Transgenders, Transsexuals and Intersexes in the light of Shari’ah.

Transgenders, Transsexuals and Intersexes

Allah Ta’ala states in the Quran:

و أنه خلق الزوجين الذكر و الأنثى

“And that He (Allah) created pairs; male and female”

Islam explicitly affirms that there are only two genders in humankind; male and female i.e. a human being can either be a male or female (not both and nothing else). Furthermore, Islam does not differentiate between gender and sex.

The terms transgender and transsexual are used interchangeably, though there may be some distinctions between them.[1] These are terms (transgender and transsexual) used to describe those who deviate from the natural way in which they were created by assuming a gender different from their gender at birth i.e. male, female.

Nb: Transgenders or transsexuals are not to be confused with intersexes (hermaphrodites) as the former are individuals born with typical male or female anatomy unlike intersexes (which will be discussed later in this article). Transgenders or transsexuals are actually Mukhanath (men who resemble and imitate women) and Mutarajjilat (women who resemble and imitate men). Transgender is a mental illness and abnormality caused by various external factors.

A person’s decision to undergo gender transitioning, whether medically or socially, can be the result of two factors;

  •  Gender dysphoria (previously, gender identity disorder). This is a term that describes a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.[2] Gender dysphoria is a mental illness and disorder that needs to be treated at the very onset.

The Shariah categorises each individual as a man or a woman and for each are specific rights and duties. Transgender has no place in Islam. A person suffering from gender identity disorder should seek professional assistance and guidance, both medically and spiritually.

  •  Takhannuth and Tarajjul (Effeminate man and Masculine woman) i.e. evil desires that propel a man to behave and act like a woman) in speech, appearance, behaviour, posture, voice, dressing and movements etc. and a woman to imitate and behave like a man.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ declared: “Allah curses men who imitate women and women who imitate men.” [Bukhari]

He ﷺ also said: “May Allah curse the effeminate man and the masculine woman.” [Bukhari]

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Allah curses a woman who wears either men’s clothing and a man who wears a woman’s dress.” [Abu Dawud]

Therefore, the concept of transgenders or transexuals is totally prohibited and has no place in Islam. In all conditions, it is prohibited for a person to undergo any form of gender transition, whether medical or social.

Medical transition for men suffering from this mental disorder includes:

  • hormone therapy (to create feminine characteristics such as less body hair, breasts, redistribution of body fat toward hips and breasts, etc.)
  • breast augmentation (implants)
  • orchiectomy (removal of testes)
  • laser hair removal (to remove hair from the face or other parts of the body)
  • tracheal shave (making the Adam’s apple smaller)
  • facial feminization surgery (create smaller, more feminine facial features)
  • penile inversion vaginoplasty (making of a vagina by inverting penile skin)

Medical transition for women suffering from this mental disorder includes:

  • hormone therapy (to make masculine characteristics such as a deeper voice, facial hair growth, muscle growth, redistribution of body fat away from hips and breasts, not getting a period, etc.)
  • male chest reconstruction, or “top surgery” (removal of breasts and breast tissue)
  • hysterectomy (removal of internal female reproductive organs such as the ovaries and uterus)
  • phalloplasty (construction of a penis using skin from other parts of the body)
  • metoidioplasty (surgery that causes the clitoris to work more like a penis, along with hormone treatment to make the clitoris grow larger) [3]

Nb: Not all transgenders may choose to undergo medical transition. Some may transition medically by doing one or only a few of the procedures listed above. Some may take hormones and decide not to have any surgeries, or just choose one kind of surgery or none of the others. Some may choose to transition socially and not medically.

Our bodies belong to its Creator, Allah the All Mightily, and must be treated (whether alive or dead) in accordance with the laws of its Creator. Thus, it is totally prohibited for a person to medically transition into the opposite gender from which he or she was created. Even if a person undergoes medical transition to the extent that he or she totally resembles the opposite gender in appearance and anatomy, he or she will still be attributed to the original gender at the time of birth. Therefore, in the case of a transgender woman (a person who was born as a male), the laws of Islam which are specific to a male will apply to the transgender woman. Similarly, is the case of a transgender man (the laws of Islam specifically related to a woman) will apply.

In understanding the severity of the matter; sins and transgressions can be grouped into two categories;

  1. Short-lived and curtailed, which are restricted to a specific place of time. The perpetrator sins once upon committing the atrocity.
  2. Prolonged and extended which is not restricted to specific place or time. The perpetrator is continuously sinning every moment of his life, every breath that he takes until he repents. An example of this is gender transition (transgender) as the sin is not restricted to a specific time or place, rather it extends to all times and all places especially in the case of medical transition.

The curse of Allah Ta’ala is upon that individual perpetually until he repents. Therefore, the only solution is for such individuals to repent sincerely before Allah and rectify themselves.

Allah Ta’ala mentions:

الا الذين تابوا من بعد ذلك و أصلحوا

Such individuals must not only repent from his heart but his repentance must be apparent in that, he/she rectifies his/her actions, behaviour, appearance etc.

Intersexes (Khuntha), which are mentioned in the books of Islamic Jurisprudence, do not refer to transgenders and transsexuals. Intersexes, are rare phenomenon in which a person is born having both male and female anatomy. [4]  Intersexes may be divided into two categories viz. unambiguous intersexes and ambiguous intersexes.

  1. The Jurists of Islam have outlined rules and principles by which the gender of this type of intersex may be determined. After the gender is determined they would be identified by that assigned gender in all aspects. Furthermore, there is no harm if such individuals undergo medical treatment/surgery to remove blemishes and defects.
  2. Ambiguous Intersex: This type is termed by the Jurists of Islam as Khuntha Mushkila. It refers to that Khuntha (intersex), whose gender is difficult to determine as the signs of masculinity and the signs of femininity are equal in all perspectives. The details of which are mentioned in the books of Islamic Jurisprudence.

Other Rulings Pertaining to Transgenders

Marriage

Islam only permits the marriage between a man and woman. As stated above Islam does not recognise the transition of an individual from one gender/sex into the other (except in genuine cases relating to ambiguous intersexes). Thus, it will be totally prohibited for a trans woman to marry a man and vice versa. All relations resulting from such union will be regarded as zina (adultery, fornication, homosexuality and lesbianism).

Seclusion

Even though Islam does not recognise the transition of one gender into another, it will be necessary for Muslim women to observe Hijab[5] in the presence of transgender men (even though their original gender is female). Similarly, is the case of transgender women i.e. it is necessary for Muslim women to observe Hijab in their presence.

Salaah

In principle, there are no differences in the method of performing Salaah between a male and a female (except certain postures, where a woman is required to perform it a manner which is more concealing and less revealing, the details of which are mentioned in the books of Islamic Jurisprudence). However, with regards to the awrah, there is a difference and its rulings must be observed for the Salah to be valid. Furthermore, it will not be permissible for a transgender man to stand in line with the men as their Salah will be nullified. Also, it will not be permissible for a transgender woman to intermingle or be in seclusion with men due to evident fitnah and corruption. Hence, they should not be allowed in our places of worship, homes and gatherings.

Inheritance

A transgender will be entitled to inheritance. Shares will be based on the original gender assigned at birth. – based on the gender they were born with

Gender Specific Facilities

A person identified as a transgender, should not be allowed to use public facilities designated specifically for females or males. This is irrespective of the person’s original gender or transitioned gender.  These measures are necessary to ensure the protection, privacy and safety of the general masses.

The only solution for individuals who are transgender are for them to be given their own facilities. If not, the privacy given to both men and women will be eroded. This leaves room for misconduct, spying, abuse, harassment or other social ills such as rape or even murder. The freedoms and privacy of the many far outweigh that of the few.

In conclusion, it must be understood that gender transition (whether medically or socially) is totally prohibited and has no place in Islam and as such, a transgender must repent and abandon his/her evil traits and practices and adhere to the laws of Islam. In doing so the following should also be done;

  • Engage in sincere repentance and make abundant supplication for guidance and steadfastness
  • Increase in doing good deeds, Quran, Zikr, fasting, charity etc. seeking closeness to Allah ﷻ
  • Seek professional aid and counselling from a Muslim psychiatrist and therapist
  • Seek Islamic advice and teaching from Islamic Scholars
  • Endeavor to adopt the appearance and behaviour of the original gender (both medically and socially)
  • Seek the company of the righteous and upright

And Allah Ta’ala Knows Best

Mufti Kaleem Muhammad

Darul Iftaa, Jaamia Madinatul Uloom

Marabella Trinidad


[1] Historically and medically, the term transsexual was used to indicate a difference between one’s gender identity (their internal experience of gender) and sex assigned at birth (male, female, or intersex). More specifically, the term (transsexual) is often (though not always) used to communicate that one’s experience of gender involves medical changes, such as hormones or surgery, that help alter their anatomy and appearance to more closely align with their gender identity. (Healthline, 2019)

[2] Gender dysphoria – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

[3] What Do I Need to Know About the Transitioning Process? (plannedparenthood.org)

[4] A 2018 review reported that the number of births with ambiguous genitals is in the range of 0.02% to 0.05%

Selma Feldman Witchel (2018). “Disorders of Sex Development”. Best Practice & Research. Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology

[5] The concept of Hijab does not only refer to a woman covering her body in a specific manner, but also refers to modesty and chastity in a woman’s conduct and behaviour before members of the opposite sex, it is a concept that promotes privacy for females and prohibits loose intermingling etc.