Al-Oadah of Saudi Arabia: Rulings on transgender and sex-change matters

Fatwa, posted 4.22.2010, from Saudi Arabia, in:
Religious Authority: 
Salman al-Oadah
Fatwa Question or Essay Title: 
A man underwent surgery to change into a woman, being at that time a non-Muslim. He, having become a "she", has been that way for a while and has now converted to Islam. The problem is that... "she" wants to sit with the women at the mosque - but "her" niece and the women at that mosque think "she" is still a man in Islamic Law and should act as a man from now on. So what should this person do?

If the sex-change operation that took place when he was a non-Muslim was done for no reason other than vanity and a desire for attention – not because there was a legitimate concern – and if he still resembles a man more than a woman and it is possible for him to undergo another operation to restore himself to being a man, then he is obligated to undergo such surgery and restore himself back to being a man. This is because his original operation was an act of changing Allah’s creation which is sinful. It is impermissible for him to continue in that sin, since his persisting in that sin is itself a major sin. On the other hand, if his sex-change operation from a man to a woman was real in all observable considerations, including the genitals – and not merely a vanity operation – and the characteristics of a woman are more apparent on him now than masculine characteristics, then there is no problem with him remaining as he now is. In this case, it is wrong for his female relatives and other women to distance themselves from him or to oppose him as long as the visible signs of womanhood are clearly manifest: including the presence of breasts, the absence of the testicles and penis, and the presence in their stead of what is effectively a functioning vagina. His unique situation can be juristically compared to that of a physical hermaphrodite in Islamic Law. Once a physical hermaphrodite’s dominant sexual orientation becomes clear, the hermaphrodite is thereafter considered to be of that gender. His situation is comparable to that of a hermaphrodite whose female gender has been determined. He becomes a woman and should be treated like a woman. And Allah knows best.