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Why is homosexuality forbidden in Islam?

Critics say that the following verses of the Holy Quran prove that homosexuals should be stoned:

And We sent Lot—when he said to his people, ‘Do you commit an abomination such as no one in the world ever did before you? ‘You approach men with lust instead of women. Nay, you are a people who exceed all bounds.’ And the answer of his people was no other than that they said, ‘Turn them out of your town, for they are men who would keep pure.’ And We saved him and his family, except his wife: she was of those who stayed behind. And We rained upon them a rain. Now see, what was the end of the sinners! 

(Surah al-A‘raf, 7:81–85)

They allege that since Allah Almighty punished this nation with a rain of stones, therefore Islam teaches that Muslims must rain stones on homosexuals. However, if we apply their logic to the verses right before this passage, it means that Muslims are required to create earthquakes under anyone who rebels against the command of God. The verses just before this tell the story of the destruction of the people of the Prophet Salih as:

Then they hamstrung the she-camel and rebelled against the command of their Lord, and said, ‘O Salih, bring us that which thou threatenest us with, if thou art indeed one of the Messengers.’ So the earthquake seized them and in their homes they lay prostrate upon the ground. Then Salih turned away from them and said, ‘O my people, I did deliver the message of my Lord unto you and offered you sincere counsel, but you love not sincere counsellors.’ 

(Surah al-A‘raf, 7:78–80)

Obviously, no human is required to administer the punishments that Allah Almighty administers as our Creator. If this were true, then we as humans would be required to not only stone homosexuals, we would also be required to create earthquakes to punish sinful people. The Holy Quran clearly says in this very passage that a prophet of God can only “deliver the message” and “offer sincere counsel”, he has no right to compel people. His being a prophet of God does not give him the right to enforce his will on a people against their will. This is a principle of the Holy Quran which applies to every prophet, including the Holy Prophet sas.

Admonish, therefore, for thou art but an admonisher; Thou hast no authority to compel them.

(Surah al-Ghashiyah, 88:22–23)

The Holy Quran rejects the idea that since God has the divine right to punish man for his sins, therefore His prophet also has the divine right to punish man for his sins. These verses cannot be interpreted to mean that along with God, man also has a divine right to punish man for his sins. In Islam, humans cannot administer punishments for religious crimes by any divine right. They can only administer punishment for social crimes by governmental right.

Not finding any evidence in the Holy Quran, critics turn to ahadith. However, the Holy Quran is the perfect book in Islam, and any Hadith attributed to the Holy Prophet sas that seeks to add to or takes away from the perfection of the Holy Quran cannot be accepted. Critics quote the following narration, The Holy Prophet sas said:

If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.

(Sunan Abi Dawud, Book 39, Hadith 4,447)

Homosexuality is not the only thing that some narrations in books of ahadith assign capital punishment for, fornication/adultery are also assigned capital punishment in some narrations. However, these ahadith are rejected by the Holy Quran which says:

The adulteress and the adulterer (or the fornicatress and the fornicator)— flog each one of them with a hundred stripes. And let not pity for the twain take hold of you in executing the judgment of Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day.

(Surah an-Nur, 24:3)

Any Hadith attributed to the Holy Prophet sas that adds or subtracts from the punishment assigned by the Holy Quran cannot be accepted because it contradicts the perfection of Allah Almighty’s own teachings. Such ahadith must either be rejected, or interpreted to apply to certain extreme cases that came under a separate crime.

The Holy Quran assigns no punishment for homosexuality. Rather, it assigns a punishment for publicly displaying acts of homosexuality. The Holy Quran says:

And those of your women who are guilty of lewdness—call to witness four of you against them; and if they bear witness, then confine them to the houses until death overtake them or Allah open for them a way. And if two men from among you are guilty of it, punish them both. And if they repent and amend, then leave them alone; surely, Allah is Oft-Returning with compassion and is Merciful.

(Surah an-Nisa’, 4:16–17)

These verses speak of homosexuality, which is separate from fornication/adultery mentioned elsewhere in the Holy Quran. They assign temporary house arrest for women, and punishment to be determined by society for men. Both of these punishments are assigned while leaving open the possibility of forgiveness from the punishment. Death cannot possibly be interpreted as the punishment mentioned here because it is not possible for it to be removed. Any narration attributed to the Holy Prophet sas that adds or subtracts from this punishment cannot be accepted because it raises objection to the perfection of Allah Almighty’s own teachings. Such narrations must either be rejected, or interpreted as having applied before this verse was revealed.

These punishments are not foreign to western society, rather, public displays of heterosexual or homosexual sex are punishable by law. Western society itself imposes these laws on the basis of morality. If a person is seen in a public place in the nude or engaged in sexual intercourse, s/he will be arrested by the police. Now, if such a defendant were to object in court to these laws that western society imposes on them as being oppressive, what response could critics of Islam give that does not end up supporting the teachings of Islam? In principle, both western society and Islam enforce a basic standard of modesty. There is only a difference in degree, in that Islam promotes a higher degree of modesty.

Some people object to Islam’s teachings on homosexuality, saying that it is oppressive to restrict sexuality. However, western society also imposes restrictions on the sexual behavior of consenting adults. Siblings are not permitted to marry because of social taboos surrounding incest. With the possibility of inbred children having been overcome with the availability of contraception and abortion, there is no empirical or secular reason why brothers and sisters should not be allowed to celebrate an intimate love through the bond of marriage. In fact, the German Ethics Council recommended the decriminalization of sex between adult siblings. Those who believe that incestual marriages should be celebrated in society object to the restrictions western society places on sexuality. While many parents may have no problem if their son tells them he is homosexual, few would have no problem if their son and daughter said to them that they are sexually active with each other and want to celebrate their love by getting married. What answer could those who object to Islam’s restrictions on sexuality give to these people that does not contradict their own objection to restricting sexuality? In principle, both western society and Islam place restrictions on sexuality for maintaining a basic standard of morality. There is only a difference in degree, in that Islam promotes a higher degree of morality.

Updated on January 5, 2019

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