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MEMRI & Qaradawi: the main point June 30, 2006

Posted by Rasheed Eldin in Homosexualists, Media, Responses, Shari'ah.

In my lengthy post earlier about Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s recent comments on homosexuality, the most important point may have been missed by many readers in amongst the various notes on language.

“The Elephant” at the Middle East Gay Journal acknowledged my findings but doesn’t seem apologetic about laying into Qaradawi for supposedly “calling for punishment” (as opposed to reiterating established scholarly views), as have all the other agenda-driven bloggers – who, at least, have the excuse of not understanding Arabic.

Brian Whitaker noted in an e-mail exchange that “The trouble with MEMRI is that it’s only interested in highlighting the bits that make Qaradawi look bad; it’s not concerned with the detailed arguments.” Brian has, of course, taken on MEMRI before. However, I am not convinced that he has understood Qaradawi either, and we are still discussing this.

So here is the most important point again. MEMRI (in their edited video and transcript) chose to quote the Sheikh when he mentioned the various scholarly views on punishment for a man who commits sodomy (MEMRI just said “homosexual”!), but chose to delete a few sentences in amongst that in which he stated his preference to select the least severe view for our times.

So while Islam-haters reproduced this MEMRI propaganda with glee, they failed to realise, let alone acknowledge, that Sheikh al-Qaradawi was not advocating all those “gruesome” punishments, but is of the view that the widespread nature of this sin (i.e. sodomy) calls for a lightening of the punishment to be applied.

I am by no means saying this is a “gay-friendly” view (as if that is something we as sincere Muslims need to prioritise!), but I firmly believe that honest people should acknowledge somebody’s true opinion if they are going to indulge in debate, let alone condemnation and mockery.

So to make this clearer, I am going to present the relevant part, with MEMRI translation compared to mine.

MEMRI’s translation:

The schools of thought disagree about the punishment. Some say they should be punished like fornicators, and then we distinguish between married and unmarried men, and between married and unmarried women. Some say both should be punished the same way. Some say we should throw them from a high place, like God did with the people of Sodom. Some say we should burn them, and so on. There is disagreement.


The important thing is to treat this act as a crime.

Rasheed Eldin’s translation:

The schools of thought differed over the punishment. Some of them would punish as they would the fornicator/adulterer, so distinguishing between married and unmarried men, and between married and unmarried women. And some of them said the punishment of the two [marriage categories] is equal. And some of them said we throw them from a high place, like our Lord did to the People of Lot. And some of them said we burn them. And some of them — differences [of opinion, so] it is possible for us to choose from them in our era what is most appropriate, and what is lightest, recognising how widespread the tribulation is: because tribulations and sins being widespread is something in Islamic legal theory that causes things to be lightened. The important thing is to consider/treat this act as a crime.

Don’t tell me that this is an insignificant difference. Bottom line: MEMRI are dishonest.

يوسف القرضاوي: عقوبة كل مَن يحرف جنسيا.. يعني مثل عقوبة الزاني والقرآن سمَّى الزنا فاحشة {ولا تَقْرَبُوا الزِّنَى إنَّهُ كَانَ فَاحِشَةً وسَاءَ سَبِيلاً} وسمى عمل قوم لوط فاحشة أيضا {أَتَأْتُونَ الفَاحِشَةَ مَا سَبَقَكُم بِهَا مِنْ أَحَدٍ مِّنَ العَالَمِينَ}، {أَتَأْتُونَ الفَاحِشَةَ وأَنتُمْ تُبْصِرُونَ} فالفاحشة محرَّمة {ولا تَقْرَبُوا الفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا ومَا بَطَنَ} ما عقوبته؟ اختلفت المذاهب في العقوبة وبعضهم يعاقَب معاقبة الزاني فنفرق بين المتزوج وغير المتزوج وبين المتزوجة وغير المتزوجة وبعضهم قال الاثنين عقوبتهم سواء وبعضهم قال نرميهم من حالق زي ما ربنا عمل في قوم لوط وبعضهم قال نُحرِّقهم وبعضهم يعني خلافات ممكن نختار منها ما هو أقرب وما هو أخف في عصرنا مراعاة لعموم البلوة لأن عموم البلوة بالمصائب وبالمعاصي من المخفِّفات في التشريع الإسلامي، إنما هل المهم تجريم هذا العمل لابد أن نجرِّم هذا العمل..


UPDATE: I thought I should add one more point, and that is in reference to the Sheikh’s saying “It’s possible for us to choose…” rather than stating his own preference. This, in my view, is due to his wise recognition of two facts:

1. Islamic law is not being applied anywhere on earth today (in its holistic understanding).
2. A wise judge may apply a different sentence depending on the context of place and time, so there isn’t a simple bottom-line to be said, in an area where jurists have differed in opinions.

So again, I emphasise that Qaradawi was not “calling” for anything, except perhaps for restraint and proper consideration of the issues.



1. Al-Fil - June 30, 2006

I don’t disagree that MEMRI was dishonest, and I’ve said that before, and I’ve apologized for that omission, which you completely overlooked in your responses to my comments. Nevertheless, Qaradawi advocating death for homosexuals didn’t seem like a surprise, he’s done it many times in the past. Don’t forget what he said about the crown prince of Qatar.

Why do you call us Islam haters simply because we believe in a more tolerant form of Islam? You said previously that I need to be more open-minded about anti-gay Muslim viewpoints. At least I still see them as Muslim, and don’t discredit their origins, as you do with pro-gay viewpoints.


2. Rasheed Eldin - July 1, 2006

We are having a bloggers’ disagreement, but I’d hardly call it a “battle” as you have!

I didn’t “completely overlook” what you said, in fact I noted that you “acknowledged my findings” – but if you’re not going to actually read what’s written, there’s little point in my continuing to be pedantic about such matters.

Elephant, I think there is a subtle-yet-crucial difference between “adocating death for gays” and stating the Islamic ruling regarding punishing people who commit what are defined as obscene sexual acts.

This is not about “who you are”, but what some people do. These things becoming acceptable in some societies does not change its status in the sight of God. We are not the judges, but God has judged and revealed His judgement in His Book.

I didn’t call you an Islam-hater, but there are plenty of people who hate Islam and reproduced this MEMRI propaganda with glee, just as they always do. And you happen to be siding with them. Perhaps you will have some shame to live in that company.

I believe the pro-gay Muslims and “Muslims” (they are not all the same) are completely discredited by the texts before they even open their big mouths. You will find my opinions on these “reformist” ideas throughout my blog. But you will also find that I am not quick to deny people’s claim to be Muslim – and if you can provide evidence to the contrary, I’m ready to look at it.

Finally what?

3. Rasheed Eldin - July 1, 2006

Notice, by the way, Qaradawi’s use of the PAST TENSE in discussing the disagreement between the madhahib (schools of thought). MEMRI changed these all to present tense.

The significance of his tense choice is that he was giving a survey of the historical disagreements, i.e. indicating that there is no set answer to the question of punishing one who commits homosexual acts.

Then he advocated opting for the lightest punishment.

But let’s not let that get in the way of a classic MEMRI-fed attack on Islam and Muslims!

4. هيتم - July 20, 2007

الاسلام يعترف بي المخنتون حتى مند بداية الدعوة )) او التابعين غير اولي الاربة من الرجال ) ) سورة النورالاية 30 ولي ام المومنين عائشة قول في هد الموضوع الرجال الدي ليست لهم شهوة النساء الدي لاارب له في النساء اي الحاجة اليهم

5. Rasheed Eldin - July 20, 2007

Dear Haitam, you can find some discussion on the relevant words/hadiths in the following comments:


6. Taleb Haqq - July 21, 2007

اخي هيثم
اولا: من علوم تفسير القرآن اننا لا نعتمد على آية واحدة بل المفسرون يتعمقون بدراسة القرآن والحديث الشريف ككل
ثانيا: ما هو الحديث الذي استندت اليه في هذا التفسير؟ لان اولي الاربة امن الرجال ترجمتها قد يكون اقرب لل”asexual” بدلا من الذي ادعيته انت.
والله تعالى اعلم

7. Rasheed Eldin - July 21, 2007

The point being raised here is that scholars talked about a category of men (mentioned in Qur’an 24:31) who “have no need for women”. This, we contend, was those scholars’ way of describing asexuality, because by “need for women”, they simply meant “sexual need”.

It hardly needed to be said in that time that they “have no need for women, or men, or children, or animals…”! Why? Because sexual deviances did not have the prominent place in society and societal discourse as they do now. So our terminology needs to be updated, while sticking with the Qur’an & Sunnah rulings.

Allah knows best.

8. Taleb Haqq - July 21, 2007

Thank you Brother Rasheed,
To be clear though, the actual verse in the Qur’an did not specify “men who have no desire for women” though this might be how the scholars explained it at the time. The verse itself was quite broad and said (the translation of which could be) “men who have no sexual desire”. If it were the case as some people contend that this applies to men who have no sexual desire FOR WOMEN specifically, it would only make sense that Allah would have specified this in the verse.

Again I do not claim to be a scholar here but just putting forth what I observe.

As always, Allah knows best.

9. Infidel - December 19, 2011

Ok, so we choose the lightest punishment, and the options given are burning and being thrown from a high place. You’ll forgive me if this does’t seem particularly compassionate or just?

Elephant, I think there is a subtle-yet-crucial difference between “adocating death for gays” and stating the Islamic ruling regarding punishing people who commit what are defined as obscene sexual acts.

This differerence is not crucial at all, in fact, its not even meaningful. These so-called obscene acts flow directly from a person being gay. You cannot say that you don’t advocate death for birds, just for the act of flying.

Rasheed Eldin - December 19, 2011

1. No, the options presented in Islamic jurisprudence are wider than that, i.e. not unanimously capital punishment. It seems to me that this is an issue that needs renewed research in the light of Islamic sources and principles.

2. We don’t believe in this “direct flow” concept that you are positing, because a person has choice in his or her actions. For your analogy with birds to be helpful at all, it would have to be a case of what follows from being *human*, not this invented category of “gay” that came about during the last century.

Infidel - December 19, 2011

1. So what then? Just 100 lashes or whatever? What is theleast harsh punishment put fourth? And anyways those are the only punishments he mentions in the video, and as they’re so barbaric its unconscionable to us in the west that they could ever be doled out for this “crime”. So I’ve gotta say that if your intent was to show that MEMRI was trying to make Islam seem harsher and more unjust than it is, you haven’t really made it seem much better, if at all. There’s still plenty to “froth” about.

I now that you’ve stated that the punishment is not your main concern, but I think that you can maybe understand that for a gay person, this is pretty important. Would you ever be willing to accept a ‘live and let live’ attitude towards the matter, as we have in the west, or does there need to be a punishment? Also, why the renewed research? Hasn’t there been 1500 years of scholars from all the schools of jurisprudence advocating most often death as you say, or at least a harsh punishment? Do you think that you can make your religion seem more humane and palatable by calling for new research into the matter? What do you expect that this new research could bring to light?

2. Sexuality does flow directly from being human, take any biology 101 course. People have a choice in their actions, but not their basic biological and psychological needs. To expect that people are going to be able to simply ignore their sexuality, especially on a societal level, is plainly unrealistic, not to mention inhumane. Gay relationships and sex are part and parcel of being gay, just as straight relationships and sex are part and parcel of being straight. One can choose to not satisfy their sexuality, but for those that do one cannot claim to condemn what they do and not condemn their sexuality itself and therefore the person him/herself.

And gays were not invented in the last century. Gays have been present in every stage of human history, from the first hunter-gatherers to the Sumerians to China’s Middle kingdom to the classical Islamic age to the present. If you’re referring to the idea of being as a part of a person’s identity, it always was so even before it was recognized as such. Science has only very recently began to study sexual orientation in an objective way.

10. Rasheed Eldin - December 20, 2011

@ Infidel – unfortunately I don’t have time for a lengthy discussion, but I’ll try to address your points briefly.

1. I should point out that I didn’t set up this site particularly to make anything more palatable to anyone, even if I am keen to present Islam as it is, which is indeed more ‘palatable’ than what many people imagine it to be. My chief concern is presenting the truth. I have limited knowledge and can get things wrong, but I hope that by contributing, it will raise the level of discussion among Muslims and improve their discourse with others: i.e. make it more accurate and nuanced.

I believe that imprisonment has been mentioned for the crime of sodomy, i.e. if it is proven to have occurred, which in itself is highly unlikely (as in the case of adultery, it requires confession or to be witnessed directly by four people). My point about research is that I believe many scholars (as in other areas of Islamic law) have simply repeated what their predecessors have said, while in fact Islamic law is responsive to changes in society – without being relativist such that the essentials of morality would change.

2. Sexuality is one thing, anal intercourse with other men (or whatever equivalent between women) is quite another. At least you admit that one can “choose to not satisfy their sexuality” in that way. I am a human being too, and I do know what you’re saying but you seem to be missing the fact that there are always other options. I doubt you would go to the extreme of advocating that everyone who desires something (however strongly) should follow that, because there are certain things that are unacceptable.

I know that certain definitions have become the norm, but that doesn’t change the reality even if you believe that the current stance is more “objective”.

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