Islam 5.7 Muslim Attitudes Towards Homosexuality and the LGBTQ Movement
Objectives: Consider and explain Muslim attitudes towards homosexuality.
Homosexuality: a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex.
Islam’s teaching about homosexuality is referred to in a story found in the Qur’an. This is the story of the Prophet Lūt (may Allah’s peace be upon him), who criticized the men of his town for their homosexual practices. Allah stated:
وَلُوطًا إِذْ قَالَ لِقَوْمِهِ أَتَأْتُونَ الْفَاحِشَةَ مَا سَبَقَكُم بِهَا مِنْ أَحَدٍ مِّنَ الْعَالَمِينَ – 7:80
إِنَّكُمْ لَتَأْتُونَ الرِّجَالَ شَهْوَةً مِّن دُونِ النِّسَاءِ ۚ بَلْ أَنتُمْ قَوْمٌ مُّسْرِفُونَ – 7:81
“And remember Lot (Lūt) when he said to his people: “Do you commit the worst sin such as none before you have committed among creation? Indeed, you practise your lusts on men instead of women. Nay, but you are a people transgressing beyond bounds.” (Quran 7:80-81)
Some people (who engage in, or justify same-sex relationships) have tried to claim that the prohibition (in the verse above) refers to non-consensual sex between homosexuals. Others assert it refers to homosexual relationships outside of marriage. Both of these views clearly contradict this verse because Allah stated: “Indeed, you practise your lusts on men instead of women.” If the verse was referring to homosexual rape (or non-consensual sex), then that is equally forbidden against women. However, Allah (in this verse) allowed sex between heterosexuals (within marriage). Also, if the verse was only forbidding homosexuality outside of marriage, then sex between a man and woman before marriage is forbidden so why would Allah say: “instead of women”? Therefore, the only conclusion that can be drawn from this verse is that sexual relationships between people of the same sex are prohibited.
Furthermore, arbitrarily changing one’s gender from male to female (or vice-versa) does not alter the reality of the prohibition because there is a principle in Islam that states: “Changing the name of something does not change its reality.” So changing the name of alcohol to milk does not alter its reality nor the ruling of prohibition.
Allah (the Most High) also said:
أَتَأْتُونَ الذُّكْرَانَ مِنَ الْعَالَمِينَ – 26:165
وَتَذَرُونَ مَا خَلَقَ لَكُمْ رَبُّكُم مِّنْ أَزْوَاجِكُم ۚ بَلْ أَنتُمْ قَوْمٌ عَادُونَ – 26:166
“You come to the men of creation and you leave those wives whom Allah has created for you? Nay! You are a transgressing people.” (Qur’an 26: 165-166)
Ibn ‘Abbās narrated that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) stated:
لعن اللهُ من عمِل عملَ قومِ لوطٍ، لعن اللهُ من عمِل عملَ قومَ لوطٍ، لعن اللهُ مَن عملَ عملَ قومِ لُوطٍ
“The curse of Allah is upon the one who engages in the act of the People of Lūt. The curse of Allah is upon the one who engages in the act of the People of Lūt. The curse of Allah is upon the one who engages in the act of the People of Lūt.”
Reported in Musnad Imām Ahmad ibn Hanbal 4/292 and graded saheeh by Ahmad Shākir; see As-Silsilatus-Sahīhah of Al-Albāni, no. 6432, who graded it saheeh (authentic)
Jābir narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
إِنَّ أَخْوَفَ مَا أَخَافُ عَلَى أُمَّتِي عَمَلُ قَوْمِ لُوطٍ
“What I fear most for my followers is the actions of the People of Lūt.”
(Collected by At-Tirmidhi, 1457 and Ibn Mājah, 2563, and graded as hasan by Al-Albāni)
When the people ignored the Prophet Lūt’s message, Allah destroyed the town and every transgressor in it, and He saved Lūt (peace be upon him) and his daughters. This event is a sign for the people who reflect. This story is also mentioned in the scriptures of the Jews and Christians.
The traditional Muslim viewpoint based on Religious sources:
Muslim scholars throughout history have taken this story to mean that Allah has prohibited homosexuality absolutely, i.e. courtship and sexual relationships between men. Muslims see homosexuality as an unnatural condition, an immoral inclination, even a mental illness which is dangerous for the individual and society in terms of its goodness and morality. Islam teaches that a Muslim cannot be pious and obedient to God and be a practising homosexual; the two states are incompatible. However, Muslim doctrine does not remove from the fold of Islam the one who practices the major sin of homosexuality.
Shaikh Ibn Bāz (may Allah have mercy on him) was informed that some youth display signs of feminine behaviour. He advised that they should spend time with men until they learn (to be masculine) and they benefit from that, and the feminine inclination passes. He was also asked concerning the man who becomes a Muslim but before he embraced Islam he was a practising homosexual. Once he became a Muslim, he repented from that sinful un-Islamic behaviour. However, his soul desires homosexuality. Shaikh Ibn Bāz answered by saying: “He should cling to his repentance and all praise is for Allah.” (See Sharh Bulūgh Al-Marām, Kitāb Al-Hudūd, https://binbaz.org.sa/audios/125/) Clinging to repentance means to give up the sin, feel remorse for disobeying Allah, seek Allah’s forgiveness and be resolute in not returning back to the sin.
Today some people think that a person can be born homosexual – and through this, they justify their sexual leanings. However, Islam teaches that every child is born upon the fitrah, a natural inclination, which means that they were created with inclinations that God is pleased with for human beings and fulfil the natural functions of the body. With that in mind, Muslim scholars state that homosexuality comes about due to a corruption of the natural state which can be triggered by various events and environmental factors such as:
- the way they are brought up with the idea that there is no difference between the two sexes;
- being exposed to homosexuality constantly so it becomes normalised;
- being nurtured on theories and ideas that oppose science, nature and the intellect (e.g. two people of the same sex were not physiologically “designed” to have sexual relations or produce offspring)
- being sexually abused as children can lead to confused ideas about sexuality and sexual preferences;
- school indoctrination of children from an early age that goes against nature, health and wellbeing;
- relentlessly encouraged from a young age to explore same-sex relationships and “gay” role-play in schools;
- ostracising and seeking to criminalise all forms of dissent against the powerful LGBTQ movement in the West;
Muslim scholars state that just as people have ‘learned’ to be homosexual, they can also learn not to be if they choose to correct their behaviour and are helped in that process; and therefore, they return back to their natural state of being, or at least desist from homosexual activity if they are not able to be heterosexual.
The Qur’an does not say how homosexuality should be punished, but a saying of the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) makes clear: “Whoever you find engaging in the action of the people of Lūt, execute the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.” (Ibn Majah 2561, Tirmidhi 1456) This saying must not be used by individuals as an excuse to enact or incite violence against homosexuals.
Prescribed punishments can only be carried out by the legal authority in a country that practices Islamic Law (i.e. in a Muslim country); and there must be clear evidence that actual sex had taken place. The Muslim penal code carries out punishments on the basis of the unlawful act that is committed and not on the basis of a persons’ inclinations where no illegal act has been committed.
This is the view of all of the famous scholars and jurists of Islam in line with the punishment dealt to the people of Lūt (in the Qur’an) and the hadīth of the Prophet. A Muslim, regardless of which country he lives in, is not allowed to physically harm those he regards to be sinners, nor incite others to do so. Vigilantism goes against Islamic teachings because it creates an anarchic, unjust and disorderly society.
Some Muslims today who fall into homosexual behaviour:
There are homosexuals who consider themselves to be Muslims, and they know they are sinners in the sight of Allah just as there are some Muslims who fornicate, steal, lie and deal in usury. They recognize their sins. These sins are not considered unbelief that exit Muslims from the fold of Islam; but they are major sinners under the threat of Allah’s punishment as purification for their crimes.
Homosexuality is illegal in virtually every Muslim country in the world with punishments ranging from fines and prison to corporal punishment and execution. There are over 75 countries across the world, Muslim and non-Muslim, that consider homosexuality to be a criminal offence.
The Bible (Old Testament):
The Old Testament is followed by millions of Jews and Christians, and it too forbids men from having sexual relations with men. Chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus list prohibited forms of intercourse:
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Chapter 18 verse 22
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” Chapter 20 verse 13
Deuteronomy 22:5 states: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord, your God, detests anyone who does this.” This is a clear prohibition of cross-dressing.
The Bible (New Testament):
The New Testament also condemns homosexual practices. Romans 1:26-27 states: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
Paul wrote in the First Epistle to the Corinthians 6:9-11 states: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men; nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.” The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts.
Some LGBTQ Muslims seek to legalise this sin:
In recent times organisations have been established to give support to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender (etc) Muslims. These groups do not see their homosexuality as being wrong; they claim they were born gay, lesbian or trans etc. Furthermore, they do not believe that Allah’s prohibition in the Quran and Sunnah is applicable in these times; or they believe that these texts do not apply to people who “are in love”.
However, Muslims (almost as a whole) regard homosexuality to be sinful based upon the clear textual proofs of the Qur’an and Sunnah, the consensus (ijmā’) of the first three generations after the Prophet, the agreement of the Four well-known Schools of Islamic Jurisprudence and in accordance with the view of the Sunni scholars spanning more than 1,400 years of Islamic history.
Islam teaches that Muslims must obey Allah by doing what he has commanded and by keeping away from what he has prohibited.
A Muslim who legalises (makes permissible) what is clearly forbidden in the Revealed Texts (Qur’an and Sunnah) such as making lawful fornication, drinking alcohol, gambling or homosexuality, then that person has left the fold of Islam. They are no longer Muslims.
However, Muslims who commit major sins (less than idolatry) such as fornication, robbery or homosexuality whilst affirming their transgression against Allah’s Law and affirming their sin, they remain within the Religion, albeit with weakness in faith (imān). These people are threatened by Allah’s punishment in the Hereafter unless they repent from their sins. And if they enter the Fire, they will not remain in it eternally.
Controlling the urges:
Muslims who find they are afflicted with temptations or unnatural desires must learn to resist, turn to Allah, supplicate to Him for strength and guidance (and get married). They must pray their five daily prayers, pay the Zakah and fast the month of Ramadan, etc. They should keep company with righteous people and keep their desires under control and eventually dominate over them.
Not every desire needs to be satisfied! A believer is commanded to keep his soul in check and his passions within the limits of Allah’s commands. We are living in difficult times where religiosity, morality, chastity and good conduct are actively discouraged, and immorality, foul behaviour, irreligious conduct, ill-manners, sexual depravity and lewdness are championed.
Nevertheless, a Muslim must remain pious, and remember that holding steadfastly to Islam, the Sunnah and Islamic morals and ethics in these times brings along with it a greater reward from Allah for the patient. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Know that which has passed you by was never going to befall you, and whatever has befallen you was never going to miss you. And know that victory comes with patience, relief comes after affliction and ease comes after hardship.” (Tirmidhī)
In reference to the times of hardship that were to come the Prophet (ﷺ) stated, “Ahead of you are days of patience, when holding onto the religion will be like holding onto hot coals, and whomsoever holds onto his religion in that time, then his reward will be the reward of fifty men.” The Companions said, “O Messenger of Allaah, fifty times the worth of their reward?” He said, “Rather fifty from you.”
(Collected by Abu Dawood, At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Mājah, Al-Hākim who declared it authentic, Adh-Dhahabi agreed and Al-Albāni declared it saheeh in As-Saheehah no. 494)
Examples of commands: Worship Allah alone, pray, fast, give zakah (obligatory charity), perform Hajj, be dutiful and kind to parents, give in charity, wear hijab, etc.
Examples of prohibitions: Idolatry, interest, adultery, drinking alcohol, murder, stealing, sex before marriage, homosexuality, etc.
A Muslim is commanded to encourage people with doing good actions and to advise them against doing things that Allah has forbidden. In this way, he follows the way of the Prophets.
Further reading for adults: Homosexuality: Nurture or Nature? Good or Bad? (scroll down to the subtitle).
- ‘What people do in private should be no concern of religion.’ What do you think? Explain.
- ‘Good Muslims carry out the five pillars, so it doesn’t matter if you are a homosexual or not.’ What is the Islamic view?
- Is it true that Islam is not only about doing what Allah has commanded but also keeping away from His prohibitions? Explain.