Shariah law of Islam has interpreted the stories of Lot and Sodom to be primarily about homosexuality and have subsequently established the harshest penalties for homosexuals including death. One rational for killing homosexuals is the erroneous belief that because Allah rained down stones (“shower of clay stones” [15:74], “shower of destruction” [7:84], “We brought down rain upon them” [27:58] upon Sodom then all homosexuals should be stoned or killed. However, following rational logic, it can be surmised that all punishment delivered by Allah to different communities is not carte blanc for humans to deliver a death sentence to sinners. The acts of destruction by Allah were given after various sinning communities refused to listen to Allah’s messengers. This right belongs to only Allah. Also, in no place does the Qur’an mention the killing of homosexuals. Furthermore, the designation of “homosexuality” was not in use until much later. Instead the Qur’an refers to “lusting after men” in this passage about Sodom (7:81). However, many Islamic scholars also refer to 4:15–16 as confirmation of the punishment by death for homosexuals. “If any of your women commit an immoral act, call four witnesses from among you, then, if they testify to their guilt, keep the women at home until death comes to them or until God shows them another way. If two among you you commit an immoral act, punish them both; if they repent and mend their ways, leave them alone — God is always ready to accept repentance, He is full of mercy. But God only undertakes to accept repentance from those who do evil out of ignorance and soon afterwards repent: these are the ones God will forgive, He is all knowing, all wise.” Ayat 16 is commonly translated as “two men,” due to the previous ayat speaking of two women, hence the interpretation is that these ayats are referring to homosexual behavior so the original classic Arabic, wa-allahani (“two of you”) would fit the interpretation. Those who “repent and mend their ways” are only forgiven if this wasn’t an intentional act of sin. In other words, if both parties immediately repent with the purpose of escaping punishment but not with a sincere heart, then Allah will not accept their repentance. This surah clearly states homosexual behavior with both men and women is a sin. However, the women are not punished except by being confined to their homes unless Allah provides another way out such as marriage. The men are to be “punished” but it doesn’t state the type of punishment. It does not state they are to be killed. Many hadith on homosexuality claim the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) stated that those who lay with the same sex should be stoned, or killed. However, this contradicts the teachings in the Qur’an, hence a hadith that contradicts Allah’s revealed word must be considered inauthentic. The hadiths are not clear revelation, but sometimes misguided interpretations usually stemming from cultural norms and not the will of Allah.
The Qur’an doesn’t provide the full story of Sodom but has short summaries and mentions in various surahs. 15:56–75 has the longest account: “He said, ‘Who but the misguided despair of the mercy of their Lord?’ and then asked, ‘Messengers, what is your errand?’ They replied, ‘We have been sent to a people who are guilty.’But We shall save the household of Lot, all except his wife: We have decreed that she will be one of those who stay behind. When the messengers came to the household of Lot, he said, ‘You are strangers.’ They said, ‘We have brought you what they said would never happen: we have brought you the Truth. We speak truly, so leave in the dead of the night with your household, and walk behind them. Let none of you look back. Go where you are commanded.’ We made this decree known to him: the last remnants of those people would be wiped out in the morning. The people of the town came along, revelling, and he told them, ‘These are my guests, do not disgrace me. Fear God, and do not shame me.’ They answered, ‘Have we not told you not to interfere [between us and] anyone else?’ He said, ‘My daughters are here, if you must.’ By your life [Prophet], they wandered on in their wild intoxication and the blast overtook them at sunrise: We turned their city upside down and rained on them a shower of clay stones. There truly is a sign in this for those who can learn.” In this account sexual behavior is not mentioned, but instead “reveling” and “they wandered on in their wild intoxication,” which obviously infers there was other sinful behaviors occurring. 26:165–166 mentions lusting after males and “abandon the wives that God has created for you? Your are exceeding all bounds.” This infers the men who engaged in illicit sex were also married to women. 7:80–81 also mentions sexual behavior: “We sent Lot and he said to his people, ‘How can you practice this outrage? No one in the world has outdone you in this. You lust after men rather than women! You transgress all bounds!”
The Qur’an confirms what came before it, so it is advantageous to provide additional information from the Old Testament account to provide more detail. In the Bible two angels arrive at Lot’s house who tell Lot they will spend the night in the square. However, Lot vehemently tells them to sleep in his house instead knowing that the square was a place of crime, sodomy and all forms of illicit behaviors during the night so would not be a safe place for the two strangers to spend the night. Later every man, whether young or old, went to Lot’s house and demanded he send the strangers out so they could have sex with them. Lot offers his two engaged virgin daughters instead, but the men attempt to break the door down, so the angels caused the men to go blind so they can’t find the door. The angels then tell Lot to leave Sodom suddenly because Allah was planning on destroying the town at daybreak. “Every man” went to Lot’s house which indicates these were not “homosexual” men, but men who were engaging in extreme sex and violence with no self control. This would have most likely included gang rape, and physical attacks. The residents of Sodom had fallen into their base animal natures engaging in the worst possible behaviors.
Furthermore, the town of Sodom at this time was filled with a population that was living well off in abundance, and yet had advanced into the most horrendous immoral sins possible. Ezekiel 16:48–50 states, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.” The people of Sodom had no shame, no morals, was corrupt with rampant criminal activity, such that one not just risked sexual rape, but robbery as well. According to the Babylonian Talmud and the Genesis Rabba, the people of Sodom were known for extreme cruelty, failure to help the poor, and failure to practice charity and justice. Other sources stated that the Sodomites practiced physical torture of travelers, as well as the burning of a young woman who attempted to share food with a family that was starving of hunger. Much of their behavior originated from idol worship, which led to “licentious revelries and obscene orgies with which the worship of the Oriental idols was observed. This worship, appealing to every sensual passion, joined with the attractions of wealth and fashion and luxury.” (1)
There is a parallel story in the Book of Judges in which a Levite (the Priestly class) and his concubine visit the town of Gibeah and experience similar treatment. They traveled further than they expected because the Levite did not want to spend the night in any town that was not Israelite in fear of their safety. In this account, after arriving in Gibeah they are told strongly by one of the town’s residents not to sleep in the town square so he would offer them hospitality instead. When they were eating “some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house” and demanded the stranger be sent out so they could have sex with them. The Levite sends his concubine out instead, who is raped, beaten, and sodomized so severely that the Priest finds her laying in front of the door the next morning dead.(2) The Israelites during this time period were extremely corrupt, and had turned away from Allah. Again, this is not overt homosexuality, but overt sexual immorality at its worse.
The idolatrous worship that led to such extreme sin entailed “libidinous orgies…divinations, oracles, [2 Kings 1:2], and rabdomancy [Hosea 4:12]”(3) Also, “The attractiveness of [Baal] worship to the Jews undoubtedly grew out of its licentious character.” (4) Another source states, “The Canaanite cults included male and female priest-prostitutes. Intercourse with them was considered an act of worship designed to ensure the fertility of the fields, beasts, and humankind…It is understandable….that [the Israelites] sometimes succumbed to the temptations of the gods of Canaan.” (5)
Additionally, many sources state that one of the primary sins of Sodom was lack of hospitality which was extremely important not only for survival, but was a cultural norm. The men arriving at Lot’s door were intent on rape, or non-consensual sex, which had nothing to do with the gender as is disclosed in the story in Judges. This is why Lot offered his daughters instead, because it would have been inconceivable to not offer protection as a form of hospitality to his guests. It is rather obvious the angels knew exactly what was going on in the town so knew the town square would have been an extremely dangerous place to sleep. Lot’s hospitality is contrasted with that of the townspeople who not only didn’t offer hospitality, but was intent on violent harm to travelers instead. Hence, the references in the Qur’an were not referring to just “homosexual” behavior but to extreme sexual wanton licentiousness. The town of Sodom was filled with the worst sorts of sin, and this was the reason it was destroyed.
Hospitality is the natural outgrowth of piety, and in today’s world is severely lacking. It is by hospitality that we not only take care of our neighbors, but also other people in need as well. It is by taking care of other people that all people’s needs are met. The over abundance in our society has led to isolation for many people, and overt independence which turns a blind eye to one’s neighbor. If we get to know our neighbors, then we can help each other out which will be important because according to Allah’s revelation, there is a time coming soon when all aspects of life are going to become worse, so it is His will that we begin to practice hospitality now before it is too late. Lack of caring for the poor and needy is one of the most significant characteristics of a sinning society. Every one of the monotheistic Books heavily emphasizes providing for the poor which is an important test from Allah. His bounty is our blessing which is meant to be shared. Civilization is now displaying many of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah which is prophesied in the last day scenarios in both the Bible and the Qur’an. Watch and pray, and turn to Allah and be saved for revival is near.
(1) The Immoral Nature of Idolatry in the Old Testament: http://www.scottwoodward.org/idolatry_oldtestament_immoralinnature.html
(2) Judges 19:1–30
(3) (Fallows, Bible Encyclopedia, s.v. “idolatry,” 2:850; quoted in Old Testament Institute Manual, Genesis-2 Samuel, p. 246)
(4) (Smith, Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. “Baal,” p. 70; quoted in Old Testament Institute Manual, Genesis-2 Samuel, p. 246)
(5) (Roberta L. Harris, The World of the Bible, p. 53)