A Way Beyond the Rainbow

#19 - On Gifts, Divine Openings and Role Models

August 14, 2020 Waheed Jensen Season 2 Episode 7
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#19 - On Gifts, Divine Openings and Role Models
Chapters
0:38
Episode Introduction
3:51
Blessings from Trials and Hardships
9:33
Sympathy, Empathy and Altruistic Behavior
13:45
On Gifts and Talents
19:34
On Finding Role Models Throughout History
40:28
On Ibn Dawud Al-Zahiri
55:32
Ending Remarks
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#19 - On Gifts, Divine Openings and Role Models
Aug 14, 2020 Season 2 Episode 7
Waheed Jensen

In this episode, we talk about gifts and talents, as well as Divine openings that come along with SSA. Whether spiritual openings, emotional intelligence or extraordinary talents across different fields, men and women with SSA have God-given gifts, which, when used wisely, can end up changing the world. 

We also explore some stories of men and women throughout history, among whom some had strong and platonic same-sex friendships, others had SSA and kept themselves chaste, while others, unfortunately, acted upon their desires -- from leaders like Alexander the Great and Emperor Hadrian and artists like Michelangelo and Tchaikovsky, to writers and poets like Emily Dickinson, Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf and scientists like Alexander von Humboldt and Alan Turing. We also examine the story of Ibn Dawud al-Zahiri, a Muslim scholar who himself had SSA and loved another man passionately, but kept himself chaste and lived a God-conscious life.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, we talk about gifts and talents, as well as Divine openings that come along with SSA. Whether spiritual openings, emotional intelligence or extraordinary talents across different fields, men and women with SSA have God-given gifts, which, when used wisely, can end up changing the world. 

We also explore some stories of men and women throughout history, among whom some had strong and platonic same-sex friendships, others had SSA and kept themselves chaste, while others, unfortunately, acted upon their desires -- from leaders like Alexander the Great and Emperor Hadrian and artists like Michelangelo and Tchaikovsky, to writers and poets like Emily Dickinson, Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf and scientists like Alexander von Humboldt and Alan Turing. We also examine the story of Ibn Dawud al-Zahiri, a Muslim scholar who himself had SSA and loved another man passionately, but kept himself chaste and lived a God-conscious life.

00:38
Assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta'ala wa baraktuh, and welcome to a brand new episode of "A Way Beyond the Rainbow", this podcast series dedicated to Muslims experiencing same-sex attractions who want to live a life true to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala and Islam. I am your host Waheed Jensen, thank you so much for joining me in this episode. This episode is a very special episode. We are going to look at struggle with SSA from a different lens. And today we're going to be talking about the gifts and the Divine openings that come with SSA. It's an episode that is very dear to my heart, an episode that I have poured my heart into it, and there's so much to talk about. I'm so excited to be sharing this episode with you. Now, just as an introduction, many of us have, through our own personal experiences, realized that we have some gifts or unique openings from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, and we have discovered those over time. Many of us have embraced our gifts and have allowed them to shine and flourish. It's important to note that, by discussing the topic that SSA is a gift, and that there are associated gifts that come with it, we are not undermining or belittling anyone's struggles. After all, we, as brothers and sisters, all share in them together. It's also important to note that, when we discuss the issue as having the possibility of being a gift from God, we are specifically talking about the struggle of same-sex attractions and do not in any way, shape or form, mean the history of any abuse or assault or traumas that we may have gone through in our lives. We feel, however, that it is still a necessary topic to discuss, as in many of our experiences, this offered major relief for us along this journey, and it continues to do so. And in addition to all of that, from our experiences, this realization came after a period of introspection and putting things into proper perspective. So, with this caveat, the question is, then, how can our SSA be a gift from the Almighty? And what are some of the gifts and Divine openings that we have in our lives that may be associated with our SSA. As a side note, some of the information that I'm going to be presenting in this episode is a synthesis of literature and research, and some is anecdotal and based on what we have observed among ourselves, as men and women who experience SSA, and in communication with others who have SSA over the years. One may or may not identify with any or all of these statements offered in this episode, but I just want to dedicate this episode to talking about these openings, these gifts, and see what resonates with you. To begin, I'm going to quote Maria von Trapp from the famous movie "The Sound of Music", when she said, "When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window". 

03:50
So, as you recall, in the previous couple of episodes, we have been talking about lots of pertinent themes. We've been tackling this struggle from a spiritual lens. So we've tackled the trials and the tribulations and hardships and surrender and sacrifice for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. Now, if we look at those themes, per se, they reveal themselves as Divine gifts, right? They are Divine gifts in and of themselves. So when we realize that everything in this life is a test, and this (SSA) is one of our tests, and the fact that how many of us wouldn't have found God or held on as tightly had it not been for our SSA and our hardships? The fact that trials and tests are a sign of Allah's love, the fact that we have been trained to develop sincerity and humility before Allah and before people by going through all of these hardships. We have been able to and continue to develop discipline and self accountability, trying to be close to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala as much as we can and not to let go, to develop patience and forbearance, purification of one's heart and vision, multiple rewards in this Dunya and the Akhirah, inshaAllah. We talked about gratitude and contentment, developing compassion towards others and feeling with them, appreciating life and one's well being, and then the huge topic of trust and submission and sacrifice to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. All of these and other brilliant themes and profound themes are in and of themselves gifts from Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, right? So, with all that said, SSA is a gift in that it can bring one close to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, whether that is during the "confusion phase" that we went through, where we question everything and we cry out to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, or during the "maintenance phase" where we try to remain steadfast for Allah's sake as much as we can. This is a path that can be filled with immense rewards, inshaAllah, as we are on a quest to please Allah Almighty. Now, everything that we go through and we have been through has all pointed in one direction: Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. He loves us. He wants us to know that and to know Him. And this goes back to the covenant that we took with Him when He asked, "Am I not your Lord?" And we responded, "Indeed, You are" (7:172). Now is our chance to change and grow and discover Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. Our Creator has introduced Himself to us all along as what? As "Rabb" of all of the worlds, as the Cherisher and the Grower. Underneath these attractions, as we know, is a desire for a child to grow and to flourish. We are on this planet for that purpose, to grow closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. He is the Destination of the path. Every action is "قربة إلى الله" - a means of drawing closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. The purpose of trial is growth and establishment and cementation of faith and our relationship with Allah. He, subhanahu wa ta'ala, knows that homosexual acts are not the answer to the issue. This is why He forbids dabbling in it or even advertising it, because He knows the vulnerable person will get immersed and lost and addicted to it and never face His actual issues. And as Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala mentions in Surat An-Nisa', “What comes to you of good is from Allah, but what comes to you of evil, [O man], is from yourself” (4:79). In a hadith qudsi that I adore so much, Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says, “I am as My servant thinks of Me and I am with him as he remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, then I will remember him in Myself. If he mentions Me in a gathering, then I will mention him in a greater gathering. If he draws near to Me a handspan, I will draw near to him a cubit. If he draws near to Me a cubit, I will draw near him a fathom. And if he comes to Me walking, I will come to him running”. Subhan Allah. The idea is to draw close to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, and He will draw even closer, subhan Allah. And as we have been discussing throughout the previous couple of episodes, Allah has decreed unique trials for each of us, given our unique backgrounds and circumstances and characters. In His wisdom, He subhanahu wa ta'ala tailors these trials for the best chance of our success, but it is ultimately our choice. Your choice. So, we hope to make the right choice. To go to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, to be with Him, to immerse ourselves in Him. As Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says, "With every hardship comes ease" (94:5-6). We can look at all of those Divine openings that we have spoken about in the past couple of episodes as ease, but there's also so much more. Some additional points we will cover in this episode, and there are tons and tons more that we may know and may not even know about.

09:33
As far as sympathy, empathy and altruistic behavior, I can wholeheartedly testify to the uniqueness and giftedness, overwhelming potential and unparalleled emotionality that many of us have. And this is not a statement of pride or vanity, on the contrary, astaghfirullah, it is a statement to the beauty that, for many of us who struggle with same-sex attractions, it goes hand in hand with the struggle. And this is even backed up by research. As you may recall in season one, episode five, I have cited many studies, and one study showed that individuals who identify as "homosexual" score higher on altruism and empathy assessments. And another study that was published in 2018 showed that, on average, adults who reported experiencing a traumatic event in childhood had elevated empathy levels compared to adults who did not experience a traumatic event. And now, recall how there are high correlations of childhood traumas in their many different forms, with individuals who struggle with and experience same-sex attractions. Now, one might say, "Well, yes, traumatic events do increase the risk of depression and other mental health issues", but there is also evidence that adversity can lead to post-traumatic growth, including increased compassion and pro-social behavior. Although this is somewhat counter-intuitive, right? But this might be predicted if the trauma not only increases fear of a future threat, but also renders the individual more sensitive to suffering in other people. And this study that was published in 2018, a recent study, so to speak, showed exactly that. And they even report that, "the severity of the trauma correlated positively with various components of empathy. Finding suggests that the experience of childhood trauma increases a person's ability to take the perspective of another individual and to try to understand their mental and emotional states, and that this impact is long standing". Many of you listening to me right now, might agree with this. We have realized that, compared to other people, we, as people with SSA, have a heightened sense of feeling for other people and engaging with their pains, right? Many of us have insights into other people's problems, we can pick up on signals to which other people don't usually pay attention. And this is nothing surprising, because many of us have been through traumas and immense pains. Our love and sympathy towards others have little to no boundaries. This seems to be a realization that comes over time, once we have gained a better understanding of our own SSA, and many of us can attest to that. I would say honestly, that the majority, if not every single individual who experiences SSA that I have personally spoken to and interacted with, they show all of these skills, and I stand by my words. Now on a subconscious level, there is an association between same-sex attractions and how we perceive the world and how we connect with other people, how we absorb their energies, how we resonate with them and how we connect to the world, and vice versa. Many of us, you know, as you recall, we spoke about hypersensitivity and that temperament that many of us have, a large number of us are profoundly sensitive, and we are attuned to other people and the relational dynamics, we are observant and curious. We have this propensity to ponder and analyze and reflect. Our temperaments and experiences have given many of us a unique set of lenses through which we perceive and interact with the world. And that's different from other people's perceptions and ways of interacting with the world. Don't you agree? 

13:44
Now, if you were to ask me, what are some of the extraordinary talents that we have? Before we go into this, I would like to cite some excerpts from the book "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brené Brown. You may remember Brené, we've spoken about her in the first season, when Aadam was with me in episodes two and three, we talked about shame and vulnerability and self-compassion, and all of those profound themes. Now in the book, "The Gifts of Imperfection", one of the chapters is dedicated to talking about talents and gifts. Brené says, "We all have gifts and talents. When we cultivate those gifts and share them with the world, we create a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out, it's not merely benign, or "too bad", if we don't use the gifts that we've been given, we pay for it with our emotional and physical well being. When we don't use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle we feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear, and even grief". And in later paragraphs, she says, "Using our gifts and talents to create meaningful work takes a tremendous amount of commitment, because in many cases, the meaningful work is not what pays the bills. Some folks have managed to align everything - they use their gifts and talents to do work that feeds their souls and their families; however, most people piece it together. No one can define what's meaningful for us. Culture doesn't get to dictate if it's working outside the home, raising children, lawyering, teaching or painting. Like our gifts and talents, meaning is unique to each one of us". Now, many of us struggle with self-doubt and feeling like these concepts are very alien to us. The idea that, "Maybe everyone has special gifts except you. Maybe that's why you haven't found them yet". Or, you know, another kind of self talk, "Yes, you do that well, but that's not really a gift. It's not big enough or important enough to be a real talent". This is self doubt, and this undermines the process of finding our gifts and sharing them with the world. "Self-doubt is letting our fear undermine our faith in our abilities to act meaningfully in the world". We have lots of "supposed to" statements that we use with ourselves, which aim at fitting in, or perfectionism or people pleasing and proving ourselves. "You're supposed to care about making money, not meaning". "You're supposed to grow up and be a [fill in the blank]. Everyone's counting on it". "You're supposed to hate your work. That's the definition of work". "If you're brave, you're supposed to quit your job and follow your bliss. Don't worry about money", that's the opposite side. "You're supposed to choose work you love or work that supports the people you love". So Brené says, "To overcome self-doubt and those "supposed to" statements, we have to start owning the messages. What makes us afraid? What is on our "supposed to" list? Who says that? Why?" Those are the Gremlins in our minds that keep on feeding the "supposed to" or the shame or whatever. If we ignore those Gremlins, they get louder. So it's usually best to kind of acknowledge those messages, write them down. This kind of seems counterintuitive, but actually writing them down and owning those messages doesn't give the message more power. It gives us more power. It gives us the opportunity to say, "I get it. I see that I am afraid of this, but I'm going to do it anyway". And she quotes a beautiful quote from Howard Thurman, who said, "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive". Now, again, this is a personal experience, the people who experience same-sex attractions that I have interacted with are exceptional human beings with above average intelligence. Many of them are gifted and talented. Their creativity is far-reaching. Many are exceptional in their particular talents and/or learning abilities. A large number of us have a passion for humanitarian concerns at a very young age, and we have a great capacity for advocacy and care. The majority that I've interacted with are highly educated, and have received honors and awards in their fields of expertise. Now, the question is, could all of this be a combination of our inherent abilities and our temperament? Maybe it's like an inherent striving that we have, or maybe it's pain that is channeled into something good? Well, whatever that may be, those are God-given talents, for sure, we can all agree on that. If we utilize our God-given talents wisely, we can find self-fulfillment and discover boundless possibilities, inshaAllah. And we also honor Allah by putting to good use the talents and the gifts with which he He has blessed each and every one of us, as Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says in Surat Ad-Dhuha, "وأما بنعمة ربك فحدث"/“As for the bounties of your Lord, proclaim (them)!” (93:11). What better way of proclaiming God's gifts than to develop them and let them shine? Not out of pride, of course, but in honor of His glory, He who gave them to us, and for the benefit of His creation.

19:34
At some point, I was interested in reading more about the "queer people" throughout history who had exquisite talents. I wanted to see people I could identify with - kind of a sense of belonging that, yes, people who may have had the same struggles or at least a hint of those struggles have contributed to humanity in wonderful ways. I really wanted to find those people, to feel that I wasn't alone and that others have been through this and have left an impact on the world. Many of those men and women across history have been known for their contributions in leadership, humanities, arts, literature, science, cinema, and other fields. Some of them may not have had SSA in the sense in which we are describing it, but had intense platonic same-sex friendships. Others may have had SSA and still managed to cultivate platonic same-sex friendships, while others acted upon their desires and had lovers, which of course, you know, we would not endorse as Muslims, right? So, going way back in time, more than two millennia, I read about Alexander the Great, who died in the year 323 BC. He was the king of Macedon, he conquered most of Greece, Persia, Asia Minor, India and Egypt and he founded the city of Alexandria in Egypt. He transmitted Hellenic values across the civilized world. Even though he got married, Alexander also had a close relationship with his friend, general and bodyguard Hephaestion. Hephaestion's death devastated Alexander, as he mourned his death with extravagant funeral rites. We don't know whether Alexander had SSA or not, but a close and platonic relationship between two men, one of whom was a famous king, resonated with me big time. Someone as strong and famous as Alexander the Great, who was close to another man and honored him, was something that was deeply moving, to say the least. 

21:34
On the other hand, I read about Hadrian, another Roman Emperor, a patron of art, an innovative architect. He completed the Pantheon in its domed form in Rome, and his villa in Tivoli in Italy is another major and famous landmark. Under his reforms, the Roman Empire flourished. Now, Hadrian was known to have a male lover whose name was Antinous, whom he loved so passionately. Antinous was an icon of male beauty, and he mysteriously drowned in the Nile. Hadrian mourned him by making statues of Antinous, and it was said that people worshiped them. Now, I could see how the ways of the heart can sway men, through the story, and how love and pain transform us. Hadrian acted upon his desires and he idolized his lover. Even though I can feel for him, I realized that that's not what God intends for us, right?  

22:36
Now, who hasn't heard of Michelangelo, the Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet. He died in the year 1564. He painted the Last Judgement and the Sistine Chapel ceiling. He is the architect and designer of the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and he wrote love sonnets, the longest of which displayed deep feelings of love and was written to someone by the name of Tommaso dei Cavalieri. These make up the first large sequence of poems in any modern tongue addressed by one man to another, and they predate, by 50 years, Shakespeare's sonnets to the fair youth. And we read some of his sonnets that goes like, "I feel as lit by fire a cold countenance, That burns me from afar and keeps itself ice-chill; A strength I feel two shapely arms to fill, Which without motion moves every balance". Cavalieri replied to Michelangelo and said, "I swear to return your love. Never have I loved a man more than I love you. Never have I wished for a friendship more than I wish for yours". Cavalieri remained devoted to Michelangelo until his death. Now, some modern commentators say that this relationship was merely a platonic affection, even suggesting that Michelangelo was seeking a surrogate son. However, the homoerotic nature of the relationship was recognized in their own time, such that Michelangelo's own grand nephew, who was known as Michelangelo the Younger, published an edition of the poetry in 1623, with the gender of the pronouns changed from masculine to feminine, and it was only until the late 1800s that the change was undone by an early British "homosexual" activist by the name of John Addington Symonds, who translated the original sonnets into English, and he wrote a two volume biography. Now, reading about Michelangelo and his love for another young man, part of me wished he could have kept things chaste. We don't know the nature of their relationship, obviously. And he also seemed infatuated with male figures, as he made sculptures of famous male nudes, and his sonnets were of a homoerotic nature, so to speak. He had a beautiful artistic talent, no doubt, but my heart aches that he may have lived a life that was not pleasing to our Creator. 

25:11
Now, speaking of love poems and literature, many of us have heard of Emily Dickinson, right? The famous American poet who died in 1886. She lived a very private life, secretly writing more than a 1,000 poems characterized by lyrical intensity and paradoxes. During the 1850s, Emily's strongest and most affectionate relationship was with her sister-in-law, by the name of Susan Gilbert. Emily eventually sent her over 300 letters over the course of their relationship, and that is more than to any other correspondent. Susan was supportive of Emily the poet, playing the role of "the most beloved friend, influence muse, and advisor" whose editorial suggestions Dickinson sometimes followed. In an 1882 letter to Susan herself, Emily said, "With the exception of Shakespeare, you have told me of more knowledge than anyone living". It was moving seeing a close and strong relationship between two women, so transformative and exceptional, like theirs. Now contrast that with Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf. Oscar Wilde, who died in the year 1900, was a famous Irish playwright, poet and critic. He is best remembered for his epigrams and plays, and his novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray", as well as the circumstances of his criminal conviction for gross indecency for homosexual acts, followed by imprisonment and early death at the age of 46. Now, during his last year in prison, he wrote "De Profundis", which was published after he died in 1905. And this was a long letter in which he discussed his spiritual journey through his trials, and it was kind of a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. Upon his release from prison, he left immediately to France, never to return to Ireland, or Britain. There, he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol in 1898, which is a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life. Another writer is Virginia Woolf, who died in 1941, a British novelist and essayist, considered one of the most important modernist 20th century authors, and also a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device. Her works have been translated into more than 50 languages. A large body of literature is dedicated to her life and work, and she has been the subject of plays and novels and films. Her famous works include "To the Lighthouse" (1927), "Orlando" (1928), and "A Room of One's Own (1929). "Orlando", in particular, included an androgynous heroine, which was modeled on her female lover at the time. She suffered from mental health issues like psychosis and severe depression, and she ultimately ended up committing suicide. Reading about the stories of these writers, Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf, made me wish someone could have taken care of them in ways that would have filled their hearts with pure love. You know, their writings conveyed a glimpse of their troubled minds and hearts, and we all know how Divine Light can soothe one's soul. I wish they had taken a sip of the Divine Cup and fallen in love with Him, subhanahu wa ta'ala.  

28:59
You've probably heard of the ballets, "Swan Lake", "The Nutcracker" and "Romeo and Juliet". Those, among other masterpieces, are the works of the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. You know, the famous Tchaikovsky, the one and only. He died in 1893. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally. Any discussions of Tchaikovsky's personal life, especially his sexuality, has perhaps been the most extensive of any composer in the 19th century, and certainly of any Russian composer of his time. It has also, at times, caused considerable confusion, from Soviet efforts to remove all references to same-sex attraction, and to portray him as a "heterosexual", to efforts at analysis by Western biographers who probed further into his own sexuality. Biographers have generally agreed that Tchaikovsky was "homosexual". He sought the company of other men in his circle for extended periods, "associating openly and establishing professional connections with them". His first love was reportedly by the name of Sergey Kireyev, a younger fellow student at the Imperial School of Jurisprudence. According to some sources, this was Tchaikovsky's "strongest, longest and purest love". However, the degree to which the composer might have felt comfortable with his sexual desires has remained open to debate. We don't know more than this. Now, being a classical music fan myself, and having seen the brilliance of "Swan Lake", I could see genius, pure talent and absolute brilliance. Part of me resonates with his story and really hopes that his love was, indeed, as described, "strong, long and pure". 

32:27
Among scientists, I read about Alexander von Humboldt, who died in 1859. He was the famous German explorer and polymath, naturalist and scientist. He led scientific expeditions to South America and Central Asia. He studied botany, geology and geography, and he made many groundbreaking discoveries in those fields. Humboldt resurrected the use of the word "Cosmos" from ancient Greek, and he assigned it to his multi-volume treaties "Kosmos", in which he sought to unify diverse branches of scientific knowledge and culture. This important work also motivated a holistic perception of the universe as one interacting entity. He has a foundation named after him to this date that promotes academia and research. As for his personal, he never married. Humboldt once wrote, "I don't know sensual needs", which may be described as "asexual" in modern times? However, he had many strong male friendships. An example of this is, while he was still a student, he became infatuated with someone by the name of Wilhelm Wegener, a theology student, and he composed letters to him expressing his "fervent love". At 25, he met Reinhardt von Haeften, who was a 21-year-old lieutenant, with whom he lived and traveled for two years, and to whom he wrote in 1794, "I only live through you, my good precious Reinhardt". When von Haeften became engaged, Humboldt begged to remain living with him and his wife, and he wrote, "Even if you must refuse me, treat me coldly with disdain, I should still want to be with you. The love I have for you is not just friendship or brotherly love, it is veneration". Now, it's important to note that, in the age of Romanticism, letters which were then quite usual between friends, would today only be written by lovers to each other. The age of Romanticism saw these things very differently, and some famous writers of that era valued friendship even higher than romantic love, for example. Such enthusiastic friendship is found in Humboldt's youthful letters as well, with more sentimentality expressed towards von Haeften, for example. Much of Humboldt's private life remains a mystery, because he destroyed his private letters. However, speculations about Humboldt's private life and possible homosexuality remain a fractious issue amongst scholars, particularly as earlier biographers had portrayed him as "a largely asexual Christ-like Humboldt figure... suitable as a national idol". So if I were to assume he had same-sex attractions, and he kept himself chaste, that felt like someone I would personally admire, someone who left an impact on the world as we know it, and he kept his desires in check.  

35:39
And then I read about the famous Alan Turing who died in 1954, the famous English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, crypt analyst, philosopher and theoretical biologist. Look at all of these fields, MashaAllah! Alan Turing was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalization of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the "Turing Machine", which can be considered a model of a general purpose computer. I don't know if you guys have seen the movie, "The Imitation Game", that movie talks about him and how he cracked the German Enigma code during World War Two. And just a side note, that movie is a brilliant movie, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, I personally love that movie and I encourage everyone to see it. It's such a beautiful and brilliant movie on so many levels. I encourage everyone to see it. So, Turing played a crucial role in cracking the intercepted coded messages, which enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements back in World War Two, including the Battle of the Atlantic. In doing all of this, he helped win the war, eventually. And it has been estimated that this work shortened the war in Europe by more than two years, and it saved over 14 million lives. Unfortunately, Turing fell into homosexual acts, for which he was prosecuted in 1952. Back then, "gross indecency" was a criminal offence in the UK. He accepted chemical castration treatment as an alternative to prison, at the time. There's a brilliant quote from the movie that I would like to share. I remember listening to this during the movie, and that was during a questioning phase of my life, and it just gave me a huge boost. This is from a scene towards the end of the movie after the war was won, while Turing was on his "treatment", during his final days, and he was having a conversation with a woman by the name of Joan Clarke, who loved him so much, and she told him, "Do you know, this morning I was on a train that went through a city that wouldn't exist if it wasn't for you. I bought a ticket from a man who would likely be dead if it wasn't for you. I read up on my work, a whole field of scientific inquiry that only exists because of you. And while you wish you could have been normal, I can promise you, I do not. The world is an infinitely better place precisely because you weren't". And Alan replies, "You really think that?" To which she says, "I think that, sometimes, it is the people who no one imagines anything of, who do the things no one can imagine". Turing died in 1954, only 16 days before his 42nd birthday, by committing suicide through ingesting cyanide. That was so heartbreaking. The computers that we use today would not have existed, had it not been for his contributions. How I wish he had had the support and love He needed, so he could have continued his own legacy in this life. We're all toiling through this life, aren't we? 

39:13
As a disclaimer: Of course, I'm not saying that only people with SSA are talented, or that talent is concentrated more with people who have SSA, or that people with opposite-sex attractions are less talented, or whatever. No, I'm not saying that. I'm only saying that we are all gifted, and how beautiful is it when we use these gifts while keeping our desires in check, in line with what Allah wants from us, particularly in this time and age when it's more difficult and challenging to do so, right? Now, the names that I have given so far were some of the people that I read about who may have had SSA. Again, some as you have seen, had close and platonic same-sex friendships without having SSA to begin with. Others do seem to have had SSA but kept themselves chaste, while others evidently acted upon their desires, and some faced consequences at the time. I identify with the ones who left an impact on the world, while keeping their desires in check, and my heart aches for those who were in pain and sought the company of men or women in unlawful ways. May Allah keep us steadfast on the Righteous Path, inshaAllah, ameen. Now, reading about all of those people, I was personally very frustrated that I couldn't find someone I could relate to from our very own Islamic tradition, when it comes to my struggles with SSA, in particular. Like, I'm sure many struggled with this, so how come we don't hear about them? Why isn't this matter described from a personal lens? And then at some point, I came across Mobeen Vaid's article, "Can Islam Accommodate Homosexual Acts? Qur'anic Revisionism and the Case of Scott Kugle". It's a brilliant article, by the way, which refutes many revisionist arguments, and we will talk about it in a later season, inshaAllah, and interview Br. Mobeen himself. Through that article, in particular, I came to learn of Muhammad Ibn Dawud al-Zahiri, who died in the year 270 Hijri/884 CE. He was the son of the founder of the Zahiri legal school. Ibn Dawud was a Muslim theologian and a scholar of the Arabic language and Islamic law. He was described as, “one of the most beautiful people, exhibiting the best of manners and eloquence in speech, very clean and well-kept, a person of religion and piety and every commendable virtue and beloved to people. He memorized the Qur’an at the age of 7 years, recited literature and poetry with men when he was 10, and in his gatherings it was common to find as many as 400 people in attendance”. In the late 9th century CE, he composed his book "كتاب الزهرة"/"The Book of the Flower", in his native city of Baghdad. This work is considered one of the first Arabic language works on the theory of love. Although he wrote from more of a humanistic perspective than a theological one, Ibn Dawud's piety was apparent, as chastity is a common theme throughout the work. Chapter eight of the book is called, "A refined person will be chaste," opens with a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in praise of those who love passionately but who keep their affections secret. The quote is quite telling of Ibn Dawud's own personal feelings, as he repeated it shortly after confessing unrequited feelings of love for a younger male companion of his, particularly on his deathbed. But we have explicit statements in the literature that he never acted on his desires. Instead "كتاب الزهرة"/"The Book of the Flower", insists on the importance of governing one's sexual desires through pious restraint and speaks of the "martyrdom of chastity". Mobeen Vaid says in his article, "In a very real sense, Ibn Dawud al-Zahiri may present an early paragon for many Muslims struggling with same-sex attraction today as he admitted his own affection and yet maintained his God-consciousness (taqwā) and remained morally upright by refusing to act upon it. This conduct is often noted in al-Zahiri’s biographies as a point of praise, with some citing a contested tradition of the Prophet (pbuh): ‘Whoever loves passionately (ʿashiqa) but remains chaste, patient, and keeps his love a secret and dies, dies as a martyr’ – a tradition that al-Zahiri would recount on his deathbed”. 

44:10
An excerpt from al-Dhahabi's Siyar A‘lam Al-Nubala’ "سير أعلام النبلاء", which is a famous book, a very trustworthy book on famous biographies - al-Dhahabi, in his book, reports excerpts from Ibn Dawud's biography. Ibn Dawud loved a man by the name of Wahb bin Jami‘ al-‘Attar al-Saydalani, who also helped Ibn Dawud financially. So, Wahb had two titles, "al-‘Attar", which means "the perfumer" who sells perfumes, and "al-Saydalani" which means "chemist" or "pharmacist" by today's terms. And it was said at the time that no lover (or ‘ashiq) spent financially on his beloved (ma'shuq) the way that Wahb spent on Ibn Dawud. Some lines from Ibn Dawud's poetry read, “I carry mountain loads of love for you, while I am too weak to carry something as light as a shirt, and love is neither good nor grace, but it is something with which the soul is assigned”.  In a later book on chaste love poetry called كتاب تزيين الأسواق في أخبار العُشّاق (Adorning the markets with the tales of lovers) by Dawud al-Antaki (d. 1599), it is mentioned that Wahb used to sell perfume in Baghdad and was one of the most beautiful people of his time. It was reported that Ibn Dawud got attached to him and was compassionate and gentle with him, and the news of their love was known among people. They did not deny it or hide it. Going back to al-Dhahabi -- al-Dhahabi reports that, in his final days, Ibn Dawud was lying sick and emaciated on his deathbed, insinuating that the cause of his state was his deep love for Wahb. Another friend/visitor asks Ibn Dawud, "ما منعك من الاستمتاع به مع القدرة عليه؟"/"What prevented you from enjoying/finding enjoyment/pleasure with him, though you were able to do so?" Ibn Dawud responds saying, "Enjoyment is two things: أحدهما النظر وهو أورثني ما ترى/the first is looking/gazing, and that is what has brought me to the state in which you see me, and the second is the forbidden pleasure (اللذة المحظورة), which he says he has refrained from -- ومنعني منها, he says -- due to the hadith of the Prophet (PBUH): "من عشق وعف وكتم وصبر غفر الله له وأدخله الجنة"/"Whoever loves (passionately) ('ashiqa) and practices chaste restraint ('affa), conceals [his love], and has forbearance/patience, Allah will forgive him and grant him entry into Paradise." Al-Dhahabi explicitly reports that Wahb was Ibn Dawud’s friend, and the latter was passionately in love with him to the point of death, and for him he wrote The Book of the Flower (كتاب الزهرة). One beautiful story also cited in al-Dhahabi’s book goes like this: Wahb himself, Ibn Dawood's friend, was reported to have said: “I visited al-Mottaqi Lillah (the name of the Muslim khalifah at the time): So he asked me about Abu Bakr Ibn Dawud. Did you see anything you dislike in him? I said: No, O Commander of the Faithful, except that I stayed with him one night, and he used to uncover my face and say: “Oh God! You know that I love him, and I am mindful of You with regard to him” (i.e., I realize that You are watching over us, so I keep things righteous)". Isn't this beautiful? And then Wahb recites an incident saying, “I entered the bath, and when I came out, I looked in the mirror and admired my own face more than usual, so I covered my face, and I hoped that no one would look at my face before him, and I went to him, and he uncovered my face, and he was happy and pleased, and he said: Glory be to his Creator and Maker, and he read the verse from ‘Aal-’Imran: "It is He who forms you in the wombs however He wills. There is no deity except Him, the Exalted in Might, the Wise" (3:6).” Every time I read those passages, my heart smiles. Al-Dhahabi's biographical entry on Ibn Dawud Al-Zahiri explicitly speaks of his temptation to engage in "the forbidden pleasure" (اللذة المحظورة) with his beloved Wahb, and that Ibn Dawud had to exercise restraint to keep himself chaste. How incredible was that, right? No matter how difficult it was, he insisted, for the sake of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala to keep his relationship innocent and pure and sweet, subhan Allah. Finally!  Someone I could identify with from our own Islamic tradition who just GOT IT! May Allah be pleased with him and bless his soul, ameen. It was so heartbreaking that this passionate love took its toll on him, but it just goes to show where his priorities were. He spent his life devoted to Islamic scholarship, and he chose Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala over and above everything and anyone including his own passions, which were incredibly painful to deal with. 

49:54
It is also remarkable that the biographical literature on Ibn Dawud seems to be fully aware of his passionate, but chaste love for this man, Wahb, and mentions it matter-of-factly with no hint of reproach. It is far from disputing his character for loving a man, he is praised for remaining steadfast in the face of desire, and for being the accomplished and virtuous man of religion and letters that he was. We do know that people did report this about him, and the biographers relaying this information do not seem to have been particularly scandalized by it. He is never referred to as, "Ibn Dawud, the one who was infatuated by men", or anything like that. It was simply irrelevant to people who refer to him in the tradition. And you probably wouldn't even know about this aspect of him, unless you read some of the biographical entries. And again, not a word of derision or anything like that. To the contrary, he is lauded for his virtue in remaining chaste. Let's take this in for a moment! It's really unimaginable today, right? Imagine your SSA being known, like you were known for really passionately loving and desiring someone of the same sex, but you remain chaste. And people knew about that, and they simply never mentioned it. And it's "Okay, fine", you know? And in writings about you, after your death, it is mentioned casually, but never do you become, you know, "So and so, that great scholar, scientist, engineer, teacher, craftsman or whatever, with SSA", or you know, "The man who loved other men", or "The woman who loved other women", or anything like that. This attitude is unimaginable to many of us today, right? And in fact, this is the natural consequence of our Islamic paradigm, which does not arbitrarily box human beings into identity categories on the basis of their sexual and/or romantic inclinations, as is usually done in the Western paradigm today. Ibn Dawud was not a "gay scholar", and nowhere in the literature is he singled out for a special mention on account of his evident same-sex proclivities. In Islam, we are judged not for inclinations that lie beyond our control, as we know, but for our actions, and Ibn Dawud acted virtuously, and he was duly honored for it. He was, after all, reputed to be a very pious man and righteous scholar who never acted on these feelings by doing anything haram. If anything, he seems to have been praised for his restraint and "martyrdom" in the face of his unrequited love. In other words, his scholarship was not discounted because of these feelings, nor was his piety questioned, nor was he given any particular name, or put into some category the way we would do today. So this makes a very important point about how different our sexual categories are today, under modern Western influence, than what they were in the past. It seems that in the past, people were judged strictly on account of their actions. Hence, Ibn Dawud's innocence, even assuming he was in love with another man, since he never did anything haram, right? Whereas today, we categorize people based on sexual feelings alone, and we build identities off of that. I think it's very important for us to return to our roots on this score, and not categorize ourselves or others based on mere feelings, or obviously to use those feelings as an excuse to commit prohibited acts, which no one in the past ever tried to do, either. And if we think about it, we can imagine there were a lot more chaste men and women with SSA within Islamic civilization than it is reported, or more than people themselves are comfortable admitting even. There is no shame in being a chaste man or woman experiencing SSA. The point here is not to highlight the hidden homosexual inclinations of a large number of "otherwise respectable" Muslims who may have been scholars or physicians or engineers or poets or writers or teachers or polymaths, or whatever they may have been. The point here is to highlight that, in the vast majority of cases, these desires were never acted upon, and their mere presence did not detract from the moral character of these figures or compromise their ability to serve Allah faithfully and fully, or to contribute in so many meaningful ways to those around them. In addition to Ibn Dawud al-Zahiri, who was a primary model for us, as Muslims with same-sex attractions, I also felt, in doing this research, a certain sense of belonging with the countless other men and women who were leaders and scientists and writers and artists and others, who kept their desires in check and remained chaste. And if they did have same-sex friendships, they kept things platonic, even though they may have expressed their love in the most beautiful and poetic ways, all that while working day and night to leave their own thumbprint on this world, making it a better place for all of us, in whichever field they thrived and flourished.

55:36
I would like to use this, to keep this thought, as a prelude to the next episode, inshaAllah, when we talk about David and Jonathan, and Shams and Rumi. Those are two pairs of giants who experienced deep love for one another and who kept things in accordance with Allah's will. They had a large impact on their societies at the time, and their legacy continues to this day. I would like to end this episode with a beautiful quote from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who said, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen”. I would like to tell each and every one of you, that you are amazing and extraordinary. Do not forget that. You are beautiful inside and out. And you have so much to offer. With Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, you can move mountains. Now the question is, how will you use your God-given talents to make the world a better place, for your generation and the generations that come after you, inshaAllah? Thank you so much for listening to this episode, I hope that you enjoyed it and learned from it, and I look forward to talking to you next Friday, inshaAllah, as we talk about David and Jonathan, and Shams and Rumi, inshaAllah. As always, you can email me on [email protected], and you can find all our episodes and their transcripts on awaybeyondtherainbow.buzzsprout.com. And as always, you can always listen to us on your favorite podcast apps. Until next Friday, I hope you have a blessed and wonderful week ahead, stay safe and healthy, and I look forward to talking to you next week, inshaAllah. This has been Waheed Jensen in "A Way Beyond the Rainbow", assalamu alaikum warahmatullahi ta'ala wabarakatuh.

Episode Introduction
Blessings from Trials and Hardships
Sympathy, Empathy and Altruistic Behavior
On Gifts and Talents
On Finding Role Models Throughout History
On Ibn Dawud Al-Zahiri
Ending Remarks