Laws of Religion
Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men
From the Qur’an
The Qur’an promises prosperity to believers who pray humbly, avoid vain talk, pay the zakat and abstain from sexual activity with all except their wives and their female slaves. Fornication, which is an indecency and evil, is to be avoided. All indecent acts are forbidden, whether performed secretly or in the open.
The Qur’an refers several times to the story in which the men of the town attempt to seize the male guests of Lut (Lot) in order to have sex with them. These men of Lut’s town who approached him were known for their habits of engaging in evil acts. Lut chastised the offending men for their lust toward other men rather than women, specifically the wives that Allah created for them. Lut said that he detests the behavior of the men which is indecent and a transgression of permissible limits.
Lut offered his daughters to the men, saying that they would be purer for them than would the male guests of Lot whom they desired. He asked the men not to disgrace him concerning his guests and he called out to Allah to deliver him and his household. Allah rained down destruction upon those who were not Lut’s household and saved Lut and his household, except for his wife.
The Qur’an says that Allah saved Lut from the people of the town that practiced abominations. The Qur’an specifically refers to the attempt of the men to obtain Lot’s guests as the reason that Allah destroyed them. Allah was merciful to Lut because he was one of the righteous. Lut is listed in the Qur’an as one of those few specially favored by Allah and as a messenger sent by Allah.
(Editor’s note: The men of the town in this story were guilty of trying to force Lut to yield up his guests to them, which would have brought disgrace upon Lut for failing to protect his guests. At the same time, the texts are clear that the homosexual acts that the offending men desired to perform are indecent, abominable transgressions and resulted in their punishment.)
The Qur’an says that if two men commit an indecent act, they are to be punished. But if they repent and make amends, they should be left alone; Allah is ever merciful. Allah only accepts repentance of those whose evil action was done in ignorance and who repent quickly thereafter. There is no acceptance of repentance of those who have repeatedly done evil and wait until death approaches before repenting.
From the hadith compilations of al-Bukhari and Muslim
A hadith reports that Muhammad said that the private parts of a man should not be seen by another man, and similarly for two women. Also, two men should not lie under the same covering, and neither should two women.
Hadiths say that Muhammad cursed effeminate men – those who displayed the mannerisms of women – and also women who had the manners of men. He ordered the Muslims to turn such people out of their houses, and Umar (the second successor to Muhammad as leader of the community of Muslims) did turn such a person out. Muhammad specifically told one of his wives, Umm Salama, who was sitting with an effeminate man, not to let such effeminate men enter.
From Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh/sharia§): The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer of Ibn Rushd, the Risala of al-Shafi‛i and Reliance of the Traveller
Reliance of the Traveller says that parents are required to teach their children that at puberty they will become morally responsible for their actions and they must not commit unlawful sexual intercourse (zina*) or other unlawful actions such as sodomy, theft, consuming alcohol, lying and slander. It is obligatory for a Muslim to have this knowledge.
Stoning to death for committing sodomy applies only to those who are sane, past puberty and who commit the act voluntarily. Stoning applies to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. (Reliance of the Traveller explains that puberty applies when a person’s first wet dream occurs or when the age of 15 is reached or when a female first menstruates or becomes pregnant).
Stoning to death for sodomy applies only when the person is capable of remaining chaste, meaning that he or she has had sexual intercourse with their spouse in a legally valid marriage and is a free, sane person past the age of puberty.
A person who commits sodomy and who is considered incapable of remaining chaste (not having had sexual intercourse within a valid marriage while sane and past puberty) is subjected to 100 lashes and exiled to 50 miles away for one year.
Imam Dhahabi, an important 13th-14th century Shafi‛i scholar quoted in the English translation of Reliance of the Traveller, says that sodomy is an enormity§§, even more vile and ugly than adultery. Imam Dhahabi quotes Muhammad as saying that both participants in sodomy should be killed and also that lesbianism is adultery between two women. Imam Dhahabi also lists as enormities men who obey women, effeminate men, masculine women, men who wear women’s clothing and women who wear men’s clothing.
*Zina, unlawful sexual intercourse, includes both adultery and sexual intercourse between people who are not married (though sexual intercourse with one’s female slave is permitted and so is not zina.)
§The specific derived laws of fiqh summarized here are often referred to by the more general term sharia law.
§§Enormity: In Keller’s English translation of Reliance of the Traveller, Imam Dhahabi (an important 13th-14th century Shafi‛i scholar) is quoted as listing certain sins as “enormities,” meaning that there is a threat of punishment after death mentioned in the Qur’an or hadiths, a legal penalty is prescribed or the transgressor is accursed by Allah (God) or Muhammad. These “enormities” are the most serious sins and, according to the Qur’an; if they are avoided then a person will be caused by Allah to enter an honorable gate (meaning reward in Paradise after death). According to Imam Dhahabi, committing an “enormity” without knowing that it is unlawful eliminates the guilt, except for denying those religious tenets that are universally known by Muslims.
Abbreviations used in footnotes:
BK: Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either “(USC)” or “(ebook)” after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.
DJP: The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer, by Ibn Rushd, translated by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, published by Garnet Publishing Ltd, Reading, UK. Volume 1, 1994. Volume 2, 1996. Limited preview is available here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2). Full text online and download for Volume 1 is here and here and for Volume 2 is here and here.
RT: Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised edition 1994, published by Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland, USA. It can be downloaded as a pdf file from various websites such as this one.
SR: al-Shafi‛i’s Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence, translated by Majid Khadduri, Second Edition, published by The Islamic Texts Society. It can be downloaded here.
● The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.
 QR 23:1-6
 QR 17:32
 QR 6:151
 QR 7:80-84, QR 11:74-83, QR 15:58-77, QR 26:160-175, QR 27:54-58, QR 29:28-35,QR 51:31-37, 54:33-39
 QR 11:78
 QR 7:81, QR 26:165, QR 27:55, QR 29:29
 QR 7:81, QR 27:55
 QR 26:166
 QR 26:168
 QR 7:80, QR 27:54, QR 29:28-29
 QR 26:166
 QR 11:78, QR 15:71
 QR 11:78
 QR 11:78, QR 15:68-69
 QR 26:169, QR 29:30
 QR 26:169,
 QR 7:84, QR 11:82, QR 15:73-74, QR 26:172-173, QR 27:58, QR 29:34, QR 37:136, QR 51:33, QR 54:34
 QR 11:81, QR 7:83, QR 15:59, QR 26:170, QR 27:57, QR 29:32, 37:134, QR 54:34
 QR 11:81, QR 7:83, QR 15:60, QR 26:171, QR 27:57, QR 29:32, QR 37:135
 QR 21:74
 QR 54:37
 QR 21:75
 QR 6:86
 QR 37:133
 QR 11:78, QR 15:68-69, QR 54:37
 QR 7:80, QR 11:78, QR 21:74, QR 26:166, QR 27:54, QR 29:28-29
 QR 4:16
 QR 4:17
 QR 4:18
 ML 3:667-668
 BK 7:72:773, BK 7:72:774, BK 8:82:820
 BK 7:72:774, BK 8:82:820
 BK 5:59:613, BK 7:62:162, BK 7:72:775
 RT a4.6 (pages 11-12)
 RT o12.1 (page 610)
 RT k13.8 (pages 411-412)
 RT o12.2 (page 610)
 RT o12.2 (page 610)
 RT p17.1 (page 664)
 RT p17.3 (page 665)
 RT p28.1 (page 672)
 RT p0.0 (pages 651-652)
 QR 4:31, cited in RT p0.1 (page 652)
 RT p70.2 (page 696)