Many contemporary and normative Muslim writers have brilliantly discussed the issue of homosexuality. A nuanced, intellectual answer is certainly in order and has been provided to the emotional topic. This discussion however differs from the above. It is to ascertain the “why” behind the discussion. To understand this, we need some context.
During the 1500s the reformation movement began challenging the papacy. It was a response to nationalism, the Vatican’s rigidity with philosophical thought and the abuses of power by the Church. Calvin and others promulgated the separation of Church and State in an effort to protect the citizens from abuses of power. It was thus a response to societal and authoritarian degeneration and the lack flexibility to deal with advancements. It was a unique European paradigm. Christian religion began to be reduced to a private sphere and with this came the notion of a “personal” understanding of Christian texts in effort to reconcile it with changing attitudes and societal norms.
The Jewish faith underwent the same reformation with the Jewish Haskalah, a movement which sought revision within the faith which allowed easier assimilation, through the adoption of the culture in Europe and resultant survival from the onslaught of persecution by the Europeans.
The experience of the Jews and Christians, thus was unique to their conditions.
Islam as a faith did not suffer these problems because the jurisprudence emanating from the Islamic sources of Law did not allow for abuse of power and economic inequity. Nor did it hinder intellectual development. Conversely Islam provided the catalyst for the European Enlightenment which forced Christian scholars to rethink their sciences. St. Thomas Aquinas derived much of his thought from the Andalusian Muslim Maliki scholar Ibn Rushd’s understanding of precedent, logic and physics for instance.
Subjecting it to a European-style reformation thus, is illogical due to the distinct paradigms of “reformation” on the one hand (being Euro-centric) and Islam on the other (theologically flexible and universal to the whole of humanity).
Nevertheless, a Western desire to reform Islam into an indistinct set of rituals has been strong, especially to break the connection with the Qur’an, which provides the protection mechanism necessary for a distinct Islamic society unique in its practices. It also, at a geopolitical level, provides for the Muslims globally, the spiritual connection to al-Quds, which hinders Western Zionist and neoconservative aims.
RAND’s “Democratic Islam”
Which neatly brings us to the neoconservative think tank RAND’s report on reforming Islam. To understand the contemporary debate on homosexuality and the complimentary positing of modernists and progressive “Muslims” there is a need to study the father of the current UK Government’s PREVENT policy, the RAND Corporation policy document ethnocentrically entitled “Civil Democratic Islam”. In it, the methodology suggested to deconstruct Islam into something but Islam is mentioned in some depth by its author Cheryl Bernard. She states that her approach,
“seeks to strengthen and foster the development of civil, democratic Islam and of modernization and development.” (p.47)
Traditionalists (who are more moderate than fundamentalists), she urges, should be used to “encourage disagreements between traditionalists and fundamentalists,” and alliances between them should be “discouraged”. States should
“Discriminate between different sectors of traditionalism… Encourage those with a greater affinity to modernism, such as the Hanafi law school”. (p. xii)
Of all the accusations that could be levelled at the Hanafis, the above ranks as the most ridiculous and supersedes the ignorant claim that’s Imam Abu Hanifa (rahimahullah) knew only eleven hadith. Any student of the Islamic sciences would know that the deductive strength of the Hanafi school makes it in many circumstances stricter than the other schools of Islamic jurisprudence. The fact that Bernard highlights the Hanbali school as being conservative and “backward” yet again demonstrates a) the policy-formation by ethnocentrically biased, Islamically uneducated “experts” on Islam and Muslims is grossly fallacious and b) Bernard is not exactly the scholar she makes herself out to be. The judicial principle of the presumption of continuity which is stronger in the Hanbali school and which avoids rulings on matters upon which the Qur’an and Sunnah are silent upon allows it to make some practices permissible where the Hanafi school would not.
Bernard seeks to promote the modernists over and above her other categories as modernists and progressives regard Islamic laws and the Sunnah as being inapplicable today. They are her benchmark due to their greater propensity to destroy Islam. She (erroneously) assigns the Sufis in this category (p.45).
As already highlighted, the Sufis were used and abused by PREVENT-funded “Muslim” organisations to perpetuate strife in the Muslim minority, by promoting them as the “moderate” voice. Due to the diligence of analysts and writers at that time, this backfired spectacularly and even the UK Government recognised that this was a failed policy. Nevertheless efforts to maintain the “Sufis” as the “moderate” voice have been maintained recently, especially by Quilliam Foundation in their usage of Minhaj al-Qur’an and Shaykh Tahir al-Qadri’s fatwa on terrorism, which initially contained criticisms of the foreign policy but upon launch was edited to make it more neocon compliant. It is interesting to note that this very same moderate voice highlighted it’s offence to Maajid Nawaz’s Tweet and called on him to apologise, paradoxically highlighting the fallacy of Quilliam’s usage of divisive terminology and the picking and choosing of a particular minority over and above other minorities within a minority to suit their agenda.
Due to the failures in promoting the Sufis over other groups, the stage now, as per Bernard’s suggestion is to reinforce modernist/progressive narrative and make them the face of mainstream Islam. The Government targeting of lawful, normative Islamic scholars through anti-social behaviour rhetoric (TEBOs) reinforces this notion, as does the definition of “Islamist extremism” in the PREVENT policy document which is still broad enough to target Muslims who are regarded as the mainstream.
The Deeper Implications of the Homosexuality Debate
Against the backdrop of the noise regarding homosexuality and Muslims is the constant questioning of “who speaks for the Muslims”. The “liberal” Muslims, as well as those who wish to propound the notion of an Islam “open to interpretation” seek to ask this question with an agenda to undermine the very foundations of Islam; that is Usul al-Fiqh (principles of Islamic jurisprudence) and its guardians, the Ulama. Once these two barriers are subverted, the deconstruction of Islam becomes tenable.
The Responsibility of the Ulama
Allah says in the Qur’an,
“O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you” (4:59)
The commentators from the first three generations of Islam, such as Jaabir Ibn Abdullah (radhiy Allah ‘anhu), Abdullah Ibn Abbas (radhiy Allah ‘anhu), Mujahid (rahimahullah) Ata Ibn Abu Rabah (rahimahullah), Ata Ibn as-Sa’ib (rahimahullah), Hasan Basri (rahimahullah), Abu Aaliyah (rahimahullah) and many others refer to the meaning of the “the people of authority” to refer to the Ulama.
The Prophet of Allah (sall Allahu alayhi wassalam), perhaps alluding to the present age in which Muslim “experts” without knowledge are tearing down the Usul established over 1400 years of scrupulous scholarship, said,
“Surely, Allah will not take away knowledge by removing it from the people, but He will take away the Ulama till when there are none of them left, then people will make the ignorant their chiefs. They will be asked and they will issue rulings without knowledge. Being misguided themselves, the will misguide others.” (Bukhari)
Ibn al-Munkadir (radhiy Allah ‘anhu) said,
“Truly, the scholars are between Allah and humanity, therefore be careful how you approach them”. (Abu Nu’aym, al-Hilya, 3:153)
The great tabi’i (follower of the Companions (radhiy Allah ‘anhu)) and hadith expert Sufyan ibn Uyayna (rahimahullah) said,
“The greatest people in rank are those who stand between Allah and humanity: the prophets and the scholars.” (Al-Khatib, al-Faqih, 1:35)
The Ulama, therefore are the protection mechanisms against ignorant individuals and malicious organisations distorting the Islamic faith.
Who holds the authority to Determine Right and Wrong?
The Ulama are charged with seeking the Truth on any given issue. Allah reveals in the Qur’an,
“O you who have believed, if you fear Allah, He will grant you furqan [the power of recognising right and wrong]” (8:29)
Thus belief and taqwa which entails abstinence of sin out of fear of Allah are the conditions for recognising the truth regarding any given juristic issue. Those who openly commit major sins, cannot be from amongst those from whom knowledge can be taken. That pretty much rules out most Muslim “experts”, as well as non-Muslim reformers of Islam and ex-Muslims like Maryam Namazie. Furthermore, Allah informs us regarding those whom truly fear Allah:
“Indeed among His servants, it is but the learned who fear Allah” (53:28)
In the commentary of the famous hadith, “al-Ulama warathat ‘l Ambiya” (the scholars are the heirs of the Prophets) the great classical Hadith master of the Ahl’ al-Sunnah wa ‘l Jama’, Ibn Rajab al Hanbali (rahimahullah), uses this verse and states that the learned are indeed the Ulama (Ibn Rajab, The Heirs of the Prophets, p.40).
The Ulama carry the tradition of transmission of knowledge which started from the Messenger of Allah (sall Allahu alayhi wassalam) and continue to this day through a constant chain. Modernists, and those dictated by their desires may choose to interpret the text on their own but in doing so they will conflict with the Qur’an itself.
The above explains the attacks on normative Islamic scholars in the British media as well as the government’s policy to silence them.
The Fallacy of Using “My” Interpretation to Justify One’s Actions
The strategy of the government and the media has been to posit modernists and progressives who feel they can interpret the sources of Islamic law as they see fit, as the new “moderate” face of Islam. BBC among other right-wing media have been doing this by giving air time to apostates who have nothing but hate for Islam, and those who through the discourse of “Islamism” to question “whose interpretation” is to be applied to Islamic texts. And then you also have the likes of the all-singing, all-dancing and clubbing “gay Muslim” Asifah, on BBC Three’s Free Speech (aired on 25th March 2014) also asserting the same when a sister told him to refer the verses regarding the topic of homosexuality in Surah A’raf.
The Qur’an is a guidance for the whole of humanity, and is not some play-thing to be toyed with whenever it suits one’s fancy. From the Islamic paradigm, the guidance present in the Qur’an has spiritual implications. It transcends beyond the realm of right and wrong to the spiritual dimension to what pleases Allah. Indeed the epitome of spirituality for a Muslim is the perfect adherence to the Qur’anic injunctions and the Prophetic practices not solely for society but for his or her devotion and love for Allah.
It is for this reason that rules of interpretation have been developed in the formative years of Islamic jurisprudence. It was to allow on the one hand, maintenance of the proper meanings of the Qur’an and on the other, allow for juristic deduction within the boundaries set by the Shari’ah.
To highlight the ridiculous nature of “personal interpretation” claimants, let’s look at English law. In English Law there are traditional rules which judges utilise in interpreting Acts of Parliament. Donald J. remarked in Corocraft Ltd v. Pan Maerican Airwarys Inc.  1 Q.B.622 at 638,
“The duty of the courts is to ascertain and give effect to the will of Parliament as expressed in its enactments. In the performance of this duty the judges do not act as computers into which are fed the statutes and the tiles for construction of statutes and from whom issue forth the mathematically correct answer. The interpretation of statutes is a craft as much as a science and the judges, as craftsmen, select and apply the appropriate rules as the tools of their trade.”
An example is the “Golden rule” which allows the judges to depart from the normal meaning of a word in a statute, where such a meaning would lead to a logical absurdity.
Now suppose an individual was to claim that the Act of Parliaments and Common Law were subject to “one’s own interpretation”; the result of this would be the removal of the jurisdiction of the courts and societal anarchy.
The recent smokescreen discussions around homosexuality have been entangled with the question, “who speaks for Muslims”. This is not a genuine inquiry – the British know this full well; in colonial India they would lynch resistant Ulama along the sides of the road and create Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadians to support their bloodsucking policies; they would make the Freemasonic “reformer” Muhammad Abduhu the “Grand Mufti” tasked to “modernise” Egypt. Such questioning and using the topics of homosexuality, apostasy and feminism to reinforce this question is an attempt to force a reformation in Islam. Highlighting normative Islamic stances on this as being counter to Western values, as per the RAND policy document allows for the calls for reformation to pass through the minds of the public with ease and even force some Muslims to question their position.
The reality of using personal interpretation and non-experts to determine the meanings of the Qur’an is a gross fallacy. The analogy of English law highlights the necessity of maintaining rules of interpretation as expounded by the “craftsman”, vis-à-vis, the judges who have studied and memorised case law in different fields of law, and have applied it as solicitors and barristers over decades. Not doing so would be societal suicide. To do the same with Islam by subverting the Ulama who have spent decades mastering every branch of the Islamic sciences and ripping up the very fabric of Usul al-Fiqh, would impact the transcendental physical realm and more significantly, the spiritual reality in the fate of the believers before their Lord; a spiritual suicide no less. This would be an ultimate loss.
The foolish efforts of the Bernards, Taj Hargeys, Maryam Namazies and Quilliams of this world are in essence a challenge to Allah. And Allah says,
They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah refuses except to perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it. (Al-Qur’an, 9:32)