وَكَذَٰلِكَ جَعَلْنَا لِكُلِّ نَبِيٍّ عَدُوًّا شَيَاطِينَ الْإِنسِ وَالْجِنِّ يُوحِي بَعْضُهُمْ إِلَىٰ بَعْضٍ زُخْرُفَ الْقَوْلِ غُرُورًا ۚ وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّكَ مَا فَعَلُوهُ ۖ فَذَرْهُمْ وَمَا يَفْتَرُونَ
So it is that, for every prophet, We have set up enemies—the devils of mankind and jinn—who whisper unto one another flowery discourses in order to deceive-Had Allāh willed, they would have not done it. So, leave them alone with what they forge. (Al-Anʿām, 6:112)
The key phrase here is “zukhraf al-qawl ghurūrā” which can be translated as “embellished speech or varnished falsehood by way of deception.” This is the slick talk that has been developed into perfection in the age of the media, sound bites, and spin doctors. These forces of deception will remain there; the task of the truth seeker is to be aware of their ways and not allow himself to be deceived by them. The next āyah tells us that it is really those who do not believe in the Hereafter that will be persuaded by them. It says: “and (they seduce one another) in order that the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter may incline to it.”A belief in the Hereafter that is alive and a concern for our accountability before the All-Knowing Allāh will protect us from their deceptions.
The Majority Says…
وَإِن تُطِعْ أَكْثَرَ مَن فِي الْأَرْضِ يُضِلُّوكَ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ وَإِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا يَخْرُصُونَ
If you obey the majority of those on earth, they will make you lose the way of Allāh. They follow nothing but whims, and they do nothing but make conjectures. (Al-Anʿām 6:116)
This again emphasizes that matters of truth and falsehood cannot be decided through democracy or opinion polls. Further, the views of most people on fundamental questions of life are based on conjectures and speculation, not on certain knowledge, which can only come through revelation.
Inward and Outward Sins
وَذَرُوا ظَاهِرَ الْإِثْمِ وَبَاطِنَهُ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْسِبُونَ الْإِثْمَ سَيُجْزَوْنَ بِمَا كَانُوا يَقْتَرِفُونَ
Forsake the outwardness of sin and the inwardness thereof. Lo! those who garner sin will be awarded that which they have earned. (Al-Anʿām 6:120)
The outward sins are the content of our outward actions like telling lies, backbiting, failure to perform obligatory acts of worship, and failure to follow the commands of Allāh in all dealings and transactions. The inward sins are the thoughts, ideas and motives we hide in our heart like arrogance, malice, jealousy, and desire to show off.
The Islamic discipline of fiqh deals with the first; that of tasawwuf (although it is greatly misunderstood these days) deals with the second. The āyah makes it clear that both are important; reforming both our actions and our motives and thoughts are equal obligations.
وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا مِمَّا لَمْ يُذْكَرِ اسْمُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَإِنَّهُ لَفِسْقٌ
Do not eat that (meat) over which the name of Allāh has not been pronounced. This is surely a sin. (Al-Anʿām 6:121)
Taking a life, even that of an animal that has been created to feed us, is something that we cannot do on our own authority. That is why it is of utmost importance that we slaughter that animal by pronouncing the name of Allāh and only in the way prescribed by Him. When the pronouncement is left out intentionally, or done by someone who does not believe in Allāh in the first place, then that meat is not permissible for consumption.
In this sūrah, which deals basically with the wrong beliefs of the mushrikeen of Makkah and is meant to explain and assert the truth of Islamic beliefs, it is interesting that the issue of ḥalāl and ḥarām meat has been discussed in no less than ten āyahs. This again makes it clear that this is not a secondary or peripheral issue.
Hearts, Open and Constricted
فَمَن يُرِدِ اللَّهُ أَن يَهْدِيَهُ يَشْرَحْ صَدْرَهُ لِلْإِسْلَامِ ۖ وَمَن يُرِدْ أَن يُضِلَّهُ يَجْعَلْ صَدْرَهُ ضَيِّقًا حَرَجًا كَأَنَّمَا يَصَّعَّدُ فِي السَّمَاءِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَجْعَلُ اللَّهُ الرِّجْسَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ
So, whomsoever Allāh wills to guide, He makes his heart wide open for Islam, and whomsoever He wills to let go astray, He makes his heart tight and constricted, (and he feels embracing Islam as difficult) as if he were climbing unto the skies. In this way, Allāh lays abomination on those who do not believe. (Al-Anʿām, 6:125)
A hadith explains the signs of this wide opening of the breast: “Turning to the eternal abode, turning away from the abode of deception (this world), and preparation for death before it comes.” Such a person would accept the commands of Allāh with an open heart. There is much to ponder here for those Muslims who habitually show allergic reactions to different commands of the Sharīʿah. The roots of this behavior is the sickness of the heart mentioned here.
At higher elevations atmospheric pressure is low, making breathing difficult. (That is why airplane cabins are pressurized). What a fitting illustration of the constriction of the breast.
A Muslim’s Pledge
قُلْ إِنَّ صَلَاتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ. لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ ۖ وَبِذَٰلِكَ أُمِرْتُ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
Say, my worship and my sacrifice and my living and my dying are for Allāh, Lord of the Worlds. For Him there is no partner. And thus I have been commanded, and I am the first one to submit.” (Al-Anʿām 6:162-163)
This is the definition of the Muslim—one who surrenders completely and as a result loves and hates; and lives and dies for the sake of Allāh. As the Qur’ān explains in several places, this was the call of all the previous prophets as well.
يَا بَنِي آدَمَ قَدْ أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكُمْ لِبَاسًا يُوَارِي سَوْآتِكُمْ وَرِيشًا ۖ وَلِبَاسُ التَّقْوَىٰ ذَٰلِكَ خَيْرٌ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ
O Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness,- that is the best. Such are among the Signs of Allāh, that they may receive admonition! (Al-Aʿrāf, 7:26)
While all other animals have a skin that provides them protection against the elements, human beings don’t. Monkeys can live without clothing; human beings cannot. Why? It is not that our bodies did not develop our skin—so thin and fur free that it requires external covering for protection—because of some unexplained evolutionary accident. Rather, our Creator designed it this way so we will always need clothing. He also put in us the sense of shame that forces us to cover ourselves. At the same time, He provided us with the means and abilities for producing nice clothes. On the other hand, the first act of Satan was to cause Adam and Eve to expose themselves as explained in the āyahs preceding this one.
The address here is to all humanity, emphasizing thereby the universal human need to cover ourselves properly. The Qur’ān then warns that Satan was not finished after his first attempt for the next āyah says: “Oh Children of Adam! Let not Satan seduce you in the same manner as he got your parents out of the Garden, stripping them of their raiment, to expose their shame.”
Those who design, promote, and use the fashions— especially women’s fashions—that develop new ways of not covering the body are thus obedient servants of Satan, whether they realize it or not.
وَلُوطًا إِذْ قَالَ لِقَوْمِهِ أَتَأْتُونَ الْفَاحِشَةَ مَا سَبَقَكُم بِهَا مِنْ أَحَدٍ مِّنَ الْعَالَمِينَ. إِنَّكُمْ لَتَأْتُونَ الرِّجَالَ شَهْوَةً مِّن دُونِ النِّسَاءِ ۚ بَلْ أَنتُمْ قَوْمٌ مُّسْرِفُونَ
And (remember) Lūṭ, when he said unto his people: “Do you commit abominations such as none in all the world has ever done before you? Verily, with lust you approach men instead of women. You are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” (Al-Aʿrāf, 7:80-81)
The story of the people of Prophet Lūṭ (Lot) is mentioned in more than ten sūrahs in the Qur’ān. This is a story of crime, defiance, and punishment. Unprecedented crime, extremism in insisting on that crime, and exemplary punishment. Anyone who reads this narrative with an open mind can have not the slightest confusion about Islam’s attitude about homosexuality.
The first thing the Qur’ān mentions is that homosexual practice was invented by the people to whom Prophet Lūṭ was sent as a messenger. The Qur’ānic word is al-fāḥishah, which means lewdness, shameful act, indecency. Fornication and adultery (zinā) are also mentioned as examples of fāḥishah in the Qur’ān. But here the definite article al is added to show the even more serious nature of this act. Homosexual act is not fāḥishah but al-fāḥishah. It is not just a shameful act but the shameful act, the lewdness, the abomination.
Secondly in telling that no one before them committed this act, the Qur’ān uses the word min in addition to aḥadin. Without this, it would still mean that no one did it before you. But with min emphasis is added. In other words, no one whosoever ever did this act among all the creatures. This is an outright rejection of the claim that this tendency is an inborn and ingrained part of nature for which no person should be held accountable. Prophet Lūṭ accuses them of having invented this shameful act. And the Sodomites do not say that they are helpless because it is a call of nature. Rather they say, “You know very well what we want.” And that the Prophet would be added to the list of people who have been expelled from their city for objecting to their practices if he does not cease and desist from criticizing their way of life. They are the inventors of this perversion and fully committed to use of violence to defend it.
This Qur’ānic account regarding the genesis of this perversion is attested to not only by the Bible and the Talmud but also by the terms used to describe this act in languages around the world. It is sodomy in English, sodomie and sodomiser (the doer) in French, sodomia and sodomizar in Spanish and sodomi in Norwegian. Sodomie in German and sodomia in Polish also refer to variant forms of sexual perversion. All point to the fact that it was invented in Sodom, which was the principle city of these people. In Arabic and languages influenced by it like Urdu the term used is liwatat or aml qaum lut, referring to the practice of the people of Prophet Lūṭ. Again it is pointing to the same date and place of invention. The date is about four thousand years ago. For thousands of years before that no one ever felt the urge for this perversion. Obviously if it was in human nature then some people in earlier times should also have expressed this inclination. The place is the area now submerged under the Dead Sea. This was a very prosperous and rich fertile land. Then the punishment came in the form of a huge earthquake and rain of brimstones and fires that turned their world upside down. The area then became the lowest point on the face of the earth, being about 1300 feet below sea level. It was submerged under the ocean and turned into a desolate place where little life exists. Its harsh environment permits neither fish or other sea animals nor aquatic plants. It was as the Qur’ān said: “And verily of that We have left a clear sign for people who have sense.”
Sodomites committed other crimes as well like highway robbery and performing shameful acts in public as mentioned in one place in the Qur’ān9 But their biggest crime was homosexuality, which is mentioned repeatedly. And then there was defiance. When Prophet Lūṭ warned them about divine retribution, they challenged him to bring it. Their fate was thus sealed by their own demand. That was before the angels arrived at the scene. Their invasion of the house of Prophet Lūṭ for the explicit purpose of molesting the angels who appeared in the guise of beautiful young men was thus just the last nail in their coffin. It was not the primary reason for their punishment.
Some people have tried to distort the Qur’ānic account by claiming that their crime was rape not homosexuality. Others have surmised that the problem was that they were targeting young children, otherwise it would be fine. The Qur’ān does not leave the slightest possibility of such interpretation. In the āyah quoted above it says: “Verily, with lust you approach men instead of women.” It is rijāl (men) not aṭfāl (children). It is for the act itself, without any mention of compulsion, that they are called as musrifūn (going beyond limits).
Also significant is the role of Prophet Lūṭ’s wife. While in the entire town only one house was saved, that of Prophet Lūṭ, even in that house there was an exception. It was the wife of the Prophet, who was killed with the rest of the people. Her fate is mentioned repeatedly so it does not remain just a footnote to the story. Why was she punished? Not for committing homosexual acts but for betraying her husband. She betrayed the cause of her husband by being an active sympathizer with the people and therefore shared their fate.
When the people invaded the house of Prophet Lūṭ, and he was at the point of despair, the people were blinded by the angels. We can see a figurative blindness in the people who try to make a case for approval of homosexuality in Islam. A most bizarre argument that has been forwarded by some of them is that the Qur’ān mentions the presence of young boys as servants in Paradise. Interestingly it is the same people who argue that the modern homosexual affair is between consenting adults and that they also agree that sex with young boys is wrong. Yet that is what comes to their lustful minds when they read the accounts of the servants in the Qur’ān.
If they had maintained their sensibilities, they would have realized that this Qur’ānic account actually gives exactly the opposite message. In Paradise women will not be in the public places. They will be in the private space, where they will not face the attention of anyone except their husbands (“houris, cloistered in cool pavilions”). Young boys will be in all the public places, because those who enter Paradise will not look at them with any sexual desires. They will have nothing to worry as those who could look at them with desire will not be in Paradise at all. They will be in the exact opposite of Paradise, a small manifestation of which was given to the people of Prophet Lūṭ.
وَمَا كَانَ جَوَابَ قَوْمِهِ إِلَّا أَن قَالُوا أَخْرِجُوهُم مِّن قَرْيَتِكُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُمْ أُنَاسٌ يَتَطَهَّرُونَ
But his people’s only answer was this: “Expel them (Lūṭ and his followers) from your township! Verily, they are folk who make themselves out to be pure!” (Al-Aʿrāf, 7:82)
The people of Prophet Lūṭ not only invented the heinous practice of homosexuality, they also fashioned a propaganda weapon for fighting those who would try to stop them. As quoted above they blamed Prophet Lūṭ and his associates of being self-righteous. We can hear the echoes of this blame even today. If someone dares to say that what someone else is saying or doing is wrong or un-Islamic, he will be immediately convicted of being self-righteous. And there is no sin greater than that. With this one word anyone can be stopped from pointing out any wrongs.
Needless to say the term does not belong in the Islamic discourse. Muslims have had lots of debates in their history on the actions and words of each other. But you do not find the use of this word in these debates. The proper response to an accusation of wrongdoing is to show that the act in question is not wrong. But those using a counter accusation of self- righteousness are in effect saying: “How dare you accuse us of doing anything wrong.” Instead of answering the accusation, they aim at silencing it. So we should make it clear that the term is not acceptable in the Islamic discourse. In fact the entire institution of amr bil maʿrūf wa nahi ʿanil munkar, so central to Islam, can be disbanded if we continue to allow the use of this term.