I am asexual, aromantic, non-libidoist (no sex drive), and sex-repulsed. I have no attraction of any kind to men except rare instances of aesthetic attraction. I have never had a romantic or sexual relationship with a man, I do not want one, and I would not know how to navigate one. I am not willing or even able to have sex with a man and I do not believe I ever will be able. This is not something I can compromise on. This means that a romantic/sexual relationship with a man would be a site of oppression for me. Marriage is out of the question.
This is what it’s like being asexual and Muslim.
Marriage is not actually religiously obligatory in Islam. If you dig into enough detailed texts of jurisprudence, you’ll eventually find statements that it’s merely neutral and not even considered as recommended for people who do not experience desire. Marriage in Islam is understood largely as a way of regulating sexual desire and giving it a lawful outlet. If you don’t experience desire, you don’t have anything to regulate or need a lawful outlet for, thus the exhortation towards marriage is not really directed at you. Moreover, the “goes away from my way” saying was actually addressed to a married man who had turned away from his wife out of a misguided sense of piety. It was actually meant to say, “Your wife has a right on you, and it is part of the religion to give her her rights.” In another instance, the Prophet told a man who said he was unable to marry that it was OK to not marry and to follow a course of lifelong celibacy (the phrase translated as “castrate yourself” (!) could mean figuratively “live as a eunuch”) because God had written out that fate of inability for him (yes, I believe that God created me to be asexual).
In my searches, I also found this quote from an early mystic:
God has decreed neither marriage nor celibacy… But he has decreed integrity of heart, preservation of faith, a soul at peace, and the execution of commands needed for these… And if one’s healthful condition, integrity of heart, and peace of soul reside in celibacy, then that is better for him, since these are the things that are desired of marriage. If one can reach these without marriage, then celibacy causes no harm.
That’s talking to me right there. I could not find a healthful condition, integrity of heart, or peace of soul in marriage to a man. I take this quote as explaining the meaning of Quran 57:27, which says in part:
We [God] did not prescribe it [monasticism] for them except for seeking the good-pleasure of God.
I believe that through not subjecting myself to what would be a kind of psychic violence on me, but through pursuing a life of health, integrity and peace in celibacy, I am seeking the good-pleasure of God.
So, yes, there actually is a place for me as an asexual in Islam and I don’t need to fear that I’m somehow failing in my religion by not being able to marry.
It took me years to find the handful of texts I’ve mentioned here, to find these interpretations. Many Muslims might not know about them or agree with the way I understand them. Even if they did, that’s an awful lot of explaining to do just to justify my being 40, single, and not planning to ever marry.
And then I have to explain that stuff in the first paragraph of this post. That, yes, it is possible for some people to innately have no interest whatsoever for sex. Even a lot of Western liberals seem to have trouble with that concept, judging from some of the reactions to asexuality. That I’m not just not interested in sex but that it would actually harm me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to have to engage in it. That it’s because I am not straight, that God created some people to not be straight.
When your sexual orientation cuts you off from how your community or your society expects you to experience and express your sexuality, when you have to search for alternative interpretations and obscure texts to justify the existence of your sexual orientation and its validity within the religion, when you have to tell people that your sexual orientation is not “normal”, is not how they believe God created everybody to be, you’re queer.
I’m queer. As an asexual Muslim, I’m queer.
I’m still trying to figure out how to even have that conversation with anybody but LGBT Muslims, or if I ever will.
In the meantime, my not being married and not seeking marriage isolates me. Converts to Islam who don’t have a larger community they already belong to are often very marginalized in Muslim communities in America. Many can find a way in by marrying. But I can’t do that.
Being asexual and Muslim has often meant a profound loneliness and a silence about everything that made that loneliness. That’s a queer experience too, to be isolated and alone because of where your sexual orientation puts you, and to not be able to explain why.
And another thing is, strawberreli is pretty much the only other asexual Muslim I’ve come across even on Tumblr, except for a couple of blogs that have long since gone inactive. I’m glad I’m not the only one, but that’s really freaking lonely. I’m guessing that most of the other asexual Muslims (and yes, they exist and are out there) are like me, isolated and alone. Part of my motivation in finally writing this post is in case an asexual Muslim finds it and realizes they are not broken and not alone, not failing at the religion. There are a lot of answers I still don’t have, but I hope I can give someone that, at least.
For those of us who are rainbow identified, we are painfully aware of the fact that being queer or trans or gay or bi or a or inter… this does not exclude us from having to contend with the rollercoaster ride that is iman. The prophet Muhammad, PBUH, said that faith goes up and down. There are references in the Qur’an to things that will increase and decrease faith. There are countless books, stories, and khutbah about ways to improve our iman.
Even though this is something that all faith-havers have to deal with, it is especially difficult for LGBTQ* Muslims because if we turn to other Muslims that we trust to discuss faith and spiritual issues, we can be completely destroyed when the suggestion is to NOT be the way Allah made us.
I am a queer femme. I am also Muslim. And when I tried to have a conversation about personal issues with salaat, it was suggested to me that I leave my wife. My sexuality was mentioned as the quick fix for the problem. And to be completely honest, this was the last time I opened up to non-queer Muslims about how I was feeling.
I am, alhamdulillah, part of a queer Muslim community of people I can talk to and share with now. And fortunately, I have access to uplifting literature by some of the female Islamic scholars whose writing has really done wonders to help me through the open challenge to the patriarchal, heteronormative standards for the way we come to know and understand Islam, and Islamic knowledge.
"Reading the Signs" by Dr. Rabia T. Harris is the specific essay that has filled my heart up and done wonders to help increase my iman. This essay is in a book called "Windows of Faith" edited by Gisela Webb. If you can get your hands on it, do so. There are several works in this book that have helped me feel like I was not going crazy when I thought that it would be possible for me to be queer and Muslim.
And so with that, I’m starting to feel.. to really get why it was so important and so perfect for Allah to use “READ” as the very first command to Prophet Muhammad (SAWS)…and to us. Because it has been through reading that I was inspired to go to Jumu’ah.
In spite of the fact that I hadn’t gone in months.
In spite of the fact that the documentary I’m in is showing at several places in the country.
In spite of the fact that there are people in a community that I am no longer in community with.
There is a space for me to grow in Islam. There is a space for me to manifest my Islam in my life in a way that works best for me. And one of those ways is for me to pray the prayer of Muhammad SAWS. That prayer is the one that I’m working to establish 5 or more times a day. That prayer is the one that I like to breathe through and feel the benefits of each pose it contains. I especially like to pray when no one is around. When I’m not being rushed or dealing with the hustle and bustle of the day.
InshaAllah, I will continue to make strides in that area. InshaAllah, you will, too. May Allah make it so.
All praises due to the Lord of the worlds
That’s how our wedding ceremony started as officiated by the local female Imam. We started with the recitation of Al-Fatihah and that, alone, was wonderful. After all, in a group where Allah is remembered, Allah promises to remember that group in a better and larger gathering.
We held to the tenets of an Islamic marriage, ie contract, dowery and witnesses. We were also able to pull in our own blend of cultural to-dos, ie music, dancing and southern comfort foods.
That was last weekend.
Yesterday, we had a witnessed ceremony in the King County Courthouse in Washington State. So, in as much as possible, we have our bases covered.
All praises due to the Lord of the worlds, indeed.
Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story with us.
May Allah continue to bless you and your family <3