Islam does not recognize homosexuality as a natural way of life, among other religions with differentiating views on the phenomenon. This paper analyzes how denying homosexuality in Islam may be a natural response to conserve procreation and continuance of the human race. For this purpose, the historical background of homosexuality was taken into account along with its consequences as per Islam. We also regarded significance of scriptural evidence to support denial of homosexuality as a lifestyle choice. Furthermore, the acceptance and denial of homosexuality is explored through common religions existing today including Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity. We have concluded the precedence of heterosexuality as a natural lifestyle under doctrine as opposed to homosexuality.
Dating to ancient times, homosexuality has been a part of every society formed. Its acceptance and openness may not have been present yet acts of same-sex interests are recorded through literature and art. Homosexuality has survived religions, cultures, and societal norms over time. From riots to movements and eventually formation of laws, this way of living has become much more evolved and expressed in the public. However, Islam does not recognize heterosexuality or another gender existing other than the accepted binaries. The question whether Islam presents a natural way of living or radical ideology has existed ever since homosexuality gained popularity and acceptance in the West. Homosexuality precedes Islam in terms of chronological existence yet the two have entered a never-ending battle. This paper aims to understand if denying the LGBT community and its right as per the Islamic Law is in fact the best way of living or a radical approach under religion that must be altered. The paper will be divided into four sections, each analyzing the question from a different perspective, using evidence from secondary research sources. At the end, a conclusion will be drawn whether the Islamic point of view in fact remains most relevant for the people today.
2. The Emergence of Homosexuality – The Story of Lot
It is essential to understand the nature of homosexuality and what it entailed in the past. For Muslims, the first and most prominent example of homosexuality dates back to Lot’s time. Prophet Lot was the brother-in-law of Prophet Ibrahim, the brother of his wife Sarah. When Ibrahim preached Islam, both Sarah and Lot believed in him and God. When Ibrahim migrated to Palestine to spread the message of God, Lot followed him and wanted to help him. However, God revealed to him how he was to preach the same message to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. These cities included a lifestyle where homosexuality and sexual violence were a routine. Despite being married to opposite sex partners, both men and women indulged in same-sex unions outside their legal marriages. The two cities were faithless and sinning when Lot was sent from God to guide them towards the right path. He had two daughters from his wife and all of them lived in Sodom while he preached the word of God to the inhabitants. Lot was not born in Sodom yet sent as a savior to the city as he was wise, virtuous, and righteous in the eyes of God.
Lot went to the city and came across this sin that was unprecedented. He preached religion to the people and said, as mentioned in the Chapter Al Ar-af of the Quran,
“What! Do you commit an outrage none in the world ever committed before you?! Indeed you come to men with desire instead of women! Indeed, you are a profligate lot” (Mahdi, 2020).
His preaching was not welcomed, and the people continued in their acts. Rather, they teased him to get out of their land and insisted he and his family were expelled if he continued preaching.
After being rejected by the people of Sodom, Lot was disappointed and devastated. His wife, too, had taken into account homosexuality and joined the inhabitants of the city in their acts. Two angels were then sent to Lot to deliver the news of punishment for the people. The angels took shape of two handsome young men. They stayed as guests of Lot, but Lot’s wife had a vicious plan. She lit a fire on top of their home to announce their arrival in the entire city. The men of the city came demanding sexual relationships with these new men in the city. Upon their arrival outside Lot’s home, Lot insisted they leave the guests alone and suggested his daughters were better for them. However, the refused an interest in his daughters and insisted to meet the guests. In the Chapter Hud of Quran it is said,
“You certainly know that we have no interest in your daughters, and indeed you know what we want” (Mahdi, 2020).
Lot was extremely worried and inquired about the safety of his guests as well as his family. The angels instructed him to leave with his daughters and the flee the city as by dawn, God’s punishment will encapsulate the entire city. They also assured no harm would come upon them by these people. Lot left in the darkness with his daughters and his wife remained in the house as she was one of the homosexuals. God punished the inhabitants severely by showering rainfall of stones, so they died under its pressure.
2.1. Deriving Nature of Homosexuality from Islamic History
Now it is imperative to understand how Lot was not one of these people and still sent as a guide to them by God. His lifestyle that included marrying a woman and bearing two children was considered natural and exemplary in Islam. He was not inclined towards homosexuality whatsoever. He was set on the path that God and His religion had chosen for him. He openly opposed homosexuality and urged others to do the same.
There are multiple verses in the Quran that entail Lot’s angst against homosexuality and how God had taught him the true way of life. Homosexuality is only referred to as a derogatory lifestyle that would result in punishment from God and no acceptance or forgiveness. With reference to the story of Lot, multiple Chapters of Quran demean homosexuality and present its consequent fate in the following ways:
In Chapter 7 of the Quran, Lot demeaned the homosexuals by saying, “Indeed you come to men with desire instead of women! Indeed, you are a profligate lot.”
In Chapter 7 of the Quran, after Lot left the city, God said, “Then We poured down upon them a rain [of stones]. So observe how was the fate of the guilty!”
In Chapter 29 of the Quran, God said right before punishing them, “We are indeed going to bring down upon the people of this town a punishment from the sky because of the transgressions they used to commit.”
It is evident what the nature of homosexuality was in the eyes of God, under the Islamic Law. It was not permissible in any condition, even if a prophet’s wife was indulged in this way of life. God punished and destroyed the entire city where inhabitants refused to mend their ways and leave homosexuality.
3. Significance of Marriage and Procreation in Islam
The real purpose of creating humans as presented by Islam is worshipping the Ultimate God and following his commandments. The human race must carry on its procreation in order to formulate a society that worships God who initiated the world for humans. Having said that, procreation becomes the most significant task for humans to sustain life form that continues worshipping God. It becomes people’s duty to ensure the task is fulfilled.
3.1. Marriage in Islam
3.1.1. The Quranic Verses
Marriage in Islam is the only legal way that allows intercourse between a man and woman. It is a priority task for all men and women who become of age and are ready for the responsibility of children. The Quran entails multiple verses regarding marriage and how fruitful it is for the people:
In Chapter 4, a verse states, “O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women…” [4:1]
In Chapter 25, a verse states, “And those who say, ‘Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.’” [25:74]
This verse particularly refers to the importance of marriage for bringing peace and contentment in life in the form of offspring. It not only teaches man to pray for marriage but also bearing children who will further spread the religion of Islam.
In Chapter 30, a verse states, “And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” [30:21]
The abovementioned verse confirms the need for marriage to tranquil the souls of both men and women. When a man and woman come together in marriage, they become one flesh and one soul. Each become a source of happiness as well as fulfilment for the other.
In Chapter 24, it is said, “And marry the unmarried among you and the righteous among your male slaves and female slaves. If they should be poor, Allah will enrich them from His bounty, and Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” [24:32]
This verse identifies another advantage of righteously marrying i.e., abundance in wealth. God promises betterment in terms of wealth, spirituality, and physical fulfillment once a man marries a woman.
3.1.2. Prophet (PBUH)’s Sayings
Prophet (PBUH) corroborates every Quranic verse about marriage and its significance. He has said at an occasion:
“Marriage is part of my sunnah, and whoever does not follow my sunnah has nothing to do with me. Get married, for I am heartened by your great numbers before the nations (of other Prophets).”
The book of Prophet (PBUH)’s way of life indicates the best practices people can adopt to live a happy and content life as per the religion of Islam. It is said,
“Four are from the practices of the Messengers: modesty, the use of perfume, the use of the tooth-stick, and marriage” (Mishkat-Ul-Masabih, n.d.).
Whenever the Prophet (PBUH) met or saw a newlywed couple, he would be happy and pleased upon their union. He is recorded to have said,
When the Prophet (PBUH) congratulated a person who just got married, he said: “May Allah bless you and send blessings upon you, and bring goodness between you two” (Mishkat-Ul-Masabih, n.d.).
All these verses indicate the Prophet (PBUH)’s pleasure as well as God’s whenever a man married a woman legally, under the Islamic Law. It is imperative to understand how there is no mention about same-sex marriage anywhere in the Quran or in Prophet (PBUH)’s sayings. Union between a man and woman is legal, righteous and approved by Islam fully.
3.2. Procreation in Islam
God encourages men and women to procreate and sustain human life without worrying about material things such as finances to support the child. In the Quran, God states, “… kill not your children because of poverty – We provide sustenance for you and for them” (Quran 6:151). God has taken responsibility of carrying on the life of a child who is born into this world. An incident narrated from the life of Prophet (PBUH) regarding birthing children is as follows:
Abu Dawood (2050) narrated that Ma’qil ibn Yasaar said: A man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, “I have found a woman who is of good lineage and is beautiful, but she does not bear children. Should I marry her?” He said, “No.” Then he came again with the same question and he told him not to marry her. Then he came a third time with the same question and he said: “Marry those who are loving and fertile, for I will be proud of your great numbers before the other nations.” Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Irwa’ al-Ghaleel, 1784. (Islam qa, 2020)
When a woman is married off, there are four reasons considered as stated by the Prophet (PBUH), “A woman may be married for four reasons: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty, and her religious commitment. Marry the one who is religiously committed.” Religion and fertility are significant factors when considering a woman for marriage as the Prophet (PBUH) and God have stated the importance of increasing the number of worshippers for God on earth.
4. Scriptural Evidence Supporting Heterosexuality
Heterosexuality is the known natural way of life among all doctrines that exist in the world. All Old Testaments as well as the Quran fully support it with regards to procreation and continuing the human race. Along with the Holy Books, sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) also corroborate the narrative of heterosexuality.
4.1. Prophet (PBUH)’s Sayings regarding Heterosexuality
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has stated the fruitfulness of marriage between a man and woman at various occasions:
“Get married, for I am heartened by your great numbers before the nations (of other Prophets).”
“Best among you is one who is best to his wife…”
“If I were to order anyone to prostrate to another, I would have ordered the wife to prostrate to her husband due to the enormity of his rights over her. A woman will not taste the sweetness of faith until she fulfills the rights of her husband, even if he were to call for her while she is upon a camel’s saddle.”
All the abovementioned sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) reflect the significance of marriage between man and woman and the completion of their faith once they do so. There is no importance granted to same-sex unions and their piety in Islam. Rather, Prophet (PBUH) once said, “… cursed is the one who does the action of the people of Lot” (ANIC, 2018). This saying further clarifies how homosexuality was never welcomed by the messenger of God.
4.2. The Quran and Union between Man and Woman
Surfing through the 114 chapters of Quran, we realize how marriage is considered a pious obligation upon those who can fulfil it. Marriage between a man and woman are the legal and religious way of completing religion and producing offspring to continue the human race. Following are a few verses from the Holy book identifying the matter:
“Our Lord, grant us from among our spouses and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.” Quran (25:74)
“It is He who created you from one soul and created from it its mate that he might dwell in security with her. And when he covers her, she carries a light burden and continues therein. And when it becomes heavy, they both invoke Allah, their Lord, ‘If You should give us a good [child]’, we will surely be among the grateful.” Quran (7:189)
“O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah is Whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bare you). Lo! Allah hath been a watcher over you.” Quran (4:1)
“It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.” Quran (2:187)
These significant verses from the Quran clearly state the permission of sexual relationship between a man and a woman under lawful marriage. The bearing of offspring, if one can, is fruitful for the humankind, a phenomenon impossible with same-sex unions.
4.3. The Bible and Marriage
The Bible also appraises heterosexual marriages as a way to continue the human race and achieve favor of God. Following are a few significant verses justifying this stance:
Proverbs 18:22 – “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”
Genesis 2:24 – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Proverbs 19:14 – “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:25 – “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Isaiah 62:5 – “For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”
(Bible Study, 2020)
All these collected verses reflect on the marriage between man and a woman, while there is nothing stated regarding same-sex unions. The Bible clearly favors heterosexuality above homosexuality and encourages its disciples to do the same.
It is evident from The Quran, the Bible, and the sayings of Prophet (PBUH) how heterosexuality is not only favored but the natural way of God’s messengers serving as His vice regents to the people. While modernization of culture may have embraced homosexuality as a part of the religion, scripture does not mention anything relevant to the matter.
5. Comparison to Other Religions
Islam is not the only religion that has surfaced among people in the world. Among commonly popular ones today are Hinduism, Christianity, and Judaism. There is a need to understand how all these religions reflect on homosexuality in comparison to Islam to fully realize its nature.
5.1. Homosexuality and Hinduism
Hinduism fully supports and embraces homosexuality and has been doing so for as long as one can research. There are multiple religious deities and saints who had indulged in homosexuality in their times and considered it to be natural and joyful (First Post, n.d.). One of their most famous books Kamasutra accepts and affirms same-sex unions and considers them to be healthy for all relevant individuals. Their religion showcases deities who not only indulge in homosexual acts but display attributes of gender variance and non-conformity as per the accepted gender binaries (Morgan, 2006).
Apart from presenting non-binary traits, Hindu deities are also known to represent different gender roles at different times. For example, Ardhanarishvara is a God who is half man and half woman. His name literally means a God who is half woman. Their beliefs indicate how being a homosexual or nonbinary is favored by God. “The hermaphrodite, the homosexual and the transvestite have a symbolic value and are considered privileged beings, images of the Ardhararishvara” (Conner, 1998). Lakshmi-Narayana is another androgynous deity formed by the union of two Gods. This God practiced his power in Kashmir and Nepal, stating his influence over people across borders of India (Conner, 1998).
One of the major Sanskrit Epics of India, Mahabharata, also features mythic characters who cross-dressed and changed gender identities as they saw fit. For example, Shikhandi was born as a girl, but a divine voice guided her mother to raise her like a son and train her in warfare. The mother abided and had her ready to be married to a female. This character is described as an androgynous mythical soldier who changed her gender identity based on the divine voice (O’Flaherty, 1987).
While India legally declares itself as a secular state, it also affirms how Hinduism is the state sponsored religion (Census of India: Religion, n.d.). Therefore, all mythical characters and scriptures are read and followed in the country. In 2019, India also declared same-sex unions as legal and socially acceptable (Bakshi, 2016).
5.2. Homosexuality and Judaism
With two denominations existing among Jews, there are two perspectives to homosexuality as per the religion. Orthodox Jews condemn homosexuality and do not consider it a natural way of life. According to the Hebrew Bible, it is not permissible for men to form sexual relationships with other men, but only women. It is said, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is detestable” (Leviticus). In another chapter, there is a similar verse that reads, “And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed a detestable act: They shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” (Leviticus).
The Jews follow a law called the “negiah” which means condemnation of a touch between an unmarried man and woman. As per the law, only spouses are allowed to be intimate with one another, without interference or anyone. This law automatically declares same-sex union as forbidden and unnatural (Rapoport, 2012).
Rabbis further propose four reasons why homosexuality is not considered legal and natural:
- It defies sexual anatomy created by God for the purpose of procreation
- Gay sex results in wasteful emission of semen
- It may encourage men to break their already-present marriages
- It cannot result in procreation (Eisenberg, 1991)
Despite an open condemnation of homosexuality, there are some Orthodox rabbis who support it, and spread awareness regarding it instead of voicing religious views against them. This is specifically happening in the United States where several groups have sprung up claiming to be both Orthodox and homosexuals. Eshel, Gay and Lesbian Yeshiva Day School Alumni Association, OrthoDykes, JQYouth are a few of the organizations claiming to this school of thought (Eisenberg, 1991).
The Reform Jews reject the religious views proposed by Orthodox and sustain an overall social acceptance of the entire homosexual community. They do not condemn same-sex unions and embrace their rabbis who claim to be homosexuals. In 1972, Beth Chayim Chadashim was formed which is a synagogue for gays and lesbians only in Los Angeles. In 1977, Central Conference of American Rabbis, a union for Reform Jews, adopted a resolution that inquired the state to decriminalize same-sex marriages, unions, and other intimate relationships (Johansson, 1990).
5.3. Homosexuality and Christianity
Similar to the denominations of Jews, there exist for Christianity. Therefore, denominations have varying views on homosexuality and consensual unions between same-sex individuals. Protestant Christians have mostly welcomed homosexuality and accepted people who come out as gay, lesbian, or any other gender identity. However, the Catholics and Orthodox churches condemn any same-sex activity.
The Hebrew Bible is known to have favor heterosexuality and a procreative lifestyle as opposed to same-sex unions. The Bible further declares it legal to be involved in penetrative intercourse between man and woman, bound by marriage only. Other acts of sexual pleasure including masturbation, same-sex union, etc. are titled under sodomy. These acts are forbidden by the Bible and declared to have inspired by the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, both cities which were destroyed for their homosexuality and sexual violence (Homosexuality in the Bible, n.d.). There are many mentions of homosexuality and how it is sinful in the Bible. Following are a few verses from the Leviticus:
“Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin.”
“If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.”
(Homosexuality in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), n.d.)
Liberal Christian denominations are gay-friendly and have formed organizations to help and show solidarity with the homosexuals. Alliance of Baptists and Affirming Pentecostal Church International are examples of two such organizations present for all homosexuals (Mohler, 2004). These modern Christians believe in offering equality to all homosexuals as the other gender binaries accepted and regarded globally.
The paper aimed to establish whether existence of homosexuality is a natural phenomenon or unnatural as per the Islamic law. While there remains debate on the matter due to the existence of multiple doctrines guiding humanity across the globe, there is some consensus in its unnaturalness among all. Considering Islam of ancient times, Orthodox Judaism and Orthodox Christianity, all religions despised same-sex unions no matter what the situation. With the modernization in culture and religion, newer denominations formed and embraced homosexuality fully. However, the biologically existing gender binaries cannot be denied their existence or supremacy over all other gender identities present today. Islam has recognized homosexuality as a vicious act that consequents in punishment from God. The story of Lot corroborates His wrath as warned in His book if the homosexuals do not mend their ways. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) also confirms a magnitude of punishment for those who live like Lot or have such intentions. The purpose of humanity on land is to worship God, obey his commands and procreate to sustain Islam in the upcoming generations. With homosexuality, all three essentials come under risk. With same-sex unions, there are chances of elimination of the next generation and wastage of semen without cause. We have found Islam to be practical in explaining the reasons for abhorring homosexuality and banning it under the law.
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