Often, individuals who identify as non-heterosexual are found in the fringes of not only societies, but communities and families as well. They are often over-looked and cast aside as individuals that have a place only in the margins of society, safe in the outer-realms of our comfort zone. When homosexuality enters the sphere of religion they are told that their sexual orientation is a sin and will face serious consequences in the afterlife.

The branding of homosexuality as “evil” has kept many people living a double life: by day they are pious and by night they are pious and homosexual. One of the most challenging spheres for sexual freedom is in Islam.

Enter imam Daayie Abdullah. Imam Abdullah is the only openly gay imam — a Muslim community leader — in North America.

Raised a Southern Baptist, Abdullah was introduced to Islam through his contact with the Uighur population, a portion of Chinese society that has a longstanding Muslim tradition. A student of both Chinese and Arabic, Abdullah attended a prayer service one Friday evening and it made perfect sense to him: Islam was the path he was looking for. He professed his faith upon his return to America a few years later.

Imam Abdullah has spent over the last 10 years trying to bridge a gap between Islam and homosexuality. He has experienced trouble from both conservative Islamic groups and anti-gay groups. His interpretation of Quaranic verses has aided in bridging this gap.

“To be gay and Muslim, at times, people will say that it is an oxymoron. But in actuality, it’s a formulation that shows the diversity within Islam; that people can be a variety of backgrounds. The Quran says to look to the nature of the world. And from that, you can see the diversity and understand that Allah’s understanding of the world and the universe in which he created is full of diversity; but you find the oneness, the tauheed unification of all, through those various diverse aspects.”

Over time he began to embrace this diversity and elected himself as a leader that provides a voice for minority peoples within Islam. This has led Imam Abdullah to perform interfaith marriages — between a Muslim and non-Muslims — as well as interracial marriages. He has even performed the funeral rites for a closeted Muslim man who died of complications from HIV. The young man was unable to have a traditional Islamic funeral based on Sharia law because of his sexual orientation.

Imam Abdullah believes outspoken, openly-gay Muslims within the Muslim community are the only way to raise awareness of the gay minority within the faith.

“It’s not for them to agree with me, or for me to disagree with them. It’s for them to understand that we have a voice, the gay and lesbian community have a voice,” he says.

Imam Abdullah is a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Religious Leadership Roundtable, founder of the Al-Fatiha Foundation, and moderator for an openly gay internet message board. He resides with his partner in Washington, D.C.

This article was first published on MuslimVoices. Rosemary Pennington Program Coordinator for Voices and Visions is a graduate student in the School of Journalism at Indiana University.


Gibran Mahmud

April 20th

This is absolutely despicable. Yes life is diverse.....there are people who wrong themselves and people who don't. Had Allah willed nobody would have disbelieved and nobody will find their end in hell forever. But it happened to men of previous generations, and people still disbelieve. The Quran isn't open to various interpretation so that each person can decide their own happy little life. It's a clear message and homosexuality is completely against Islam and a major sin. In no way whatsoever is this acceptable. Gay sex is haram sex outside of marriage and between and man and his slave girl is all completely haram. Fornication without marriage is punishable with 100 lashes. When married, it is getting stoned to death and the Prophet(PBUH) did this when a man confessed FOUR times(the ProphetPBUH gave him so many chances to just hide his sin and repent) and after that he was stoned to death. This is absolutely disgusting and against Islam. May Allah never let us follow the ways of Christians and Jews who support this despicable stuff even though its against their own scriptures and the penalty is death in their own scriptures. They may not want to follow their religion. We'd like to follow ours. Stop trying to impose disgusting non-Muslim immorality onto Muslim countries in the form of "rights". The Quran is absolutely clear in its condemnation of this sickening behavior. You don't get to decide your own Islam on your whims.

N Horowitz

April 24th

@Mia wrote, "I think that by ' Mother Nature', they're obviously referring to the biological factor of the situation. ...Its not natural; males to be with males, females to be with females." The word "natural" is meaningless here, because in nature, "Various forms of same-sex sexual activity have been recorded in more than 450 different species of animals by now, from flamingos to bison to beetles to guppies to warthogs". ( Obviously it's completely natural. And truly, I can't imagine that God is annoyed by it, any more than God is annoyed by dragonflies or anything else God created.

Hamza 21

April 23rd

This a pretty unbalanced and disgusting article. Is Ms. Pennington even a Muslim? I feel embarrassed for Illume would even print this piece. Had this article been about homosexuality in Islam or the adab of dealing with homosexuals with a societal context then it would have been beneficial. However this article is nothing more gay propaganda. "Gay Imam"? Na'oodhu Billah!! May Allah protect us form this filth.


April 14th

@ N HOROWITZ I think that by ' Mother Nature', they're obviously referring to the biological factor of the situation. And yes the second argument was a bit faulty as God can do whatever He wants. However, do you really think that AIDS would have been such an epidemic if there was a lack of homosexuality? I don't think so. Its not natural; males to be with males, females to be with females. I, as a Muslim, (yes my argument is biased, albeit somewhat logical), believe that God has given guidelines to live by for a reason, that reason being to protect ourselves from harm. Hence the forbidding of premarital and homosexual sex, alcohol, etc.

N Horowitz

April 1st

"I never understood how they justify this, Muslims or non-Muslims, it's against Mother Nature." Who's Mother Nature? Are you ascribing a partner to God? "If the world ended with two men or two women, would it be able to carry on?" Are you very worried about that? Do you think gays will cause it to happen, irrespective of whatever God wants? Because otherwise, it's a pretty ludicrous argument.

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