Sexuality > Challenges of Analyzing Homosexuality in Islam

Homosexuality is a contentious issue across different countries and within different religions. Specifically in Islam, there is no definitive condemnation of homosexuality in either the Qur’an or the hadith, which means that popular opinion is based upon interpretations of these religious texts. Additionally, biases arise due to linguistic limitations that restrict the ability of people to engage in conversations about gay Muslims. Consequently, as people in general become dependent upon Western terminology to discuss LGTBQ communities, homosexuality becomes a Western construct and Arab American homosexuals increasingly struggle to balance their Arab and LGTBQ identities.

The trailer for “A Jihad for Love” provides a brief but glimpse into the debate surrounding homosexuality in Islam. There are many conservative Muslims who believe being gay is a punishable offense; however, there are increasing numbers of progressive Muslims who believe the love of Allah is unconditional. “A Jihad for Love” is the first documentary depicting the coexistence of homosexuality and Islam. The film interviews individuals in 12 countries and provides evidence of the existence of Muslim homosexuals and their growing voice across the world, while also presenting arguments for and against homosexuality within the context of Islam.

When approaching the Qur’an for a definitive answer on the issue of homosexuality and Islam, it must be acknowledged that the text has been translated numerous times and that each translator, whether consciously or unconsciously, may make substitutions for words that carry certain nuances. For example, a translator might call a simple act a “transgression,” thereby carrying a negative connotation. Toshihiko Izutsu, a scholar of Islam, has studied the art of translation and indicates that words only have meaning in relation to other words and so during translation, words have to be manipulated in order to generate “semantic fields” through which all words create a collective discourse (Safi 205).

The textual rational for condemning homosexuality comes from the story of Lut, in which there are references to the sexual deviancies, but never a direct denunciation of homosexual relationships, depending on the translation. Similarly, each translation of the story emphasizes different aspects of the people’s corruption; perhaps their punishment was the result of their lack of hospitality or of their greed. No matter what the justification, it is also necessary to recognize the lack of a definitive punishment for such a crime in the Qur’an.

The impact of terminology on expression and analysis