Question: It is permissible to use gender-nonconforming pronouns? What is the Islamic perspective on gender?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your important question.
The most important and well-studied book on Islamic theology, the Creed of Imam al-Nasafi starts with the words:
“Things have fixed realities, and they can actually be known.”
We as Muslims believe that things do exist, that we can know what they are, and that neither their existence nor their nature are subjective, made up, or merely social constructs.
Thus we believe that boys are born as boys and then become men who are actually men. We also believe that girls are born as girls and then become women who are actually women.
Based on this object sense of reality that is set in stone by a real and existing creator, we believe that there is tremendous wisdom in each of us being either male or female and that being specifically male or female is in the emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual interest of all of us. It is not in the interest of us to mimic the opposite sex or try to change our gender.
It is out of genuine love and concern for us that the Prophet forbade in the strongest terms mimicking the opposite sex. [Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and others] Changing gender is a whole other order of business.
In fact, it is so much to our disadvantage that our avowed enemy, the Devil has promised to make us change our birthright to be specifically male or female:
“‘and I will lead them astray, and I will tempt them with false hopes, and I will command them, whereby they shall slit the ears of cattle, and I will command them, whereby they shall alter the creation of Allah.’ Whoever takes Satan for a friend, instead of Allah, incurs an obvious loss.” [Qur’an, 4: 119]
Changing one’s gender is categorically forbidden because it constitutes changing the creation of Allah, following the Devil, and squandering one of the greatest blessings Allah has given us.
Getting Along With Others
While being completely unwavering in our own beliefs and lifestyles, we do have to show compassion to others around us and, at the very least, work together to achieve whatever shared goals we have.
Looking down with disdain or disgust towards someone who has changed their gender or wants to do so is completely un-Islamic and sinful. Piety, as Ibn Umar told us, is not to ever look down at anyone. [Tafsir al-Tha’labi] We need to show compassion and give advice where possible.
On a merely practical level, we have to keep to the law of the land however it applies to the use of gender-nonconforming pronouns, and we have to try to not offend people, even if we understand that they are wrong.
We also need to team up with other theists and conservatives who believe in the sanctity of family and gender. Allah is winning this battle by Himself, but for our part, we have to take the social and political means to win this social battle, and we cannot do this by ourselves.
I pray this helps.
[Ustadh] Farid Dingle
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.