Same-Sex Love

Let’s talk about homosexuality, which my previous article does not. I actually don’t like the term “homosexuality,” and I prefer the title of this article, but I’m using the word here because I know you all are searching it when you’re looking for my legal opinions on this website.

No one, not even patriarchal scholars, will dispute that the story of Sodom involves rape. But there are two types of exegetes approaching the recitation: those who read the rape in Sodom as a primary sin, and those who read it as a secondary sin—secondary to the “sin” of same sex relations when projecting their agendas onto the Qur’an. The latter who identify rape in Sodom as a secondary sin are, quite frankly, self-invested and appalling in their implications. Aside from the moral depravity in downplaying how sinful rape is, a Muslim claiming that the story of Sodom is about same-sex relations and not rape is claiming that the Qur’an permits rape as long as it is the rape of women. They are free to state clearly that this is what they mean. They are also free to admit that according to their interpretation, all of the women punished in Sodom were punished because they, too, were commanded not to approach men and instead approach women, rendering their entire interpretation an advocacy of same-sex relationships.

The main verse commonly cited as “evidence” of the Qur’an’s supposed anti-LGBTQ position is 26:165-166 and its refrains (7:81, 29:29), and I want to take a moment to examine it here.

Do you approach males
among the worlds
and abandon what created for you
the God/dess of your spouses?
No! You are a people
transgressing.
—26:165-166

The verse is conveyed in an interesting structure. Rather than stating outright that the people of Sodom love/lust men besides women and that this is the transgression, the Qur’an asks a question. “Do you approach men lustfully besides women?” The recitation then proceeds to answer its question in the negative, affirming that the sin is (1) committed by heterosexual men and (2) rape, not homosexuality. This is consistent with the Qur’anic use of “bal”—“no!”: it is always to negate or correct a previously alleged belief. The sentiment in 26:165-166 is posed as a question, not a statement, and answered in the negative: the rapists of Sodom do not lust foreign men; rather, they subjugate them.

In other verses that adopt this question-answer structure, the translation often reads, “but rather/in fact”: And they said, “Our hearts are wrapped.” But, [in fact], Allah has cursed them for their disbelief, so little is it that they believe. 2:88. The distressed proclamation, “No!” (bal) both emphasizes the direness of a situation and negates its misdirection: they may believe their hearts are wrapped, but really they have been cursed. Take the very next instance it happens in the Qur’an: Is it not that every time they took a covenant, a portion of them discarded it? But, [in fact], most of them do not believe. 2:100. They did not take a true covenant because they had not in fact ever believed. It’s interesting then that translators have chosen to do the opposite in verses concerning the activities in Sodom, in which they’ve frequently chosen the affirmative i.e. “indeed.”

A correct translation of 26:165-166 is “Is it that you approach men lustfully besides women? No! But rather, you are a people transgressing.” It is not out of the human emotion of love or lust that Sodom sins. It is out of a greed for power. The answer that the Qur’an provides to its question corrects the belief that the surah is about homosexuality. It is about rape. The question-answer structure of these Qur’anic verses is routinely a mark of compassion from the God/dess, a gesture that S/he would negotiate and consider human complications in worship.

My disciple Misha and I will be co-writing a full exegesis regarding this in June. Until then—

You can claim same-sex love is an abomination all you want, but don’t pretend your bigotry is sourced from the Qur’an. You’ll have to look elsewhere to justify it. And you do. No one who has argued with me has ever successfully been able to stay Qur’an-focused and resist venturing into pseudoscientific articles to find “support.”

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The Rapists of Sodom

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.

Cruelty of “Acceptance”

When I was young (14-16), I’d witnessed straight male classmates make jokes to their bi and gay friends about how they better not hit on them. Since then, I’d seen other straight women do this too. The cruelty with which this “acceptance” was laced was so obvious to me. How is not immediate to someone how traumatizing and messed up this is to say to a person who’s already on edge about how they’re constantly sexualized and depicted as predatory or undesired. You all make me want to cry with how empathetically challenged you are. And that’s only secondhand. You don’t deserve those friends.

Expect children to assert themselves.

I quite enjoy children who talk back to me. Presenting a line of reasoning to a child or, as with my 15-year-old disciple, Misha (who will tell you she is an adult) considering her arguments about what I’ve written is an invaluable experience. I can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would want perfectly obedient children. It sounds so unbearably dull.

The concept of “don’t talk back” is also an insulting and bizarre one and, I might argue, kind of western. I won’t deny of course that some non-western cultures expect a degree of obedience, but my own mother, who always listened to reason, has never said anything so ludicrous as “don’t talk back to me”—whether in English or not.

The first time I’d heard of that phrase, in those words, was on television, and then from the parents of white friends, even though in both scenarios the child was saying something perfectly logical or otherwise clever or interesting. As a child then myself, I’d found the retort incredulous and confusing. If I’m being spoken to, why wouldn’t I respond?

If I ever do have children, I should be lucky if they were so observant and expressive. This is not of course to say that I dislike quiet, compliant children: children are people, and this post ultimately is not about what I do or don’t enjoy. It’s to say, rather, that children asserting themselves is a crucial component to being people.

I’m inclined to be argumentative myself (really, you didn’t know?), and when I’m close to someone, I enjoy debates that actually challenge me. At work as well, I typically find it thrilling to gather evidence for a case. And of course, to counter the arguments of a child. These are important to me, because I like to argue, and strangers and men are terrible at it.

In the absence of the Prophet, you are your best advisor.

In the shower, I nicked myself, on accident. I prefer to wax, so I hadn’t shaved my legs in a long time, since waxing is considerably more convenient. But having decided on laser hair removal for the benefit of silky smooth legs, I was no longer permitted to wax between sessions. I’d decided to handle a razor, and I stared in shower-trance at the soft tiny fuzz gathered between the blades, which the cascading water was not forceful enough to disengage. I swiped the hair off with a finger in a single swift motion–horizontally, in the direction the blades ran, rather than vertically, which would have unlocked them.

Since the blades were sharp, there was no pain to warn me, but my mind bolted alive at once, conscious of hitting the wrong note somewhere, of peculiar activity, of moving in a way I shouldn’t have. I stopped and pulled away before the blades penetrated too deeply. It looked like a neat cat scratch, from a very tiny cat; for a few seconds, I thought I had not broken skin, but I knew this could not be true. I waited. Sure enough, minuscule droplets of blood formed along the edges.

This wasn’t an ordinary shower. I had just finished menstruating: it was farz gusl. In any other circumstance, regardless, drawing blood would have invalidated the state of ritual purity. If I were frantic enough, I would have stopped the water, leapt out of the shower, thrown on a towel–or maybe even clothes–applied bandages in dismay, made sure give it a few minutes until I was certain the bleeding had stopped entirely, and sulked over whether I had destroyed everything before proceeding to redo everything I had undone. I know this woman. I receive emails from her all the time. I love her and wish her well. She even birthed me. And I am always pained by her self-deprecation, her perfectionism of faith… her unjustified guilt.

I used to preform the same prayers over and over, convinced I had done them wrong.

But there, in the shower, watching tiny droplets of blood form, I did not turn off the water, dry myself, and begin again from the first step. I pressed the finger to my lip to stop the bleeding. I thought of God and smiled and kissed it. I performed ablution, gave everything a final rinse, and stepped out of the shower. And then I prayed.

To the woman writing to me, asking whether she should bleach her clothes, her sofa, her bedsheets, everything she ever touched, love, you already know. There is a reason you are writing to me and not a sheikh. You will not allow yourself to hear the truth you have already told yourself. The reasonableness, the practicality, the compassion that you know is Islam–your heart is leading you to where you know it is reflected, and you have the answer already.