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Essay on being trans as a Muslim

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Bismallah ar-Rhaman ar-Raheem
In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

As a practising Muslim for most of my life and just starting my transition (24 now, practicing since I was 16). I obviously had a lot of concerns but, thankfully I studied fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and Quran a lot before this so I had a good background to do my own research. This will be a long post, detailing my thought process and all the evidence I have to present from Quran and hadith to support my acceptance of being trans in hope it will help other trans Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Unfortunately in the modern world, there are very few I trust with ijtihad (reasoning on law), simply because a lot of the Arab world does not represent traditional Islam, it instead represents a protestant form of Islam, Salafi/Wahhabism which is far more puritanical and doesn't embrace the concept of tolerance and compassion that I always knew Islam stood for. The great traditions of the four Sunni madhabs (schools of thought) and the mujtihads (the respected authorities of law throughout history) have always embraced non-literalism, progressive and tolerant rulings.

This alone caused me great fitnah (tribulation) over the years until I finally did the research to understand the true nature of the current state of scholarship in the world. The world at the moment is backwards, the Salafi/Wahhabi scholars deny what has been accepted by all the great scholars of the four Sunni madhabs, a tadition of non-literalism and tolerance of all Muslims, and turned instead to extremely literal and non-inclusive laws that render takfir (statement of disbelief) on half the Muslim world and denouncing a 1000 years of scholarship. This form of thinking is what is behind most of the extremism, intolerance and terrorism that exists in our world and should be heavily condemned and dismissed by the rest of Ahl al-Sunnah wal al-Jammah (the true people of tradition) that should have taken the mantle of Islamic scholarship that has shun brightly for over a 1000 years without deviation!

Sorry about the lengthy preface but is important because it deals with all the misconceptions and confusion presented by the laws that represent modern Muslim nation states. There is a lot covering criticism of Salafi/Wahhabi scholarship/thought, if you are interested in knowing more I can recommend many great reads, but the focus of this post is to look at traditional scholarship, using evidence from hadith and Quran to support the conclusions on <not allowed>.

The perfection of creation and transsexuals
Allah (Subahana Wa Tala/Most Glorious and High) has told us in many places in the Quran we are created perfect and with our own innate nature.

“We have indeed created humankind in the best of molds.”
Quran 95:4

“The work of Allah who has perfected everything (He created)."
Qur’an 27:88

Since we are created perfect and we are conclusively born with <not allowed> (scientific evidence existing now to confirm it is biological and not environmental) despite how long it takes for us to finally accept it, then isn't it a contradiction for Allah (SWT) to create us imperfect? If this is believed a defect?

This has been a question asked throughout history by scholars, and often the answer has been that "Allah (SWT) creates people as He wills" and "Allah chooses to test those with ailment and tribulations" and many evidence in the Quran and hadith to support this since this world is a test.

"He Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed; And He is the Exalted in Might, oft-Forgiving."
Qur’an 67:2

"And know ye that your possession and your progeny are but a trial; and that it is Allah with whom lies your highest reward"
Quran 8:28

But the Allah (SWT) in the Quran tells us what is most relevant:
"Say: Everyone acts according to his own shakl (disposition, specimen or make-up or fashioning) and Allah knows best who is guided along the way."
Quran 17:84

So those born as transsexuals are created by Allah's will in their own way, just as those who are born with any number of differences at birth. Since there is no sin on performing a surgery or treatment to fix anything, and this is by consensus of scholars, then why would there be any sin on someone who is born by Allah's will in such a way with his own shakl?

Debunking the argument of impermissibility changing Allah's creation
This argument was briefly touched on above, and it is the most often used argument against having <not allowed> and the act of transitioning through medical means (SRS/HRT). It is based upon a single verse that is completely misinterpreted:

"And I will mislead them, and I will arouse in them [sinful] desires, and I will command them so they will slit the ears of cattle, and I will command them so they will change the creation of Allah ." And whoever takes Satan as an ally instead of Allah has certainly sustained a clear loss."
Quan 4:119

But if this verse was to be understood this way, in an extremely literal way, then wouldn't even surgery, every medical treatment, every single possible augmentation to the human condition be "changing the creation of Allah"?

This is was an argument that never held any weight to traditional scholarship, since this verse is clearly regarding changing the Fitrah (innate nature) of man away from Monotheism and the true religion of Islam.

Which is understood if the verse is taken in full context:
"They call upon instead of Him none but female [deities], and they [actually] call upon none but a rebellious Satan. Whom Allah has cursed. ..."
Quran 4:117-118

Every single time the nature of a person (Fitrah) is mentioned in Islamic scholarship, it is always in relation to their spiritual truth at birth, and has nothing to do with their genetic or biological traits.

In the famous and beautiful words of Ibn Arabi, an esteemed scholar and master Sufi, on Fitrah:
"The Original disposition (fitra) of Adam is the original disposition of all the Cosmos ..... it is the Self Disclosure of Allah ... So within him is the Capacity (istidad) of every existent thing in the Cosmos. Hence he worships by every religion, he glorifies God by every tongue and he acts as a receptacle for every Self Disclosure----on condition that he fulfills his humanity and knows himself. For he does not know his Lord except through Knowledge of Himself. If anything of himself veils him from seeing the whole, he has committed a crime against himself, and he is not a perfect man ..... By perfection is meant knowledge of Self and knowledge of Self is Identical with Knowledge of Lord. Adams original disposition was his Knowledge of God, so he knew the original disposition of all things. That is why God says, "He Taught Adam all the Names". Quran 2:31"

For the sake of brevity, I will leave out further evidences on this section.

Reality of being transsexual and historic example
I have covered that we are created by Allah not as mistakes but by intent in a perfect way, that we are created with our own shakl (disposition) by Allah's will and that the trials and tribulations we are to bear is our test in this world. So where does that leave us in reality and what was the historical example of treatment of transsexuals in Islam?

The best example of the kindess, mercy, compassion and tolerance of Islam is by example of the first three generations of Muslims. Since there was no surgical or medical options for people in those times, the closest comparison is that of the Mukhannathun (effeminate ones) who were tolerated and accepted by the early Muslim community of Medina.

Sunan Abu-Dawud, Book 41, Number 4910: Narrated Abu Hurayrah: "A mukhannath who had dyed his hands and feet with henna was brought to the Prophet (PBUH). He asked: What is the matter with this man? He was told: Apostle of Allah! he affects women's get-up. So he ordered regarding him and he was banished to an-Naqi'. The people said: Apostle of Allah! should we not kill him? He said: I have been prohibited from killing people who pray. "

This hadith is one example where that persecution such as jail, physical punishment or death penalty as is exhibited by extremism today is contradictory to the practise of the Sahaba (companions) and the Prophet (PBUH). Some will argue, isn't the banishment to an-Naqi' (a province a short distance outside of Medina) condemnation of their actions?

According to the great Shafi'i scholar and authority on hadith, Imam Al-Nawawi:
"A mukhannath is the one ("male") who carries in his movements, in his appearance and in his language the characteristics of a woman. There are two types; the first is the one in whom these characteristics are innate, he did not put them on by himself, and therein is no guilt, no blame and no shame, as long as he does not perform any (illicit) act or exploit it for money (prostitution etc.). The second type acts like a woman out of immoral purposes and he is the sinner and blameworthy. "

In Islam, if something is not prohibited specifically, then it is permissible as proven by the ruling of An-Nawawi. And this is the consensus of the scholars throughout history. And these people were allowed to enter Medina for personal needs and Eid (celebrations) and were never punished or condemned directly. This was an example of a diplomatic solution in a highly patriarchal society, maintaining the society's peace and order, since it was quite evident that the people were very hostile and Islam's role is to gradually changes the unjust and corrupt practises of the pre-Islamic pagans. Over the years, throughout the Rashudin caliphate, Ummayid and Abbasaid caliphates later, the tolerance and acceptance was extended based on this wise precedent and example.

They were accepted as minstrels and dancers, often times treated as women in society and women did not observe veil in front of them and sometimes even married. Since there was no way to pass completely physically, they were considered people without sexual desire and were often castrated in later generations, and even when they did live with other men in relationships that (based on the homosexual love poetry of Abu Nuwas and others) could be understood as nothing but real "love" and not simply sexual or even plutonic as argued by some.

This topic in itself is very in-depth so I'll keep it brief, but they were never dealt with directly as in today's backwards world, but instead in the vein of mercy, compassion and understanding that is true Islam.

Conclusions and personal thoughts
I wanted to keep this brief but it's still a very big subject, here are the cliffs;

* If we have defects or different gender/sexual disposition, these were intentional and as basis to test us since Allah (SWT) created us according to our own shakl (disposition) and fitrah (innate nature)
* Since Allah (SWT) created us perfect, then there is no shame or sin any person that is born this way (as supported by great scholars such as Imam Al-Nawawi), just as there is no shame or sin on any person born with anything beyond their control
* There is no prohibition or condemnation of <not allowed> in the Quran or hadith
* The only example of <not allowed> in those times was the  Mukhannathun;
* they were confirmed within the fold of Islam,
* they were tolerated and in later generations, accepted into society and never directly punished as a matter of law
* The practise of HRT/SRS is not prohibited or condemned in Quran or hadith, since changing Allah's creation only refers to spiritual truth of monotheism and Islam
So these are the facts as far as I understand them in the context of Islam. There is still a lot of questions and personal reasoning I have done to fill in the gaps as to how it fits into modern context. Islam is a progressive religion, the Shariah is eternal in its wisdom and accommodates all possible human conditions and eventualities. There are many examples of how the Shariah expands and adjusts to accept changing condition, displaying the mercy and compassion that represents Islam.

The only prickly question is that of homosexuality, does a relationship between a cisgender and a transgender (supposing they were same sex before transition) constitute homosexuality?

The only statements of this in the Quran refer to men and lust of the people of Lut and Sodom & Gommorah. They don't refer to love as it was exemplified in the homosexual love poetry of the Muslims through the early generations. The only commendation I have heard specifically from traditional early generation scholars has been regarding, rape, paedophilia and explicit lust of a man for a man in promiscuity and outside the bonds of marriage. The people of Sodom & Gommorah were consistently involved in rape, paedophilia and promiscuous public displays of sodomy.
But what about a trans woman (according to our shakl and fitrah) for a man in a consensual and monogamous relationship?

There is no real ijtihad (reasoning on law) about this case in traditional scholarship (since HRT and SRS never existed, even though such marriages DID occur), so this complex question should be answered in the context of ijtihad in the society and time it is asked. The way I personally see it is that only specifically the act of sodomy is condemned (anal sex) even for cisgender men and women, but it is referred to as minor sodomy and not treated as zina (fornication or adultery) but prohibitively discouraged. The love between a man and woman in any other way is permissible, so why wouldn't it be between a trans woman and a cisgender man? Or a trans man and a cisgender woman? So someone who has had SRS and HRT should be as biologically capable of sexual intercourse with the opposite sex without any shame or sin.

Allah (SWT) created me with the mind of a woman but the body of a man, perfect and according to my own disposition, I must overcome the trials and tribulations placed before me within the bounds of the Shariah and in the light of mercy and compassion of the Most Merciful and the Most Compassionate, the Just One Who knows what is in the heart of every person! I must believe that the Beloved One will accept me for who I am and forgive me for my transgressions since He is the Oft-Forgiving for those who love and obey Him in sincerity and submission!

And Allah (SWT) knows best.

Salam alaykum wa rahmatullah, brothers and sisters.

That is a well reasoned and reasonable post, Aleah.

I have just finished reading Karen Armstrong's "The Case for God", which covers Islam as well as all the other major religions.  Good read that shows how so called "fundamentalism" in all three Abrahamic faiths is a relatively recent innovation and not representative of the historical approach of any of them. 

She shows how the Modernist insistence on certainty and absolute right/wrong choices leads away from genuine spirituality to an idolatry of God as a created being.  She also makes the point that God, as not part of the created universe cannot be said to in fact "exist", and any description that is capable of being expressed in words will be totally inadequate. 

Her "History of God" and biography of Islam's prophet are also worth reading.


Dear aleah,

Thank you for that clear and thought provoking post. I have had the gift to be friends with many people from many faiths and I remember one friend in particular. A Moslem man of faith and who taught me that the Books of Islam had been 'desecrated' by people who do not understand the words and teaching of Islam, instead they teach a selfish version of hate and intolerance. It was hurtful to him that Australians started to feel that Islam was anti-people rather than the very understanding and holy belief that it is. Sadly fools shout loudly.

I have been either cursed or blessed to love my fellow humans. Often it is hard. But again whatever deity doomed me to it I forgive. I personally do not believe in Gods, but I do believe in love.

I will not say I am a good person. I'm not.

But I do believe in people; no matter their colour, their sexual diversity, their religion, their age or their pain.

 In the name of your God and in the name of all beliefs let us rejoice that we can have the opportunity to meet and understand each other.

 Walk well my friend. I'm privileged to meet you.

Cindy James.

I was one of the generation whose first exposure to Oslam was the movie "El Cid" in which miost of the good guys were Moors who treated the hero, Charlton Heston, better than his own people.

 My father was in the British Army in India and Burma during WW2 and being an Ulster Protestant held that Moslems were "just like Presbyterians, only completely different" Irish people will get it.  :laugh:


Thanks for your kind words Cindy and Karen, it's good to hear that non-Muslims find it insightful and reasonable too.

The Case For God sounds interesting, I'll have to take a look at it and I'm glad that there is books out there that help enlighten the fact that modern extremism and literalism is not representative of the true tradition of Islam, as well as supporting the non-literal and intangible understanding of God and His attributes, as was always accepted by consensus traditionally.

It's so true Cindy, I'm Australian too, I know a lot of Muslims who are dismayed by the growing public Islamophobia and general negative perception. I didn't want to cover it in more depth, since I knew it was going to be a big read already, but as I mentioned the sad fact is that the Saudi Arabian scholarly institutes with their massive funding due to strong political and economic alliances with oil-hungry Western countries, has put a lot of effort into spreading Salafi/Wahhabi propaganda to all corners of the Muslim world. (Which is probably why you will find more traditional Muslims in the Western world ironically  :P)

The Wahhabis were an extremely violent group of people that mascaraed Muslims in Mecca and Medina during Ottoman rule in the 17th and 18th centuries with their group of mercs called the Ikhwan (brotherhood) who were founded by a man who has by consensus of the scholars at the time considered a heretic and not worthy of even basic scholarly recognition, Muhammad al-Wahhab. The modern day Salafiyyah movement (Salaf is the Arabic word for the "early Muslim generations", oh the irony) is nothing more than a re-badging of this same movement since the Wahhabis got such a bad reputation by the 20th century almost everywhere except Saudi Arabia, since even in basic matters of creed have proven to be deviated and contradictory.

And as a result, the traditional Sunnis (Hanafi, Maliki, Sha'fi and Hanbali schools of jurisprudence, and the Sufis of all the traditional orders such as Naqshbandi and Qadiriyyah, who all represent the legitimate people of tradition) are sadly marginalized by these more radical forces.

By the way, you sound like a good person Cindy  ;D


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