Part 1 of the debate: Muslims, don’t support same-sex marriage

On 4th August 2010, Proposition 8, a ballot initiative whereby the California Constitution would only recognize marriage between a man and a woman, was overturned. It was a triumph for those who…well, support same-sex marriage – i.e., those on the political left. I agree with many other leftist issues, such as environmentalism. But as a Muslim, I cannot support same-sex marriage.
I am neither a lawyer nor a religious scholar, so I will not write as if I am. However, I consider myself an ordinary practicing Muslim. Yes, religion is open to different interpretations – but at the end of the day, it boils down to being a conservative force that polices our nafs (ego/base desires), teaches us right from wrong, and reminds us that there is something larger out there than us humble mortals. God created us to worship Him and remember Him; additionally, while we are here in this short dunya (worldly) life, we can look for signs to remind us of Him. Abdal Hakim Murad from the United Kingdom sums it up best in this article when he writes: “The Quran and our entire theological tradition are rooted in the awareness that the two sexes are part of the inherent polarity of the cosmos.”

We can therefore remember the infinite wonders of God through the polarity of the cosmos. I don’t 100% agree with other aspects of the article, but I do think Abdal Hakim Murad is onto something. God did not create one gender, or three, or twelve. He created two genders, just as He created other opposing dualities such as day and night, expansion and contraction, the Seen and the Unseen. We can find dualities reconciled in God, like severity and gentleness. We can find dualities reconciled within ourselves, like fear of God’s wrath and hope for God’s mercy. And we can find the dualities of male and female virtue reconciled via the avenue of marriage. Call it yin and yang if you will. Heterosexual marriage is a practice that complements the human fitrah (innate disposition) by bringing together two opposites and, if God wills it for the couple, producing future generations, and hence continuity.

In a same-sex marriage, who is the yin and yang? Same-sex marriage makes a mockery of God’s dualities. What lessons will the children of gay parents take away? It’s not that gay parents won’t be kind and loving, or any more dysfunctional than heterosexual married couples (and there are plenty of those!) It’s the very principle that is troubling. Children of gay parents will not grow up seeing a man and woman learn to get along as a married couple. Suppose there are two married lesbians, one of whom decides to get pregnant via a sperm donor. What is that child supposed to think – that Daddy’s only function is to give to the sperm bank and go on his merry way? Who needs a father when you can have two mothers! (Or – who needs a mother when you can have two adoptive fathers!) I should add here that, to my knowledge, most Islamic scholars deem (non-husband) sperm donation to be impermissible.

Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at The Evergreen State College, writes:

“Heterosexuals were the upstarts who turned marriage into a voluntary love relationship rather than a mandatory economic and political institution…Gays and lesbians simply looked at the revolution heterosexuals had wrought and noticed that with its new norms, marriage could work for them, too. The first step down the road to gay and lesbian marriage took place 200 years ago, when Enlightenment thinkers raised the radical idea that parents and the state should not dictate who married whom, and when the American Revolution encouraged people to engage in ‘the pursuit of happiness,’ including marrying for love.”

Indeed. The very notion of gay marriage was founded on the modern conceptualization of marriage as an individualistic love relationship rather than a practicality, and we have straight people to thank for leading the way on that. I believe that basing marriage on secular love and romance does a great disservice to that which constitutes half our deen (religion.) If you think of (straight) marriage as a playground for pursuing romantic love, then you can’t blame gays and lesbians for wanting to do the same. But marriage is about so much more than “love,” and to base it primarily on love is to render it extremely fragile, burdened with tremendous expectations. If you can marry someone for love, you can also divorce them on the grounds of not being “in love” with them anymore. A key criterion should be compatibility in terms of deen. I believe there is a place for love in marriage – but it’s the kind of love that can only grow after you’ve considered all the logistics and practicalities, gone through with the nikkah (marriage), and lived together for many years as male and female polarities, united as a family, spawning future generations not with sperm donors or surrogate mothers, but the good old-fashioned way that it’s been done for millenia.

It is for these reasons that I believe Muslims should not support same-sex marriage. Having said that, I don’t believe that Muslims should devote all their time trying to stop same-sex marriage from being legally recognized. I just think that our energies, as Muslim Americans, would be better spent elsewhere, neither pushing for legal recognition of same-sex marriage nor actively opposing it.
This article was originally printed as part of The Goatmilk Debates at Wajahat Ali’s blog, Goatmilk. A counter-argument will be published here Monday.


  • OmarG says:

    If polygamists were smart, they’d support gay marriage since defeating “*One* man, _One_ woman” opens the door to someday legalizing polygamy. If you do it for one group on the grounds on Constitutionality, why not for another. Funny how people want for themselves what they seek to deny from others; the heights of selfishness. On the flip side, I mentioned this to a supporter of gay marriage, and he said the same thing about what good for him is not good for polygamists. Each person must be a universe unto themselves, meh.

  • unregb says:

    Where is this “polarity” that you see? Day and Night? What about dawn and dusk and everything in between? Expansion and Contraction? These are movements that cannot be graded- and then what about the moment between the two? There is a spectrum, and things never fall into binaries the way you suggest.
    We have been blessed with an infinite variation of things, gender included, not polar opposites, and the world is not based on a binary system.

  • Wallada says:

    There are many things one could say about this shallow article, but I’ll limit myself to three:

    -Why no mention of LGBTQ Muslim perspectives? Surely you didn’t write the article without AT THE VERY LEAST reading up on the various ways that LGBTQ Muslims see this issue, or (gasp!) talking to some? Organizations for queer Muslims have been in existence in North America since the 1990’s—isn’t it about time that straight Muslims stopped pontificating about issues such as equal marriage as though only their opinions on the matter exist?

    -If marriage is “half of our religion,” what are lesbian and gay Muslims to do? Try to live celibate lives, although Muslim community life doesn’t support singlehood, and realistically, most people can’t manage a lifetime of celibacy? Marry unsuspecting straights, and watch the drama and wreckage of innocent lives unfold? Enough of the latter has happened already.

    -Like it or not, there are LGBTQ Muslim marriages and families already exist. There are also LGBTQ Muslims who already have children—sometimes from previous straight relationships, sometimes through adoption, and sometimes through various donor/surrogacy arrangements.
    We already exist; get over it. Now, do you have anything to say to us and our Muslim children other than “haraam”?

    How about working on formulating a constructive response instead?

  • tucompay1976 says:

    “God did not create one gender, or three, or twelve. He created two genders, just as He created other opposing dualities such as day and night, expansion and contraction, the Seen and the Unseen.”

    Actually, God didn’t create gender.  I believe you mean “male” and “female” and even that is a debatable idea.  They are not “polarities.” On the contrary, many men (sex) exhibit “feminine” behaviors (gender) and vice versa.  The idea of ying/yang, night/day, blah blah blah is outdated and untenable.  We should avoid such simplistic cliches.

    As others have already stated, there are a host of issues with this article.  I will limit myself to one: rights.

    We have to ask ourselves whether we as Muslims can support the rights of individuals to do something even if it is something that we don’t agree with (assuming we don’t, of course).  If you are a Muslim who believes that gay marriage is a “sin,” then you obviously cannot enter a gay marriage.  That being said, we need to understand the basis for saying that (1) someone who is not Muslim (2) and does not believe that gay marriages are sinful and (3) wants to enter a gay marriage does not deserve our support for their rights to do so. 

    (1) Assuming that US law is driven by secular principles of individual rights, and (2) assuming that Muslims, in virtue of their citizenship and willingness to live in the US agree to promote those principles, I think Muslims can support gay marriages. 

    Consider the analogy, many Christian and Muslim women who do not believe that having an abortion is always a moral choice will nevertheless support a woman’s right to have one.  An individual can support the rights of others without necessarily condoning the practice.

  • Muslimah_Pleez says:

    “If you can marry someone for love, you can also divorce them on the grounds of not being ‘in love’ with them anymore.”

    Since traditional scholars agree that a Muslim man may divorce his wife for any reason or for no reason at all, I’m not sure what point the author is trying to make with this statement.

  • shariati says:

    Actually, God did create many genders—there’re really very few dualities in this case, more of a spectrum (just like night and day). You might want to talk to a biologist some time. In fact, the rate of chromosomal anomalies resulting in someone being (more or less undetectably) mixed gender is shockingly high (most people will never know it).

    Try cracking a book periodically instead of hating on another marginalized group to make us Muslims seem more palatable—the same people hate both groups, for God’s sake.

  • shariati says:

    Oh, and I love the courage it took to post that bit of bigotry anonymously.

  • OmarG says:

    @Wallada: normally I don’t give much thought to the issue. However, one thing I can say is that this in-your-face, shove-it-down-our-throats thing does actually irritate me. Although I sympathize and would rather not say one way or the other, I don’t think you will change the Islamic cultural and *religious* attitudes towards homosexuality. Not just anytime soon, but ever. You will always exist almost wholly in the secular realm. While I do hope that people will not mistreat you and that you find acceptance among your family members who are Muslim, that is likely the farthest extent you will get in Islam.

  • Khaalidah says:

    Homosexuality is haram.  Therefore why would you expect a practicing Muslim to support any proposition that sanctions it?

    @OmarG, sorry, but comparing God sanctioned polygamy is not comparable to sanctioning homosexual marriage.  Apples and oranges. 

    “If polygamists were smart,”  Really?  Who says that they aren’t?  We live in an anything goes society nowadays, and when ever someone stands for their faith and the rules of their faith people get all up in arms.

  • OmarG says:

    If polygamists is the US were smart, they wouldn’t draw attention to themselves breaking the law…

  • observer2 says:

    Hi all,

    I???m a non-Muslim interested in reading about different perspectives on issues of import to the Muslim community.

    Why would Muslims choose to ally themselves with conservative politics when there is so much more to be gained by standing with progressives? It sounds like you???re cutting off the nose to spite the face. I find that to be one of the most confusing things about Islam in America from this article: that you want to gain respect for being a conservative social force when the Right in America constantly plays off fear of Islam and Muslims to get votes.

    On a site that seems to collect so many intelligent students, lawyers, engineers, etc., why not stand with a faction that includes those who promote tolerance, rather than standing with a faction that appeals to factionalism and discrimination?

  • observer2 says:

    Katseye, my comment wasn’t clear. I shouldn’t have used a blanket “Muslims”. My comment was intended for Muslims taking the view of the article, that Islam is a conservative force and should naturally ally itself with conservative America.

    I understand that Muslims are as politically diverse as everyone else (just from reading the comments and the stories, many of which I couldn’t read about elsewhere), but I was just questioning specifically why conservative Muslims would identify with conservative America, which, from my viewpoint, seems to be playing itself up on fear of Muslims.

    Sorry for not being clear.

  • katseye says:


    I think you can tell from reading through the comments that Muslims are as politically diverse as everyone else. There are alot of progressive Muslims and even a group with that as part of it’s title.

    Gay and Muslim bashing happen to be politically chic right now with the Republicans. It’s scary how many people blindly follow.

  • Milana says:

    I don`t support the same-sex marriages too. I have written an essay on this topic write my essay

  • spidereman says:

    I commented on the part 2 of this topic that I didn’t want to read part 1, and I kinda wish I hadn’t.

    I almost want to write a full response to each one of the author’s points. But I feel the view of marriage is mechanical, unrealistic and very unhealthy. I’m not even going to touch the same-sex marriage in this…my comment on the MMK article clearly defines my view. I’m more worried about the author’s view of Muslim Marriages.

    Love is a foundation of all marriages including Muslim marriages. The author said, “A key criterion should be compatibility in terms of deen.”  Deen isn’t used for compatibility, but deen (for women) is the criterion that one should use to determine the merit of a person. And for men the criterion is taqwa. But if a potential spouse has deen/taqwa, there still needs to be the potential to love that person, and there needs to be the seed for that love to “grow” as you say. But if the seed isn’t there, doesn’t matter how much deen or taqwa there is.

    God said he made love and mercy between spouses and a marriage can’t survive without either.

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