Reflections on Mr Imran’s talk on religious issues relating to sex workers and the transgender community.
On 8 July 2015, Project X invited a Muslim speaker, Mr Mohamed Imran to our weekly event, Kopi Session. In collaboration with the month of Ramadan, we gathered our fellow Muslim friends (cisgender and transgender sex workers) for a break fast event that can bond us together and also to let them interact and ask questions.
Mr Imran importantly pointed out that he is not a religious teacher (Ustaz). He is here as an individual, not representing any organization.
He came to enlighten us with his knowledge and experience on religion and the Muslim community. We on the other hand had many questions to ask. One of the questions asked was: “how does a transgender person perform the prayers?” As we were born male, this has been going through my mind ever since I transitioned. Despite what I’ve done and felt wrong, I do want to get close to my creator, Allah SWT. But due to lack of religious knowledge, I can’t bring myself closer to Him as I feel dirty of myself. He told us to follow our conscience, and not let public or anyone to affect us and our journey to Him. With his humble response to the question, I now know that it’s possible for me to perform my prayers like any other cisgender woman. What matters most is my ‘nawaitu’ (the simplest definition of it is your intention and purpose) and my deeds are between me and Him.
We had a few chats between a smaller group of us, and with that he left us with a very deep quote “Hukum harus ada dengan hikmahnya” (Law has to come with wisdom). He summarized a short story that happened during the early Islamic period. A gardener stole the fruits that he grew but belonged to his employer. He was then brought to the Caliph to be punished by cutting off the hand. However, he wasn’t punished after the Caliph asked why he stole. He answered saying that he wasn’t fed with food. The Caliph then said that the punishment will be upon to the owner if he were to leave his employee starving. To conclude, the moral of this story is that though one did a crime or wrong, he/she should not be easily judged or punished. Behind every wrong, there are reasons, some of which are not entirely due to the fault of a person. In such cases, the religion teaches mercy and compassion.
One particular question was asked by a post-op transgender woman “Can I get married in ROMM (Registry of Muslim Marriage)?” This question was considered before Mr Imran responded that it might be possible but is complicated, especially in Singapore. To overcome this, some chose to get married overseas and then come back to Singapore to endorse it.
A Chinese transgender was concerned regarding death rites in Islamic understanding. “What happens if a transgender passed away and there’s no Islamic funeral service or even an Imam, who will want to perform the Islamic funeral rites and give a proper burial as a Muslim? Can we make a direct complain to MUIS about them rejecting the performance of the Muslim death rites for the dead?”
His response to this is that “As a Muslim who had a passed away, it is the immediate family members’ duty to call any of the licensed Islamic funeral services to handle the body to be cleansed, shrouded the Islamic way and to guide the existing family members and friends to ensure proper burial. Every transgender (pre or post-op) is entitled to have a proper death rite as a Muslim, as there are no ruling that the transgender person is to be denied a proper burial. If any Islamic funeral company refuses to perform the death rites on any trans person, then the best course of action is to call MUIS and seek their immediate advice and to render assistance.”
Though it was only a short session with Mr Imran, we got our questions answered. And importantly, he made me feel worthy of myself and gave me the spirit to still contribute to society though they are less accepting towards my community. But that should not stop me from doing charity or a good deeds. And lastly, he made me feel it’s important to be close to Him even though I’m a transgender.
Some thoughts from other transgender women that were around: “It was an engaging and thoughtful session,” and “Heartwarming. I feel accepted.”
I’m pleased to say that he had deepened our thoughts regarding the religious law, and he also cleared our conscience. Though we grew up as Muslims, we got carried away with life till we are too ashamed to ask anyone regarding religion. God is often more forgiving and compassionate than humans as long as we desire for Him.
Sherry is the Youth Programme Coordinator at Project X. She is a freelance expert in secret affairs and is very open to any possibilities and chances to upgrade her knowledge. She is currently working on compiling a zine that documents trans lives in Singapore.