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Islamic views on homosexuality have always been influenced by the rulings prescribed by the Qur'an and the teachings of the Islamic prophet Muhammed. Traditionally, Qur'anic verses and hadith have condemned sexual acts between members of the same sex.

The Qur'an cites the story of "people of Lot" (also known as the Sodomites) who were destroyed by the wrath of Allah because they engaged in homosexual acts. The legal punishment for sodomy has varied among juristic schools: some prescribe capital punishment; while other prescribe a milder discretionary punishment. Homosexuality is a crime and forbidden in most Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc. In some relatively secular or multi-religious Islamic countries, this is not the case, Algeria, Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey being some examples. Despite this, homoerotic themes were present in poetry and other literature by some Muslims which celebrated male love, and were more common than expressions of attraction to women.[1]

Some movements in Islam, such as the Al-Fatiha Foundation, accept and consider homosexuality as natural, either regarding Qur'anic verses as obsolete in the context of modern society, or pointing out that the Qu'ran speaks out against homosexual lust, and is silent on homosexual love. Writer Irshad Manji, a lesbian herself and a staunch critic of Islam,[2] is of the opinion that homosexuality is permissible within Islam; however, it only remains a minority viewpoint. Within the Shi'a school of thought in Islam, thinkers such as Ayatollah Khomeini have argued the legality of sex-change operations if a man is homosexual, and feels effeminate.[3]

Eminent scholars of Islam, such as Sheikh ul-Islam Imam Malik, Imam Shafi amongst others, rule that the Islam disallows homosexuality and ordains a capital punishment for a person guilty of it.[4]

Rulings in the Islamic Law


11th Century North African Qur'an in the British Museum

Homosexuality is traditionally deemed forbidden by Islamic law. The Qur'an, the central text of Islam believed by Muslims to be the revelation of God,[5] is explicit in its condemnation of homosexuality.[6][7] The Qur'an proclaims Islam as the "religion of nature," and sanctifies and encourages sexual intercourse within marriages only. Specific verses condemning homosexuality include:

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The Hadith, which are oral traditions relating to the words and deeds of the last Islamic prophet Muhammed and regarded as important tools for determining the Muslim way of life by all traditional schools of jurisprudence, also contain numerous statements condemning homosexuality.

Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 1457 Ibn Maajah, 2563. It was narrated by Jaabir (may Allaah be pleased with him): “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘There is nothing I fear for my ummah more than the deed of the people of Loot.’” (Classed as saheeh by Shaykh al-Albaaniin Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 1552).

Narrated by Ahmad, 1878: It was narrated that Ibn Abbaas said: “The Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “… cursed is the one who has intercourse with an animal, cursed is the one who does the action of the people of Loot.” (Classed as saheeh by Shaykh al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 5891).

Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, 1456; Abu Dawood, 4462; Ibn Maajah, 2561: It was narrated that Ibn Abbaas said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Whoever you find doing the deed of the people of Loot, kill the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.” (Classed as saheeh by Shaykh al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’, no. 6589).

Another Hadith narrative reports Muhammed as having said: "No man should look at the private parts of another man, and no woman should look at the private parts of another woman, and no two men sleep [in bed] under one cover."

One narrative, attributed as part of Muhammad's farewell speech, says that "Whoever has intercourse with a woman and penetrates her rectum, or with a man, or with a boy, will appear on the Last Day stinking worse than a corpse; people will find him unbearable until he enters hell fire, and God will cancel all his good deeds."[8]

Another widely reported hadith (from Sunan al-Tirmidhi, which is one of the Sunni Six major Hadith collections) reports Prophet Muhammed as having prescribed the death penalty for homosexuality while saying "Whoever you find committing the sin of the people of Lut, kill them, both the one who does it and the one to whom it is done."[4]

Rulings by Scholars of Islam

Based on the principles of the Qur'an and the Hadith, several eminent scholars of Islam, such as Imam Malik, Imam Shafi, Ahmad and Ishaaq have ruled that the person guilty of homosexuality should be stoned regardless of his married or unmarried nature.[4]

Ibn Kathir's commentary on the words of Qur'an with respect to homosexuality are “The words of Allah ‘And the two persons (man and woman) among you who commit illegal sexual intercourse, hurt them both’ mean, those who commit immoral actions, punish them both. Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him), Sa’eed ibn Jubayr and others said: By condemning them, shaming them and hitting them with shoes. This was the ruling until Allaah abrogated it and replaced it with whipping and stoning. ‘Ikrimah, ‘Ata, al-Hasan and ‘Abd-Allah ibn Katheer said: This was revealed concerning a man and woman who commit fornication. Al-Saddi said, it was revealed concerning young people before they get married. Mujaahid said: it was revealed concerning two men if they admit it bluntly; a hint is not sufficient - as if he was referring to homosexuality. And Allah knows best.” [9][10]

Ibn al-Qayyim is reported to have said "Both of them – fornication and homosexuality – involve immorality that goes against the wisdom of Allah’s creation and commandment. For homosexuality involves innumerable evil and harms, and the one to whom it is done would be better off being killed than having this done to him, because after that he will become so evil and so corrupt that there can be no hope of his being reformed, and all good is lost for him, and he will no longer feel any shame before Allah or before His creation. The semen of the one who did that to him will act as a poison on his body and soul. The scholars differed as to whether the one to whom it is done will ever enter Paradise."[11]

Ahmad Kutty, senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in his lectures on the subject has expressed the view a Muslim practicing homosexuality needs to give it up since it is considered 'one of the most abominable sins in Islam'.[12] Muslims like Dr. Nadia El-Awady, the Health & Science Editor at IslamOnline, have attempted to discuss and understand homosexuality in an Islamic[13] as well as a scientific light,[14] citing its apparent ill-effects for the Islamic as well as the moral society.[15] Islamic UK-based group, the Shari'ah Court of the UK has issued a fatwa[16] calling for a death sentence for playwright Terrence McNally for depicting Jesus and his followers as a group of homosexuals. Many scholars of Shari'a, or Islamic law, interpret homosexuality as a punishable offence as well as a sin. There is no specific punishment prescribed, however, and this is usually left to the discretion of the local authorities on Islam.[17]

References in Arabic and Other Literature

According to the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World

Whatever the legal strictures on sexual activity, the positive expression of male homeoerotic sentiment in literature was accepted, and assiduously cultivated, from the late eighth century until modern times. First in Arabic, but later also in Persian, Turkish and Urdu, love poetry by men about boys more than competed with that about women, it overwhelmed it. Anectodtal literature reinforces this impression of general societal acceptance of the public celebration of male-male love (which hostile Western caricatures of Islamic societies in medieval and early modern times simply exaggerate). .... .[1]

In a tradition from the Arabian nights, Muhammad was said to have warned his followers against staring at youth because of their beauty: "Do not gaze at beardless youth, for they have eyes more tempting than the huris." [18]

Legal status in modern Islamic nations

Homosexuality is a crime and forbidden in most Islamic countries, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc. In some secular or multi-religious Islamic countries, this is not the case, Albania, Indonesia and Turkey being examples. However, the governments of Albania, Indonesia, and Turkey are presidential representative democratic republics and are not Islamic Republics, like in the case of Iran.

Same-sex intercourse officially carries the death penalty in several Muslim nations: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, northern Nigeria, Sudan, and Yemen.[19][20] It formerly carried the death penalty in Afghanistan under the Taliban. The legal situation in the United Arab Emirates is unclear. In many Muslim nations, such as Bahrain, Qatar, Algeria and the Maldives, homosexuality is punished with jail time, fines, or corporal punishment. In some Muslim-majority nations, such as Turkey, Jordan, Indonesia or Mali, same-sex intercourse is not specifically forbidden by law. In Egypt, openly gay men have been prosecuted under general public morality laws. (See Cairo 52.) On the other hand, homosexuality, while not legal, is tolerated to some extent in Lebanon, and has been legal in Turkey for decades.

In Saudi Arabia, the maximum punishment for homosexuality is public execution, but the government will use other punishments—e.g., fines, jail time, and whipping—as alternatives, unless it feels that homosexuals are challenging state authority by engaging in LGBT social movements.[21] Iran is perhaps the nation to execute the largest number of its citizens for homosexuality. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, the Iranian government has executed more than 4,000 people charged with homosexual acts.[22] In Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, homosexuality went from a capital crime to one that it punished with fines and prison sentence.

Most international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, condemn laws that make homosexual relations between consenting adults a crime. Since 1994, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has also ruled that such laws violated the right to privacy guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, most Muslim nations (except for Turkey, which has been ruled by secular law since 1856 and recently has modernized its laws in order to meet the requirements of entry to the European Union) insist that such laws are necessary to preserve Islamic morality and virtue. Of the nations with a majority of Muslim inhabitants, only Lebanon has an internal effort to legalize homosexuality.[23]

Homosexuality laws in Muslim countries

See also: Homosexuality laws of the world
Country Laws against homosexuality Penalty Same-sex Unions Laws against discrimination Adoption Comments
Afghanistan ? Death No No ? ? - Unsure if homosexuality is a crime or not since the country is undergoing a period of relative chaos due to the continuing battles between NATO forces and the resurgent Taliban, but the death penalty (imposed under the Taliban) is no longer enforced. The Penal Code from 1976 in force, stipulates long imprisonment for adultery and pederasty. [2] and LGBT rights in Afghanistan.
Albania No - - No No See LGBT rights in Albania.
Algeria Yes Fine - 3 years - No No See LGBT rights in Algeria.
Azerbaijan No - - No No See LGBT rights in Azerbaijan.
Bahrain Male only Fine - 10 years - No No See LGBT rights in Bahrain.
Bangladesh Yes 10 years - Life - No No - LGBT rights in Bangladesh.
Bosnia-Herzegovina No - - Yes No AD in Gender Equality Act since 2003. See LGBT rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brunei Yes Fine - 10 years - No No -
Burkina Faso No - - No No See LGBT rights in Burkina Faso.
Chad No - - No No See LGBT rights in Chad.
Comoros No - - No No See LGBT rights in Comoros.
Côte d'Ivoire No - - No No -
Djibouti Yes 10 – 12 years - No No See LGBT rights in Djibouti.
Egypt No* - No No No In Egypt, openly gay men have been prosecuted under general public morality laws. (See Cairo 52.) OR?? [3] and LGBT rights in Egypt.
Eritrea Yes 3 – 10 years - No No -
Guinea Yes 6 months - 3 years - No No -
Guinea Bissau Yes Labour camps - No No Page 17 of [4]
Indonesia No* - - No No *In 2002, the Aceh province was given the right to instate Islamic sharia by laws by the national parliament. Such law only applies to Muslims, and for example the city of Palembang in Southern Sumatra has introduced jail and hefty fines, for homosexual sex [5] and in 2003, a proposal to nationally criminalize homosexuality failed. See LGBT rights in Indonesia.
Iran Yes For men:Prison - Death. Situation unclear with women - No No Sex reassignemnt surgery have been given official government support as a means to treat gender identity disorder. Law in Iran, in general, is not formally in order and is often abused by government officials. For many years there were no official executions for homosexuality, although some retain teenagers Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni executed for this and not for rape. See LGBT rights in Iran.
Iraq No* - - No No *No provisions of the current Iraqi criminal code deal with homosexuality. The U.S. occupation restored the criminal code back to its original 1969 edition. Before 2003, the criminal code was amended in 2001 to include the death penalty for homosexuality. However currently, death squads are operating in the country killing gays. [6] and LGBT rights in Iraq.
Jordan No* - - No No *While not a crime, reports have shown that LGBT people can be victims of vigilante "honour killings". See LGBT rights in Jordan.
Kazakhstan No - - No No See LGBT rights in Kazakhstan.
Lebanon Male Only Fine - 1 year - No No A small public growing campaign exists to legalize homosexual relations between consenting adults in private. See LGBT rights in Lebanon.
Malaysia Yes Fine - 20 years - No No Former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who was himself jailed for homosexuality, has called for their repeal. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently confirmed that the accusation he made to Anwar regarding the homosexuality of Anwar was wrong. Marina Mahathir, the daughter of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, has called for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation.[7] However, during Mahathir's term as Prime Minister, he warned gay ministers in foreign countries not to bring along their partners while visiting the nation. [8]. See LGBT rights in Malaysia.
Maldives Male only Fine - 10 years - No No -
Mali No - - No No See LGBT rights in Mali.
Mauritania Yes Death - No No -
Morocco Yes 6 months - 3 years - No No See LGBT rights in Morocco.
Niger No - - No No See LGBT rights in Niger.
Nigeria Yes* 5 – 14 years/Death - No No *Areas under Sharia have instituted death for men and women. Any content, avocating groups or associations, support, talking to, marriage, etc. regarding LGBT persons can land you in jail for at least four years [9]. See LGBT rights in Nigeria.
Oman Yes Fine - 3 years - No No In Oman it is said that cases only get to court if "public scandal" is involved.
Pakistan Yes* 2 years - Life - No No *The law applies to both men and women [10] and LGBT rights in Pakistan.
Qatar Yes Fine - 5 years - No No -
Saudi Arabia Yes Death - No No Jail time, fines or whipping may be used in lieu of the death penalty. See LGBT rights in Saudi Arabia
Senegal Yes 1 month - 5 years - No No -
Sierra Leone Yes Life - Yes* No *The Anti-Corruption Commission stated in a press release that in a bid to attract competent and qualified staff, they operate a transparent recruitment policy, which even forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Somalia Yes* 3 months - 3 years/Death - No No *Areas under Sharia have instituted death for men and women.
Sudan Yes 5 years - Death - No No -
Syria Yes Fine - 3 years - No No See LGBT rights in Syria.
Tajikistan No - - No No -
Tanzania Yes Fine - 25 years - No No In Zanzibar male homosexual acts are punished with up to 25 years imprisonment or fine. Lesbian acts are punished with up 7 years imprisonment or fine. See LGBT rights in Tanzania.
The Gambia Yes Fine - 14 years - No No -
Tunisia Yes Fine - 3 years - No No See LGBT rights in Tunisia.
Turkey No - - No No See LGBT rights in Turkey.
Turkmenistan Male only Fine - 2 years - No No -
United Arab Emirates Yes Unknown - Death - No No See LGBT rights in United Arab Emirates.
Uzbekistan Male only* Fine* - 3 years* - No No *"Besoqolbozlik" (Only applies to anal sex) [11], page 43 of [12].
Yemen Yes Flogging - Death - No No -

LGBT movements within Islam

Besides the Al-Fatiha Foundation which supports homosexuality, the Imaan is also social support group for Muslim LGBT people and their families in the UK[24]

There are also a number of Islamic ex-gay (i.e. people claiming to have experienced a basic change in sexual orientation from exclusive homosexuality to exclusive heterosexuality[25]) groups aimed at attempting to guide homosexuals towards heterosexuality. The StraightWay Foundation is a UK based ex-gay organization which works with homosexual Muslims who seek to eliminate their same-sex attractions.[26] Al-Tawbah is an internet based ex-gay group.[27] It should be noted that the efficacy of ex-gay treatments and therapies has been brought into serious doubt by many well-respected psychological and medical groups, such as the American Psychological Association.[28]

In addition to the aforementioned groups, Muslim writers like Irshad Manji express the view that homosexuality is permissible within Islam; however, this remains a minority viewpoint. Within Shi'a Islam, thinkers such as Ayatollah Khomeini's original fatwa has been reconfirmed by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and is also supported by many other Iranian clerics.[29] The law remains in force in Iran, where the state will pay a portion of the cost for a sex-change operation.

See also: Transsexuality in Iran

See also


  • Afdhere Jama, editor of Huriyah
  • Irshad Manji, Canadian lesbian and human rights activist
  • El-Farouk Khaki, founder of Salaam, the first queer Muslim group in Canada
  • Arsham Parsi, Iranian LGBT activist
  • Maryam Hatoon Molkara, campaigner of transsexual rights in Iran
  • Faisal Alam, Pakistani American LGBT activist and founder of Al-Fatiha Foundation
  • Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni
  • Malik Ayaz
  • Usman Sani
  • Waheed Alli, Baron Alli, British gay politician
  • Yusuf Kabir
  • Enchant of Hope


  • Criticism of the Qur'an
  • A Jihad for Love, documentary about devout gay Muslims
  • Festival of Muslim Cultures
  • Gay Muslims, documentary
  • Ghilman
  • Nazar ill'al-murd


  1. 1.0 1.1 Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, MacMillan Reference USA, 2004, p.316
  2. Krauss, Clifford. "An Unlikely Promoter of an Islamic Reformation",, 2003-10-04. Retrieved on 2006-07-11. 
  3. 'No homosexuality here' Brian Whitaker,
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Homosexuality and Lesbianism: Sexual Perversions Fatwa on Homosexuality from
  5. Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2007). "Qur’ān". Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved on 2007-11-04. 
  6. Duran (1993) p. 179
  7. Kligerman (2007) pp. 53-54
  8. Duran, K. (1993) "Homosexuality in Islam" p. 182. Cited in: Kligerman (2007) p. 54
  9. Tafseer Ibn Katheer, 1/463
  10. Why does Islam forbid lesbianism and homosexuality?, Fatwa No. 10050, IslamQA
  11. Ibn al-Qayyim. al-Jawaab al-Kaafi, 115. 
  12. How to Give Up Homosexuality by Ahmad Kutty
  13. Islamic Stance on Homosexuality, by Nadia El-Awady,
  14. Diseases Related To Homosexuality, by Nadia El-Awady,
  15. Homosexuality in a Changing World: Are We Being Misinformed? by Nadia El-Awady,
  16. UK Fatwa for 'gay Jesus' writer October 29, 1999, BBC News
  17. Duran, K. (1993) "Homosexuality in Islam" p. 184. Cited in: Kligerman (2007) p. 54
  18. Murray and Roscoe, 1997, p. 90
  19. ILGA:7 countries still put people to death for same-sex acts
  20. Homosexuality and Islam - ReligionFacts
  21. Is Beheading Really the Punishment for Homosexuality in Saudi Arabia?
  22. Homosexuality and Religion.
  23. Helem
  24. [1]
  25. Throckmorton, Warren (June 2002). "Initial empirical and clinical findings concerning the change process for ex-gays". Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 33: 242–248. American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.33.3.242. 
  26. The StraightWay Foundation Retrieved 2007-04-06
  27. Al-Tawbah
  28. American Psychological Association. (2008). to your questions: For a better understanding of sexual orientation and homosexuality. Washington, DC: Author. [Retrieved from]
  29. Iran's sex-change operations, BBC.


  • Duran, Khalid. Homosexuality in Islam, in: Swidler, Anne (ed.) "Homosexuality and World Religions" (1993). Trinity Press International, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. ISBN 156338051X
  • Kilgerman, Nicole (2007). Homosexuality in Islam: A Difficult Paradox. Macalester Islam journal 2(3):52-64, Berkeley Electronic press.
  • Khaled El-Rouayheb, Before Homosexuality in the Arab–Islamic World, 1500–1800 Chicago, 2005
  • Everett K. Rowson, J.W. Wright (eds.), Homoeroticism in Classical Arabic Literature New York, 1997
  • Arno Schmitt and Jehoeda Sofer (eds.), Sexuality and Eroticism Among Males in Moslem Societies Harrington Park Press 1992
  • Arno Schmitt and Gianni de Martino, Kleine Schriften zu zwischenmännlicher Sexualität und Erotik in der muslimischen Gesellschaft, Berlin, Gustav-Müller-Str. 10 : A. Schmitt, 1985
  • Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe (eds.), "Islamic Homosexualities: culture, history, and literature" NYU Press New York 1997
  • Wafer, Jim (1997) "Muhammad and Male Homosexuality" in "Islamic Homosexualities: culture, history, and literature" by Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe (eds.), NYU Press New York
  • Wafer, Jim (1997) "The Symbolism of Male Love in Islamic Mysthical Literature" in "Islamic Homosexualities: culture, history, and literature" by Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe (eds.), NYU Press New York 1997

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