I was born the youngest of five to loving parents. To support my family, my father worked two jobs, taught at medical college and had an evening clinic. I had a 13-year gap with my elder brother. This meant that for most of my childhood I was raised by my mother and sisters. As time went on, it felt safer to be with women as that was my world, it was all I knew. I had issues connecting to boys at school as I felt they were too rough-and-tumble and I had different interests from them. I remember feeling different from them from the first day of school and it was difficult to create male friendships.
I remember having a nightmare aged seven where I saw the skies dark and huge stones falling from above, in this terrible dream where I am hearing people scream, I go back into the house and start searching for the Qur’an but when I open it I am unable to read. Years later, in my research I discovered the Qur’an addressing the people of Lūt (‘alayhī al-Salām) in a similar way, describing their punishment:
“So the shriek seized them at sunrise.”
“Indeed, We sent against them a shower of stones, except for Lot’s folk–We delivered them at dawn.”
“And when Our command came, We turned it upside down, and We rained down on it stones of baked clay, marked from your Lord, and never far from the unjust.”
At aged 12, going through puberty, boys and masculinity were still something I didn’t assimilate with; girls were my friends and I felt safer in their company. So, what was opposite for me was my own brethren, the same sex, and so my first attraction to the same sex was realised during this time. My attractions were always to older men. I felt I needed an older man’s support, guidance and understanding of the elusive world of masculinity. I was attracted to the male body while I didn’t feel masculine in my own body, the shame and envy of not having what the popular men or boys possessed, attracted me to them.
Once I knew I felt the attraction, I didn’t tell a soul for 11 years. It was an incredible weight for me to carry and I felt that, while I didn’t have the answer to come out of this trial, I didn’t want to burden my family or have their reputation be affected. The shame and pain during those years was unbearable. I would cry before sleeping, praying for Allah (ﷻ) to take the feelings away. Today, I see this in the Muslim community, so many of us are afraid to speak about this reality and the shame has led to us living years in denial, as if to somehow block this reality from our minds.
It was in university at 23 when I finally told a university counsellor for the first time, as her therapeutic modality was person-centred; she did not question my motives of why the same-sex attraction was incongruent with my perception of self. Allah (ﷻ) slowly opened doors of healing for me in understanding my attractions. I detail a few Quranic lessons I learnt here:
1. Building Brotherhood
Allah refers to the community of Lūt as “brothers”. It was vitally important in my recovery to find brothers and male friendships who had Taqwa, hence I took the decision of volunteering for a Muslim organisation such that I would feel like I belonged. I needed both friends who knew that I had same-sex attraction and those that didn’t. I needed to be part of a brotherhood with an Islamic understanding of masculinity.
2. Building Trust
For me to get through the shame, I had to build trust to tell other men that I had same-sex lust, I had to create a support network. Prophet Lūt (‘alayhī al-Salām) addresses himself as “trustworthy” for his people. It was important for myself to trust other men and approach others for help, trusting them and trusting Allah (ﷻ) that He will help me in finding a way out.
3. Allah looks at acts, not fleeting thoughts, feelings or manmade identities
The Qur’an only talks about the acts of lust which are sins. We must realise that we did not choose many of our desires or what thoughts may come to our mind—but we are responsible for deeds, which include nurturing and growing or weakening those desires. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) has said “What I fear most for my nation is the act of the People of Lūt.” Neither the Prophet (ﷺ) nor the Qur’an brought the idea of sexual identity or sexual orientation. The Prophet never used the term “heterosexual” or “homosexual” to define people, he only addressed acts of same-sex lust. We should not use these non-Islamic ways of understanding sexuality as identities.
Our society today constructs a binary view of sexuality, either you are “straight” or “gay”, whereas in an Islamic lens, any person can experience any attraction and Islam doesn’t label us with a sexual identity. Like myself, I see a lot of youth question their sexuality when they experience a same-sex attraction—due to social and political pressure from around them. Attractions may be involuntary and a part of us, but they do not define us. Attractions may lead us to acts which are harmful and this is where we seek help and support to understand them. Understanding and managing our attractions is different from creating a new identity or feeling we are completely different from others.
There is a huge difference between a Muslim who experiences same-sex attraction and one who identifies as “gay”. Attractions, acts and identities are separate. Today, we have lobby groups that want us to believe that the only way to resolve a same-sex attraction is to embrace an “LGBTQ+” identity, some are even coercive in this respect. This paradigm makes an individual feel different from their “straight” counterparts, whereas Islam has an inclusive approach where it acknowledges the diversity of attractions and experiences of men and women and affirms that diversity in experience and rejects an approach that divides us based on sexual desires.
Experiencing a same-sex attraction doesn’t take us out of Islam nor does it mean we are inherently different from other men or women. The best course of our sexual attractions is to help construct a family structure of a loving father and mother, anything that disrupts this bedrock of humanity is destructive. Many Muslims are challenged by their marriages due to different reasons, and same-sex attraction is one of those many challenges in a society where the dominant ideology projects “love” as simply a selfish carnal attraction, rather than a deep, meaningful connection people work on.
4. Understand our lust
Allah (ﷻ) has tested us with the test of lust so that we understand our sexual needs better. Sex in marriage between a man and a woman is a beautiful blessing. However, delaying marriage in our culture has meant that many of us struggle after puberty to channel our sexual energy in a healthy and halal way. In the context of same-sex lust, we must address what is the envy (hasad); what we idolize in other men. Our halal desire to feel affection, feel affirmed and belong in the world of our own sex is being met in a haram way when we act out sexually. Halal ways of finding friends, mentors and challenging our weaknesses or negative thinking with respect to masculinity will be a fruitful long-term strategy to heal the wounds of the past.
Some people ask us “Why doesn’t Allah (ﷻ) take the lust away?” Perhaps the answer may be that behind the lust there is a halal need for connection which we may be meeting in a haram way. When we don’t feel we belong in the community of our own sex, the yearning to connect and belong crosses the boundaries and can become sexualised. After all, Allah (ﷻ) addresses Lūt’s people as ‘musrifūn’, those who exceed or transgress limits, possibly in this case the limits of brotherly or sisterly love and acceptance, eventually turning into a sexual lust. Perhaps another wisdom of Allah (ﷻ) not taking the lust away is that it retains as a reminder that we are in constant need of Allah’s protection and guidance and if it weren’t for this trial, we may have drifted away from Him.
Allah (ﷻ) addresses Lūt’s people as “ignorant”, perhaps of their same sex wounds or that there is help available to come out of same-sex lust. For those that aren’t ignorant and know there is help available but still choose to “transgress” into the haram, without fearing consequences, then Allah (ﷻ) reminds them of His punishment. Gabriel specifically “blots their eyes” as the sin of the eyes is the seed of lust in the heart.
5. Leave the past
No matter how much Prophet Lūt (‘alayhī al-Salām) tried, the community had the same response.
But the only response of his people was to say, “Evict Lot’s folk from your town; indeed, they are a few people who always keep themselves clean.”
It may be that however we try to reason with some of the LGBTQ community, they may not understand our view and never grasp the concept of tahāra or spiritual purity. Prophet Lūt’s (‘alayhī al-Salām) own wife lingered behind as she looked back and was engulfed by the punishment.
If you are in recovery from same-sex attraction, do not look back, keep going ahead, trust in Allah to save you. There may be elements of the past that keep us in that lifestyle, these may be friends or negative habits we have picked up, but we need to move forward, by embracing sexual sobriety. Allah (ﷻ) encourages us to be gracious in our patience, and promises those that are grateful to be saved. Having shukr for divine tests can be hard, but if we realise that this is a means to take us closer to Allah so we can heal our past wounds, we realise that this is an opportunity for growth that we must thank Allah (ﷻ) for.
6. Don’t reject the opposite sex
The answer to same-sex attraction is not simply to get married. Only marry when you have resolved a good degree of the same-sex lust and you are ready to enter into a relationship with a woman. Think of marriage as a friendship, and as a way of getting closer to Allah (ﷻ) rather than merely meeting your base desires. When the Prophet Lūt (‘alayhī al-Salām) asks the mob outside his home to marry the women of his nation, he knew they would not marry, rather Lūt’s intent was to make them aware that they were drunk in their desires.
They said, “You have (long) known that we have no right to your daughters, and surely you know well what we want.”
I saw that in my own drunken state of being attracted towards the same sex, the need to connect with men was so strong that I had completely given up about my chance of being with a woman. Later on, in my marriage with my wife I realised that I had to first accept her as a friend and that then the friendship would beautifully, eventually lead to love, rather than expecting a strong sexual attraction from day one.
7. The answer is Taqwa and not “heterosexuality”
It is unreasonable to think that the desires would magically fade away overnight or that we would become only attracted to the opposite sex. The same-sex attractions are a trial from Allah ﷻ. The trial is put in place not for us to be miserable, but for us to attain Taqwa. A person who is attracted to the opposite sex is unsuccessful, until he has Taqwa. Therefore, the goal is not to become exclusively opposite-sex attracted or to become self-centred in the recovery process but to attain God-centricity in our lives. Allah (ﷻ) himself promises the believers:
If you require practical support in addressing same-sex lust or gender identity confusions, we would be happy to support you at Strong Support.
 Qur’an 15:73
 Qur’an 54:34
 Qur’an 11:82-83
 “And ‘Ād and Pharaoh and the brothers of Lot” (50:13); “When their brother Lot said to them, “Will you not fear Allah?” (26:161)
 “Indeed, I am to you a trustworthy messenger.” (26:162)
 Sunan al Tirmidhi 1374
 “Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people.” (7:81)
 “Do you indeed approach men with desire instead of women? Rather, you are a people behaving ignorantly.” (27:55)
 “Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people.” (7:81)
 And they had demanded from him his guests, but We obliterated their eyes, [saying], “Taste My punishment and warning.” (54:37)
 And when Our messengers came to Lot, he was distressed for them and felt for them great discomfort. They said, “Fear not, nor grieve. Indeed, we will save you and your family, except your wife; she is to be of those who remain behind.” (29:33)
 “So be patient with gracious patience.” (70:5)
 “…Thus do We reward he who is grateful.” (54:35)
 “By your life, [O Muhammad], indeed they were, in their intoxication, wandering blindly.” (15:72)
 Qur’an 11:79
 Qur’an 27:53