Promoting Islamic Humanism

Musdah Mulia

As Muslim woman I do believe that the Holy Qur’an has a universal meaning or spirit that should be in continuous dialogue with Muslims according to different times and temporal settings. The universal values and truths of the Holy Qur’an are absolute. While the particular values and truths obtained historically via the interpretations of the text of the Qur’an are relative.

And I do believe that one of the praiseworthy characters of God is al-salâm (the Most Peaceful). It is referred to as such because He is the Most Perfect, precluded from all defects, shortcomings and destructions. Thus, Islamic religion sent down to humans has to reflect this praiseworthy character. Both the words Islâm and al-salâm originate from the same root, salima, which means peace and preclusion from all that is condemned and disgraceful.

Theologically, Islam is a blessing for all of human beings. Islam through the principle of tawhid maintains the importance of equality among human beings. All the teachings of Islam bring to the fore the equality of standing and stature among nations regardless of their religion, race, gender identity, extraction, geographical location, and social status, as provided in the Qur’an: O mankind, actually We have created you from a man and a woman and have made you nations and tribes so that you know each other. Verily the noblest person among you on Allah’s side is the person who is the most religiously devout to Allah among you. Verily, Allah is the Omniscient.

Even if there is a big difference among them, such a difference is not intended to oppress one another or to discriminate one another, and to be hostile towards one another but for a noble objective, that is, to understand one another and at the same time, to put them to the test in order to find out who is religiously more devout to Him. Humans are only distinguished from another human on the basis of their taqwa (achievements and quality of their religious devotion). Such is the teaching that is enshrined in the Qur’an. However, distortions abound here and there when the noble teachings were sent down to earth and implemented in the life of human beings.

Actually, in my view all human beings are intended to follow their primordial agreement with God and place Him in the center of their lives.

Because of this agreement every human being is born in a state of natural purity (fitrah) and strives towards that which is good and true. At the same time, human beings are weak and can be tempted to fail. Thus humanity was given the ability to think and reason, and later provided with religion and the obligation to search for the true and good way of life.

Every human being has the rights to choose his or her own morals and ethics. Moreover, all human beings are of equal value. So, to harm one individual means to harm the hole of humanity, and conversely to better one individual is to better the hole of humanity. Islam declares that human being shall treat their fellows well by executing their various private duties, paying open society based on mutual understanding and also mutual cooperation.

There is no denying the fact, particularly in Indonesia, that Islamic interpretation relating to women’s role and LGBT people is heavily dominated by not only gender bias and patriarchal values, but also homophobia ideology. One which obliges human beings to lead a life with partners of different genders; and to abide by heterosexually -inspired rules which underline that the aim of marriage is merely for the purpose procreation, not for recreation.

As a consequence of this hegemonic heterosexual bias in fiqh, Majority Muslim always consider that normal, natural, and ideal relating to sexuality is heterosexual, marital, reproductive, and non-commercial. On the contrary, homosexual and other sexual orientations are deemed as immoral, blasphemous, haram (illegal) deeds, and accused of being social-disease, and a deviation from kodrat (destiny), and even blamed as the allies and cronies of Satan.    

Majority of Muslim people believed that the objection to homosexuality is absolute, leaving no room for further discussion or question. So, any efforts to level criticism against Islamic view regarding this matter is regarded as opposing Islamic law, running counter to Shari’a. So, in their mind LGBT people must be killed, or must be stoned with a hailstorm of rocks, or being burned to death. I can summarize that Muslim majority view concerning LGBT issue contradicts with Islamic humanism.

Some questions come up: Is Muslim community today forbidden from reviewing the rigid, inhuman opinions of fuqaha concerning homosexual issue?  Isn’t it possible to reinterpret Islamic teachings to become more accommodative and more humanistic to LGBT people?  Is it unthinkable for the present Muslim community to provide protection to and satisfy LGBT

rights due to their sexual orientation and gender identity? Doesn’t Islam claim itself as mercy- and freedom-carrying religion for the mustadh’afin (oppressed) groups as proven by the prophet Muhammad in the early period of his struggle? Doesn’t Islam proclaim itself as a vocal religion which loudly voices against injustice, viciousness, and all manifestations of violence, harassment, discrimination, and alienation as well as stigmatization to anyone? Doesn’t Islam teach its believers love and affection to all humanities, even to all creatures?


Promoting new interpretation base on inclusive Qur’anic analysis                                             

To recognize the important of sexuality and sexual rights in people’s lives, and also to eliminate all forms of violence against LGBT people and bias interpretations  in line with LGBT people, I proposed new interpretation base on inclusive Qur’anic analysis as a solution. This new interpretation should be base on three principles as follows.


First, the principle of Maqashid al-Shari’ah

Qur’anic teachings encompass the principles of justice, equality, equity, human dignity, love and compassion. These principles reflect universal norms and are consistent with contemporary human rights values. Although the Qur’an and Hadith generate and lay down legal binding rules, indeed, the number is very scanty compared to human problems, which require legal decision. Therefore, ijtihad is inevitable.

Such ijtihad shall stick to Islamic legal resources namely the Qur’an and Hadith. In this regard, I would like to note that the understanding of the two resources shall not be based on literally meaning but rather more contextually with reference to the true objective of Islamic legislation (maqashid al-syari’ah). The objective of Syari’ah is clearly implemented in the value of justice (al-‘adl), virtue  (al-mashlahah), wisdom (al-hikmah), equality (al-musawah), compassion (al-rahmah), pluralism (al-ta’aduddiyah), and human rights principles (al-huquq al-insaniyah).

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