Mohd Ashraff is 37 years old. He works as a counsellor, and lives with his partner.
I gladly identify as a gay Indian-Muslim. However, I’m not able to openly identify myself as a gay man at work, but I warm up to people pretty easily and when I think they might be more open to diversity, I would tell them. I used to be a lot more careful about this, but with age and experience, I’ve also become more accepting of what I am and who I am.
Religion has always been a focal point in my life. In the past religion for me was always about the concept of sin; what you could do versus what you could not. For example, a man having sex with another man was considered wrong. A man should marry a woman and have children, as that was the right thing to do. That was what I was taught as a child. I come from a considerably religious family, and my parents put much emphasis on the importance of religion in our lives. From an early age, I started attending regular classes to study the Qur’an. But as I grew older I began to question a lot more. Looking back, I’m glad to have received the religious instruction, as it gave me useful exposure and the chance to look at issues from a different dimension as an adult.
I was not always comfortable about my religion and sexuality. In 2004 my grandmother asked if I would accompany her for Umrah, a mini-pilgrimage to Mecca. I was quite taken aback by her suggestion and said “No.” In my mind, I was thinking, “I’m gay, and God will not accept me.” I thought I was not ready to go on this pilgrimage, but at the same time I also knew that going to Mecca was like an invitation one should not expect or turn down, and not everyone who wanted to go could do so. It took me some time before finally making that decision to go, and eventually I did. Along the way I was filled with much worry and apprehension, about whether God would even embrace me, and whether there would be too many distractions. But somehow everything turned out really well.
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I hope people can read my story and understand that it’s about connecting religion with sexuality. It’s really just about being comfortable with who you are, rather than living with those painful feelings of guilt, and then trying to embrace religion into your life. Lots of people say that you can’t be Muslim and gay at the same time. That’s not true. Religion and sexuality are not separate entities that are mutually exclusive. It all depends on how we integrate them, and the importance that religion plays in our lives, which is also a very personal decision. For me it’s not about choosing between Islam “or” homosexuality, but merging my faith “with” being gay.
The journey I have taken so far is a connection between me and God, on a path that has been filled with light and blessings. Through His divine intervention, I’ve been blessed in my current relationship. Still, this is just the beginning for me. I’m thinking a lot more now, still rereading the Qur’an to continue to understand and look at it from different perspectives. I’m also taking my time to rediscover what’s been written. While still searching for the deeper meanings behind those passages, I’m also looking for the concepts of forgiveness and acceptance as told in the Qur’an, as they are both especially important to me.
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The above are excerpts from Mohd Ashraff’s full story, which can be read in the book.