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Islam and homosexuality

Qur'an & Hadith and homosexuality.
Comparing the Qur'an and Bible.

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The Qur'an and Homosexuality:

There are many references in the Qur'an which have been cited as referring to gay and lesbian behavior. Some obviously deal with effeminate men and "masculine women." The five references that may refer to specifically same-sex behavior are:
 
bulletSura 4:20-21: "Against those of your women who commit adultery, call witnesses four in number from among yourselves; and if these bear witness, then keep the women in houses until death release them, or God shall make for them a way. And if two (men) of you commit it, then hurt them both; but if they turn again and amend, leave them alone, verily, God is easily turned, compassionate." 1

Some translations of the Qur'an call for the long-term or permanent house arrest of women guilty of adultery -- they are to be confined to "houses of death." An accurate translation is that their husband (or their parent or guardian) is to keep them -- not abandon them. Also, if they repent of their sin, God will accept their repentance. 2 It is worth noting that a woman can only be found guilty if four witnesses testify against her. Verse 21 seems to call for physical punishment for men who engage in same-sex activity, followed by their release if they abandon the practice. Verse 24:2 calls for a man or woman guilty of adultery or fornication to be flogged 100 times.
 
bulletSura 7:80-84: "And Lot, when he said to his people, 'Do ye approach an abomination which no one in all the world ever anticipated you in? Verily, ye approach men with lust rather than women- nay, ye are a people who exceed.' But his people's answer only was to say, 'Turn them out of your village, verily, they are a people who pretend to purity.'  But we saved him and his people, except his wife, who was of those who lingered; and we rained down upon them a rain; -- see then how was the end of the sinners!"

This describes the destruction of Sodom. Lot accuses the men of Sodom of engaging in homosexual behavior, only to have his message rejected. God saved Lot and his family and killed the other inhabitants of Sodom, presumably for their homosexual activities.

bulletSura 11:78-81: "And his people came to him, rushing at him, for before that they used to work evil. He 'Said, 'O my people! here are my daughters, they are purer for you; then, fear God, and do not disgrace me through my guests;- is there not among you one right-thinking man?' They said, 'Thou knowest that we have no claim on thy daughters; verily, thou knowest what we want!' He said, 'Had I but power over you; or could I but resort to some strong column....!' [The angels] said, 'O Lot! verily, we are the messengers of thy Lord, they shall certainly not reach thee; then travel with thy people in the darkness of the night, and let none of you look round except thy wife: verily, there shall befall her what befalls them. Verily, their appointment is for the morning! and is not the morning nigh'?"

This describes another incident associated with the destruction of Sodom when Lot offered his two virgin daughters, instead of the angels, to the men of Sodom. The angels told Lot to escape from the city before dawn because the city would be destroyed in the morning, presumably because of their homosexual activity.

bulletSura 26: 162-168: "[Lot said] 'Verily, I am to you a faithful apostle; then fear God and obey me. I do not ask you for it any hire; my hire is only with the Lord of the worlds. Do ye approach males of all the world and leave what God your Lord has created for you of your wives? nay, but ye are people who transgress!' They said, 'Surely, if thou dost not desist, O Lot! thou shalt be of those who are expelled!' Said he, 'Verily, I am of those who hate your deed."

Here, Lot criticizes the men of Sodom for abandoning their wives and engaging in sex with other males. The men respond with a threat to expel Lot from the city.

bulletSura 27: 55-57 and Sura 29: 28-31: "And (remember) Lot when he said to his people, 'Verily, ye approach an abomination which no one in all the world ever anticipated you in! What! do ye approach men? and stop folks on the highway? And approach in your assembly sin?' but the answer of his people was only to say, 'Bring us God's torment, if thou art of those who speak the truth!' Said he, 'My Lord! help me against a people who do evil!' And when our messengers came to Abraham with the glad tidings, they said, 'We are about to destroy the people of this city. Verily, the people thereof are wrong-doers'."

Again, Lot criticizes the men of Sodom for their same-sex behavior. The men challenge God to bring on the destruction.

These verses relate to male same-sex activities. As in the Hebrew Scriptures, lesbian practices are not mentioned in the Qur'an.

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Comparison of the Qur'an and Hebrew Scriptures concerning Sodom:

Four of the above five quotations from the Qur'an are linked to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah which is also discussed in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) at Genesis 19. Lot is referred to as "Lut" in the Qur'an.

The Qur'an links the sin of Sodom (the reason for its destruction) to the general bisexual activities of the men of Sodom. That is, they freely engaged in both same-sex behavior with each other, and opposite-sex behavior with their wives.

The Hebrew Scriptures appear to differ. They link the  destruction to two events:

bulletThe attempts by the men of Sodom to rape the angels. Rape is condemned in Genesis 19 as it is in some other biblical passages. A reference in Jude also seems to imply that the event was evil because of the bestiality involved: the angels were of a non-human species.
bulletThe insensitivity of the people of Sodom: As described in other verses in the Hebrew Scriptures, the people of Sodom were uncaring towards widows, orphaned children, visitors, and the poor.

Genesis 19 does not suggest that the men of Sodom were bisexual and frequently engaged in homosexual activities. It is perhaps ironic that the conservative Christian interpretation more closely resembles the content of the Qur'an than the Bible.

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The Hadith and homosexuality:

The Hadith are collections of sayings attributed to Muhammad.

IslamOnline.net records a fatwa (religious ruling) concerning an Iranian man who had been convicted of raping and then killing his 16-year-old nephew. The fatwa does not appear to differentiate between consensual homosexuality and homosexual rape; both are linked to adultery. Their ruling stated:

"Homosexuality, moreover, is an abomination and a grave sin. In Hadith, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, clarifies the gravity of this abomination by saying: "Allah curses the one who does the actions (homosexual practices) of the people of Lut." repeating it three times; and he said in another Hadith: "If a man comes upon a man then they are both adulterers." Here, he considered homosexuality tantamount to adultery in relation to the Shari'ah punishments because it is an abomination on the one hand and the definition of adultery applies to it on the other hand.....As for lesbians, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said about them: 'If a woman comes upon a woman, they are both Adulteresses'." 3

Other Hadiths also discuss liwat (gay sexual activity) and Sihaq (lesbian sexual activity).

bullet"When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes."
 
bullet"Kill the one that is doing it and also kill the one that it is being done to."

bullet"Sihaq (lesbian sexual activity) of women is zina (illegitimate sexual intercourse) among them."

Traditionalist orthodox Muslims generally claim that the Hadith literature contains the authentic sayings of Muhammad. Many liberal Muslims doubt the authenticity of at least some of them. The latter suggest that  during the times of the first Caliphs, Muslims did not know what to do with individuals guilty of "liwat/lutiyya". No sahabi (companion) of Muhammad could quote a saying or decision of Muhammad relating to this question.

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References used in the above essay:

  1. From the Qu'ran edition at Virginia Tech's Etext collection.
  2. Osama Abdullah, "My respond [sic] to the so called 'Houses of Death' to women in Islam," Answering-Christianity, at: http://www.answering-christianity.com/
  3. "Death fall as punishment for homosexuality," IslamOnline, 2003-JUL-22, at: http://www.islamonline.net/

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Copyright © 1997 to 2011, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2011-JAN-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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