In the spring of 2020, as the pandemic took hold of the world, companies and organizations started to move operations online. At the time, I was working for a global outreach organization and we were scrambling to figure out how to move our operations online as well. We quickly organized an online chat service where we would engage with people all across the world in order to invite them to Islam. A wide range of people started to log on and our chat agents were now being exposed to questions, and sometimes threats, that they had never encountered in the past. Perhaps the anonymity of being behind a screen allowed introverted and insular people to speak freely.
In one such chat session, I was confronted with a question I was unable to answer. Having been in this field for almost 20 years, there have only been two occasions where I was presented with a question that I was unable to answer, either directly or by further researching the question, asking scholars, students of knowledge, etc. This was one of those occasions. The person on the chat told me that they had been suffering through a lot of anxiety and depression. However, in the midst of the pandemic, now having more time to think deeply about life and meaning, they started to study Islam. This person said that they found Islam to be an existential breath of fresh air and they decided to become Muslim.
At this point in the chat, I was getting ready to send the person information on courses and books that would help a person in their journey as a new Muslim but there was a question from this person that was related to something no new Muslim book or course dealt with. They said that what they were suffering from when they found Islam was “gender dysphoria” and when they found Islam, they were in the middle of transitioning from one gender to another. They were undergoing hormone therapy and had some surgeries and were scheduled for more surgeries. “So my question is, should I stop and try to go back to my original gender or should I continue my transition? Also, when I go to the mosque, which side do I pray on, the men’s side or the women’s side?”
I did not know how to answer this question. I took out my phone and started to frantically text scholars and students of knowledge I knew personally. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear back from anyone. The person on the chat clicked off and I never heard from them again.
This was my first encounter with Transgenderism. I subsequently started studying the phenomenon in more detail and I was surprised with its ubiquitousness. This phenomenon was relatively unheard of historically and now seemed to be everywhere. Abigail Shrier writes that “In 2018, the UK reported a 4,400 percent rise over the previous decade in teenage girls seeking gender treatments.”1
This phenomenon was not only affecting the population at large, but it was having ramifications on Muslims as well. The Islamic paradigm dictates a normative understanding of genders as opposed to accomodating a spectrum of genders, easily detached from one’s anatomy. The Qur’an states,
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Aware” [Qur’an, 49:13]
In other words, Muslims are required to be “cisnormative”. This term, “cisnormative” has a deeply negative connotation in contemporary society. By asserting that God created two distinct genders that are not detached from their anatomical reality, one may be accused of being intolerant of people who identify as transgender or queer and by extension, supporting bullying against them. While this discussion needs to be much more nuanced, we can observe the seeds of what will germinate to become a paradigmatic tug of war between Islam and transgenderism. The bitter fruit that may manifest out of this tug of war is doubts about Islam.
The book that you are currently reading is about doubts. While one of the sources of doubts about Islam could be transgenderism, it may not be the doubt that you are having or someone you know is experiencing. Perhaps, that doubt stems from a problematic hadīth you read or not being able to reconcile science and certain verses of the Qur’an. Maybe a traumatic experience has led you to question God’s mercy or perhaps, the idea of following a religion with so many rules is too much to swallow. Whatever doubts you or someone you know is going through, this book has been written to address them.
One approach to dealing with doubts is to thoroughly analyze each doubt, understand its philosophical underpinnings, and provide a robust response to that particular doubt. Consider the following ideologies, movements, philosophies, etc.:
While I’m sure you are more or less familiar with these concepts, imagine studying each one in detail. How much time would it take? In fact, if one was to study each ideology and address every extant doubt, the output would not just fill a few volumes of books but rather multiple tomes of literature. Let us imagine that we in fact, complete this monumental task, what happens when a new doubt arises? Would we then need to thoroughly research that concept?
A better approach would be the one we will be using in this book. There is an old adage that states, “If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day but if you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.” The approach we are adopting is to teach you how to fish. In other words, instead of delving into each doubt and playing an infinite game of cosmic whack-a-mole, we are going to start with foundations, such that if a new doubt arises, you will be empowered to deal with it. (By the way, two of the terms in the above list don’t actually exist. I just made them up to make this point.)
1 Abigail Shrier, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters (Simon and Schuster, 2020), pg.26