Sins, crimes and punishments November 7, 2006Posted by Rasheed Eldin in Responses, Shari'ah.
I’ve been having a little discussion with someone on the comments thread following an article about Yusuf Islam, by Inayat Bunglawala. The thread had nothing to do with homosexuality, until Peter Tatchell popped up to call Yusuf “a self-proclaimed homophobic bigot” and “vicious hate-monger” who “was preaching the same kind of homophobic scare-mongering and hatred as the neo-Nazi BNP”, with his “sick, nasty and evil” comments. That’s a lot of adjectives, I must say!
That aside, “scotslune” posed a question to Inayat, and I decided to share some points in response. Here I reproduce our discussion (which might continue in the comments section here if you’re interested!)…
If you believe, the practice of homosexuality to be unnatural and sinful, what are your views on the proper punishment for doing so?
Not every sinful act receives a punishment in this life, as most sins (and of course good deeds) will be recompensed in the next life. There, God may choose to forgive all, but hellfire has been created as a place of punishment. For sinners who are still believers, that torment will not be eternal, and they will eventually join the others in Paradise.
There is no definitive answer about the Islamic ruling on punishing people found guilty of this form of sexual immorality (in particular homosexual sodomy), but the most common opinion has been that the death penalty would be applied. That is the same as applied to married adulterers (male or female), but the same strictures apply about societal context and due process.
For more details on Islam and homosexuality, please see: http://www.gaymuslims.org/
Thanks to RasheedEldin for confirming what most of us understood about the stance of Islam on gay realtionships (and now on adultery too)! I wonder if Inayat and the MCB agree – over to you Inayat.
By the way, if you follow the link in the post above you will discover further evidence of the Islamic approach to these matters.
RasheedEldin – presumably you support the imposition of the death penalty for these matters in places such as Iran or at least will not condemn it?
Did I confirm what most of “us” thought, or did you just decide that whatever I wrote could be confirmation of your prejudices?
I didn’t state a particular position on the matter of punishment, but merely mentioned the historical scholarly debate, and the view that has been most prevalent.
Even Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whom fanatics like Tatchell have focused on in their crusade against “Muslim homophobia”, recently stated that in the present time scholars should opt for the least severe opinion amongst those that have been put forth in the past.
But of course most of you won’t know that, because MEMRI chose to clip the crucial bit out and give the enthusiastic queer media something to froth about.
Scotslune: rather than feeling free to presume, how about reading, understanding, engaging..?
I used the word “understood” becuase I had read and understood whatI have been able to find out about Islamic belief on these matters ( so I did not “presume”!) and,by asking for clarification etc, I am engaging. And I recommended people interested to follow the link to your website to find out more. So where’s the problem?
Please do tell us more, in particular what is “the least severe opinion” which Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi is recommending to scholars and what “in the present time” means. Do you think it is a permanent change of view or a tactical one or what? And could you tell me more about the good Sheikh and where I can find out more about him?
And could you also tell us if there are any Muslim scholars who do not consider the practice of homosexuality to be sinful as there are, for example, Christian scholars (sorry, don’t know about the Jewish tradition or other faiths so I don’t want to presume anything about them!). If there are, where do they draw on for their views?
By the way, I understand from a gay Muslim website that in Iraq, the Grand Ayatollah Sistani has withdrawn his fatwa that homosexuals should be put to death by the worst possible means after intervention from gay Iraqis living abroad following several killings of gay people by Shi’ite militias; is that your understanding as well? Do you agree with his withdrawal of the fatwa?
You don’t seem to want to commit yourself to saying what your personal views are on punishment in this life (if any) for practising homosexuality should be. Personally, my views are that the current law in the UK is fairly acceptable (ie legal between consenting adults). So go on, engage yourself and tell us what YOU believe!
Why did I ask you not to “presume”? Because you did say “presumably”! Anyway, no matter now! I don’t see it as beneficial to extend this discussion further, except that I reply to your questions briefly.
What “least severe opinion” would Qaradawi advocate? I don’t know. I think the point is that the matter is not fixed by the texts, so there is flexibility on what would be applied in the context. Even if there were a place today where Islamic law was realistically applied (and there isn’t), and someone was brought before a judge and sodomy proven against him (unlikely but possible), that judge could rule in a number of ways.
Qaradawi was explaining the Islamic legal principle, not making a ruling/judgement, which would be in a specific case. If he was in the position of a judge (Qadi), he would presumably opt for a lighter punishment than some others would, given his point about the widespread nature of such matters.
By “in the present time”, I meant while the current societal contexts pertain. That is too complex a matter for me to explain in depth, and I don’t know exactly what Qaradawi or other scholars would point to in particular. I think his opting for the lightest is not inherently permanent, but not “tactical” either: Islamic law is flexible according to contextual realities. It always has been.
Sheikh Qaradawi has his own (Arabic) website: http://www.qaradawi.net – resources in English can be found at http://www.islamonline.net – he also has many books, including some translated into English.
“And could you also tell us if there are any Muslim scholars who do not consider the practice of homosexuality to be sinful as there are, for example, Christian scholars (sorry, don’t know about the Jewish tradition or other faiths so I don’t want to presume anything about them!). If there are, where do they draw on for their views?”
I don’t know if I’d call them “scholars”, but there are people who are presenting queer-friendly theories. I discuss these at length on my blog.
“Do you agree with [Sistani’s] withdrawal of the fatwa?”
I don’t really know what it means to withdraw a fatwa. Was it really a fatwa in the first place? It’s hard to comment really.
“You don’t seem to want to commit yourself to saying what your personal views are on punishment in this life (if any) for practising homosexuality should be. Personally, my views are that the current law in the UK is fairly acceptable (ie legal between consenting adults). So go on, engage yourself and tell us what YOU believe!”
I haven’t committed myself to a position statement because I don’t have one. It hasn’t been important for me to have one. I am not going to do anything about it even if I do believe in a worldly punishment.
As I said above, something can be “illegal” (sinful) in the sight of Islam but not warrant a worldly punishment. Morality and law are not always the same thing. UK law doesn’t prohibit sodomy, but that doesn’t mean we all must believe it is OK. Most people don’t think cheating on one’s wife is OK, do they? But nobody goes to jail for it.