Homosexual act in itself is not a transgression

 

homosexual act in itself

 

The Quran precisely confirms that homosexual act in itself is NOT a transgression

For example, please observe how the popular text below clearly differentiates between a same sex act and the transgression of limits. Also note how the text, together with its correlations, expounds the meaning of the transgression of limits by the people of Lot:

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein, for you really approach men (from other nations; 26:164-165, 15:70, 7:80, 29:28-29) with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people who transgress the limits (by committing xenophobic hate attacks and gang rapes in the highway; 29:28-29, 15:76). 7:80-81

So, do these people commit an unsurpassed outrage because they really approach men from other nations with homosexual desire1 (7:80-81)?

NAY, BUT … No, it is NOT because of that. But …

But it is because they TRANSGRESS the limits – by committing serious atrocities2 like xenophobic hate attacks on foreigners and travellers, including gang rapes in the highway (29:28-30; cf. 29:33, 11:77-78, 11:80, 15:67-70, 15:76, 26:169, 54:37).

Obviously, homosexual desire or a homosexual act in itself is NOT a transgression of limits.

Now, when we reflect on the first verse (7:80), with special focus on the phrase “no one among the nations has exceeded you therein”, it becomes obvious that the ‘outrage’ committed by the people of Lot was in fact shared also by other nations, though not exceeded3 by any of them in severity or extent.

So the Quran here doesn’t really say that any particular orientation of sexuality, including homosexuality, was unknown to, or not practiced by, other nations in the past. Nor does it say that those other nations did not commit outrages related to sexuality, including homosexuality. It only says that, in committing an outrage, no other people could surpass the people of Lot, in quality or quantity.

Thus, what is denounced here is NOT any sexual orientation or any sexual act itself, but some gross outrage of unrestrained excess.

Then, coming across the second verse (7:81) we observe that, while it may appear to the hasty reader a mention of homosexual behaviour, it doesn’t really judge homosexual act or sexual orientation in any form. Rather it condemns only those actions that ‘transgress the limits’.

Why homosexual act in itself CANNOT BE a transgression

Let us consider a few simple questions and their possible answers:

Can homosexual act in itself be this ‘transgression of limits’, described as an ‘outrage to an extent surpassed by none’ (7:80-81)? NO. This is proved by the simple fact that The Quran doesn’t spell out any punishment for homosexuality, when it always spells out a punishment for any ‘hadd crime’.

Also, can God be so irrational that He would describe the love between two caring persons as an unsurpassable offense, i.e. something more serious than the most heinous crimes like gang rapes, torture, terrorism and mass murder?

Also, why would homosexuality suddenly start with Lot’s people, or why would it be labelled as an extremely serious offense unsurpassed by anyone, when it is as old as humanity itself?

And, why would the majority of a population, mostly born as heterosexuals, suddenly start experimenting with a homosexual lifestyle, when this must be an extremely difficult choice for them to go against their natural disposition?

Also, if male homosexuality was the issue, then why did Lot address here to his whole people that included both men and women (7:80, 81, 82; cf 11:78; 26:166; 27:54, 55; 29:28, 29, 30), instead of a particular group as specified in the cases of other messengers in the same sura (7:60, 7:66, 7:75, 7:88, 7:159)?

Then again, why would God judge only gays and forget lesbians? Is it because it is okay to approach women with ‘lust’ but not men?

Again, if male homosexuality was the issue, then why was it Lot’s wife, out of all his spiritual family, who lagged behind (7:83, 11:81, 15:60)?

And why was the entire community, with children and women, doomed (7:84, 11:82, 27:58)?

And, also, why no other nation was doomed for the same reason, when homosexuality – because of its profound biological and evolutionary roots – naturally existed and was practiced by ancient nations since time immemorial?

And, finally, why no shower of stones is falling down on the current nations where homosexuality is given constitutional protection?

The traditional reading of this story is definitely flawed and makes absolutely NO SENSE.

Please note that – unless sex is viewed as a taboo or with a macho4 attitude ingrained in people’s minds through cultural conditioning – there is no reason why an expression of homosexuality, or any sexuality, would intrinsically or necessarily mean an outrage5.  On the other hand, an outrage may be associated with any form of sexuality, including homosexuality, when it exceeds its morally acceptable limits, i.e., when it harms others. Unless these limits are crossed, two people should have a right to be intimate with each other to love and be loved. It should not be an issue whether they are of the same sex or the other. There is nothing more beautiful than a sincere love, whether it is gay, straight or lesbian.

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Note 1

Note how the two questions in 7:80-81 together form a single question: Do you commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein, for you really approach men with desire instead of women? While the first question is answered in the affirmative in 29:28, the second one is reconfirmed as a question by its recurrence in 27:55 and then its subsequent negation.

Note 2

In fact, their crimes are so heinous because they commit acts of aggression:

And Lot, when he said to his people: You really commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein. Do you really approach men (from other nations, 26:165), and you cut off the highway and commit evil in your gatherings (you commit xenophobic attacks and gang rapes in the highway, 15:76)? 29:28-29

Note 3

Translated above as ‘exceeded’, the verb sabaqa means precede, race, surpass, overtake, exceed.

Note 4

Machismo is a strong or exaggerated sense of traditional masculinity placing great value on physical courage, virility, domination of women, and aggressiveness.

Note 5

No sexuality or sexual act in itself is a sin or a crime – whether homosexual, straight or any other – unless it transgresses its divine limits, i.e., unless it violates human rights by involving oppression or injustice (e.g., gang rape of outsiders, as in Lot’s story) or unless it becomes a public lewdness (e.g., 4:15-16). The Quran specifies these limits and only condemns the transgression. There is no reason why God should be concerned about one’s sexual orientation or a related expression, if it harms none.

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Understanding the story of Lot

Understanding the story of Lot

 
The story condemns hate, not love

To better understand the Quranic story of Lot, it is important to remember that the Quran clarifies itself through its interactive explanatory process where verses are explained through verses. So verses need to be observed within a cluster rather than detached from their correlations. A superficial, isolated reading may often give us an incorrect understanding.

Below, as a case for study, we will try a holistic reading of all the four passages, 7:80-81, 26:165-166, 27:54-55 and 29:28-29, scanned from this story, where Prophet Lot is giving witness, four times, against his misguided nation.

Please note that, out of these four interrelated passages, the first three involve NEGATION (with ‘nay, but’) and the last involves AFFIRMATION (without ‘nay, but’), which clarifies the negations:

1ST NEGATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein,/ For you really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:80-81

So, do these transgressors commit an unsurpassed outrage because they really approach men with desire instead of women (compare 27:55)? NAY, BUT … No, it is because they ‘transgress the limits’ by attacking men (from other nations, 26:164-165, 15:70, 7:80, 29:28-29) with xenophobic hate and the aggression of rape (11:77-78, 11:80, 15:67-70, 26:169, 29:28-30, 29:33, 54:37).

2nd NEGATION

Do you approach the males of the nations?/ And you leave what your Sustainer created for you of your mates? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people hostile, aggressive. 26:165-166

So, do these ‘nationalists’ approach men from other nations, with attraction and love, leaving what is meant for them out of their mates (7:81, 27:55)? NAY, but … No, instead, they are “a people hostile, aggressive” (26:166, cf. 4:30) who violate the divine message of one humanity (note: ‘the Sustainer of the nations. … the males of the nations?’ 26:164-165) by committing xenophobic assaults on foreigners and strangers (‘people from other nations’; cf. 26:164-165, 15:70, 7:80, 29:28-29).

Their acts of hostility and inhospitality are solely intended to bully, crash and eject all the outsiders (15:70, 15:76, 26:167, 29:29). Thus, when these jingoists approach their subdued victims with xenophobic violence such as gang rapes, they are not really driven by homosexual attraction or consensual love. If they were, Lot wouldn’t have asked them to go back and seek love in their own women (‘My daughters’, 11:78, 15:71) rather than disgracing him by sexually assaulting his foreign visitors (11:78, 15:70-71; cf. 26:166). This is a call to the path of love, instead of rape (11:78-80).

3rd NEGATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you commit an outrage while you see clearly?/ Do you really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people who act ignorantly. 27:54-55

So, do these transgressors really approach ‘men from other nations’ consciously, with homosexual attraction and love (cf. 7:81)? NAY, but … No, in fact, they act ignorantly as they approach them with hate and the aggression of rape.

Note how ‘see clearly’ is reciprocated here by ‘act ignorantly’ (cf. similar reciprocity in other passages).

THE AFFIRMATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: You really commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein./ Do you really approach men (from other nations, 26:165), and you cut off the highway and commit evil in your gatherings (you commit xenophobic attacks and gang rapes in the highway, 15:76)? 29:28-29

So, do these transgressors approach ‘men from other nations ’ (26:164-165, 15:70, 7:80, 29:28-29) to commit xenophobic attacks and gang rapes in the highway? YEA, they do. And this is how they commit an outrage unsurpassed (cf. 7:80).

Please observe how this affirmation (‘and …’) eventually clarifies the negations (‘Nay, but …’) stated earlier.

As we can see, what is denounced in the story of Lot is NOT homosexuality, not even sexual orientation in any form. Rather, the related verses only condemn inhospitality and the acts of transgression against the outsiders, i.e., all the heinous crimes like xenophobic attacks and gang rapes in the highway.

Read the full article: The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

The Quran doesn’t penalise homosexuality

The Quran doesn_t penalize homosexuality


The verses 4:15 and 4:16 do not speak about lesbians and gays

Earlier we observed that The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love. In other words, what is denounced in this story is xenophobia, inhospitality and oppression. Not homosexuality, not even sexual orientation in any form.

In our reading, we do not see in the Quran anything that criminalises homosexuality or says that homosexual behaviour in itself is a sin. Also, nowhere does it spell out any punishment for homosexuality.

Now, the following are the only verses in the Quran which are quoted (in fact, misquoted) by some people as a reference to the punishment for homosexuals:

And those of your women who commit indecency/outrage/excess, call upon four witnesses over them from among you; if they bear witness, then confine them to their houses until death takes them, or God makes for them a way out. 4:15

And the two who commit it from among you, reprimand them both. If they repent and amend, then leave them alone. God is Redeemer, Merciful. 4:16

Here we will see why the above is not about homosexuals.

4:15 contains no indication that it relates to lesbians. The relative pronoun in this verse is allati, which is plural, not dual, and therefore refers to a group of at least three or more women1. Together with the fact that their action is publicly-committed as it can be witnessed by at least four people, this refers to promiscuous women and also may specifically refer to those involved in an organized prostitution. Since this might pose grave health and social problems, it apparently required indefinite period of quarantine.

4:16 contains no indication that it relates to gays. The phrase ‘the two who commit it’ clearly refers to adultery, the same ‘indecency’ already mentioned in the previous verse. Here, as the relative pronoun is not marked, the male dual form allazani (‘the two’, i.e., the couple) includes both male and female. Had the verse been addressing males only, it would have marked the pronoun and also, considering it as a separate issue, would clearly specify the exact punishment and the requirement of witnesses, like 4:15 and 24:2-4. The verse appears inexplicit and, though a continuation of its preceding verse that deals with indecency, it may lead to several inconclusive interpretations, including:

1. It simply and most probably refers to the duo (‘the two’, ‘the couple who commit it’), i.e., the couple who are guilty of adultery, the same ‘indecency’ mentioned in the preceding verse. This understanding is in line with the specific Quranic directive for adultery, which involves a man and a woman (24:2-9; cf. 4:25). The verse could well represent an earlier stage, of a preliminary and general nature, of this Quranic directive for adultery, which was specified in a later stage, probably considering that the lawless Arab society was not yet prepared to obey the verdicts of a court or follow any legal code of a state.

2. It may refer to a client and a prostitute, i.e., one of the women engaging in sex in exchange for money, as also possibly indicated in its preceding verse. Likewise, it may refer to a procurer and a customer involved in the deal.

3. It may mean a general prescription for any act of sexual or other indecency committed publicly, including homosexual, though it is impossible to confirm whether it specifically includes the latter.

4. It may mean a recommendation to remedy a milder lewdness committed publicly, in view of the vagueness of the issue and the non-specific, softer nature of the punishment prescribed (note: ‘leave them alone’). Sometimes translated as ‘punish’, the word ‘adhu’2 in this context actually connotes discipline, reprimand, rebuke, caution etc. There is no indication that any such punishment should be made ‘specific’ by the community.

There are several reasons why the verse cannot be about gays: Here indecency is jointly performed by the couple (‘the two’) ‘from among you’, NOT ‘from among your men’ (cf. ‘from among your women’ in 4:15). The word ‘it’ in ‘the two who commit it’ refers to the same indecency already mentioned in the previous verse. If 4:16 is about gays, because, say, 4:15 is about lesbians, then why are the punishments in both cases not equal? Why discrimination? Alternatively, if 4:16 is specifically about gays, but 4:15 is not specifically about lesbians, then this becomes even more problematic. Why should God be more specific, i.e., more concerned, about gays than lesbians?

Conclusion

There is nothing in the Quran that criminalises homosexuality or says that homosexual behaviour in itself is a sin. Nowhere does it spell out any punishment3 for homosexuality.

 

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Note 1

Here we have accepted the traditional translation of ‘nisa’ as ‘women’, though some Quran students would disagree with this gender-based understanding.

Note 2

The word ‘adhu’ (annoy, trouble, hurt in a SMALL degree) indicates a mild form of chastisement. In legal implication, this would mean discipline, rebuke, caution etc.

Alif-Dhal-Ya = he was or became annoyed/molested/hurt, experience/suffer what is disagreeable, state of annoyance. adha n.m. 2:196, 2:222, 2:262, 2:263, 2:264, 3:111, 3:186, 4:102, 33:48; adha vb. (4); perf. act. 14:12, 33:69; impf. act. 9:61, 9:61, 33:53, 33:53, 33:57, 33:58, 61:5; impv. 4:16; perf. pass. 3:195, 6:34, 7:129, 29:10; impf. pass. 33:59; “he experienced, or suffered, slight evil … less than what is termed … “, “or evil, in a small degree” etc: LL, v1, p 81  ##  http://ejtaal.net/aa/#q=adhy

Note 3

Even in sharia, an action can be classified as a divinely declared crime (hadd crime), only when the person violates a rule that meets both of these two requirements: 1. that the Quran clearly and specifically mentions the rule and 2. that the Quran clearly spells out a specific punishment for the specific crime. A homosexual behaviour in itself doesn’t violate any rule that meets any of these two requirements.

The significance of ‘Nay, but’ in the story of Lot

The significance of ‘Nay, but_

 
“Do you really approach men with desire …? Nay, but …”

In the article The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love, we tried a holistic reading of all the four passages, 7:80-81, 26:165-166, 27:54-55 and 29:28-29, where Prophet Lot is giving witness, four times, against his misguided nation:

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you commit an outrage1 such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein,/ For2 you really approach men with desire3 instead of women? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:80-81

Do you approach the males of the nations?/ And you leave what your Sustainer created for you of your mates? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people hostile, aggressive. 26:165-166

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you commit an outrage while you see clearly?/ Do you really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people who act ignorantly. 27:54-55

And Lot, when he said to his people: You really commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein./ Do you really approach men (from other nations, 26:165), and you cut off the highway and commit evil in your gatherings (you commit xenophobic attacks and gang rapes in the highway, 15:76)? 29:28-29

In our study we observed that all these passages are structured in the form of QUESTIONS.

And that, apart from 29:28-29, each of them contains the conjunction ‘BAL’, translated here as ‘Nay, but’ (No, instead,).

And that, in each of these occurrences, ‘BAL’ appears as a response to the QUESTION/S (“Do you …? Nay, but …”).

And that, in each of these responses, ‘BAL’ appears as a NEGATION or rectification of the content/s of the question/s, while condemning those who “transgress the limits”.

And that, 29:28-29 is the only passage, out of the four, which doesn’t contain ‘BAL’ (‘nay, but’). In other words, this is the only instance that doesn’t negate any content of the questions posed in it. Also, it doesn’t mention those elements that are negated in the previous passages.

And that, this is the only instance which – by replacing ‘BAL’ (‘nay, but’) with ‘WA’ (‘and’; remember the defining and explaining function of ‘wa’ in classical Arabic) – expounds an affirmation that clarifies the negations, while eventually confirming the meaning of ‘the transgression of limits’4.

And that, this explains why the first three passages involve NEGATION (‘nay, but’) and the last involves AFFIRMATION (without ‘nay, but’).

So, in these four interrelated passages, all structured as questions, Prophet Lot is giving WITNESS, FOUR TIMES, against his misguided nation. While it seems in line with the Quranic injunction of witnessing four times (24:6-8), it delivers a prophetic reminder for all humanity:

“Instead of offering love and hospitality to the people from ‘other nations’ (26:165; who all share the same ‘Sustainer of the nations’, 26:164), you are targeting them with hate crimes. You are transgressing the divine limits.”

Thus these questions, where the word ‘bal’ (‘Nay, but’) appears as a NEGATION, are posed by the messenger to the transgressors as challenges:

“Are your actions driven by attraction and love? No, they are not. Instead, they are intended to bully and control. To subdue and crash all the outsiders.”

This is to differentiate the acts of attraction and love from the acts of hate and oppression. And so to deliver a timeless message for us and all generations.

Meaning of the Arabic word ‘BAL’, translated above as ‘Nay, but’

To better understand the above verses, and also the story of Lot, we need to pay due attention to the key word ‘BAL’, translated above as ‘Nay, but’ (7:81, 26:166, 27:55; cf. 29:29).

The Arabic conjunction ‘bal’ is a retraction particle, i.e., a small part of speech that retracts its previous statement by bringing a new or opposite one. It has a wide range of meanings: ‘nay’, ‘nay, but’, ‘well, but’, ‘no’, ‘rather’, ‘but’, ‘and even’, ‘in fact’, ‘no, instead’, ‘on the contrary’, ‘but the truth is’, ‘no, but the fact is’, ‘no, but the actual issue is’, and so on. It is the 34th highest frequency word in the Quran with total occurrence 122 times (first 2:88; last 89:17). ‘Bal’ usually indicates the end of a current topic (a thesis) and the abrupt change to a new, often opposing one (an antithesis). Especially when appears in the middle of a sentence, it heralds a fresh statement which is quite different or even entirely opposite to its previous statement.  E.g., قام زَيْدٌ بَلْ عَمْرٌو Zaid stood up, no, rather it was Amr.

In brief, as a flexible conjunction, ‘bal’ occurs to rectify, amend or negate a previous concept by introducing a completely new one. Here are a few examples from the Quran:

And they claim, “None shall enter paradise unless he is a Jew or a Christian.” … / Nay, but (No, rather) whoever submits himself to God, while doing good, he will have his recompense with his Sustainer. … 2:111-112

He said: “How long have you stayed here?” He said: “I have stayed here a day or part of a day.” He said: “Nay, but (No, rather) you have stayed here for a hundred years! 2:259

They say: “You are making this up!” Nay, but (No, rather) most of them know not. 16:101

They said, “This is a dense cloud that will bring to us rain!” Nay, but (No, rather) this is what you had asked to be hastened. 46:24

Then when We bestow a blessing upon him, he says: “I attained this because of knowledge I had!” Nay, but (No, rather) it is a test, though most of them do not know. 39:49

However, whenever ‘bal’ appears as a response to a POLAR QUESTION (i.e., a question that expects an answer of yes or no; e.g., “Do you …?”, such as the questions posed by Prophet Lot), it always NEGATES the content of the question and thereby connotes ‘No, instead’. For example, “Do you …? Nay, but (No, instead,) ”. Apart from the verses in the story of Lot quoted above (7:81, 26:166, 27:55; cf. 29:29), here are a few more examples from the Quran:

And is it that whenever they make a covenant, only a group of them throw it aside? Nay, but (No, instead,) most of them do not believe. 2:100; cf. 2:83

They said: “Did you do this to our gods O Abraham?”/ He said: “Nay, but (No, instead,) it was the biggest one of them here who did it!” 21:62-63

Are We hastening to give them the good things? Nay, but (No, instead,) they do not perceive. 23:56

He is the One who gives life and brings death, and to Him is the alteration of the night and the day. Do you not reason?/ Nay, but (No, instead,) they speak as the people of olden times did speak. 23:80-81

Or do they fear that God and His messenger would deal unjustly with them? Nay, but (No, instead,) it is they themselves who are unjust. 24:50

“Has he invented a lie against God, or is there madness in him?” Nay, but (No, instead,) those who do not acknowledge the End are in retribution and far straying. 34:8

“Did we turn you away from the guidance after it had come to you? Nay, but (No, instead,) it was you who were criminals.” 34:32

Or have We given them a Book wherefrom they are taking clarification? Nay, but (No, instead,) what the transgressors promise one another is nothing but delusion. 35:40

(The messengers) said: “Your misfortune is within yourselves. Is it because you are reminded? Nay, but (No, instead,) you are a people who transgress the limits.” 36:19

Were We then tired with the first creation? Nay, but (No, instead,) they are lost in doubt about the new creation! 50:15

Or have they created the Heavens and the Earth? Nay, but (No, instead,) they do not comprehend. 52:36

“Has the Reminder come down to him alone among us? Nay, but (No, instead,) he is a boastful liar!” 54:25

Or is there any that can give you provisions if He holds back His provisions? Nay, but (No, instead,) they have plunged deep into transgression and aversion. 67:21

Summary

In the article The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love, we tried a holistic reading of all the four passages, 7:80-81, 26:165-166, 27:54-55 and 29:28-29, where Prophet Lot is giving witness, four times, against his misguided nation.

Curiously, out of these four interrelated passages – which are all structured as questions – the first three involve NEGATION (with ‘nay, but’) and the last involves AFFIRMATION (without ‘nay, but’), which clarifies the negations.

In our reading, we have paid due attention to the recurring word ‘BAL’, translated here as ‘NAY, BUT’. The word essentially means ‘nay’, ‘nay, but’, ‘rather’, ‘no, instead’, ‘on the contrary’, ‘no, but the fact is’ and so on. As a flexible conjunction, especially when occurs in the middle of a sentence, ‘bal’ appears to rectify, amend or negate a previous concept by introducing a completely new one (e.g., 2:259, 3:149-150, 4:157-158, 7:179, 16:101, 39:49, 46:24, 52:33).

However, whenever ‘bal’ appears as a response to a POLAR QUESTION (i.e., a question that expects an answer of yes or no; e.g., “Do you …?”, such as the questions posed by Prophet Lot), it always NEGATES the content of the question and thereby connotes ‘No, instead’. For example, “Do you …? Nay, but (No, instead,) ”. Apart from the verses in the story of Lot quoted above (7:81, 26:166, 27:55; cf. 29:29), here are a few more examples: 2:100, 21:62-63, 23:56, 23:80-81, 24:50, 34:8, 34:32, 35:40, 36:19, 50:15, 52:36, 54:25, 67:21; cf. 7:81, 26:166, 27:55.

Because the word ‘bal’ (‘Nay, but’) appears in the story of Lot only in polar questions, its negation invariably connotes ‘NO, INSTEAD’. Thus, all these questions are posed by the messenger to the transgressors as challenges: “Are your actions driven by attraction and love? No, they are not. Instead, they are intended to bully and control. To subdue and crash all the outsiders.”

 

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Note 1

Translated above as outrage, the word fahishah is used mainly to mean “an action that exceeds the bounds/limits.” Thus the word may or may not have a sexual undertone.

Fa-Ha-Shin = became excessive/immoderate/enormous/exorbitant/overmuch/beyond measure, foul/bad/evil/unseemly/ indecency/abominable, lewd/gross/obscene, committing excess which is forbidden, transgress the bounds/limits, avaricious, adultery/fornication. LL, V6, p: 128, 129  ##  http://ejtaal.net/aa/#q=fHsh. The triliteral root occurs 24 times in the Quran, in two derived forms: 17 times as the noun fahishah n.f. (pl. fawahish) 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; and 7 times as the noun fahsha n.f. 2:169, 2:268, 7:28, 12:24, 16:90, 24:21, 29:45.

Note 2

Note how the two questions in 7:80-81 together form a single question: Do you commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein,/ For you really approach men with desire instead of women? While the first question is answered in the affirmative in 29:28, the second one is reconfirmed as a question by its recurrence in 27:55 and then its subsequent negation.

Note 3

Translated above as desire, the word shahwat is used mainly to mean passion or intense desire, which may or may not have a negative or sexual connotation. However, due to traditional preconception, many translators have understood the word in Lot’s story as lust, adding to it an undertone of unnatural sexual attraction.

Shiin-ha-Ya = to long or desire eagerly, made it to be good/sweet/pleasant or the like, loved it or wished for it, desired eagerly/intensely, yearning of the soul for a thing; appetite, lust, gratification of venereal lust, greedy, voracious, was or became like him, resembling him, jested or joked with him, associated with smiting action of the (evil) eye i.e. he vied with him in smithing with the evil eye. LL, V4, p: 338  ##  http://ejtaal.net/aa/#q=shhy. The triliteral root occurs 13 times in the Quran, in three derived forms: eight times as the verb ish’tahat – to desire (16:57, 21:102, 34:54, 41:31, 43:71, 52:22, 56:21, 77:42), three times as the noun shahawāt – passions/desires (3:14, 4:27, 19:59) and twice as the noun shahwat – with desire (7:81, 27:55, both in the story of Lot).

Note 4

A comparative reading of 7:80-81 and 29:28-29 clarifies the meaning of the transgression of limits by the people of Lot:

So, do these transgressors commit an unsurpassed outrage because they really approach men with desire instead of women? No, it is because they transgress the limits: And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein, for you really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:80-81

In fact, their crimes are so heinous because they commit acts of aggression: And Lot, when he said to his people: You really commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein. Do you really approach men (from other nations, 26:165), and you cut off the highway and commit evil in your gatherings (you commit xenophobic attacks and gang rapes in the highway, 15:76)? 29:28-29

Lot’s people assaulted ‘men from other nations’

Lot_s people assaulted

The story of Lot condemns rape, not love

Earlier we observed how some verses in the Quranic story of Lot are clarified by some other verses. Thus, the men who were assaulted (7:81) are identified as men from other nations (foreigners, outsiders; 26:164-165; cf. 15:70, 7:80, 29:28-29). And the acts that transgress the limits (7:81) are specified as xenophobic hate attacks on foreigners and travellers, atrocities such as gang rapes in the highway (29:28-30, 29:33, 11:77-78, 11:80, 15:67-70, 15:76, 54:37).

We concluded that The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love. In other words, what is denounced in this story is xenophobia, inhospitality and oppression. Not homosexuality, not even sexual orientation in any form.

This conclusion is strongly supported by the recent trend in both Jewish1 and Christian2 scholarship that acknowledges that the main crime of the inhabitants of Sodom was “inhospitality including rape”, which had in fact nothing to do with homosexual behaviour.

Evidently, the entire context, both in the Bible and the Quran, contains enough indications that the conduct of the people of Lot could not be about same-sex relationships but something coercive3, such as men on men rapes and gang rapes.

Now, as suggested by some modern researchers, in many desert cultures rape used to mean inhospitality. It had more to do with humiliating the strangers. This is similar to the same-sex rape during wartime, when the victors would often rape the defeated soldiers – to insult the men by treating them like women, as witnessed in recent years, for example, in the prisons during the Bosnian war or in the Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq war.

“In ‘What the Bible really says about homosexuality’, Daniel A Helminiak explains4, ‘In desert country, where Sodom lay, to stay outside exposed to the cold of the night could be fatal. So a cardinal rule of Lot’s society was to offer hospitality to travellers. The same rule is a traditional part of Semitic and Arabic cultures. This rule was so strict that no one might harm even an enemy who had been offered shelter for the night.’ Helminiak goes on to say that ‘sodomy’ used to mean inhospitality, and that while the men of Sodom may have wanted to force Lot’s guests into anal intercourse, this had more to do with humiliating the strange men. ‘During war, for example, besides raping the women and slaughtering the children, the victors would often also ‘sodomize’ the defeated soldiers. The idea was to insult the men by treating them like women.’ When viewed in this light, the story takes on a different meaning entirely. It begins to seem as though the discussion of homosexuality was more or less an afterthought, and certainly not the main issue at hand.”

The men who were assaulted were ‘men from other nations’

The Quran re-narrates the Biblical story of Lot in the following verses: 7:80-84, 11:69-70,77-83, 15:56-77, 21:71-75, 26:160-175, 27:54-58, 29:28-33, 37:133-136, 54:33-39.

It is interesting to observe that the word ʿālameen (nations, worlds) constantly appears throughout these verses as well as their contexts: 7:54, 7:61, 7:67, 7:80, 7:104, 7:121, 7:140; 15:70; 21:71, 21:91, 21:107; 26:16, 26:23, 26:47, 26:77, 26:98, 26:109, 26:127, 26:145, 26:164, 26:165, 26:180, 26:192; 27:8, 27:44; 29:6, 29:10, 29:15, 29:28; 37:79, 37:87, 37:182.

One may ask: Why does the Quran persistently repeat this word while narrating this ancient parable? And what could be the intended meaning of it in this particular setting?

Please note how frequently the word ʿālameen, translated here as ‘nations’, recurs in the story of Lot:

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein,/ For you really approach men (from the nations, 26:165) with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people who transgress the limits./ The only response of his people was: Expel them from your town; they are a people who wish to be pure! 7:80-82 

So when the messengers came to the family of Lot./ He said: Indeed, you are a people unknown./ … And the people of the town came rejoicing./ He said: These are my guests, so do not embarrass me!/ … They said: Haven’t we forbidden you (to protect anyone) from the nations? 15:61-62, 67-68, 70

And We saved him (Abraham) and Lot to the land which We have blessed for the nations. 21:71

And no reward do I ask of you, for my reward is upon the Sustainer of the nations./ Do you approach the males of the nations?/ And you leave what your Sustainer created for you of your mates? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people hostile, aggressive./ They said: If you do not stop, O Lot, you will surely be one of those who are expelled! 26:164-167

And Lot, when he said to his people: You really commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein./ Do you really approach men (from the nations, 26:165), and you cut off the highway and commit evil in your gatherings (you commit xenophobic attacks and gang rapes in the highway, 15:76)? 29:28-29

Here we have a few points to contemplate:

Expel them from your town! 7:82 

When compared with related verses (e.g. O Lot, you will surely be one of those who are expelled! 26:167; cf. 15:70, 27:56), this reveals a trend: the misguided people of Lot were expelling some people from the town. And, as indicated here and elsewhere (note ‘them’ versus ‘your town’, 7:82; cf. 15:70, 21:71, 26:164-167, 29:29), they were expelling people of ‘other nations’.

They said: Haven’t we forbidden you (to protect anyone) from the nations? 15:70

This gives a clear clue that this gang of transgressors were jingoists as they were blaming Lot for protecting foreigners (cf. 15:68). And that ‘the males of the nations’ (26:164-165) who were assaulted and expelled by them were ‘men from other nations’ (foreigners, outsiders; 26:164-165; cf. 15:70, 7:80, 29:28-29).

And We saved him (Abraham) and Lot to the land which We have blessed for the nations. 21:71

So, Lot was saved to a land that was blessed as it welcomed all nations, unlike the town of Lot that was condemned as it expelled people from other nations (7:82, 15:70, 26:167, 27:56). So, couldn’t this xenophobic inhospitality be the main crime of the people of Lot?

And …my reward is upon the Sustainer of the nations./ Do you approach the males of the nations?those who are expelled! 26:164-167

These verses answer a question. Do these ‘nationalists’ approach ‘men from other nations’ with attraction and love (7:81, 27:55)? No, instead, they are “a people hostile, aggressive” (26:166, cf. 4:30) who violate the divine message of one humanity (note: ‘the Sustainer of the nations. … the males of the nations?’ 26:164-165) by committing xenophobic assaults on ‘people from other nations’.

Do you really approach men (from the nations, 26:165), and you cut off the highway and commit evil in your gatherings? 29:29

The context describes their crimes as hate attacks on foreigners and travellers, atrocities such as gang rapes in the highway (29:28-30, 29:33, 11:77-78, 11:80, 15:67-70, 15:76, 54:37).

An important observation

Above we observe how the word ʿālameen (nations, worlds), in the context of this story, actually refers to ‘nations’ and, more precisely, ‘other nations’ or ‘communities from the greater world’. And we observe how the word recurs so frequently, in line with the constant Quranic call to pluralism and multiculturalism, obviously to emphasize the importance of peaceful co-existence and co-operation between the nations.

Final thoughts

What is denounced in the story of Lot is xenophobia, inhospitality and oppression. Not homosexuality, not even sexual orientation in any form.

This awareness is strongly supported by the recent trend in scholarship both of the Bible and the Quran. It suggests that the entire context of this story, as occurs in these scriptures, contains enough indications that the conduct of the people of Lot could not be about same-sex relationships but something coercive, such as men on men rapes and gang rapes.

Further reading:

The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

Does the Quran condemn homosexuality?

 

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Note 1

Most Jewish sources today argue that the punishment of Sodom was more about their wicked system of inhospitality. According to Rabbi Yuval Cherlow the “people of Sodom insisted on preserving their high quality of living to such an extent that they established a principle not to let the poor and homeless reside in their city.” Here is a good article reflecting the Jewish interpretation of this story: The Destruction of Sodom.

Note 2

As Yale historian John Boswell noted, since the 1950s Christian scholars began to acknowledge that the inhabitants of Sodom were actually destroyed for their inhospitable treatment of visitors. For example, according to Brian Gray, “If any sermon should be preached based in the significance of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, it should be for the despicable level of inhospitable, greedy and self-serving nature … This story is not about homosexuality, and it says nothing that could be used to condemn gay people.” See Sodom and Gomorrah – The Myth, The Truth. Also: What Was the Real Sin of Sodom?

Note 3

Here is a study that shows how the term “sodomy” was invented in Christian Theology following the gradual adoption of highly inaccurate cultural interpretations of specific Biblical narratives: “Sodomy” – a Biblical Word Study that Might Surprise You

Note 4

The passage quoted above including Daniel A Helminiak’s explanation about the original meaning of ‘sodomy’ can be found in: What the Qur’an says about homosexuality

The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

 
Understanding the story of Lot

The story condemns hate, not love

To better understand the Quranic story of Lot, it is important to remember that the Quran clarifies itself through its interactive explanatory process where verses are explained through verses. So verses need to be observed within a cluster rather than detached from their correlations. A superficial, isolated reading may often give us an incorrect understanding.

Below, as a case for study, we will try a holistic reading of all the four passages, 7:80-81, 26:165-166, 27:54-55 and 29:28-29, scanned from this story, where Prophet Lot is giving witness, four times, against his misguided nation.

Please note that, out of these four interrelated passages, the first three involve NEGATION (with ‘nay, but’) and the last involves AFFIRMATION (without ‘nay, but’), which clarifies the negations:

1ST NEGATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein,/ For you really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:80-81

So, do these transgressors commit an unsurpassed outrage because they really approach men with desire instead of women (compare 27:55)? NAY, BUT … No, it is because they ‘transgress the limits’ by attacking men (from other nations, 26:164-165, 15:70, 7:80, 29:28-29) with xenophobic hate and the aggression of rape (11:77-78, 11:80, 15:67-70, 26:169, 29:28-30, 29:33, 54:37).

2nd NEGATION

Do you approach the males of the nations?/ And you leave what your Sustainer created for you of your mates? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people hostile, aggressive. 26:165-166

So, do these ‘nationalists’ approach men from other nations, with attraction and love, leaving what is meant for them out of their mates1 (7:81, 27:55)? NAY, but … No, instead, they are “a people hostile, aggressive2 (26:166, cf. 4:30) who violate the divine message of one humanity (note: ‘the Sustainer of the nations. … the males of the nations?’ 26:164-165) by committing xenophobic assaults on foreigners and strangers (‘people from other nations’; cf. 26:164-165, 15:70, 7:80, 29:28-29).

Their acts of hostility and inhospitality are solely intended to bully, crash and eject all the outsiders (15:70, 15:76, 26:167, 29:29). Thus, when these jingoists approach their subdued victims with xenophobic violence such as gang rapes, they are not really driven by homosexual attraction or consensual love. If they were, Lot wouldn’t have asked them to go back and seek love in their own women (‘My daughters’3, 11:78, 15:71) rather than disgracing him by sexually assaulting his foreign visitors (11:78, 15:70-71; cf. 26:166). This is a call to the path of love, instead of rape4 (11:78-80).

3rd NEGATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you commit an outrage while you see clearly?/ Do you really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people who act ignorantly. 27:54-55

So, do these transgressors really approach ‘men from other nations’ consciously, with homosexual attraction and love (cf. 7:81)? NAY, but … No, in fact, they act ignorantly as they approach them with hate and the aggression of rape.

Note how ‘see clearly’ is reciprocated here by ‘act ignorantly’ (cf. similar reciprocity in other passages).

THE AFFIRMATION

And Lot, when he said to his people: You really commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein./ Do you really approach men (from other nations, 26:165), and you cut off the highway and commit evil in your gatherings (you commit xenophobic attacks and gang rapes in the highway, 15:76)? 29:28-29

So, do these transgressors approach ‘men from other nations’ (26:164-165, 15:70, 7:80, 29:28-29) to commit xenophobic attacks and gang rapes in the highway? YEA, they do. And this is how they commit an outrage unsurpassed (cf. 7:80).

Please observe how this affirmation (‘and …’) eventually clarifies the negations (‘Nay, but …’) stated earlier.

As we can see, the actual issue in the story of Lot is NOT any sexual orientation or sexuality itself, but all the heinous crimes committed by these transgressors.

Important points to note

It is interesting to note that all these interrelated passages above (7:80-81, 26:165-166, 27:54-55, 29:28-29) are structured in the form of QUESTIONS.

And that, apart from 29:28-29, each of them contains the conjunction ‘BAL’5, translated as ‘NAY, BUT’ (‘No, instead,’, ‘on the contrary’ etc).

And that, in each of these occurrences, ‘BAL’ appears as a response to the QUESTION/S (“Do you …? Nay, but …”).

And that, in each of these responses, ‘BAL’ appears as a NEGATION or rectification of the content/s of the question/s, while condemning those who “transgress the limits”.

And that, 29:28-29 is the only passage, out of the four, which doesn’t contain ‘BAL’ (‘nay, but’). In other words, this is the only instance that doesn’t negate any content of the questions posed in it. Also, it doesn’t mention those elements that are negated in the previous passages.

And that, this is the only instance which – by replacing ‘BAL’ (‘nay, but’) with ‘WA’ (‘and’; remember the defining and explaining function of ‘wa’ in classical Arabic) – expounds an affirmation that clarifies the negations, while eventually confirming the meaning of ‘the transgression of limits’.

And that, this explains why the first three passages involve NEGATION (‘nay, but’) and the last involves AFFIRMATION (without ‘nay, but’).

Please observe how the Quran’s interactive explanatory process clarifies the verses. Thus, ‘men who are approached’ (7:81) are identified as ‘men from other nations’ (foreigners, outsiders; 26:164-165; cf. 15:70, 7:80, 29:28-29). And the acts that ‘transgress the limits’ (7:81) are specified as xenophobic hate attacks on foreigners and travellers, including gang rapes in the highway (29:28-30, 29:33, 11:77-78, 11:80, 15:67-70, 15:76, 26:169, 54:37). This is further clarified by the example where the gang of transgressors blame Lot for protecting foreigners (15:70) and attempt to collectively commit sexual assault on his visiting guests (11:77-80, 15:67-70, 29:33, 54:37). This is a clear reference to gang rape, which is about power and coercion, and which is unleashed to bully, control and punish the victim/s. This is not an account of healthy desire and tender love.

Obviously, what is being denounced here is inhospitality and oppression. Not homosexuality, not even sexual orientation in any form. Thus, when we read all these verses as a cluster, we get a bigger and clearer picture.

Why are the questions asked and then negated?

So, in the four interrelated passages above (7:80-81, 26:165-166, 27:54-55, 29:28-29), all structured as questions, Prophet Lot is giving WITNESS, FOUR TIMES, against his misguided nation. While it seems in line with the Quranic injunction of witnessing four times (24:6-8), it delivers a prophetic reminder for all humanity:

“Instead of offering love and hospitality to the people from ‘other nations’ (26:165; who all share the same ‘Sustainer of the nations’, 26:164), you are targeting them with hate crimes. You are transgressing the divine limits.”

Thus these questions, where the word ‘bal’ (‘Nay, but’) appears as a NEGATION, are posed by the messenger to the transgressors as challenges:

“Are your actions driven by attraction and love? No, they are not. Instead, they are intended to bully and control. To subdue and crash all the outsiders.”

This is to differentiate the acts of attraction and love from the acts of hate and oppression. And so to deliver a timeless message for us and all generations.

Final thoughts

Thus, in the Quranic story of Lot, as Frank Parmir rightly observes6, “the crime is rape, not love.”

Now, same sex orientation is one of the natural expressions of humans’ sexual diversity (42:49-50, 75:39, 30:21-22, 24:31). This diversity in turn is just another expression of the great diversity of nature (16:13).

This important awareness is promoted by the very spirit of the Quran itself, which insistently asks us to celebrate all sorts of diversity in creation7, wherein we should witness the diverse signs of divine manifestation (13:4).

Take the passage 30:21-22 as an example. Here, stressing on the wonder of how mates among humans are created for mutual love and care, as a part of the infinite diversity of life, the Quran calls us to appreciate the diversity of humans’ expressions and inclinations (‘languages and colours’) as evidence of God’s infinite creative power.

This is in line with our observation that the story of Lot in the Quran condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love.

 

Further reading:

Lot’s people assaulted ‘men from other nations’

Does the Quran condemn homosexuality?

Sexual diversity in Islam

 

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Note 1

In 26:165-166, unlike 7:81 and 27:55, the word ‘desire’ doesn’t occur, while ‘men’ and ‘women’ are replaced by ‘males’ and ‘MATES’ (not by ‘females’). One can sense ‘same sex MATES’ and ‘same sex pairs’ in the Quranic assertion that humans are created as ‘zawjayn’ (two mates/ two pairs, 75:39, 51:49, 53:45; cf. human and his/her mate, 2:35; cf. two pairs in every fruit, 13:3).

Note 2

Translated above (26:166) as “hostile, aggressive”, the word AAadoon is used mainly to mean aggressive, violent, transgressing, hostile, unjust, intrusive, attacking, assaulting, invading, galloping, treating as enemy etc.

Ayn-Dal-Waw = to pass by, overlook, transgress, turn aside; adwun – wickedly, unjustly, spitefully, wrongfully; adi’yat – companies of warriors, chargers, horses of the warriors, wayfarers who run fast on their journey, swift horses; aduwatun – enmity; udwan – hostility, injustice; aduwwan (pl. aduwun) – enemy. LL, V5, p: 262, 263, 264, 265, 266  ##  http://ejtaal.net/aa/#q=edw. The triliteral root occurs 106 times in the Quran, in 13 derived forms. See: http://corpus.quran.com/qurandictionary.jsp?q=Edw#(26:166:11)

Note 3

As the spiritual father of his people, Lot calls the daughters of his community ‘My daughters’ (note: ‘MY people! these MY daughters …’, 11:78, 15:71; also cf. ‘brothers of Lot’, 50:13; ‘their brother Lot’, 26:161). Note here ‘daughters’ in plural (banāt), not dual (bintāni, two daughters), thus contrasting the Pentateuchal account about Lot’s two daughters (Genesis 19:8, 19:30-36).

Note 4

It seems impossible that Lot would offer his daughters to a gang of homosexual rapists. ▪First, no sane person, let alone a prophet of God, would offer his daughters to rapists. ▪Secondly, because these people were xenophobic aggressors, not inherent homosexuals, they didn’t “approach men from other nations while leaving their own women” (26:165-166) and hence there is no reason why they should be interested in Lot’s daughters. ▪Thirdly, even if their preference for men was, say, due to actual attraction, it would be totally pointless to redirect them to women. ▪Finally, Lot couldn’t be talking here about his own daughters, since their number must have been too insufficient to satiate the lust of a crowd of rapists. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that, here Lot is asking the transgressors to go back and seek love in their own women rather than disgracing him by sexually assaulting his foreign visitors (11:78, 15:70-71; cf. 26:166). This is a call to the path of love, instead of rape (11:78-80).

Note 5

In our reading, we have paid due attention to the recurring word ‘BAL’, translated here as ‘NAY, BUT’. This Arabic conjunction has a wide range of meanings: ‘nay’, ‘nay, but’, ‘rather’, ‘no, instead’, ‘on the contrary’, ‘no, but the fact is’ and so on. It appears in a statement to rectify, amend or negate a previous concept by introducing a completely new one. It is important to understand The significance of ‘Nay, but’ in the story of Lot.

Note 6

In the Quranic story of Lot, as Frank Parmir rightly observes, “the crime is rape, not love. Of course the violence of rape is wrong. And of course the gentleness of love is right. This understanding is important as it is consistent with the Quran’s profound dedication to reason and compassion. And it is very deeply troubling that people so often tell their LGBT children that God is going to burn them in Hell for loving the people that they do love. … It is both unreasonable and un-compassionate of us to continue with the claim that an otherwise commendable romantic relationship should be rendered illegitimate simply on the basis of the genders involved.”

Note 7

The Quran asks us to celebrate the diversity in nature, including the diversity in its endless beauty, as a mode of divine manifestation. In this regard, for example, let us be reminded of the intense homoerotic imagery of the Quranic paradise, full of handsome serve boys, eternally youthful with “dazzling beauty of scattered pearls” (gelmans; 52:24, 56:17, 76:19).

Does the Quran condemn homosexuality?

Does the Quran disapprove homosexuality

 
Homosexuality is one of the natural expressions of sexuality among animals and has been documented so far in several hundred species, including humans. Like any sexuality, homosexuality is also a normal product of, and run by, the universal laws of physics and chemistry.

Now, there is a widespread misconception among traditional Muslims that the Quran speaks against homosexuality. A careful reading of the texts, however, demonstrates that this is far from true.

In fact, the Quran only condemns the aggression of rape, not the gentleness of love.

Below we will try to have a closer look into the relevant verses, sticking to a simple LITERAL READING.

The Quran doesn’t condemn homosexuality

We will start with the following most misinterpreted text of the Quran on this particular issue:

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein,/ For you really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:80-81

This is a word-for-word translation. Please note that most of the traditional translations of the above (and similar verses) are very poor as they are slanted by hadith-based preconception and cultural conditioning.

Also, to better understand a Quranic message, it is important to remember that the Quran clarifies itself through its interactive explanatory process where verses are explained through verses. So, verses need to be observed within a cluster rather than detached from their correlations. A superficial, isolated reading may often give us an incorrect understanding.

Thus, when we read the above verses together with their interrelated texts, we find clarifications. For example, in the question “Do you commit an outrage … for you really approach men with desire …?” the ‘men’ are in fact men from other nations (26:164-165, 15:70, 15:76, 7:80, 29:28-29). This QUESTION (cf. 27:55) – which is a query, but not a statement of fact – is followed by the NEGATION ‘NAY, BUT (No, instead,)’, a challenge that deserves due attention. Then the acts that ‘transgress the limits’ are specified elsewhere as xenophobic assaults on foreigners and travellers, atrocities such as gang rapes in the highway (29:28-30, 29:33, 11:77-78, 11:80, 15:67-70, 15:76, 26:169, 54:37).

This holistic reading elaborates our understanding of 7:80-81 into the following rendering:

And Lot, when he said to his people: Do you commit an outrage such as no one among the nations has exceeded you therein,/ For you really approach men (from other nations, 26:164-165, 15:70, 7:80, 29:28-29) with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (No, instead,) you are a people who transgress the limits (by committing xenophobic hate attacks like gang rapes in the highway, 29:29). 7:80-81

As we can see, this is not a message against homosexuality or consensual love.

NAY, BUT the Quran only condemns the transgression of limits

To better understand the above verse, and also to understand the story of Lot, we need to pay due attention to the key word ‘BAL’, translated here as ‘NAY, BUT’ (7:81, 26:166, 27:55; cf. 29:29).

The Arabic conjunction ‘bal’ has a wide range of meanings: ‘nay’, ‘nay, but’, ‘rather’, ‘no, instead’, ‘on the contrary’, ‘no, but the fact is’ and so on. It appears in a statement  to rectify, amend or negate a previous concept by introducing a completely new one. However, whenever ‘bal’ appears as a response to a POLAR QUESTION (i.e., a question that expects an answer of yes or no; e.g., “Do you …?”, such as the questions posed by Prophet Lot), it always NEGATES the content of the question. For example, “Do you …? Nay, but (No, instead,) ”. See The significance of ‘Nay, but’ in the story of Lot.

Now, when we read 7:81, considering the negating function of ‘bal’ in a context like this, we get the following rendering:

For you really approach men with desire instead of women? NAY, BUT (No, instead/ no, on the contrary,) you are a people who transgress the limits. 7:81

In other words, what the Quran really condemns here is NOT any form of sexual orientation or a related behaviour, but ‘the transgression of limits’, which, as we noted earlier, refers to heinous crimes like xenophobic assaults and gang rapes in the highway (29:28-30; cf. 11:77-78, 11:80, 15:70, 26:169, 54:37).

Homosexuality in itself cannot be this ‘transgression of limits’

While differentiating between a same sex act and the transgression of limits, the Quran precisely confirms that homosexuality or a Homosexual act in itself is not a transgression of limits

The Quran condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

For a deeper insight, we have gone through a comparative study of the above passage with all its identical passages – 7:80-81, 26:165-166, 27:54-55 and 29:28-29 – where Prophet Lot is giving WITNESS, FOUR TIMES, against his misguided nation. Here is our study: The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

Final thoughts

The Quran clarifies itself through its interactive explanatory process, where verses are explained through verses. That is why, instead of hurrying with a text with a detached reading, we need to reflect on all the related texts, thereby allowing the real message to gradually reveal itself in our mind as an integrated whole.

This we must remember when we read the story of Lot as re-narrated in the Quran.

Above, together with the related links, we have tried to study holistically all the relevant verses in this story that have been otherwise misread by traditional interpreters as condemning homosexuality.

Our findings demonstrate that the Quran never disapproves or judges any particular form of sexuality, including homosexuality. Rather, the related verses only condemn the acts of transgression against the outsiders, i.e. inhospitality and serious xenophobic crimes like gang rapes in the highway.

Finally, though we have read these texts here literally, it is important to remember that, according to the Quran itself, the Quranic story of Lot demands profound interpretation (15:75-76, 26:174, 29:35). It is one of those ‘parables’ of earlier generations (‘mathal’; 24:34, 25:33; cf. 3:3-7; 5:27) that are re-narrated in the Quran mainly to deliver a range of deeper messages with moral lessons and are not necessarily meant to be understood literally as real or historical events (24:34-35, 25:33, 39:27, 12:111; cf. 12:7, 12:111, 15:75, 23:30).

Further reading:

The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

Lot’s people assaulted ‘men from other nations’

Sexual diversity in Islam