This is the fifth installment of our weekly column entitled Ask a Shiite. Our resident Shiite and United Arab Emirates citizen will be fielding questions of a philosophical, physical, and political nature in regards to Shiite Islamic belief and Middle East perception. Interested in asking a question? Send an email to alec.
Question: How is homosexuality regarded in the Koran and how is treated in current Muslim society? What countries have the toughest and most stringent views towards homosexuality and which countries are more passive and liberal towards the practice? Is there interference by the government into private sexual practices in the UAE and other Arab countries? And finally, what are the range of views of preachers
and imams on this subject?
Answer: Homosexuality like in all the Abrahamic religions is treated with utmost seriousness and strictness. Islam considers homosexuality to be worse than adultery. But at the same time it tries to be very lenient. The main reason it is not allowed is because it threatens the existence of mankind.
It is like a contagious disease that spreads across the society and that can result in the extinction of mankind. It is an unnatural practice. It goes against the laws of nature where a man and a woman attract towards each other and they satisfy their desires with each other.
When people from the same sex sleep together, there is no pregnancy. When people from the same sex sleep together, it results in more people being attracted towards homosexuality. Like this, homosexuality spreads and when most, if not all, people of the society satisfy their desires in this unhealthy manner, the birth rate drops sharply. This can lead to the extinction of the race.
Sexual desire according to Islam is not a bad thing like in Christianity (I have heard). It is taken as a mercy and blessing from God. The problem is with whom you satisfy it. Satisfying it with your wife is an act, which is highly encouraged and rewarded.
Many people suggest that Islam has hard and fast rules and are extremely harsh. We first have to see that the rules are harsh for hideous crimes against society. Secondly they are made to be hard to enforce.
The harsh punishments act as a detriment for the normal people and a severe punishment for the criminals. Although capital punishment is prescribed for sodomy, it can only be administered after four just witnesses have testified to the sin being committed in their presence. The extreme degree of leniency in Islamic laws is apparent here. If an individual shows just enough decency as not to commit a filthy act in public and that too for fear of being put to death, Islam does not allow his fellow-beings to punish him. Further, if the sinner repents before the four witnesses have testified, he cannot be put to death. But if the testimony is complete, penalty cannot be reduced and the guilty has to be killed.
As far as confession of the crime is concerned, the same regulations hold as in the case of adultery. The guilty must confess four times. He must confess in clear unambiguous words and must not speak in an elusive way. The Judge must make sure that the person is sane. Also, that he is not joking and confessing to something he has not really done.
As in the case of adultery, the guilt of sodomy is also proved in one of two ways. The first is that both the participants, or one of them confesses four times before a Judge. If he confesses less than four times the legal penalty cannot be issued. He is only warned and severely rebuked so that he may never repeat it. Some Mujtahids believe that the four confessions should be on four different occasions. It is also required that the accused be major, sane, free and independent. Even if he confesses four times, a minor person can only be reprimanded for the act so that he never does it again. The same applies for the slave and the insane person. Apart from this, if someone is forced into such a crime and is unable to avoid it, there is no penalty for him.
The second method of proving the crime of sodomy is that four just witnesses see it being committed with their own eyes and testify in consonance. If the witnesses are less than four, the testimony is not accepted and the penalty for sodomy is withheld. If less than four people have seen this act, they should not testify. If they do so, they shall themselves become liable for the penalty of “qazaf”. This clause shall be elaborated later. If the guilty repents before the four witnesses testify, the penalty is not imposed and he is not killed. The confession or the testimony should be with regard to the penetration of the anus with the penis, only then the capital punishment is carried out. But if the two men cause ejaculation without penetrating the anus (by pressing the sexual organ between the thighs of another man or by rubbing with the buttocks), then the punishment is a hundred lashes for them.
All these punishments do not appear out of the blue. There are preventative measures before a person can commit sodomy. For example, it is forbidden for brothers and sisters above the age of ten to sleep next to each other. This might be taken as idiotic or harsh. My Islamic teacher is school is a psychologist. He is an expert in society matters and used to work in an alcohol addiction centre. He says that in his study he found out that people who commit sodomy say that the reason why we do it is because when we reached puberty, we used to sleep next to people from the same sex or have unintentional ‘innocent’ glances at people who were almost naked. This resulted in their unnatural sexual inclination. There are many more problems that arise from sodomy, which can destroy the society.
There are more preventative measures that have been prescribed by Islam. Now it is not he society’s fault if people don’t follow them and end up behind attracted o people from the same sex. Once the crime has been proved (and proving is not an easy task too), it is punished with strictness so that it acts as a determinant for the negligent and that the person is punished.
The only case in which the person IS punished is when the person admits to it or if the crime is proven with the utmost confidence. When a person confesses, the judge tries to prevent him from doing so and tries to make him change his mind. Also the person has to confess four times at four different places so that he has a chance to change his decision and that he is absolutely sure about it.
When another person commits sodomy, it is hard to prove it. There need to be four just witnesses, not an unreliable person. All of them have to bear witness. If less than four people stand witness, then those three are also given a harsh punishment. This in turn avoids gossip and public humiliation and false accusations.
As far as countries are concerned, Muslim countries have the same views and have the same lenient but ultimately strict Islamic law for homosexuality. In the UAE as far as I know the government of course does no allow illegal sexual practices to go on. If they find out about it, they would break it up if possible.
Finally most of the law on homosexuality comes from the Quran. So most of the preachers, scholars and Imams have the same opinion. You won’t find any scholar saying that homosexuality is allowed or anything different form the Quranic interpretation.
Even though my opinion does not count and I am not qualified to give my opinion in religious matters, I think that homosexuality is a practice that can be prevented and if it is not, then it can bring about the destruction of whole societies.
[tags]homosexuality, gays, koran, quran, middle east, islam, muslims, united arab emirates, ask a shiite, religious laws, sodomy laws, treatment of homosexuals, arab nations[/tags]