There are a number of passages in the Quran and ahadith addressing the topic of homosexuality. When these texts are considered, Islam goes beyond only disapproving homosexuality (1). On a first note, it is clear that the Quran condemns homosexual relations,
“Do you approach males among the worlds And leave what your Lord has created for you as mates? But you are a people transgressing.” (26: 165-166)
The Quran borrows the story of Sodom and Gemorrah from the Hebrew Bible. In this narrative God destroys the city via a shower of brimstone due to his anger against its inhabitants because of their engagement in lustful carnal acts between men,
“For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds…. And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone)” (7:80-84).
This story was of significance to the prophet Muhammad as it repeated elsewhere in the Quran (15:74; 27:58; 29:40) and all of which affirm that homosexual relations are against God’s will. Allah created man and woman for each other (26:165-166). Surah 4:15 provides another possible allusion to homosexual relations:
“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 alone—God is ready to accept repentance from those who do evil out of ignorance and soon afterwards repent: these are the ones God will forgive.”
It is debatable, however, if this surah refers to homosexual behaviour given its ambiguity, and it obviously matters what is meant by “lewd acts.” Some Quranic exegetes have argued that this surah does refer to homosexual behaviour and others argue that it does not. It is clear, moreover, that the Quran condemns homosexual behaviour although it does nowhere provide a concise plan of action for the Muslim community and how they should deal with those found guilty of committing the sin. Muslims thus turn to the ahadith (the sayings and deeds of the prophet Muhammad penned by Muslims after his life) which provide practical foundations for dealing with homosexual relations.
According to Sahih al-Bukhari the prophet Muhammad cursed effeminate men and masculine women (72:774). It is not clear, however, if these men and women were homosexuals. Other hadith are more clear. Sunan Abu Dawud condemns homosexual practices (31:4007), and homosexuals are to be executed and stoned to death (38: 4448). Hadith al-Tirmidhi also outlines execution for people who act in the same way to those in Sodom and Gemorrah (1:152), and the Mishkhat al-Masabih hadith collection prescribes burning to death and throwing heavy objects on homosexuals (Mishkat, vol. 1, p. 765). Thus, numerous predominantly Islamic nations (Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria etc.) apply Sharia law, the laws derived from the ahadith literature. These nations prescribe the punishment of death for homosexual activity is punishable by death, and if those found guilty are not killed they will be handed a lengthy jail sentence (2).
1. Ali, K. 2006. Sexual Ethics & Islam. p. 90.
2. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. Lesbian and Gay Rights in the World. Available.