Over the course of my various journeys through the internet, I recently came across this video on YouTube. It is from the BBC show Free Speech, a forum for debate where guests on the show and members of the audience can make their voices heard.
The clip in question ventures into one of the greatest taboos in the Islamic religion. It dares to ask “can you be gay and Muslim?” Asif Quraishi, who credits himself as being the first Muslim drag queen going by the stage name Asifa Lahore, dared to say that he is both gay and Muslim.
The condemnation from practicing Muslims was swift. Two anonymous, hijab-wearing Muslim women took issue with Quriashi’s assertion. “You identify yourself as gay, why do you then choose, because it is a choice, why do you then choose to be a Muslim when it says explicitly within Islam, within Judeo-Christian tradition that is prohibited?,” she asked Quraishi.
At this point, the lines were drawn. Practicing Muslims on one side saying Quraishi cannot be gay and Muslim, on the other activist Maajid Nawaz and Historian Tim Stanley.
The debate largely focuses on the meaning of verses in the Quran, whether one interpretation is valid versus another and even whether the Islamic religion should adapt and change.
What this exchange neglects to mention is a third way. A way that allows any Muslim to call Asif Quraishi their brother. Surah an Nisa: 135 calls Muslims to be “staunch in justice, witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or (your) parents or (your) kindred, whether (the case be of) a rich man or a poor man, for Allah is nearer unto both (them ye are). So follow not passion lest ye lapse (from truth) and if ye lapse or fall away, then lo! Allah is ever Informed of what ye do.”
The Muslims, in their haste to follow Al Araf: 81, “Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people,” forget to be upholders of justice.
They forget that God calls them to not judge others. They forget that God asks them to stand up to injustice and to protect the downtrodden like Asif Quraishi. They forget that there is room for love in the Quran even if there isn’t any in their heart.
Entire codes of conduct have been built around this principle. The tenth-century Sufi scholar ibn al Husayn al Sulami wrote The Way of Sufi Chivalry, principles of conduct that is often given the name Futuwwah.
Among these principles are piety, generosity and tolerance. Tolerance features heavily in the book. Al Sulami calls on the reader to “show compassion to all creation.” It extends this principle to showing “compassion both to the ones who obey and the ones who rebel.”
“Futuwwah is considering other people’s actions with tolerance while regarding your own with dissatisfaction; respecting the rights of those who are superior, inferior or equal to you,” al Sulami says.
It saddens me every time I see Muslims zealously employ the intolerant parts of the Quran. It worries me that they are quick to judge and condemn. It worries me when they only keep the hateful parts of the Quran in the front of their minds. And most of all, it angers me when I see Muslims are only using a small number of sources to back up their beliefs.
The Muslims taking part in Free Speech only have hate in their heart. Their ignorance of other writings derived from their religion speaks to a real ignorance of the mind. They have closed off their hearts and are unable to say that Asif Quraishi can be their brother, even though plenty in the Quran and the writings of al Sulami allow them to do so.
I fear that their opinion may be the majority opinion in the Ummah. I fear that too many Muslims will forget the lessons of love within their own religion.