The Islamic Legal Reason For Punishing Homosexuals

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The Orlando nightclub shooting has caused many to question if sharia law prohibits homosexuality and punishes those who engage in it. Numerous Muslims in the West celebrated the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage. Some Muslims even changed their Facebook profile picture to include the LGBT rainbow flag in support of the decision.

There were some Muslims, however, who hated the decision and showed their objection with negative comments on social media. Those who strongly oppose homosexuality tend to interpret authoritative Islamic sources in a traditional way, as Muslim scholars did for thirteen centuries. It is this interpretation that ultimately forms sharia law.

One might wonder how Muslim scholars, jurists, derive sharia laws from the authoritative Islamic sources.

What needs to be said and clarified before making any comment about Islamic rules is that the Quran is not the only source in which Muslim jurists rely for Islamic law derivation. There are some other sources including Hadith-Sunnah and Ijma, the consensus among Muslim scholars on issues that are either relatively new or need expertise to understand.

The issue of homosexuality is one of those subjects that demands expertise in the field of Islamic jurisprudence and legal reasoning for a legitimate and correct analysis.

The Quran has not clearly and expressly provided the punishment for those who engage in homosexual activities.

To understand how Muslim scholars throughout Islamic history have interpreted the authoritative Islamic sources, we need to look at some verses and Hadith that are very important to examine in order to understand why ISIS, a radical Sunni group, punishes homosexuals the same way as the Islamic Regime of Iran, a Shia regime. They both use the same method of Islamic legal reasoning.

The Quran in verse 7:80 calls the act of homosexuality, Fahisha, an awful forbidden sexual intercourse. It states, “And remember Lout [Lot], when he said to his people: ‘Do you commit the worst sin [Fahisha] such as none preceding you has committed in the ‘Alamin [mankind and jinns]’?”

In verse 24:19 the Quran warns to punish, those who engage in Fahisha, with a painful torment in this world and in the hereafter. It says, “Verily, those who like that (the crime of) illegal sexual intercourse should be propagated among those who believe, they will have a painful torment in this world and in the Hereafter. And Allah knows and you know not.”

The Quran in verse 15:74 explains how Allah punished homosexuals by stoning them. It states, “And We turned (the towns of Sodom in Palestine) upside down and rained down on them stones of baked clay.”

Analyzing the above verses forces a Muslim scholar to conclude that homosexuality is one of the greatest sins that results in severe punishment.

Throughout Islamic history Muslim scholars could not think of punishments more painful than burning, drowning, stoning, or dropping homosexuals off high places. However, some of the scholars preferred to stone homosexuals to death, since Allah did the same to Sodom.

Those leaders of the Islamic community who interpret the Quran traditionally, embrace this analogy and quote great scholars who have taken the same position and preach this orthodox understanding of Islam to their followers. This orthodox teaching breeds jihadi attacks like the Orlando nightclub shooting.

Therefore, the combination of an orthodox understanding of Islam and resisting assimilation could be the factors that led to the Orlando massacre.

These homegrown jihadists do not need support from notorious jihadi groups to carry out an attack. They are young and smart Americans who have been either born or raised in the West, but have an attachment to their parents’ belief. They reject assimilation into Western society and rather try to bestow honor to their Islamic community by adhering to sharia rules.

Ghasem Akbari is a certified sharia lawyer and Islamic expert for the Supreme Court of Iran. He is also the author of two books and numerous articles. Maria Sliwa is an adjunct assistant professor of Media Law at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism @MariaSliwa