Notes of an Asexual Muslim

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Asexuality, Islam, and Queerness

lambishwolf:

ace-muslim:

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, 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.

That’s beautiful and so much like my experience and what I’ve come to understand! I’m so sorry you didn’t discover these texts earlier. I was blessed to be raised in a predominantly Muslim country, so even if our schools teach only the strictest Hanbali madhab’s interpretation of Islam, they still included that while marriage is very important and is part of the Prophet’s sunnah, his tradition, it is permissible and could even be liked/preferred mustahab for one to remain single if they lack a sex drive or are incapable of copulation for whatever reason (known in Arabic as al-‘ineen) because they would not be able to fulfill their spouse’s rights over them— so if the alternate is a marriage lacking in one of the most basic rights, it would be far better to remain single!

But even being taught that in our school books, it’s difficult when the culture itself, society in general, push the idea that anyone and everyone should marry and there is no true happiness without it, isn’t it?!

I’m so happy to meet another asexual Muslimah, you have no idea how much this means to me. ;^;

As-salaamu alaykum! Thanks so much for your kind words about the post. I think a lot of the issue is that as a convert, my access to fiqh is variable and not always consistent. As I’ve gradually learned more over the years, I’ve come to realize that some of the early things I learned were pieced together from different madhahib, weren’t complete, etc. I’m self-taught to a large degree, as classes aren’t always accessible (and were much less so when I converted 15 years ago; so much more is available online these days).

There are a few other asexual Muslimahs on Tumblr that I’ve come across; both elainexe and cantaraleigh have commented on my asexuality and Islam posts. I’m very excited too to find others like me.

punkswithcleankitchens:

ace-muslim:

Random asexual Muslim feminist selfie.

Saw this post was getting some really uncool and hateful comments so I cut them out. Show her some love?

Thank you for your kindness! Much appreciated.

punkswithcleankitchens:

ace-muslim:

Random asexual Muslim feminist selfie.

Saw this post was getting some really uncool and hateful comments so I cut them out. Show her some love?

Thank you for your kindness! Much appreciated.

themindislimitless:

thingsthatmakeyouacey:

bessibels:

Soooo this post and all the white aces commenting on it are wrong and also racist and here’s why:

First of all, how is it that white aces are all about diverse perspectives and multiple narratives when we’re co-opting WOC ideas to demand inclusivity from feminist and sex positive spaces, but as soon as POC perspectives start challenging mainstream narratives within our own community, all of a sudden anything that doesn’t fit the mold is irrelevant and off-topic? We’re a bunch of racist hypocrites, folks.

Second of all, here’s *my* takeaway from Alok Vaid-Menon’s piece, and it’s a point all us white aces have been failing to articulate or acknowledge:

If one of the goals of an asexual visibility movement is to make asexual identities accessible, then we need to address all of the barriers to that. Right now we’re addressing some of them, like stigma and lack of vocabulary and erasure. But we’re not addressing colonialism. We’re not addressing the fact that structurally, people who have been racially desexualized just do not have the same access to an asexual identity that white people do. That makes racism and decolonization central issues for us. If we’re not addressing them, we’re only helping white people and POC who are able to adopt white-compatible narratives. If we’re not addressing that, we’re a racially exclusive movement. *That’s* the point. *That’s* why it’s crucial to talk about colonialism and desexualization and lack of access to ace identities.

People are like “How is this relevant when the person doesn’t even identify as ace?” You don’t get it. It’s relevant because they can’t identify as ace in an empowering way, and no one in our community is talking about why.

It’s also crucial to discuss colonialism because desexualizing is an issue the “ace community” has the power to challenge. Ace PoC have an immense power to discuss how colonialism = co-opting and sexual enslavement of brown bodies, and to fight this structure through actual movements instead of just trying to be included - and white people can’t wrap their minds around letting us do that, or that they’re not gatekeepers to “let” things happen in the first place.

Dear Lord, that quoted piece pretty much sums up why I’m so reluctant to identify as asexual (especially as an Asian women who also wears a headscarf…double desexualization wrapped in “submissive object” for white stereotypes). And those comments. The comments are so frustrating.

One of the most frustrating parts is perhaps the comparison of racialized sexualization/desexualization with the conflagration of abuse/assault. They are not the same thing. Interactions with both these pieces can coexist together and have different effects (there’s brown asexual women who have been assaulted— I want to hear what they say though, to be honest). Race is visible and as intrinsic in daily interactions (not simply that of when “fucking” is brought up) for brown and black women that it shapes the very idea/thinking of sexuality to begin with. What does it mean to be asexual for a black women who is constantly hypersexualized, and how alienating is it to have her asexuality negated (sometimes even by the ace community) because she is constantly seen as “sexual”? How does it affect a brown/black woman who dons a headscarf and are coded desexualized and coded “asexual” regardless of how they feel about it, where conversations about sex are seen as out-of-the-norm, while simultaneously all brown/black women (even those who wear a headscarf) are coded a “freak in bed” (yay for stereotypes, amirite) and the dissuasion of talk of sex at—and I mean at, like at an object— them is written off as “modesty” instead of both a challenge of racialized sexism and a negation of their asexuality?

It goes on. East Asian women coded as submissive, like she said, Asian women’s coding as “submissive” and having it automatically coded “asexual” (even by people in the asexual community, because just because you are queer does not mean you are incapable of being racist), with communities having to establish that they have sexuality so many times over that it feels like a betrayal of community when an individual is asexual. These are challenges unique to brown/black communities, but they are inherently part of the course of asexuality politics that cannot be ignored.

White Aces, Listen to Aces of Colour

apollyptica:

If we want our community to be inclusive, you need to listen to our points of view. 

There is no homogenous experiences in the ace community. What aces of colour deal with is not the same as what white aces deal with. 

Asexuality does not exist in a vacuum, and must be examined and talked about in a critical fashion. 

You must understand that there are groups of people who have had asexuality (different than our understanding of it but still the same word) forced on them or have been hypersexualized beyond compare and cannot access asexual spaces in the same way due to racism. 

Asexuality (and things like it) have an old history in certain groups, and it is vital to understand that. 

You can’t approach the experiences of aces of colour from a white perspective; you can’t. Because you won’t understand. 

Our community is multicultural, and it is important that our discourse reflects it. 

I’m reminded of what I was talking about at the International Asexuality Conference at the Asexuality and Ethnicity panel I was asked to be apart of: “You cannot parse my asexuality from my race. They are not separate. You cannot fully understand my experiences if you break them apart.” 

We are apart of this community

If asexuality discourse does not actively include aces of colour or have our voices dominate in discussions of our experiences with racism and the impact it has had on our asexuality, then it will be inaccurate. 

thingsthatmakeyouacey:

bessibels:

Soooo this post and all the white aces commenting on it are wrong and also racist and here’s why:

First of all, how is it that white aces are all about diverse perspectives and multiple narratives when we’re co-opting WOC ideas to demand inclusivity from feminist and sex positive spaces, but as soon as POC perspectives start challenging mainstream narratives within our own community, all of a sudden anything that doesn’t fit the mold is irrelevant and off-topic? We’re a bunch of racist hypocrites, folks.

Second of all, here’s *my* takeaway from Alok Vaid-Menon’s piece, and it’s a point all us white aces have been failing to articulate or acknowledge:

If one of the goals of an asexual visibility movement is to make asexual identities accessible, then we need to address all of the barriers to that. Right now we’re addressing some of them, like stigma and lack of vocabulary and erasure. But we’re not addressing colonialism. We’re not addressing the fact that structurally, people who have been racially desexualized just do not have the same access to an asexual identity that white people do. That makes racism and decolonization central issues for us. If we’re not addressing them, we’re only helping white people and POC who are able to adopt white-compatible narratives. If we’re not addressing that, we’re a racially exclusive movement. *That’s* the point. *That’s* why it’s crucial to talk about colonialism and desexualization and lack of access to ace identities.

People are like “How is this relevant when the person doesn’t even identify as ace?” You don’t get it. It’s relevant because they can’t identify as ace in an empowering way, and no one in our community is talking about why.

It’s also crucial to discuss colonialism because desexualizing is an issue the “ace community” has the power to challenge. Ace PoC have an immense power to discuss how colonialism = co-opting and sexual enslavement of brown bodies, and to fight this structure through actual movements instead of just trying to be included - and white people can’t wrap their minds around letting us do that, or that they’re not gatekeepers to “let” things happen in the first place.

I’m so sorry this happened. Tumblr does have a policy of deleting what they call “malicious content” so hopefully these comments will be deleted.
Thanks for the kind words! I filed a complaint last night with abuse@tumblr.com regarding the two worst comments so hopefully Tumblr will remove them soon.

Islamophobic comments on a selfie I posted in March

canniballingintohannibal:

ace-muslim:

For some reason, a selfie I posted back in March and captioned “Random asexual Muslim feminist selfie” is getting reblogged today with a lot of hateful Islamophobic comments.

[clipped]

I don’t think there’s a way to stop people from reblogging this post, since even if I delete it, they can reblog it from a reblog. Ugh.

Oh my, I am so sorry. I do not personally align myself with the feminist movement but I share the ideology. Every woman should have the right to choose her own path, and if she chooses to practice Islam no one should tell her she can’t be faithful.

Thanks for the kind words!

Ugh, people are the worst. While I am not Muslim I worked for someone who was and I was surprised at how horrible some people were once he left the room, I guess trying to confide in me since I am not Muslim, ugh ugh ugh.
I’m so sorry this is happening to you! There really needs to be a better way on tumblr to report harassment
Thanks for the kind words, both of you! It helps a lot. I’ve reported the two comments that are death threats to abuse@tumblr.com and we’ll see if they do anything about it.
Ugh, I’m sorry that’s happening. Like someone else said, you can report the users, but I’ve heard that’s not always particularly effective.
Thanks for the kind words. It seems to have stopped for the moment (maybe the hate blogs don’t actually have a lot of followers?) so hopefully it was just a one-off. Tumblr really needs to have more effective tools for reporting harassment.
you’re right, deleting the original doesn’t make it disappear completely. you can block/ignore the specific users who are making the comments, and report the harassment- which may or may not work. you won’t see their comments anymore though.
Thanks! I ignored and reported the users (at least I think the report went through; Tumblr is kind of weird).