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
A lot of people come to us asking for advice on coming out, specifically coming out to muslim families and parents, and how best to approach this massive hurdle that many muslims of the spectrum face. In truth, there is no one way in which to approach this matter, as each individual will have their own set of circumstances unique to them, and this will greatly affect the way that this process will work for them. Having said that, there are some universal things that can apply to many of us, and aid us in preparing best to deal with this part of our lives. These “tips” will not apply to every person word for word, of course, but they may be able to help pave your own path in revealing the truth.
Confidence in your faith and yourself
Before asking your family to accept you, you must make peace with yourself. Growing up as both queer and muslim takes its toll on many of us, especially for those that are from practising muslim families. You will feel many things both negative and positive about your place as a queer muslim. Whatever you feel, you must deal with what is raging within yourself first and foremost. This can in a lot of cases be the longest and most difficult part of the process, but if you haven’t accepted yourself, then how can you expect others to do the same? Whatever and however you may be, remember that the Almighty has created you in this way with His own hands and He makes no mistakes, which brings forth the next point:
Many of us feel isolated from our religious communities because of what we hear in the media and the masjids, and even from our own relatives and friends about islam’s stance and interpretation of non-heterosexuality. We hear stories of condemnation and punishment and of course this is disheartening, but please remember that these are interpretations of our religion by people - and there can be more than one. Read the Qur’an and study religious texts for yourself, particularly from scholars who are known for alternative viewpoints. There is a wealth of information available to those who are willing to seek it, and you may be surprised by what you find. The Qur’an is beautiful in that it may reveal a message to you that it does not for other people, and you can only find this if you study it.
Realise that you have time
For many people, discovering their sexuality is a bittersweet process that toys wildly with emotions, especially because of the young age at which it happens. This can cause someone to make rushed decisions, and coming out may seem like the most important thing in the world that has to be done straight away. This does not have to be the case, if you are young and have years ahead of you inshaAllah, it may not be necessary, or even safe, to come out until you are prepared in every way possible. It is a delicate subject that must be approached with sensitivity and caution, and is not something to be rushed into head first with no back up.
Unfortunately, we must prepare for the worst-case scenario. Nobody knows how your families/friends will react upon hearing what you have to say, even though the best person will probably be yourself, and it is essential that you have somewhere to go/someone to confide in if things go belly up and you are left stranded. If possible, ensure that you are able to support yourself if it comes down to it, and do the best you can to provide yourself with an alternative if your families are not accepting right away. Finish school and your degrees if you are doing them; save money; make friends who may be able to help you out if need be; learn of the resources available around you because regrettably, rejection happens more often than it should.
Gauge a “test” response
The topic of queerness may arise in conversation, and this can be an opportunity to find out what your families and friends stances are with regards to it. But this must be done carefully and not forced in order to minimise suspicion if it is a danger to you. It’s not a definitive indicator of a response, but you will most likely get an idea of how they feel and then how best to approach the matter.
Find the right time and place
Coming out in our communities is by no means a simple task, and it must be stressed that sensitivity and caution is key. It makes sense to leave the conversations until later if your family is going through a difficult time, or when stress levels are high, because coming out will no doubt add a level of stress that can push certain people into making rash decision that are not in your favour. If you are worried about any physical/verbal abuse, try to conduct the conversation in a public place, perhaps at a restaurant when out for a meal with your family or when going for a quiet walk in the park. This will inshaAllah help minimise the risk of violent outbursts and, if necessary, provide witnesses to any adverse outcomes.
Patience is key
Be patient with your family. They may accept you straight away in which case Alhamdulillah, but if not, you must understand that their initial response does not necessarily reflect their final attitude. It is likely that they will be hurt and confused, and may blame you or themselves. It takes time. It took time for you to accept yourself, and it will take time for them to accept you, and you should be supportive of their attempts to make sense of what you have told them. At this point perhaps space is good if that is financially/socially possible.
Many queer muslims find themselves alienated from the muslim community and this can unfortunately lead to detachment from faith as well. It is important to keep close to Allah despite what others may say, as after all your faith is between you and your creator only. Prayer is one way in which closeness to God can be established, and can reaffirm ones relationship with religion. Salaat-e-Istikhara especially is a valuable tool that we can use to help us make the difficult decisions that many of us face, especially when the line between right or wrong is blurred. Allah has all the answers that we seek and through Him you will InshaAllah find what is the best path for you.
To conclude, there is no one way to come out, and there is no one best approach, but several. Patience, caution, and sensitivity must be exercised in order to make the process of coming out safe for yourself, and easier for those you are coming out to. We pray that you are met with compassion and understanding, but if not, we hope you are able to move on without guilt, knowing that you did the best you can to convey your feelings towards the people that you love. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of you, no matter what you are going through.