Friday, November 21, 2008

Homosexuality Unnatural?

This post by Hamza Tzortzi offers an interesting perspective on the topic of homosexuality and how it is viewed in Islam; excerpts below:

In the recent division within the Anglican Church, several Bishops expressed the view that homosexuality is “unnatural” because it does not occur in other species. One may ask ‘are not human beings part of nature?’

What does nature have to do with anything anyway? Is it natural to wear clothes, drive cars, use money or fire satellites into orbit? Other species don’t do that
either. Should we therefore refrain from space travel as our sons hamster has
not reached the moon?


What relevance does natural or unnatural have on the actions of man. Such arguments have no rational extension.

Islam takes a different stance on sexuality. Islam sees the human being as a human being and so treats our human problems in an exclusively human way. From an Islamo-psychological perspective the human being has instincts, drives and needs. Failing to satisfy our instincts and drives can lead to misery and so the suppression of “human nature” is seen as oppressive.

Therefore, brilliant medieval Islamic scholars described human nature including in it three core instincts: procreation, survival and sanctification. These encompass all human drives. So it was Islam which, many years before the likes of Freud and
Jung, actually announced the liberating position on who we are and said “it’s ok to be human.” So Muslims do not claim that homosexuality is unnatural.

However, Islam just like any other way of life has a frame of reference. Most Western countries have laws that prevent the sexual abuse of children, polyandry and cannibalism. If it were argued that these crimes were really an expression of human nature, most would reject them as completely inappropriate actions.

Islam, like many other spiritual traditions, argues that homosexuality is not the right way to manifest the instinct of procreation. It is a behaviour that negates the Islamic vision of society which is one of extended families connected by marriage between men and women. Hence Islam has viewed the public expression of homosexuality as a crime and as a result has placed a mechanism in which to protect its vision for society.

This doesn’t mean that homosexuals are to be seen as anything other than human. The Islamic tradition argues that one must be just and express sincere kindness to all people. Homosexuality is just one of many sexual practices that do not fit with the Islamic vision of society such as sex outside of marriage, wife-swapping and swingers parties! Many Muslims have had their own internal struggles with expressing their procreation instinct. With their conviction in the Islamic way of life, they have successfully re-constructed their dispositions to be in line with what they love, agree with and submit to - Islam.

Some people object to Islam making the public expression of homosexuality a criminal act. This is subjective and only strikes a chord amongst those who cannot escape the social constructs in their own societies.

Continue here

I'm not sure I agree with his whole natural vs. unnatural argument (afterall, can't we say that the majority is the natural and creatures such as cannibalists are exceptions?). More importantly, I'm not sure if his statement: "Islam takes a different stance on sexuality" is completely accurate. Are there not other authentic opinions? I seem to remember hearing the unnatural argument from some Muslim teachers/scholars, but I may be wrong.

Hat tip: Marya Bangee


Hamza Andreas Tzortzis said...

Salaam, thank you for posting the article. The article was aimed at non-Muslim, however your comments are correct hence I have added a note at the top of the article to set the context and differentiate between the classical understanding of 'fitra' and what western philosophers mean by nature and natural. Below is the note, maybe you can add it too:

[A note for Muslim readers: Please note that the tern natural used in this article is different from the Islamic concept of 'fitra', meaning pure disposition. What is meant by natural in this article are actions capable by human beings. To suggest something is unnatural with regards to human behaviour is logically incoherent; as this would indicate that actions such as homosexuality are beyond naturalistic explanation. From my perspective, the best way to describe homosexuality within an Islamic context is that these actions are incongruent with the pure disposition of man i.e. his 'fitra' - which is technically different from the tern natural.]

Huda Shaka` said...

Thank you for the clarification