An eight-minute clip of Professor Tim Winter, better known as Abdal Hakim Murad, a Cambridge lecturer and a Director of Studies at Wolfson College, went viral last week wherein he referred to homosexuality as an “inexplicable aberration”. It was taken from a video at a rihla he held seventeen years ago. Rated number 50 on the Muslim 500 list of the most influential Muslims in the world, he discussed at length the Sharia's 'emphatic, unqualified condemnation and prohibition of all forms of homosexual behaviour'. What followed were calls from LGBT students, and political pundits for the dismissal of Sheikh Abdul-Hakim Murad from his occupation teaching Islamic Studies at Cambridge University (a post he started 16 years ago).
In a statement issued by the Sheikh on 05 May 2013, he withdrew his comments in the video clip and apologised for his angry demeanor in the said video.
The Sheikh also drew attention to the widespread political posturing against Islam’s ‘homophobia’:
“Much of Europe is rushing to embrace a new far-right Islamophobia in which the ‘alternative sexualities’ issue is used as a tool to demonise us. The liberal elites have said nothing about this. Instead of worrying about the far-right millions who want to deport us, they hyperventilate when a Muslim peacefully states his opposition to a particular sexual practice, without calling for any kind of persecution.”
The above incident gives rise to related issues:
(i) In our post-9.11 world there is a fear toward recrimination for an unapologetic stance on anything ‘fundamental’ - lest we be called backward, patriarchal or misogynistic - be it about homosexuality, adultery, polygamy, hijab or the concept of the mahram etc.
This is related to a point raised by Abdullah Al Andalusi in an article titled: Sheikh Abdul-Hakim Murad falls victim to the hypocrisy of Liberal ‘tolerance’- wherein he gets to grips with the hypocritical nature of societies who purport ‘freedom’ ‘tolerance’ and ‘liberalism’. It is also a scathing eye-opener for those who try to shift the fundamentals of Islam toward a more ‘liberal’ or ‘free’ stance.
“The question is never asked as to why did he have to apologise for the expression of his opinion in a supposedly free society? Of course we know why, free society is not actually free, but merely comprised of a different set of taboos from other kinds of society. These taboos are not all necessarily enforced by legal action but rather they are enforced by a more powerful, and more tyrannical means of suppressing dissent – the Liberal use of social stigma. Liberalism has found a more ‘politically correct’ way to silence dissent. It threatens people with losing their jobs, and pressures halls, universities and community centres to not host illiberal views on their platforms.”
(ii) In recent years more discussions of Islam, gender identity and sexuality have emerged. To engage or counter such discourse intelligently, empathically and respectfully, without treating the affected as sub-human is a challenge facing many scholars and parents.
“The inclination is not a sin, since an intention that is not acted upon is not sinful. A person who struggles with his inclination will be rewarded. Perhaps he will reach Paradise before you and I.”
“Acting-out of this desire however is a sin: this is known by ijma and to deny it is fisq. In this we agree with the great majority of classical orthodox believers in other religions. We should not be intimidated and bullied into failing to state this ruling.” (Sh. AH Murad)
Many people raise the objection that classical Arab literature is replete with homoerotic themes, so there is nothing wrong with playing along or ignoring these infractions, as they are ancient and harmless. They even go as far as saying ibn Hazm (ra) was a congenital homosexual. These allegations are obviously denounced in his chapters titled “The Vileness of Sinning”.
Though people may choose to self-identify as a Muslim GBLTQ (gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, questioning) - physically expressing such sexual orientations is a clear transgression of both Islamic law and Islamic morality. Likewise to leave such in inclinations unchecked or to feed them exposes one to the vulnerability of haraam. To offer counsel; compassion and care; to undo what has been indoctrinated, or choices that have been made without employing vileness is part of sabr and Ummah building. In doing so we need not fear backlash or be apologetic. What Sh.Abdel Hakim Murad essentially apologised for was not the Islamic stance, but his manner of attack and his use of unsubstantiated information seventeen years earlier.
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