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Prophet Lut (a.s.) and Bal بل : The Nahida S. Nisa Tafsir

as understood by Mehedi A. Ali. Note: As of July 2021, The WordPress article is updated, but the PDF is an old, incomplete draft.

Introduction and Methodology

Nahida S. Nisa, writer and exegete, has readily accepted the invitation from the Quran itself, to study It. Her work uncovered that Lut (a.s). clarifies homosexuality was not the sin of his townsfolk first and foremost in explicit Qur’an verses. This Qur’an-centric argument, staying true to Arabic grammar as its primary strength, is fortified by supporting context, and tested for consistency with all other remaining verses of the scripture through a semantic and thematic analysis. It was veiled only to those who did not allow the Qur’an to speak for itself but permitted egregious and excessive insertions unscreened by relevant verses, subthemes, and the entire Book. As a result, revisionist theories and misguided interpretation were forced into the verses.

Because the message of Lut (a.s.) can be applied to real world events, such events can be referenced for better understanding. I aim to minimize this here because the focus is to stay Qur’an-centric, so examples are brief. Links for further reading are provided to the reader to pursue at their own discretion. Classical and modern Arabic dictionaries and popular English translations are used to study the verses, not to introduce bold, non-Qur’anic details of the narrative.

Ironically, there might be a litany of accusations of “twisting verses to suit desires,” a common agitated projection by deniers, as opposed to sincere disagreement. Again, this presentation of the Nahida S. Nisa tafsir does not lean on such unwarranted insertions for such accusations. The argument and methodology is presented; now Allah SWT allows the understanding of it to those sincere.

بل  “bal”

بل “Bal” is a retractive particle of digression; traditional scholars have glossed over it when interpreting the three pairs of verses (26:165-166), (27:54-55), and (7:80-81) which traditional scholars claim as solid proof that homosexuality is a sin. The role of this word—“bal”—is extremely crucial and its significance cannot be understated in those three pairs, and throughout the Qur’an in other verses beyond Prophet Lut (a.s). It is critical that this is established.

We find later, that only in 29:28-29 the charge of “committing an immorality no nation preceding you has done” along with the descriptors of an “immorality,” “transgression,” and “exceeding” behavior referenced repeatedly is finally described in detail and associated with that charge and its characterizations. This place in the verse is the only time Lut’s (a.s) townsfolk’s reply is provided. We address the role of بل “bal” in the first three pairs, followed by 29:28-29. A few examples solidifying its function in other places in the Qur’an are also provided. This is to illustrate the role it plays outside of Lut’s (a.s.) story and to confirm dictionary definitions. It consistently performs the exact same role over one hundred times in the Book. It is highly recommended that one become familiar with verses regarding Lut’s (a.s.) story for better context before continuing. They can be accessed at the Alphabetical Index of the Holy Qur’an by Syed Ammar Shah.[1]

I am not affiliated with any references in this argument and may not share the views of the sources.

1. Role of Bal and the Two-Part Format: To Clarify Misconceptions

Edward Lane Lexicon                           

Edward Lane Lexicon – “bal”. See Appendix for full entry.

Lane defines بل “bal” as a particle of digression in great length. We see it is used in the Qur’an for pairs of opposing verses, or a verse with two opposing thoughts, to negate or amend the preceding misconception or false idea presented in the first part, and then correcting it in the second part. The Book is replete with numerous examples that follow this basic structure:

1) The first part features a misconception, or an incorrect thought, or idea.

2) It is then followed with a contrasting statement, affirmed by بل “bal”, which disavows and amends the preceding erroneous idea.

Lane, Penrise and Omar provide very helpful and detailed entries in their respective works by defining its role rather than just providing synonyms. Their definitions are confirmed repeatedly (six more times) in other, more concise works cited. Edward Lane’s work is by far the grandest endeavor undertaken, and his full, detail-rich entry of the word can be found in a cleaner text version in the Appendices. The works of Penrise, Omar, Wright, Wehr, Wortabet, Haywood, Steingass, and Al-Mawrid displayed throughout are all immense in their own right as well. Any highlights, underlines, italicize, and bolding of dictionary entries and English translations of the Qur’an is of my emphasis for illustrative purposes only unless noted otherwise. In the PDF, translations will either be blue text, or have a blue main heading for sections with many translations within the body .          

Penrise       

                                                                             

Abdul Mannan Omar 

In English translations بل “bal” is often translated as “Rather”, “But rather” or “No/Nay, but rather” and so on to negate, and then correct to prevent misdirection. Since the word doesn’t exactly translate to “no” but does serve to negate and clarify in a two-part format, it is also often translated simply “no” or “nay” in English. Because it simultaneously affirms the truth of what comes after, sometimes the fifth or sixth synonym listed is “certainly” or the more archaic “verily” in some entries. However that alone is underwhelming because without provided explanation or Qur’anic context, the negation is not always clear; rather, it would appear to confirm what came previously, which is incorrect. Or, as seen in Steingass’ entry, “sometimes” which neither registers as total negation or even the incorrect affirmation, albeit it comes last in his list after the more accurate renditions. This is why seeking its role in the Qur’an is tackled next for consistent patterns after reviewing other works. Any word or phrase that only verifies the latter but does not force the reader’s attention into noticing the departure from what came before is not grasping the word’s true power.

In general, it seems that the English phrase “But on the contrary” best encapsulates the meaning. That exact phrase is included in the definitions provided by Wright, Wortabet, Omar, as well as Steingass, and correctly adheres to the description provided by Lane, Penrise, and Omar, and how the Qur’an utilizes it every time. For example The Sahih International translation example below uses “on the contrary” to reinforce “but” on at least one occasion in brackets, and “but” solely is used in the other. Exact English translations may vary depending on the grammar and structure of the sentence.[2] No matter what exact word or phrase is chosen, it should capture the essence.

Three of MANY Examples of Qur’anic Usage of بل “bal”

The Qur’an verifies the meaning of this word and confirms the definitions when we look at how it is used in context. The idea is introduced in the preceding verse:

Qur’an 21:43 – Or do they have gods to defend them other than Us? They are unable [even] to help themselves, nor can they be protected from Us. (Sahih International)

Then this is negated with بل “bal” and continues with the contrast provided:

But, [on the contrary], (Arabic: بل bal) We have provided good things for these [disbelievers] and their fathers until life was prolonged for them. Then do they not see that We set upon the land, reducing it from its borders? So it is they who will overcome?  Sahih International (21:44)

Here it is clarified that despite their shortcomings, their lives have been prolonged and with good tidings even though Allah is capable and might be expected to decrease their protection or good tidings. “On the contrary” is provided in brackets to assist translation. Here is another example; this time they are within single verses with two opposing thoughts.

they say, “You, [O Muhammad], are but an inventor [of lies].” But (Arabic: بل bal)most of them do not know.  Sahih International 16:101 (part)

Or do they say, “In him is madness?” Rather (Arabic: بل  bal), he brought them the truth, but most of them, to the truth, are averse. Sahih International (23:70)

بل “bal” is used here to negate the preceding idea by saying the disbelieving accusers are not aware of the truth, rectifying the false notion of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ being a liar. Obviously if we had inserted “certainly” or “verily” one could see the negation but this is despite the word, not because of it. It is not as apparent elsewhere, so we will maintain “but on the contrary”.

And lastly, as my personal favorite, this deserves a block quote.

They say, “Allah has taken a son.” Exalted is He! Rather (Arabic: بل  bal), to Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth. All are devoutly obedient to Him

Quran 2:116

Prefixed Interrogative Alif

The prefixed interrogative alif is used at the beginning of Qur’an 26:1655; 27:54; and 29:28-9. Source: Free Comprehensive Resource of Arabic Grammar © Hani Deek 2005-2018

As we begin to look at the verses in question, it is helpful to note that some of these verses start with a prefixed interrogative alif. Much like the French phrase “est-ce que” (is it that/is it true that?) which is also used to form certain questions, this particle of interrogation literally translates to “is it true that…?”.[3] Because it seems the flow in English becomes a bit awkward when forming sentences in that manner, it is sometimes translated in English as “do you?”

However, “do you?” in English is more general and does not seek that level of specificity as the literal translation (“Is it that?”). For better emphasis, the phrase “Do you actually”, “Do you truly”, Do you really?might be more suitable. Regardless, the point being made with بل “bal” can still be seen. Inserting the more accurate “is it that” on the other hand truly shows how complementary it is with “but on the contrary” in the original Arabic.

2. Lut (a.s.) And the Two Misconceptions

As we see in the Qur’anic examples above, what may be perceived on the surface is not so. There are two misconceptions being addressed in regard to what the townsfolk of Lut a.s. used to do with newcomers that passed by their town. One is of adultery, the other is of homosexuality.

Misconception: Is this adultery?

Verses 26:165-166

Do you approach males among the worlds –

And leave what your Lord has created for you as mates? But (Arabic: بل  bal) you are a people transgressing.”

As stated here the people of Lut a.s have spouses (azwaj) that they are leaving aside. (This will be addressed again when Lut’s (a.s.) daughters are discussed toward the end). The misconception here is that adultery is being committed. Although on the surface we see that a sexual act is being performed outside of wedlock, directed towards to travelers from other regions (“from among the worlds”) passing through, this misconception is corrected by saying بل bal , or “but on the contrary” their crime transgresses the aforementioned adultery (which requires at least two consensual partners) to that of something else. That risk of associating the two is thrown out. The next one to address is homosexuality. There is a danger of conflating their crime to homosexuality, since their victims are passersby who are men. Multiple popular translations are provided by Qur’an Corpus.

Source: Haywood, J. A. and H. M. Nahmad. “بل” in A new Arabic grammar. https://www.ghazali.org/books/haywood-65.pdf

Misconception: Is this Homosexuality?

Verses 27:54-55

Sahih International: And [mention] Lot, when he said to his people, “Do you commit immorality while you are seeing?

The misconception is paired with ↓↓ clarification. Key words italicized or bolded.

Sahih International: Do you indeed approach men with desire instead of women? Rather, you are a people behaving ignorantly.

Pickthall: Must ye needs lust after men instead of women? Nay, but ye are folk who act senselessly.

Yusuf Ali: Would ye really approach men in your lusts rather than women? Nay, ye are a people (grossly) ignorant!

Shakir: What! do you indeed approach men lustfully rather than women? Nay, you are a people who act ignorantly.

Muhammad Sarwar: Do you have carnal relations with men rather than women? You are ignorant people”.

Mohsin Khan: “Do you approach men in your lusts rather than women? Nay, but you are a people who behave senselessly.”

Arberry: What, do you approach men lustfully instead of women? No, you are a people that are ignorant.’

For the average reader that has the concept of homosexuality being a sin well-engrained in their mind, there is a risk of an unintentional “reading-into” the Qur’an, therefore the distinction here will be quite difficult to notice. The retractive particle will simply be passed over (it does not even factor into Sarwar’s translation!), even though it creates a hiccup in the flow of the verse if homosexuality is the sin being referred to. Translating the Qur’an is a mammoth task which deserves appreciation, but sometimes preconceived notions are a worse barrier than a lackluster translation. In reality, the verse is actually saying the opposite of what most people believe.

Perhaps Shakir’s and Mohsin Khan’s rendering of 27:55 really convey that distinction best – while the people are indeed “acting ignorantly”, that characteristic is disassociated lusting for men rather than women:

“What! do you indeed approach men lustfully rather than women? Nay, (Arabic: بل  bal) you are a people who act ignorantly. (Shakir)

“Do you approach men in your lusts rather than women? Nay, but (Arabic: بل  bal) you are a people who behave senselessly.” (Mohsin Khan)

It can be discerned with more clarity if again we see the complementary role played with بل “bal” (But on the contrary) when the prefixed interrogative alif is read as literally as “Is it that?” Shakir translates it as “do you indeed” which is closer to the literal meaning. “Would ye really?” from Yusuf Ali comes close too.

Mohsin Khan on the other hand does a slightly better job at translating بل “bal” as “Nay, but” rather than just “Nay”. Though this apparently is not as strong as “but/no, on the contrary” to best fit Lane’s, Penrise’s, and Omar’s description of the role in amending whatever was previously expressed, which is how the Qur’an employs it; readers tend to miss it.  Combining their translations with their strong points would paint a better picture. Ideally, the translation of this verse would read better as,

Is it that (pref. int. alif) you [really] approach men in your lusts rather than women? On the contrary (Arabic: بل  bal) you are a people who act senselessly.”

Verses 7:80-81

And [We had sent] Lot when he said to his people, “Do you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds?

Now comes the misconception paired with clarification in the same verse.

Sahih International: Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people.”

Pickthall: Lo! ye come with lust unto men instead of women. Nay, but ye are wanton folk.

Yusuf Ali: “For ye practise your lusts on men in preference to women : ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.”

Shakir: Most surely you come to males in lust besides females; nay you are an extravagant people.

Muhammad Sarwar: You engage in lustful activities with people instead of women. You have become transgressing people.

Mohsin Khan: “Verily, you practise your lusts on men instead of women. Nay, but you are a people transgressing beyond bounds (by committing great sins).”

Arberry: See, you approach men lustfully instead of women; no, you are a people that do exceed.

This pair is usually the one of the three that is most often cited. This variant being written in the affirmative makes no difference in the false notion being debunked. Our good friend Lane writes (bolded for emphasis),

 …and if preceded by a command or an affirmation, (Mughnee, Ḳ,) as in..[Beat thou Zeyd: no, ʼAmr]….and [Zeyd stood: no, ʼAmr], or…[Thy brother came to me: no, thy father], it makes what precedes it to be as though nothing were said respecting it…and similar to these cases is the case in which it is preceded by an interrogation.

Lane Lexicon: بل  “bal”

This brand new immorality that the town is being known for which to the clueless person looks like homosexuality due to the misleading optics of the situation. To say that this town en masse invented homosexuality, a trait is less frequent than heterosexuality among individuals, would be bizzare. Here Lut a.s. confirms the difference between homosexual disposition and a male-on-male act, which can be done by married heterosexual men (26:165). Because Surah 26 specifies “males of the worlds” and “azwaj”, this dispels the notion of homosexuality and adultery with travelers simultaneously. If this was unaccounted for and were considered generalized terms, it is dismissed by بل “bal” regardless. This time Mohsin Khan does a good translation, but Arberry’s seems to convey it the best of the bunch:

“See, you approach men lustfully instead of women; no, (Arabic: بل  bal) you are a people that do exceed.” (Arberry 7:81)

While the act in and of itself is there as with acts of infidelity, the intention is something altogether, “exceeding” what constitutes the aforementioned notion. Here بل “bal” corrects the conflation, and explains that what they do goes beyond the realm of that.

 If there was any doubt, the Surah 27 pair explicitly reinforces the argument. This is why related Qur’an verses have to be accounted for in totality and not read in isolation. More explicit ones will define the implicit ones to narrow down interpretations in verses of the same story, larger themes, and the entire Book.

RECAP

The two motives that appear on the surface (but are not so) here are:

  1. Approaching travelers and leaving spouses ≠ adultery
  2. Approaching men and leaving aside women ≠ homosexuality

Although 26:165 uses the word “males” it is referring to a specific party (the travelers) rather than gender, as this description is linked to “of the worlds”, not local males within the town. This is a critical detail which we will see again in 29:28-29. Had the identifying descriptor been “travelers” instead of “males”, the point of the verse (question of adultery) would be intact, as it specifically refers to leaving aside spouses. When 54:37 later on summarizes the mob incident, Lut’s (a.s.) visitors are simply referred to as “guests” rather than making it a point they are men.

Rather, it is the other set of verses (7:80-81; 27:54-55) that deals with the question of homosexuality as now they are asked about generally leaving aside women for men (travelers or otherwise), and not the spouses they are bound to by the institution of marriage in 26:165-166. The ‘transgressing’ and ‘excessive’ attributes are beyond the realm of what constitutes adultery and homosexuality.

To be clear, the misconception to be clarified is not that the people of Lut (a.s.) think they haven’t done any wrong and that he is pointing out new information to prove otherwise. They already know what they are doing is wrong despite having open eyes, as kufr has veiled them. He has already told them to desist many times before. The Qur’an points out that they have done this in the past, and also Allah SWT does not destroy a community without several warnings.

The next section clarifies through Qur’an 29:28-9, written in the affirmative, shows us what exactly is going on, if not adultery or homosexuality. And here “approaching men” is listed without “besides women”, and instead is linked to a criminal process featuring no retractive particle this time, which is the key difference in its structure when compared to Qur’an 7:80-1

Source: Wortabet; “بل”, in Wortabet’s Arabic English Dictionary 1984 4th ed http://www.ghazali.org/books/wortbat-porter-4thed.pdf

3. The Actual CRIME of 29:29

Sahih International 29:28: And [mention] Lot, when he said to his people, “Indeed, you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds.

This time, there is no بل “bal”in the next verse as this is no misconception.

Sahih International: Indeed, you approach men and obstruct the road and commit in your meetings [every] evil.” And the answer of his people was not but they said, “Bring us the punishment of Allah , if you should be of the truthful.”

Pickthall: For come ye not in unto males, and cut ye not the road (for travellers), and commit ye not abomination in your meetings? But the answer of his folk was only that they said: Bring Allah’s doom upon us if thou art a truthteller!

Yusuf Ali: “Do ye indeed approach men, and cut off the highway?- and practise wickedness (even) in your councils?” But his people gave no answer but this: they said: “Bring us the Wrath of Allah if thou tellest the truth.”

Shakir: What! do you come to the males and commit robbery on the highway, and you commit evil deeds in your assemblies? But nothing was the answer of his people except that they said: Bring on us Allah’s punishment, if you are one of the truthful.

Muhammad Sarwar: Do you engage in carnal relations with men, rob the travellers, and commit evil in your gatherings? His people had no answer but to say, “Bring upon us the torment of God if you are truthful”.

Mohsin Khan: “Verily, you do sodomy with men, and rob the wayfarer (travellers, etc.)! and practise Al-Munkar (disbelief and polytheism and every kind of evil wicked deed) in your meetings.” But his people gave no answer except, that they said: “Bring Allah’s Torment upon us if you are one of the truthful.”

Arberry: What, do you approach men, and cut the way, and commit in your assembly dishonour?’ But the only answer of his people was that they said, ‘Then bring us the chastisement of God, if thou speakest truly.’

The Conjunction “Wa”

The acts being described here are sequential and associated with each other as a larger collective crime, and not totally isolated actions that are separated by time or intent. It becomes clear that his people ambush the traveling males, which would in fact quite literally interrupt the path they travel on, and subjugation would have to be done in large numbers (a gathering of the town) to project the superior force required to dominate. These are being carried out in quick succession.

 In Joseph A. Islam’s article, “Does the Qur’an Really Sanction Beating of Wives”, he discusses that it does not with a more accurate rendering of the Arabic word, ‘idribohunna’.[4] Here he explains the function of  “wa” in verse 4:34 where corrective steps are listed, with his emphasis:

 “the Arabic word ‘wa’ does not necessarily indicate a separation in time but an action that can be performed simultaneously or indeed in a relatively short sequence (not separated by any significant time spans).”

Joseph A. Islam, Quransmessage.com.

In another article, “The Seven Oft-Repeated”, J. Islam explains the meaning of the phrase “saba’an minal-mathani” (the namesake of the article) that is associated with the Qur’an, and discusses whether it refers to seven or a multiplicity of verses (several) that is not separate from the Qur’an itself.[5] Here, he writes again about how the Qur’an employs “wa”:

Some Muslims understand the conjunction ‘wa’ (and) as an indication to imply something separate from the main Qur’an. Such an assertion takes little account of the Qur’anic style of dialogue which clearly uses the conjunction ‘wa’ in different ways….

….Not only is ‘wa’ used in the Qur’an to denote something separate or additional, it is also used to elucidate an existing statement by defining it or clarifying it.

For example, in the following verse, we note:

055:068

‘In both of them (are) fruits (Arabic: fakihatun) and (wa) date-palms and (wa) pomegranates’.

Here the conjunction ‘wa’ (and) when used with date-palms and pomegranates only clarifies the ‘fruits’ and is not read as separate from the category of fruits (fakihatun)”.

Joseph A. Islam, Quransmessage.com.

If this variant was applied, then “approaching men” would also entail cutting off the highway (to ambush and trap), and to do evil to them, in one swoop. It is a tactic in part of the grander effort, the “immorality no one else has done” in the previous verse, to ambush and gang rape victims, close the escape route, and overpower them with superior numbers in a large group, altogether constituting in “approaching men” to commit “the immorality none preceded with”. The fact that the township is on an established route (Qur’an 15:76) means they could have laid in waiting for new victims. This sinister communal crime, done altogether, is indeed something “no nation has preceded you with.”

The Charge is Made, and the Accused Answer

Sahih International 29:29: Indeed, you approach men and obstruct the road and commit in your meetings [every] evil.”

  • Notice here“besides women” is no longer the issue in a more detailed verse explaining the crime, and is now immediately associated with cutting the path and evil in groups.
  • This malicious act of “approaching men” et cetera with the complete picture, is quite different from the “men besides women” that one may feel out of their innate disposition, that of which was listed alone in the other verses and subsequently nullified with بل “bal”.
  • Furthermore, indeed links these two together and is not contrasted like in the Surah 7 pair as there is no بل “bal” here. That is the key difference between the set-up in the Surah 29 and Surah 7 pairs: “Approaching men besides women” has been filtered out in the Surah 7 pair, which is accentuated by the Surah 27 pair.

“Is it that you’re actually doing this…?”

Now, it is asking if they are actually (indeed) considering this with the interrogative alif and “indeed” combination in the 29th, because there is no more retraction بل “bal” where the crime is specified. Just like in 7:80-1, “indeed” in the 29th refers back to the charge in the previous verse, the “immorality as no one  has preceded you with from among the worlds” but with no cancellation this time.

Now it’s a statement or exclamation of incredulity and confirmation. It would be akin to “Is it that you’re actually doing this?!” This fits the overall incredulous tone well especially when he asks them if they “…commit immorality while you are seeing?” (Qur’an 27:54). It points out the madness of doing something of this nature especially while sober and perceptive. The only “khamr” here blinding their judgement is the sheer intoxication of their kufr which drove them to act madly, so much so that Allah (SWT) swore by Muhammad’s ﷺ life.  This is the new immorality no one has done before them. The act is confirmed and comes with an explanation that needs no correction.

Notably this is also the only time the charge receives a challenge from the criminals. They mocked or challenged him to bring Allah’s punishment, essentially affirming the charge with “Go ahead and stop us”.

Source: Dr. Rohi Baalbaki. “بل”, in Al Mawrid: A Modern Arabic-English. 1995 7th ed. https://archive.org/details/AlMawridAModernArabicEnglishDictionary/page/n243/mode/2up

Why بل “bal” Was Necessary: Not Knowing Components Spurs Damaging Conflation

Sadly rape, even in recent times in many Muslim countries, has been reduced to adultery – an outrageous comparison. Punishments are meted out to rape victims that are typically associated with adultery (i.e.  flogging, stoning).  Similarly, homosexuality has also been attributed to Lut’s (a.s.) community, which is also crudely reductionist and thus wildly inaccurate as is equating adultery to rape. This is done because extremely pertinent nuance between all these actions are unjustly stripped away and reduced to make damaging conflations.

This is what happens when all context is devoid and such things are not discussed or challenged in traditional and conservative societies. These two misconceptions continue to this day, which could explain why of the three components listed in 29:29, it is explained that the first component (approaching the male travelers) that exceeds beyond the limits of lusting for males besides the females (7:80-81; 27:54-55) and of course  transgressed beyond leaving the spouse for an extramarital sexual act (26:165-166) to cover all bases.  It is بل “bal” that takes the two main misleading interpretations being read into the Qur’an and puts a cap on it, and allows the rest of the story to provide the context for what is happening, unhindered.

What appears on the surface is not so, and important distinctions need to be made. Similar to that of 7:80-81 which states the literal act with a retractive particle to clarify, note how the format of this excerpt from a news article regarding a case from Pakistan has a qualifier to explain what happened.[6] Emphasis added:

“Furthermore, he said, in accusing her brother-in-law of raping her, Ms. Zafran had confessed to her crime.

‘The lady stated before this court that, yes, she had committed sexual intercourse, but with the brother of her husband,’ Judge Khan said. ‘This left no option to the court but to impose the highest penalty.’”

The court fails to recognize this extra-marital sexual contact is rape, as readers do when they read verses typically believed  to condemn homosexuality in the Qur’an. Zafran Bibi clarifying that it was rape seems to have no bearing here, sadly. It is still clearly expressed that she “confessed” to a crime.

For the matter of sexual orientation especially this leads to further nonsensical comparisons to bestiality, necrophilia, incest, being prone to anger or inclining to theft, and conjecture about afflictions affecting LGBT people.

Misconceptions or conflations occur when two things have a superficial component in common, and are thus erroneously lumped together based upon that component due to shallow understanding – like apples and oranges on the basis of being fruit. You have to know the composition, constitution, the elements, etc. of what you’re talking about in order to firmly oppose or endorse an idea, and to prevent conflations and conjecture originating from those misconceptions. This is why fallacious positions comparing incest and whatnot arise. In other words, you need to recognize the scope, or upper and lower limits of it.

Rape is not on the extreme limits or same scale or trajectory as sexual orientation, gay or straight. Despite being a sexual ACT (which is the culprit for the conflation), it is not as if rape is on the same ladder of a sexual orientation, but on a different rung. It is a different beast entirely. This is why the Quran constantly says it is “exceeding [limits]” and “transgressing [bounds]”. When traditional Muslims read “exceeds” or “transgresses” they do not realize it refers to what was literally stated in the text beforehand, of homosexual inclination and the lust associated with it, and adultery, and instead think it refers to an imaginary line drawn in the Quran somewhere, when no ban on homosexuality is found elsewhere to support their view. Ask them, “Transgressing WHAT? Exceeding WHAT?”

Source: Wright. “بل”, in A Grammar of the Arabic Language 1896 3rd Ed. http://www.ghazali.org/arabic/WrightArabicGrammarVol1.pdf

Synopsis

Qur’an verses 29:28-9 reveal the larger scope and scale of the crime being committed. Foreigners who pass by the town are “approached”, the pathway is simultaneously blocked off, and “evil” is then committed in the gatherings, which based on the power being projected here [through superior strength in numbers of the townspeople], appears to be an ambush with the intent of gang rape directed towards unsuspecting travelers. This “evil” is related to the “immorality” and “ignorant/senseless behavior” inquired about in the verses where homosexuality is dismissed and an “exceeding” transgression is attributed to them. This is an act that no nation preceding them had done, and is highly unlikely to refer to accepting homosexuality as an invented practice of the townspeople in all of humanity.

Moreover, rape is a crime that requires power to subdue the victim, and can happen to either men or women and is reprehensible either way, regardless of the genders of victims or perpetrators. It is also very plausible that you would need a large gathering to “cut-off the path” as well. These three are occurring in continuum. They are not an isolated list of faults occurring out of sequence. These three, altogether, share the characterization of “indeed, committing an act no one has done” provided in the preceding verse, 29:28, shown below and therefore are grouped together in a sequence.

      ‘Immorality no one before them has done’

Source: Wehr Hans, and J Milton Cowan, ed. 1976; “بل”, in A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, Spoken Language Services Inc. http://www.ghazali.org/books/wehr-cowan-76.pdf

4. Additional Qur’anic Context

Power Projection and Lut’s Fear

Additional Qur’anic context paints the picture. A coercive crime such as sexual assault or rape requires power to subdue the victim by overriding their ability to resist. One way to project strength or power is through numbers. It appears that most of the townspeople were involved in this crime, and 29:29 indicates that this was done in gatherings which again, may be needed to effectively cut the path as well as forcefully subdue the travelers.

Furthermore, Lut a.s. himself wishes for more power to resist his townspeople. It becomes abundantly clear that these are not a bunch of curious gay lovers inquiring all at once at his doorstep to whom one would offer to reacquaint with wives as an alternative, or general women to marry and/or rape to prioritize fighting casual homosexuality.

Sahih International: He said, “If only I had against you some power or could take refuge in a strong support.” (11:80)

The above sentiment can be expressed by anyone in an oppressed or compromised state. They had also warned him from providing any sort of relief or even association with travelers in the past in Qur’an 15:70. Translations vary. Note Sahih International and Mohsin Khan especially hint at protection, which appropriately fits the context of a threat.

Sahih International: They said, “Have we not forbidden you from [protecting] people?

Pickthall: They said; Have we not forbidden you from (entertaining) anyone?

Yusuf Ali: They said: “Did we not forbid thee (to speak) for all and sundry?”

Mohsin Khan: They (people of the city) said: “Did we not forbid you to entertain (or protect) any of the ‘Alamin (people, foreigners, strangers, etc. from us)?”

Before Lut a.s. is informed by his guests that they are in fact angelic messengers (Qur’an 11:81) ready to smite the aggressors into the pages of history, he grieves at the sight of newcomers; his townspeople have done fearful acts in the past that would violate their safety.

Qur’an 29:33 : And when Our messengers came to Lot,he was distressed for them and felt for them great discomfort. They said, “Fear not, nor grieve. Indeed, we will save you and your family, except your wife; she is to be of those who remain behind. (Sahih International)

Lack of Clear Punishment for Alleged Sin of Homosexuality

In mainstream Muslim thought, it is solely the crime of homosexuality that is referred to when discussing Prophet Lut a.s. The other two components are regarded as separate to that, and is almost an after-thought. If cutting the path refers to highway robbery, there is at least punishment prescribed for exemplary theft. The same is true for adultery. For the “evil in gatherings”, literally no one recognizes this as an associated step, and thus takes shots in the dark as to what this involves rather than sourcing from the Qur’an. Wild guesses range from a  spectrum of faults, including farting and laughing out loud together about it;[7] a ridiculous assessment and an embarrassment to exegesis of a severe message. Anything that uses baseless conjecture as opposed to the Qur’an-centric methodology should be waved aside. 

 On a serious note, for a crime which the town is often referred to as having been turned upside down, there is an interesting absence of a punishment for homosexuality, their highlighted sin. This is another subtle hint of many that the mainstream interpretation is incorrect. Outside the narratives of Lut a.s., there is no general mention of a punishment for an act described as “approaching males besides females” and “approaching females besides males”. بل “bal” has already divorced the former phrase from the umbrella term “fahisha” and there is utter silence on the latter.

Especially when the Qur’an specifies the rewards of good work for believing males and females, sins for disbelieving males and females, one would expect a crime where gender is the focus of the sin to mention it as such. Even the punishment of exemplary robbery mentions male and female thieves.

Qur’an 5:38: [As for] the thief, the male and the female…

Alleged ‘Punishment’ in Surah 4 – Homosexuality in the middle of financial wrangling and inheritance?                                                                                 

Qur’an 4:15: Those who commit unlawful sexual intercourse of your women – bring against them four [witnesses] from among you. And if they testify, confine the guilty women to houses until death takes them or Allah ordains for them [another] way. (Sahih International)

Pickthall, Yusuf Ali: lewdness;

Shakir, Arberry: indecency;

M. Khan: unlawful sexual intercourse.

Qur’an 4:16: And the two who commit it among you, dishonor them both. But if they repent and correct themselves, leave them alone. Indeed, Allah is ever Accepting of repentance and Merciful. (Sahih International)

Mohsin Khan (part) : And the two persons (man and woman) among you who commit illegal sexual intercourse, punish them both. And if they repent (promise Allah that they will never repeat, i.e. commit illegal sexual intercourse and other similar sins)…

Punishment for adultery is already described in Surah 24. These verses are about financial issues in the family, particularly dowries and inheritance and safeguarding it for the entitled in the surrounding context. Although Lane mentions discord in the family in regards to going out, and using a sharp tongue against one’s relatives, the entry here seems to single out women. Whereas, the Qur’an specifies the fahisha here in Surah 4 for three or more women, and then the dual form for two men, or man with a woman. Mohsin Khan for instance specifies man with woman.

Given the context of finances and safeguarding money for those who are entitled, the very last definition provided by Lane here seems to be the most appropriate. That particular rendition of the word is specifically for those who are miserly, and would fit best as a candidate under the general umbrella term “fahisha” given the context. It likely speaks about a domestic situation where conniving family members are conspiring to hoard wealth from rightful inheritors who are being denied what is rightful theirs. Once proven with four witnesses, the culprits are banished to the home unless they repent. Because women historically were shunned in financial matters, the Qur’an does allow for a female witness to have support when giving her testimony in case she is manipulated or intimidated in such disputes should one arise. This possibly explains why a plurality of women (three or more) are grouped in one verse and then two men, or a man and woman in the latter verse. There is nothing here to indict lesbians of three or more, or gay men, especially smack-dab in the middle of inheritence and financial issues!

Regarding other definitions provided – addressing women that go out without permission or wives engaging in verbal altercations against her husband’s relatives, the link to being on house arrest due to unlawful financial wrangling is apparent. Leaving the abode without permission would be in violation of the house arrest imposed as punishment and using a ‘sharp tongue’ against a husband’s relatives could very well happen over inheritance issues, both of which would extend the initial fahisha.  

As already mentioned these either single out female relatives, or in the following definition – the wife. Not surprising in the patriarchal setting, these would be understood to be levied against women or the wife, despite these violations having nothing inherently tied to gender. This would possibly explain why the first verse 4:15 starts us off with a frame of reference the Arabs would understand, with the mentioning of women paired with an actual description of the punishment. Then within the same verse, it reinforces the Quranic protections accused women have by first mentioning that it is a group of women three or more, along with four witnesses to testify. 
After that, it then simply associates the punishment to the two men, or a man and woman and although aforementioned protections are not repeated, it still explicitly mentions “punish them both”. Now, the point of the latter verse is to extend this to the involvement of a male, so that women are not singled out. Furthermore, 4:15 does not restrict the female party to just the wife.

Double Standard: Marriage Is Only Between Man and Woman – But Zina Applies to All?

Many Muslims will commonly maintain that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Following that logic, the penalty for zina can also only delivered to a man and a woman, considering that they had an already exisiting institution now with new regulations introduced explicitly in the Qur’an (including the obvious, such as direct incest prohibitions). The concept of zina is dependent on that of marriage. We cannot have one without the other.

It’s Either Marriage…

For the sake of consistent logic, it makes absolutely no sense that certain standards apply for marriage of two mature adults, that which would also apply to those relations that are supposedly invalid for marriage. Such a marriage or civil union would appear to be permissible as it is not expressly prohibited when discussing new and introduced explicit regulations (again, incestuos unions). When Lut’s (a.s) daughters visit this discussion, marital regulations will be quite noteworthy and extremely relevant.

Or no Zina Charge

If for whatever reason such unions do not seem feasible, then the rules of zina cannot be applied to those of homosexual disposition that have no marital outlet to begin with. If extramarital homosexual relations are to sit under the same umbrella of punishment that heterosexual couples face, one should ponder as to why, they do not fall under the umbrella of what is permissible when even incestous unions have not been untouched. And there is no such punishment specifically for gay or lesbian Muslims as already noted. Given that we are instructed to guard our private parts, the position should lean towards allowing marriage. 

Scope and Scale: Fasaad fil’ard- spreading corruption throughout the land

“Fasaad fil’ard”, or spreading corruption throughout the land is a term appropriate for this town as they do not just practice evil, they do it en masse as a larger community when they extend their oppression onto those who travel on the pathways from among the worlds to their city. The term is used in comparison to murder and those that ingite the flame of war among other things:

Qur’an 5:64

And the Jews say, “The hand of Allah is chained.” Chained are their hands, and cursed are they for what they say. Rather (Arabic: بل  bal) both His hands are extended; He spends however He wills. And that which has been revealed to you from your Lord will surely increase many of them in transgression and disbelief. And We have cast among them animosity and hatred until the Day of Resurrection. Every time they kindled the fire of war [against you], Allah extinguished it. And they strive throughout the land [causing] corruption (Arabic: fil ardi fasaadaa), and Allah does not like corrupters. (Sahih International)

Considering scope and scale, and also attempting to project force and making an effort to wander maliciously to and fro trying (Arabic: raawduuhu’an) to shake Lut a.s. into surrender his guests (54:37 below) and other wayfarers through their intimidation- they are quite literally striving throughout the landlike pacing predators.

Sahih International: And they had demanded from him his guests, but We obliterated their eyes, [saying], “Taste My punishment and warning.”

Yusuf Ali: And they even sought to snatch away his guests from him…

Muhammad Sarwar: They demanded that he turn over his guests to them.

Mohsin Khan: And they indeed sought to shame his guest

Notice the phrasing of this verse, and how it narrates what his people were essentially doing with no mention of gender. As Lane notes, the word includes general restlessness and constant to-and-fro movement driven by something maddening, as if to seek something. This fits their behavior on the mark: 

“Verily, by thy life (O Prophet), in their wild intoxication, they wander in distraction, to and fro.”

Quran 15:72 (Abdullah Yusuf Ali)

Qur’an 5:32 allows the punishment for such a crime to be executed as a possibility, likely at the discretion of an authoritative body with mutual consultation to see if a fahisha falls under the scope and scale of “corruption throughout the land” (or among the worlds in this case) with murder and incitement of war as guiding references. It is one of the few times the Qur’an mentions an earthly punishment. For roving rapist gangs attacking the vulnerable travels, this is fitting.

We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely.

(Sahih International)

5. Sacrificing Lut’s (a.s.) Daughters (15:71) – A Heterosexual Alternative?

Sahih International: [Lot] said, “These are my daughters – if you would be doers [of lawful marriage].”

Pickthall: He said: Here are my daughters, if ye must be doing (so).

Yusuf Ali: He said: “There are my daughters (to marry), if ye must act (so).”

Shakir: He said: These are my daughters, if you will do (aught).

Muhammad Sarwar: Lot said, “These are my daughters if you want them.”

Mohsin Khan: [Lout (Lot)] said: “These (the girls of the nation) are my daughters (to marry lawfully), if you must act (so).”

Arberry: He said, ‘These are my daughters, if you would be doing.’

Already we can see in many translations there are phrases about marriage enclosed in  parentheses to alert the reader of implied meanings. These however, are not to assist in defining Arabic terms into English as one would see elsewhere. These seem to be an attempt to soften the blow of what would have been implied otherwise. One example of softening the blow would be the infamous 4:34, where Yusuf Ali is known to have included “lightly” in parentheses after one is instructed to daraba (commonly translated to ‘strike’)a troublesome wife.[8] These are coming more so from the translators’ train of thought than from the linguistic aspect.

Because his children here are female, it is generally believed by Muslims that Lut a.s. is providing a heterosexual alternative to the male victims. Some do not think that these are his offspring, and instead believe “daughters” is an expression referring to the women of Lut’s a.s. town as the heterosexual alternative.

Are Prophets Symbolic Fathers?

Nisa notes in another piece, citing Asma Barlas, that Allah (SWT) commanded the Arabs to not regard Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as the patriarch of not just Zaid, but of his entire people, and in the same verse (33:40) that rather he is the Messenger for all, ruling out the literal and symbolic encompassing our Ummah, save his real daughters. His Prophetic authority is not to be blindly followed the way the patriarchal Meccans traditionally followed their errant forefathers. Logic and rational thinking is the basis of falling under Prophetic guidance towards Islam, not blind, cult-like patriarchal norms. We saw this with the woman who disputed with him. So these norms were constantly disavowed throughout the lineage of the Prophets as the kuffar recycled the same lines through the ages regarding their fathers.

Qur’an 2:170 And when it is said to them, “Follow what Allah has revealed,” they say, “Rather (Arabic: بل  bal) , we will follow that which we found our fathers doing.” Even though their fathers understood nothing, nor were they guided?

Aside from that:

  • The Qur’an says that Lut (a.s.) was a brother to them (Qur’an 26:161), not a father. In that vein, he would have endorsed his sisters of the community, not daughters.
  • He uses a plural demonstrative pronoun referring to his daughters Quran 15:68-71, translated as “here” or “these”. This indicates he is referring to a party within the vicinity of his house, not out and among the town.
  • Lastly, “…and give not your daughters/women in marriage to idolaters…” (Qur’an 2:221)

Note: Idolatry is not limited to worship of statues or other deities. Quranic examples include: unlawful reverence of religious leaders, extreme arrogance or ego, of property or assets etc. These can regress to the point where they interfere with monotheism.

Holes in the Standard Narrative

At this point, claiming that these “daughters” are women of Lut’s (a.s.) town amounts to academic laziness or dishonest interpolation for damage-control to reduce awkward interpretations by accommodating anti-gay beliefs. As the Qur’an blows this stance into oblivion, we scrutinize the false notion that Lut (a.s) is offering a heterosexual alternative to a homosexual sin through marriage with literal daughters. We run into some problems with these common narratives:

  1. It does not seem that Lut (a.s) is offering them in marriage. People assume he’s offering them up to be had “done to” (as it reads in the verse) what they had planned for his guests. This also implies that a rape between different genders is preferable to one with the same gender, and would at least avoid Lut’s (a.s) immediate scorn otherwise. Even casual homosexuality takes priority over heterosexual rape. Hence, the damage control.
  2. Once more, if he’s wanting to divert them back to heterosexual relations, they have azwaj. But we know this isn’t about adultery, nor is he not telling them to rape their wives (or general unmarried women).
  3. The Qur’an does not specify how many literal daughters he does have, though the Bible mentions at least two are present during the final escape; Allah knows best. Still, how will they marry these awful men? Again: “…and give not your daughters/women in marriage to idolaters…”. There is no exception saying, “unless it is to stop idolater men from being gay”.
  4. Also: “Let no man guilty of adultery or fornication marry but a woman similarly guilty…” (Qur’an 24:3) His daughters were not similarly guilty. (Though the point was made earlier that rape should not be conflated with adultery/fornication, some attempt to include it with rape as an aside. This is for those people: his daughters were not similarly guilty, so this is another Quranic verse opposing the idea of pairing his daughters with the mob).

He does appear to be outnumbered by a force of men he cannot project power against, a force that would be sufficient in cutting off the path. So unless his daughters, assuming there are a few, (who were among his loyal followers that fled the town with him) are each ready to marry a superior number of men (polyandry is generally not accepted in the mainstream), who are also grave sinners to boot, this ransom doesn’t seem plausible. In fact, it’s tragic whether it was a sacrificial rape offering or some hetero marital configuration of one daughter to many (horrible) men.

The Exchange at the Doorstep

Overview

During the exchange Lut (a.s.) has with the mob at the doorstep, Nisa points out that his daughters are not even there, as he had no support in his protest. (It would also have been quite awkward to make the offer with them standing there). There was no direct presence of them until they fled the town with their literal father. His townsfolk were apparently tipped off that there were visitors, which caused the initial frenzy. No one had actually caught sight of these visitors entering his house. Perhaps a treacherous insider informed the townsfolk (his wife- Qur’an 66:10)? So, Lut a.s. attempts to appeal to their own logic and say that these guests are actually his daughters, and therefore not low enough (‘purer for you’, unlike outsiders) to be raped, if they were to do so.

Because they appear to have wicked lust for power and a penchant for attacking victims ‘from among the worlds’ to establish social hierarchy through rape, Nisa makes it a point here that his local daughters are of higher status than to be subjected to the punishment of what normally is reserved for outsiders. The mob have no claim per their tradition (which Lut a.s. knows to his advantage) for locals, which is why despite his annoying preaching, there is no mention of an attack of such nature on him. Rather he is the one who protects victims with his residential privilege. Thinking quickly, he tries to dissuade them by saying those rumored guests are just visiting daughters.

“These guests are my [visiting] daughters!” (No travelers here!)

He makes the connection between his daughters being his guests when he says:

Qur’an 11:78 And his people came hastening to him, and before [this] they had been doing evil deeds. He said, “O my people, these are my daughters; they are purer for you. So fear Allah and do not disgrace me concerning my guests. Is there not among you a man of reason?”

Rather than differentiating daughters and guests, he is using the term interchangeably to soundly reinforce the idea that these guests are in fact, his visiting girls from within the township. This is reinforced once again when the same exact plural demonstrative pronoun is used for both guests and daughters in Qur’an 15:68-71. He urges them to refrain:

Qur’an 15:68  He said: Surely these are my guests, therefore do not disgrace me (Sarwar)

They bluntly remind him that they have told him before to not protect strangers, (demanding he should turn them over to him) to which he replies:

Qur’an 15:70 Lot said, “These are my daughters if you want them.” (Sarwar)

He was not offering a swap. He is not breaking the flow of the conversation by shifting to a different party, his daughters, but rather he maintains that the daughters are actually the unseen guests. He is warning them that they are violating their own custom by encroaching upon a purer party that cannot be raped like foreigners, who are impure (speaking in their perspective). It is similar to how “travelers” and “males” were one and the same. There is a separation of time between the mob being struck in the eyes that night, and then the final shriek at dawn (Qur’an 54:38), which would buy him enough time to safely collect his daughters from their homes.

Purer for you: Appealing through their own reasoning

Keep in mind, he is attempting to reach them through their own twisted logic that his daughters are not eligible to be raped, and if they act (“these are my daughters if ye must do so.” Qur’an 15:71) as they do with foreign men, they would violate their own customs. “If you do so” is not an invitation, it is to stop the mob by appealing to their norms.

Those targeted foreign men who wish to be “pure” are not actually considered worthy of respect in their eyes. To them they are actually the untermenschen, the lower class to dominate. The foreign men that come into their territory are actually impure, inferior prey. If they want to stay “pure” like their own native class that does not get raped, they better stay out, and Lut (a.s.) better not protect them if they arrive (Qur’an 15:70). His people would opt for expelling them outside the town’s boundaries if they cannot rape them. The clue to what they mean is in the first part of the verse which reveals how they feel about those who are foreign: “Evict them from your city!”

Qur’an 7:82  “But the answer of his people was only that they said, “Evict them from your city! Indeed, they are men who keep themselves pure.” (Sahih International)

Since they do not rape native residents either, they also opt for expelling the righteous residents outside the town’s boundaries, just like the former group. Since Lut a.s. himself is irritating but indigenous, it would appear they opted to expel him since the town specifically targets travelers from among the worlds, not their own. Notice again the common theme of expulsion for those that cannot be touched:

Qur’an 26:162 “They said: If thou cease not, O Lot, thou wilt soon be of the outcast.

This is why he attempts to sway the mob and claim the alleged newcomers are just his visiting daughters. They are purer for them as opposed to their normal prime targets and in their system this has no haqq.

If the traditional, anti-gay view towards the “pure” and “purer” remarks was taken, then one would have to believe that the townspeople are admitting they are in the wrong when they say, “Indeed, they are men who keep themselves pure.” No kuffar community has ever admitted that they are impure, astray or evil. In this dialogue with the townsfolk, this is not the “pure” traditional Muslims think the Quran typically refers to; this is from the perspective of the town. Otherwise this cartoonishly evil depiction would suggest they go around saying, “Yes we ARE the bad guys!” Even traditional Muslims have noted this was an unusual reply, and this is because they do not understand what the townspeople are saying. Prophets ranging from Noah to Hud a.s., to Muhammad ﷺ were called liars; the people never admitted to their own flaws. On the contrary, the rapists are not admitting to being in the wrong.

While he reminds them that this xenophobic syle of attack is not legitimate, the men recognized his tactic and relay this back to him. In their backwards thinking of who is “pure”, and what is “haqq” (claimed) for them, they call him out for anticipating it for his plan.

Qur’an 11:79: They said, “You have already known that we have not concerning your daughters any claim, and indeed, you know what we want.” (Sahih International)

His ruse ultimately fails, and then the whole town spectacularly fails. Far removed from the typical and inherently unsteady homophobic herneumetic, the Nisa tafsir reveals that Lut (a.s.) is actively discouraging rape for all parties, heterosexual and homosexual. He is thus redeemed from the compromised judgement Muslims have attributed to him. They jam their revisionist views into the text by opting for either oppressive and polyandrous marriages or heterosexual rape offerings of his daughters. She also notes that since his story is interwoven with that of Ibrahim (a.s.), the prevention of child sacrifice should be fresh on the mind when interpreting the verse to even further eliminate wrong ideas. All the connections and disassocations for the correct reading of this story have been laid out perfectly in the Qur’an.

Recap

Lut a.s.: “Guys, these guests you heard about *glares at wife* are just my daughters visiting. So please, do not humiliate me or my guests like this when I have my daughters over. Oh, did I mention my guests are just my daughters? So if you are going to do what you do, to my guests – (my LOCAL daughters, mind you), you’re doing it to those who are ABOVE [purer] than the lesser class, if you insist on doing so [thereby breaking your own rape standards]. Just letting you know! One of you has to be reasonable, yes?”

His town: “You know why we’re here, and You KNEW we couldn’t claim your daughters. Ha, nice try.”

His daughters are not at all “eligible” to be raped per their standards, if they truly will commit the act (“if ye must do so”), because they aren’t the foreign men the mob heard news about, so the mission should have been aborted. The exchange at the doorstep is just verbal, not a material ransom. This, Lut a.s. Is vindicated of the homophobic interpretations that were willing to sacrifice his quick wit and moral compass alongside his daughter’s well-being, because Muslims themselves did not realize his plan. Do they sacrifice his daughters while they are seeing?

6. Final Thoughts, Rape to Humiliate; Emasculization; Shaming Hosts and Guests

Rape is often used as a weapon in war, feuds, conflicts, impacting both physically and psychologically towards their victims.  It can be used to shame, humiliate, embarrass, dominate, or even send a message of intimidation to the enemy’s loved ones or those under one’s protection. The raped end up feeling more shame than the rapists.

Prison rape and emasuclation (men being “demoted” [misogyny] to woman status), female rape victims as collateral damage in feuds between individuals or nations; the rape of Rohingya women, U.S. forces of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and the Pakistan army in Bangladesh etc. History provides endless tragic case studies.

Because this requires acknowledging graphic practices of a variety of case studies and real  situations outside of what the Qur’an has cared to unravel, I will not be going in depth here as this aims to be strictly Qur’an-centric. Some links are provided for further understanding. It is this lack of awareness that again, leads to conflation when looking at adultery and homosexuality in such scenarios. False associations or fallacious comparisons with other practices should not be made. Even if one were sheltered and not aware, the Qur’an does clarify with بل “bal”. All else is tied together if you allow yourself to see.

“And the people of Lot, they are not far from you”.

Points needed to address for contention with this view

  1. Why is the retractive particle used in all other verses outside of Surah 29:28-29, (the only time the crime is specified and receives an affirmative reply via a challenge from his people)?
  2. If the role of bal as a retractive particle is denied in this case (for whatever reason), what of the multiple times it is used? Does this not open up the possibility?
  3. Just as above, why is the linkage through “wa” being denied in 29:28-29?
  4. Is the power struggle inherent to rape going into your consideration? If so, is heterosexual rape secondary to casual homosexuality?
  5. Being gay is the sin no one before them had done? They invented this trait that became dominant in a community when heterosexuality is far more frequent in average populations?
  6. Or, do you think it’s because it was out in the open? So is it okay indoors?
  7. No? Still a general sin? Just like adultery is even when no one sees it? Then where is the condemnation?
  8.  Why is there no punishment for “approaching men besides women” in general?
  9. Why is there total silence of “women approaching men besides women” when gender has been specified for other aspects?
  10. Why do 4:15 and 4:16 apply to three or more women, and then a man with another man or woman? And in the midst of financial issues?
  11. Why consider 4:15 and 4:16 when we already have punishment for zina?
  12. Is there not a double standard for marriage and zina for those that have a legal path and those that do not?
  13. Did the Qur’an introduce the concept of marriage, or just seek to regulate an existing institution? This would be the place to include it as a general rule.
  14. Why is something as explicit as incest mentioned in marriage rules but not same sex marriages?
  15. Why did Lut (a.s.) say Here or These are my daughters, referring to the immediate vicinity of his doorstep, if he’s talking about women from among the town?
  16. Why is Lut (a.s.) considered the father of his community when the Qur’an explicitly says he is their brother, and he did not offer his “sisters?”
  17. Why offer them wives when they have azwaj? Even if they were to newly marry, they disobeyed his orders before. Would they not go back to just attacking the traveling men, thus repeating the same charge but with specific azwaj this time?
  18. Logistically, how is he going to marry off his few daughters to all these men? Are you willing to accept polyandry? Other than that, isn’t this an insincere marriage?
  19. If you acknowledge rape in this story, is he going to allow his daughters to marry such awful men? This strictly violates Qur’an 24:3 and Qur’an 2:221. Or offer to be raped for the sake of hetero relations.
  20. Are you willing to compromise the judgement and character of Lut a.s. and the happiness of his daughters to “reform” those who obviously could not be reformed?

The following are not counter arguments:

  1. “This is not found in the opinions of any jurist or scholar!”

We know, that’s why this is radical and enlightening. Your scholars thought they were farting in group circles.

  1. “You’re twisting verses to suit desires!”

This is a strictly Qur’an-centric view. It can be tested and proven through this methodology. The standard view cannot.

  1. “This is not in the Hadith and Sunnah!”

If it contradicts, inserts, or alters the Qur’anic purview then it holds no significance. Qur’an reigns supreme, full stop.

  1. What aboutism’ and false associations with anger, gluttonous urges, etc.

Insert “How many times must I teach you this lesson old man?!” meme

  1. “You don’t know Arabic!”

Then neither do the linguistic scholars that dedicated their entire lives to completing their lexicons. It was just a coincidence that the Qur’an itself consistently verifies their definitions.

  1. “You’re using ENGLISH translations. Classical Arabic is the most beautiful language whose meaning only XYZ can understand the true meaning of!”

You don’t seem to have a problem in using English translations to prove YOUR points. Why the different rules for us?

  1. “Well you’re not a scholar, you have no training in usul al fiqh!”

Then bring forth all your ulema. They should refute ALL the above easily in an honest academic way for you rather than confirm your bias.

  1. “This is a part of a Western, Zionist, LGBT liberal conspiracy!”

Citation needed. Also, suspicion is a sin. If you are proven wrong, you will be lashed for false testimony.

  1. “Homosexuality will destroy the familal institution. It will spread and the human race will end reproduction! Gay gene is a hoax!!!”

Again? What did we say about knowing what and what doesn’t constitute homosexuality?

  1. “KAFFIR! MURTAD! QUR’ANIYOON! LIAR! You yourself are a GAY!”

You finally got to this point. This is literally the same style of arguing the kuffar used. Oh well, you tried.

 

References

  1. The Fatal Feminist. https://thefatalfeminist.com/?s=same+sex+love
  2. LANE. E.W, “بل”, in Edward Lanes Lexicon, Williams and Norgate 1863; Librairie du Liban Beirut-Lebanon 1968, Volume 1, Page 31. PDF scans retrieved from: http://www.tyndalearchive.com/TABS/Lane//
  1. LANE. E.W, “بل” in  Edward Lanes Lexicon, Williams and Norgate 1863; Librairie du Liban Beirut-Lebanon 1968, Volume 1, Page 31. Text format retrieved from: http://lexicon.qur’anic-research.net/data/02_b/168_bl.html
  1. Wright. “بل”, in A Grammar of the Arabic Language 1896 3rd Ed; Librairie du Liban Beirut-Lebanon 1974 or 1996?, Volume 1, Page 285. Retrieved: http://www.ghazali.org/arabic/WrightArabicGrammarVol1.pdf
  1. Wehr Hans, and J Milton Cowan, ed. 1976; “بل”, in A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, Spoken Language Services Inc., page 71. Retrieved from: http://www.ghazali.org/books/wehr-cowan-76.pdf
  1. Wortabet; “بل”, in Wortabet’s Arabic English Dictionary  1984 4th ed.; University of Lebanon(?) 1984 http://www.ghazali.org/books/wortbat-porter-4thed.pdf page 37; pdf page 43
  1. PENRICE. J, A. “بل”, in Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran, Adam Publishers & Distributors, First Edition 1873, Page 19. Retrieved from: https://www.ghazali.org/books/penrise-1873.pdf
  1. Mannan, Abdullah Omar. “بل”, in Dictionary of the Holy Qur’an: Arabic Words – English Meanings. Feb 26, 2010. Noor Foundation International Inc. Page 62. Retrieved from: http://islamusa.org/dictionary.pdf
  1. Dr. Rohi Baalbaki. “بل”, in Al Mawrid: A Modern Arabic-English. 1995 7th ed. Dar El-ilm-Lilmalayin. p 245. Retrieved from: https://archive.org/details/AlMawridAModernArabicEnglishDictionary/page/n243/mode/2up

  1. Haywood, J. A. and H. M. Nahmad. “بل” in A new Arabic grammar. 1965 2nd ed. Lund Humphries, London. p. 523 Retrieved from:https://www.ghazali.org/books/haywood-65.pdf
  1. Steingass, Francis Joseph (1884) , “بل”, in The Student’s Arabic–English Dictionary‎[2], London: W.H. Allen p. 137. Retrieved from: https://ia800200.us.archive.org/35/items/cu31924026873194/cu31924026873194.pdf
  1. © Hani Deek 2005-2018. http://arabic.tripod.com/Interrogation1.htm

Joseph A. Islam, Quransmessage.com. “Does the Quran Really Sanction Beating of Wives?” http://quransmessage.com/articles/does%20the%20quran%20sanction%20wife%20beating%20FM3.htm

Joseph A. Islam, Quransmessage.com. “The Seven Oft-Repeated.” http://quransmessage.com/articles/oft-repeated%20FM3.htm

Seth Mydans. 2002. “In Pakistan, Rape Victims are the ‘Criminals’”. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/17/world/in-pakistan-rape-victims-are-the-criminals.html

Dr. Mustafa Khattab. “The Clear Quran: A Thematic English Translation Of The Message Of The Final Revelation.” Books of Signs Foundation, 2016. Page ix.

The Qur’an: Arabic Text with Corresponding English Meanings (Sahih International) Almunatada Alislami, Abul Qasim Publishing House (1997).

The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall) Reprinted by Plume (1997). First published 1930.

The Holy Qur’an: Translation and Commentary (Yusuf Ali) Reprinted by Islamic Vision (2001). First published 1934.

The Holy Qur’an Translated (M. H. Shakir) Published by Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an (1999).

The Holy Qur’an: Arabic Text and English Translation (Muhammad Sarwar) Published by Elmhurst (1981).

The Noble Qur’an in the English Language (Mohsin Khan) King Fahd Printing Complex, Madinah, Saudi Arabia (1996).

The Koran Interpreted: A Translation (Arthur John Arberry) Reprinted by Touchstone (1996). First published 1955.

Appendix

All Verses With Lut a.s. Story

https://www.al-islam.org/alphabetical-index-holy-qur’an/prophet-lut

A more legible looking text version of Lane’s complete entry provided in case of dead link

http://lexicon.quranic-research.net/data/02_b/168_bl.html

بَلْ

بَلْ is a particle of digression: (Mughnee, Ḳ:) or, accord. to Mbr, it denotes emendation, wherever it occurs, in the case of a negation or an affirmation: (T, TA:) or it is a word of emendation, and denoting digression from that which precedes; as also بَنْ, in which the ن is a substitute for the ل, because بل is of frequent occurrence, and بن is rare; or, as IJ says, the latter may be an independent dial. var. (M.) When it is followed by a proposition, the meaning of the digression is either the cancelling of what precedes, as in وَقَالُوا ٱتَّخَذَ ٱلرَّحْمٰنُ وَلَدًا سُبْحَانَهُ بَلْ عِبَادٌ مُكْرَمُونَ [And they said, “The Compassionate hath gotten offspring:” extolled be his freedom from that which is derogatory from his glory! nay, or nay rather, or nay but, they are honoured servants (Ḳur xxi. 26)], or transition from one object of discourse to another, as in قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ تَزَكَّى وَذَكَرَ ٱسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى بَلْ تُؤْثِرُونَ ٱلْحَيَاةَ ٱلدُّنْيَا [He hath attained felicity who hath purified himself, and celebrated the name of his Lord, and prayed: but ye prefer the present life (Ḳur lxxxvii. 14-16)]: (Mughnee, Ḳ:*) and in all such cases it is an inceptive particle; not a conjunctive. (Mughnee.) When it is followed by a single word, it is a conjunction, (Ṣ,* Mṣb,* Mughnee, Ḳ,) and requires that word to be in the same case as the word before it: (Ṣ:) and if preceded by a command or an affirmation, (Mughnee, Ḳ,) as in اِضْرَبْ زَيْدًا بَلْ عَمْرًا [Beat thou Zeyd: no, ʼAmr], (Mṣb, Mughnee, Ḳ,) and قَامَ زَيْدٌ بَلْ عَمْرٌو [Zeyd stood: no, ʼAmr], (M, Mughnee, Ḳ,) or جَآءَنِى أَخُوكَ بَلْ أَبُوكَ [Thy brother came to me: no, thy father], (Ṣ,) it makes what precedes it to be as though nothing were said respecting it, (Ṣ,* Mṣb,* Mughnee, Ḳ,) making the command or affirmation to relate to what follows it: (Ṣ,* Mṣb,* Mughnee:) [and similar to these cases is the case in which it is preceded by an interrogation: see أَمْ as syn. with this particle:] but when it is preceded by a negation or a prohibition, it is used to confirm the meaning of what precedes it and to assign the contrary of that meaning to what follows it, (Mughnee, Ḳ,) as in مَا قَامَ زَيْدٌ عَمْرٌو [Zeyd stood not, but ʼAmr stood], (Mughnee,) or مَا رَأَيْتُ زَيْدًا بَلْ عَمْرًا, [I saw not Zeyd, but I saw ʼAmr], (Ṣ,) and لَا يَقُمْ زَيْدٌ بَلْ عَمْرٌو [Let not Zeyd stand, but let ʼAmr stand]. (Mughnee.) Mbr and ʼAbd-El-Wárith allow its being used to transfer the meaning of the negation and the prohibition to what follows it; so that, accord. to them, one may say, مَازَيْدٌ قَائِمًا بَلْ قَاعِدًا [as meaning Zeyd is not standing: no, is not sitting], and بَلْ قَاعِدٌ [but is sitting]; the meaning being different [in the two cases]. (Mughnee, Ḳ.*) The Koofees disallow its being used as a conjunction after anything but a negation [so in the Mughnee, but in the Ḳ a prohibition,] or the like thereof; so that one should not say, ضَرَبْتُ زَيْدًا بَلْ إِيَّاكَ [I beat Zeyd: no, thee]. (Mughnee, Ḳ.) Sometimes لَا is added before it, to corroborate the meaning of digression, after an affirmation, as in the saying,

* وَجْهُكَ البَدْرُ لَا بَلِ الشَّمْسُ لَوْ لَمْ *

* يُقْضَ لِلشَّمْسِ كَسْفَةٌ وَأُفُولُ *

[Thy face is the full moon: no, but it would be the sun, were it not that eclipse and setting are appointed to happen to the sun]: and to corroborate what precedes it, after a negation, as in

* وَمَا هَجَرْتُكَ لَا بَلْ زَادَنِى شَغَفًا *

* هَجْرٌ وَبَعْدٌ تَرَاخَى لَا إِلَى أَجَلِ *

[And I did not abandon thee, or have not abandoned thee: no, but abandonment and distance, protracted, not to an appointed period, increased, or have increased, my heart-felt love]. (Mughnee, Ḳ.*)

Root: بل – Entry: بَلْ―Signification: A2

Sometimes it is used to denote the passing from one subject to another without cancelling [what precedes it], and is syn. with وَ, as in the saying in the Ḳur [lxxxv. 20 and 21], وَٱللّٰهُ مِنْ وَرَائِهِمْ مُحِيطٌ بَلْ هُوَ قُرْآنٌ مَجِيدٌ [And God from behind them is encompassing: and it is a glorious ur-án: or here it may mean إِنَّ, as in an ex. below]: and to this meaning it is made to accord in the saying, لَهُ عَلَىَّ دِينَارٌ بَلْ دِرْهَمٌ [I owe him a deenár and a dirhem]. (Mṣb.)

Root: بل – Entry: بَلْ―Signification: A3

In the following saying in the Ḳur [xxxviii. 1], وَٱلْقُرْآنِ ذِى ٱلذِّكْرِبَلِ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فِى عِزَّةٍ وَشِقَاقٍ, it is said to signify إِنَّ; [so that the meaning is, By the ur-án possessed of eminence, verily they who have disbelieved are in a state of pride and opposition;] therefore the oath applies to it. (Akh, Ṣ.)

Root: بل – Entry: بَلْ―Signification: A4

Sometimes the Arabs use it in breaking off a saying and commencing another; and thus a man commences with it a citation, or recitation, of verse; in which case, it does not form any part of the first verse, but is a sign of the breaking off, or ending, of what precedes. (Akh, Ṣ.)

Root: بل – Entry: بَلْ―Signification: A5

Sometimes it is put in the place of رُبَّ, (Ṣ, Mughnee,) as in the saying of the rájiz,

* بَلْ مَهْمَهٍ قَطَعْتُ بَعْدَ مَهْمَهٍ *

[Many a far-extending desert have I traversed, after a far-extending desert]. (Ṣ: [and a similar ex. is given in the Mughnee.])

Root: بل – Entry: بَلْ―Signification: A6

What is deficient in this word [supposing it to be originally of three letters] is unknown; and so in the cases of هَلْ and قَدْ: it may be a final و or ى or they may be originally بَلّ and هَلّ and قَدّ. (Akh, Ṣ.)

Further reading

Male pride, Misogyny or emasculation in male-to-male rape

His brother keeps asking what’s wrong with him. “I don’t want to tell him,” says Jean Paul. “I fear he will say: ‘Now, my brother is not a man.'”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/jul/17/the-rape-of-men

Modern Examples of Conflating Adultery with Rape

Ms. Zafran in Pakistan

She states sexual intercourse did happen. The other details are however not accounted for. Just like in 7:80 we see that the act of approaching men did indeed happen, but this time other details are elucidated. It is a lack of understanding of what constitutes these different things that causes reckless misunderstandings, and as a result, the innocent suffer.

Myths about Male Rape

https://livingwell.org.au/information/unhelpful-myths-about-the-sexual-assault-and-rape-of-men/

More on this:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/man-abducted-from-train-and-raped-1557478.html

“According to Mr Leak, male rape is not confined to the homosexual community and, like female rape, it has more to do with power than sexuality. The effects, he said, can be devastating and long- term, with feelings of frustration, powerlessness and anger experienced by victims.”

Female solider aiding/abetting rape of Iraqi male teen:

Scott Higham; Joe Stephens (May 21, 2004). “New Details of Prison Abuse Emerge”. The Washington Post. p. A01. Archived from the original on August 20, 2011. Retrieved September 19, 2011. Speaks of female participation in male rape.

Pack-Hunting Rape

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6886282/

Excerpt: “This subtheme of rape is when the perpetrators of rape were reported to have been working or walking in flocks in search of victims to rape. The name of this subtheme/subtype is informed by the participants’ utterances. For example, a participant reported that he was raped by a group of men who he met while walking in the street. He reported that the perpetrators behaved like hunters because immediately after seeing him, they came straight up to him and instructed him to go under a bridge, where they raped him.

Another participant reported that he was raped by a group of women who entered his home pretending to be looking for a job. However, they were actually “hunting for someone” with whom they could fulfill their sexual desires.Note: This searching to and fro is similar to how the community of Lut a.s. were (raawaduuhu)


[1] https://www.al-islam.org/alphabetical-index-holy-qur’an/prophet-lut

[2] This word should not be confused with a similar word, “balay”, which has its separate entry. Although they have the same role of contrasting, “balay” is used to negate a question asked in a negative tense. This can also be seen in the Qur’an for context. “Am I not your Lord? Yes, (balay) you are.” (Q. 7:172) As it negates a negative question, it is translated in the English definitions to include “yes” or “verily”. Penrise specifically includes that caveat that “balay” is not the same as “na’am” (yes), because “balay” negates the preceding question while “na’am” affirms it. “On the contrary” is also found in Penrise’s entry for “balay”.

[3] https://www.commeunefrancaise.com/blog/questions-french-est-ce-que#:~:text=%E2%80%9CEst%2Dce%20que%E2%80%A6%E2%80%9D,(%3D%20Are%20you%20ready%20%3F)

[4] Joseph A. Islam. Qur’ansmessage.com “Does the Qur’an Really Sanction Beating of Wives?” http://qur’ansmessage.com/articles/does%20the%20qur’an%20sanction%20wife%20beating%20FM3.htm

[5] Joseph A. Islam. Qur’ansmessage.com. “The Seven Oft-Repeated”.  http://qur’ansmessage.com/articles/oft-repeated%20FM3.htm

[6] Seth Mydans. 2002. “In Pakistan, Rape Victims are the ‘Criminals’”. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/17/world/in-pakistan-rape-victims-are-the-criminals.html

[7] http://mqur’an.org/content/view/8212/2/

[8] Joseph Islam’s daraba article

[9] The clear Qur’an by khattab

Jihad on Ruby Avenue

Originally a guest post on Orbala.

My favorite masjid is so severely sex-segregated that there isn’t merely a barrier for the women; there’s an entirely separate tiny afterthought of a room. But it’s my favorite because it is in the hills, where the stars are the brightest, next to sheds with horses in them (my mother once chastised me for feeding the horses before breaking my own fast during iftar time) and in the midst of wild plants, cats, rabbits, and snakes—and, according to the claims of my brothers, jinn. It is a wild, tangled, untamed place, and my heart always quakes at the glimmering city lights far away. On Ruby Avenue, my imagination is also wild, vibrant, and irrepressible. It was where I went to Quran classes as a child and studied under the imam, but because of the segregation, I rarely attend anymore, since I’m not fond of second-class citizen treatment; though aunties constantly demand to know why, the response from my mother is always that I’m busy with class and work, which they then proceed to make clear is an unacceptable excuse.

Currently, the masjid is under an expansion project. My mother relayed to me that the new building won’t have a barrier, and so I should attend. I informed her that men lie (a male leader told me once that he would take down the barrier at a different masjid and did not keep his word) and so I will not believe this until I can witness that it is true.

In the meantime, on a Friday during Ramadan on Ruby Avenue, in a prayer room separate from the women’s, one of the imams casually mentioned through the intercom that anyone from the congregation can call the azaan. I turned to my mother and announced, “I’m going to call the azaan on Sunday.”

She stared at me for a few minutes, and I added, “He said anyone!” I knew, however, as well as she did, that he’d only meant the men in the other room whose presence he could appreciate. The message was not intended for me. We do not exist. Earlier that week the imam had asked for feedback on whether maghrib should begin 10 minutes or 15 minutes after iftari.

“10 minutes,” I had voted softly in the women’s section in vain. We were in a different room, deliberately could not be heard, and would not be counted.

“10 minutes!” shouted several of the men. For some reason, they always shouted, as though the imam couldn’t hear them two feet away. At any opportunity they would then of course proceed to complain that the women were too loud.

But the imam had said anyone and should be held accountable for his words. After all, if he meant to exclude women, he ought to have said so. He should hear himself say it, hear how terrible it sounds. There is a reason none of the men have the courage to say these things out loud. They quietly go about them instead, self-liberated from the burden of forming words from their actions to give them consciousness.

“I don’t know if he meant women…” my mother responded.

“He ought to be more explicit with his sexism then.”

“I’ll ask him for you tomorrow. It would also depend on if the community allows it. It’s not just his masjid alone you know.”

I had prior arrangements to meet a friend for dinner and wasn’t able to attend the prayers at the masjid with her the day she sought an answer. After tarabee when my mother returned, I would let her rest and not disturb her. So, the soonest was Sunday morning when, stumbling downstairs half-asleep, too eager to bother waking up completely, I asked her whether I would be calling the azaan that night.

My mother is naturally soft-spoken, but this time, she made a point to lower her voice. “I asked the hafiz’s wife to ask him if you can call the azaan, and she responded that he said that since you were once a student of his, you should come to him so that he could explain to you why women can’t give the azaan, and you would understand.”

I never imagined I would, but I started to cry. I was so angry. I told her I would never go back (but for her, of course I did), that there was no reason for me to go to a place that doesn’t want me there, that I don’t want to hear his “explanations.” I’ve heard all of them before. On Fridays, my little brother uses my material for his khutbahs—because I can’t. I told her I would not speak to the imam.

“Please don’t be this way,” my mother pleaded. “Come with me. Stop crying; you are fasting and you cannot lose water.”

I could not stop. I didn’t care how much water I lost. It was an insignificant detail to what I felt and I was not thinking of it. There might have possibly been a very small part of me that genuinely believed I would call the azaan. How could a masjid situated in such a beautiful place, a place where the air shifted and somehow always felt misty, where there used to be a tire swing that would fill with water and that I’d run to as a child, be so unjust?

“How was the dinner yesterday?” my mother asked.

“It went well. I was allowed to speak during it. …It’s better than the masjid.” I began to cry again.

“You seem to be well-loved,” my mother said. “I mentioned that you were fond of a certain dish that was being served at the masjid and all of the aunties wanted to fill plates of it for me to take home to you.”

Vision still blurred with tears, I asked my friends to pray that I don’t burst into tears over a plate of samosas later that night at the masjid iftari. My mother returned to clarify that the imam’s actual words were, “Yes, she can. But… since she was once one of my students, tell her to come to me. I’ll explain to her why a woman can’t give the azaan.”

He might have been implying that it would create too much of an uproar in the community… even if it were the truth. But I didn’t care enough to find out what he’d meant.

Upon hearing all this, one of my two little brothers, three years my junior, who follows me around frequently to pester me with Islamic questions, texted me, “Am I a plagiarist?” I responded he was free to use my material as long as he acted according to the spirit of what he lectured. After all, I never protested before, even when he softened the blow of my words… which circumstance compelled of him, always.

The day before I decided to pray in the men’s section, my brother stood in the hallway outside my room with an awkward expression on his face. “They [some of the younger girls at the masjid] were telling me they weren’t allowed to pray on their periods,” he recounted to me, “and I told them, actually they could if they wanted. And they were like NO, you can’t. And I was like, but it’s not in the Qur’an; if you want to make something haraam you have to show the verse.”

My eyebrows furrowed in subtle protest of a man “educating” a woman on her menstrual cycle. At the same time it was unique that he was not disgusted with the subject. But I already knew where this was going. As admired a Quran reciter my brother was in the community, he did not have the power of age to pull this off.

He continued. “And they were like, my mom says you can’t. …And one of them went up to her mom and asked! And her mom said, no he’s wrong. And strange. Don’t talk to him. She told her not to talk to me!”

I laughed, “Well yeah, don’t bring up girls’ periods like you know better.”

“But I didn’t! They brought it up first! To me! They brought it up to me! It’s not like I was some random guy! But now I look like some random guy going up to women like, hey, did you know you could pray during your periods?”

I laughed a little harder. My brother had also been a student of the imam, and a much admired one by the community. He gave khutbahs (even if the materials were mine) and recitations. It was peculiar and hilarious to hear that he had weirded out masjid aunties.

We left earlier for the masjid than usual, almost as soon as I returned from the office. It was a Sunday, so we were expecting a crowd and few parking spaces. For iftar I had only a date. I’d gotten into the habit of eating very little for iftari. I don’t pray with the imam, because I don’t pray behind men, and certainly not behind walls, which act like the sutras that we place in front of us when we pray to prevent interruption of our prayers by those walking in front of us—therefore severing us from the imam leading on the other side, rending our prayers dismembered and incomplete. Instead, I finish the salah before the imam starts. This requires fast eating, or little to no eating. I go with the latter.

One time, I overheard a sister ask my mom, “What [prayer] is your daughter praying?” while the women were waiting for the imam to begin.

My mother had responded, “Oh no, she is praying maghrib… she…” —nervous laughter—“she just doesn’t think prayer should be hindered so she prays immediately after iftari.” This excuse was less controversial; it made me look like a quiet, pious young woman who was eager to pray immediately after iftar rather than a troublemaking feminist rebel.

There is nothing I could do to not be a spectacle. Although everyone at the masjid breaks their fast as the azaan starts, I always wait for it to finish. The first couple of times this happened, a few of the women repeated to me that it was time to break the fast. I smiled and said, “I’m listening to the azaan.” One of them gave me a strange look. “You don’t have to wait.”

“I know. I believe it’s nice.”

Since the masjid is under construction, we had iftari several feet away in a very large, spacious tent outside, so it was difficult to hear the azaan that was called from the inside. (Nevertheless, I was still not allowed to call it.) I waited, straining to hear that it had finished, consumed the date, and then quickly slipped out of the tent.

Some of the congregants who don’t fit inside spill out onto the deck, where the women pray behind the men (as opposed to an entirely separate room like the arrangement on the inside.) This is only a Sunday community iftar phenomenon, when the masjid is most packed.

As usual, I started praying maghrib long before the imam began—this time in the men’s section outside on the expansive deck, so that I would be finished before the rest of men came. The summer air was cool and lovely.

When I was almost done, with 2 rakat nafl left, a man attempted an aggressive “Excuse me!” but I started the takbeer for nafl before he could say anything else. Frustrated, he walked behind me to the sisters, who hadn’t been there when I’d begun but had gathered in a line in the back as I was finishing, and he said to them, “Excuse me, when she’s done can you make sure she moves back? We need this space.”

(There was plenty of space.)

One of sisters laughed and answered, “Uh, yeah, that’s why she’s, uh, yeah.”

I finished just as the imam started, turned to leave and saw 2 entire rows of women formed far in the back, staring wide-eyed at me across the safe gap they’d maintained, and I descended down the stairs as the rest of the men who’d been waiting for me to end the prayer ascended. In the sky, Saturn could be observed beneath the moon, and so could Venus and Jupiter. My heart leapt.

On the way home, I asked my mother in the car, “Are you mad at me?”

“No. Why would I be mad at you?”

I was straining her reputation, I knew it. Once, during maghrib, my hijab kept sliding off, because it was heavy and jeweled and the fabric shimmered, so I tossed it to the ground where it was inclined. I finished the prayer sans hijab, with my hair falling in dark curls around my neck during sejda. I did not look around to see who was gaping at me in disapproval. When I turned to bid salaam to the angels, I saw only that the women were preoccupied with themselves. MashAllah. My mother, though, had winced, as these behaviors are magnified when it is your own daughter, though she related that she understood the hijab would not stay.

But this, this was a whole new level of a transgression. It didn’t matter that I technically wasn’t in the way of the men, that I had started before the imam and finished before him so that the men only had to wait a few moments to start forming lines. (Regardless of the fact that they really didn’t have to wait, and it was their arrogance that prevented them from lining up beside me, even if on the other end of the same row, leaving a wide distance in between.) They missed no part of the prayer. What mattered was that I was a different creeping shariah—a quiet challenge, out of order, a threat. I’m too young to have the advantage of the masjid aunties, with whom no one messes, and they were not going to support me either.

The next morning, my brother reported to me, “My reputation is ruined.”

“Why?” I asked, thinking for a second it was because of me.

“I’m known as Menstrual Man.”

I laughed, “Who calls you Menstrual Man?”

“I call myself Menstrual Man. They call me Period Man.”

His renovation did have a better ring to it. He continued, meekly laughing at himself, “One of the girls showed me a hadith to prove that she was right, so I sent her some links to show that I was right too.”

I opened and closed my eyes.

“And my friend was like, dude, you went back?! And I said, yeah, I mean if they’re already going to ridicule me I might as well substantiate my perspective with some evidence. And he was like, yeah, go down a martyr.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Just tell them you got it from me and it won’t be so weird.”

“Well, you’re already a weirdo for wanting to do the azaan so I don’t know how much that would help.”

“I meant because I’m a girl, dunderhead,” I said crossly. “You have a sister, who menstruates.”

To justify women forced to the back, men cite a hadith by Abu Huraira, a renowned sexist and a liar. Imam Zarkashi in al-Ijaba writes, “They told ‘A’isha that Abu Hurayra was asserting that the Messenger of God said: ‘Three things bring bad luck: house, woman, and horse.’ ‘A’isha responded: ‘Abu Hurayra learned his lessons very badly. He came into our house when the Prophet was in the middle of a sentence. He heard only the end of it. What the Prophet said was: ‘May Allah refuse the Jews; they say three things bring bad luck: house, woman, and horse.’”

The same misogynist who was consistently refuted by an angry ‘A’isha reported that the Messenger said, “The best of the rows of men is the first and the worst is the last. And, the best of the rows of women is the last and the worst of them is the first.”

For men, attending the masjid prayers is emphasized as crucial; women are allowed the flexibility to pray at home if they wish. If the Prophet even ever said this, I believe he said it to mean that if women are in the front, it signifies that men were late to the prayer, and women were faster than them. It was meant to ensure that the men were prompt.

So if I get there first, I have a right to pray there. It does not mean that you should push me to the back to accommodate your tardiness. (Who’re you fooling? You weren’t there first.)

“Nahida,” said my mother gently after she called me to her bedroom. “I’m going to ask something of you and I hope very much that you’ll listen—”

I already knew what was happening. “No.”

“No?”

“You want me to stop praying in the men’s section.”

She was quiet, and then she said, “Please.”

“Why? Do you care about what people say?”

“It’s not that. They already think we’re a dysfunctional mess… I don’t want to fuel it.” And here she did not even know about my brother the Menstrual Man. “Please, you can still pray without the imam.”

There are several times, regarding what I wore or where I traveled, during which I disregard my mother’s insistence and live as I please, but I would always ensure it did not hurt her. This time, I succumbed to her request.

“This is against my religion,” I said.

“I know.”

“And I’m right.”

“It doesn’t seem to matter.”

Where could I pray? I wracked my brain for possibilities. Not inside the women’s room, behind a wall. Not on the deck, behind men. Not in the tent, where I would need to wait for everyone to leave after iftari first and thus delay the prayer. Not in the wilderness I love, though it is ideally situated behind the masjid, in the direction all the men face so that I would be in front of them, where the qibla was closest, because at the thought of snakes after sunset, my mother would surely prevent me.

I didn’t mind the idea of a couple of snakebites, which frankly sound far more appealing than this. I didn’t mind the wild plants we as children had referred to as spiders’ eggs because they erupted what looked like tiny dead spider children either. But that was it. Those were all my options and I’d run out. There was no where for me to pray.

In my ideal masjid, families pray together. It seems anti-Islamic to tear them apart. These are parts of Islam that are integral to my being. I can not freely practice them. I thought of Ibrahim’s sacrifice, his defiance of his fathers who worshipped idols, of tradition, of patriarchy. I thought of his sacrifice of his son, whom he made sure consented. There are many more sacrifices, by women in the Quran, countless sacrifices, time and time again, that are not considered sacrifice—but just things to expect of women.

This would be one of them.

Monotheism

Yesterday I was requested to write about faith itself, rather than the interpretations of practices of it, from someone who wished to understand the significance of the Oneness of God, or why it is so important for Muslims that we are monotheists. A few days ago Khadeeja addressed this question of “Why does it matter so much that God is One?”–and why, as Muslims, it is something that we repeat to ourselves at every possible chance: There is no God but God, there is no God but God, there is no God but God. In times of hardship, passion, discontent, great joy, frustration, love, despair. It’s something we attempt to say as often as we breathe.

I could write entire books about the qualities of God, and still not begin to understand even myself the complete infinite nature of these qualities. But throughout the Qur’an it is the quality of Oneness that is most emphasized:

Worship God, and do not associate any others with God. (Qur’an 4:36)

Say: Surely God is one God; behold, far be it from me to ascribe divinity to aught beside God! (Qur’an 6:19)

Do not associate others with God; to associate others is a mighty wrong. (Qur’an 31:13)

Say: I have been commanded to worship God, and not to associate anything with God. (Qur’an 13:36)

because Oneness encompasses all things: by believing that God is One, we have a Single Ultimate Source of existence. That means that all forms of unjust discrimination we implement against each other is shirk, or associations with God. Because we are created with the breath of God, to say that one is any separate or different enough in nature than another to deserve lesser treatment is a great sin. “Masculinity” is often associated with God, with the “feminine” characteristics of God reduced or viewed as lesser in God’s creations what with the effects of global patriarchy, and this is a great sin. There are many forms of shirk, but essentially they are all the same.

When I was very young I didn’t understand why shirk was considered the greatest sin of all–a sin so destructive that it makes you stop being Muslim. Surely there are other sins that are greater? I thought. Like rape, torture, murder, and genocide. The answer is, of course, that these are all forms of shirk. You have wrongfully determined that these people are lesser forms of beings, thereby not only insulting the Oneness of God and God as the Only Source but associating yourself with God in asserting that you have the right to Judge and then carry out unjust punishments in accordance with your wrongful judgement.

Associating yourself with God, and saying–directly or indirectly–“follow me, and not God” is a very prevalent form of shirk. It frustrates me to no end when Muslims conclude their arguments regarding very restrictive religious laws with “God knows best” and have only cited hadith and not the Qur’an, placing the dictations of men at the level of that of God, or they use words of humility “I know nothing” but only to blanket their contempt, or misconstrue the practice of modesty to silence those who are oppressed with statements like “those who are knowledgable speak little and feel they know nothing”–again to blanket their own contempt in the most pretentious way possible, indirectly accusing the other of sin to avoid facing their own. It is dishonest and cruel, a way to stall righteousness under the guise of humility, and wholly immature with an underlying “I know this because I’m better than you.”

With this mentality, heinous crimes are committed against humanity. With this mentality, we distance ourselves from God and overturn what is compassionate and merciful within us, such a horrendous and destructive act. We overturn these qualities which God created into every human being with the breath of God. Heaven is the realm of those who have been true to their compassion and mercy, and Hell is the realm of those who have committed crimes against humanity and consequently have stopped being human.

But God is everywhere, such is the quality of Oneness–there cannot be an opposite. The devil is not the opposite of God–to say so is shirk because good is greater and more complete than evil and will always conquer evil. This is because

God is the light of the heavens and the earth (Qur’an 24:35)

and to this absolute light there is no absolute darkness (remember please, that light is not visible but is often invisible to the human eye; angels who are made of light, are often invisible to us) because there is nothing outside the existence of God and nothing without some amount of light. The devil, however, is darkness that is created. There is created darkness, and there is created light that is its oppsite–like the angels who were created–but there is only one God and only one Uncreated Eternal Good. The opposite of created good is created evil, but there is no opposite for God.

Praise belongs to God, who created the heavens and the earth and who made the darknesses and the light (Qur’an 6:1)

Notice that darknesses is plural but light is singular. Losing light, goodness or humanity, is distancing oneself from God.

And that, is a little of why There is One God is so important in Islam.

Islamic History and the Women You Never Hear About: Hind bint Utbah

Actually, you have probably heard of Hind bint Utbah. She’s quite famous–or rather infamous–for allegedly eating the liver of Hamza ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib during the Battle of Uhud, a battle in which she was fighting against the Muslims. Because of her cruel and violent acts against Muslims before her conversion, many Muslims today challenge her status as a companion of the Prophet. Let it be noted that the status of Umar as a companion of the Prophet is never questioned, despite Umar killing his own daughter before his conversion, threatening to kill the Prophet himself, and even after his conversion threatening to burn down the house of Fatima–the daughter of the Prophet–with her in it once the Prophet died.

Hind bint Utbah, being a woman, does not inspire the same sympathy. Viciousness in a woman, that is a harpy. Viciousness in a man moves hearts to quiver.

In the Battle of Badr, an earlier battle in which the Muslims had defeated the Meccans, Hind’s father, brother, and uncle were all killed. Consequently, her anger at the Muslims was immense. She wailed and shrieked for days and wandered the desert pouring sand on her face and clothes, until her husband assured her that the death of her family would be avenged. She promised a reward for the one who could bring back to her the heart of Hamza, who was believed to have been the man who slaughtered her father and brother. In the Battle of Uhud, Hamza was struck with a spear, and after he died was ripped open–the liver was brought to Hind, who is reported to have eaten it.

When the Muslims conquered Mecca in 630 with comparatively little bloodshed, Abu Sufyan ibn Harb surrendered to them, much to Hind bint Utbah’s outrage. But something miraculous might have caused her heart to change, for when the time came for the official conversion she led a group of women to the Prophet cheerfully. And with the Prophet she had the following exchange:

“You shall have but one God.”

“We grant you that.”

“You shall not steal.”

“Abu Sufyan is a stingy man, I only stole provisions from him.”

“That is not theft. You shall not commit adultery.”

“Does a free woman commit adultery?”

“You will not kill your children by infanticide.”

“Have you left us any children that you did not kill at the Battle of Badr?”

Romanticization of the past is not only prevalent but normal, and not only among Muslims. And sometimes history is romanticized solely for redemption: the past couple of entries I’ve written about wars have been in remembrance of the women who fought in them, who are neglected and discredited often in this global patriarchy. But it is also important to remember that war is anything but glorious. People die, people are executed, in the most horrific ways imaginable. You would think, what monster could think up such a vile method of execution? Lives are destroyed. Most of the world isn’t good versus evil, but good versus good. And it is easy to judge and forget.

I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with romanticizing the past, especially if it becomes like respiration: we need it, for identity that was stolen from us, for hope, for believing that it could be better because once–once!–it was better. As long as we know that these are exaggerations, glorifications, that the nature of truth has a reputation of being both simple and stranger than fiction, which amusingly enough makes it both complex and obvious, there is nothing wrong with romanticizing the past if it helps us live here in the present. As long as we don’t forget we’re lying, just a little, and that the world isn’t black and white.

God knows best.

Discrediting Feminists

If you haven’t heard already, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf has confessed that originally, in traditional Islam, women are allowed to lead men in prayer.

When I wrote a paper on female prayer, because this was an issue a few years ago, years ago when I was a student in Mauritania, I remembered in a book that Ibn Ayman from the Malaki madhab considered female prayers was permissible, and I remember as a twenty-one year old student underlining that; and I actually went back to the book and found my underlining of that statement. When I studied the prayer issue, I was so stuck by the fact that not only was it debated early on, but there were multiple opinions. Imam Tabari considered it permissible for women to lead the prayer if they were more qualified than men – to lead men in prayer. Ibn Taymiyah himself permitted women to lead men in prayer if they were illiterate and she was literate. He just said that she should lead from the back because she might distract the men if she was leading from the front. Ibn Taymiyeh! Permitting a woman to lead men in prayer!

Oh, so he KNEW this! (Not surprising, even I knew this, and he’s a sheikh.) He knew this “a few years ago” in fact. Very interesting. And he didn’t think to let us know before? He didn’t think to defend Sheikha Amina Wadud when she was being harrassed because she was leading men in prayer? He didn’t think to say anything when a man shouted to the cameras, “If this were an Islamic state this woman would be hanged!”? (Doesn’t say that anywhere, by the way.)

I don’t believe it’s the responsibility of scholars to disclose the whole truth. I believe it is our responsibility, as believers, to study our religion. However, when scholars demand that we follow them in unthinking obedience, demand that we adhere to their advice without argument, invalidate all our interpretations on the basis that they are more learned, create a system in which this is socially enforced through fear and ostracism, and then withhold information while women are being harassed for practicing their own faith as it should be practiced–don’t expect me waive responsibility.

I like Sheikh Hamza Yusuf. It hurts me to criticize him, especially after this, an absurd combination of bitterness and compassion. It should not be his responsibility to speak up–he doesn’t owe that to anyone, he’s just a person who changes and learns like the rest of us. But he has power. I was in tears of anger, relief, and happiness when I heard him say this, what I have always studied and known. I’m glad he recognizes this history and interpretation, and acknowledges it as valid, particularly considering all his previous statements of the contrary. God bless him.

He has not disclosed his own opinion on the matter.

Dr. Amina Wadud received death threats. She was denounced as heretic. Of course, with the adherents of patriarchy, I don’t expect women to suddenly magically be able to lead prayer everywhere because of Sheikh Hamza Yusuf acknowledging diverse scholarly opinions in the Islamic past. But it’s a start. And it’s very interesting, and very unremarkable, that when a woman acts as an agent to bring change to the current state of Islam and return it to its roots, restoring the power given to women by God, her reputation and credibility is destroyed.

Especially if, like Sheikha Amina Wadud, she calls herself a feminist.

That Islam doesn’t need “feminist interpretations” is the claim of pathetic sexist bigots who fear their own privilege challenged and are unwilling to credit those women with a sense of entitlement to their God-given rights. Instead they take it for themselves, a play with words and language–“Okay, okay women can lead prayer. BUT NOT BECAUSE OF THE FEMINISTS!”–in order to secure their own stolen power as soon as they feel a dangerous shift.

I didn’t need your permission. I have the permission of God. Amusing how important this is to you, clearly demonstrating that to you what’s right is not prioritized over pushing your own unIslamic ideology.

It’s a familiar perspective. I’ve heard it before, from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. “You should do this, because we gave you the right to vote. Maybe we should have never given you the vote!” You did not give me rights, asshat. I already had them, you were just preventing me from practicing them. You can’t keep something from me, allow me to use it after I fought for it to be respected as it should be, and then act like it was a gift of mercy and yours to distribute and I should forever worship your egotistical douchiness.

Feminism is inherent in Islam. Tabari’s interpretations regarding the permissibility of women to lead prayer are feminist. Islam is an egalitarian religion, not a patriarchal one. This discomfort with feminist interpretations, this assertion that they must be biased, is nothing other than a projection of the biased interpretive monopoly of patriarchy.

Muslim men rave about powerful Muslim women in the past. Feminist women. But it appears many of them only love empowered women in theory. Imagine, if those women were alive today!

Heretics.

___
Links:
Leading scholar, Hamza Yusuf, on women leading prayer — AltMuslimah
and commentary from Hijabman

I get the best commenters.

sophia said…
This post reminds me that reading can be a political act. It’s also an act that has ethical and moral implications.

I’m wary of readers who can’t think for themselves– who need a scholar to tell them how to read, what to read, and what to think about either.

Such an approach to reading a text is disingenuous, passive, and egotistical (egotistical when used to inform or chasten the “ignorant” from the mouths of those who have unwittingly labeled *themselves* fools in order to usurp the role of the scholar by conflating scholarly knowledge with their own: “I’ve read x who is smart, therefore I am smart. I’ve read x is who wise, righteous, and brilliant, therefore I am brilliant. I’ve read scholars on this matter and they all say x, I agree, therefore I know what I’m talking about.”

Besides being a theft and a fraudulent claim to knowledge, that method of reading breeds a rancid form of arrogant piety.

At its worst, how a reader interprets a text can absolve them of responsibility for their beliefs and actions. Of course, this is a repulsive phenomena. Readers have a choice. And whether or not they find themselves in the neighborhood of being absolved of responsibility depends on what a reader decides to do with what they’ve read.

That nature of that choice, I believe, is a question of character– not intellect.

It’s disturbing and wrong when unethical and immoral methods of reasoning and consequences arise from bad reading habits and scholarship.

It’s outrageous when bad reading habits and scholarship are endorsed as a way for arriving at conclusions that, at best, are problematic– not least of all when it seems that the conclusions and intepretations drawn from a text fail the test of reality and common sense.

Unfortunately, as we’ve witnessed time and again in the realm of sacred and religious texts, readings and readers who are divorced from reality find themselves in a hermeneutical quandry. When coupled with power, that quandry tends to be resolved through means of elaborate theological and philosophical ruses, violence, oppression, priviledge, exclusion, coercion, harrassment, force, psychological aggression, guilt. On and on.

I don’t trust readings of any text that need the thought police or a goon squad in order to enlighten the rest of us.

I’m not a Muslim, but I do at least remember that the Qu’ran has the special status of being God’s direct, revealed word and speech.

With that in mind, I marvel that the Prophet Muhammad was apparently illiterate.

It seems to me that having credentials or a degree isn’t a pre-requisite for understanding the Qu’ran. Nor does it seem, outright, to be a pre-requisite for sharing one’s thoughts or ideas about the Qu’ran.

God’s revelation is to all of humanity (high and low)–not to a select group of scholars that have been asked to interpret it for the rest of us.

Rant over.
Sunday, August 28, 2011