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‘Gay Rights’ Versus The ‘Human Rights Of Gays’ – A Fresh Insight Into The Broader Message Of The Qur’an


By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam

Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009

-           This is in response to Roy Brown’s article: OIC Should See the Difference between Promoting Homosexuality and Fighting for the Human Rights of Gay People.


 As a first premise, the Qur’anic message admits of diversity in faith and worldviews as long as the diverse communities of the world vie with each other in good deeds – that is they do not indulge in activities that can directly or indirectly bring physical harm to other people. This principle is enshrined in its key verses on the divine criteria of judgment for all humanity regardless of faith (2:62, 2:112, 4:124, 5:69, 64:9, 65:11) and clearly stated in a key declaration (5:48) dating from its conclusive legislative phase:

“Those who believe, and those who are Jews, Christians and Sabians - and (in fact) anyone who believes in God and the Last Day, and does good deeds - shall have their reward with their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they regret” (2:62).

 “Indeed! Anyone who submits his whole self to God and is a doer of good - will get his reward from his Lord. They have nothing to fear nor will they regret” (2:112).

 “Anyone - be it a man or a woman, who does good deeds, and is a believer in God – it is these that shall enter the Garden and will not be wronged at all” (4:124).

 “Those who believe, and those who are Jews, Sabians and Christians - (in fact) anyone who believes in God and the Last Day, and does good deeds - they have nothing to fear, nor will they regret” (5:69).

“Those who believe, and those who are Jews, and Sabians and Christians and Magians (an ancient polytheistic creed) , and those who associate (others with God) - God will judge between them on the Day of Judgment. Indeed, God is Witness to all things” (22:17).

 “On the day that God assembles you - the Day of Assembly, that is the Day of reckoning; and anyone who believes in God and does good deeds, He will efface his evils from him and admit him into Gardens watered by streams - to live in it forever: that will be a supreme triumph” (64:9).

 “The Messenger conveys to you clear messages from God, so that he may bring forth those who believe and do good deeds from darkness into Light, and anyone who believes in God and does good, He will admit him into Gardens watered by streams; to live in it forever. God has indeed made for him a generous provision” (65:11)

“We have revealed to you this divine Writ (kitab) setting forth the truth, confirming (whatever) remains of the divine writ (sent earlier), and determining what is true in it. Therefore, judge between them by what God has revealed, and do not follow their whims after what has come to you of truth. For each of you We have made a (different) code (shir‘ah), and an open way (of action) (minhaj). If God so pleased, He would have made you (all) into one community. Therefore vie (with each other) in goodness (so that) He may test you by what He has given you. (Remember, you) all will (eventually) return to God, and He will tell you in what you differed” (5:48).

Based on these clear and repetitive enunciations, it follows that the Divine Scheme approves of all those physical acts (‘aml), gestures and articulations that bring good to humanity and disapproves those that bring harm to humans. The Qur’an formulates the different facets of its message accordingly with particular emphasis to correcting the social evils (bad deeds and practices) that were current at the time of the revelation such as slavery, institutionalized adultery (zina), financial exploitation of the poor, embezzlement, bribery, usury, threat to civilians caught in war, oppression and subjugation of women as individuals and in wedlock, distorted notion of justice, inhuman tribal mores, lack of concern for the community and broader humanity etc. However, despite the progress of civilization, human nature has remained in its primitive bestial form as demonstrated by the vices and injustices of this era – rising hatred between the rival civilizations, escalating greed for money, thirst for power and craving for consumption, horrifying acts of terror, communal/ sectarian violence, ethnic cleansing and genocide, widening gap in income and consumption levels, and sadistic disregard for the colossal collateral damages of war and bloodshed, to cite commonplace examples that appear as passing news items. Hence, the Qur’anic message remains of relevance to this day for the broader humanity as much as for the Muslims. With this we explore the captioned issue.  

There can be no denying the fact the Qur’an condemns any public display of homosexual behaviour. The Qur’an’s treatment of the subject centers round the account of the people of the Prophet Lot (15:58-77, 26:160-175, 27:54-58, 29:28-35) that ends with the annihilation of their settlement (15:73/74). But the question that needs to be answered today is, whether in the 21st century, a consensual homosexual relation between two adult unmarried individuals constitutes a ‘bad or evil deed’ – a criminal offence, and whether the offenders need to be punished, or subjected to discrimination and violence - or may be permitted to go about their lives unhurt,

The Qur’an contains one very general but ambiguous statement on the subject followed by a forgiveness clause:  If two of you do it, punish them both. If they repent and reform, then leave them alone for God is Most Relenting and Merciful (16). Repentance with God is for those who do evil in ignorance, and then soon repent. God will relent towards them, for God is All-Knowing and Wise” (4:17). The Qur’an neither defines the ‘it’, nor prescribes any witnessing or punishment protocol, nor says who would initiate a homosexuality charge against the ‘two of them.’  Islamic law prescribes varying terms of imprisonment to death sentence for any public display of homosexuality that the jurists have adduced by paralleling it with adultery, but the basis of such analogy is obviously questionable. Adultery involves deceit, emotional injury and breach of contract to one’s spouse in wedlock, while consensual homosexual relation has no such injurious consequences. Probably, Islamic juristic opinion is informed the Biblical declaration, “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, they both are to be put to death” (20:13, Levictus).  

Advocates of ‘Gay Rights’ hold that “homosexuality is a natural disposition - a “congenital anomaly” and therefore should not be considered a criminal vice; rather it should be treated as a completely normal behaviour. The biological fact is, the awareness of sex sets in much early in life. If homosexuality is regarded as perfectly acceptable behaviour, it will, like any addiction, infest children even at primary school level, who will then boldly carry their addiction through to adulthood creating serious cultural and demographic issues and a breakdown of social order. However, all said, as far as the personal rights of two same sex consenting unmarried adult individuals is concerned, the Qur’an provides no clear basis to punish them if they do chose this way of life. The Qur’an does acknowledge the notion of free will to choosing the right path out of the “two highways shown to him” (90:10) – that is, freedom of choice in doing or not doing a thing as long as the chosen path/ act do not cause physical harm to any individual.

It will therefore follow that there will be no breach of the Qur’anic message in leaving the adult Gay lot to go about their lives unmolested and not to subject them to any violence or discrimination. Those who abhor homosexuality may not befriend a gay colleague, or follow his example but let them not be hostile or discriminatory to the gay and thus honour their personal human rights, without having to approve or emulate their behaviour.

Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.