RESPONSE TO ‘SEXUAL DIVERSITY IN ISLAM’
In the Name of Allah, Most-Beneficient, Most Merciful
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
RESPONSE TO ‘SEXUAL DIVERSITY IN ISLAM’
The purpose of the following research paper is to understand the Quranic narrative of the story of Lut (alayhis salam) in its proper context and to present authentic traditions [ahadith] that prohibit homosexuality and lesbianism.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a gross misunderstanding of the Quranic narrative by some. Our aim with this paper is to advise and counsel those who are in favor of a homosexual lifestyle by mentioning the unanimous interpretation of the accepted scholars of exegesis [tafsir] regarding the story of Lut (alayhis salam) supported by numerous authentic traditions from the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam).
A clear, open-minded reading of the following paper will make it clear that homosexuality is a major sin and completely forbidden [haram].
By presenting this paper we hope to clear any misunderstanding that currently exists in some parts of the Muslim community regarding homosexuality.
Homosexuality & Sodomy: Is there a difference between the two?
Those writing opinions in favor of homosexuality tend to differentiate between the two terms: homosexuality and sodomy. They define homosexuality as sexual orientation and sodomy as the practice.
One of the reasons for this is to present the term ‘homosexuality’ as a naturally occurring trait (according to their opinion) and not something one has control over out of his own volition.
However, homosexuality and sodomy are in reality one and the same thing and when the scholars of Quran exegesis [tafsir], traditions [hadith], and jurisprudence [fiqh] talk about this subject they are referring to one and the same: the practice of the nation of Lut (alayhis salam).
The above, while apparent from a reading of traditional Islamic scholarship has also been mentioned by non-Muslim academics who have presented articles regarding homosexuality and Islam.
The View of Tafsir Scholars:
It is one of the beauties and miracles of the Quran that one verse can carry layers of meanings.
These views have been gathered and extracted by expert scholars of exegesis [tafsir] from the sayings of the companions [sahabah], the successors [tabi’in] and so on.
Names such as Ibn Kathir, Qurtubi, Alusi, Tabari and more are synonymous with the exegesis of the Quran due to their acceptance as authentic, classical works that accurately represent the meanings of the Quran.
These scholars have provided us a very rich and detailed understanding of the verses of the Quran in relation to its language, rhetoric, legal injunctions, the link between the verses, related prophetic traditions, etc. Due to this, there are sometimes a multiplicity of views regarding the exact meaning of a specific verse and rightly so, since each verse is so profound that it is a miracle in its own right.
However, when it comes to the Quranic narrative concerning the nation of Lut (alayhis salam), all of these classical jurists are unanimously agreed that the sin of this nation was homosexuality and not the rape of men as is claimed by proponents of homosexuality.
Such a consistent and uniform interpretation of the verses by these scholars clearly indicate that there is no disagreement on the matter. The fact that these multiple and authentic independent sources confirm to us that this has always been the view leaves absolutely no doubt as to the fact that homosexuality is a major sin.
Some proponents of homosexuality have tried to deny the importance of this overwhelming evidence by claiming that this conclusion by the scholars of tafsir is grounded in cultural mores, rather than in revelation [wahy].
However, this argument is invalid and baseless (as we shall see in the section on hadith) due to ample evidence from multiple authentic prophetic traditions that make it clear that sexual relationships (and anything leading to it) between two men or two women are completely forbidden [haram]. In the face of this corroborating evidence it would be simply dishonest to claim otherwise.
Surah al-A’raaf (80-81)
A number of verses in the Quran mention the narrative of the nation of Lut (alayhis salam). Due to space limitations, we will take a look at just two verses from Surah al-A’raaf to demonstrate how the scholars of tafsir have interpreted it:
“And [We had sent] Lut when he said to his people: Do you commit such immorality
as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds? Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people.” [7:80-81]
a.) Hafidh Ibn Kathir (may Allah have mercy on him) states: “They did things that none of the children of Adam or any other creatures ever did before them. They used to have sexual intercourse with males instead of females. This evil practice was not known among the Children of Adam before, nor did it even cross their minds, so they were unfamiliar with it before the people of Sodom invented it, may Allah’s curse be on them.”
b.) Imam Qurtubi (may Allah have mercy on him) in his tafsir of [7:80] states: “Allah’s statement: ‘Do you commit such immorality’ means having sex with men [ityan al-dhukur], Allah called it an immorality [fahishah] to make it clear that it was adultery [zina] like in the following verse: “And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse [zina]. Indeed, it is ever an immorality [fahishah] and is evil as a way.” [17:32] and the scholars differed on what is the [punishment] for the one who commits such an act after their consensus on it [homosexuality] being unlawful.”
Note that Imam Qurtubi states that there is a consensus on the fact that homosexuality is unlawful.
The fact that there is a difference of opinion among the scholars regarding the punishment of homosexuality is an altogether different matter and not the subject of discussion here. What we are concerned with here is asking and answering the question: Is homosexuality unlawful?
Some writers mistakenly or deliberately confuse the two (consensus on homosexuality being unlawful vs. differences of opinion regarding the punishment of homosexuality).
A difference of opinion regarding the punishment of homosexual acts does not in any way render this major sin permissible. On the contrary, it establishes the evidence of homosexuality being a major sin even further. This is because the scholars have with academic integrity conveyed to us that there are differences on how the perpetrator should be dealt with.
Conveying of this difference of opinion proves that had there been any view that stated that the nation of Lut (alayhis salam) was not punished for homosexuality but rather the rape of men, then this view surely would have been mentioned.
c.) Imam Tabari (may Allah have mercy on him) mentioned regarding the tafsir of: “Do you commit such immorality” “the immorality [fahishah] that they used to commit for which Allah punished them was having sex with men [ityan al-dhukur]. [And regarding Allah’s statement] “as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds?” He (Allah) is saying: No one among the worlds preceded you in committing this immorality.”
Then Imam Tabari mentions the statement of ‘Amr bin Dinar (may Allah have mercy on him) that: “No man sprang on another man [meaning had sex] until the nation of Lut came along.”
d.) Imam Alusi (may Allah have mercy on him) while commenting on the verse “Do you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather you are a transgressing people.” [7:81] states that approaching men with desire refers to sex [jima’] and the statement “instead of women” indicates that that women are the proper place [mahall] of desire with men of sound nature.
Even among contemporary scholars of tafsir, the interpretation has stayed the same. In Adwa al-Bayan, while commenting on the verse 7:80, ‘Allamah Shinqiti (may Allah have mercy on him) states: “Allah has made clear that the meaning of this immorality [fahisha] is homosexuality [liwat] with His statement after [this verse]: “Do you approach men with desire, instead of women.” and He has also made it clear with His statement: “Do you approach males among the worlds” [26:165] and His statement: “and commit in your meetings evil.” [29:29]
If there is any doubt as to why were the women of this nation punished by the divine punishment, then Mawlana Thanwi (may Allah have mercy on him) has explained that one of the reasons for this divine punishment (in addition to the practice of homosexuality) was disbelief as well.
He further states that there are some reports that mention that the women were also involved in lesbianism [sihaq], and if there were any that were not involved than they were punished due to their complacency and acceptance of this practice and not forbidding it.
What becomes apparent from the above is that the experts in the Quran identify homosexual acts as the crime committed by the nation of Lut (alayhis salam). There is no disagreement here.
Ibn Hazm’s View:
Some contemporary proponents of homosexuality make references to Ibn Hazm’s view in an effort to support their view.
(Ibn Hazm – may Allah have mercy on him – is that author of Muhalla, a manual of fiqh based on the Zahiri methodology.)
However, Ibn Hazm’s view does not differ from the mainstream and here is the proof:
1. What Ibn Hazm actually stated in Muhalla is that the nation of Lut (alayhis salam) were punished for both homosexuality and infidelity (similar to what is stated by Mawlana Thanwi as mentioned earlier).
He states that the punishment of stones that rained down on the nation of Lut (alayhis salam) was not only for the sin of homosexuality, but for both [crimes]: disbelief and homosexuality.
2. Ibn Hazm mentions the above view in Muhalla, a work of jurisprudence [fiqh], not a work of exegesis [tafsir]. This is not interpretation of the verses per se as in a work of exegesis.
Rather, Ibn Hazm is trying to prove his point that there is no legally prescribed punishment [hadd] for homosexual acts, but he is still agreed that homosexuality is a major sin and forbidden.
3. There are many major sins that do not carry hadd. As an example, disobedience of the parents [‘uquq al-walidayn] is a major sin that does not have a hadd.
4. Ibn Hazm’s view of homosexuality being a sin is exactly the same as that of other scholars. He states in Tawq al-Hamamah: “As for conduct like that of the people of Lut, that is horrible and disgusting. Allah says, “Do you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds?” [7:80]”
In summary, Ibn Hazm’s view does not lend any credence or validity to those seeking to reinterpret the narrative of Lut (alayhis salam) because Ibn Hazm is in complete agreement that the reason this nation was punished was because of homosexuality and disbelief.
A Distorted & Unoriginal Interpretation
Proponents of homosexuality state that the crime of the people of Lut (alayhis salam) was rape of men and not homosexuality. This view has no basis, neither in classical nor modern works of exegesis [tafsir] of the Quran (as we have established above), so where does it originate?
To understand the incorrect claim that the crime of the nation of Lut (alayhis salam) was specifically rape of men, we need to look at similar arguments that are made by non-Muslim authors about this nation while attempting to reinterpret the Biblical narrative.
Long before the Quranic narrative of Lut (alayhis salam) became a subject of reinterpretation, authors such as Walter Barnett offered a very similar interpretation of the Biblical narrative in his 1979 book, “Homosexuality and the Bible: An Interpretation” and he was not even the first to do so.
Barnett writes, “The sin of Sodom does not necessarily lie in homosexuality or homosexual behavior. Rather, this wicked thing that Lot enjoins the people not to do is, rape, pure and simple and gang rape at that.”
Compare this above statement of Barnett written in 1979 with what was written in 2007 in the article titled ‘Sexual Diversity in Islam’:
“If they had, they would not have read the narrative of Lot and his tribe as addressing homosexual acts in general, but rather as addressing rape of men in particular.”
Likewise, it is claimed in Islamic Texts: A Source of Acceptance of Queer Muslims in Mainstream Society published in 2010, that: “According to the Quran, Sodom stands to be the first nation ever to commit the crime of subjecting vulnerable men to coercive sex with the aristocrats.”
The apparent similarity between what was written by Barnett more than a quarter century before the article “Sexual Diversity in Islam” and more than thirty years before the article A Source of Acceptance of Queer Muslims in Mainstream Society should not be lost on the reader.
In conclusion, this so-called reinterpretation of the Quranic narrative of the story of Lut (alayhis salam) to support homosexuality is exceedingly similar to an old, widely available view of non-Muslim authors who sought to reinterpret the biblical narrative and one that has no basis in any authentic, recognized work of exegesis [tafsir].
Linguistically too, the claim that rape of men was the crime of the people of Lut (alayhis salam), and not homosexuality does not hold up when measured against the facts:
1. The term “sodomy” which today is used for anal intercourse is derived from the name of the town of Sodom which in hebrew means to scorch/burn, and this is where the ancient greek word Σόδομα (sódoma) and the late latin word peccatum Sodomiticum or “sin of Sodom” come from. 
2. In Arabic, the term for homosexuality is liwat or amal/f’il qawm Lut meaning the practice/action of the people of Lut.
→ Had the action of the people of Lut been rape of men and not homosexuality, the term would be used to refer specifically to this practice. However, the term sodomy as noted above, in multiple languages is used for anal intercourse and not for rape or rape of men.
3. Anal sex (when practiced consensually as with one’s wife) has been termed minor homosexuality [al-lutiyah al-sughra] in authentic ahadith. While these will be discussed in detail in the section of hadith, here we are primarily concerned with the linguistic appellation of anal sex with homosexuality in the Arabic language.
→ Since consensual anal sex with one’s wife is termed ‘minor homosexuality’, the act that was condemned in the narrative of Lut (alayhis salam) has to be none other than homosexuality. Had the crime been rape of men, then consensual anal intercourse with one’s wife would not have been termed “minor homosexuality.”
4. The word rape comes to us from the Anglo-Saxon raper which itself comes from the Latin rapere meaning “to seize”. When we talk about coercive sex the word “to seize” matches and makes perfect sense because it is a forceful act, not a consensual act.
This makes it clear that homosexuality (at least as a widespread notion) originated with the people of Lut (alayhis salam), who first started having anal intercourse with their wives and then went on to do it with men as established from authentic statements by successors [tabi’in] such as ‘Ata (may Allah have mercy on him).
Further, authentic ahadith refer to anal intercourse with women as minor homosexuality [al-lutiyah al-sughra] because of its resemblance to how homosexuality is practiced.
What was then different about the people of Lut (alayhis salam) that they are addressed as doing something that has absolutely no precedence in history, at least on such a large scale – except that they engaged in homosexuality?
Regarding “Do you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds?” Imam Qurtubi states: “[and regarding the statement of Allah] ‘as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds?’ ‘Homosexuality [liwat] was not present in any nation before the people of Lut.’
We see a slightly different approach to interpreting this verse by Imam Razi (may Allah have mercy on him) as compared to other scholars of exegesis in Mafatih al-Ghayb. He mentions the possibility that the practice of homosexuality might have been practiced by an individual here or there before, but nowhere was it found on such a widespread scale until the nation of Lut (alayhis salam) came along.
Imam Razi states: “And the answer is: We see numerous people deeming this action as filthy [yastakdhir], so if it is known that [this action] is despised by many then it is possible that a long time of period passed such that no one from the previous times committed this act. And there is another possibility as well: Perhaps they (the nation of Lut) committed this action altogether [bi-kulliyah] and this practice [homosexuality] was not practiced on such an all-encompassing scale in the previous times.”
Again, going back to what we stated at the beginning that regarding the specific action of this nation, all are agreed that it was homosexuality.
It is claimed by proponents of homosexuality that: “One consolation is that there are no references to homosexuality in the more authentic hadith collections of Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim (regarded by Muslims as the two most authentic collections out of the six famous compilations of hadith).”
Unfortunately, the above statement is not only incorrect it also conveys a very limited understanding of hadith.
Imam Bukhari’s intention in compiling his Sahih was never to encompass all the authentic ahadith and the following proves it:
- Imam Bukhari himself states “I did not enter into this book (meaning Sahih al-Bukhari) except that which is authentic and I left (from it) authentic (ahadith) so that the book does not become lengthy”.
- Imam Bukhari also states that the idea given by his companions was for an abridged [mukhtasar] book of authentic hadith.
- 3. This idea saw light in the work known as Sahih Bukhari, but whose official title as named by Imam Bukhari himself is: “The Abridged Collection of Authentic Hadith with Connected Chains regarding Matters Pertaining to the Prophet, His practices and His Times”.
So, it is clear from the above that there are many ahadith that Imam Bukhari did not mention in his Sahih, because his stated intention was to always compile an abridged book of authentic ahadith.
The above also tells us that there are many ahadith that meet the requirements and conditions set by Imam Bukhari but are not in his Sahih.
From amongst the ahadith which meet the requirement set by Imam Bukhari, is the following authentic [sahih] hadith narrated in Musnad Ahmad:
“No man should have skin-to-skin contact with another man,
and neither should a woman have skin-to-skin contact with another woman.”
This hadith has also been narrated by Imam Hakim in his Mustadrak and he has stated that “this hadith meets the conditions set forth by Imam Bukhari” and Imam Dhahabi agreed with this.
In addition, the latter-day hadith scholar and expert, Shu’ayb Arn’aut (may Allah have mercy on him) also agrees that this hadith meets the conditions set forth by Imam Bukhari [wa huwa kama qala].
The reason why there is express prohibition of skin-to-skin contact between members of the same sex is clear in that both homosexuality [liwat] and lesbianism [sihaq] are completely and unequivocally impermissible [haram].
Secondly, what is not mentioned in the above hadith is the prohibition of such contact between a male and a female because this is permissible under certain conditions such as between a man and a wife.
A second authentic [sahih] hadith that makes it clear that homosexuality and lesbianism are both impermissible [haram] is narrated by Imam Muslim in his Sahih:
“No man should look at the ‘awrah of another man, and no woman should look
at the ‘awrah of another woman. No man should lie with another man under the same cover, and no woman should lie with another woman under the same cover.”
This hadith, in addition to being in Sahih Muslim (which nullifies the claim there are no hadith in Sahih Muslim that reference homosexuality) has also been narrated by Imam Tirmidhi in the Chapter of Manners, #2793, Imam Abu Dawud in the Chapter of Hammam #4018, by Ibn Majah in Chapter of Taharah, #661.
The commentators of this hadith have mentioned that it is not allowed for two males to lie together in one bed (and likewise two females) such that their skin touches one another out of fear of sexual activity among them.
The authentic hadith found in four of the six famous books of hadith (Sahih Muslim, Jami’ Tirmidhi, Sunan Abu Dawud, and Sunan Ibn Majah) is further proof that both homosexuality [liwat] and lesbianism [sihaq] are impermissible and anything that would give rise to such actions is also forbidden as the skin-to-skin contact of two males or two females in the same bed.
Again, note the absence of this prohibition for a man doing so with a woman, because it is permissible for a husband and wife to lie down under the same cover, have skin-to-skin contact, be intimate, etc.
This good [hasan] hadith has been narrated by in Jami’ Tirmidhi, Sunan Nasa’i, Sahih Ibn Hibban and Musannaf Abi Shaybah. This hadith has been graded as good [hasan] by both early hadith scholars such as Imam Tirmidhi (may Allah have mercy on him) and contemporary hadith scholars such as ‘Allamah Awwamah (may Allah preserve him).
These two actions (anal sex with a woman and a man) are mentioned together in the above hadith (hadith #3) because for men to engage in sex with women from their behinds has been termed as “minor homosexuality” [al-lutiyah al-sughra] while sex between males is the actual homosexuality.
Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) in an authentic [sahih] hadith mentioned about the man that has anal intercourse with his wife:
“It is minor homosexuality”
[hiya al-lutiyah al-sughra].
This is because of the similarity with the way homosexuality is practiced. Further, this is also how homosexuality got started and proves that it is not a natural trait because it began as men approaching women from the behind and eventually ended up as men approaching men.
This hadith is very important because it ties the action of homosexuality to the nation of Lut (alayhis salam) explicitly and linguistically terms anal intercourse with one’s wife as minor homosexuality.
Had the action of the nation of Lut (alayhis salam) been rape of men this appellation would not make sense, because the question asked of Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) has nothing to do with rape, rather it was regarding anal intercourse with one’s own wife.
Tawus (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked about a man approaching a woman from behind so he said: “This was something that the people of Lut started. Men started doing that with women first (having sex with women through their behinds) and then they (the men) started doing that (having sex with men through their behinds).”
Likewise, the well-known scholar and successor [ta’bi], ‘Ata (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked about approaching women (having sex with them) through their backside, and he answered “That is a disbelief, it was but the people of Lut that started that, they came on their women like that (having sex) with them and then men did that with men.” This is an authentic, verified statement of ‘Ata.
This is called disbelief in hadith as well for two reasons, either for rebuking those who commit this action or it is called kufr for those who consider this action to be permissible.
It should also be noted that some have fabricated narrations to state that Imam Malik (may Allah have mercy on him) permitted men approaching women in their backside (anal intercourse). However, this view has been falsely attributed to him, as Imam Malik (may Allah have mercy on him) has himself stated.
This hadith has been graded as having an authentic chain [sahih al-isnad] by Hakim, and good [hasan gharib] by Tirmidhi and is self-explanatory in its message.
“…and Allah’s curse be upon the one who does the action of the people of Lut” and he (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) repeated this curse upon them three times.
This is an authentic [sahih] hadith narrated by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih. The latter-day hadith scholar, Shu’ayb Arn’aut (may Allah have mercy on him) has commented on the authenticity of this hadith by stating that it meets the criteria of authenticity set forth by both Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim [isnaduhu ‘ala shart al-shaykhayn].
These are a total of six authentic, verified traditions that prohibit homosexuality and lesbianism, both its actual practice and anything approaching it such as two men or two women lying down together and having skin-to-skin contact or looking at each other’s private parts [‘awrah].
Ikrimah, the freed slave of Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him):
Some of those who argue in favor of homosexuality have tried to disparage the above hadith by stating that an authentic narrator, Ikrimah, the freed slave of Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) has been supposedly called a liar and was inclined to the view of the khawarij sect.
This claim against Ikrimah (may Allah have mercy on him) is incorrect for the following reasons:
1. Deviant groups would sometimes take a well-known and religiously authoritative figure and attribute their beliefs to him in an effort to gain popularity for their own group. This is what happened to Ikrimah (may Allah have mercy on him).
2. Hafidh Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him), has proven that these allegations are incorrectly attributed to Ikrimah, and that he is a trustworthy [thiqa] narrator.
Mentioning the entire refutation of Ibn Hajar is beyond the scope of this paper, however, those wanting to read them in detail can refer to the relevant pages and works mentioned in the footnotes below. The proof of Ikrimah being trustworthy is found in both Taqrib al-Tahdheeb and Hady al-Sari Muqaddimah Fath al-Bari.  
3. Imam Bukhari has himself confirmed Ikrimah to be an authentic narrator.
As mentioned earlier there is a scholarly consensus [ijma’] on the fact that homosexuality is a major sin and is completely forbidden [haram].
In conclusion, the united view of the accepted scholars of tafsir, numerous authentic traditions and the consensus of the scholars leaves no doubt that homosexuality is completely forbidden [haram].
To go against these multiple, confirmed attestations would then be a matter of preferring one’s desires over established, irrefutable proof. May Allah protect us and guide us to the truth. Aameen.
And Allah Ta’ala Knows Best
Mufti Sohail ibn Arif,
Assistant Mufti, Darul Iftaa
Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.
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 Rank: Sahih. Al-Ihsan fi Taqrib Sahih Ibn Hibban. Hadith #4417. 10/266. Tahqiq: Shu’ayb Arn’aut
 al-Asqalani, Hafidh Ibn Hajar. Taqrib al-Tahdheeb. 1/397. #4673.
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