In search of authenticity

Modern discourse over homosexuality through early Islamic thought

Authored by: Sara Omar

Routledge Handbook on Early Islam

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138821187
eBook ISBN: 9781315743462
Adobe ISBN:


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Over the first five centuries of Islam, heated hermeneutical and legal debates arose over the sins of Lot’s people and the punishment of individuals who engage in male–male anal intercourse. The Qurʾān, the major source for deriving Islamic law, loosely enumerates the sins committed by Lot’s people, but does not contain any explicit mention of the acts of liwāṭ (sodomy) 1 or siḥāq (tribadism), or the prescribed punishment for individuals who engage in either act. Exegetes therefore debated the precise sins of Lot’s people, while jurists debated the categorization and punishment of individuals who engaged in these acts. Scholars’ cultural attitudes against same-sex sexual acts, a byproduct of their historical context, shaped the way in which they approached and interpreted the Qurʾān. Traces of each exegete’s socio-cultural context and theological propensities can be gleaned from their commentaries. Despite general condemnation of same-sex sexual acts, scholars were unable to agree on precise interpretations of the relevant Qurʾānic passages. This question dominated the historical discourse and was never fully resolved.

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