Asexuality, Islam, and Queerness

I am asexual, aromantic, non-libidoist (no sex drive), and sex-repulsed. I have no attraction of any kind to men except rare instances of aesthetic attraction. I have never had a romantic or sexual relationship with a man, I do not want one, and I would not know how to navigate one. I am not willing or even able to have sex with a man and I do not believe I ever will be able. This is not something I can compromise on. This means that a romantic/sexual relationship with a man would be a site of oppression for me. Marriage is out of the question.

My religion includes teachings like, “Marriage is half the religion,” and “Marriage is part of my way and who goes away from my way is not of me.”

This is what it’s like being asexual and Muslim.

Marriage is not actually religiously obligatory in Islam. If you dig into enough detailed texts of jurisprudence, you’ll eventually find statements that it’s merely neutral and not even considered as recommended for people who do not experience desire. Marriage in Islam is understood largely as a way of regulating sexual desire and giving it a lawful outlet. If you don’t experience desire, you don’t have anything to regulate or need a lawful outlet for, thus the exhortation towards marriage is not really directed at you.

Moreover, historical commentaries explain that the “goes away from my way” saying was actually addressed to a married man who had turned away from his wife out of a misguided sense of piety. It was actually meant to say, “Your wife has a right on you, and it is part of the religion to give her her rights.” In another instance, the Prophet told a man who said he was unable to marry that it was OK to not marry and to follow a course of lifelong celibacy (the phrase translated as “castrate yourself” (!) could mean figuratively “live as a eunuch”) because God had written out that fate of inability for him (yes, I believe that God created me to be asexual).

In my searches, I also found this quote from an early mystic:

God has decreed neither marriage nor celibacy… But he has decreed integrity of heart, preservation of faith, a soul at peace, and the execution of commands needed for these… And if one’s healthful condition, integrity of heart, and peace of soul reside in celibacy, then that is better for him, since these are the things that are desired of marriage. If one can reach these without marriage, then celibacy causes no harm.

That’s talking to me right there. I could not find a healthful condition, integrity of heart, or peace of soul in marriage to a man. I take this quote as explaining the meaning of Quran 57:27, which says in part:

We [God] did not prescribe it [monasticism] for them except for seeking the good-pleasure of God.

I believe that through not subjecting myself to what would be a kind of psychic violence on me, but through pursuing a life of health, integrity and peace in celibacy, I am seeking the good-pleasure of God.

So, yes, there actually is a place for me as an asexual in Islam and I don’t need to fear that I’m somehow failing in my religion by not being able to marry.

But…

It took me years to find the handful of texts I’ve mentioned here, to find these interpretations. Many Muslims might not know about them or agree with the way I understand them. Even if they did, that’s an awful lot of explaining to do just to justify my being 40, single, and not planning to ever marry.

And then I have to explain that stuff in the first paragraph of this post. That, yes, it is possible for some people to innately have no interest whatsoever for sex. Even a lot of Western liberals seem to have trouble with that concept, judging from some of the reactions to asexuality. That I’m not just not interested in sex but that it would actually harm me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to have to engage in it. That it’s because I am not straight, that God created some people to not be straight.

When your sexual orientation cuts you off from how your community or your society expects you to experience and express your sexuality, when you have to search for alternative interpretations and obscure texts to justify the existence of your sexual orientation and its validity within the religion, when you have to tell people that your sexual orientation is not “normal”, is not how they believe God created everybody to be, you’re queer.

I’m queer. As an asexual Muslim, I’m queer.

I’m still trying to figure out how to even have that conversation with anybody but LGBT Muslims, or if I ever will.

In the meantime, my not being married and not seeking marriage isolates me. Converts to Islam who don’t have a larger community they already belong to are often very marginalized in Muslim communities in America. Many can find a way in by marrying. But I can’t do that.

Being asexual and Muslim has often meant a profound loneliness and a silence about everything that made that loneliness. That’s a queer experience too, to be isolated and alone because of where your sexual orientation puts you, and to not be able to explain why.

And another thing is, strawberreli is pretty much the only other asexual Muslim I’ve come across even on Tumblr, except for a couple of blogs that have long since gone inactive. I’m glad I’m not the only one, but that’s really freaking lonely. I’m guessing that most of the other asexual Muslims (and yes, they exist and are out there) are like me, isolated and alone. Part of my motivation in finally writing this post is in case an asexual Muslim finds it and realizes they are not broken and not alone, not failing at the religion. There are a lot of answers I still don’t have, but I hope I can give someone that, at least.

About Laura (ace-muslim)

Laura is an aromantic asexual, queer-identified, and a Muslim. She lives in the U.S., works in online tech support, and volunteers for a Muslim anti-racism organization. She blogs about asexuality, queer Muslim issues, and other topics at http://ace-muslim.tumblr.com and has written on asexuality for a number of Muslim sites.
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20 Responses to Asexuality, Islam, and Queerness

  1. tomcat941 says:

    This was interesting to read; I often wonder about how religion interacts with asexuals. I’m currently doing a religious philosophy and ethcis A-level and there doesn’t seem to be any clear viewpoint and I’m reluctant to ask a priest at my school. The religion I currently study is Christianity, though I am an atheist (very few people know, definitely no one at the school) However, a lot of the points that Christianity uses to condemn homosexuality are based in ethical principles such as Natural Law which would also condemn asexuality as it says you need to ‘reproduce’ although it does still support chosen celibacy (don’t ask me how, it’s a double-standard). Although Situation ethics (another major ethical theory within the catholic church) says you need to do the most loving thing, which I would consider to be allowing people to fully live according to their orientation. At the moment, I don’t think many people are yet aware about asexuality for most religions to have officially commented on it. I think the major problem will be religions recognizing that it isn’t a choice like celibacy and is not better or worse than any other orientation. It might also force them to turn away from there hetero-normative view of the ‘perfect life’, which I think is something they will be reluctant to do. Unless of course they use asexuality as a way to attack other orientations into living a celibate life, but that once more comes into them misunderstanding it as a choice.

    • I’ve posted about religion in general and asexuality a couple of times on my Tumblr blog. A good blog that discusses it from a Christian viewpoint is The Ace Theist:

      http://theacetheist.wordpress.com/

      The impression I’ve gotten is that conservative religious communities, whether Christian or otherwise, place a LOT of importance on marriage and children and thus aces who don’t marry are marginalized or stigmatized in these communities. Some of the more liberal denominations and groups that are LGBTQ-friendly are more likely to be ace-friendly as well.

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  6. Resho says:

    Believe me, you’re not at all alone. Far from it. This is probably coming a little late now, looking at the date of the post. But we are out here.

    To call myself “queer” is something I never thought would ever apply to me, but lo and behold here I am, an asexual muslim. It’s something I’ve come to terms with over the years, though not many understand where I’m coming from because of their lack of knowledge and personal experience on the subject despite the credible sources I’ve given. Whether due to culture or not, I’m seen as an anomaly, an other, abnormal. Misunderstood, generally. My family is traditionally-minded but not to the extent of extremism. More ignorant of what I am unable to feel due to the way I am and afraid of and for me. So seeing this post, targeted specifically at this seemingly rare and barely spoken demographic I fit in, is…just, amazing. Thank you, sincerely, for getting out there with this information. I’m going to be using it as a reference the next time I need to and it’s just been such a great support and help to me.

  7. aryan801chan says:

    hi. I’m from Indonesia and I’m so glad that I found this post, and you of course. I think I’m a grey-aromantic and the tought of having sex doesn’t repulse me. I’m 31 this year. Before I realized that I’m ace, and come out, my family keep pestering me to find a husband. After I came out they still asked me once in a while whether I want to have better life. They always said that Allah SWT wouldn’t change the fate of His people before they change their fate themselves. They still thought that I would be “normal” when I found “the one”. well I guess it’d be awhile for that to happen, no? :’)
    about asexual and marriage in Islam, isn’t marriage only a part of sunah? I think there are some levels on whether someone should, should not, and have to get married. like they have to get married when they have strong desire to have sex and afraid that they can’t control their nafs so they wouldn’t get closer to do zina.

    • Thanks for your comment! I hope that your family will continue to come around and be accepting of you.

      As you said, marriage is sunna rather than obligatory; however, there is a great deal of cultural pressure around it in many communities and many people do not seem to be aware of the subtleties of the issue. I’m hoping that my writings will help to open up more space for asexual Muslims.

      Best wishes!

  8. Naashia says:

    Laura thank you so much for the article! Yes it made me feel good to know that being asexual is not against Islam! i sometimes wondered whether sex would be neccessary as people also claim how depression etc is also more evident in people who do not have sex. I couldn’t disagree more. I am at peace with being asexual and glad to see that there are others out there who feel the same!

  9. Pingback: “I’m Queer”: Grappling with Orthodoxy as an Asexual Muslim Woman | Love, InshAllah

  10. Az says:

    Hey Laura thank you so much for posting this. I am not only Muslim asexual but I also happen to be a Pakistani girl. I tried coming out to my parents but they just think I am childish and somewhat immature. I am a practicing Muslim and the questions you discussed were my questions, and the answers you gave were satisfactory. I thank you for that. Jazak Allah sister.

  11. Miss Booksie says:

    HeyThere 🙂
    Your article was amazing , really. I am also an asexual but then I am a Pakistani (girl) and well I am not close to my parents. (perks of having desi parents XD). I am 17 and I have no idea how to tell them. Its lonely though. I am scared kinda . I don’t know what to do .

    • Thanks for commenting and I’m glad you liked my post! Without knowing the details of your situation, it’s difficult to give advice. However, please know that you do not need to come out to your parents (or anybody else) unless you feel safe and comfortable in doing so. For instance, if you expect to work for a living once you have completed your studies, or to live on your own, then you may want to wait until you have greater independence before saying anything. If there is pressure on you to get married when you don’t want to, maybe you can find other reasons to put it off for a few years until you have greater independence, for instance by saying you want to finish your studies or that you don’t feel ready yet. These may be ways to make your situation easier without coming out as asexual if you don’t feel ready to do so at this time.

      It can be difficult to find people who understand. I myself don’t know any asexual people offline or in my local area, nor do I have access to support groups. However, there are online asexual communities such as AVEN and Tumblr, where you may be able to connect with others and seek support. I hope this helps!

  12. Wan Farah says:

    I am female muslim asexual. Your feelings regarding sex exactly mirrors mine. I am glad to have proof i am not alone.
    Thank u for this post.

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