Le peuple de Lot

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The story of Lut (لوط, Lūṭ, לוֹט‎ "Lot" in the Hebrew tradition) from the Hebrew Bible, is also to be found in the Qur'an, albeit retold with a few differences. Inter alia, the Qur'anic rendition links the destruction of Sodom specifically to the homosexual activities of its inhabitants, whereas in the Hebrew original, although there is an attempted rape of the male angels sent to Lot's house by the men of the city, the main sin of Lot's people is the inhospitable conduct towards these visitors, not the fact that they wanted to engage in (forced) homosexual relations with them.

The story of Lut in the Qur'an represents its apotheosis in all of the traditions in which it is found: by the 7th century, the original story of Lot, the single righteous man of Sodom who protected his guests even at the cost of his own begotten daughters virginity, has evolved into a tale simply demonizing homosexuality. Although the loss of the point of the original story is striking in the Qur'anic text, and the tasfirs which evolved surrounding it, which also build out the story by clarifying that the women of Sodom and Gomorrah were also homosexuals and thus also deserved to be destroyed, the transformation of the story of Lot into a condemnation of homosexuality is not without precedent: witness the English slur "sodomite", pointing like the Arabic لوطي "luti" to the sin of the people of Lot within the English-speaking Christian tradition.

Qur'anic Claims

The story of Lut is told in many different places in the Qur'an, which can be read here. According to the Qur'an, Lut was a righteous prophet who was sent to preach the word of Allah to the sinful people of Sodom and Gomorrah. They repeatedly rejected his message and threatened him, until angels from Allah turned up at Lut's house. They bring him tidings of the destruction of the twin cities. The wicked people of Lut's cities then also show up at his house, demanding to rape the angels they believe are foreigners. Lut offers them his daughters. Quran exegetes claim this offer was in lawful Islamic marriage and that Lut meant by "my daughters" the daughters of his nation. But these claims have no basis in the Quran or the Sunnah. Whatever the nature of Lut's offer was, they rejected it. In their drunkenness and blindness Lut is able to escape, and Allah destroys the cities with brimstone. The outline of the story is in some ways similar to the biblical original, but the story has some salient points which mark its importance in Islamic theology and separate it from its biblical progenitor:

All the men of Lot became homosexual:

Would ye really approach men in your lusts rather than women? Nay, ye are a people (grossly) ignorant!

Homosexuality was something that did not exist prior to the people of Lot:

And (remember) Lut: behold, he said to his people: "Ye do commit lewdness, such as no people in Creation (ever) committed before you.

Lut's wife was said to be complicit with his people:

Allah sets forth, for an example to the Unbelievers, the wife of Noah and the wife of Lut: they were (respectively) under two of our righteous servants, but they were false to their (husbands), and they profited nothing before Allah on their account, but were told: "Enter ye the Fire along with (others) that enter!"

All were annihilated except for the family of Lut:

We rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): and evil was the shower on those who were admonished (but heeded not)!

With one exception:

But we saved him and his family, except his wife: she was of those who legged behind.

Lot also offered his daughters to the homosexual men:

And his people came unto him, running towards him - and before then they used to commit abominations - He said: O my people! Here are my daughters! They are purer for you. Beware of Allah, and degrade me not in (the person of) my guests. Is there not among you any upright man?

The Origins and Nature of Homosexuality: Comparison to Modern Scientific Study and Research

The narrative of the Qur'an makes a number of objective claims about the origins and nature of homosexuality in human beings. These are however almost wholly unsupported by the findings of modern scientific study into the nature of homosexuality in human males:

Homosexuality exists in low percentages

Scientifically it is highly unlikely that all the men in Lut's city, Sodom, would be homosexuals, as homosexuality exists only in low percentages, from 2-7%. These numbers are based on many scientific studies:

  • ACSF Investigators (1992). AIDS and sexual behaviour in France. Nature, 360, 407–409
  • Billy, J. O. G., Tanfer, K., Grady, W. R., & Klepinger, D. H. (1993). The sexual behavior of men in the United States. Family Planning Perspectives, 25, 52–60.
  • Binson, D., Michaels, S., Stall, R., Coates, T. J., Gagnon, & Catania, J. A. (1995). Prevalence and social distribution of men who have sex with men: United States and its urban centers. Journal of Sex Research, 32, 245–254.
  • Bogaert, A. F. (2004). The prevalence of male homosexuality: The effect of fraternal birth order and variation in family size. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 230, 33–37.
  • Fay, R. E., Turner, C. F., Klassen, A. D., & Gagnon, J. H. (1989). Prevalence and patterns of same-gender sexual contact among men. Science, 243, 338–348.
  • Johnson, A. M., Wadsworth, J., Wellings, K., Bradshaw, S., & Field, J. (1992). Sexual lifestyles and HIV risk. Nature, 360, 410–412.
  • Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Sell, R. L., Wells, J. A., & Wypij, D. (1995). The prevalence of homosexual behavior in the United States, the United Kingdom and France: Results of national population-based samples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 24, 235–248
  • Wellings, K., Field, J., Johnson, A., & Wadsworth, J. (1994). Sexual behavior in Britain: The national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles. London, UK: Penguin Books

These studies prove conclusively that the number of homosexuals in a society will not under normal circumstances exceed 7%. The idea that all of the men of Lut's cities were homosexuals is totally implausible.

First to experience homosexuality

Although confirmed by multiple Islamic scholars such as Tabari and ibn Kathir, the claim that the People of Lut were the first to experience homosexuality is completely without basis in history or biology. Homosexuality has been recorded in ancient cultures far before the time of Lut and Ibrahim(1948–2123 BC). For example the ancient Egyptians who existed 6000 years before Christ knew of the practice, as did Chinese and Indian cultures back to 7000 BCE. There are many recorded tales which portray homosexuality in the literature of these civilizations, such as the story between Seth and Horus. It is also known from biology that human male homosexuality, and to a lesser degree female homosexuality, will occur in any large enough population, so again this claim is completely without merit.

The Story in the Tafsir

Lut's wife was complicit with his people

The Qur'an says Lut's wife betrayed him. Quran exegetes explained this betrayal in two different ways: The first is that she betrayed him in religion. The second is that she used to lead the men to Lut's guests.

In the biblical original, Genesis 19:17 and 19:26, Lot's wife is destroyed because she looks back at the city being destroyed in contravention of the Angels' orders.

Killing the people of Lut

Allah destroys Lut's people, which is seen as justified in the Islamic tradition, as homosexuality is viewed in this tradition as a sin deserving of death. This is further used to justify the penalty of death for homosexuals in Islamic Law.

Lut offers daughters to wicked men

The detail of Lut offering up his two daughters to the crowd of rapists (Quran 15:67-71 and Quran 11:77-79) is a detail from the original story (the Bible, Genesis 19:8) which has survived the Islamification of the text and story. In the original story, the angels sent by YHVH to Lot's houses are Lot's guests, and Lot as a good Middle Eastern host is required to offer them good hospitality and protection, while the wicked men of Sodom and Gomorrah accost their house demanding to rape them, which is not a very hospitable thing to do. Although to later readers and listeners the salient point of the story appeared to be the lust of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah to rape other men, in fact a close reading of the original text of Genesis appears to cast their prime sin as inhospitality to guests and foreigners: Lot offers his daughters because he is a righteous man who takes care of foreign visitors as a good guest should, even at the cost of his own daughters' precious virginity. His willingness to sacrifice his daughters to the rapist mob is proof of his good hospitality, while the mob's insistence on raping these guests while they had perfectly good virgin daughters available for rape points to their wickedness and total lack of any morals whatsoever. In the Qur'anic version, though, by which time the homosexuality of the people of Lut has evolved into their prime sin, this gesture makes little sense since purely homosexual rapists would theoretically have no interest in his daughters (and the offering up of the daughters to be raped likely appeared as strange to the first generations of Muslims as it does to modern readers). Its survival shows its salience in the original story, even if devoid of context here.

See Also