Navigating Differences: Clarifying Sexual and Gender Ethics in Islam

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Public discourse on sexuality over the past few decades has presented challenges to faith communities. Today, Islamic sexual and gender ethics are at odds with certain recently popular societal views, causing tension for Muslims between their religious beliefs and societal expectations. At the same time, public disapproval of LGBTQ practices, beliefs, and advocacy is increasingly met with charges of intolerance and unwarranted accusations of bigotry. More troubling still, there is an increasing push to promote LGBTQ-centric values among children through legislation and regulations, disregarding parental consent and denying both parents and children the opportunity to express conscientious objection. Such policies subvert the agency of Muslim parents to teach their children their religiously grounded sexual ethics, violate their constitutional right to freely practice their religion, and contribute to an atmosphere of intolerance toward faith communities.

We are Muslim scholars and preachers representing a diverse range of theological schools. Below is our collective, non-partisan articulation of Islam’s position on sexual and gender ethics. As a religious minority that frequently experiences bigotry and exclusion, we reject the notion that moral disagreement amounts to intolerance or incitement of violence. We affirm our right to express our beliefs while simultaneously recognizing our constitutional obligation to exist peacefully with those whose beliefs differ from ours.

The Source of Morality for Muslims

The most essential requirement for accepting Islam is to submit to God completely, voluntarily, and lovingly. God says, “It is not for a believing man or woman—when God and His Messenger decree a matter—to have any other choice in that matter” (Quran, al-Aḥzāb:36). By submitting to God, we declare that only He possesses absolute knowledge and wisdom. Therefore, it follows from this submission that the ultimate source and basis of morality is Divine guidance, not just reason or societal trends.

Islam enjoys a rich tradition of jurisprudence that allows for diverse perspectives and accommodates various cultural norms. However, particular principles that are explicitly stated in revelation, known to be necessary elements of Islam, and unanimously agreed upon by qualified scholars are deemed immutable and not open to revision by any person or entity, including the highest religious authorities. As God asserts, “And the word of your Lord has been fulfilled in truth and justice. None can alter His words, and He is the All-Hearing, the All- Knowing” (Quran, al-An‘ām: 115).

Islam’s Position on Sexuality and Gender

By a decree from God, sexual relations are permitted within the bounds of marriage, and marriage can only occur between a man and a woman. In the Quran, God explicitly condemns sexual relations with the same sex (see, e.g., Quran, al-Nisā’: 16, al-A‘rāf: 80–83, and al-Naml: 55–58). Moreover, premarital and extramarital sexual acts are prohibited in Islam. As God explains, “Do not go near fornication. It is truly an immoral deed and a terrible way [to behave]” (Quran, al-Isrā’: 32). These aspects of Islam are unambiguously established in the Quran, the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and a chain of scholarly tradition spanning fourteen centuries. As a result, they have gained the status of religious consensus (ijmā‘) and are recognized as integral components of the faith known to the general body of Muslims.

God defined humanity as consisting of males and females and declared that He “… created [humans] from a male and a female and made [them] into peoples and tribes so that you may come to know one another” (Quran, al-Ḥujurāt: 13; see also al-Najm: 45). Islam affirms that men and women are spiritually equal before God, even though each has different characteristics and roles. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) referred to women as equivalent counterparts of men. Yet, he (peace be upon him) explicitly condemned imitating the appearance of the opposite gender. Further, God calls on humanity to respect His wisdom in creation (see, e.g., Quran, al-Nisā’: 119). As such, as a general rule, Islam strictly prohibits medical procedures intended to change the sex of healthy individuals, regardless of whether such procedures are termed gender “affirming” or “confirming.” For individuals born with biological ambiguities, such as disorders of sexual development, Islam permits them to seek medical care for corrective reasons.

Islam distinguishes between feelings, actions, and identity. God holds individuals accountable for their words and actions, not for their involuntary thoughts and feelings. As our Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “God has pardoned Muslims for what they think, as long as they do not speak of or act on it” (Bukhari, 2528). In Islam, the sinful actions of an individual do not and should not dictate his or her identity. As such, it is impermissible for Muslims to take pride in identifying with labels that categorize them by their sins. It is important to note that the stance of Islam on illicit sexual relations goes hand in hand with its protection and promotion of the individual’s right to privacy. Islam prohibits prying into others’ private lives and discourages public disclosure of sexual behavior (see, e.g., Quran, al-Ḥujurāt: 12 and al-Nūr: 19).

We recognize that some religious groups have reinterpreted or revised religious doctrine to be inclusive of LGBTQ ideology. The Muslim community is not immune to such pressures. Indeed, some have attempted to reinterpret Islamic texts in favor of LGBTQ affirmation. We categorically reject such efforts as theologically indefensible because these aspects of sexual ethics fit within the category of immutable tenets and are therefore not subject to revision.

Our Constitutional Right to Hold Our Views

We recognize that our moral code conflicts with the goals of LGBTQ proponents. We also acknowledge their constitutional right to live in peace and free from abuse. Nevertheless, we emphasize our God-given and constitutional rights to hold, live by, and promote our religious beliefs in the best manner (Quran, al-Naḥl: 125) without fear of legal reprisal or systematic marginalization. Peaceful coexistence does not necessitate agreement, acceptance, affirmation, promotion, or celebration. We refuse the false choice between succumbing to social pressures to adopt views contrary to our beliefs or facing unfounded charges of bigotry. Such coercive ultimatums undermine prospects for harmonious coexistence.

We call on policymakers to protect our constitutional right to practice our religious beliefs freely, without fear of harassment, and to oppose any legislation seeking to stifle the religious freedoms of faith communities. Consistent with our claim of non-partisanship, we are committed to working with individuals of all religious and political affiliations to protect the constitutional right of faith communities to live according to their religious convictions and to uphold justice for all.

To Our Muslim Community

We urge Muslim public figures to uphold the sanctity of our faith and refrain from making erroneous pronouncements on behalf of Islam. We reject any attempt to attribute positions to Islam concerning sexual and gender ethics that contravene well-established Islamic teachings. To be clear, we cannot overstate the detrimental spiritual consequences for those who intentionally reject, advocate the rejection of, or misrepresent the will of God, as in doing so they endanger their status as believers (Quran, al-An‘ām: 21).

To those among us who struggle with desires that fall outside the boundaries set by God: know that even the most righteous can commit sins and that every Muslim, no matter how sinful, has the potential to be forgiven. Practicing self-restraint in devotion to God is considered heroic. Its spiritual reward increases proportionally with the level of struggle involved. Our ultimate purpose is to prioritize devotion to God over our desires and not sacrifice our faith. We pray to God to grant us the necessary strength and unwavering commitment to live up to our ideals. May we find inner peace and satisfaction through loving submission, and may God deem us worthy of being counted among the believers, the most honorable of titles.

For inquiries, please email [email protected]. For religous scholars and Imams who wish to sign this statement, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page.

Shaykh Tameem Ahmadi
Nur Institute

Shaykh Hatem al-Hajj, PhD
Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America

Shaykh Salah al-Sawy, PhD
Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America

Shaykh Ammar Alshukry
AlMaghrib Institute

Professor Ovamir Anjum, PhD
Ummatics Institute

Ustadha Zaynab Ansari
Tayseer Seminary

Imam Navaid Aziz
Islamic Information Society of Calgary

Shaykh Jamal Badawi, PhD
Fiqh Council of North America

Professor Ihsan Bagby, PhD
Fiqh Council of North America

Shaykh Nomaan Baig
Institute of Knowledge

Shaykh Waleed Basyouni, PhD
AlMaghrib Institute

Shaykh Ahmed Billoo
Institute of Knowledge

Imam Yaser Birjas
Valley Ranch Islamic Center

Professor Jonathan Brown, PhD
Georgetown University

Canadian Council of Imams
Representing 80 Canadian Imams

Professor Sharif El-Tobgui, PhD
Boston Islamic Seminary

Shaykh Alauddin Elbakri

Shaykh Shadee Elmasry, PhD
NBIC Safina Society

Shaykh Mohammad Elshinawy
Mishkah University

Imam Tom Facchine
Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research

Shaykh Yasir Fahmy
Prophetic Living

Shaykh Mohammed Faqih
Memphis Islamic Center

Shaykh Yassir Fazzaga
Memphis Islamic Center

Shaykha Hanaa Gamal
Fiqh Council of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston

Professor Abdullah Bin Hamid Ali, PhD
Zaytuna College

Shaykh Suleiman Hani
AlMaghrib Institute

Shaykh Asif Hirani, PhD
Islamic Circle of North America

Shaykh Omar Husain, PhD, LPC

Shaykh AbdulNasir Jangda
Qalam Institute

Shaykh Abdur Rahman Khan
The Shariah Council of Islamic Circle of North America

Shaykh Ahmad Kutty

Ustadha Fatima Lette
Qalam Institute

Shaykh Mohammed Amin Kholwadia
Darul Qasim College

Shaykh Hamzah Maqbul
Ribat Institute

Ustadh AbdelRahman Murphy
Roots Community

Shaykha Ieasha Prime
Barakah Inc. Leadership Institute

Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, PhD
Islamic Seminary of America

Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, PhD
Al-Maqasid Islamic Seminary

Imam Jihad Saafir
Islah LA

Ustadha Aatifa Shareef, LPC
Qalam Institute

Shaykh Muzzamil Siddiqi, PhD
Fiqh Council of North America

Imam Syed Soharwardy
Islamic Supreme Council of Canada

Shaykh Zulfiqar Ali Shah, PhD
Fiqh Council of North America

Shaykh Omar Suleiman, PhD
Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin
Al-Maqasid Islamic Seminary

Shaykh Saad Tasleem
AlMaghrib Institute

Shaykh Mustafa Umar
California Islamic University

Ustadh Mobeen Vaid

Shaykh Abdullah Waheed
Miftaah Institute

Mufti Abdul Rahman Waheed
Miftaah Institute

Imam Siraj Wahhaj
Al-Taqwa Mosque (Brooklyn, NY)

Shaykh Dawud Walid

Shaykha Aysha Wazwaz, PhD
Gems of Light Institute

Imam Suhaib Webb
Institute of Sacred Sciences

Shaykh Tahir Wyatt, PhD
United Muslim Masjid

Shaykha Haifaa Younis, MD
Jannah Institute

Shaykh Jamaal Zarabozo

Shaykh Abu Zayd, PhD
Quran Literacy Institute

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi
Institute of Knowledge

Signatures Added On May 24, 2023

Imam Qutaibah Abbasi
DeSoto House of Peace Mosque

Shaykh Taha Abdul-Basser

Imam Yusuf Abdulle
Islamic Association of North America

Imam AbdurRahman Ahmad
Islamic Center of New England.

Shaykh Tanweer Ahmed
Hillside Islamic Center

Shaykh Abdullah Al-Mahmudi
Muslim Unity Center

Imam Mowlid Ali
As-Sadique Islamic Center

Shaykh Umer Ansari
Northside Islamic Center of San Antonio

Imam Akram Baioumy

Imam Nadim Bashir
East Plano Islamic Center

Imam Kemal Cecunjanin

Shaykh Ismaeel Chartier
Sunna Institute

Sheikh Aqib Choudhury

Shaykh Chad Earl
Islamic Center of Maryland

Imam John Ederer
Muslim Community Center of Charlotte

Imam Ismail Fenni
Yusuf Mosque

Ustadh Ayman Hammous, PhD
Executive director of Muslim American Society

Shaykh Ikramul Haq
Masjid Al-Islam (Rhode Island)

Shaykh Abdullah Hatia
Halton Islamic Association

Imam Mohamed Herbert
Legacy International High School

Ustadh Iyad Hilal
Alarqam Institute

Imam Ibrahim Hindy

Ustadh Shakiel Humayun
NYC Muslim Center

Shaykh Noman Hussain
Oasis Chicago

Professor Muzammil Hussain, PhD

Shaykh Osama Ibrahim
Islamic Society of Palm Springs

Professor Seema Imam, EdD

Shaykh Auda Jasser, PhD
Muslim Association of Canada

Shaykh AbdulRazzak Junaid
Islamic Center of Nashville

Imam Umar Kabiruddin
Al Salaam Academy

Shaykh Zubair Kahir
Al hikmah Institute

Imam Abdirahman Kariye
Dar Al Farooq Center

Imam Musleh Khan
Islamic Institute of Toronto

Shaykh Zaid Khan
Institute of Knowledge

Imam Salah Mahmoud
Islamic Center of Frisco

Shaykh Mamdouh Mahmoud, PhD
Islamic society of greater Houston

Imam Fuad Mohamed
Muslim American Society (Bay Area)

Shaykh Rihabi Mohamed Rihabi, PhD

Shaykh Ahmed Mohamed, PhD
Islamic Society of Central Jersey

Mufti Wahaajuddin Mohammed
Tawheed Center

Sheikh Uzair Mohsin
Islamic Association of Collin County

Shaykh Suhail Mulla
Islamic Society of West Valley

Shaykh Abdullah Mullanee
Lubab Academy

Imam Irshad Osman
Danforth Islamic Centre

Mufti Nayef Patel
Masjid Arqam

Chaplain Tricia Pethic
Muslim Prisoner Project

Shaykh Usman Qamar
Wijhah Initiative

Imam Hamid Raza
Al-Ansar Center

Ustadh Zuhair Shaath
Chino Valley Islamic Center

Imam Farhan Siddiqi
Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center

Shaykh Khalil Skafi
Sunni Muslim

Shaykh Mikaeel Ahmed Smith
Qalam Institute

Ustadh Ahmed Soboh
Islamic Shura Council of Southern California

Ustadh Fahad Tasleem
Sapience Institute

Shaykh Suhel Teli
Darul Uloom New York

Shaykh Azfar Uddin
Islamic Foundation North

Shaykh Osman Umarji, PhD
Yaqeen Institute

Shaykh Ibad Wali
Sacred Knowledge Inc.

Signatures Added On May 26, 2023

Shaykh Ramzy Ajem
Masjid Vaughan

Shaykh Yasser Albaz
DAR Foundation

Shaykh Rizwan Ali, PhD
Islamic Center of Naperville

Imam Mohamed Badawy
Islamic Association of Raleigh

Shaykh Osama Bahloul, PhD
Fiqh Council of North America

Imam Mohamed Bendame, PhD
MAC, Kitchener Masjid

Imam John Ederer
Muslim Community Center of Charlotte

Shaykh Mongy El-Quesny
Northwest Indiana Islamic Center

Shaykh Mohammed ElFarooqui
Islamic Society of Greater Houston

Imam Mohamed Elghobashy
Muslim Association of Greater Rockford

Imam Sulaimaan Hamed
Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam

Imam Ameer Hamza
Islamic Society of Milwaukee

Imam Muhammad Haq
American Society for Islamic Awareness

Imam Taha Hassane
Islamic Center of San Diego

Shaykh Omar Hedroug
Islamic Center of Naperville

Shaykh Shakiel Humayun
NYC Muslim Center

Imam Majed Jarrar
Siraj Institute

Ustadh Waheed Jensen, MD, PhD
A Way Beyond the Rainbow

Imam Ali Jomha
Canadian Islamic Center

Imam Muhammad Kamruzzaman
Danforth Community Centre

Imam Hasan Khalil
Islamic School of Irving

Shaykha Zakia Khalil
Hajar Institute

Imam Ahmad Khalil
MAC, Ottawa

Imam Mustapha Kifah
Council of Imams and Scholars of Greater Chicago

Mufti Wasim Khan
ISRA Foundation (Plano, TX)

Imam Safi Khan
Roots Community

Ustadh Adrian Ashir Kirk
Measured Tones Institute of Quran

Prof. Rihabi Mohamed, PhD
Quranic Performance

Shaykh Ahmed M. Mohamed, PhD
Islamic Society of Central Jersey


Imam Muhammad Nabil
Islamic Center of Markham

Mufti Abdullah Nana
Islamic Society of Mill Valley

Shaykh Abdullah Oduro
Coppell Islamic Center

Shaykh Sadique Pathan
Al Rashid Mosque

Imam Omer Rangoonwala, Esq.

Shaykh Abdulaziz Rasoul
ISNA Schools and I3 Institute

Shaykh Osama Salama
Islamic Society of Palm Springs

Shaykh Hamzah Saleem
Hamzah Islamic Center (Atlanta, GA)

Mawlana Mushtaq Shaikh
Masjid Bilal Muslim Association

Shaykh Huzaifah Siddiqui
Islamic Society of Akron and Kent

Mufti Mohammad Shibli Siddiqui
Humble Islamic Center

Shaykh Essam Tawfik
Islamic Leadership Institute of America

Shaykh Mehmet Usta
i3 Institute