Nurul T. (she, her) Muslim; Lesbian; President of Sydney Queer Muslims
Ahmed Suhaib (he, him) Muslim; Gay; Secretary of Sydney Queer Muslims, Activist, Engineer
Dr Siobhan Irving (she, her) Muslim; Bisexual; Cisgender; Treasurer of Sydney Queer Muslims, Activist, Anthropologist
Coming from different corners of the world and vastly different cultures - Siobhan, Ahmed and Nurul exudes an aura of centredness and transcendence through their shared religious practices and commitment to Islam. It is clear that they each speak different languages and have very different life experiences, yet they share a common passion and care for the wellbeing of our world in wanting mercy and compassion for every creature and person, as well as the healing of our common home - the Earth. In their taking care of LGBTIQA+ Muslims who come through the work and community of Sydney Queer Muslims, they demonstrate in the most courageous and inspiring way what holiness through the practice of mercy and compassion looks like.
Standing in front of a deep Islamic green background, Ahmed, Nurul and Siobhan smile and stand together. Ahmed stands off the slight recessed right side of the portrait in a maroon red kurta and scarf. In the front centre is Nurul with her hands folded, dressed in royal blue Baju Kurung with sparkling intricacies and embroidery around the collars and sleeves. In slight recessed off to the left side of Nurul, is Siobhan with two hands clasped together, in a long black Abaya dress that has intricate designs that run through the centre front of the dress from the collar down.
Reflections from Nurul:
"It gives me comfort that there is a God that I can sit in the moment with."
“The rituals and practices give me the discipline to take a break from the business of life and have a spiritual moment, 5 times a day, gain an understanding and empathy for those who dont have the basic needs like food, be charitable and be Allah conscious. “
“We start every endeavour with "Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir- Rahim - In the name of God, most compassionate, most merciful" to remind us humans on the mercy and compassion of God.”
“Islam is NOT homophobic nor transphobic nor xenophobic. I would like to see other Muslims to remember God is the creator of us ALL just as we are.”
Reflections from Ahmed:
"My faith grounds me. It reminds me that God is the most compassionate and merciful. It gives me hope that there is always something better to come and that everything happens for a reason. It teaches me not to get hung up on little things as there is a bigger purpose for us in the world.”
“My faith teaches me to look after oneself and care for the people around me. It is these values that I practise to make a better world which binds me to my religion. Allah asks his believers to show compassion and empathy to the people around. One of the principals of Islam is to give to charity. These teaching is what motivates me to look after my queer siblings. The people who have went through similar experience in life to me but have ended up in a place where they are struggling. As a collective we can make the world better by practicing compassion.”
“Quran in many places talk about how we need to be grateful for everything in our life. Our health, our shelters, the food we eat, the mobility we have, our mental wellbeing, our senses that we rely on and so on. It reminds us that even little things that we take for granted are privileges that others might not have. Quran asks us to use our blessings to help others that are struggling. Any one can help and a little help goes a long way.”
“To practise what the religion preaches. There is a reason why in Islam there is no hierarchy among the people. What it means to be religious/Muslim is for Allah to decide. Abandoning our LGBTIQA+ siblings is only going to push them away from the religion. Open your hearts and minds to all your siblings. You may not agree with them but you shouldn't alienate them.”
Reflections from Siobhan:
“Islam teaches that all things in the universe exist in a fine balance. In that sense, the Islamic world view is similar to the spiritual teachings of my ancestors before colonialism changed their ways of life. Islam links me to this past and reminds me that spirituality means finding harmony with my surroundings regardless of where I might find myself. Morality, in this sense, simply refers to acting in ways that protect a balance that benefits everyone, both human and non-human. I've found peace and fulfilment in respecting and cherishing the natural world as well as the rich diversity of the cultural worlds I live in.”
“Charity is an important Islamic practice that is close to my heart. When people think of charity, they often think of donating money or items to others in need. Islamic charity definitely encompasses and encourages this form of giving, but it also expands upon it. For Muslims, giving one's time, a kind word, or even a smile are all considered forms of charity. In my personal life, as well as in my professional life as an educator, I find this form of giving is something I can do every day that helps make the world a softer, more compassionate place.”
“When I was a younger woman and new to Islam, I once arrogantly complained to an elderly religious scholar that the Qur'an was very vague and repetitive. I felt that we would have fewer theological arguments if there were simply less ambiguity to argue about. The religious scholar listened to me patiently and then taught me that the Qur'an is like a mirror that reflects the heart of whoever reads it.
If someone approaches the Qur'an with a merciful disposition, then their reading of it will in turn be full of compassion. If someone is open to guidance, then it will allow them to look within themselves and see what they need to work on. If, on the other hand, someone is not, then the Qur'an will not force them to change. The scholar explained that the onus is on us to work on ourselves.
Divine guidance cannot be contained within lines on a page, so the Qur'an is only a starting place. As the Qur'an reminds us repeatedly, in all this, truly, there are signs for people who reflect. Reflecting on those signs, by people of all faiths and none, will be what builds us a better future.”
“I can't make a suggestion for all Muslims, because there is no one single community to make recommendations too. There is no single recognised religious authority within Islam, so there are only believers and communities of believers who are all on their own paths and have their own interpretations of the canonical sources of Islam. For those Muslims who are homophobic, transphobic or otherwise intolerant of gender or sexual diversity, however, I would like them to reflect on the importance of balance and harmony in Islam. I would like them to reflect on how much pain they cause with their intolerance and reflect on the repeated reminders in the Qur'an and Islamic tradition to be merciful, respect the dignity of others, and defend the oppressed.”
Photographed by Andrew Ratter of Studio Commercial