The Secret Gay History Of Islam

The Secret Gay History Of Islam

Originally published on gaystarnews.com

Islam once considered homosexuality to be one of the most normal things in the world.

The Ottoman Empire, the seat of power in the Muslim world, didn’t view lesbian or gay sex as taboo for centuries. They formally ruled gay sex wasn’t a crime in 1858.

But as Christians came over from the West to colonize, they infected Islam with homophobia.

The truth is many Muslims alive today believe the prophet Muhammad supported and protected sexual and gender minorities.

But go back to the beginning, and you’ll see there is far more homosexuality in Islam than you might have ever thought before.

Ancient Muslim borrowed culture from the boy-loving Ancient Greeks

The Islamic empires, (Ottoman, Safavid/Qajar, Mughals), shared a common culture. And it shared a lot of similarities with the Ancient Greeks.

Persianate cultures, all of them Muslim, dominated modern day India and Arab world. And it was very common for older men to have sex with younger, beardless men. These younger men were called ‘amrad’. Once these men had grown their beard (or ‘khatt’), they then became the pursuer of their own younger male desires.

And in this time, once you had fulfilled your reproductive responsibilities as a man, you could do what you like with younger men, prostitutes and other women.

Society completely accepted this, at least in elite circles. Iranian historian, Afsaneh Najmabadi writes about how official Safavid chroniclers would describe the sexual lives of various Shahs, the ruling class, without judgment.

There was some judgment over ‘mukhannas’. These were men (some researchers consider them to be transgender or third gender people) who would shave their beards as adults to show they wished to continue being the object of desire for men. But even they had their place in society. They would often be used as servants for prophets.

“It wasn’t exactly how we would define homosexuality as we would today, it was about patriarchy,” Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, a gay imam who lives in Marseilles, France, told GSN. “It was saying, ‘I’m a man, I’m a patriarch, I earn money so I can rape anyone including boys, other slaves and women.’ We shouldn’t idealize such antique culture.’

Paradise included Male Virgins, not just Female ones

There is nowhere in the Qu’ran that states the ‘virgins’ in paradise are only female. The ‘hur’, or ‘houris’, are female. They have a male counterpart, the ‘ghilman’, who are immortal young men who wait and serve people in paradise.

‘Immortal [male] youths shall surround them, waiting upon them,’ it is written in the Qu’ran. ‘When you see them, you would think they are scattered pearls.’

Zahed says you should look at Ancient Muslim culture with the same eyes as Ancient Greek culture.

“These amrads are not having sex in a perfectly consenting way because of power relationships and pressures and so on,” he said. “However, it’s not as heteronormative as it might seem at first. There’s far more sexual diversity.”

Sodom and Gomorrah is not an excuse for Homophobia in Islam

Like the Bible, the Qu’ran tells the story of how Allah punished the ancient inhabitants of the city of Sodom. Two angels arrive at Sodom, and they meet Lot who insists they stay the night in his house. Then other men learn about the strangers, and insist on raping them.

While many may use this as an excuse to hate gay people, it’s not. It’s about Allah punishing rape, violence and refusing hospitality.

Historians often rely on literary representations for evidence of history. And many of the poems from ancient Muslim culture celebrate reciprocal love between two men. There are also factual reports saying it was illegal to force your way onto a young man.

The punishment for a rape of a young man was caning the feet of the perpetrator, or cutting off an ear, Najmabadi writes. Authorities are documented as carrying these punishments out in Qajar Iran.

Lesbian Sex used as a ‘Cure’

Fitting a patriarchal society, we know very little about the sex lives of women in ancient Muslim culture. But ‘Sihaq’, translated literally as ‘rubbing’, is referenced as lesbian sex.

Sex between two women was decriminalized in the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, probably because it was deemed to have very little importance.

Physicians believed lesbianism developed from a hot itch on a woman’s vulva that could only be soothed by another woman’s sexual fluid. This derived from Greek medicine.

Much later, the 16th century Italian scientist Prosper Alpini claimed the hot climate caused ‘excessive sexual desire and overeating’ in women. This caused a humor imbalance that caused illnesses, like ‘lesbianism’. He recommended bathing to ‘remedy’ this. However, because men feared women were having sex with other women at private baths, many husbands tried to restrict women from going.

Lesbian ‘Marriage’ and Legendary Couples

In Arabic folklore, al-Zarqa al-Yamama (‘the blue-eyed woman of Yamama’) fell in love with Christian princess Hind of the Lakhmids. When al-Zarqa, who had the ability to see events in the future, was crucified, it was said the princess cut her hair and mourned until she died.

Many books, especially in the 10th century, celebrated lesbian couples. Sapphic love features in the Book of Salma and Suvad; the Book of Sawab and Surur (of Justice and Happiness); the Book of al-Dahma’ and Nisma (of the Dark One and the Gift from God).

“In palaces, there is evidence hundreds of women established some kind of contract. Two women would sign a contract swearing to protect and care for one another. Almost like a civil partnership or a marriage,” Zahed said. “Outside of these palaces, this was also very common. There was a lot of Sapphic poetry showing same-sex love.”

As Europeans colonized these countries, depictions of lesbian love changed.

Samar Habib, who studied Arabo-Islamic texts, says the Arab epic, One Thousand and One Nights, proves this. He claims some stories in this classic show that non-Muslim women preferred other women as sexual partners. But the ‘hero’ of the tale converts these women to Islam, and to heterosexuality.

Muhammad protected Trans People

“Muhammad housed and protected transgender or third gender people,” Zahed said. “The leader of the Arab-Muslim world welcomed trans and queer people into his home. If you look at the traditions some use to justify gay killings, you find much more evidence – clear evidence – that Muhammad was very inclusive. He was protecting these people from those who wanted to beat them and kill them.”

This, for Zahed, is what he considers a true Muslim.

“What should we do if we call ourselves Muslims now? Defend human rights, diversity and respect identity. If we trust the tradition, he was proactively defending sexual and gender minorities, and human rights.”

How Patriarchy transformed Islam

Europeans forced their way into the Muslim world, either through full-on colonialism, like in India or Egypt, or economically and socially, like in the Ottoman Empire. They pushed their cultural practices and attitudes on to Muslims, through which modern Islamic fundamentalism flourished.

While the Ottoman Empire resisted European culture at first, hence gay sex being allowed in 1858, nationalization soon won out. Two years later, in 1870, India’s Penal Code declared gay sex a crime. LGBTI Indians are still fighting this law and living with its consequences today.

But what is it like to be colonized? And why did homophobia get so much more extreme?

“With the West coming in and colonizing, they think we are lazy and passive and weak,” Zahed said.

“As Arab men, we have to be more powerful and virile and manly. Modern German history is like that, showing how German nationalization rose after [defeat in] the First World War. It’s tribalism, it’s the same problem. It’s about killing everyone against my tribe. I’m going to kill the weak. I’m going to kill anyone who doesn’t fulfill this aggressive nationalistic stereotype.”

Considering the male-dominant society already existed, it was easy for the ‘modern’ patriarchy to end up suppressing women and criminalizing LGBTI lives.

“In the early 20th century, Arabs were ashamed of their ancient history,” Zahed added. “They tried to purify it, censor it, to make it more masculine. There had to be nothing about femininity, homosexuality or anything. That’s how we got to how we are today.”

What would Muhammad think about LGBTI Rights?

Muhammad protected sexual and gender minorities, supporting those at the fringes of society. And if Muslims are to follow in the steps of early Islamic culture and the prophet’s life, there is no reason Islam should oppose LGBTI people.

For Zahed, an imam, this is what he considers a true Muslim.

“What should we do if we call ourselves Muslims now? Defend human rights, diversity and respect identity. If we trust the tradition, he was proactively defending sexual and gender minorities, and human rights.’

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16 Comments

  1. Mandy
    October 20, 08:09 Reply

    Wait a minute, Christianity also polluted the Muslim world with homophobia? Lol. Dear god, was Christianity ever a force for anything but hate back in the day?

  2. Foxydevil
    October 20, 08:45 Reply

    I was finding the article really interesting till I got to the part that the writer said the Christians corrupted them ??????
    How laughable is this?
    This seems like another “let’s bash the Christians ” article.
    Christianity is always the easy target.
    You can insult Jesus Christ, make mockery of the Bible and tear the lord a new one and you’ll will still go Scot free, but try that with Islamic religion and you will either lose a body part or be blown apart in your sleep.
    Most self proclaimed gay activists insult and berate the Christian religion about their gay stance yet will never breath a word to condemn the Islamic law.
    Now who is the main offender, the one who puts people to death when they are caught or the one that merely condemns them?

    Let’s take a look at the points you enumerated, I’ll be looking at yours and be adding some of mine because I’ve once carried out a superlative research on this same topic .
    The names might have been lost to me but the events certainly aren’t.

    Point 1……there was no Marriage Equality . ….. Yes, the early Islam supported gay relationships to a degree but people of the same gender weren’t still allowed to marry ,an older male took a young gay man as his sex mate ,but this was merely an advanced term for sex slavery. The young man in question wasn’t allowed ambition or titles, he lived vicariously to please his master and was then discarded when he got older for a younger replacement.

    The culture of rape and Child Abuse….. Two prominent Islamic leaders during the period you mentioned put two very good looking young men to death because they rejected their advances ( not really surprised your article found a way to miss that ) sex with men then was not based on pleasure or desire but an advanced form of power play.
    In “house of cards ” Underwood One of my favorite TV character said ” a great man once said that everything in life is about sex, sex itself is all about power ”
    I find the statement false but I couldn’t agree more on this instance.

    3 The virgins and the cup bearers…. Yes, at some point the Islam believed, that there were also men up for offer in their heaven.
    But these men didn’t have the same role as the women there, while the women would assume the functions of wives or concubines ….however you please ,the men would still be serving boys, pleasing their masters whenever he wished and running errands in heaven.

    Alexander the great a famed bisexual, never took the men he loved in the ass .It was believed then that penetrative sex was a sort of objectification and subjugation, that a man should never do it to people he valued. Alexander then had to fuck his lover between the thighs.
    That same theory applied in the same Islam acceptability you are flaunting…..
    Men who valued one another, if they happened to fall in love, avoided sex all together or didn’t engage in penetrative sex.
    Penetrative sex was mostly reserved for women and men regarded as lower creatures or gauged on a much smaller propensity.
    Not surprised your article found a way to miss that too.

    In conclusion…..
    It is sad that most gay men don’t even understand homophobia.
    Much broader light needs to be shined here.
    I also understand that supports are too far and inbetween. People will cling to anything veiled as acceptance, but let us not devalue ourselves in a desperate effort to lapse up support of any kind.
    Some people’s sole understanding of the gay terminology is spreading their ass cheeks to every wandering dick and inserting their manhood at every available hole….
    Some of the blossoming youths have been misguided …
    Some see sex as a religion …
    We on our own parts as the older ones in this gay community must insert value in what we do by providing stronger role models for the growing ones.
    Sharing stories of acceptance that gives value to what we do and who we are.
    How can anyone take us seriously when we don’t even take ourselves seriously.
    A little crumb of bread is invaluable when you are dying of hunger….
    But make it your daily diet and you’ll end up begging on the streets.
    I’d rather have a loaf .
    And if I have to invent my special kind of flour and grain, then so be it.
    That makes me arrogant (I know)
    But believe me I’m worth it ?
    ?.

    • Pink Panther
      October 20, 09:14 Reply

      Did you counter this piece’s validity from a place of research or is your protestation simply because it offended your delicate Christian sensibilities?

      • Foxydevil
        October 20, 09:59 Reply

        I’ve never been a Christian.
        I was born into traditional religion and now I practice Hinduism.
        I respect all religions and I believe we all are serving the same God in different ways.
        I’ve attended Christan churches though( mostly for weddings) ,I’ve read the Bible and I’ve read bits of the Qur’an .
        Anymore question pinkilicious beauty?

    • posh666
      October 20, 09:29 Reply

      All these anger and attack is misdirected if you ask me. He only wrote his piece based on his own research and he’s just human and not perfect.

      Instead of venting all your frustration on him like he’s the cause of homosexuality not being accepted.Why not write your own article too?in addition to his,to educate us better on the parts he left out which I’m sure wasn’t deliberate.

      • Foxydevil
        October 20, 10:00 Reply

        With that name, I can’t take anything you say seriously.
        ?

        • posh666
          October 20, 11:29 Reply

          I’m sure whatever you are going through you will be fine eventually….An angry person like you once existed here on Kd but with time he found healing and a bit of happiness. Now he’s busy with his life selling his little phone cases online.

          Just search your soul and discover what makes you so angry at the entire human race….From there your healing begins.

      • Pepe
        October 20, 10:31 Reply

        Foxydevil made a valid point. There is no need for a separate article to be written.

        • Foxydevil
          October 20, 12:30 Reply

          Thank you Pepe.
          Finally someone agrees with me.

      • Foxydevil
        October 20, 12:29 Reply

        And here you still are…
        Why haven’t you found your peace of mind and career options?
        Apparently the young man found healing and subsequently found a career path and has moved on to be of value to himself and his society.
        Yet here you are….
        You were there when he was broken .
        You were there when he mended .
        And you were there when he moved on .
        Yet you stagnate still….
        Telling stories of other people’s triumph whilst still defeated .
        Even the name your moniker bears, tells me everything I need to know about you.
        When you can tell the difference between happiness and joy ,
        Tranquility and peace of mind ,
        Pleasure and indulgence,
        Then we can talk.

        • Pankar
          October 20, 15:17 Reply

          Pepe is just another moniker for you. We ve noticed you login differently to support yourself most times. Not bad..

          • Foxydevil
            October 20, 15:29 Reply

            You must be a very stupid senseless person.

            • Pankar
              October 22, 00:18 Reply

              Ouch! Point taken I’m sure?

  3. trystham
    October 20, 19:17 Reply

    While I do not in the least disbelieve the inherent homphobia in Christianity, I think the writer must not have made clear distinctions between the uppity English and their prudish sexual lives and Christianity. Those guys had a way of even corrupting the Italians and begrudging their very active sexual lives.

    That said, Islam doesn’t seem so different from a few African cultures and Greco-Roman cultures as far as having boy-toys and catmint es are concerned

  4. Arabian Princess
    October 21, 07:29 Reply

    As a Muslim, I believe the article is just looking for ways to fit homosexuality into Islam.. two concepts that don’t mix. the Quran and Muhammad curses men who dress as women and vice versa…
    Muhammad in hadith bukhari explicitly states that effeminate men should be chased out of the house..so all these twisting and twisting…i don’t understand

  5. Yazz Soltana
    October 22, 01:14 Reply

    I just have to contribute. ..
    In the beginning of Prophet Muhammad’s message alcohol was legal it was later it was totally banned… You could drink it but not before coming to the mosque.. ..
    So also a cross dresser used to enter the prophets b
    House and used to enter the female section he was friends with the wives of the prophet..
    Then the loud mouthed distance cousin-sister of Bobrisky was oneday describing the nudity of another lady and the prophet banned him from coming to his house.. ..
    And because the most little actions of the prophet become law.. .it became accepted not to allow cross dressers In your house… .

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