Homosexuality in the Qur’an

My understanding on the Qur’anic position on homosexuality

I wish here to set out my understanding of the Qur’anic position on the question of homosexuality, not to engage with the broader debate of current political sexuality; that is, I am interested here only in the Qur’anic position on homosexuality, and not in any view held – however strongly – on any other basis.

One discerns two competing views of homosexuality vis-à-vis the Qur’an which – when generalised and polarised – may be presented thus:

  • There is the hadith-orientated Islamicist position – at least as intoned by the generality of mullahs. This has it that homosexuality (and here I am speaking of male homosexuality) is a crime, a crime so heinous that when uncovered those found guilty are to be executed – preferably thrown from a high building.
  • The liberalised person claiming Muslim status finds this view abhorrent for many obvious and decent reasons – not least of which being that nothing of the kind is found in the Qur’an. He takes the view that a laissez-faire approach is acceptable; that – in line with recent media indoctrination – homosexuality is a lifestyle choice to be left to the individual to decide; that sexual activity is essentially a Coke-or-Pepsi decision of no intrinsic significance, and that outside restriction is arbitrary and evil.

My understanding is that the Qur’anic position is at variance with both of these views in whole or in part; and it is to that understanding that the remainder of this article is dedicated.

Underlying principles

In order to grasp the specifics of the subject in question, we need first to accept certain unambiguous principles found in the Qur’an.

The first principle to understand is that the Qur’anic position is that many people will not believe; that is, no matter how one dislikes the reality, the fact is that many will be impervious to the remembrance of God no matter what.

Whom God guides:
He is rightly guided.
And whom God sends astray:
These are the losers.
And we have sown for Hell many among the jinn and mankind.
They have hearts wherewith they understand not
And they have eyes wherewith they see not
And they have ears wherewith they hear not.
These are like cattle.
Nay: they are further astray.
These are the heedless. (7:178-179)

Thus, being rightly guided is not a social phenomenon or a cultural inheritance such as being born into a group which claims a particular religion; it is a condition of soul: one either is rightly guided or one is not rightly guided.

The second principle is that submission to God is by individual choice.

No compulsion is there in doctrine.
Sound judgment is made clear from error.
And whoso denies idols and believes in God:
He has grasped a firm handhold which has no break.
And God is hearing, knowing. (2:256)

The third principle is that the job of those who are genuinely muslīm is to call people to faith; it is not to force anyone to believe anything.

And thus we made you an intermediary community:
That you might be witnesses to mankind
And that the messenger might be a witness to you. (2:143)

And fourthly, there is no such thing within the Qur’an as punishment for apostasy. Please see my YouTube talk entitled Apostasy, conformity and thinking for yourself for more on that subject.

So to summarise briefly at this point:

  • There exists no Qur’anic support for forcing anyone to believe anything – and that includes homosexuals, naturally
  • Anyone can renounce his faith should he choose to at any time – and that includes homosexuals

The fact that one may choose to accept or reject faith taken as given, I will now look at the Qur’an’s position on homosexuality.

To understand this we need to know something about the Qur’an’s process of word-value definitions. This is something I cover extensively in my work and I refer you to my YouTube talk entitled Salat in the Qur’an if you wish to gain at deeper understanding of this, or to my book The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation if you wish to see this methodology applied to the totality of the Qur’anic text.

Suffice to say at this juncture: the Qur’an provides clear statements which define core textual values (i.e. key words). And the core value we are looking for at this point is in Arabic fāḥish which I render throughout as sexual immorality.

While fāḥish is translated variously by the Traditionalist, we do not have to guess as to the meaning. The Qur’an applies fāḥish (sg.) to three scenarios only: sex outside marriage (17:32); marrying the former wife of one’s father (4:22); and male homosexuality (7:80-81, 27:54-55).

References

fāḥishat – sexual immorality

3:135, 4:15, 4:19, 4:22, 4:25, 6:151, 7:28, 7:33, 7:80, 17:32, 24:19, 27:54, 29:28, 33,30, 42:37, 53:32, 65:1.

faḥshā – sexual immorality

2:169, 2:268, 7:28, 12:24, 16:90, 24:21, 29:45.

And approach not unlawful sexual intercourse
(It is sexual immorality and an evil way) (17:32)

And marry not what your fathers married, save what is past.
It is sexual immorality and an abomination and an evil way. (4:22)

And Lūṭ:
When he said to his people:
Do you commit sexual immorality that none among all mankind has outdone you:
You approaching men with lust rather than women?
The truth is: you are a people committing excess. (7:80-81)

And Lūṭ:
When he said to his people: Will you commit sexual immorality when you perceive?
Do you approach men with lust rather than women?
The truth is: you are a people in ignorance: (27:54-55)

There are two versions of this word (fāḥish and faḥshā). However, the fact that they are synonyms is established at 7:28, and I render them identically.

And when they commit sexual immorality they say: We found our fathers doing it
And: God enjoined it upon us.
Say thou: God enjoins not sexual immorality.
Do you ascribe to God what you know not?
Say thou: My lord enjoined equity
And that you uphold your countenances at every place of worship
And: Call to him sincere to him in doctrine.
As he created you
You are returning.
Some he guides
And upon some is misguidance due.
They took the shayṭāns as allies instead of God and think they are rightly guided. (7:28-30)

People of Lūṭ

Arguments are advanced that God’s condemnation of the people of Lūṭ stemmed not so much from their homosexuality but from the particularly aggressive and rapacious form of homosexuality which they practiced. This argument seems to hold water, but only up to a point.

Firstly, to see that acceptance of open homosexuality within any society leads towards an aggressive homosexual proselytisation of the type under discussion one need only remember what the process has been in our own countries over the last thirty years.

In its early stage – in the propaganda stage – homosexuals were presented by media as sensitive and persecuted. This then transmuted into an assertive, condemnatory and aggressive stance by homosexuals, shouting down and labelling as bigots all who wished not to be subsumed within a cultural agenda set by them; in this stage they sought not only acquiescence (called ‘tolerance’) but required that everyone embrace and ‘celebrate’ their activities.

Laws are then brought in which persecute those who refuse to collude in the agenda advanced by highly vocal and aggressive homosexuals.

Do all homosexuals behave in this fashion? No. Is such an agenda an integral part of that political movement called Gay Rights? Without a doubt.

It is clear from the Qur’an that while the people of Lūṭ were aggressive and practiced male rape, it was specifically for male-with-male sex that Lūṭ upbraided his people:

And Lūṭ:
When he said to his people:
Do you commit sexual immorality that none among all mankind has outdone you:
You approaching men with lust rather than women?
The truth is: you are a people committing excess. (7:80-81)

To summarise the Qur’anic position at this point:

  • Faith is by choice
  • Those who renounce faith have every right to do so
  • Believers have no place imposing their faith upon others
  • God does not enjoin sexual immorality and those who practice it are not rightly guided
  • It is the shayṭāns which lead us to think we are guided when we are not
  • Homosexuality is ‘sexual immorality’; sexual immorality is sin
  • Believers should warn against sin, including homosexuality and heterosexual sex outside of marriage
  • The sexual immorality practiced by the people of Lūṭ was based in both ignorance and excess

So while the so-called liberal Muslim approach may appeal to those who wish to appease the vociferous so-called Gay Rights movement, or who wish not to be seen to be bigoted, or who are (understandably) appalled at the Islamicist practice of murdering homosexuals and wish to counter that evil, their arguments – well intentioned or not – do not stand up to a rigorous Qur’anic analysis. In the Qur’anic worldview, male homosexual activity is sin – along with heterosexual activity outside of marriage. There is simply no getting away from this fact.

Yet as concerns a community of unbelievers, beyond the duty to exhort people to turn away from sin, the believer has no remit.

Within the believing community

There is no Qur’anic provision to force another to join a community of believers, and none to coerce one to remain within such a community who wishes to leave. However, within a community of believers marriage is the only acceptable institution within which sex is condoned.

The Qur’an is clear on the question of the marriage bond for believers: it may exist between one man and up to four women at any one time. The question of women taken in war or bought as slaves is separate and will not be looked at here.

It is unquestionably the case that it is women (nisā’) who accept or reject marriage proposals – never men. Thus, there are no grounds for arguing in favour of a marriage bond between men.

The Qur’an nowhere regards homosexuality as a legitimate sexual requirement or need and nor does it regard heterosexual activity outside marriage in such a light. Believers are to be chaste until married (24:33).

This puts paid to any claims on the part of those who practice either heterosexual sexual activity outside marriage or homosexual activity of any type; among the practitioners of both (what we shall call here) deviancies are those who claim that they are unable to resist the urge; that they are ‘made that way’; or that it is a social custom and accepted practice.

Those from any background who practice such deviancies and argue from the stance that they are natural, necessary or accepted find no purchase in the Qur’an for their positions; rather, they follow the shayṭān.

O mankind: eat of what is in the earth lawful and good
And follow not the footsteps of the shayṭān.
He is an open enemy to you.
He but enjoins upon you evil and sexual immorality
And that you ascribe to God what you know not.
And when it is said to them: Follow what God has sent down
They say: Nay: we follow that wherein we found our fathers.
Even though their fathers did not reason and were not rightly guided? (2:169-170)

Within the context of a community of believers we are to hinder those we know to be committing fāḥish – or sexual immorality:

And the two who commit it from among you
Hinder them.
But if they repent and do right:
Let them be. (4:16)

But should such people disregard our disapproval and have means and opportunity to engage in their sins without our acquiescence or our assistance, their case falls under the remit of those principles outlined in chapter 24 which treat specifically of the believing community.

The woman guilty of unlawful sexual intercourse
And the man guilty of unlawful sexual intercourse:
Whip each one of them with one hundred lashes.
And let not pity for them take you concerning the doctrine of God
If you believe in God and the Last Day.
And let witness their punishment a number of the believers. (24:2)

However, the Qur’anic requirement is four witnesses to the fact; not four people who suspect, four people who surmise or four people who deduce; but four eye-witnesses.

Again at chapter 24 we find a general warning which should be instructive to us all:

Those who love that there be spread sexual immorality among those who heed warning
Theirs will be a painful punishment in this world and the hereafter.
And God knows and you know not.
And were it not for the bounty of God and his mercy to you
And that God is kind, merciful[…]
O you who heed warning: follow not the footsteps of the shayṭān.
And whoso follows the footsteps of the shayṭān:
He enjoins sexual immorality and perversity.
And were it not for the bounty of God and his mercy to you
Not one of you would ever become pure.
But God increases in purity whom he wills.
And God is hearing, knowing. (24:19-21)

Directly following this section we find the rules on entering houses. The location of these rules is itself instructive.

O you who heed warning:
Enter not dwellings other than your dwellings until you have asked leave
And saluted the people thereof.
That is best for you
That you might take heed.
And if you find not therein anyone:
Enter not until leave be given you.
And if it be said to you: Go back
Then go back.
It is purer for you.
And God knows what you do
You do no wrong to enter uninhabited dwellings in which there is provision for you.
And God knows what you proclaim and what you conceal. (24:27-29)

In summary, the Qur’anic position in the context of a believing community with regard to those committing the sin of zīna (fornication / adultery) is:

  • Such people are to be hindered (i.e. not encouraged or assisted in their sin)
  • Such people – along with all other people – are to be inviolate in their own homes; not subject to intrusions or importune ‘visits’ from busybodies or so-called morality police or anyone else
  • Such people are to be punished by means of 100 lashes – a punishment to be witnessed by believers – in the event that four eye-witnesses are produced

Thus, the society intrinsically discourages such sins; it also punishes flagrant demonstrations of those sins in the public arena; at the same time it allows those determined to indulge in them the possibility to do so in the privacy of their own homes – and denies the broader society the opportunity of violating that privacy.

My opinion

My considered position – since I am often asked to give one – is that homosexuality within the believing community is covered by the laws governing zīna since my understanding given Qur’anic usage is that zina is penetrative sex of any kind outside marriage (the impossibility of homosexual marriage having been summarised above).

Lesbianism – as such – is not referred to in the Qur’an. Since there is no physical intrusion upon the body of the woman by the phallus – and hence no copulation per se – lesbianism is a non-issue Qur’anically speaking.

And while heterosexual marriage is unequivocally the unit of society, all believers are to be safeguarded from prying eyes in the privacy of their own homes – including those practicing male or female homosexuality or engaging in extramarital (heterosexual) sex.

To be clear: according to the Qur’an male homosexuality is not merely a lifestyle choice, it is a sin; it is not an intrinsic condition, it is a perversion of the natural condition. It is a condition of excess, ignorance and lust; something a godly society restrains, constrains and does not promote. But it is not a sin beyond redemption, and it is certainly not a sin worthy of death – and those who take it upon themselves to mete out mortal punishments are guilty of murder. The Qur’anic position in such a case is unequivocal:

And whoso kills a believer intentionally:
His reward is Hell
He abiding eternally therein
And God is wroth with him and has cursed him
And prepared for him a tremendous punishment. (4:93)

Final thoughts

In closing, I would like to say the following: I was brought up in an ignorant and licentious society; like most people of my generation I, too, was indoctrinated to believe that sexual licence was a form of freedom and a good thing, and that any sort of restraint upon inclination was an imposition or evil. When I began to take the Qur’an seriously and took the decision to base my life upon it, I realised that – as a believer – I needed to repent of my past sins and to turn away from them in future. This I did; and I recommend that course to all.

My position is that it is not the place of believers to attack those who have been deceived into embracing what the Qur’an regards as sexual immorality. But neither should we allow immoral propaganda to flow unchecked into our minds or those of our children or to allow it to pollute the houses in which we live. We should be uncompromising and ready always to tell those who enquire about a righteous life that they should give up sin and be pure. And we should be exemplars of exactly that righteousness we would promote to others.

But while working to prevent the propagation of sin into our communities – and while taking sensible precautions to protect our children from it – we should not hurry to condemn those who have bought into homosexual propaganda. Rather, we should remember that we are called to follow the creed of Ibrahim:

Say thou: God spoke truly
So follow the creed of Ibrāhīm
Inclining to truth
And he was not of the idolaters. (3:95)

And Ibrāhīm’s attitude to the homosexuals of his day is instructive – as is God’s response:

And when the alarm had left Ibrāhīm and the glad tidings reached him
He pleaded with us for the people of Lūṭ.
Ibrāhīm was forbearing, compassionate, penitent
O Ibrāhīm: forsake thou this.
The command of thy lord has come.
And come to them is a punishment which cannot be repelled. (11:74-76)

If you are a currently a heterosexual libertine or a homosexual and you want to be clean, I recommend immersing yourself in scripture, prayer, penance and fasting. If you sincerely ask God to guide you and make every effort to follow his guidance, I am confident that you will be successful.

But those who do not wish to repent from sexual immorality – or think they can leave repentance to a later point – I leave with the following thought:

And acceptance of repentance is not for those who do evil
(When death has come to one of them
He says: I repent now.)
Nor is it for those who die as atheists.
For these have we prepared a painful punishment. (4:18)

About the Author Sam Gerrans

Sam Gerrans is an English writer and activist with professional backgrounds in media, strategic communications, and technologies. He is driven by commitment to ultimate meaning, and focused on authentic approaches to revelation and Realpolitik. He is founder of Quranite.com and author of The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation where his consistent, Qur'an-centric hermeneutical methodology is applied to the text of the Qur’an in its entirety. Read more...

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