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Qur'an on Homosexuality: Setting the Record Straight

By Khalid Baig

In the post colonial world the “civilizing mission” continues and the crusade for civilizing the backward Muslims into embracing the sexual mores of the civilizers is going full speed ahead. Since openly declaring that the Qur’an and Islam are plain wrong does not get you much mileage with the target audience, their challenge is how to perform a perfect inversion of Qur’anic teachings and simultaneously assure everyone that this inversion is in harmony with one’s belief in the Qur’an. Consider homosexuality. The Qur’an condemns it in no uncertain terms and calls those who committed it as musrifoon (going beyond limits) (7:81), Qaumun Aadoon (transgressing bounds) (26:166), Qaumul Mufsideen (mischievous people)(29:30), and Zalimeen (evildoers) (29:31). In other words they were extremists to the nth degree.  The civilizers’ dilemma: How to declare those who want to legitimize this practice in the Muslim society as moderates and those who question this extremism as extremists and hardliners?

It is an impossible task but that has not kept the daring from trying. No wonder the new champions cannot agree on what their argument is. One of them, Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle says “The Koran does not condemn homosexuality.” Another pundit, Arash Naraghi, an Iranian academic in the US, says that the Qur’an does condemn homosexuality but it is okay anyway because reason says so. “Verses decrying homosexuality…stem from common beliefs at the time of writing, and should be re-examined,” he declares. The Economist, which is searching for “theological latitude,” quotes both of them with satisfaction and without the smallest hint that they are mutually contradictory, as means of making “progress”. 1

The story of the people of Prophet Lut (Lot) is mentioned in more than ten surahs in the Qur’an. This is a story of crime, defiance, and punishment: Unprecedented crime, extremism in insisting on that crime, and exemplary punishment. Anyone who reads this narrative with an open mind can have not the slightest confusion about Islam’s attitude about homosexuality. People do have a right to accept or refuse to accept Islamic teachings, values, and commandments. But no one has a right to lie about them. Unfortunately there are many who are willing to do just that these days. This account is, therefore, offered to set the record straight.

The first thing the Qur’an mentions is that homosexual practice was invented by the people to whom Prophet Lut was sent as a messenger. He is very emphatic about this: “And [remember] Lut, when he said unto his people: ‘Do you commit abominations such as none in all the world has ever done before you?’” (Al-A’raf 7:80) The Qur’anic word is al-fahisha, which means lewdness, shameful act, indecency. Fornication and adultery (zina) are also mentioned as examples of fahisha in the Qur’an. (Isra 17:32). But here the definite article al is added to show the even more serious nature of this act. Homosexual act is not fahisha but al-fahisha. It is not just a shameful act but the shameful act, the lewdness, the abomination.

Secondly in telling that no one before them committed this act, the Qur’an uses the word min in addition to ahadin. Without this, it would still mean that no one did it before you. But with min emphasis is added. In other words, no one whosoever ever did this act among all the creatures. This is an outright rejection of the claim that this tendency is an inborn and ingrained part of nature for which no person should be held accountable. Prophet Lut accuses them of having made this choice. And the Sodomites do not say that they are helpless because it is a call of nature. Rather they say, “You know very well what we want.” (Hud, 11:79). And that the Prophet would be added to the list of people who have been expelled from their city for objecting to their practices if he does not cease and desist from criticizing their way of life. (Al-Shu’ra 26:167). They are the inventors of this perversion and fully committed to use of violence to defend it.

This Qur’anic account regarding the genesis of this perversion is attested to not only by the Bible and the Talmud but also by the terms used to describe this act in languages around the world. It is sodomy in English, sodomie and sodomiser (the doer) in French, sodomia and sodomizar in Spanish and sodomi in Norwegian. Sodomie in German and sodomia in Polish also refer to variant forms of sexual perversion. All pointing to the fact that it was invented in Sodom, which was the principle city of these people. In Arabic and languages influenced by it like Urdu the term used is liwatat or aml qaum lut, referring to the practice of the people of Prophet Lut. Again it is pointing to the same date and place of invention.

The date is about four thousand years ago. For thousands of years before that no one ever felt the urge for this perversion. Obviously if it was in human nature then some people in earlier times should also have expressed this inclination. The place is the area now submerged under the Dead Sea. This was a very prosperous and rich fertile land. Then the punishment came in the form of a huge earthquake and rain of brimstones and fires that turned their world upside down.  The area then became the lowest point on the face of the earth, being about 1300 feet below sea level. It was submerged under the ocean and turned into a desolate place where little life exists. Its harsh environment permits neither fish or other sea animals nor aquatic plants. It was as the Qur’an said:  “And verily of that We have left a clear sign for people who have sense.” (Ankabut 29:35).

Sodomites committed other crimes as well like highway robbery and performing shameful acts in public as mentioned in one place in the Qur’an (Ankabut 29:29). But their biggest crime was homosexuality, which is mentioned repeatedly. And then there was defiance. When Prophet Lut warned them about divine retribution, they challenged him to bring it on. (Ankabut 29:29). Their fate was thus sealed by their own demand. That was before the angels arrived at the scene. Their invasion of the house of Prophet Lut for the explicit purpose of molesting the angels who appeared in the guise of beautiful young men was thus just the last nail in their coffin. It was not the primary reason for their punishment.

Some people have tried to distort the Qur’anic account by claiming that their crime was rape not homosexuality. Others have surmised that the problem was that they were targeting young children, otherwise it would be fine. The Qur’an does not leave the slightest possibility of such interpretation. It says: “Verily, with lust you approach men instead of women.” (Al-A’raf 7:81). It is rijal (men) not atfal (children). It is for the act itself, without any mention of compulsion, that they are called as musrifoon (going beyond limits).

Also significant is the role of Prophet Lut’s wife. While in the entire town only one house was saved, that of Prophet Lut, even in that house there was an exception. It was the wife of the Prophet, who was killed with the rest of the people. Her fate is mentioned repeatedly so it does not remain just a footnote to the story. Why was she punished? Not for committing homosexual acts but for betraying her husband (Tahreem 66:10). She betrayed the cause of her husband by being an active sympathizer with the people and therefore shared their fate.

When the people invaded the house of Prophet Lut, and he was at the point of despair, the people were blinded by the angels (Qamar 54:35). We can see a figurative blindness in the people who try to make a case for approval of homosexuality in Islam. A most bizarre argument that has been forwarded by some of them is that the Qur’an mentions the presence of young boys as servants in Paradise. Interestingly it is the same people who argue that the modern homosexual affair is between consenting adults and that they also agree that sex with young boys is wrong. Yet that is what comes to their lustful minds when they read the accounts of the servants in the Qur’an. If they had maintained their sensibilities, they would have realized that this Qur’anic account actually gives exactly the opposite message. In Paradise women will not be in the public places. They will be in the private space, where they will not face the attention of anyone except their husbands (“houris, cloistered in cool pavilions” Rahman 55:72). Young boys will be in all the public places, because those who enter Paradise will not look at them with any sexual desires. They will have nothing to worry as those who could look at them with desire will not be in Paradise at all. They will be in the exact opposite of Paradise, whose small manifestation was given to the people of Prophet Lut.

May Allah protect us all from the Fire and the acts that lead to it.

1 The Economist, Feb 4th 2012 http://www.economist.com/printedition/2012-02-04.