By: Mufti Muhammad Zubair Butt
If a person practices homosexuality, and believes that this is acceptable [and not forbidden], does this person still remain a Muslim? The person says that the verses in the Qur’an are all related to lust and fashion rather than sincere love between 2 individuals.
The issue of takfir (declaring someone a kafir) is an extremely delicate issue and should be approached with extreme caution. It is a grave sin to declare a Muslim to be kafir or murtad (apostate). The Holy Qur’an states:
O you who believe! When you go in the cause of Allah (SWT), verify [the truth of all matters], and say not to anyone who greets you: “You are not a believer”; seeking the perishable goods of the worldly life for there are with Allah (SWT) booties in abundance. Even as he is now, so were you yourselves before till Allah (SWT) conferred on you His favours [i.e. guided you to Islam], therefore, be cautious. Indeed, Allah (SWT) is Well-Aware of what you do. [4:94]
It is reported on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar (R) that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said:
Any person who called his brother: Kafir, [has in fact done an act by which] one of them has returned with it. If it were so, as he asserted [then the unbelief was confirmed], but if it was not true, then it returned to him [who labelled his brother Muslim). [Muslim]
However, just as it is a grave sin to declare a Muslim to be a kafir or an apostate, it is equally incorrect to consider a kafir to be a Muslim without due consideration to the erroneous beliefs he may hold. In this regard the Holy Qur’an states:
Do you want to guide him whom Allah has made go astray? And he whom Allah has made to go astray, you will never find for him any way [of guidance]. [4:88]
Therefore, before submitting a direct answer to your question, it is important to first discuss the basic principles according to which one who was previously a Muslim may be considered to be an apostate. There are two fundamental ways in which one who was previously a Muslim may be considered to be an apostate:
One who was previously Muslim totally renounces Islam [ والعياذ بالله ] and adopts another religion such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. or denies the existence of Allah (SWT) entirely, or the concept of tawhid or denies the prophethood of Rasulullaah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam. Such a person is undoubtedly an apostate.
Although one who was previously Muslim does not renounce Islam and adopt another religion, nor deny the existence of Allah (SWT) or the concept of tawhid or the prophethood of Rasulullaah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, but adopts beliefs that amount to the denial of the text of the Holy Qur’an or the prophethood of Rasulullaah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam. For example, such person denies an injunction established through a text of the Holy Qur’an that is definitive in its meaning or through a definitive mutawaatir hadith of Rasulullaah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam. Such a person is also considered to be an apostate by the consensus of Muslims.
To elucidate further, in the latter case, apostasy will only apply if one denies an absolute injunction ( الحكم القطعى ) that has been established from evidence that is unquestionably established قطعى الثبوت (qat‘i al-thubut) and unquestionable in its purport قطعى الدلالة (qat‘i aldilalah), i.e. it does not admit more than its one apparent meaning. This can be either through a text of the Holy Qur’an that is definitive in its purport or through a mutawaatir hadith (prophetic tradition that has been transmitted to us via indisputably authentic chains of authority) that is definitive in its purport.
Then, if the knowledge of such absolute injunctions is widespread amongst the Muslim masses to the extent that one does not have to venture to any great length to acquire knowledge of them, such as the injunctions of Salaah, Zakaah, Hajj, and fasting, the prohibition of theft and the consumption of wine, such injunctions are referred to as ‘dharooriyyaat al-deen’ (essentials of deen). If the knowledge of such injunctions is not so wide spread, then although they are absolute injunctions there are not referred to as ‘dharooriyyaat al-deen’ (essentials of deen). The difference in the ruling between the two is that the denial of those absolute injunctions that are also from the ‘dharooriyyaat al-deen’ (essentials of deen) immediately renders one apostate according to the consensus of the Muslims. Ignorance is not considered to be an excuse, and any other divergent interpretation is unacceptable. With regards to those absolute injunctions whose knowledge is not widespread amongst the Muslim masses to the extent mentioned above, denial of such injunctions will not immediately render one an apostate. Instead, one will be made aware that the injunction in question is an absolute injunction that has been established from evidence that is unquestionably established قطعى الثبوت (qat‘i al-thubut) and unquestionable in its purport قطعى الدلالة (qat‘i aldilalah). If one still continues in one’s denial, one will be considered an apostate.
However, if one does not deny such injunctions, even if one’s practice is to the contrary, although one will be considered a transgressor, one will not be declared an apostate.
In short, just as renouncing Islam and adopting another religion is apostasy, in the very same manner, to deny an absolute injunction, or offer an interpretation that is contrary to the established interpretation is also apostasy. The latter form of apostasy is referred to in the Qur’an as Ilhaad:
Indeed, those who deviate in Our verses [by attributing self assumed meanings to them that are contrary to the clear and explicit meanings recognised by the ummah and that change the intention of the Holy Qur’an in it’s entirety] are not hidden from Us. [41:40]
The scholars of scholastic theology and jurisprudence refer to such apostasy as baatiniyyah and also zandaqah as ‘Allaamah Sa‘d al-Din al-Taftaazaani has done in Sharh al-Maqaasid.
The question remains as to what is the basis of the prohibition of the practice of homosexuality? Is it an absolute injunction established from evidence that is unquestionably established قطعى الثبوت (qat‘i al-thubut) and unquestionable in its purport قطعى الدلالة (qat‘i aldilalah), i.e. it does not admit more than its one apparent meaning? If so, is the knowledge of the prohibition of the practice of homosexuality widespread amongst the Muslim masses to the extent that one does not have to venture to any great length before one comes to know of it’s prohibition? I.e, is the prohibition of homosexuality from amongst the ‘dharooriyyaat al-deen’ (essentials of deen)?
Firstly, the practice of homosexuality began in the people of Lot `alayhi al-salam. The Holy Qur’an quotes the words of Lut `alayhi al-salam as follows:
And [remember] Lut [Lot], when he said to his people: Do you commit the worst sin such as none preceding you has committed in the worlds [of humankind and jinn]? [7:80]
In the above verse, the practice of homosexuality has been referred to as “al-Faahishah” – lexically, an abominable, atrocious, obscene, indecent, foul, shameless act. The story of the people of Lut `alayhi al-salam has been mentioned at length in various verses of the Holy Qur’an in a manner that leaves no doubt with regards to the prohibition of this practice. In Surat al-Shu‘araa Lut `alayhi al-salam is quoted in the following words:
Of all the creatures in the world, will you approach males, and leave those whom your Lord has created for you to be your mates? Nay, you are a people transgressing [all limits]. [26:165-166]
In Surat al-‘Ankaboot Lut `alayhi al-salam is quoted in the following words:
Verily, you practice sodomy with men, and rob the wayfarer and practice abomination in your meetings. [29:29]
However, their answer to Lut `alayhi al-salam was:
But his people gave no answer except that they said: “Bring Allah’s torment upon us if you are amongst the truthful.” [29:29]
When the people of Lut `alayhi al-salam did not heed his warnings Allah destroyed them in a very symbolic manner that was entirely congruent with their misdeed:
So when our command came, We made the highest of it [towns of Sodom] the lowest of it [i.e., turned it upside down] and We rained on it stones of baked clay, one over another. Marked, with your Lord. [11:82-83]
There are many more verses relating to this practice of the people of Lut `alayhi al-salam, but even the few mentioned here clearly establish the unlawfulness of this practice. It is totally incongruent with the natural order created by Allah and Allah punished the people of Lut `alayhi al-salam with a telling punishment due to this practice.
Therefore, the prohibition of homosexuality is an absolute injunction established from evidence that is unquestionably established قطعى الثبوت (qat‘i al-thubut) and unquestionable in its purport قطعى الدلالة (qat‘i aldilalah). It is also from amongst the essentials of deen as the Muslim masses in general are aware of the prohibition of this abhorrent practice. One who considers the practice of homosexuality to be permissible denies an absolute injunction that is also from the ‘dharooriyyaat al-deen’ (essentials of deen). Consequently, such person immediately renders himself apostate. Ignorance is not considered to be an excuse, and any other divergent interpretation such as the assertion that the prohibition is related to lust and fashion is inadmissible. ‘Sincere love’ cannot legitimise a prohibited practice. For example, even in the morally degenerative, secular, liberal society that we live in today, incest between brother and sister, mother and son or daughter and father are universally considered to be abhorrent. Claims of ‘sincere love’ do not legitimise such relationships. In the same manner, homosexuality cannot be legitimized by claims of sincere love. Whereas man made norms are subject to change, the rules set down by Allah are immutable, eternal and based on a higher wisdom.