Today the Supreme Court struck down state bans on marriage between partners of the same sex, effectively making marriage equality the law of the land. As a Muslim, I rejoice at their affirmation that the choice of marriage partner is a decision to be made between two adults, without interference from the state or anyone else. According to recent polls, over 40% of my fellow American Muslims are rejoicing with me.
I rejoice because the Supreme Court has stood firm for religious freedom, and the principle that one religious interpretation or belief cannot impose its values on the entire country, especially when it stands in opposition to other religious interpretations and beliefs. I rejoice because the Supreme Court stood firm for personal liberty, and the principle that the state should not interfere in any individual’s pursuit of liberty, life or happiness unless doing so prevents serious harm to other members of society. And I rejoice that the Supreme Court stood firm for freedom of conscience, and the principle that we are each capable of making our own moral decisions and should have the freedom to live by our own moral code, again so long as our choices do not cause serious harm to other members of society or society as a whole.
Most I of all I rejoice for my friends who are married to a partner of the same gender, or who wish to be. In particular, I rejoice for Ty and Randy, ElFarouk and Troy, Rushdia and Adliyah and so many nameless others, whether they are American or not, because today your choice, and your right to make that choice, was affirmed in a very big way.
The Arabic word sometimes translated as mates, sometimes as spouses, or pairs, is “zauj.” It is a unique word that means both halves of the whole as well as the union of those two halves. In other words, it refers to a couple, and also to both of the individuals who make up that couple. Perhaps most remarkable of all, “zauj” is one of the few words in Arabic that refers to humans that does not have a gendered counterpart. Gender differentiation in Arabic is most commonly achieved through the addition of “ah””tah” at the end of the root word, such as Muslim (male believer) and Muslimah (female believer), Ameer (prince) and Ameera (princess), Sha’ir (poet) and Sha’ira (poetess), Ukh (brother) and Ukht (Sister), Amm (uncle) and Ammt (aunt) and so on. Some relationships have distinct words, such as Abu for father, and Umm for mother, as do the general terms for each gender — Untha (female) and Thakar (male), or Rijal (man) and Nisaa (woman). But there is no “zauja” in the Qur’an (though it present in modern Arabic), nor a separate word that denotes “wife” or “husband.” All a referred to by the single term zauj.
That single, all-encompassing, oh-so-powerful, full-of-import, little word – zauj! That word is what leads me to believe that Allah is in favor of love in all its forms, and He/She/It does not discriminate based upon the gender of the people in love.
I know that there are many Muslims who disagree. Fortunately, the Qu’ran has two more gems, “La ikrah fi deen.” There is no compulsion in religion (Chapter 2, Verse 256) and “To you your way, and to me mine.” (109:6).