Updated: Apr 28, 2019
In the name of Allah. Most Gracious, Ever Merciful
Homosexuality has become a topical issue. It is considered to be a sin in Islam, an act of immorality, as is fornication or adultery, along with other acts of indecency/obscenity. Keep in mind that 'public nudity' or 'indecent exposure', such as 'flashing' is a crime, not just in muslim majority states.
There is a strict requirement for 4 reliable/trustworthy eyewitnesses to the act of penetration for fornication or adultery for there to be any deterring punishment carried out by the state, which is prescribed as 100 (mild) lashes to be witnessed by a party of believers [24:2]. The requirement of four eyewitnesses is difficult to achieve, as consented intercourse is often done outside of the public arena. Rapists would also perpetrate their wicked crime outside of public view, but there would/should be no such requirement of 4 eyewitnesses for the punishment of rape.
Whilst there is a clear mention of a prescribed punishment to deter acts of fornication and adultery in society [24:3], there is no such clear mention of a prescribed punishment for the sin of homosexuality. Some muslim scholars have suggested that [4:15-18] may apply to homosexuality in women and men.
[4:15] "And those of your women who are guilty of lewdness — call to witness four of you against them; and if they bear witness, then confine them to the houses until death overtake them or Allah open for them a way.
[4:16] And if two from among you are guilty of it, give hurt to them both. And if they repent and amend, then leave them alone; surely, Allah is Oft-Returning with compassion and is Merciful.
[4:17] Verily, Allah undertakes to accept the repentance of only those who do evil ignorantly and then repent soon after. These are they to whom Allah turns with mercy; and Allah is All-Knowing, Wise.
[4:18] There is no acceptance of repentance for those who continue to do evil until, when death faces one of them, he says, ‘I do repent now;’ nor for those who die disbelievers. It is these for whom We have prepared a painful punishment."
The word 'two' in verse [4:16] may refer to two men, or a man and a woman, as both meanings are possible according to the rules of Arabic grammar, and according to dictionaries, 'sodomy' may also occur between a man and a woman. As we can see, if we were to accept that these verses do apply to homosexuality, as some muslim scholars have stated over the centuries, the prescribed punishment is even lighter than that of the sin of adultery or fornication [24:2]. This may surprise some people, as some muslims, especially the ahlul-hadith, advocate the death penalty for it. The giving of hurt to both of them prescribed in verse 16 is understood by exegetes as being no more than 'verbal hurt' (Al-Razi, Tafsir al Kabir, Vol 9, p. 235-236; 'Muhammad Abdel Haleem, Exploring the Qur'an: Context and Impact, p. 97]. Such 'verbal hurt' (or condemnation of the act rather than condoning it) would be carried out by the appropriate authorities after the evidence from four truthsworthy eyewitnesses has been established beyond doubt, that the act was committed.
In any case, this would be for homosexual acts seen by 4 reliable/trustworthy eyewitnesses, not for what might have happened or be happening behind closed doors, spying on people and violating their privacy not being permitted [49:12]. Moreover, the door to repentance remains open for them as it does for everyone else who may be involved in sins of disbelief and/or sinful/criminal acts until before the throes of death begin. This also indicates that those who call for the death of homosexuals are blindly following criminal ahadith falsely labelled as 'sahih', another reason to criminalise the blanket label of 'sahih' on books of ahadith collected from a chain of 'human whispers' involving distortion, perversion and adulteration over the course of 2-3 centuries.
The instruction given for lewd or lesbian women [4:16] is clearly not to murder them, but effectively to cater for them within the homes. The opening of a way for them by Allah is understood to refer to marriage. The opening of the way may refer to mental healing from the psychological trauma they had suffered as a result of rejection by a man whose hand they were seeking. Human sympathy with people who suffer such rejection, whether male or female, by uttering reassuring and kind words such as 'there are plenty of fish in the sea' can help to prevent their descent towards homosexuality. 'A stitch in time saves nine', as they say.
We should also keep in mind the attitude adopted by Lot a.s., who is referred to as a Prophet of God in the Qur'an, against his people who had become steeped in homosexuality:
[26.168] He said, ‘Certainly I hate your practice. We can see that Prophet Lot a.s.did not have any feelings of hatred in his heart for his people; rather he was opposed to their practice of homosexuality which appears to have exceeded the limits and become widespread, and began to be openly practised in public, for we are told: [7:80,81] And We sent Lot — when he said to his people, ‘Do you commit a lewdness such as no one in the world ever did before you? ‘You approach men with lust instead of women. Nay, you are a people who exceed all bounds. And we are also informed: [29:29] ‘Do you indeed come (lustfully) to men and waylay (travellers) on the road? And you commit lewdness in your meetings!’ But the only answer of his people was that they said, ‘Bring upon us the punishment of Allah if thou speakest the truth.’ So, they were punished for their excesses, even going to the extent of forcing themselves on strangers on the road in hedonistic pursuit of their lustful inclinations, as well as openly in their own meetings, and arrogantly invited punishment from God. It is not well thought through to liken the sin of homosexuality to crimes, but the above verse suggests that if homosexual activity is not discouraged by speaking out against it as a sin, and is encouraged publicly, it could eventually lead to a crime of sexual assault (homosexual rape).
Thus, speaking against fornication and homosexuality as sins is a wise course of action for believers to adopt, whilst being cautious not to encourage hate crimes against them, as admonishing is done out of love for the society as well as for homosexuals themselves, so that they may incline towards the more natural and normal human tendency in this regard, which would be of greater benefit to themselves in the long run, as well as for the rest of the society. It would not be prudent to refer to lower animals when trying to make a case for homosexuality as something found in nature, as lower animals cannot be admonished and reasoned with about the futility and foolishness of their senseless acts. In any case, we are informed that Prophet Lot a.s. was grief-struck when informed that God would punish them for their misconduct: [11:77] And when Our messengers came to Lot, he was grieved on account of them and felt helpless on their behalf and said, ‘This is a distressful day.’
Whatever action God may take and when, is His decision, and humans have not been permitted to take the place of God and execute divine punishment. One may also apply the following verse to homosexuals, as well as others such as apostates and blasphemers:
[60:8] Allah forbids you not, respecting those who have not (physically) fought against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that you be kind to them and act equitably towards them; surely Allah loves those who are equitable.
This would be in keeping with the Ahmadiyya Muslim slogan of 'love for all, hatred for none' which goes a long way, and which itself is supported by the following verses:
[19:96-97] "Those who believe and do good deeds, Ar-Rahman will create love (in their hearts). So We have made it (the Qur’an) easy in thy tongue that you may give thereby good tidings to the righteous, and warn thereby a people given to contention."
Ar-Rahman is an attribute of Allah which is much wider in scope than Ar-Raheem, as explained under note 4 here:
Thus, it can be shown that whilst the love for the righteous is manifested in the form of giving them glad tidings, those who contend against belief and goods deeds are to be issued wise words of admonishment, giving an appropriate warning of the consequences of disbelief and evil deeds in both worlds, which also stems from love for the creation of Ar-Rahman, the All-Merciful One.
The Qur'an gives compelling reasons, using persuasion to encourage doing what is right, and dissuasion from doing that which is wrong by means of warnings and deterrents, as there is no room for compulsion in matters of faith, and a believer should draw a lesson from this style of the Qur'an. However, we reserve our human right to differ with others and not endorse a practice we have objections against, much as we have objections against other sins which we feel justified to class as being 'immoral', and speak out against it under the basic human right of 'freedom of expression', as we would not want our families, communities and societies to fall into such practices. They call them 'gay' because they make a show of happiness, but are severely depressed within, largely due to frustration with, or rejection of advances by a member of the opposite gender, which ignorantly drove them towards homosexuality. May Allah guide them out of their depths of darkness and stupidity, Ameen.
And Allah knows best.
[19:76] Allah increases in guidance those who follow the guidance. [20:47] Peace be upon those who follow the guidance.