were serial rapists, who drank heavily to fuel their crimes, attacked visitors in gangs, lusted after the power of angels, knew first hand of the God/dess but refused morality and cheated and lied and thieved. And raped. Raped. Over and over. In mobs.
Will religious leaders have you believe they were destroyed them for raping men instead of women? For an alleged sexual orientation? Are these “leaders” the depraved minds with whom you entrust your faith? The leaders who claim a beloved Prophet would offer his daughters to rapists?
I have incredible compassion for Prophet Lut. The circumstances through which his Prophethood was tried—interrogation and subjugation through rape—are described in the Qur’an itself as devices in a network of sins so horrendous they are unlike any crimes ever committed in the history of creation, and this is only among the sins the Qur’an dares to name. We also delivered Lut and he said to his people: “Do you commit lewdness such as no people in creation ever committed before you?” 7:80. It is for humanity through these ghastly trials that Lut is among those favored over the worlds (6:86).
Scholars miss the fact that the Qur’an alludes to other sins taking place in the city of Sodom that are so horrifying it is deemed best for humanity not to describe them, except to say that they were abominations. Instead, Muslims reduce the activity of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah to “consensual” sex between men, rather than to establishing a hierarchy via rape. This is because the story of Lut’s attempted redemption of his people is single-handedly a critique of patriarchy so embarrassing for patriarchal scholars that they are meekly left to resort to diverting attention to their homophobia instead in order to justify their bigoted, colonized beliefs.
To accomplish this, the male ulema offer a mendacious interpretation of the story of Lut: in what can only be described as a desecration of the Qur’an, your leaders gloss over the fact that all sexes in Sodom and Gomorrah are punished for having created and actively participated in a network of rape. They tactically remove verses from the context of subjugation via rape by hyperfocusing on verses that make any allusion to sex such as 7:81: “Do you approach the men lustfully besides the women; no, you are a people transgressing beyond bounds.” Subsequently what male scholars illegalize is not rape (because why would anyone want to do that), but same-sex intercourse.
But we use the Qur’an to explain itself, and the meaning of this line is elaborated in 26:165-166, which repeats and clarifies, “Do you approach the men of the world”—note here the reference to travel and travelers, which is important in the domination and subjugation of outsiders—“and leave what the God/dess has created of your mates?”— the additional sin of adultery in this gender-neutral use of mates rather than women, referring specifically to the spouses these men married already rather than women as a sex—“No. You are a people transgressing.” It is all of these sins combined—rape, subjugation, humiliation, xenophobia, adultery, and sexism—that comprise the horrific crimes of Sodom.
The Qur’an is very strategic in its delivery when recounting religious history. Any young girl reciting the Qur’an in her early childhood has a disorientating awareness that events are not only out of order but merging into each other. The story of Lut is told in parts over five to six surahs, and it is most notably interwoven with the story of Ibrahim (29:31-32). This is partly because Lut is the nephew of Ibrahim, as all Prophets were closely or very distantly related to one another, and partly because these interwoven stories inform each other. A significant commonality is that both Ibrahim and Lut deeply desired the presence of their children and had a hand in transforming the traditionally sacrificial roles of children.
Ibrahim, who interprets his dream calling him to sacrifice his son as being a vision from the God/dess, for the very first time requests his son’s consent to the sacrifice. This event and what follows—the declination of the sacrifice by the God/dess—marks the end of child sacrifice as a religious ritual in the tradition which Islam recites. Meanwhile Lut, in Sodom, is faced with rapists who are ready to break his door for access to his guests. Lut, whose daughters are grown and married, routinely expresses a profound loneliness. “Would that I had power to suppress you or that I could take refuge in strong support!” (11:80) Lut cries mournfully, because though he has Divine support he is yearning for the comfort of his family and specifically his daughters. He sounds at every turn of his devastation very much like a father who misses his daughters, a father who misses his children who have moved away.
It is why, when the rapists crowd outside of his home, wild in their intoxication (11:72) and in the habit of rape (11:78) and having heard that he has visitors, Lut claims quickly from his own wistfulness that it is not outsiders who have come to visit him, but his own daughters. The townspeople will not rape their own.
“These are my daughters. They are purer for you,” (11:78) Lut pleads urgently to the rapists attempting to force their way into his home, because the townspeople consider their own to be purer—and superior—to travelers. He submits to their logic in a vain attempt to reason with them.
Every exegete in history before me has interpreted 11:78, 15:71 to mean that Lut is offering his daughters to the rapists rather than suggesting to Sodom that it is his daughters who are his guests, not angels. But Lut’s daughters are never present in the text. They do not live with him and the Qur’an offers only ghostly references to them. What is happening is clear: far from offering his visibly absent daughters to rapists, Lut is attempting instead to convince the crowd that his guests behind the doors are his own daughters, not foreigners. His daughters do not reside with him; they belong to different houses. It is easy then that he passes them off/refers to them as visitors. “So fear the God/dess, and do not shame me in front of my guests!” he cries. In front of his daughters, whose shame in the eyes of the townspeople is worthy of considering. “Is there not among you a single right-minded man?” (11:78)
The rapists dismiss this notion. They would not be there if Lut were with his daughters. “We have no use of your daughters; you know what we want,” (11:79) they snarl back to him, and their disbelief that his daughters were visiting him adds to the misery of the situation. It is then that Lut resolves to sigh, “Would that I had power to suppress you or that I could betake myself to support,” (11:80) because he is, in fact, alone, without his daughters, the sole protector of his guests on this “distressful day” (11:77). His wife, quite evidently, is of no help.
Lut’s yearning for familial support is why, when the angel messengers reveal themselves to him, they order him to take his daughters and leave the city (11:81). His wife is to be left behind with the rest of the rapists, who are treated with showers of “brimstone, hard as clay, layer after layer” (11:82, 54:35). Lut’s people are not the only ones who have been destroyed for irreversible damage upon the earth. Prophet Shu’ayb warns, “And, oh, my people! Let not my dissent cause you to sin, lest you suffer the fate of the people of Noah or of Hud or of Salih, nor are the people of Lut far off from you!” (11:89) And yet it is only in this example of Lut that jurists attempt in vain to show homosexuality is a sin.
Yet the Qur’an describes over and over again the full extent of these crimes as patriarchal violations of the utmost malevolence. “Do you indeed approach men, and cut off the highway? And practice evil even in your councils?” (29:29) the verses read in outraged devastation, for the people of Sodom twisted an expression of love into a device of suppression, an act of inexcusable violence.
Analogous to soldiers weaponizing rape in war in order to subdue and interrogate the enemy as tools of sexual domination and humiliation, the crimes of Sodom were of married heterosexual men aggressively using their power over vulnerable populations—namely, those who were in a state of travelling, of temporarily being without homes and susceptible in this transitional state.
This is all of course misogyny: another, very violent example of woman-hating against which the Qur’an rails. Visitors, like prisoners in our contemporary colonizing systems, were raped to strip them of their masculinity, because that is how patriarchy works. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the wars in which xenophobes rape to subjugate the populations whose nations they’ve invaded… that is Sodom.
Your scholars will not admit this to you. They will imply to you instead without knowing, that Lut committed this very crime when he offered his daughters to rapists, slandering the purer actions of the Prophet against him. They will have you believe it was honorable of him. They will twist acts of love into violent weapons of war to justify their hatred. Nor are the people of Lut far off from you indeed.
17 thoughts on “The Rapists of Sodom”
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This is beautiful. Your insight is incredible; I truly think this exegesis will help all of those struggling with the seeming discord between what they feel is right and what they thought the Quran said (7:80-7:81 seemed like such an unanswerable condemnation! What could you say then? How to hold the two beliefs? I’ve read other posts that pointed out room for questioning the homophobic interpretation — they were a relief too — but this is the first truly convincing full recounting and interpretation of the story I’ve read) I’m going to work on growing brave enough to share this with my family — I want them to know the truth.
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Your exegesis is truly amazing, but I have a question. Verse 4:16 is usually interpreted as codemning ‘ immorality’ between two men. Or do you think it is not exclusively masculine? But hasn’t the matter of illicit heterosexual relations dealt with in 24:2?
Salaam ☺️ Thank you for your comment! I’m actually planning to address this is another post in June. But the brief version is that it is a regulation just as heterosexual relationships have regulations in the Qur’an.
Wailakum-salam! Thank you too! I’ll be waiting for your post. Actually, if you don’t mind I have another question, but related to your (another amazing) post on 4:25 and consent- related to the except part- which the last comment there also inquires about. If you can address that?
Yeah sure, I’ve been meaning to get to that and a couple of other comments. Sorry! I’m just behind on everything. Give me a couple of days. I will respond to the comment under that post.
No need to apologise. You’re already so kind as to answer questions and write posts, even though you’re really busy. 😄
Never heard it like this before. It’s refreshing to read your take on this. Really love it!
Hi so I hope you don’t take this the wrong way but: what is the point? I mean I guess because I’m an ex-Shia Muslim whose family tried to burn me alive when they found out I am bi so I’m biased. This doesn’t seem to be helping any LGBTQ person in the Muslim majority world or indeed Muslim families. What’s the point in trying to make these holy books less homophobic and genocidal than they are? Should our energy not go into documenting the crimes of Muslims against LGBTQ people and saving LGBTQ people in hostile situations rather than rehabilitating a homophobic faith system? I don’t know maybe that’s just me.
There’s room for everything. Hope you’re safe. <3
Hi, there’s a minor point I’d like to ask about. Two questions, actually. I was told that “my daughters” refers to the women of the the city, not literally Lot’s daughters, and as far as I know it’s the common idea. Did you ever come across that interpretation?
I mean… what kind of scholar seriously claims that a prophet offers his children to that mob? It’s seriously mind-boggling, but I need to know where that horror came from. Oh my God.
The claim of Lut offering his daughters seems to have come from 11:78, where it’s directly mentioned in scripture itself. This coupled with a literalist notion, likely probably spread the idea Lut was offering his daughters over to the mob (considering the patriarchal influences islam was exposed to in it’s crystallization to orthodoxy with the various madhabs), it makes a twisted kind of sense an interpretation like that would arise.
I don’t buy into this logic, mainly because if we do accept it, just like Nahida says, it would be basically admitting Lut offered his daughters to rapists and slandering him, and it would be allowing for the rape and mistreatment of women (because I can tell you for a fact that Lut’s daughters would want to be nowhere near the guys in the mob, considering they fled the city with Lut) just to uphold heteronormativity, which is…distasteful to put it mildly.
And on a last seperate note, even if we assume lut did in fact offer his daughters, he basically would have been guilty of facilitating the gang rape of his daughters (because numerically speaking, how could his daughters be married off to all of the men in the mob?).
In effect the idea that this offering of the daughters was a way for the men to “redeem” themselves is not only a toxic mess of heteronormativity in conflating rapists with LGBT individuals, its also horribly sexist in that it reduces luts daughters to the status of just existing for the sake of sating the mobs lust through a sham of a marrige, and is just generally disrespectful to Lut as a whole.
However, I’m basically paraphrasing what Nahida herself wrote in her same-sex love post and here, so I digress.
Thank you so much for tackling this issue Nahida. This blog post has been a particular refuge for me as I was growing up, as this, amongst a few other islamic books like as Scott Kugles, were brave enough to question the popular narrative of Sodom ( a narrative I feel is more entrenched in a fear of the other, homophobia and quite a bit of sexism considering how easily Lot’s daughters are turned into puppets Lot can simply whirl around to be married off to the men in the popular accounts, rather than any scriptural basis).
In a time when I badly needed answers other than the “it’s just a choice”, disgust or the regressive-disguised as progressive response of “it’s just a test let them stay celibate forever” (despite the fact that marriage between spouses in Islam is seen as something good to strive for no less!), or the frankly bizarre and unintelligible analogies to paraphilias common in most religious circles, you provided and answer that is not only detailed but also gave me a legitimate way of questioning the homophobic mainstream interpretation.
I thank you for having put so much time on this blog, and I hope that you may return to it someday. Jazakallah for everything.
I was wondering what about surah 2:222 doesn’t it forbid anal-sex?
This verse is about menstruation. Did you mean to reference a different one?