Prophet Lut AS was the nephew of the Prophet Ibrahim AS. The story of his people and the punishment they were afflicted with was a shocking incident in the life of Ibrahim AS. Lut AS, as you will recall, left Ur with Ibrahim AS and settled in Palestine.
Nothing authoritative is known of Lut’s AS earlier life. What is evident is that as some point after his settling, Allah appointed him as prophet to communities on the shore of what is now the Dead Sea, at a distance of 24 hours’ journey from Ibrahim’s AS home.
Lut AS went to the city of Sodom after Ibrahim AS had asked him to do so. It was the main city of that region with suburbs and satellite villages, prosperous and well-populated. In the region where Lut AS settled, there were 5 cities, referred to in the Qur’an as Al-Mu’tafikat (Qur’an 9:70; 53:53, 69:9), meaning “the Overturned Cities”. Sodom was the largest of these.
The people of Sodom were of the most immoral and insolent nature. Although they were guilty of many vices, one stands out glaringly among all the rest – homosexuality or sodomy – they were the first people in human history to practice homosexuality.
It is reported that these people would commit perverted deeds openly in their gatherings, and they cut the access of travellers to their roadways, robbing and killing them, after perhaps first forcing them engage in unnatural acts. And it was not only some or even a majority of Lut’s AS people who engaged in such practice; rather it was the entire population.
Allah in His Mercy, caused Lut AS to settle among them so they might perhaps be guided. Lut AS called them to heed Allah’s command and to worship Him alone, without associating any partner with Him. And he forbade them from their indecent practice and abhorring act. But they ignored and rejected his appeal, and continued in their erroneous unnatural acts. As a result, Allah destroyed them by a severe punishment.
LUT AS WARNS HIS PEOPLE
“Will you not fear Allah?” he said, appealing to them to reflect on their accountability to their Creator. And assuring his people of his absolute reliability, he added, “Indeed, I am to you a trustworthy messenger.So fear Allah and obey me. And I do not ask you for it any payment. My payment is only from the Lord of the worlds.” (Qur’an 26:161-164)
As if holding up a mirror in front of his people, Lut AS tried to make them look at the awfulness of their perverted habits and criminal behaviours.
Do you commit immorality while you are seeing? Do you indeed approach men with desire instead of women? Rather, you are a people behaving ignorantly.” (Qur’an 27:54-55)
But the response of his people, already extraordinarily hardened and callous, was only that they said,
“Expel the family of Lut from your city. Indeed, they are people who keep themselves pure.” (Qur’an 27:56)
Lut’s AS admonition became stronger: “Do you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds?” (Qur’an 7:80), he asked.
The people simply replied with the same words as before, asking to drive Lut AS and his family out.
But ignoring their enmity and threats, Lut AS faithfully continued to preach and warn, reiterating his message, emphasizing the error and ingratitude of turning away from the spouses whom Allah had granted for the natural fulfillment of their needs.
Continuing to preach despite his people’s hostility and threats, he then enumerated the entire catalogue of their misdeeds, saying,
“Indeed, you commit such immorality as no one has preceded you with from among the worlds. Indeed, you approach men and obstruct the road and commit in your meetings [every] evil.” And the answer of his people was not but they said, “Bring us the punishment of Allah, if you should be of the truthful.” (Qur’an 29-28-29)
It is said that the people would openly engage in homosexual acts in their assemblies’ without anyone’s objecting to it, as it was generally accepted practice. Shaytan was amongst them, and as is his way, he made their actions appear fair and wholesome. They would spout obscenities in their gatherings, and pass wind and laugh at it. They relished cock, pigeon and goat fights. It is also said that they used to mock passersby, throwing rocks and whistling at them, and they walked about naked. (Tabari)
Steeped in sin, they were deaf to all of Lut’s AS admonitions. Thus, the answer of his people was not but they said, “Bring us the punishment of Allah, if you should be of the truthful.” (Qur’an 29:29)
“My Lord,” Lut AS prayed, “support me against the corrupting people.” (Qur’an 29:30)
In the entire region, there was only one household of righteous people and that was his own. And although his two daughters were believers, his wife, who is said to have been a Sodomite, was connected to the people of the area and her loyalty was with them.
THE ANGELS’ VISIT TO IBRAHIM AS
Lut’s AS story is inextricably interwoven with Ibrahim’s AS. We return now to the Qur’anic narrative concerning the angels’ visit to Ibrahim AS.
You may recall the mistrust Ibrahim AS felt when he saw that his visitors did not touch the food he had set before them and his saying to them openly, “”Indeed, we are fearful of you.” (Qur’an 15:52)
Then they reassured him, saying, “Fear not. We have been sent to the people of Lut.” (Qur’an 11:70). And the made to known to him that they were angels, sent by Allah.
The angels’ errand to Lut’s AS people was then temporarily put aside while they gave Ibrahim AS and Sarah the tidings of the son who was to be born to them, Ishaq AS. But once the matter had been addressed, Ibrahim AS, who knew well that angels do not visit human beings except for some very serious purpose, returned to the subject of Lut’s AS people.
The aged prophet asked the reason of their visit besides giving him and his wife glad tidings of a son. The angels then made their errand clear to Ibrahim AS.
“Indeed, we have been sent to a people of criminals,” (Qur’an 15:58), “to send down upon them stones of clay, marked in the presence of your Lord for the transgressors. (Qur’an 51:33-34) – except the family of Lut” (Qur’an 15:59) “Indeed, we will save them all except his wife.” Allah decreed that she is of those who remain behind. (Qur’an 15:59-60)
The angels reiterated that they would destroy the entire people of that city.
“Indeed, within it is Lut.” (Qur’an 29:32), Ibrahim AS exclaimed in alarm.
They said, “We are more knowing of who is within it. We will surely save him and his family, except his wife. She is to be of those who remain behind.” (Qur’an 29:32)
But even then Ibrahim AS did not remain silent.
And when the fright had left Ibrahim and the good tidings had reached him, he began to argue with Us concerning the people of Lut. (Qur’an 11:74)
The divine Author of the Holy Book then adds, almost as if Ibrahim’s AS appealing for such sinful and criminal people required an explanation,
Indeed, Ibrahim was forbearing, grieving and [frequently] returning [to Allah]. (Qur’an 11:75)
When Ibrahim AS pleaded with the angels, they rebuked him gently. “O Ibrahim, give up this [plea]. Indeed, the command of your Lord has come, and indeed, there will reach them a punishment that cannot be repelled,” they said. (Qur’an 11:76)
Ibrahim AS continued to plead until the angels told him that if there were five people in Lut’s AS city who prayed, the punishment would be averted from them.
THE ANGELS ARRIVE IN SODOM
The three angels – said to have been Jibrael AS, Mikael AS and Israfil AS – then arrived at the outskirts of Lut’s AS town in the form of very handsome human beings.
When Lut AS heard of the strangers, he felt distressed and wondered how he could convince them to bypass the towns of Sodom and continue on their travels. He tried to make them understand the nature of the townspeople but only succeeded in convincing the messengers to wait for nightfall before entering the town. He brought them to his house secretly so that no one but his family knew that they were there. However, his wife went out to inform her people, saying, “In Lut’s house there are men whose like I have never seen, nor have I ever seen such handsome faces.”
“Indeed, you are people unknown.” (Qur’an 15:62), Lut AS said to this visitors, thus giving them an indirect hint of what they might expect in his town.
His guests showed no trace of fear or concern.
“But we have come to you with that about which they were disputing, and we have come to you with truth, and indeed, we are truthful. So set out with your family during a portion of the night and follow behind them and let not anyone among you look back and continue on to where you are commanded,” (Qur’an 15:63-65), they instructed Lut AS.
Despite this reassurance, Lut AS remained greatly troubled about the strangers’ safety. Although, as his guests, they were under his protection, he knew well enough that as soon as their presence became known, the men of his town would be at his door.
As Lut AS had anticipated, the news of the incredibly handsome strangers visiting the city brought the townsmen to his house in haste, (Qur’an 11:78; 15:67), rejoicing at the prospect of the male visitors.
He warned the people that the men were his guests and not to disgrace him in front of his guests. The intruders flung back at their prophet saying “indeed you know what we want!” (Qur’an 11:79)
Lut AS cried in anguish, feeling totally powerless to save the guests to whom he had given the protection of his house.
“O Lut, indeed we are messengers of your Lord; [therefore], they will never reach you,” (Qur’an 11:80) his guests reassured him.
The last words suggest that the attackers intended to eliminate Lut AS to get at his guests. But as they men approached in the heat of their unnatural lust, or perhaps tried to force their way in, the angels took away their sight. (Qur’an 54:37; 15:72)
The angels said to Lut AS,
So set out with your family during a portion of the night and let not any among you look back – except your wife; indeed, she will be struck by that which strikes them. Indeed, their appointment is [for] the morning. Is not the morning near?” (Qur’an 11:81)
Then it was early dawn, Lut AS departed with his family, except his wife. She remained behind and was afflicted by the punishment along with the wrong doers and wicked townspeople. (Qur’an 54:34)
As he had been directed, Lut AS set out with his family. When Lut AS and his party had cleared the area, the divine command came forth to destroy Lut’s AS people. (Qur’an 15:73-74; 7:84; 53:53-54)
Various commentators have said that angel Jibrael AS lifted up all the sinful towns into the sky together with their inhabitants, and turn them over; hence the name Al-Mu’tafikat, the Overturned Cities. Then Allah rained upon them a rain [of stones], and evil was the rain of those who were warned (Qur’an 26:173) as He sent upon them a storm of stones (Qur’an 54:34) of clay, marked in the presence of your Lord for the transgressors.” (Qur’an 51:33-34).
It is said that each stone was inscribed with the name of the person for whom it was intended, and that the heavenly missiles struck the heads of their human targets, smashing their brains.
Thus were the flourishing cities of Sodom and the 4 other towns in the vicinity obliterated with all their people, including the wife of their prophet, as a recompense for the wickedness and perverse lusts of its inhabitants.
Thus, the pages were closed on the people of Lut AS. Their names were erased from historical memory. The punishment that Allah promised, and Prophet Lut AS warned about, happened, for surely Allah keeps His promises. He promises severe punishment for the wrongdoers and Paradise is the reward of the righteous. Lut and his family walked into the sunrise and Qur’an mentions them no more.
And to Lut We gave judgment and knowledge, and We saved him from the city that was committing wicked deeds. Indeed, they were a people of evil, defiantly disobedient. And We admitted him into Our mercy. Indeed, he was of the righteous. (Qur’an 21:74-75)
May Allah’s highest blessings be upon Lut AS, the much tried prophet of the Overturned Cities.
Today, in many cities across the world, it is unsafe to walk down the streets, even in daylight. Murder, sexual crimes against adults and children are widespread, and drugs abound. Most children in high school have already encountered drug users and sellers. Alcohol is freely available at corner stores, even though it is responsible for the break up of families, domestic violence and the corrosion of society. Degenerate lifestyles are accepted and even thought of as normal. This description paints a picture of a scary, out of control world, but is it really so different from the time of Prophet Lut AS? Should we not take heed from the horrific fate of these people and those before them who have been destroyed by Allah for not obeying His message?
Let us all take a minute to pray to Allah to keep us and all our loved ones guided, protected and enveloped in His Highest Mercy, shielded and away from such Satanic vices. Ameen ya rabbil alameen.
Acknowledgement: Most of the information for this work has been obtained from:
“Stories of the Prophets”, by Ibn Kathir