We have received an email from Asif Iftikhar, a respected colleague and member of Editorial Board of the journal expressing strong resentment on the publishing of an article. The email and its response are reproduced below.
Subject: Trivializing homosexuality
In Mr Junaid Bin Jahangir's article on homosexuals and homosexuality, published in Renaissance (Aug 2005), the author, while showing a sympathetic attitude towards the homosexual people, seems to have made disdainful remarks about traditionalist scholars. Though inactive in your journal for some time as a member of your editorial board, I should like to express my strong disapproval of what appears to me a very disparaging attitude towards traditionalist scholars. I am not writing this letter to adduce any arguments, but should like to assert some views, especially as Mr. Javed Ahmad Ghamidi's very humble student:
1. My teacher, Ghamidi, always taught me to proffer honest and decently worded critique of opposing ideas, but with respect and benevolence for the person behind the ideas. I personally asked him once about one or two of his articles (written quite some time ago) where he deviated from this wonderful principle, and he only expressed his remorse in admission of his rather inadvertent mistake. This admission on his part has only enhanced his credibility in my view. The point I am trying to make is: Was it really not possible for Mr Bin Jehangir to express his opinions without making fun of "beards." I personally do not regard the beard as part of the shari'ah (Divinely revealed guidance to our Prophet; I think it is part of a man's nature though), but when I began wearing it, I took it as a directive of the shari'ah. I don't know what is so funny about a person who wears a beard and a certain length too, understanding it to be the requirement of religion. To many, it is more than shari'ah. It is a symbol of their love for the Prophet (sws). Ridicule, in this case, was highly non-academic, absolutely irrelevant, and very unethical – to say the least.
2. I take strong exception to trivialization of such grave deviances from human nature as homosexuality, which in my understanding of Ghamidi's views, has been severely condemned by the Qur'an. It is a grave sin, and no social progress, mores, or philosophy can change that fact. Yes, in my opinion, Ghamidi does say that when a sin has completely pervaded the society, it is advisable in most cases not to begin reform through criticism of the sin but through reminding the sinner of the basics of religion and gradually helping him/her to come out of it. Similarly, at the societal level, mere emphasis on punishments is often futile if the society itself has not really been reformed otherwise through education as the laws are quite often circumvented in such a case. Again, it is not in the nature of our religion to make a sinner lose hope in the mercy and forgiveness of God; it is also in the nature of our religion to give hope to a sinner that all extenuating circumstances will be considered by God so that someone not able to come out of a sin immediately might be able to do that gradually; also, it is not in the nature of our religion to expose a person guilty of a sexual transgression (as fornication – not rape though), especially where chances of reform are better for him/her in not disclosing his/her offence. However, all this certainly does not mean that a grave sin as homosexuality should be trivialized. If the purpose that Mr Bin Jehangir had was to point up the principle that none of us has the right to make judgments about the sinner, the point should have been made in relation to the Islamic tradition itself. It is quite clear from the Qur'an and the history of the Prophet's life that even when it becomes necessary to punish a person legally for a transgression, it is not our place to comment on his/her fate in the Hereafter, which Judgement is God's alone. If some "bearded" people, who might not even be scholars of Islam, condemn homosexuals against this spirit, it would be very unfair to disparage the whole Islamic tradition of scholarship simply because of a few people.
3. Furthermore, if a Muslim collectivity with its own political and legal authority (for example in an Islamic state) decided, after ascertaining the absence of reasonable extenuating circumstances, that a homosexual be given a legal punishment, why would it be morally or democratically wrong? Why don't the Muslim people have the right to make their own laws in accordance with their own understanding of right and wrong? If individual freedom is the ultimate sieve for sifting out right from wrong, why do so many states in the US and provinces in Canada still regard consensual incest between adults as a crime? And who decides the age of consent in any case? Why must we judge our values by their standards? And what right do they really have to judge us. For example, I agree with Ghamidi that a Muslim state today does not have the right to wage war simply to propagate its religion. However, if the opinion of the classical/medieval jurists that the Muslim state has this the right and duty were true, how would it be different in essence from the concept of Manifest Destiny whereby the US annexed many of its states or from the same concept under the different garb of democracy and freedom whereby the US sees it as its moral burden to invade an independent country and cause death and distress to thousands of civilians there? We have our own understanding of moral values and their hierarchy, and we should have the intellectual and moral ability to critique this understanding from our own perspective. In relation to this principle, I should very much like to know how homosexuality can be trivialized.
4. If the purpose of this article was to give any credence to the "gene theory," it would have been advisable for the journal to publish articles presenting critiques thereupon as well so that the readers could be made aware of the fact that this theory is at best theory. Again, it is not the place to offer counterarguments, but I should like to mention that few people would disagree that, at least, the attraction of a man to a woman (in short the proclivity of a man to commit fornication in the absence of legal, moral, and social constraints) is quite well-established in contrast to the "gene theory" justifying homosexuality. If some people are genetically inclined towards homosexuality, many men are inherently inclined towards having physical relations with attractive women. But what does that really mean? Who did ever say that humans are not inclined towards sin; if sin did not have any inducement, why would we do it, and what would be our test? But, does this mean that our inclination is then the justification for the sin? Quite obviously, at best, it may only become the basis for God's forgiveness and mercy if the offender accepts the mistake after committing it and repents honestly and tries sincerely to come out of it. And, in case someone really believes that homosexuality is permitted in Islam or considered a triviality, the arguments for this assumption should be given on the basis of the Qur'an and the Sunnah rather than on the basis of social and biological theories, for that is primarily how Muslims try to determine the dictates of their religion: from the Qur'an and the Sunnah, not social or biological theories, etc. Similarly, for someone who believes that research in these areas has proved that the precepts of the Qur'an and the Sunnah are not practicable, one could have a separate discussion to point out how untenable these theories themselves are. Nevertheless, even if they were proved correct, it would only mean that certain human beings have genes that render them incapable of controlling certain actions. If such a proposition could be proved, an offender (a sodomite, a murderer, a fornicator, et al), in relation to the general principles of the shari'ah, could be exonerated and perhaps confined to a treatment facility; it would still not prove that the offence per se (as murder, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, incest, bestiality, etc.) has become a boon for society. (More on this later insha Allah).
5. I should also very strongly like to suggest that the purpose of this journal be very clearly spelt out. If it is the policy of this journal to let anyone express his or her opinion, it is imperative that the contributions expressing the views of the magazine be marked separately from the ones that don't, and, for provocative articles as Mr Bin Jehangir's either the viewpoint of the magazine be given as well or a counter article be published so that the readers are fully aware of all the arguments on both sides of the spectrum.
6. It is also important that the contributors of articles and other academic writings in the magazine adhere to the ethical norms of citing sources in accordance with acceptable academic standards. It is regrettable to note that many of Ghamidi's views are published without any proper citation or source acknowledgement, quite often with inaccurate depiction of his ideas and research, which may be highly misleading for many readers.
7. The same principle should be kept in mind in publication of books and works by Al-Mawrid, its affiliates, and circle of friends. It is highly regrettable again that some of Mr Ghamidi's friends, who are not even the regular students of religion – let alone being scholars --, have published substantive portions of his research work in their names without source citations – at best, with some nominal acknowledgement of Ghamidi's "contribution" (ustadh ka fayd) in the preface. Such publications are highly unethical and, for their inherent weaknesses, very dangerous as well in terms of inappropriately representing or, rather, misrepresenting his thought and research; they must be discredited and disowned by the institute.
Needless to say that I have no personal grudge against Mr Junaid Bin Jahangir. I remember him very fondly as my student at LUMS, and wish him all the best in his higher studies. However, I do reserve the right to disagree with his views and the way some of them were expressed in the article in question.
Lecturer, Islamic Studies