows that most people’s innate sexual orientation is bisexual and the Qur’an does mention this in 42:49:

“To Allah belongs the dominion over the heavens and the earth. It creates what It wills. It prepares for whom It wills females, and It prepares for whom It wills males “42:50 “Or It marries together the males and the females, and It makes those whom It wills to be non-procreative. Indeed It is the Knowing, the Powerful.”

Arabic: ู„ู„ู‡ ู…ูู„ู’ูƒู ุงู„ุณูŽู‘ู…ูˆุชู ูˆูŽุงู„ู’ุงูŽุฑู’ุถู ูŠูŽุฎู’ู„ูู‚ู ู…ูŽุง ูŠูŽุดูŽุขุกู ูŠูŽู‡ูŽุจู ู„ูู…ูŽู†ู’ ูŠูŽู‘ุดูŽุขุกู ุงูู†ูŽุงุซุงู‹ ูˆูŽู‘ูŠูŽู‡ูŽุจู ู„ูู…ูŽู†ู’ ูŠูŽู‘ุดูŽุขุกู ุงู„ุฐูู‘ูƒููˆู’ุฑูŽ \ ุงูŽูˆู’ ูŠูุฒูŽูˆูŽู‘ุฌูู‡ูู…ู’ ุฐููƒู’ุฑูŽุงู†ุงู‹ ูˆูŽู‘ุงูู†ูŽุงุซุงู‹ ูˆูŽูŠูŽุฌู’ุนูŽู„ู ู…ูŽู†ู’ ูŠูŽู‘ุดูŽุขุกู ุนูŽู‚ููŠู’ู…ุงู‹ ุงูู†ูŽู‘ู‡ู ุนูŽู„ููŠู’ู…ูŒ ู‚ูŽุฏููŠู’ู…ูŒ

These last two verses (42:49 and 50) are usually interpreted differently in English translations to say that God bestows daughters or sons on whom It wills and gives some people both sons and daughters. But there are problems with this interpretation, one of which being that the word for causing to marry or pairing up [ุฒูŽูˆูŽู‘ุฌูŽ] is used in the second verse. When families have boys and girls, the boys and girls do not usually arrive in pairs! The second problem is that, in Qur’anic verses mentioning males and females together, the males are usually mentioned first, and the females second (e.g., 3:195, 4:12, 4:124, 6:143-144, 16:97, 40:40, 42:50, 49:13, 53:21, 53:45, 75:39, 92:3). This is the only verse in the Qur’an, as far as I know, in which the female is mentioned before the male. If these two verses were talking about sons and daughters, we would expect sons to be mentioned before daughters.

In this case, the “males first” principle would indicate that the lines are referring to females and males not as offspring, but as counterparts, i.e. objects of desire, for “whom(ever) God wills.” The female objects of desire are mentioned first because they are most typically objects of desire for males. Hence, even this verse is referring to males first, as the most typical “whom(ever)” for whom God prepares females. Yet the use of the word “whom(ever)” leaves it open for females to be objects of desires for other females as well, when God wills, and for males to be love objects for females and other passive non-males. I believe this verse is very neatly and concisely describing the varieties of sexual orientation and gender, which Allah, the All-Knowing and All-Powerful, creates as Allah wishes.

The non-procreative can include abstinent women as well as men, and in fact “the abstinent ones among women, who do not hope for marriage” [ูˆูŽุงู„ู’ู‚ูŽูˆูŽุงุนูุฏู ู…ูู†ูŽ ุงู„ู†ูู‘ุณุขุกู ุงู„ู‘ุชููŠ ู„ูŽุง ูŠูŽุฑู’ุฌููˆู’ู†ูŽ ู†ููƒูŽุงุญุงู‹], are permitted to “put off their cover” in Sura 24:60.

As mentioned above for bisexual males to be love objects for females and other passive non-males. For the ancient world, the meaning of “male” was more nuanced than our modern strictly anatomical definition. In ancient times, they recognised that certain persons of male sex were nonetheless physically unaroused by women, and unable to obtain erections with women or perform sexually with women, and for this reason, were NOT “male” in gender. Instead, they were defined as eunuchs, NOT males. Such persons are referred to in sura 24:31 . Consequently, they are not intended by the story of Lut. That story is about persons who sexually assault men who are “male” in the ancient sense, which they do in order to humiliate and disenfranchise them, or simply out of a lack of respect for them as men. It is about military and prison rape of men. It certainly has nothing to do with the sexual activities of gay men, who are innately insensitive to the attractions of women, and are therefore natural eunuchs, or khisyan in Arabic, and therefore are not “male” by the ancient definition of the term.

So historically there was a taboo against sexually penetrating a “male” or letting yourself be penetrated if you were a “male”. Such behaviour if habitual would turn the passive “male” into a social eunuch. It would e-masculate him. And that behaviour of turning males into eunuchs, emasculating them, was originally the crime of the people of Lut. Indeed emasculated males could lose their right to inheritance in their social sphere.

How this operates within Islamic Law? if you are bisexual or heterosexual you are considered ‘male’ according to the ancient gender scheme and were not allowed to be passive in a sexual role with another male. Remember, it is only the act that is prohibited. However, the modern categories of gay, bisexual and heterosexual are slippery, imprecise and disputed, and need to be pinned down before any useful discussion of the applicability or inapplicability of laws to different kinds of people can take place.

Finally, do remind yourself that your relationship with Allah subhanat’allah is between you and your Creator. No one is allowed to come in between, and judge you or your intentions and actions and the Qur’an can be an essential part in your personal conversation with Allah. Take your time analysing the above verses and explore its meaning for yourself, and I am always at hand if there are any questions.