Islam in revolt: evolution and homosexuality

Islam, being the youngest of the three Abrahamic religions, has had the least amount of time to evolve, or “regenerate” as Martin Lings, the English writer and biographer of the Prophet Mohammed, once put it. And it’s strikingly evident: while Christianity has accepted, and welcomed debate around, homosexuality and Darwin’s evolution theory, it pales besides the resistance of change within Islam. However, for the first time in Islam’s 1400-year history, these issues are finally being openly discussed, and rightly so.

In January 2013, a groundbreaking event will be taking place in Central London: the first open-debate about Islam and evolution, entitled ‘Have Muslims misunderstood evolution’? What’s more, the event has been organised by the British-based organization The Deen Institute, which was founded earlier this year. The institute sets out to “revive intellectuality within the Muslim community”, bridge the gap between “Islam and Western civilization” and respond to the ubiquity of militant atheists.

imgres-1Usama Hasan, a London-based Islamic scholar and scientist, who received death threats in 2011 when he said Islam was compatible with evolution, will be at the debate, along with: Dr Oktar Babuna, a leading Turkish creationist; Fatima Jackson, an African-American biologist and Yasir Qadhi, an American-based Islamic scholar.

However, things are never straight forward. The debate has come under fire by many Muslims opposing the event, many of whom are literal creationists. The event had to be re-located from Imperial College, London to a conference centre owned by the University of London. The opposition against the event is symptomatic of the way many Muslims across the world, in particular those who follow the neo-Salafi tradition, feel that they should not question the status-quo.

According to Hasan, it’s not until recently that Muslims have had a problem with evolution. It happened, Hasan says, when Islam began to be dominated by literalism in latter part of the 20th century. He puts some of the blame on Harun Yahya, a Turkish Islamic creationist, for his “Christian fundamentalist ideas”, which have been disseminated throughout the Muslim world.

scottkugleIf dealing with evolution wasn’t enough, Islam now has to handle the sensitive yet inescapable issue of homosexuality. (Yes, it has been a long time coming). Muslim LGBT groups are popping up across the globe, from Arab countries to the U.S. and U.K – and many are asking for change within the religion. One of those seeking change is the gay, Muslim, Scott Kugle (who you can read more about here). It was also announced last month that a gay-friendly mosque was opening in Paris, France.

But what are the reasons for such change and development within Islam? There are, of course, a plethora of reasons. Modernity and secularism have brought such issues to the surface; rapid scientific advancements, especially in the field of biology and evolution; the decline in religion and the upsurge in atheism, including the popularity of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris et al; social media, with its widespread transmission of all sorts of information and, possibly, the overthrow of western colonies in the 20th century Arab world.

If Muslims want general perceptions of them and their religion changed, they must encourage dialogue and debate, not reject it. The Quran repeatedly encourages critical thinking and rumination. Therefore shunning debate around some of the most pertinent and controversial issues of our time is akin to rejecting a key Quranic message. However, to say Islam is the only religion resistant to change is prejudicial. The Church of England, too, has its fair share of problems: most recently, of course, the vote against female clergy becoming bishops and its opposition to gay marriage.

It is in the interests of all Muslims to have these debates. Extremism and violence, which some Muslims exhibit towards those of other belief-systems, often manifests from ignorance. If debates around evolution and homosexuality can’t produce the answers those on opposing sides want, they will at least prompt questioning of what it is to be a Muslim and, most importantly, encourage tolerance and inclusivity.



Add yours →

  1. omar shahid you are qadiani ( trompeur- no-muslim)

  2. @ Imam Abdullah, where did you get this figure that only 1 in 5 Muslims go mosque because it doed not meet their standard? I find this absurd, my local mosque is Australia has always been full especially on Friday and we need multiple sessions to accommodate all the worshippers.
    @ Omar, evolution is just a theory, if someone chooses to believe it or not it’s up to them. For example natural selection makes
    sense to me but the idea of humans and other
    primates having one common ancestor is still debatable. For example have scientists found skeletal remains of this common ancestors, I don’t think so.

    Also, what does the LBGT agenda w
    ant from mainstream Muslims? If you say no physical harm should inflected upon a Muslim just because he is gay, then I agree with 100%. But according to Shari’a laws if a Muslim, gay or straight, commits zina then are consequences for his actions.

    If you say mainstream Muslims should accept gay marriage, then I disagree with you since this idea is not permissible according to the Quran and hadith. In nikah, who is going to pay the Mahar and who is going to accept it?
    This doesn’t make sense, it’s just bidah or innovation.

    • Brother Aa, just because you call some absurd does not make it not true or unverifiable of current conditions. Apparently you are lacking in research skills, as it may be your limited world view and you are limited to your region of the world…down under. Nonetheless, the PEW Report of 2011, as reported in the Intersections International research discussing the LGBT Muslim issue in North America and Europe, around 20 percent of Muslims in the West attend mosque on a regular basis on Fridays. Just released another report from the Hartford Institute, only 18 percent of Muslim women attend mosque on a regular basis, men out numbering them by 2 to 7 percent.

      As shariah, I hope that you agree that it is man-made law and much of it is not derived from Quran. There is nothing in Quran related to homosexuality, and the Lut story is focused on rape and not samesex sexual orientation. Ahadith are fabrications as Islamic legal history provides no evidence of any legal cases of Prophet Mohammad as religious or governmental leader of a case on homosexuality. Your imagination to some pristine time does not exist and you are believing in fairy tales and not dealing with the realities of Islamic empire building and jurists manipulation to please their masters.

      Mahar is accepted by whoever wishes to do so, but in the nikahs I perform, I ask the couple to make promises to each other…it’s called equality in marriage. Overall, Brother Aa, your fumings are based upon a number of false premises and in the end, no pun intended, you do not make sense of the evidences before you.

  3. i too enjoyed reading your reply 🙂 peace

  4. yes i too enjoyed your reply 🙂 peace

  5. Imam Daayiee Abdullah December 19, 2012 — 11:36 pm

    Brother Shahid, thank you for your article and it is very important the orthodox Muslim community come to terms with a wide array of issues that remain hidden in our mosques and communities under the guise of “culture.” The orthodox do not speak for the majority of Muslims in the West, as nearly 1 out of 5 Muslims do not attend mosque for one reason or another, but mostly because the mosque does not meet the needs of Muslims today. Thus such illusions that “orthodoxy” is the answer is rapidly fading. As it relates to the Muslim LGBT communities worldwide, It is important to note since the early 1990’s in Canada, and in the late 1990’s in the USA, nascent Muslim LGBT communities have blossomed. Due to internet and other technologies, the past 14 years has produced significant change in Islamic scholarship on LGBT Muslims in the West, and has helped spark change in Muslim states…LGBT Muslims are everywhere and the Muslim world recognizes this fact. It must be noted for the sake of accuracy, since 2006 Muslims for Progressive Values Unity Mosques and El-Tawhid Unity Mosques have established inclusive prayer spaces in the US, Canada and now Europe. Muslim men, women, their families, sexual minorities and Muslims from various schools of thought come together in worship and build community. Progressives continue to apply critical thinking to Quran and promote alternative views that follow the Islamic tradition of revival and reform, not the current course of stagnation and decline. Of course, this upsets the current Salafi focus that “do(es) not question the status quo.” Muslims are awaking and recognizing Allah is greater than the “Allah-in-the-box” so many are forced to adhere due to cultural traditions. Harun Yahya is a perfect example of spreading such ignorance, and sadly too many Muslim “sheeple” buy it hook, line and sinker. But his kind will fade over time. I am glad to see more Muslim men and women, whether young or old, know the world is not as it has been presented these past several hundred years. Muslims today seek a closer connection to Allah through personal study and discussion outside of those who promote tradition for tradition’s sake, while forsaking a living Islam that is attuned for Muslim life today.

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