Muslims, including those who identify as LGBT, believe that they necessarily
go through life’s struggles, known as jihad.
This reflection is based on the journey of discovering my sexuality, how I
questioned the world, the religion, the society, and how spirituality actually
helped me to come to terms with my sexuality.
basically means “struggle.” I am a Muslim. I was born as a Muslim, raised as a
Muslim, and expected to confine to the rigid orthodoxy of the Islamic community
in Malaysia as any other Malay Muslim. I was however, fated by Allah the
Almighty to be different. I knew I was different ever since I had a sense of
consciousness. I remembered asking my mother why I had a penis instead of a
vagina because I was sure I wasn’t a boy, but my mother assured me that I was a
boy and thus, I lived my life as a boy. I accepted my fitrah as a boy. Fitrah means
disposition, nature, constitution or instinct. In a mystical context, it can
connote intuition or insight.
I remember when I was a toddler,
I questioned the concept of gender and why it is only two. As I said before, I felt
out of place, as if there is wide spectrum of sexuality beyond what the norm is
in society. At that moment in time, I believed in what I thought. But as time went
by, society shaped me, religion shaped me, and people around me shaped me to
hate being different. I found no comfort, no joy, of being somebody I was not,
always questioning my sexuality, myself and always wondering why I was attracted
to muscular, handsome and older boys and men.
With my first love, I felt love
for the first time. Love between me and him brought me closer to Allah. As
paradoxical as it may sound, he was the first guy that taught me to love Allah
(not that my parents didn’t, but I was pretty much a rebel in everything). I
prayed to God, I thanked Allah for giving me a lover such as him. We were the
best of friends (even though he was a bully back then) and the best of lovers.
He protected me from harm and treated me like I was everything to him in this
world. I knew it was wrong (for me at that time anyway) and so did he, but we
knew that what we felt wasn’t lust, it was love and we held on to it.
But then, fate destined for me
and him to be separated. He went to one school, and I went to another school. Yet
my love never faded away. Each time I felt that longing tug deep inside my
heart for him, I prayed to Allah to make it stop. I felt so confused as to why
I was feeling like this, why I was different, and I fought a lot with myself to
be a “straight” man. I tried liking girls, but ended up just seeing them as sisters.
(Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE girls, but more towards respecting and honouring
them. I would never want to see girls getting hurt, being objectified, used,
etc., that is why I am a very strong feminist).
Whenever I fought with my
sexuality, I would feel like I was the worst sinner in the world, and hell was waiting
for me. But I missed him, I loved him. I breathed him, I whispered his name, I
remembered every moment, every touch, every word, every hug, I saw him in my
waking and longed for him in my dreaming. I tried searching for him up and
down, I never stopped looking for him so that we could rekindle our
Everything suddenly came to a
crashing halt one day. I found him. But he was not the same person I knew. He “changed”
into a straight guy. He hated gays, and despised anything to do with it, but we
talked, oh how we talked ... and I cried, oh how I cried. I suddenly went on a downward spiral of
depression and self-hate, and suicidal thoughts. With society hating the LGBTs
and discriminating against us with hostility, as I could not find any comfort
in religion at that time, and as I was feeling like I was going to hell, I
decided to end my life. I tried eating pills, I tried cutting myself, I was even
thinking of trying to slash myself with a knife, but I never went that far.
When I regained my rationality, I
prayed for guidance. Thus, I suddenly had the courage to tell my
mum for the first time that I was, without a doubt, a boy who loved a boy, and had
feelings for boys more than I had feelings for girls. At first, she was taken
aback, and then she told me she knew all along. I decided to confide everything and every secret to my
mum, from A to Z, and she cried along with me. I will never forget what she
said to me. I asked her: "Isn't it better to die and go to hell earlier,
than suffer the hell here on earth in being gay, and then go to hell for being
something I didn't ask for?" She was crying, but she told me never to say
such blasphemous things. Everything happened for a reason, she said. Perhaps my
being gay happened for a reason too. She said that if I couldn’t change myself
to be a straight person, then I ought to be a good boy who would not condone a hedonistic
life that many homosexual men are known for. She asked me to be a good Muslim,
true to Allah, true to life, true to myself and always to be positive. She gave
me a reason to love God even more. She said, “People can judge here on earth,
but only God can judge us in the hereafter.” She said she knew the pain I was feeling.
She knew that being a PLU/LGBT wasn’t easy, and because of that, she would always
be there for me, no matter what. That was all I wanted to hear. And I knew,
from that moment on, she was my everything: my beloved, my light, my mother.
From that day on, my mom and I were
closer than ever. She protected me if there were any anti-gay slurs from outsiders
or from the family. She loved my flamboyant friends, and sometimes I even shared
with her some insights on the hot guys that piqued my interest, and she would just
laugh. She knew what was happening in my life, my relationship, my dilemmas. It’s
funny, as she is a staunch religious woman, as much as my dad, but somehow, she
accepted me as I was, and even protected me and my friends from a cruel world.
This was a true miracle from Allah.
Although my mum was the first,
eventually I was comfortable enough to tell almost 80% of my family members,
including cousins and aunties. I explained who I was, my plight, and what I felt.
Alhamdulillah, they supported me and
loved me just as I was, and they even accepted my ex-boyfriend! It’s amazing
that after I let them know who and what I was, I became closer to them than I
was before. If that is not a miracle then I don’t know what is.
Eventually I talk about my being
gay with my dad. He was initially, as I remembered, a hater of the LGBT
movement. Now, he is more tolerant and even accepting of LGBT persons, and
understands their plight and fight for equal rights. I learned too, that my
father is a Sufi. Sufism is the mystical approach in understanding Islam, and is
more accepting of women and LGBT persons in Islam, since it emphasises the
spiritual growth of a person towards Allah, as well as love, forgiveness and
forgot to mention; I am a haji. I
performed the Islamic pilgrimage that all Muslims have to go through if they
can. Alhamdulillah, thank Allah, for
giving me the opportunity to do so during a year before my SPM exams (the
equivalent of the O-levels, the secondary school leaving exam which was once
implemented in the British educational system). It was an amazing journey,
although a very challenging one. That was the time too, when I prayed to Allah
to take away my homosexuality and all my feelings so that I could live a “normal”
life, but something within me said that I was fated to be so, because Allah was
testing me, and in that holy place, I walked my first step to slowly accept who
I was. Later, I had a faith discussion with my mum, and she shared the same
haj and the mystical experiences I had when I was there made me more confident
that I was made to be who I was. The pilgrimage I made helped to banish the
initial thought that I was condemned for who I was, and was the first step for
me to accept myself and my sexuality.
Gradually, even though I went
through dark paths in life where deception, infidelity, hypocrisy, prostitution
and all those sorts of things thrived, I grew to know my place, who I was, who was
watching me from above, and to whom I would have to answer for everything that
I had done. Nevertheless, I knew too, that God is ever-loving, ever-forgiving,
every-nurturing, and God knows what’s best for me.
Everything that had
happened, happened for a reason, and I am now a better man for all the things,
the good or bad, that had happened to me. I take everything as lessons to be
learned. Ironically, as I journeyed in this world where so many representatives
of religion and society just discriminate without knowing
anything, I found God in everything, in the Qur’an, in the Hadith, in the books
regarding human sexuality which are very hush-hush in the Islamic world for no
reason. I know that God still loves me regardless of my sexuality, and like my
mum said, it is up to God to judge me, not the people on this earth, for they haven’t
walked in the shoes that I walked in, nor have they experienced the things I have
experienced and felt the things I have felt. This is my jihad: to reconcile my sexuality and my relationship with God AND
the people around me, and try to be the best man, best Muslim and best khalifah. Khalifah means “leader,” and according to Islamic teachings, each one
of us is a khalifah who should spread peace and harmony on earth. I am contented,
as I know that Allah is watching, always has been and always will be, and
because of that, I feel loved.
A Happy Struggler was born and raised in the state of Penang, Malaysia, to a religious but
open-minded family. He is a feminist, an idealist and an LGBT supporter, and his
motto in life is “live and let live.”