The first openly gay imam (religious leader), Daayiee Abdulah, has established roots in Washington, DC.
Abdulah is the imam educational director of the Light of Reform Mosque, where men and women can be found praying alongside one another.
The imam was born in Detroit and raised as a Baptist; while studying in China, he decided to convert to Islam. It was while he was converting that Abdulah realized the need for LGBT acceptance within the faith.
“Being an openly gay imam and having been identified as such, I do get a lot of feedback and also kickback, but that’s OK,” he said, according to Aljazeera America. “I think that when people are unfamiliar with things, they tend to have an emotional knee-jerk reaction to it. Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention. And because of the necessity in our community, that’s why I came into this particular role.”
Abdulah came out to his parents as gay at age fifteen. By the age of thirty-three, he had converted to Islam, and travelled to Egypt, Syria, and Jordan to study within his new faith.
As an American, however, he saw that LGBT Muslims’ spiritual needs were going unmet, and needed community support; he became an imam to provide it. His first act as an imam was for a gay Muslim who had died of AIDS; the man’s family “had contacted a number of imams, and no one would go and provide him his janazah [body cleaning ritual]services. This pained me,” he said. “I believe every person, no matter if I disagree with you or not, you have the right as a Muslim to have the proper spiritual rites and rituals provided for you. And whoever judges you, that will be Allah’s decision, not me. The beautiful thing about God is that when you change your attitude, and say, ‘God, I need some help,’ and mean it sincerely, God is always there for you.”