June 25, 2005
Islamic law is not gayBy James M. Arlandson
Traditional Muslims who understand the Quran and the hadith (reports of Muhammad's 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:
Simple and clear reason says that executing homosexuals is wrong, 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 radical Muslim understands the deeper, spiritual conflict—two religious systems are at work.
In its 1991 Constitution, Iran adopted the extreme punishment of execution for sodomy. Articles 108—113 say:
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.'
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 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 Muhammad's 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 prophet—Muhammad. Sura 7:80—81 and 84 reads:
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 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 A'La 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 wife's 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 Haleem's translation reads:
Does v. 15 refer to male—female sexual sin or to lesbianism? Does v. 15 refer to male—male sex? Commentators are divided. However, Haleem's translation of v. 16 says that if two men commit a lewd act, implying homosexuality, but this 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:
As to the women who commit illegal sexual intercourse, this translation reads the same way as Haleem's. 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 under abnormal circumstances. Maududi notes that after the prophet's death, the companions or his close followers never referred to these verses to adjudicate the crime of homosexuality (The Meaning of the Qur'an, 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. 15—that is, he does not say that they are lesbians—but the two men who commit lewd acts are homosexuals in v. 16 (In the Shade of the Qur'an, 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 misconduct—but 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 houses—house arrest in patriarchal Arab society—until 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 premarital 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
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 punished in the same way that theft and highway robbery are punished. This policy is misguided—despite 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 Muhammad's 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.
As noted above. the hadith are the reports of Muhammad's 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.
Muhammad's curse is so significant that it may carry eternal damnation—or 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, Muhammad's uncle and highly reliable transmitter of hadith:
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 man's daughter, who was fat, for an arranged marriage, when the Muslim army was trying or about to try to conquer the city of Ta'if in AD 630. The prophet replied: 'These (effeminate men) should never enter upon you (O women!),' in your houses. That is, Muhammad's 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 Muhammad's punishment of homosexuals: . . . 'If you find anyone doing as Lot's 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 Bukhari's 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 God's messenger [Muhammad] said: 'If you find anyone doing as Lot's 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:
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:
Mufti Madani's next citation says that convicted homosexuals should undergo this terrible punishment (cf. Maududi vol. 2, p. 52, note 68):
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 religion's 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; fiqh means the science of interpreting and applying this law, done by qualified Islamic judges and legal scholars. Over the first two centuries after Muhammad's 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 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 judge's discretion] punishment' (p. 118). So the punishment ranges from stoning to a judge's 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 the Hanifa school, 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). (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). Regardless of his marital status, then, someone who commits sodomy must be stoned—no mercy or extenuating circumstances.
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 judge's 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 Quran's 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 Qutb's 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 Qur'an, 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 that—a 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:
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 neighbor's 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:
The question is: should this harsh punishment be applied to today's 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 law's 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 sins—this 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 Muhammad's odd view that Christ never died on the cross, but a man took his place (Sura 4:157). Muhammad's belief is completely misguided. Christ's death is God's gift to us. We are saved and on our way to heaven, not based on our own works, but on Christ's 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.
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 prostitution. 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 saved—or cleansed from the inside out by the Holy Spirit—before they enter the kingdom of God. One day 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 story 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 that—a 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. Muhammad drags society backwards; Jesus moves society forward.
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 Lord's 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):
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 Baptist's message. In fact, Jesus alludes to John's 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 homosexual generally and even pederast and sodomite. 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 v. 15) 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 verse—one of many verses in the New Testament—must 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 Quran's and the hadith's 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 kill honosexuals 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 Quran's punishments are better than the New Testament's 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.
James M. Arlandson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 gets this method of execution. It is breathtaking to watch Islam, old and modern, in action.
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 Islam's harsh punishments. It is amazing that the author(s) can be so casual about early Islam's punishments.
This Islamic webpage also provides a rundown of the punishments for various sexual 'crimes' Of interest if 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.
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 choice—to reject it or accept it. But gays must understand why Christians want laws protecting marriage, a public institution, ordained by God. Perhaps a compromise will be achieved.