Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Are We Forgetting the 'Natural Eunuchs'? Or Did I Get It All Wrong?

"One of Malaysia's highest Islamic bodies has banned females from dressing or behaving like men and engaging in lesbian sex, saying it is forbidden by the religion."

"The National Fatwa Council issued its ruling following a two-day meeting that discussed recent cases of young women apparently behaving like men and exhibiting homosexual tendencies, state news agency Bernama reported."

The above is an extracted statement made by the spokesperson of the National Fatwa Council. To begin with, let us determine the key elements of the text, which arguably, could be disputed. The statement released by the National Fatwa Council seems to suggest that females who dress and behave like men, also engage in lesbianism. If interpreted on a looser tone, it would suggest that female who dress and behave like men, are inclined to resort to lesbian sex. Whilst acknowledging the instances whereby some females that dress and behave like men may fit the above bill, it is not convincing enough to rid the effect of a perceptual error.

I am not a Muslim, and yes, I did read the stern warnings issued by various quarters, particularly Tan Sri Musa Hassan and YB Zulkifli Nordin, cautioning non-Muslims not to interfere as the ban does not affect them. Tan Sri Musa Hassan confined his warning to non-Muslim demonstrators from several non-government organizations who staged a demonstration against the fatwa ruling. As an exerciser of constitutional rights, I view demonstrations as part of democracy. However, I believe that we have to be reasonable in doing so. The non-Muslims, mostly I would say, do not understand the teachings of Islam well enough. Therefore, to opt to take this cause to the streets does not seem apprehensible to me. The purpose of a demonstration is not only to vent out dissatisfaction, but also to send a strong, cohesive message across the various layers of public. But how do we do that when we ourselves aren’t equipped with the fundamental knowledge surrounding it? Let us not get carried away. While fighting a lost cause may still reflect glimpses of sheer determination, fighting an unknown cause reflects nothing but sheer ignorance. Some may point out that I am starting to practice guided democracy, but let me assert that I am merely showing respect to my Muslim brothers. Guided democracy prohibits certain lawful actions, and I do not subscribe to that system. I am in favor of ethical values to set in and complement democracy.

YB Zulkifli Nordin took a stronger approach in attempting to steer away the non-Muslims. He was quoted as saying that non-Muslims have got no rights whatsoever to interfere with matters pertaining to Islam. He went on to say that he wouldn’t have a problem with non-Muslims wanting their daughters to resort to lesbianism, for as long as they do not drag Muslims into this social wrack. To wind up his statement, he mentioned that if the non-Muslims continue to meddle with the affairs of Islam, some of them will have to rise to defend their religion.

This is the tale of a man who is not willing to allow anything to come between him and his religion. I understand his sentiments, but being an elected representative in a multiracial country, he could have constructed his thoughts in a more appropriate context. Although I indicated earlier that it is not reasonable for the non-Muslims to go as far as organizing demonstrations to voice out their opinion regarding the fatwa, that does not mean that they can’t even discuss it. Zulkifli Nordin’s remark seemingly suggests otherwise. The time has now come for us to crush the notion that religious openness would lead to untoward incidents. This is an age where we should seek enlightenment or renaissance of a sort, to say the very least. Sadly, just like in most other areas, our nation is backpedaling here too.

I will continue to raise my doubts on Islam, and I urge my fellow Muslim brothers to do the same with other religions. But let us do it with a clear conscience; let us do it for the sake of enhancing our knowledge and not as a smearing tool, for we have passed that barbaric period. As a non-Muslim, I never have, and never will, insult another religion. In fact, in my very first post, I even called on everyone to stop the attack on Islam, which I consider to be a beautiful religion.

The Quran itself says that one should go as far as China to acquire knowledge. There are many theories on this, with some believing that it was China’s civilization that prompted the Prophet to cite it as an example. Others went to say that it could be because at that point of time, the Arabs knew about China as the limit of the world. However, that doesn’t really matter. The point to note is that the Quran implies the importance in pursuing knowledge.

And this is the reason why no one, including YB Zulkifli Nordin, should prevent us from seeking the truth.

So, let's get back to the fatwa ruling; does Islam really prohibit homosexuality?

“And lo! thy Lord, He is indeed the Mighty, the Merciful.”- Surah 26:175

“Messengers of good cheer and off warning, in order that mankind might have no argument against Allah after the messengers. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise.”- Qur’an 4:165

On the other hand,

Scientific research has provided sufficient evidence to prove that homosexuality is genetic. This may not apply to all homosexuals, but it certainly does to a considerable number of them.

Looking at some of the characteristics of God as defined in Islam above, would the merciful Supreme Being ‘create’ homosexuals by birth(genetics), and at the same time, forbid it?

Did He forbit it?

I came across an article by Faris Malik that may have answered the question. Below is a compilation of quotes from his writing, which I tried to rearrange and post accordingly for the benefit of the readers.

Qur'an recognizes that some men are "without the defining skill of males" (24:31: "ghair oolaa il-irbati min ar-rijaali")

These are the ones referred to as 'natural eunuchs' in ancient years(now, referred to as gay). Here, references made to eunuchs are with regards to those who are born eunuchs. Hence, different from castrated eunuchs.

The Qur'an also says that some people are in fact "ineffectual" ['aqeem]. In other words, there are neither male nor female:

42:49 "To Allah belongs the dominion over the heavens and the earth. It creates what It wills. It prepares for whom It wills females, and It prepares for whom It wills males. 50 Or It marries together the males and the females, and It makes those whom It wills to be ineffectual. Indeed It is the Knowing, the Powerful."
Arabic: "Lillahi mulku us-samaawaati wal'ardhi. Yakhluqu ma yashaa'u. Yahabu liman yashaa'u inaathan wa yahabu liman yashaa'u adh-dhukura. Aw yuzawwijuhum dhukraanan wa inaathan; wa yaj'alu man yashaa'u 'aqeeman: innahu 'Aleemun Qadeerun."

Muslim, Collection of Authentic Traditions, Book of Greetings, Chapter 912:

(5415) Umm Salama reported that she had a eunuch [mukhannath] (as a slave) in her house. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) was once in the house that he (the eunuch) said to the brother of Umm Salama: 'Abdullah b. Abu Umayya, if Allah grants you victory in Ta'if on the next day, I will show you the daughter of Ghailan, for she has four folds (upon her body) on the front side of her stomach and eight folds on the back. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) heard this and he said: Such (people) should not visit you.

(5416) 'A'isha reported that a eunuch [mukhannath] used to come to the wives of Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) and they did not find anything objectionable in his visit, considering him to be a male without any sexual desire [fakaanoo ya'doonahu min ghair oolaa il-irbah]. Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) one day came as he was sitting with some of his wives and he was busy in describing the bodily characteristics of a lady and saying: As she comes in front four folds appear on her front side and as she turns her back eight folds apear on the back side. Thereupon Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: I see that he knows these things; do not, therefore, allow him to enter. She ('A'isha) said: Then they began to observe veil from him.

Bear in mind that in ‘A’isha’s telling of the account, she mentions that he was allowed into their private rooms because the women saw him as someone who “lacked the defining skill”. She actually quoted the Qur’anic verse stating about men who “lack the defining skill of males”, signifying that if he had really “lacked the defining skill”, his presence in the room would have been proper. In this context, hearing how he spoke about the daughter of Ghailan, Muhammad sensed that he did not lack the defining skill of males. The fact that he had sexual appreciation for women disqualified him as an intimate domestic servant, according to the Qur’an as well as the standards of the day. Since the system required household servants to be heterosexually indifferent, there is room for abuse, whereby a heterosexual male may pretend to be otherwise, solely to gain entry into the private space of women.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet's companions asked whether they were allowed to use men (presumably prisoners of war) as "eunuchs" to fulfill their sexual urges, since they were far from their wives.

Bukhari LXII 6:9 [Narrated by ibn Mas'ud:] "We used to fight [in battle] together with the Prophet, peace be upon him. There were no women with us. We said: O Messenger, may we treat some as eunuchs [a laa nastakhsii]? He forbade us to do so."

Yes, the Prophet did forbid his followers from designating men as eunuchs, but that was because one cannot just resort into ‘treating’ a straight man as a eunuch simply to satisfy his lust. In fact, that was essentially the sin of the people of Lut. The question is, could a eunuch (i.e. one who permanently lacks arousal with women) be used as a eunuch? Ibn Mas’ud did make a reference about eunuchs being used for sexual gratification, and the Prophet understood what he meant. It was in fact common in the Arabic society, and was considered a use that was appropriate to eunuchs. Since they weren’t regarded as males, there was no prohibition against it, not even in the Qur’an.

According to David Ayalon in Eunuchs, Caliphs, and Sultans: A Study in Power Relationships (Jerusalem, 1999), eunuchs were still used as sex objects for straight men in the Mamluk dynasty. Part of their roles was to avert older Mamluks from having sexual contact to younger trainees:

The eunuchs seem to have served as a shield against homosexual lust in yet another way. They themselves formed the target of that lust, thus diverting it from the youngsters. They are described as being womanly and docile in bed at night and manly and warlike by day in a campaign and in similar circumstances (hum nisaa' li-mutmainn muqeem wa rijaal in kaanat al-asfaar; li-annahum bin-nahaar fawaaris wa bil-lail 'araa'is). [Arabic quoted by Ayalon from Abu Mansur al-Tha'alibi, Al-Latâ'if wal-Zarâ'if, Cairo 1324/1906-7, p. 79, lines 1-7; and the same quote from Tha'alibi in his Tamthîl wal-Muhâdara, Cairo 1381/1961, p. 224.]

If this is the case, Islam does not forbid homosexuality among those who were born eunuchs. Therefore, wouldn’t it be unjust for all gay men to be prosecuted under Islamic laws? What if they were in fact eunuchs, who actually lacked the ‘defining skills of a male’? Does this qualify to lead us to a whole new perspective regarding lesbianism in Islam? What if they were actually "ineffectual", as acknowledged by the Qur'an itself?

I hope my fellow Muslim friends would be able to provide me more information on this topic.

by Argus Eye.

No comments: