A Jihad for Love

Jihad for Love (Halal Flims, 2007)

Jihad for Love (Halal Flims, 2007)

The documentary film A Jihad for Love follows the lives of gay and lesbian Muslims living in places around the world, including Egypt, Iran, India, Turkey, Canada, and France. The film follows these individuals in underground subcultures for homosexual communities in Muslim countries and as immigrants to the West where their lifestyles are more acceptable in public. The main storyline of the film centers on a homosexual Imam from South Africa, Muhsin Hendricks, who was once partnered with a woman in an arranged marriage, is now divorced and is still close with his three children. He says at one point that the marriage was out of guilt for having feelings towards men and pressure to conform with religious norms in the Muslim community in Capetown.

Whereas other documentaries have followed the lives of gay and lesbian Muslims, A Jihad for Love stands out in the fact that it shows the faces of many of the people featured in the film and it adds depth to their dramatic and sometimes tragic stories. Also, the film stands apart from others in that it goes straight to the text and, in many cases, shows gay, lesbian, and straight Muslims debating the Quranic references to homosexuality, including Imam Muhsin Hendricks from Capetown, debating the issue with a heterosexual Imam with traditional views and beliefs.

In the end, the film’s strength is that it puts an actual face to the diversity in the worldwide Muslim community, a view of Islam we do not always see because it is hidden in secret, or taking place at underground parties, or even violently oppressed from public expression. Another strong point worth noting because it is much more subtle is that the film tackles the issue of homosexuality from a Muslim angle, making the issue largely one of interpretation of religious texts. Rather than labeling the sexual act as right or wrong, or natural or unnatural, it depicts gay and lesbian Muslims going straight to Islamic texts to interpret the verses from the Quran for themselves, taking away very different answers.

All of this additional depth also adds complexity to the intersection of homosexuality with issues of law and humans rights, issues that are difficult to frame and talk about even in a secular political setting. Because of this, and despite the strong points of the film, it could be said the documentary’s shortcoming is that since it does tackle homosexuality and Islam from such a wide angle (it is filmed in 12 countries and in nine languages) that the stories seem somewhat disconnected and the message of the film can get lost. One older women, however, reiterates the message best at a workshop for Muslim social workers led by Imam Muhsin Hendricks himself, and I will repeat it here so it will not be lost for readers. She says,

We are not dependent on the Imams and the clergy, each Muslim man and woman, they have been commanded to go and learn for themselves, they have been commanded to challenge the status quo. Islam commands us to learn from the cradle to the grave.

It seems that the issue of whether homosexuality is forbidden or permissible, healthy or harmful, in Islam will inform the way we learn from each other in future debates about religion and human rights. It is part of the larger dialogue about the transformation of negative images and stereotypes about Islam into a more accommodating and diverse perspective on the religion. For this reason, if for none other, A Jihad for Love is worth viewing for yourself.

If you do see the film, or have already seen it, we at Inside Islam would like to hear what you think. What are your thoughts on homosexuality in Islam and about A Jihad for Love? Are there any other related films or documentaries you would recommend? Send us your reaction via email or leave a response in the comments section below.

8 thoughts on “A Jihad for Love

  1. Sunnis follow hadiths and not necessarily the Koran. The Koran about homosexuality:

    Richard Burton suggests the following Qu’ranic verses as relevant to homosexuality:

    The texts are from the Qu’ran edition at Virginia Tech’s etext collection.

    SURA IV: 19-21

    19. But whoso rebels against God and His Apostle, and transgresses His bounds, He will make him enter into fire, and dwell therein for aye; and for him is shameful woe.

    20. Against those of your women who commit adultery, call witnesses four in number from among yourselves; and if these bear witness, then keep the women in houses until death release them, or God shall make for them a way.

    21. And if two (men) of you commit it, then hurt them both; but if they turn again and amend, leave them alone, verily, God is easily turned, compassionate.

    SURA VII: 78-84 [On Lot at Sodom]

    78. Then the earthquake took them, and in the morning they lay prone in their dwellings;

    79. and he turned away from them and said, ‘O my people! I did preach to you the message of my Lord, and I gave you good advice; but ye love not sincere advisers.’

    80. And Lot, when he said to his people, ‘Do ye approach an abomination which no one in all the world ever anticipated you in?

    81. verily, ye approach men with lust rather than women- nay, ye are a people who exceed.’

    82.But his people’s answer only was to say, ‘Turn them out of your village, verily, they are a people who pretend to purity.’

    83. But we saved him and his people, except his wife, who was of those who lingered;

    84. and we rained down upon them a rain;- see then how was the end of the sinners!

    SURA XI: 77-84 [On Lot at Sodom]

    77. And when our messengers came to Lot, he was grieved for them; but his arm was straitened for them, and he said, ‘This is a troublesome day!’

    78. And his people came to him, rushing at him, for before that they used to work evil. He ‘Said, ‘O my people! here are my daughters, they are purer for you; then, fear God, and do not disgrace me through my guests;- is there not among you one right-thinking man?’

    79. They said, ‘Thou knowest that we have no claim on thy daughters; verily, thou knowest what we want!’

    80. He said, ‘Had I but power over you; or could I but resort to some strong column….!’

    81. (The angels) said, ‘O Lot! verily, we are the messengers of thy Lord, they shall certainly not reach thee; then travel with thy people in the darkness of the night, and let none of you look round except thy wife: verily, there shall befall her what befalls them. Verily, their appointment is for the morning! and is not the morning nigh?’

    82. And when our bidding came, we made their high parts their low parts. And we rained down upon them stones and baked clay one after another,

    83. marked, from thy Lord, and these are not so far from the unjust!

    84. And unto Midian (we sent) their brother Sho’haib. He said, ‘O my people! serve God; ye have no god but Him, and give not short measure and weight. Verily, ‘I see you well off; but, verily, I fear for you the torments of an encompassing day.

    SURA XXVI: 160-174 [On Lot and Sodom]

    160. The people of Lot called the apostles liars;

    161 when their brother Lot said to them, ‘Do ye not fear?

    162. verily, I am to you a faithful apostle;

    163. then fear God and obey me.

    164 I do not ask you for it any hire; my hire is only with the Lord of the worlds.

    165 Do ye approach males of all the world

    166 and leave what God your Lord has created for you of your wives? nay, but ye are people who transgress!’

    167 They said, ‘Surely, if thou dost not desist, O Lot! thou shalt be of those who are expelled!’

    168 Said he, ‘Verily, I am of those who hate your deed;

    169 my Lord! save me and my people from what they do.’

    170 And we saved him and his people all together,

    171 except an old woman amongst those who lingered.

    172 Then we destroyed the others;

    173 and we rained down upon them a rain; and evil was the rain of those who were warned.

    174 Verily, in that is a sign; but most of them will never be believers.

    175 And, verily, thy Lord He is mighty, merciful, compassionate.

    SURA XXIX: 28-35 [On Lot and Sodom]

    28. And (remmber) Lot when he said to his people, ‘Verily, ye approach an abomination which no one in all the world ever anticipated you in!

    29. What! do ye approach men? (or Do you commit sexual acts with men?) and stop folks on the highway? And approach in your assembly sin?’ but the answer of his people was only to say, ‘Bring us God’s torment, if thou art of those who speak the truth!’

    30. Said he, ‘My Lord! help me against a people who do evil!’

    31. And when our messengers came to Abraham with the glad tidings, they said, ‘We are about to destroy the people of this city. Verily, the people thereof are wrong-doers.’

    32. Said he, ‘Verily, in it is Lot; they said, ‘We know best who is therein; we shall of a surety save him and his people, except his wife, who is of those who linger.’

    33. And when our messengers came to Lot, he was vexed for them, and his arm was straitened for them; and they said, ‘Fear not, neither grieve; we are about to save thee and thy people, except thy wife, who is of those who linger.

    34. Verily, we are about to send down upon the people of this city a horror from heaven, for that they have sinned;

    35. and we have left therefrom a manifest sign unto a people who have sense.’

    ON THE OTHER HAND

    Although the Qu’ran does not have verse explicitly in favor of homosexuality, it does have verses which show awareness of male beauty. These are promises made to Muslim men who make it to Heaven.

    SURA LII:24

    “And there shall wait on them [the Muslim men] young boys of their own, as fair as virgin pearls.”

    SURA LXXVI:19

    “They shall be attended by boys graced with eternal youth, who will seem like scattered pearls to the beholders.”

  2. Sunnis NECESSARILY follow the Qur’an and the sunnah/hadith of Prophet Muhammad (s).
    The hadiths are supplementary to the Qur’an, not contradictory.

    To imply pure servants of heaven imply “male beauty” and indirectly affirm homosexuality is beyond the realm of logic.

    The commands against homosexuality are clear both in the Qur’an and in the Hadith.

    As for the actual video, what a disgrace.
    The arguments are extremely weak and the spokespersons for gay Islam could not handle any scholarly, let alone academic, debate.

    But it’s understandable. We live in a time of “Gay renaissance” whereas universities have actual departments devoted to normalizing and even preaching homosexuality.

    That’s their right, but respect the rights of Muslims to follow their scripture.
    And no, extremist-fringe groups (and yes I put terrorists and gays in the same category) do not have the right to reinterpret the Qur’an because they have not done the work to do so.
    Ijtihad is not for everyone, ijtihad is for actual scholars who have devoted their lives to studying their religion and are aware of all materials and constraints in making Islamic arguments.

  3. Ijtihad is not for everyone, liberal Muslims who are arguing for ijtihad for every Muslims should be aware that terrorist justify their by citing personal ijtihad and we know how mislead they are. If one wants to get into field, then they are more than welcome to go to Islamic universities & become scholars themselves. But till they don’t get to that position, please refrain from issuing fatwas as that’s what extremists are known for.

  4. i think that we should give full cotmitment to this project because this show hao muslim and muslimah
    is getting worse . if we panic to this situations , we must give full comitment and try to bongkar suasana ini

  5. Ijtihad is not for everyone, liberal Muslims who are arguing for ijtihad for every Muslims should be aware that terrorist justify their by citing personal ijtihad and we know how mislead they are. If one wants to get into field, then they are more than welcome to go to Islamic universities & become scholars themselves. But till they don’t get to that position, please refrain from issuing fatwas as that’s what extremists are known for.
    That’s their right, but respect the rights of Muslims to follow their scripture.
    And no, extremist-fringe groups (and yes I put terrorists and gays in the same category) do not have the right to reinterpret the Qur’an because they have not done the work to do so.
    Ijtihad is not for everyone, ijtihad is for actual scholars who have devoted their lives to studying their religion and are aware of all materials and constraints in making Islamic arguments.

  6. there is no way that kind of jihad… the jihad is only about fighting for the cause of ALLAH… using in other way is bid’ah.. astagfirullah!!

    if some same sex couple emigrate to another country for the sake of their own happiness well may ALLAH guide them…