Questions about a Lesbian Sister

QA distressed person wrote: I'm really sorry to be of burden to you but I have a problem I need help with. I come to you because this has to be annonymous and I cant very well ask people I know for answers because it will hurt my family. And judging from the emails I recieve from you, it seems as though you know a lot about the dean.

I am a moslem who was born here. I was taught a lot about my religion but not nearly enough as I should. This problem is actually about my sister. She goes to college and she lives on campus. recently she told me a secret about her that I swore i wouldnt tell. She told me she was having a relationship with a girl. I tried to tell her that this was a very big sin in our religion and that she has to stop but she didnt listen to me. My mother was talking to me today about how she feels that something is going on withmy sisterand she asked me if I knew anything about it. I did not tell her but she knows that I know something. My mother then tells me that it is a sin to cover up for someone who is doing wrong and that I have to tell her.

I dont know what to do. The only people my sister told were me and my brother and if i tell my mother she will know it was me and she will never ever forgive me. I'm sure of it.

But at the same time I dont want to do anything haram. I dont know who else to turn to. I'm very upset and sad. Please help.

A Bismillaahi walĥamdulillaahi waŝŝalaatu wassalaamu ‘alaa rasoolillaahi
Assalaamu ‘alaykum

Dear “I need help”

I can understand your dilemma and the difficulty you are in, but I am sure that Allaah will guide you to resolve the issue properly because of your sincere intention to do the right thing.

Before we talk about what should be done now, let us first learn some lessons from this experience:

The first and most important point you should learn is that if you come to know of a sinful activity, you cannot just ignore it. You have responsibility to do something about helping the person stop the sinful activity. You owe it that person to save the person from the punishment of Allaah. And you owe it to Allaah to ensure that His laws are respected. From both perspectives, you have to fulfill your responsibility with a motive of well-wishing and kindness for the sinner in the best manner as much as it is in your power. But you cannot just keep quiet about it.

The second lesson you should learn from this is: In future if anyone asks you to promise that you will not tell anyone. Make it clear to the person that you will not keep a secret if keeping the secret interferes with your Islamic responsibilities. And let the person decide if they want to divulge their secret to you or not. Do not promise, without knowing what you are getting into. As you can see, you have put yourself in a very difficult situation. Just consider your situation from the following perspectives:

You cannot lie; hence, if your mom asks, you cannot say that you do not know, because it will be a lie.

You cannot betray a trust; if someone tells you something in confidence, it is a trust that must not be betrayed; you cannot tell her secret because you have promised her that you will not tell.

Your first and foremost responsibility is to Allaah. You must do only what pleases Him and avoid what will be disapproved by Him. This means you must handle the matter in such a manner that He is pleased, not displeased.

After Allaah, your next responsibility is to your parents, they must be obeyed in everything that does not violate the Islamic principles. In other words, if what they say is Islamically correct, you must obey them. A part of the parents’ right is that you cannot keep secrets from your parents about your own or your siblings’ affairs. They must be kept informed on a timely basis.

Your next responsibility is to your sister to save her from the painful punishment of the hellfire. Do not let people fool you that it is natural disposition and genetic, etc. The fact is that it is from shayŧaan. Under the pressure of hormones when young people cannot fulfill their desires in a proper manner, shayŧaan incites them to find any outlet they can. Once they start fulfilling their desire in some improper manner, they start enjoying it in that manner and that becomes their orientation or habit or preference.

So how are you going to fulfill your above-mentioned responsibilities?

First of all, you should immediately phone your sister and tell her that your mom has some inkling or suspicion and she is pressing you but you have not told her anything yet. She better phone mom and herself tell it to her. Tell her how much you love her and that it is better for her well being to tell mom everything. Keep up communication with her and keep discussing with her off and on until she agrees to talk to mom and tell the truth.

If your mom asks again suggest her to phone your sister and ask directly from her. Also tell her that calling her is the best way to find out what the matter is. Keep encouraging her until she calls. Seek your brother’s help in convincing both to talk. Ensure that your mom remains cool and calm. Anger is not going to do any good at this time.

Your mom should bring your sister back to home from college immediately. You and your mom should work with her at home in a nice loving manner until she is reformed, imbued with faith and properly educated in Islam. Once reformed, the first priority should be to get her married. She can continue the education after the marriage. Then, she should be put in a local college that she can attend while staying at home.

I hope it helps. Please feel free to write to me as often as you need.

Wassalaamu ‘Alaykum,
Ayub Hamid

March 30, 2004

I received the following two letters in response to my advice to the woman who was involved in a female-to-female relationship:

Q 1.Assalam Alaikum, I want to ask some clarification here with reference to this mail. It may not be directly related tot he problem mentioned here but is with reference to the same. I am a psychologist by profession and have been working with a psychiatrist for some time now. In our clinical practice we have come across some cases of homosexuality which have been treated by medication.

I am confused that if it is a disorder and can be treated with medication then why is it a sin? I mean why would Allah SWT punish anyone for something that is not in his/her control? any ailment be it mental or psychological is not a person's fault.........or is it a wrong concept and that it is not a disorder? But then how come people respond well to medication? I am confused, please help!! Jazak Allah Khair.

2. Dear Ayub Hamid, I am a Muslim psychiatrist practicing in Palestine and France. I will appreciate appreciate your reply for I need help. i have been encountering many muslim people with similar problems and that has left me perplexed. According to my knowledge in psychiatry and my experience and the experience of all the psychiatrist I know, homosexuality can not be "fixed" like that, people have to live with it. I'd advise this girl, the sister to quit the sinful activity and adopt the sublimation defense mechanism, but I would'nt urge her to marry, because if she is truly homosexual and she gets married her life will be painful.

A Bismillaahi walĥamdulillaahi waŝŝalaatu wassalaamu ‘alaa rasoolillaahi
Thank you very much sisters for sharing your views and expressing your concerns. Dialogue in such matters is healthy for our development as a community and our growth in understanding of our deen. So thank you for contributing to the dialogue.

If we look at this issue from a secular perspective, as you are aware, the jury is still out on the matter of homosexuality in terms of what causes it, if it is treatable or whether people have to live with it, what is the contribution of the environment, etc. Every researcher has different views on various aspects of this matter. Even in these two letters we can see difference of opinion: one has seen medication to be helpful, the other feels the people have to live with it.

That is the situation in secular arena; however, Alhamdulillaah, we are believers; and a believer’s perspective in such issues is totally different. We understand that human knowledge is imperfect and, especially in the area of social sciences, it is neither reliable nor factual. Social sciences can only be rightly guided by revelations from Allaah Who is the Creator of human psyche and has the absolute knowledge of what makes human beings tick. He also has the ultimate wisdom to prescribe the best course of action for people to take in any given circumstances. Whatever He says is the Truth, everything at variance with His word is falsehood. We also know that:
  • He is Just. His justice is so perfect that not an iota of injustice can occur in His decisions.
  • He is so merciful that he prefers forgiving people rather than punishing them. Thus, He gives people extra chances to redeem themselves.
  • He neither expects people to do anything nor does He require of them anything that is beyond their power or control. Rather than expecting more than what they can handle, He makes things easier for people. He does not hold them accountable for less than optimal level of performance as long as they do keep trying to perform better. Even if they do not perform as well as they could have performed, He still rewards them according to the best of their performances.

Keeping theses attributes of Allaah SWT in mind, let us reflect on the story of prophet Loot and the people to whom he was sent. As that story is well known, I will neither describe the story nor quote the verses. I will just highlight the relevant points and review the issue from their perspective.

The facts of the story as mentioned in the Qur-aan are:
  • Their males had adopted homosexuality
  • Allaah SWT regarded it as unnatural act and a major sin. He chastised those people very strongly.
  • Prophet Loot was sent to invite them to reform their ways.
  • When they refused arrogantly and rebelliously, they were destroyed for their rebellion so that the demonstrative affect of their abominable behaviour and the sinful environment they had created would not cause or encourage other people to fall into that trap of fulfilling their sexual urges sinfully.

This story, thus, tells us that:
  • Homosexuality is an acquired or learnt behaviour otherwise Allaah would not have chastised people for adopting this practice.
  • It is not acceptable to Allaah otherwise He would not have condemned it so harshly and would not have classified it as a major sin. No excuse can justify this behaviour, otherwise Allaah SWT would have considered their excuses.
  • It is something that people have the ability to overcome if they really want to do so. Reformation is possible otherwise Allaah SWT would not have sent a prophet for that purpose. He is above and beyond doing meaningless things.

Had it been an issue relating to physical sciences, where human beings have been able to find facts of the matters through scientific research and experimentation, Allaah SWT would not have talked about this matter in His book. In that case, we would have deferred to the opinions of scientists. However, this is a morality issue, the rights or wrongs of which are determined only by Allaah SWT. Even if all the millions of the researchers in the world unanimously say something that contradicts the edicts of the Qur-aan, my faith would tell me that the Holy Qur-aan is right, everyone in the world is wrong.

Hence, before we discuss anything further on this issue, as believers in Allaah we must be in complete agreement on the points listed above. If anyone finds it difficult to accept these factual statements because so and so researchers has said so and so, then that person needs to work on his or her faith first. That person should also re-read my series on paradigms more carefully.

Once the above-mentioned facts are accepted, then we can talk about the points raised by the above-noted letters:
  1. About the question that medications work so it means it is a disease and people should not be punished for diseases: If a disease is beyond one’s control and the person falls victims to it for random reasons, then your point is correct. But if the action of the person himself causes the problem, why should the person not be held responsible? If a person jumps from Niagara Falls to commit suicide but is saved and treated, the person is still responsible for jumping. Similarly, if drugs can be used to help people quit smoking or drug abuse, it does not mean that people are not responsible for their smoking or drug abuse.

    The fact is that to ensure our proper freedom of action in this world, Allaah SWT has made our body and psyche adaptable to whatever behaviour we select. Committing a sin for the first time is usually difficult. Once it is committed, every successive attempt is easier than the previous attempt. When repeated often enough, it becomes our second nature. Sexual orientation is no exception. Under the pressure of hormones, people seek to gratify their desire whatever way and wherever they have an easier chance to gratify that desire. Their environment, what they read or watch, what they have been exposed to and the company they keep all play an important role in the selection of the easy route to gratification. Once a person gratifies it one way, the chances of that person gratifying it in the same way increases, and so on. The longer a person has been at it, the more it becomes part of the personality of that person, and more difficult it becomes for that person to reform. But reformation is possible. We have seen cases where reformation has occurred, just with the right attitude and being in the right environment.
  2. About the concern that such a person should not be urged to marry because she will be troubled: My response was very clear in suggesting that the marriage should be facilitated AFTER she has reformed and returned to normal human behaviour.

    About the use of sublimation defence mechanism: Why can sex with a spouse not be a way of sublimation?

Ayub Hamid

April 6, 2004
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