Does Islam Permit Homosexuality?

Homosexuality that means sexual or romantic attraction to the people of the same sex, has been a controversial issue to psychiatrists, since they have been expected to examine this sexual orientation and its relation to mental health. It has also caused controversy in the religious communities as they have been condemned for being narrow-minded due to their denial of this so-called natural and instinctive phenomenon. Here, we attempt to explore Islamic view on Homosexuality and explain the philosophy behind Islam’s objection to this matter.

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Homosexual Community: to Be Continued?

In the Quranic view, the family consists of a pair of male and female. This was indeed the basis of the creation of Adam and Eve. The couple who were the father and mother of the whole human race:

O mankind! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female, and made you nations and tribes that you may identify yourselves with one another.’ (49:13) [1].

Since family is of high importance in Islamic teachings, anything that damages this ‘Holy’ social unit is subject to criticism. Same-sex marriages contradict the law of creation which is based upon the continuation of the human race. Had homosexuality become popular, reproduction would stop.

It is also due to its social consequences that Islam warns us against homosexuality. A person once questioned Imam Sadeq (AS): “Why has Allah prohibited sodomy?”. The Imam (AS) replied: “Had sex with boys been lawful, the men would have become independent of women (and disinclined towards them) causing man's lineage to become terminated and natural heterosexual intercourse to come to an end, and this would have brought about great moral and social evils” [2].

The above narration explains that sodomy, or homosexuality, makes men needless of women sexually and vice versa! So the doer of sodomy no longer desires to marry the opposite sex. This is seen as a serious threat to the continuation of the human race. Since it is through the opposite-sex marriages that human race will continue.

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Homosexuality: In the Quran

Homosexuality is addressed in the Quran through a well-known story called the story of the ‘People of Lot’. This story is cited in the Quran seven times. And it shows the importance of these people and the acts that they were punished for. ‘People of Lot’ are known as a nation that was thoroughly destroyed by God owing to their lustful acts [3]:

"And Lot, when he said to his people,What! Do you commit an outrage none in the world ever committed before you?! Most surely you come to males in lust besides females; nay you are an extravagant people’"(7:80-81).

In the above verse, the Prophet Lot (PBUH) condemns his people for their sexual desires towards men instead of women. Elsewhere in the Quran, he recalls:

O my people, these are my daughters: they are purer for you. Be wary of Allah … Is there not a right-minded man among you?’ (11:78)

One of the important aspects of Lot’s story is their punishment. According to Islamic teachings, homosexuality is a sin greater than adultery. So its punishment is more severe.

It is also admitted in the Islamic narrations that when people commit sins that have not been committed before, their punishment will also be unprecedented. The Quran describes People of Lot’s chastisement and remarks that the whole nation was massacred except the Prophet Lot (PBUH) and his true followers:

O Lot, we are messengers of your Lord. They will never get at you. Set out with your family in a watch of the night; and none of you shall turn round, except your wife…..So when Our edict came, We made its topmost part its nethermost, and We rained on it stones of laminar shale’(11:82-83)

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Homosexuality: As a Mental Disorder?!

In today’s liberal societies people are educated the way that they perceive homosexuality as an 'inborn’ tendency and only a variation of human sexual orientation [4]. In other words, the fact that one is born either male or female does not say anything about his or her sexual orientation. They might be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender! (LGBT) or it may happen that they are sexually straight!

Homosexuality has caused the field of psychiatry such a controversy that even after decades of studies on the issue one single position cannot be found in their findings. Homosexuality used to be identified as a mental disorder for the most part of the 20th century. Even so, since 1970 there started a high scientific attempt to declassify homosexuality as a disorder. As a result of almost fifty years of attempts, we can see that since the late 20th-century homosexuality started to become legal in a few liberal countries (mainly Europe and America). And the same-sex marriages started to become recognized as a social norm. Yet, there are still studies that argue against prior studies. They state that there is a misconception as to the definition of homosexuality in some of the major studies on the issue. Meaning, in the definition of a homosexual person they included any person who had had a same-sex sexual experience as an adult. But, some of the subjects that were engaged in homosexual behavior were not even attracted to the people of their own sex. It is also suggested that ‘homosexual people are at a substantially higher risk for some forms of emotional problems. These include suicidality, major depression, and anxiety disorder’ [5].

Despite the current professional position on homosexuality, same-sex orientation is still understood as an immorality and as a rebellion against God by most nations and cultures throughout the world. The table of the LGBT rights according to different countries and territories is the evidence for this claim [6].

It has to be noted, however, that the fact that an individual has homosexual desires does not make him or her criminal according to Islamic law! This tendency is either a psychological or a physiological disorder that has to be cured. And as long as the person does not commit homosexual acts, he is not subject to any divine punishment.

Wrapping up

The aim of this article was to explore Islamic view on Homosexuality. We found that Islam objects to homosexuality for several reasons. Most importantly, Islam regards the same-sex union as a threat to the continuation of the human race. Also, since the family in Islam is seen as a holy unit and it consists of a male and a female, again homosexual orientation goes against Islamic values and teachings and threatens human survival.  We also examined if the same-sex sexual orientation is a disorder. Despite the high controversy of the issue, there is a kind of consensus that homosexual people are at a higher risk for emotional problems such as suicidality, major depression, and anxiety disorder.

To conclude, despite recent attempts of declassifying homosexuality as a disorder and the legitimization of the same sex union and marriages in some liberal societies, as statics show still the majority of countries and cultures understand homosexual acts as an immorality and as a rebellion against social norms and religions that threatens human survival.

References:

[1] Qari translation of the Quran, available at: http://tanzil.net/#trans/en.qarai/49:13

[2] Wasa`il ash-Shia, vol. 14, pg. 252.

[3] Qur’anic references to the People of Lot: 7:80–84, 11:77–83, 21:74, 22:43, 26:165–175, 27:56–59, and 29:27–33).

[4] Rizvi ,Sayyid Muhammad , Marriage and Moral in Islam, available at https://www.al-islam.org/marriage-and-morals-islam-sayyid-muhammad-rizvi/chapter-three-islamic-sexual-morality-2-its#c-homosexuality

[5] Bailey , J. Michael,  ‘Homosexuality and Mental Illness’, available at http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/205342

[6] See the chart at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_by_country_or_territory