Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
1) For a male who is sexually attracted to other males, what constitutes proper gender relations? Is it proper to shake hands with other males? Where should that person pray in jamaat (or is it better to pray at home)? Is it permissible to live in the same quarters as an unrelated male (e.g. in a shared dorm room)?
2) Is it permissible for a person to lie to or deceive others with regard to sexual orientation?
Answer: Jazakum Allah khayran for your questions, which are very important.
The situation you have described is one which is very difficult for any religious person to experience. To not be able to act upon and fulfil one’s basic passions is no doubt a great test of patience, strength and faith. May God make things easy for those who have to bear such trials and reward them immensely.
God is All-knowing, and one cannot imagine how much pleasure and joy is in store for the believer who holds back for His sake. In the meantime, one should attach themselves to God as much as possible, and find solace in knowing that suffering is of many types, yet forbearance and gratitude only brings about the Pleasure of God and will be a formidable light for the person on the Day of Judgement, insha’Allah.
Generally speaking, there is no prohibition stopping a man who is sexually attracted to men interacting with other men. One does not have to avoid shaking hands, or attending the congregational prayers. Likewise, it is not prohibited to be in seclusion with another man. It is still important to be a part of the Muslim community and have social and communal interaction.
However, the above rulings are general, and people differ in their levels of desire and patience. If one finds that they are unable to control their sexual thoughts, lower their gaze, and restrain physical urges, then they must limit their interaction with other men accordingly. This is something each individual will have to gauge for themselves. In these instances, one should avoid situations that they know exacerbate their desires. As you correctly mentioned, modesty is a branch of faith, and our responsibility is not only to protect our own modesty, but also the modesty of others.
Lying about one’s sexual orientation
In these very delicate situations, where, unfortunately, many people may react insensitively or pass judgement, it would be permissible to lie about one’s sexual orientation if the need arose.
If the idea of marriage ever comes up, one should just mention that they are devoted to their work, study etc.
Dealing with desires
Having sexual desires is natural and Islam is not prudish when it comes to discussing these matters. In cases where a person is unable to act on their sexual instincts, one may try various ways to help tame the desires as much as possible:
1. Fasting or diminishing one’s food: This was the advice of the Prophet ﷺ to those who cannot marry. Some people find, at first, that fasting increases sexual desire, but over time this should pass. Fasting two days a week, Mondays and Thursdays, is sunna and a good start.
2. Lessen intake of certain foods such as dairy products and meat and increase intake of vegetable and fish if possible.
3. Exercise regularly, a mixture of strength and cardio.
4. Keep busy and get involved in community activities, as well as intellectual and artistic pursuits that one finds fulfilling.
5. Keep close ties with family, if possible.
7. Read Quran and make dhikr of Allah and blessings on the Prophet ﷺ as much as one can, reflecting on the words being spoken. Turn your heart to Allah and ask Him each day to keep you patient and firm on the faith. Seek knowledge, even if slowly.
8. Avoid any situations or media articles that discuss related issues, keeping the mind away from the subject, which in turn keeps the heart and bodily limbs away from it.
9. In such a situation where marriage is never a possibility, if one really finds it difficult to control their desires and they genuinely feel like they will fall into the unlawful, then it is permissible, and perhaps even obligatory, for such a person to masturbate to release the sexual energy and avoid falling into a greater sin. However, when doing so, it would not be permissible to invoke unlawful thoughts in order to arouse one’s desire. [Tuhfa al Muhtaj]
It is very important for such a person to have some emotional support. Unfortunately, it would be difficult to have support in these situations as no one will know about it. For this reason, if the need to share is there, one should seek out either an upright, practicing Muslim counsellor, or a sensitive and trusted local scholar, or both, for continued support and guidance. It is important that whoever one goes to is upright, practicing and has a firm understanding of the religion.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.