Muhammad and the homosexual
James M. Arlandson
Traditional Muslims who understand the Quran and the hadith (reports of Muhammads words and actions outside of the Quran) believe that Islamic law or sharia expresses the highest and best goals for all societies. It is the will of Allah.
In February 1998, the Taliban, who once ruled in Afghanistan, ordered this punishment for three men convicted of sodomy:
On Wednesday, the Taleban ordered the execution of three men for sodomy in the southern town of Kandahar, southern Afghanistan. They were ordered to be buried alive under a pile of stones and a wall was pushed on top of them by a tank.
Their lives were to be spared if they survived for 30 minutes and were still alive when the stones were removed.
Simple and clear reason says that executing homosexuals is wrong today, but where do the Taliban get the punishment of pushing a wall on the guilty men? Also, the article reports that while the religious police were meting out a flogging on a woman for fornication, a speaker chanted, "Thanks to God that we are followers of God not of the West." This devout Muslim understands the deeper, spiritual conflicttwo religious systems are at work.
In its 1991 Constitution, Iran adopted the extreme punishment of execution for sodomy. Articles 108-113 say:
Sodomy is a crime, for which both partners are punished. The punishment is death if the participants are adults, of sound mind and consenting; the method of execution is for the Shari'a judge to decide.
Later on, the summary of the Constitution says that if the guilty repent, the judge may waive the penalty. But should this penalty exist in the first place? What is the source for this extreme law in the Iranian Constitution?
On April 7, 2005, it was reported that Saudi Arabia sentenced more than 100 men to prison or flogging for "gay conduct."
On or about March 26, a Jeddah court, meeting in a closed session in which defense attorneys were excluded, sentenced 31 of the men to prison for six months to one year, and to 200 lashes each, for unreported offenses. Four other men received two years imprisonment and 2,000 lashes. Police released more than 70 of the men not long after their initial arrest; reports in the Saudi press suggested that personal contacts with the government had intervened on their behalf. However, on April 3, police summoned the 70 men back to a local police station and informed them that they had been sentenced to one years imprisonment.
Arrest and imprisonment and / or flogging for "gay conduct"? Why? Have these radical judges left Islam?
Execution, flogging, and toppling a wall on homosexuals come from the reliable hadith and later legal rulings in Islam. They sit at its core. Execution and flogging may also come from the Quran itself.
To explain how these extremes are embedded in Islam and how Christianity offers a better solution, this article is divided up into three large sections: Islam, Christianity, and an Application, including supplemental material.
The main section "Islam" is subdivided into three sections: the Quran, the hadith, and classical legal rulings. When we analyze the Quran, we also provide the historical and literary contexts of the target verse, in order to avoid the standard, reflexive "out of context" defense from Muslims apologists (defenders).
The main section "Christianity" is subdivided into four sections: the Torah, how Jesus fulfills the law, how Jesus forgives sexual sin, and how the early church followed Jesus.
After we analyze the two religions on the matter of homosexuality, we apply our findings to today, the third main section, including supplemental material.
Islam treats homosexuality as a crime instead of a sin. Is that the best policy?
This section analyzes two Quranic passages, which are the foundation for later hadith (reports of Muhammads words and deeds outside of the Quran) and the opinions of jurists and legal scholars on how to punish homosexuals. However, as we shall see, the Quran is unclear on homosexuality in its legal punishments, but not in its immorality.
While living in Mecca before his Hijrah in AD 622, Muhammad does not seem to have decreed an official punishment for homosexuals. However, he frequently told stories about Lot, who lived in Sodom. This passage in Sura 7, representing others in Meccan suras (chapters), was revealed late in Mecca, but scholars are rarely confident about the precise date of Meccan suras or chapters in the Quran.
In any case, this general assessment of Muhammads time in Mecca is beyond dispute: he was undergoing strong persecution at the hands of the Meccans, so he was warning them of divine judgments in the past. If Allah wreaked death and destruction on his enemies after he sent messengers to warn them in days of old, then he may judge the Meccans for opposing the best and final prophetMuhammad. Sura 7:80-81 and 84 reads:
[7:80] And We sent Lot as a Messenger: Remember that he said to his people, "Have you become so shameless that you commit such indecent acts as no one has committed before you in the world?  You gratify your lust with men instead of women: indeed you are a people who transgress the limits!" . . .  And We rained upon his people; then behold what happened in the end to the guilty ones! (Maududi, The Meaning of the Quran, vol. 2, p. 45)
In general terms this passage condemns homosexuality because it "transgresses the limits" of nature. The punishment for the inhabitants of Sodom was a rainstorm, "We rained upon his people," which is based on Genesis 18 and 19. Suras 11:82 and 15:74 say dry clay was rained on Sodom. From these Quranic verses and others on Lot and some hadith passages (hadith are the reports of Muhammads words and deeds outside of the Quran), legal scholars have come up with punishments for sodomy, which we explore below in the section "Classical legal rulings."
If the readers would like to see Sura 7:80-84 in other translations, they may go to this website http://quranbrowser.com/ and type in the references, like so: 7:80-84. The number 7 is the sura or chapter and 80-84 are the verse numbers. Here are other passages that describe Lot and the Sodomites, whose main ideas overlap with 7:80-84: Suras 11:77-83; 15:61-77; 26:165-173; 27:54-58; 29:28-30. All of these verses denounce sodomy as a sin and report the destruction of Sodom by the sovereign act of God. Even though these passages do not explicitly rule on punishing homosexuals in legal contexts, Muslims jurists have divine permission to impose human punishments on homosexuals, especially when the judges also include the hadith.
Sura 4:15-16 has caused much debate over its meaning. We first analyze the historical and literary contexts. Sayyid ALa Abul Maududi (d. 1979), whose translation we used, above, was an Indo-Pakistani who worked hard at establishing a theocracy in Pakistan through the Jamaat-i-Islami Party. He is highly respected traditional commentator who says that this sura, itself titled "Women," was revealed at different times, but still in the timeframe of AD 625 to 626, in Medina, for Muhammad has already emigrated. He is establishing his Muslim community in the face of opposition and adverse circumstances, though Islam manages to overcome them. Verse 34 fits into the framework of vv. 1-35, which sees the specific establishment of rules for the family. For instance, in the aftermath of the Battle of Uhud in 625, in which the Muslims lost a lot of men, Muhammad says that orphans should be given their property and not to replace their good things with bad, which means to deal fairly and wisely with their assets (vv. 1-6). Also, he discusses the rules for inheriting property, such as one son having the share equal to two daughters or that a husband should inherent half of his wifes property, unless they have children, in which case he inherits one-fourth (vv. 11-14).
We now come to the two target verses. MAS Abdel Haleems translation reads:
4:15 If any of your women commit a lewd 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 gives them another way out. 16 If two men commit a lewd act, punish them both; if they repent and mend their ways, leave them aloneGod is ready to accept repentance from those who do evil out of ignorance and soon afterwards repent: these are the ones God will forgive. (The Quran, Oxford UP, 2004)
Does v. 15 refer to male-female sexual sin or to lesbianism? Does v. 15 refer to male-male sex? Commentators are divided. However, Haleems translation of v. 16 says that if two men commit a lewd act, implying homosexuality, they are to be punished, but this translation is still ambiguous.
This translation by Hilali and Khan, funded by the Saudi royal family, adds parenthetical glosses implied in the Arabic, but not original to it:
4:15 And those of your women who commit illegal sexual intercourse, take evidence of four witnesses from amongst you against them; and if they testify, confine them (i.e. women) to houses until death comes to them or Allah ordains for them some (other way). 16 And the two persons (man and woman) among you commit illegal sexual intercourse, hurt them both . . . . (The Noble Quran, Riyadh: Darussalam, 2002)
As to the women who commit illegal sexual intercourse, this translation of v. 15 reads the same way as Haleems. Are they committing the sin with men or with women? But this translation interprets v. 16 as the act occurring between a man and a woman.
Two prominent commentators reach different conclusions about the verses.
Maududi says that Sura 4:15-16 has nothing to do with homosexual acts, implying that Muhammad did not confront this unnatural crime, which is outside of normal life and is found under abnormal circumstances. Maududi notes that after the prophets death, the companions or his close followers never referred to these verses to adjudicate the crime of homosexuality (The Meaning of the Quran, vol. 1, p. 317, note 24).
Sayyid Qutb, the other commentator, was the godfather of modern jihadist movements who was executed in 1966 for trying to overthrow the Egyptian government. In a section titled "First Step Towards Eradicating Sexual Immorality" (wrongly implying that eradication is possible in the first place; see his next section, "A Perfectly Moral Society"), he agrees that the two women are committing lewd acts with men in v. 15that is, he does not say that they are lesbiansbut the two men who commit lewd acts are homosexuals in v. 16 (In the Shade of the Quran, vol. 3, pp. 67-72)
Thus, according to Maududi and Qutb, confusion rules over v. 16 (homosexual sin), but not over v. 15 (heterosexual sin). Clarity is one of the frequent claims in the Quran, but this is untrue in this case. It is one thing for commentators to disagree on important topics, but these are the only two verses in which the topic of homosexuality may be dealt with in Medina, where Muhammad was constantly laying down the rules for sexual misconductbut no clear guidance was offered in Sura 4:15-16.
Finally, the end of v. 15 says that men should confine the guilty women to their houseshouse arrest in patriarchal Arab societyuntil death or Allah provides another way out. Qutb rightly notes that these clauses represent an interim ruling because the words "until God gives them another way out" (Haleem) is open-ended. And this is where Maududi and Qutb agree (Maududi, vol. 1, p. 317, note 26; Qutb, In the Shade of the Quran, vol. 3, pp. 68-71): Sura 24:2 abrogates or cancels Sura 4:15-16. It should be recalled that 24:2 says that those who commit zina or sexual immorality generally (usually taken to mean fornication or non-marital sex in this verse) should be flogged. Reliable hadith that many scholars connect to 24:2 says that adulterers and adulteresses should be stoned to death. But if we isolate Sura 24:2 and its specific punishment for zina generally, then the judge has the option to flog a convicted homosexual, even though homosexuality is a special case, since it is regarded as an additionally unnatural sex act in Islamic law.
Qutb cites a hadith that shows how Muhammad received this revelation of a "way out" in Sura 4:15
. . . The Prophet used to be visibly affected every time revelations were bestowed on him from on high. His face changed and he looked ill at ease. One day, after he received revelations and he regained his color, he said: "Learn this from me. God has opened another way out for them, both in the case of a married man and a married woman and that of an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. For the married, one hundred lashes and stoning, and for the unmarried one hundred lashes and exile for a year. (vol. 3, pp. 69-70; see Muslim vol. 3, p. 911, no. 4192)
Thus, the "way out" does not lead to forgiveness and restoration, but to flogging and stoning. Muhammad has raised sexual sin to a crime, which means that it must be criminally punished in the same way that theft and highway robbery are criminally punished. This policy is misguideddespite the dubious belief that it came from divine inspiration, though the excerpt from Qutb implies that it was channeled from the spirit world. However, Sura 24:2 does not clearly deal with homosexuality as such, so later Muslim jurists have to base their rulings on punishing this "crime" on general Quranic principles and on the hadith, where matters become clearer.
To conclude this section, the Quran does not prescribe a clear way of dealing with homosexuality. The sacred book condemns it in the stories about Lot, which were told during the Meccan period, but in the Medinan period, Sura 4:15-16, the only reference that seems to come close to dealing with this sin, is so ambiguous that Muslim scholars cannot reach a consensus on its meaning. This contradicts Muhammads frequent claim that the Quran provides complete guidance for life. In this major area of human sexuality, the Muslim holy book comes up short. So now we must turn to the hadith, where things are less ambiguous.
For more information on Sura 4:15-16 and its bearing on homosexuality, see this article, and scroll down about three-fourths of the way.
The hadith are the reports of Muhammads words and actions outside of the Quran. The four most reliable hadith collectors and editors are Bukhari (d. 870), Muslim (d. 875), Abu Dawud (d. 875), and Tirmidhi (d. 892), who was a student of Bukhari. The Quran and the hadith are the foundations for later legal rulings. But in the matter of homosexuality, the Quran is unclear, so the hadith guides Islam more clearly.
It is believed that when Muhammad uttered a curse against someone, it is so significant and powerful that it may carry eternal damnationor at least it puts its recipient outside of the Muslim community, which hangs hell over his head (see Sura 9:30). Muhammad cursed effeminate men and masculine women in this hadith edited by Bukhari and narrated by Ibn Abbas, Muhammads cousin and highly reliable transmitter of hadith:
Narrated Ibn Abbas: The Prophet cursed effeminate men and those women who assume the similitude (manners) of men. He also said said: "Turn them out of your houses." He turned such and such a person out, and Umar [a principal companion of Muhammad] also turned out such and such person. (Bukhari vol. 8, no. 6834; see vol. 7 nos. 5885 and 5886)
Thus, effeminate men and masculine women are cursed and driven out of the early Muslim community. These men may not be homosexuals, but may have lost their sex drive or desire for women. Either way, rejection, not salvation, is the rule in early Islam, under the guidance of Muhammad.
The same rejection happened when Muhammad heard an effeminate man talking about capturing a mans daughter, who was fat, for an arranged marriage, when the Muslim army was trying or about to try to conquer the city of Taif in AD 630. The prophet replied: "These (effeminate men) should never enter upon you (O women!)," in your houses. That is, Muhammads wives should not associate with effeminate men (Bukhari vol. 5, no. 4324; see vol. 7, nos. 5235 and 5887).
The Sunan Abu Dawud, named after its editor, is another reliable collection of hadith. Ibn Abbas reports the following about early Islam and Muhammads punishment of homosexuals: . . . "If you find anyone doing as Lots people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done" (vol. 3, p. 145, no. 4447).
The next one from the same collection says that an unmarried man who commits sodomy should be stoned to death: "Ibn Abbas said: if a man who is not married is seized committing sodomy, he will be stoned to death" (vol. 3, p. 1245, no. 4448).
Thus, these two passages in Sunan Abu Dawud go further than merely rejecting and banishing homosexuals or sexual sinners, as we saw in Bukharis collection. Rather, Ibn Abbas says that Muhammad and the early Muslim community commanded their execution.
The hadith editor Timidhi repeats Ibn Abbas narration: "Ikrima reported on the authority of Ibn Abbas that Gods messenger [Muhammad] said: If you find anyone doing as Lots people did, kill the one who does it and the one to whom it is done." (Recorded in Mishkat al-Masabih, trans. James Robson, vol. 2, p. 763, Prescribed Punishments).
In the same hadith collection, the Mishkhat al-Masabih, a compendium that brings together other hadith collections, are found the punishments of being burned to death and having heavy objects thrown on the guilty homosexuals:
Ibn Abbas and Abu Huraira reported Gods messenger as saying, "Accursed is he who does what Lots people did." In a version . . . on the authority of Ibn Abbas it says that Ali [Muhammads cousin and son-in-law] had two people burned and that Abu Bakr [Muhammads chief companion] had a wall thrown down on them. (vol. 1, p. 765, Prescribed Punishments; cf. Maududi vol. 2, p. 52, note 68)
In the introduction to this article, a news report says that the Taliban toppled a wall on two homosexuals. Now we know where they got this cruel and unusual punishment. Thus, the Taliban appears extreme to us (and they are), but they are merely following early Islam. Hence, since this extremism comes from original Islam itself, so why would traditional Muslims who know their own religion well want to reform today? Reform to what? Ignore the core of their religion? The cognitive dissonance or mental shock would be too strong.
Finally, Muhammad Aashiq Illahi Muhajir Madani, a modern-day Mufti (jurist), wrote Illuminating Discourses on the Noble Quran, 2nd ed. trans. and ed. Mufti A. H. Elias, (Karachi: Pakistan, Zam Zam, 2003). In his commentary on Sura 4:15-16, he is open to the interpretation that the two verses speak of homosexuality, so he provides two hadith that he considers reliable, which deal with punishing homosexuals (vol. 2, pp. 365-69).
This early ruling repeats the one that homosexuals must be burned:
With regard to the method in which these people [homosexuals] are to executed, Abu Bakr after consulting with Ali and other Sahaaba [companions of Muhammad], ruled that they be burnt.
Mufti Madanis next citation says that convicted homosexuals should undergo this terrible punishment (cf. Maududi vol. 2, p. 52, note 68):
. . . Ibn Abbas ruled that they be thrown headlong from the highest summit.
Memri TV has a clip and a transcript of a modern scholar asserting that homosexuals should be thrown off a cliff. And now we know where he got his opinionfrom early Islam and Ibn Abbas, Muhammads cousin.
To conclude this section, these hadith demonstrate that sexual non-conformists (effeminate men and masculine women) and homosexuals are not only unwelcome in the Islamic community (that is a religions prerogative), but they must also be criminally punished. The hadith punishments range from rejection and banishment to execution by terrible methods, such as being stoning, burned alive, or thrown off a high point. It should be reiterated here that if later Islamic judges follow the punishment meted out in Sura 24:2 for zina generally, then they may flog the convicted homosexuals with a hundred lashes. In fact, they will impose some or all of these penalties, depending on the circumstances, as we now see in the next section.
Classical legal rulings
Sharia means the body of Islamic law rooted in the Quran and the hadith; fiqh means the science of interpreting and applying this law, done by qualified Islamic judges and legal scholars. Over the first two centuries after Muhammads death in AD 632, four main Sunni schools of fiqh emerged, led by these scholars: Malik (d. 795), who lived in Medina, Arabia; Abu Hanifa (d. 767), who lived in Kufa, Iraq; Shafi (d. 820), who lived mostly in Mecca, Arabia, but who was buried in Cairo, Egypt; and Ibn Hanbal (d. 855) who lived in Baghdad, Iraq. They base their legal opinions and rulings on the Quran and the hadith. We examine the opinions of some of these schools.
Maududi records that Shafi himself says that "both the criminals involved in sodomy should be killed, whether married or unmarried" (vol. 2, p. 52, note 68).
However, later developments in the Shafi school go in different directions on the issue of punishing homosexuals as criminals. The brief law book from the Medieval Age, A Sunni Shafi Law Code (trans. Anwar Ahmed Qadri, Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1984), says that "the commission of sodomy and bestiality is an act which is equivalent to zina" (adultery, fornication or rape) . . . (p. 118). A footnote says that "legal punishment (stoning as done to adulterers) should be applied, but "the accepted view is for tazir [the judges discretion] punishment" (p. 118). So the punishment ranges from stoning to a judges discretion, possibly down to flogging.
Another Shafi law book, Reliance of the Traveler: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, (rev. ed., trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Beltsville, Maryland: Amana, 1994) also compiled in the Medieval Age, says that the punishment of stoning the homosexual must be imposed, provided that he or she has reached puberty, is sane, and committed the act voluntarily, "no matter whether the person is a Muslim, a non-Muslim subject of the Islamic State, or someone who has left Islam" (p. 610, o12.1). An additional requirement is whether the person can remain chaste (is in a legal marriage). Thus, this law book binds the judge to impose death by stoning, unlike the Sunni Shafi Law Code, which allows discretionary punishment.
Maududi also records an assortment of opinions that rule as follows: "the punishment [for sodomy] is the same as for [zina], that is, one hundred stripes and exile for the unmarried, and stoning to death for the married" (vol. 2, p. 52, note 68). Some scholars reinterpret banishment as imprisonment.
As for Abu Hanifa, Maududi says that the founder "is of the opinion that the culprit should be punished in accordance with the circumstances of the crime with an exemplary punishment" (vol. 2, p, 52, note 68). An exemplary punishment means that it must be done in public, so people will learn and fear. But it is clear that the judge may exercise discretion.
Malik decrees straightforwardly: "Malik . . . asked Ibn Shihab about someone who committed sodomy. Ibn Shihab said, He is to be stoned, whether or not he is muhsan" (legally married). Regardless of his marital status, then, someone who commits sodomy must be stonedno mercy or extenuating circumstances. (Al-Muwatta of Imam Malik ibn Anas: The First Formation of Islamic Law, rev. trans. Aisha Bewley, Inverness, Scotland: Madina Press, 1989, 2001), p. 346, 41.1.11).
To sum up this section, the schools of fiqh are divided. A less severe punishment than stoning, such as flogging, is meted out according to the judges discretion. But sometimes the punishment is execution by stoning. It seems, then, that some of these schools have softened the clear example of the prophet and his companions in the hadith. They ordered death by stoning, being thrown off a high point, or toppling a dilapidated building on the criminals. This demonstrates that the Qurans confusion or absence of a clear decree has slipped into the later legal rulings. The opposite of the case is true for fornication and adultery, or zina, which elicits the minimal penalty of flogging and the maximum of stoning for adultery, according to the hadith. The judges are much more definitive about zina because the Quran is too. However, this is not true with sodomy.
Before leaving the main section "Islam," the last three subsections can be boiled down to this simple conclusion: Islam treats homosexuals as criminals and seeks to change them from the outside with threats, flogging, and death. This is seen clearly in Sayyid Qutbs two sections in his commentary on Sura 4:15-16, which are titled "First Step Towards Eradicating Immorality" and "A Perfectly Moral Society" (In the Shade of the Quran, vol. 3, pp. 68-71). This goal, though seemingly noble, is actually harmful. No society can achieve perfect morality, and even the attempt to achieve it places severity and harshness and excessive power in the hands of the religious elite and self-righteous. So this policy and goal is completely misguided. It fails to understand human nature
According to traditional and Biblical Christianity, sexual sin, specifically homosexuality, is no crime, but it is just thata sin. These two divergent views in Christianity and Islam in this matter lead to divergent policies on dealing with the same immoral sex act.
It is imperative to interpret the Bible in its historical and literary context, especially when dealing with verses that elicit emotional responses, such as the following two verses in Leviticus. Sometimes revisionist interpreters argue that the verses on homosexuality in the Torah are culture-bound or found in the context of temple prostitution; thus, the verses do not universally oppose homosexuality. It is true that some verses occur in the context of temple prostitution (Deuteronomy 23:17; cf. Number 25:1-16; 1 Kings 14:24), but not all of them.
The sacred text says in this verse:
Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. (Leviticus 18:22, New International Version)
This verse is found in the Holiness Code or Law of Holiness, especially chapters 18 and 20. Chapter 18 treats morality as having a universal application. Besides v. 22, other verses command the ancient Hebrews, for example, not to have sexual relations with their daughters-in-law (v. 15), nor with their brothers wife (v. 16) nor to lie with their neighbors wife (v. 20). The chapter ends with verses that exhort the people not to follow the inhabitants of Canaan which they were about to inherit (vv. 24-29). These last verses can be easily interpreted as not obeying the ungodly of any land, wherever they are found. Thus, rituals, ceremonies, festivals, and the tabernacle are not found in this chapter, so its morality may be applied universally.
Chapter 19 has a few verses that discuss sacrifice (vv. 5-8, 22) and harvest (v. 9, 23-25), but most of the thirty-seven verses strike a universal note. For example, people are not to steal or lie or deceive one another (v. 11); they are not to defraud their neighbors or withhold the wages of field workers (v. 13); they are not to hate their brother in their hearts (v. 17); they are not to mistreat the aliens who live with them (v. 33). It is clear, then, that the vast majority of verses in this chapter have universal themes in it, as well. Hence, they have universal applicability, if societies choose to apply them.
Therefore, these two chapters do not pertain to culture-bound male temple prostitution or to temporary rituals, ceremonies, or animal sacrifices. Rather, they may be applied cross-culturally, because all societies would benefit from them. Hence, homosexuality is a sin, according to the Holiness Code.
Finally, chapter 20 lays out the penalties for various sins. This one says that homosexuals should be put to death:
If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. (Leviticus 20:13, NIV)
The question is: should this harsh punishment be applied to todays world? Does it have universal application?
How Jesus fulfills the law
Jesus came to fulfill the law or Torah, not to destroy or abolish it (Matthew 5:17). He fulfills it in at least three ways, but the one we look at here takes away the laws severe punishments. This benefits all of society, especially today.
Jesus fulfills the law by taking on himself the penalty for our sins. The Torah is filled with specific punishments for specific sins, but his death on the cross satisfies and propitiates divine wrath that is directed at our sinsthis is the Christian doctrine of the atonement. It is for this reason that a Christian could never give up this doctrine and must totally reject Muhammads odd view that Christ never died on the cross (Sura 4:157). (For more information on Muhammads odd claim, see these articles, 1, 2.) Muhammads belief is completely misguided. Christs death is Gods gift to us. We are saved and on our way to heaven, not based on our own works, but on Christs good work on the cross. Therefore, those who trust in Christ do not have to pay the penalty for their sins.
It is therefore certain that homosexuals should not be put to death for their sins. The entire sweep of the New Testament says that all sexual sins begin in the heart and can only be healed in the heart, by transforming it. This is why Jesus and the inspired New Testament authors write often about the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18; 3:11; Luke 11:13; John 20:22). He lives in them to enable and empower them to walk in love, which fulfills the law (Matthew 23:37-40; Romans 13:10). In contrast, a major problem with the law of Muhammad is the distortion of the blessed doctrine of the Holy Spirit, who has been reduced to the archangel Gabriel in Islamic theology. According to this doctrine, Muslims do not enjoy the Holy Spirit living in them in the way described by Jesus Christ and the New Testament, so they have to fulfill the old-new law of Muhammad by their own efforts.
This may be a major factor as to why Muhammad reinstituted the punishments found in the Torah. Being merely a human messenger (Sura 3:144), he could not send the Holy Spirit into the hearts of people so that they could be changed from the inside out. On the other hand, as the eternal Son of God, Jesus does in fact send the Holy Spirit into the hearts of all those who ask for him, and now they have living in them the power to be changed from the inside out.
For more information on how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament, click on this article.
How Jesus forgives sexual sin
It so happens that Jesus never had to confront the issue of homosexuality, simply because this issue never came up during his three years of ministry. But as an observant Jew, he understood the Torah, so he would have announced that homosexuality was a sin. He certainly said that sexual immorality generally and adultery specifically were sins (Matthew 5:27-28 and 15:19), and this agrees with the Torah. He also endorses the male and female model in the Garden of Eden (Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9). This is the norm for society: "What God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matt. 19: 6 and Mark 10:9). And God joined together male and female.
Though Jesus never confronted the sin of homosexuality specifically, we have a clear idea about how he dealt with adultery and prostitutiontwo other sexual sins, though the gay community may object to the comparisons. He forgave the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). (See this article, and scroll down to "How Jesus forgives sexual sin.") As for prostitutes, he let them into his kingdom on their repentance. While in Jerusalem, he confronted the chief priests and elders, who were badgering him with antagonistic questions. Matthew 21:31 says: "Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." Needless to say, Jesus chose two types of sinners who were especially repugnant to the extra-righteous.
But first prostitutes have to be forgiven of their sins and be savedor cleansed from the inside out by the Holy Spiritbefore they enter the kingdom of God. One day a certain Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus into his large house for dinner. Suddenly a "sinful woman" (read: local prostitute) crashed the dinner party and washed Jesus feet with her tears, wiped them off with her hair, and poured oil on his feet. The Pharisee became indignant and said to himself that if Jesus really were a prophet, he would know who was touching him and not allow it, for she was unclean. Jesus pointed out to him that Simon had not offered him the customs of hospitality, but this sinful woman was doing this. "Then Jesus said to her, Your sins are forgiven. The other guests began to say among themselves, Who is this who even forgives sins? [This is another New Testament hint of Jesus divinity.] Jesus said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace" (Luke 7:48-50).
This true account shows that Jesus did not order prostitutes and other sexual sinners to be hunted down and flogged or burned alive, even though this one was living in Israel, the Holy Land, and even though the Torah says specifically that a prostitute must be burned with fire (Leviticus 21:9). Instead, Jesus looks at the heart and sees a diamond in the rough. He knows that with his love and power, through the Holy Spirit, sexual sinners of all sorts can be changed. Jesus would have preached this same message to the homosexual sinner, as well. Sexual sin is just thata sin; it is not a crime in the new era of salvation that Jesus has ushered in.
This love and forgiveness stands in stark contrast to the law of Muhammad. While it is true that some verses in the Quran speak of repentance (Suras 4:16-17, 5:34, 5:39, 24:5), they seem to be always accompanied by verses that mete out flogging or mutilation or crucifixion or house arrest or death (Suras 4:15, 5:33, 5:38, 24:2). The Quran enshrines many sins as crimes, so it must impose harsh civil penalties. In this the Quran follows the Torah, in a haphazard and distorted way.
However, it is one thing for God to do this 1,400 hundred years before Jesus came to lead us along a better path, but it is quite another for the self-described human messenger (Sura 3:144) to do this 600 years after Jesus came. He moves society forward; Muhammad drags society backwards.
How the early church followed Jesus
Whereas it is true that Jesus did not confront the sin of homosexuality directly, the early church did confront it, as the new "Jesus movement" spread around the great Greco-Roman world peacefully, not by military conquest. The Greek city of Corinth, for example, was known for its temple prostitutes; indeed they plied their trade in the temple on the Acropolis, the ruins of which can still be seen today. The Apostle Paul said that when he first arrived in this city, he was in "weakness and fear and much trembling" (1 Corinthians 2:3). But he stayed there for eighteen months and saw the peaceful conversions of many people from all walks of life (Acts 18:9-11). Since Jesus was guiding his church from heaven, it stands to reason, therefore, that the early church would apply the Lords message of love and forgiveness and acceptance after God does his work in the sinful heart, and this is in fact what we find in the two Corinthian Epistles written by the Spirit-inspired Apostle Paul.
Paul describes some of the sinners who repented and converted (1 Corinthians 6:9-11):
9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And this is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Three truths may be taken from these three verses.
First, Paul said that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God (v. 9), but Jesus said that tax collectors and prostitutes would enter it ahead of the self-righteous religious leaders (Matthew 21:31). Is this a conflict? No, because Jesus overall message was repentance, a continuation of John the Baptists message. In fact, Jesus alludes to Johns message and says this to the chief priests and elders: "And even after you saw this [tax collectors and prostitutes entering ahead of them], you did not repent and believe him [John and his message]" (Matthew 21:32). Also, Jesus said to the "sinful woman" who crashed the party: "Your sins are forgiven . . . your faith has saved you; go in peace" (Luke 7:48-50). So Jesus and Paul, whom the Resurrected Lord was inspiring, agree: Repentance and forgiveness comes first, and then entrance into the kingdom of God comes second, but never flogging, stoning, crucifixion, house arrest, or mutilation.
Second, the key words "male prostitutes" and "homosexual offenders" in v. 10 are translations of the Greek words malakoi and arsenokoitai, respectively, and both words fall within the semantic range of homosexuality. But malakoi can mean "effeminate," and Paul welcomed them into the kingdom of God (v. 11), whereas Muhammad banished them and uttered no words of invitation and forgiveness (see "Hadith" section, above). But if the word should be translated as "male prostitutes" based on the historical context in Corinth, we should have no doubt what Muhammad would have done to male prostitutes serving in a temple in the Arabian Peninsula: kill them. Next, the meaning of arsenokoitai extends to homosexuals generally and even pederasts and sodomites. These sinners also Paul welcomes into the kingdom, after they repent. In Sura 4:15-16 Muhammad gives homosexuals or sexual sinners generally (depending on the interpretation of ambiguous vv. 15 and 16) the chance to repent, but the sword of Muhammad always hangs over their head. Will they be dragged into a sharia court if they stumble and fall back into their sin? Will they be executed or only flogged? The Apostle Paul follows the living Lord Jesus, so the Apostle excels the self-declared apostle Muhammad.
Third, v. 11 speaks of good news for all sinners, by the work of the Trinity. The words "washed" and "sanctified" describe the role of the Holy Spirit. Thus, sinners are not left on their own to self-improve. They have the direct help of the Spirit of God himself. Jesus Christ "justifies" or makes us legally righteous by his death on the cross. Now we are on our way to heaven, only by his good work on the cross, not by our own self-efforts. Finally, God oversees this divine plan of redemption and empowerment. (For a brief explanation of the Trinity, go to this article.)
The reality behind the words in this verseone of many verses in the New Testamentmust be experienced by Christians everyday. This is why Bible-educated Christians cannot give up the sacred doctrine of the Trinity with good conscience. The sexual sinner, specifically the homosexual, can experience sanctification or the washing of the Holy Spirit, and he can be justified or declared righteous by Jesus work on the cross, so he may start life over again. This reality actually happened with male temple prostitutes in the first-century church in Corinth, so it can happen today.
To conclude this section, the major difference between Christianity and Islam is how they treat the same sexual acts that violate marriage or take place outside of marriage or between two persons of the same gender. Islam says that these acts are crimes, so civil penalties must be imposed on the sexual criminals. But Christianity says that the acts are sins, so it offers forgiveness, healing, and restoration to sexual sinners. Islam forces hearts to change by threats and bodily punishments. It does not offer the Spirit, but an old-new law. Christianity does not impose flogging or execution on sexual sinners, but offers the Spirit and salvation to them. The Spirit of Jesus Christ makes them live anew; the law of Muhammad kills them.
Sharia is not a benefit to society, for it contains too many harsh rules and punishments. One of the most tragic and under-reported occurrences in the West in recent years is the existence of a sharia court in Canada. Muslims are pushing for a sharia divorce court in Australia, as well. Having a court of arbitration if it is based on western law and legal theory is legitimate, but sharia does not hold to this standard. So Canada should promptly shut down any sharia court, and Australia should never allow one. Fortunately, the province of Quebec, Canada, rejected a sharia court. This is the right policy and direction. Such a court should never be permitted in the US, Europe, and elsewhere around the world. Sharia ultimately degrades society and diminishes freedom.
The violent radicals who are now slithering around the world would gladly impose their Qurans and the hadiths severe law on non-Muslim nations, if the radicals could ever conquer them by force or by gradual means. If the terrorists do not hesitate to cut off heads, why would they not flog or kill sexual "criminals" in order to make society pure and holy before Allah, who gave this rule in the first place? The war on terror must continue, in order to preserve western civilization and an assortment of nonwestern nations struggling with Islam.
We on the outside of Islam are allowed to ask whether the Qurans punishments are better than the New Testaments policy of forgiving and restoring sexual sinners. Does the Quran guide society better than the New Testament does? Would the true God send Gabriel down to Muhammad with such a message that comes six hundred years after Jesus? Should this message supercede the New Testament?
Given the hard evidence, Bible-educated Christians answer no. The true God would not send down such extreme policies in the new era of salvation which Jesus ushered in. They realize that the Quran is empirically and factually worse than the New Testament.
Jesus Christ came with good news and the love of God. Muhammad came with flogging and executing. Christianity advances society forward. Islam drags society backwards.
Jesus forgives and heals. Muhammad flogged and killed.
In case the reader missed the link under the section "Hadith," above, Memri TV has a translated clip and transcript of a Muslim scholar on Qatar TV saying that homosexuals should be thrown off a cliff. In the "Hadith" section, above, Ibn Abbas, a highly respected transmitter of traditions, says that they should be thrown off a high point. And now we know where this modern scholar on TV gets this method of execution. It is breathtaking to watch Islam, old and modern, in action.
MEMRI TV has a video clip and a transcript of a Bahraini call-in TV talk show. The caller Adam says that he lives in Jerusalem and belongs to a gay and lesbian association of around 500 members. Society does not accept them, so they are driven to alcohol, another crime under Islamic law. The last cleric alleges that Adam is really a Jew and a prank caller.
MEMRI TV offers a video clip and a transcript of a Saudi cleric discussing the punishments for the crime of homosexuality: flogging, stoning, beheading, burning, and rolling guilty homosexuals down a mountain until they are killed.
MEMRI TV translates a video clip and a transcript of a Saudi sheik and university professor who says that the tsunami in December 2004 was the punishment of Allah for the crime of homosexuality.
MEMRI TV has a video clip and transcript of Sheik Yusouf al-Qaradhawi who made a commotion in London for opposing homosexuals and advocating wife beating. He says homosexuality should not be tolerated in society because it is a perversion. Of course, he blames the "Zionist lobby" for any persecution he believes that he suffered. This too is irrational.
This short article gives a rundown of human rights abuses of gays in various Islamic countries.
This email talks to a gay Muslim about the love of the true God. He loves and accepts everyone as they are, but loves them too much to leave them as they are.
This letter sketches out the history of repression of gays in Iran since the Revolution. Thousands have been executed. It also lists the types of punishments that the courts mete out. The list matches this study, so the Iranian judges know the Quran and hadith quite well.
This gay website links articles about sodomy laws in the Islamic world. Sometimes the linked articles conflict; that is, most are negative, but a few are positive.
This webpage at an Islamic site has thorough discussions of human sexuality. Of interest is the chapter "Islamic rulings" that outlines Islams harsh punishments. It is amazing that the author(s) can be so casual about early Islams punishments.
This Islamic webpage also provides a rundown of the punishments for various sexual "crimes" Of interest is 1.C, which says that Islam is not severe in its punishments. It also gives the standard line that without Islamic punishments, societies collapse, especially the corrupt West.
Though the following claim is heavily attacked by gay rights activists, here is a webpage discussing the drop of life expectancy for homosexual lifestyle.
Recently, a few courts in the US have ruled that homosexuals should be allowed to get married with all the rights appertaining to this institution. Some European nations allow this right already. This article does not address this controversy (though it is not hard to deduce where I come down on this issue). However, regardless of how this controversy plays out, this much is clear: members of the gay community should never be harassed or arrested for their own lifestyle practiced in their own homes. Laws regulating sexuality done in private overreach, though laws regulating marriage do not. Simply put, it is impossible to impose sexual holiness by law from the outside in. The difference is private v. public. Gays must be free to go their own way, even if they do not choose Christianity and spiritual cleansing or a sexually pure path. Christianity allows freedom of choiceto reject it or accept it. (Islam does not.) But gays must understand why Christians want laws protecting marriage, a public institution, ordained by God. Perhaps a compromise will be achieved.
Most importantly, here are some Christian responses to homosexuality, which help gays find healing: The testimony of Andrew Comiskey who founded Desert Streams Ministries, and the site Stonewall Revisited.
Articles by James Arlandson
Answering Islam Home Page