by brother Yusuf, UK
I was recently asked about the above subject, ”An Islamic Sense of Welcome,” and to comment on how we as Muslims deal with and welcome people from different lifestyles and material pathways in light of our motto “Love for All, Hatred for None.” The person asking this question was really asking “how far do we go” before we stop welcoming and start condemning? Particularly with people who are leading “open” or “free love” lifestyles that we may not be able to relate to. Below is a transcript of the discussion which took place:-
Host:- Would you like to say a few words on the subject to get us started?
Yusuf: Sure, one of the reasons why I was excited about your questions isn’t because I’m an expert on this, but because having lived as a Christian Monk for seven years before converting to Islam I think I might have some views on the subject which might help to promote a better understanding of Islamic opinion and values. I know a lot of people who will be reading this are trying to find a way of loving without compromising their own beliefs. More and more, we’re being sensitized to physicality in all its forms around us – it’s a worrying trend. We do need to respond, but the question is how?
When relationships get initiated and disposed of based on physical compatibility, everybody is reduced down to material basics. We miss out on the substance of what true relationships actually are. It’s not helpful either when the media have that weird, almost sick, fascination with physical beauty and the intimate lives of the rich and famous. As much as we need to talk about these differing material relationships in helpful ways, there’s an awful lot of useless conversation out there.
I think we need to be clear on not only what is acceptable to us in terms of discussions we have with others, but also how we can discuss sensitive subjects like this within an Islamic framework. That really is key in discussing the subject without compromising.
Host:- As Muslims how should we be handling discussions on physical feelings outside of a marital commitment without trying to present the idea that Muslims are exempt and perfect in this regard?
Yusuf:- Loneliness is a big thing today in this individual society we live in and so we really need to try to point out the difference between a desire for companionship and the pull to physical stuff. They aren’t the same thing. As Muslims, we are striving to bring all their thoughts into line with our religion as it is taught by our Holy Prophet (PBUH). We also have a Brotherhood which helps with loneliness – that’s something which non Muslims don’t have. Even in Christianity there is not a bond like the Brotherhood we have in Islam. It’s been given to us by almighty Allah for a reason – that is to support each other.
Islam gives us the opportunity to think of ourselves in ways other than as physical objects doomed to die shortly without any kind of afterlife. We need to encourage people to displace that sense of 0 – 60 then we die forever, which is what appears to be the reason for the sensual pull, and to keep thinking about our spirituality which says , that our existence is in the knowledge that we are created Beings, spiritual as well as physical, which can have an afterlife just as real as this one.
With Muslims we admit to ourselves that we are looking for a marriage commitment, then when those feelings come, we have to be clear whether we are thinking about the desire for companionship or is it just the small-minded, self-indulgent pull to the body. Non Muslims tend not to see the importance of Marriage in that regard. But yet Marriage is the only real place where you can truly say to a person “Ill see you in a bigger way than physically” – the commitment in Marriage is what makes it last – not the physical stuff.
That pull to sensuality is useless. It’s not even going to help you prepare to find a right marriage partner. It’s a form of physicality that really reduces and undervalues what it is that you want to bring to Marriage – its that point that non Muslims don’t understand. That needs to be highlighted.
When we see something that’s beautiful, it should be an affirmation of God’s presence with us. That’s a very different thing than looking at someone and thinking about their physical attributes.
Host:- I often find that gays and Lesbians are very open to other religions and ideas – how do you, as a Muslim, respond to them bearing in mind that Islam has very set views on the subject?
Yusuf:- That question really is about how a person defines themselves. I think the reason why we aren’t always able to respond well to gays is because our identity will always be found in our spiritual practice. For a person to define themselves by their choice of sleeping partner is an intensely personal definition which Islamically shouldn’t really be for public consumption, but also that identity is incredibly material and doesn’t leave a lot of room for growth (in any religion). So for us the two are completely incompatible. We need to help people see themselves as created whole and perfect.
There’s nothing in Islam that would keep anybody away because of their sexual orientation. But that would never be their source of identity in our community.
Initially though there has to be a way of welcoming them, that might mean a need to agree to disagree on definition of identity. Each of us has sinful lives – we cant start throwing stones at other people. That doesn’t mean however that we endorse the lifestyle, we just need to try and explain our point of view. That issue is a sensitive one, bearing in mind cultural differences too.
Host:- Do you have any final thoughts for us?
Yusuf:- Yes, purity, purity, purity – Islam, the Koran, Hadith and the Promised Messiah’s (as) writings all talk about purity. That doesn’t just mean physical purity, but also purity of thought. To see each other (Muslim or not) as our brothers and sisters in humanity, as created beings will help a long way in seeing past their presented faults and self identification.
We need to remember we have infinite possibility. The Promised Messiah (as) tells us in the book “Our Teaching” that with Sincerity and Purity all things are possible for us.